The Sūtra and Dhāraṇī of Protector Buddha Akṣobhya (Mi-trugpa) and Akṣobhya Ritual for the Deceased (April 20-22)

“Any son or daughter of noble family who without pretense or guile pays homage to the tathagata, the completely perfect buddha Akshobhya, and upholds and memorizes this dharani will perfectly pacify all the wrongs they have previously done, including the five heinous deeds, the four root downfalls, the ten non-virtues, disparaging the assembly of noble ones, or disparaging the true Dharma.  When their moment of death arrives, Bhagavan Akshobhya and the bodhisattvas will come directly before them, speak pleasantly and gladden them, and will make them thoroughly joyful. They will then say, ‘We welcome you now, thus it is right that we go together to the buddha field we dwell in.”

–excerpt from the The Sutra of the Dharani that Thoroughly Liberates from Suffering (tr. from Chinese to Tibetan by the 17th Karmapa)

Yesterday, it was announced by Gyalwang 17th Karmapa, that from today April 20–22, at 6 pm IST (12:30 pm GMT) Karma Kagyu monasteries and nunneries will be conducting three days of Akshobhya puja to pray for all those who have recently passed away due to war in Ukraine, airplane crash in Tibet, and other tragedies. The Karmapa explained that:

“These days there is a war in Ukraine, and the war is still ongoing. And this war might lead to an even larger war, it is not impossible. So in order to pacify this war and for helping people who have passed away in it, it is important to do this puja for them.”

For this event, am re-posting some information on the Sūtra and Dhāraṇī of Protector Buddha Akṣobhya (Mitrugpa).  The mantra is spoken thus:

OṂ KAṂKANI KAṂKANI ROCHANI ROCHANI TROṬANI TROṬANI TRĀSANI TRĀSANI PRATIHANA PRATIHANA SARVA KARMA PARAMPARĀṆI ME SVĀHĀ

Here is a video/audio of 17th Karmapa reciting the Akshobhya Buddha Dharani ☆ | Karmapa | – YouTube. and Unshakeable.

May we all experience freedom from anger and aversion and may peace and love reign supreme!

17th Karmapa teaching on Akṣobhya
Painting of Akshobya by 17th Karmapa

In 2021, the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje gave a short teaching about the two Akṣobhya texts (with some references to other texts mentioned):

“The Buddha said many times that the Dhāraṇī of Protector Akṣobhya is supreme for purifying karmic obsurations. Thus, the Akṣobhya Dhāraṇīis called the Dhāraṇī that Purifies All Karmic Obscurations. He has a particular ability to purify karmic obscurations. I think this is primarily connected to the commitment he made, when he first roused bodhicitta  – ‘From now until I reach Buddhahood, I will never feel malice or hatred toward any sentient being. Because he made such a strong commitment, he was given the name Akṣobhya or Unshakeable. He kept this oath firmly from the time he was a bodhisattva until he achieved Buddhahood. Because he never felt malice or hatred toward any being, when he awoke to Buddhahood, the maras didn’t even think to try and make obstacles for him, it is said.

It is for reasons such as these, that Akṣobhya is supreme for purifying karmic obscurations, in particular those that arose from hatred and malice. As you all know, in this universe, there are many trillions of worlds, like this one where Buddha Shakyamuni appeared. For example, to the west, there is Amitabha’s pure realm Sukhavati, as I’m sure you know. There are also many other Buddha realms. It is said that the Buddha Akṣobhya dwells in the eastern realm of Abhirati. One of the major sections of the Kangyur is the Ratnakūṭa Sūtra. In that section, there is the Sūtra of the Features of the Tathagata Akṣobhya’s Realm, which you can read to learn about it. ” [Note: this does not yet appear to have been translated into English].

In our own world, we human beings act in ways that cause severe harm to our world and the beings who live in it. Through climate change and other crises, we human beings are turning into terrifying demons (sinpo) destroying life on earth. For the sake of food, clothes, luxury, and the like, every day millions of animals experience the suffering of being killed and butchered. Actually, avoiding harm and seeking benefit is not just a human right and freedom. It is every single sentient beings’ right and freedom. Thus it is critical for us to respect and protect other beings’ lives and happiness, to take on the responsibility of bringing them benefit and happiness, and to accept the hardships that entails.”

The Ratnakūṭa Sūtra and its translation by Xuanzang
Xuanzang (玄奘; 602 – 664), born Chen Hui / Chen Yi (陳禕), also known as Hiuen Tsang

The Mahāratnakūṭa Sūtra (大宝积经; dàbǎojī jīng, dam-chos dkon-mchog-brtsegs-pa) is an ancient collection of Mahāyāna Buddhist sūtras. It is also known simply as Ratnakūṭa Sūtra (寶積經), literally the Sūtra of the Heap of Jewels in Sanskrit (kūṭa means ‘accumulation’ or ‘heap’).  According to Wisdom Publications:

“The text under the title of Ratnakūṭasūtra, rendered in Chinese by Kumārajīva as Pao-ting king, is referring here to the Kāśyapaparivarta which has come down to us in a somewhat mutilated Indian version (ed. A. von Staël-Holstein, Chang-hai, 1926), one Tibetan translation (Tib. Trip., vol. 24, no. 760, 43) and four Chinese translations made under the Han between 178 and 184, under the Tsin between 265 and 420 (T 351), under the Ts’in between 350 and 431 (T 310, k. 112, p. 631–638) and by Che-hou under the Song, about 982 (T 352)…..

The history of the Sanskrit Ratnakūṭa as a collection of sūtras still remains obscure. The Chinese, followed later by the Tibetans, are almost the only ones to affirm its existence. In the K’ai yuan (T 2154, k. 9, p. 570b4–12) we read: “In the past, during the Tcheng-kouan period (627–649), the Dharma teacher Hiuan-tsang traveled to India and returned with Sanskrit texts. In the Hong fou sseu, he translated the Mahābodhisattvapiṭakasūtra, the twelfth ‘assemblage’ of the Ratnakūṭa. Later, when at Yu houa kong sseu he had finished translating the Mahāprajñā (T 220), the monks invited him to translate the Ratnakūṭa immediately. The Dharma teacher Hiuan-tsang said:

“The merit in translating the Ratnakūṭa is not inferior to that of translating the Prajñā. The time remaining in my life is brief; I am afraid that I cannot finish the work.” As the requests addressed to him did not stop, he began to translate the text hastily. He was able to make only a few lines, and he said, sighing: “This sūtra does not show favorable signs for the people of this country. My strength is exhausted; I cannot finish it.” This is why he stopped translating. The day that Bodhiruci arrived (about 706?), he again presented a Sanskrit text of this [Ratnakūṭa]. The emperor Ho-ti ordered Bodhiruci to continue the remainder of the work begun by Hiuan-tsang.”[1]

Contemporary Translation of the Sūtra

There is an ongoing translation of the Sūtra at 84 000 Reading Room, see here: Heap of Jewels | 84000 Reading Room, of which it says:

“This is a compilation of forty-nine heterogeneous sūtras, present in both the Kangyur and the Chinese Tripiṭaka.

The Heap of Jewels—like the other distinct collection preceding it in the Kangyur, the Ornament of the Buddhas (Buddhāvataṃsaka)—is often described as a sūtra, its full Sanskrit title being Mahāratnakūṭasūtra (“the Sūtra of the Great Heap of Jewels”), and in Tibetan ’phags pa dkon mchog brtsegs pa chen po’i chos kyi rnam grangs le’u stong phrag brgya pa (“the Noble Dharma Discourse of the Great Heap of Precious Jewels with a Hundred Thousand Chapters”). Unlike the Ornament of the Buddhas, however, its component texts or chapters are explicitly presented as independent works. Many of them are individually cited in the treatises of the great Indian masters and are known to have circulated as sūtras in their own right; only five are still extant in Sanskrit.

Although the name Ratnakūṭa (“heap of jewels” or, more exactly, “piled-up jewels”) seems quite appropriate for such a compilation of precious scriptural works, it is in fact the name by which just one of the texts in the collection, the Kāśyapaparivarta (Toh 87) was originally known, and seems to have been applied to the whole collection only later. Citations from a Ratnakūṭasūtra in works by Asaṅga, Śāntideva, and other authors all refer to the Kāśyapaparivarta, which is sometimes therefore designated the “old” Ratnakūṭa.

The history of the Heap of Jewels remains unclear. Tibetan historical tradition, as mentioned briefly in the Degé Kangyur catalogue and recounted more fully by Tāranātha, tells us that the originally much larger collection (with a thousand chapters, or even the hundred thousand of the full title) was reduced to its current forty-nine texts by an arson attack on the library at Nālandā. The date of this event, said to have been responsible for the decimation of many other scriptures, too (including the Buddhāvataṃsaka), is placed some time before the lives of Asaṅga and Vasubandhu, along with accounts of other calamitous episodes during a period of political turbulence and unstable patronage for Buddhist institutions in India.”

Also, the Akshobya Dharani ritual translated into Chinese by Xuanzang, was recently translated into Tibetan from that Chinese version by the 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje. It is regularly recited at the Kagyu Monlam.

There is also a teaching on Akshobya by HE 8th Garchen Rinpoche, here.

One thought on “The Sūtra and Dhāraṇī of Protector Buddha Akṣobhya (Mi-trugpa) and Akṣobhya Ritual for the Deceased (April 20-22)

  1. Hello Adele,
    Would you happen to know what the end part of the dharani/mantra means? “sarva karma param parani mé sarva sattva nencha svaha”
    sarva karma I’m sure means “all karma” and “sarva sattva” all beings (I think). Presumably it means something about purifying all karma of all beings…

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