Translations from the Taishō Tripiṭaka
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The Buddhist texts presented below are original English translations from the Taishō Tripiṭaka, the most widely used edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon. The great majority of texts in this canon have never been translated into English, and their original translation into Chinese was a large scale effort spanning around eight hundred years. A selection of texts from this canon into English are available below. These begin with some foundational works from the Āgamas, and continue on to the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras and other genres. The translations below include the Diamond Sūtra and the Heart Sūtra.
Gāthā for opening a sūtra:
The highest, most profound and subtle Dharma
Is in billions of eons most difficult to encounter;
I now perceive, hear, obtain, accept, and uphold,
Wishing to fathom the Tathāgata’s true meaning.
❦ Āgama division 阿含部
Translated by Trepiṭaka Guṇabhadra circa 435-443 CE, as Za Ahan Jing (雜阿含經). The Saṃyukta Āgama is an early collection of short Buddhist texts organized by topic. This edition of the Saṃyukta Āgama comes from the Mūlasarvāstivāda monastic sect in India, and contains some of the foundational texts of Buddhism such as the Dharmacakra Pravartana Sūtra (SA 379), in which Śākyamuni Buddha turns the Dharma Wheel by teaching the Four Noble Truths at the deer park of Ṛṣipatana. According to the sūtra commentaries in the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra, the Saṃyukta Āgama was the earliest āgama collection.
T. 125: Ekottarika Āgama
Translated by Trepiṭaka Dharmanandi in 384-385 CE, as Zengyi Ahan Jing (增壹阿含經). The Ekottarika Āgama is another large collection of early Buddhist texts, which follows a numeric organizational principle from which the collection derives its name. This translation is thought to come from either the Dharmaguptakas or the Mahāsāṃghikas in India, and contains a version of the Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra (EA 17.1), which teaches methods of cultivating mindfulness of the vital breath for the attainment of samādhi. This text also describes related subjects such as the Four Dhyānas and seeing past lives.
❦ Prajñāpāramitā division 般若部
Translated by Trepiṭaka Mandrasena in 503 CE, as Wenshushili Suoshuo Mohe Bore Boluomi Jing (文殊師利所說摩訶般若波羅蜜經). In the early years of the 6th century CE, Trepiṭaka Mandrasena came to China from the state of Funan, an Indianized country in Southeast Asia, which is now Cambodia. Here, he translated the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Mañjuśrīparivarta Sūtra, the Prajñāpāramitā teachings of Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva. After its translation into Chinese, this text was widely studied, and was influential for the Tiantai and Chan schools. In later Indian classifications, this text was called the Saptaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, meaning the Prajñāpāramitā of 700 lines.
Translated by Trepiṭaka Kumārajīva in 401 CE, as Jin’gang Bore Boluomi Jing (金剛般若波羅蜜經). This is the famous Diamond Sūtra, translated from the earliest known text. This sūtra presents a teaching given by the Buddha to Elder Subhūti on how to attain complete enlightenment. In the early 6th century, Kumārajīva’s translation was divided into 32 sections by Crown Prince Zhaoming of the Liang dynasty. This form became the standard edition in East Asia, used by all sects including the Zen school, and remains the standard to this day. At the end of the Taishō edition is a mantra, and this has been included as well. Although this work is popularly called the Diamond Sūtra, the Sanskrit term vajracchedikā is clarified by Xuanzang and Yijing as meaning, “able to cut diamond” (能斷金剛 neng duan jin’gang). In the later period of Indian Buddhism, the Vajracchedikā was also called the Triśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, meaning the Prajñāpāramitā of 300 lines.
Translated by Trepiṭaka Dharma Master Xuanzang in 649 CE, as Bore Boluomiduo Xinjing (般若波羅蜜多心經). Also known as the Heart Sūtra, this is a very short sūtra of Prajñāpāramitā teachings, along with a meditation method in the form of a mantra as skillful means. This original short version has been popularly recited and studied across many traditions, and continues to be extremely popular in modern times. As the “Heart of Prajñāpāramitā,” this text is regarded as containing the essence of all other Prajñāpāramitā teachings. The version presented here is the translation made by Dharma Master Xuanzang, which is the most widely used edition.
Translated by Trepiṭaka Prajñā in 790 CE, as Bore Boluomiduo Xinjing (般若波羅蜜多心經). The Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sūtra, or Heart Sūtra, exists principally in a short version and in two differing longer versions. The translation presented here is of the standard long version, which is the same basic version of the text that is popular in Tibetan Buddhism. Both short and long versions are still extant in Sanskrit, and these correspond very closely to the short and long editions of the sūtra presented here. The longer sūtra provides valuable context for the main teaching of the text, including statements clearly indicating that Prajñāpāramitā is the essential practice for bodhisattvas, rather than mere philosophy.
❦ Ratnakūṭa division 寶積部
T. 310: Mahāratnakūṭa Sūtra
Compiled by Trepiṭaka Bodhiruci in 707-713 CE, as Da Baoji Jing (大寶積經). The Mahāratnakūṭa, or “Great Jewel Heap,” is a very large collection of Buddhist sūtras, many of which are early Mahāyāna teachings from India. Although it is a great collection, most of the texts contained in it are little known. When this collection was originally compiled in the Tang Dynasty, if an individual text in the collection had been translated before, then the previous translation was generally used instead of translating it again. In this collection, each text is deemed a “Dharma assembly,” and there are 49 Dharma assemblies in all.
- 21. Bhadra the Magician PDF (tr. Bodhiruci)
- 30. The Maiden Sumati PDF (tr. Bodhiruci)
- 31. Gaṅgottara Upāsikā PDF (tr. Bodhiruci)
- 46. Mañjuśrī Prajñāpāramitā PDF (tr. Mandrasena)
Translated by Trepiṭaka Bodhiruci in 693 CE, as Xumoti Jing (須摩提經), this is a sūtra about an inquiry made by the maiden Sumati (“Good Wisdom”). Its fuller title, Sumatidārikā Paripṛcchā Sūtra, translates as The Inquiry of Good Wisdom. In this encounter, Sumati first requests a teaching from the Buddha on how to accomplish the special qualities of a bodhisattva. Then, she gives her own exposition of the Dharma and the realm of realization of a bodhisattva. This is a very representative Mahāyāna wisdom sūtra of the Ratnakūṭa class, and it is also included in the Mahāratnakūṭa collection.
Translated by Trepiṭaka Kumārajīva in 402 CE, as Fo Shuo Emituo Jing (佛說阿彌陀經). Also known as the Amitābha Sūtra, this text describes the buddha-land of Sukhāvatī and how to enter into this realm, through various skillful means and explanations of truth. The sūtra advocates the practice of reciting the name of Amitābha as a mantra. At the end of the Taishō edition is a dhāraṇī for rebirth in Sukhāvatī, along with instructions for it passed down from another Indian master, and this section has been included. Additionally, a Buddhist monk in Europe has translated this English edition into a new Polish translation of the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra.
❦ Esoteric division 密教部
Translated by Trepiṭaka Divākara in 685 CE, as Fo Shuo Qijuzhi Fomuxin Da Zhunti Tuoluoni Jing (佛說七俱胝佛母心大准提陀羅尼經). In this sūtra, the Buddha teaches the Cundī Dhāraṇī to help people in later times. The dhāraṇī is introduced for the first time in the Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra, in which a bodhisattva endeavors in attaining samādhi using the mantra “oṃ maṇipadme hūṃ.” At the end of the sūtra, the bodhisattva finally succeeds in using the mantra to attain this samādhi, and then innumerable perfectly enlightened buddhas reply in one voice with the Great Cundī Dhāraṇī. To accompany this translation, there is also an introductory article for this method, The Dharma Gateway of the Cundī Dhāraṇī.
❦ Yogācāra division 瑜伽部類
Translated by Trepiṭaka Dharma Master Xuanzang in 648 CE, as Weishi Sanshi Lun Song (唯識三十論頌). This work is commonly called Thirty Verses on Consciousness Only, and is a core text of the Consciousness Only school of Buddhism, also called Yogācāra or Vijñānavāda. The thirty verses in this work were composed by Vasubandhu Bodhisattva in order to teach the subtle truth that all perceived phenomena are manifestations of consciousness. For this work, the original verses by Vasubandhu were translated, without commentary.