28th-29th April, 2015

"A Darshan in Vimalakirti Sutra"

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche


"A Darshan in Vimalakirti Sutra"


28-29 April

The Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra (Sanskrit: विमलकीर्तिनिर्देशसूत्र) or Vimalakīrti Sūtra is a Mahayana Buddhist sutra. Sometimes used in the title, the word nirdeśa means "instruction, advice". The sutra teaches, among other subjects, the meaning of nondualism. It contains a report of a teaching addressed to both arhats and bodhisattvas by the upāsaka (lay practitioner) Vimalakīrti, who expounds the doctrine of śūnyatā to them. This culminates with the wordless teaching of silence. The sutra has been influential in East Asian Buddhism for its "brash humor" and flexibility. It has also been influential in Mahayana Buddhism for its inclusiveness and respect for non-monastic practitioners as well as stating the equal role of women in Buddhism.


Darśana (also Darśan or Darshan; Sanskrit: दर्शन) is a term meaning "auspicious sight" (in the sense of an instance of seeing or beholding and being seen or beheld at the same time; from a root dṛś "to see"), vision, apparition, or glimpse. It is most commonly used for theophany, "manifestation / visions of the divine" in Hindu worship, e.g. of a deity (especially in image form), or a very holy person or artifact. One could also "receive" darshana or a glimpse of the deity in the temple, or from a great saintly person, such as a great guru.

Nagarjuna, one of the most important Indian Buddhist philosophers, wrote in his Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way) that the wise person perceives true reality (tattva-darśana). In Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, darśana came to be an important concept. As scholar Paul Harrison has noted: "By the second century CE, then, the vision of the Buddha (buddha-darśana) and the accompanying hearing of the Dharma (dharma-śravaṇa) are represented as a transformative experience of decisive importance for practitioners, be they renunciants or householders."  The term darśana-citta (a seeing mental event) became an important term in Sanskrit Abhidharma literature. Indian Mahayana philosophers Vasubandhu and Asanga divided the Buddhist path(marga) into five paths, of which the third is the "path of seeing" (darśana-marga).


Translator Burton Watson argues that the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra was likely composed in India in approximately 100 CE. It was translated into Chinese several times, first in 188 CE which was lost over time. This translation was made by the Kuṣāṇa monk Lokakṣema, who came to China from the kingdom of Gandhāra. The sūtra was translated six more times at later dates, with two especially influential translations are the Kumārajīva version (406 CE), which is the most widely used and the Xuanzang version (650 CE). Chos-nyid-tshul-khrims also translated it into Tibetan in the 9th century. Most Japanese versions are based on the Chinese Kumarajiva version. In 1999, Prof. Hisao Takahashi of Taisho University discovered a Sanskrit original among the Chinese Government's Potala collection in Tibet.




There are five published English translations, two translate from the Tibetan and three translate from the Chinese:

A) from Tibetan:
Lamotte, Etienne; (in French); translated into English by Boin-Webb, Sara (1976). The Teaching of Vimalakirti: Vimalakirtinirdesa. Pali Text Society. ISBN 0860130770.

Thurman, Robert (2000). The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: A Mahayana Scripture. Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0271012099.  
PDF file can be download from:huntingtonarchive.osu.edu

B) From Kumārajīva's Chinese:
Luk, Charles (1975). Ordinary Enlightenment: A Translation of the Vimalakirti Nirdesa. Shambhala Publications. ISBN 0394730658.

Watson, Burton (1997). The Vimalakirti Sutra. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231106564.
This is available in the internet.


McRae, John (2004). The Sutra of Queen Śrīmālā of the Lion's Roar and the Vimalakīrti Sutra. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. ISBN 1886439311. 
This is downloadable in full from the Numata Foundation’s BDK site

"A Darshan in Vimalakirti Sutra"