Jingang sanmei jing
Relevance to Buddha-nature
The Vajrasamādhi is a foundational scripture for buddha-nature and original enlightenment theory in East Asia.
Access this text online
Translations of This Text
- Buswell, Robert E., Jr. The Formation of Ch'an Ideology in China and Korea: The Vajrasamādhi-Sūtra, A Buddhist Apocryphon. Princeton Library of Asian Translations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.
- Rulu, trans. The Tathāgata Store: Selected Mahāyāna Sūtras. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2016.
Recensions of This Text
|Text exists in||~ Tibetan|
|Canonical Genre||~ Kangyur · Sūtra · mdo sde · Sūtranta|
This Text on - If it doesn't load here, refresh your browser.
About the text
The *Vajrasamādhisūtra is a Korean apocryphon, meaning an indigenous scripture that claimed to be a translation of an Indic original. It was composed at the end of the seventh century and continues to have widespread appeal across Asia as a source for buddha-nature and original enlightenment teachings. It belongs to the genre of "samādhi sūtra" in that it offers contemplative techniques designed to lead to enlightenment. The scripture reveals influences of early Chan and the Chinese Yogācāra tradition of Paramārtha, containing an extensive discussion of "immaculate consciousness" (amalavijñāna), the ninth consciousness which unites saṃsāra and nirvāṇa in a "single taste." The great Korean scholiast Wǒnhyo (617- 686, 體用) wrote the most famous commentary, in which he outlined six successive steps for realizing original enlightenment.
The earliest mention of a scripture with the name "Vajrasamādhisūtra" was in the catalog by Dao'an (312-385 道安) in 374. Subsequent catalogs also named it, but without stating whether it still circulated, while Yentsong's (557-610 彥琮) 602 catalog lists it as not extant. It can be determined then that this scripture likely had little distribution and vanished around the end of the fourth century. According to legend the sūtra was lost soon after its translation in the fourth century and recovered thanks to supernatural efforts. The story is that a king of Korea sent an envoy to China to procure medicine for his sick queen. The mission was waylaid to the palace of the dragon king, who explained that the illness was merely a ruse to allow him to return the Vajrasamādhisūtra to the world. Handing the envoy a pile of loose pages, he instructed him to have a monk named Taean collate the text, and for Wǒnhyo to write a commentary.
Only in the twentieth century did scholars begin to question the authenticity of the sūtra. Japanese scholar Hayashiya Tomojirō first pointed out that the current sūtra could not be the one listed by Dao'an, based on the terminology used. Japanese scholars noted similarities between passages in the *Vajrasamādhisūtra and an early Chan treatise, Er ru si xing lun 二入四行綸, reputedly authored by Bodhidharma, and this discovery directed attention to the sūtra as an early source for Chan, the reasonable assumption being that the śāstra author drew from the sūtra. In the mid twentieth century Japanese scholar Mozuno Kōgen reversed this relationship, arguing that in fact the Bodhidharma text came earlier and the *Vajrasamādhisūtra in fact had borrowed from the Bodhidharma. Mozuno thereby argued that the *Vajrasamādhisūtra is an apocrypha, a theory that has been largely accepted. Although subsequent scholars proposed that Wǒnhyo himself was the author of the text, Robert Buswell has proposed that the sūtra was composed in Korea between 680 and 685 by a monk named Pǒmnang, a Korean student of Daoxin, the reputed founder of the East Mountain School of Chan. Other scholars have proposed Taean and Wǒnhyo himself, as well as Wǒnhyo's teacher Hyegong.
The sūtra was translated from the Chinese into Tibetan some time in the eighth century, and is listed in the ninth-century Magpie Catalog (Ldan dkar ma). It is cataloged in the Peking edition of the Kangyur, text 803, and as Derge text 135. There are two Tibetan manuscripts of the *Vajrasamādhisūtra from Dunhuang (Pelliot no. 623 and 116). Unfortunately no edition reveals the name of the translators.
- Buswell, Ch'an Ideology 33-36.
- Buswell, Cultivating Original Enlightenment, 17-19.
- Buswell, Ch'an Ideology, 127. Liebenthal ("Notes," 347), writing two years after Mozuno, rejected his argument.
- Buswell, Cultivating Original Enlightenment, 19-20.
- Buswell, Ch'an Ideology 3, note 1.