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Lokesh Chandra

New Delhi


Hsuan-tsang refers to Avalokiteévara on the Potala in the following words (Beal 1884:2.233): "To the east of the Malaya mountains is Mount Po-ta-lo-kia (Potalaka). The passes of this mountain are very dangerous; its sides are precipitous, and its valleys rugged. On the top of the mountain is a lake; its waters are clear as a mirror. From a hollow proceeds a great river which encircles the mountain as it flows down twenty times and then enters the southern sea. By the side of the lake is a rock-palace of the Devas. Here Avalokitesvara in coming and going takes his abode. Those who strongly desire to see this Bodhisattva do not regard their lives, but, crossing the water (fording the streams), climb the mountain forgetful of its difficulties and dangers* of those who make the attempt there are very few who reach the summit. But even of those who dwell below the mountain, if they earnestly pray and beg to behold the god, sometimes he appears as Tsz'-tsai-t’ien (Isvara-deva), sometimes under the form of a yogi (a Pam^u-pata); he addresses them with benevolent words and then they obtain their wishes according to their desires".

Watters (1905:2.229) summarises the above passage as follows: "In the south of the country near the sea was the Mo-lo-ya (Malaya) mountain, with lofty cliffs and ridges and deep valleys and gullies, on which were sandal, camphor and other trees. To the east of this was Pu-ta-lo-ka (Putalaka) mountain with steep narrow paths over its cliffs and gorges in irregular confusion; on the top was a lake of clear water, whence issued a river which, on its way to the sea, flowed twenty times round the mountain. By the side of the lake was a stone Deva-palace frequented by Kuan-tzu-tsai P’usa. Devotées, risking life, brave water and mountain to see the P’usa, but only a few succeed in reaching the shrine. To the people at the foot of the mountain who pray for a sight of the P’usa he appears sometimes as a Päsupata Tirthika, or as Mahesvara, and consoles the suppliant with this bio) answer"

Hsuan-^tsang must have read in the Avatamsaka-sutra about the earthly paradise of Avalokitesvara: "Potalaka is on the sea-side in the south, it has woods, and streams, and tanks, and is in fact a sort of earthly paradise. Buddha-bhadra (A.D. 420) calls Kuanyin's mountain Kuang-ming or ’Brilliance’, which is usually given as the rendering for ✓ — Malaya, but a later translator, Sikshananda, transcribes the name Potalaka” (Watters 1905:2.231). Buddhabhadra’s rendering of Potala is "Brilliance”. It refers to its etymology: Tamil pottu fcotti-) ’to light (as a fire)', Kota pot- fpoty-) id., Kannada pottu n. ’flaming'-f pottige 'flaming, flame', Tulu potta ’hot, burning’ (Burrow/Emeheau 1961:298 no. 3691). In Kannada analogous words are: pottige ’flaming, flame', pottisu ’to cause to burn with flame, to kindle, to light* pottu 'to begin to burn with flame, to be kindled, to catch fire, to flame’, pottu '1. flaming, 2. the sun, 3. time' (Kittel 1894:1020). In ancient times tne magnificence of the temple of Avalokitesvara must have been resplendent and’dazzling to the devotees who reached it after negotiating inaccessible cliffs and ravines: a transcendence beyond forbidding barriers.


In the above passage Avalokitesvara at Potala sometimes take the form of Tsvara (Siva) and sometimes that of a Pasupata z ‘ . z yogin. In fact Siva was metamorphosed into Avalokitesvara.

This is corroborated by the Nilakanthaka and Nilakantha-dharani, where Nilakantha Lokesvara is an apotheosis of Siva and Visnu (Hari-Hara). The Nllakanthaka was translated into Chinese by • > three masters in the seventh and early eighth century: by Chih-t’ung twice during A.D. 627-649 (T. 1057a and T. 1057b = Nj. 318), by Bhagavaddharma during A.D. 650-660 (T. 1059 and T. 1060 = Nj. 320), and by Bodhiruci in A.D. 709 (T. 1058 -Nj. 319). The Nilakantha-dharani was translated into Chinese by Vajrabodhi (worked A.D. 719-741, T. 1112) , twice by his disciple Amoghavajra (worked A.D. 723-774, T. 1111, 1113b, and in the fourteenth century by Dhyanabhadra (worked A.D.1326-1363, T. 1113a). Twelve scrolls of Nilakantha Lokesvara texts in Chinese

have been found at Tun-huang (Giles 1957:105-106). Manuscript 3793 of the Stein Collection of Chinese scrolls from Tun-huang adds a note at the end: ’Translated at Khotan by the sramana Bhagavaddharma of Western India’. Here West means ’South India’ as we have already pointed out in our article on Oddiyäna I * * (in print). It is notable that Bhagavaddharma accomplished the translation at Khotan. Nilakandi for Nilakantha in Amoghavajra' s translation (T. 1113b), is a Central Asian form: Uigur nominative singular ending in .


The version of Amoghavajra (T. 1113b) has been the most wide spread ever since it was written in the eighth century. Its popularity has not waned to this day. Suzuki (1950:22-23) includes its English rendering as an essential part of the Zen repertoire of sutras, "what the Zen monk reads before the Buddha in his daily service, where his thoughts move in his leisure hours" (ibid. 11) :

Suzuki's Translation


Adoration to the Triple, Treasure!

Adoration to Avalokiteshvara the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva who is the great compassionate one!

Om, to rhe one who performs a leap beyond all fears!

Having adored him, may I enter into the heart of the blue—necked one known as the noble adorable Avalokitesvara. It means the completing of all meaning, it is pure, it is that which makes-all beings victorious and cleanses the path of existence.

Thus: Om, the seer, the world-transcending one!. 0 Hari the Mahäbodhisattva!.

All, all!

Defilement, defilement!-The earth, the earth! It is the heart! Do, do the work!

Hold fast, hold fast! 0 great victor!

Hold on, hold on! I hold on!

To Indra the creator!

Move, move, my defilement-free seal!

Come, come!

Hear, hear!

A joy springs up in me!

Speak, speak!. Directing!

Hulu, hulu, mala, hulu, hulu, hile!

Sara, sara! siri, siri! suru, suru!

Be awakened, be awakened!

Have awakened, have awakened! 0 merciful one, blue-necked onel Of daring ones, to the joyous, hail! To the successful one, hail!

To the great successful one, hail!

To the one who has attained mastery in the discipline, hail!

To the blue-necked one, hail!

To the boar-faced one, hail!

To the one with a lion’s head and face, hail!

To the one who holds a weapon in his hand, hail!

To the one who holds a wheel in his hand, hail!

To the one who holds a lotus in his hand, hail!

To the blue-necked far-causing one, hail!

To the beneficient one referred to in this Dharani beginning with "namah", hail!

Adoration to the triple Treasure!

Adoration to Avalokitesvara!


May these [[[prayers]]] be successful!

To this magical formula, hail!

Suzuki has used the Sanskrit text in Siddham script given / alongside the Chinese transcription, as the basis for his translation. The Sanskrit is corrupt beyond recognition in certain cases: dhava namo narakidhi herima.

Suzuki has taken ’0 Hari' from another version. Sarva sarva 'all, all', is in fact sarpa sarpa 'descend descend'. Mala mala translated by Suzuki as 'defilement, defilement' should be smara smara 'bear in mind, bear in mind'. Dhirini-raya is rendered as ' I hold on. To Indra the creator'.

Its correct Sanskrit is dharini-raja *0 Lore of the dharani (namely, Nilakantha Lokesvara) '. Vasa-vasam prasaya is done into English as 'Speak! speak! Directing*.

Its Sanskrit reconstruction is visam visam pranasaya ’destroy every poison (of the senses)'.dhasinina . pasamana svaha is interpreted as 'of daring one, to the joyous, hail'.

Its correct text would be [dehi me] darsanam/praharamanaya svaha appear [unto me].

To the overlooking Lord, hail'. Suzuki has missed not only the words of the dharani, but also its structure. The dharani can be divided ’ into five parts:

1. initial salutation,

2. name of the Avalokitesvara,

3. sloka enunciating merit's of the hrdaya-dharani,

4. dharani commencing with the classical phrase tadyatha,

5. final salutation. It escaped the attention of Suzuki that the third part is a sloka.

Transcription 1: Siddham script of Chinese Tripitaka

The text as written in Siddham script in the Chinese Tripitaka (T. 1113b, 20.498-501) is transcribed below:

Namo Ratna-trayaya

1. Namo aryavalokitesvaraya, bodhisatvaya mahasatvaya mahakarunikaya.

2. Om sarva-rabhya-sudhana dasya namoskrta imo aryavaruki-tesivaram dhava namo narakidhi.

3. Herima vadhasame^ sarva athadu subham ajeyam sarva-bhutanama va-gama-vadudu

4. Tadyatha -

Om / Avaloka lokatekarate/ ehya maha bodhisattva sarva sarva/ mala mala mama hrdayam/ kuru kuru karma/ dhuru dhuru vajayate mahavajayate/ dhara dhara dhirini-raya/ cala-dala mama vamara-muktele , ehe-ehe/ cinda cinda

arsam pracali/ vasa-vasam prasaya/ huru huru mara huru, huru/ sara sara siri siri suru suru/ bodhiya bodhiya bodhiya bodhiya/ maitriya Narakindi dhasinina pasamana svaha/ siddhaya svaha/ mahasiddhaya svaha/ siddhayo-gesvakaraya svaha Narakindi svaha

Maranara svaha/ sirasamha- mukhaya svaha pamahasiddhaya svaha/ cakrasiddhaya svaha/ padma-kastaya svaha/ Narakindi vagaraya svaha/ mabari sankaya svaha.

5. Namo raratna trayaya/ Namo aryavarokitesvaraya bodhi svaha

The above text can be corrected by a comparison with the version of Chih-t’ung (worked A.D. 627-649); which we find in / the Ming edition of the Chinese Tripitaka. All the Sanskrit texts occuring in the Ming Tripitaka were collected together by Rol-pahi-rdo-rje and his assistants in 8+2 volumes of the quadrilingual collection of dharaijis which bears the Chinese title: Yu chih man han meng-ku hsi - fan ho-pi ta-tsang ch'uan chou (edited by the author in 22 volumes under the title Sanskrit Texts from the Imperial Palace ac Peking, abbreviated to STP) .

The prime objective of the redactors of the quadrilingual dharani-collection was to restore the Sanskrit text to its appropriate accuracy with the help of Tibetan texts. It proved to be a remarkable effort at textual reconstruction undertaken as early as the first half of the 18th century.

Transcription 2: Reconstructed Sanskrit Text

Here below is the reconstituted Sanskrit text with variant readings from STP. 5.1290-6.1304 which have been used for emendations:

/Namo Ratna-trayaya/

Nama aryavalokitesvaraya bodhisattvaya mahasattväya mahakärunikaya/

Om/ sarva-bhaya-sodhanaya tasya namaskrtva imu aryavalokitesvara tava namo Nilakantha/ hrdayam vartayisyami’ sarvartha-sadhanam subham/ ajeyam sarva-bhutanam bhava-marga-visodhakam // Tadyatha/

Om/ Alokadhipati lokatikranta/ ehy-[ehi] mahabodhisattva sarpa-sarpa/ smara/smara hrdayam/ kuru-kuru karma/ dhuru-dhuru vijayate mahavijayate/ dhara-dhara dharini-raja / cala-cala marna vimala-murtte , ehi-ehi/ chinda-chinda/ arsa pracali/ visam-visam pranasaya/ hulu-hulu smara hulu-hulu/ sara-sara siri-siri suru-suru/ bodhiya-bodhiya bodhaya-bodhaya/ maitriya Nilakantha [dehi me] darsanam / Praharayamanaya svaha/ siddhaya svaha/ mahasiddhaya svaha/

siddhayogisvaraya svaha/ Nilakanthaya svaha/

varaha-mukhaya svaha/ narasimha-mukhaya svaha/

gada-hastaya svaha/ cakra-hastaya svaha/ padma-hastaya svaha/ Nilakantha-pandaraya svaha/ Mahatali-Sankaraya svaha,

5. Namo ratna-trayaya/ Nama aryavalokitesvaraya bodhisattvaya svaha/

Notes to both Transcriptions

1. STP. hridayam vartayisami.

2. STP. has the correct text, dudu occurs elsewhere too as an expletive to slur over lacunae when words were forgotten.

3. STP. Aloka-adhipati: this reminds us a Buddhabhadra (A.D. 420) who renders Potalaka the mountain of Avalokitesvara as Kuang-ming "Brilliance". The Avalokitesvara of Potalaka was Alokadhipati or the Lord of Effulgence, and this phrase points to the fact that Nilakantha Lokesvara and the Avalokitesvara of Potala are identical

4. STP. 1294 line 1 smrara hridayan.

5. STP. 1295 line 2 dharenadrisvara.

6. STP. 1295 line 3 vimalamurte.

7. STP. 1298 line 1 dvesa-visa-vinasanam maha-visa-vinasanam.

8. STP. svatia 1300 line 2 dadahi me darsana-kamasa darsanam/ praharayamana svaha

9. STP 1300 line 4 parahamukhaya.

10. STP. 1301 line 1 narasihamukhaya.

11. STP. 1301 line 2 vajrahastaya.

In the Siddham of the Chinese text it is pama which can equally well be gada. The dharani refers to Varaha and Narasimha, the two incarnations of Vishnu. The attributes that follow should also pertain to Visnu: mace (gada) discus 13 Kattadi cakra) > lotus padma) and conch (sankha). Tn this light pans has to be emended to and not to vajra.

12. STP. 1302 lines 3-4 cakrayudhamiyaavahU/aankha-aabda-nibodhanaya avaba. The aarnkha 'conch!is missing in our text.

13. Hsuan-tsang says that Avalokitesvara at Potalaka sometimes appears as a yogin smeared with ashes. The word pOndarilya is an allusion to this attribute.

Translation of Reconstructed Sanskrit Text

Adoration the Triple Gem

1. Adoration the noble Avalokitesvara, bodhisattva, mahasat-tva, the Great Compassionate One.

2. Om. Having paid adoration to One who Dispels all Fears, O noble Avalokitesvara, to You adoration, O Nilakantha.

3. I shall enunciate the ’heartdharani which ensures all purposes, is pure and invincible for all beings, and which purifies the path of existence.

4. Thus:

Om. Lord of Effulgence, the World-Transcending One.

Come, come, great bodhisattva, descend, descend. Bear in mind my heart-dharani. Do do the work. Hold fast, oh Victor, oh Great Victor. Hold on, hold on, oh Lord of the Dharani. Move, move oh my immaculate image, come come Destroy every poison.

Quick, bear in mind, quick, quick. Descend, descend, descend descend, descend descend. Being enlightened, being enlightened enlighten me, enlighten me. Oh merciful Nilakantha appear unto me. To You who eyes us, hail. To the Great Siddha hail. To the Great Siddha in Yoga hail. To Nilakantha hail. To the Boar-faced One hail.

To One with the Face of Narasimha hail. TO One who bears

the mace in His hand, hail. To the Holder of cäkra in His hand, hail. To One who Sports a Lotus in His hand, hail. To Nilakantha smeared [with ashes], hail. To the mighty Sankara hail.

5. Adoration to the Triple Gem. Adoration to the noble Avalokitesvara bodhisattva, hail.


Now we shall take up Rol-pahi-rdo-rje's reconstruction (STP. 5.1290-6.1304) of the Nilakanthaka transcribed by Chih-t'ung during A.D. 627-649 (Nj. 318, T. 1057b). This version is different and longer than that of Amoghavajra. The words ehi hare (hare is the vocative of Hari) and ehi hara are of crucial importance, as they are certain indications that the Potala image was a syncretic icon of Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva).

Hari-hara Lokesvara is one of the 108 forms of Avalokitesvara in the Macchandar Vahal at Kathmandu in Nepal (Bhattacharyya 1958:429 no. 84).

The following characteristics allude to Hari: padma-hasta, vajra-hasta cakrayudhadhara sarikha-sabdanirghosana. These are the attributes held in thé four hands of Vishnu, except vajra which replaces gadS. He has the faces of two incarnations of Vishnu: Varaha-mukha, Makavaraha-mukha, Narasimha-mukha, MahaNarasimha-mukha. He has the prowess of Narayana (Narayana-bala-rupa) . He is Hara-Hari (Hara-hare, vocative) and Mahapadma-nabha which is an epithet of Vishnu and also one of his 24 aspects (oaturvinisati-muti, Liebert 1976:204) . He is standing on a lotus (padma-sthita).

The very title of the dhärani refers to Nilakantha, which is an epithet of Siva. He is invoked as Hara (ehi Hara). His diadem is his black matted locks ( krsna-^atä-mukuta). He is the Immutable Lord (niscaresvara • Sthänu or Sthcmvvsvara, an