(Originally published on tsemrinpoche.com)
Extensive research and translations have been done on this incredible female devotee of Lord Buddha. Take your time to study up on her. We have arranged two translated texts from two Tibetan sources on her great deeds. May this inspire you very much as it did me. It will be beautiful to read how she brought so many on the path to dharma. High lamas in Tibetan have many previous lives where they took various incarnations to be of benefit to many beings. Magadha Sangmo is considered the first incarnation of the great master Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen.
Also known as Sumagadha, Ma ga dha bZang mo’i, Cula-Subhadda or Cula-Sumadhi, there exist many sources about her deeds which I share with you here. They can be found in English, Chinese and Tibetan, showing that Magadha Zangmo had a widespread impact on Buddhism throughout the ancient world. There was even a chapter and sutra dedicated to her in the Kangyur (the translated collected words of the Buddha) called the Sumagadhavadana. His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche also spoke about her and described the story behind her invocation of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. So please do read about Magadha Zangmo, her devotion to her teacher Lord Shakyamuni and the many wonderful works that have been written about her.
His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche speaks about Magadha Sangmo
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H.H. Zong Rinpoche speaks about Magadha Sangmo
The story of Magadha Zangmo begins with her father, Suddatta, a kind and generous man whom was one of Buddha Shakyamuni’s lay disciple and a primary patron. He was instrumental in building Buddha’s first monastic abode called Jetavana. Suddatta established himself as a philanthropist by practicing the Buddha’s teachings on Generosity which earned him the name ‘Anathapindika’ which means “the feeder of the orphans or helpless”. Having gained great faith in the Buddha’s teachings and took refuge in the Three Jewels, Anathapindika became the foremost student of Buddha Shakyamuni and set a great example for all sponsors, on the right attitude to hold when sponsoring one’s Guru in Dharma.
When the Buddha was about to enter the Rain Retreat which lasts three months during the monsoon, the caring Anathapindika enquired where the Buddha would be staying during this period as it would be difficult to travel to get necessary supplies. Upon knowing that the Buddha did not have a permanent shelter, Anathapindika set forth to look for a suitable place which is the current Jetavana Grove in the land of Magadha. But procuring the beautiful park was no easy task, as it belonged to Prince Jeta, whom had not the slightest interest to sell his beautiful park. To deter Anathapindika from asking further, the prince said “Alright, you can have the park for however much it costs to cover the ground with gold coins”. Seizing this opportunity, Anathapindika immediately agreed to the prince’s terms and soon brought over wagons filled with gold coins to cover the ground. Upon seeing Anathapindika’s determination, the Prince asked the reason for which Anathapindika needed this park for. On hearing that the park was for the Buddha and His retinue, the prince immediately relented and handed the park over to Anathapindika for a more reasonable price. From then on, Anathapindika spent a large portion of his fortune to build a monastery for the Buddha complete with accommodation for the Buddha and Sangha members, assembly halls and lotus parks, while Prince Jeta, who initially reluctant to sell his park, offered to build an impressive gate house leading into the park and a wall around it for privacy.
Upon the completion of the monastery, Anathapindika invited and offered the Buddha to reside in the monastery. The inauguration of the monastery was a huge fanfare with the assembly of gods and men coming together, rejoicing in Anathapindika’s generous deed. The Buddha took the Jetavana monastery as His main residence and gave many teachings there to benefit all sentient beings. Records of this virtuous man is found in all Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana scriptures and it is said that due to his devotion to the Buddha, he had attained the state of a Sottapanna, the first stage leading to Arhatship.
Anathapindika had two daughters and adopted a third. When his younger biological daughter, Magadha Zangmo came of age, a famous merchant named Ugga approached Anathapindika to ask for his daughter in marriage. Although Anathapindika was not in favor of allowing his daughter to marry this man, as he lived very far away and is not a Buddhist practitioner, he however allowed his daughter to make the decision and asked what conditions she would wish for to be married into the house of Ugga.
Magadha Zangmo then replied, if Ugga will invite the Buddha and His disciples to their home for a meal, she is willing to marry him. Ugga agreed to her terms and the both were married in a distant land called Gokhara. Gokhara was not a Buddhist community at that time, and followed mainly the Jain religion. The locals there worshipped ascetics who would meditate naked in the wild. It made Magadha Zangmo felt uneasy every time her in-laws invited these ascetics to come to their home and hosted them for meals. Magadha Zangmo began talking to her mother-in-law and father-in-law about the Buddha and in time, their curiosity grew in the Buddha. All this time, Magadha had also longed to see the golden face of the Buddha and make offerings of dana as she used to do.
One day, when the time was right, Magadha Zangmo reminded her husband of his promise to her before they were married. Ugga agreed but mentioned that it will take a long time more as the Buddha reside in a far place, but Magadha Zangmo insisted they prepare a sumptuous meal to be offered as dana to the Buddha the next day and leave the invitation of the Buddha to her. Although Ugga and her in-laws were doubtful that Buddha would arrive, to please Magadha, they prepared a large feast for the next day. On that night, Magadha Zangmo climbed up to the roof of her home and offered incense in the direction of Jetavana and recited this prayer:
MA LU SEM CHEN KUN GYI GON GYUR CHING
DU TE PUNG CHAY MI ZAY JOM DZAY LHA
NGO NAM MA LU YANG DA KYEN GYUR PAY
CHOM DEN KOR CHAY NAY DIR SHEG SU SOL
Translation: Protector of all beings without exception, divine subduer of innumerable negative forces, deity, perfect knower of all things, Bhagawan and attendants, please come here.
With this prayer, she requested the Buddha together with his disciples to please come to her home and receive alms. The Buddha, being omniscient, heard her prayer and told Ananda to tell all his students who have achieved Insight to make preparations to travel to Gokhara where Magadha Zangmo lived. This heartfelt invitation of the Buddha by Magadha Zangmo has since become archetypal for ritual invocations practiced today.
The very next day, Magadha Zangmo’s house was festive with preparations for the Buddha’s arrival. The maids and servants were busy cleaning the entire household, preparing and cooking up a feast for the Buddha and His entourage. Her heart was brimming with faith as she oversaw all the preparations needed for her Master’s arrival.
As the sun rose towards the Zenith, some of the servants saw a procession of monks clad in saffron robes riding on dragons, garudas and other mystical animals descending from the sky. When Magadha Zangmo was asked if either one of them was her Master, she replied no as she saw the Arhats. The Buddha was seen last in the procession of Arhats, riding on a lion and as He descended from the sky the Buddha manifested into 18 separate Buddhas, each entering one of the 18 gateways to the city. Many miracles ensued that turned the city’s disbelief into faith in the Dharma. The Buddha realizing that the city’s population could not fit into Magadha’s home transformed Magadha’s house into a brilliant structure composed of moonstones and jewels. So while Magadha and her family worshipped the Buddha inside, the townsfolk outside all saw reflections of the Buddha that radiated from the house.
The entire city of people of Gokhara who were not Buddhist were left awe-struck by the spectacle of the Buddha’s psychic manifestation. Many were seen on their knees and some prostrated in faith as they have seen for themselves the Golden face of Lord Buddha. Magadha Zangmo welcomed the Buddha to her house and offered the Buddha with Dana and in return, seeing the time was ripe for Magadha Zangmo’s husband and in-laws to receive the Dharma, gave a Dharma teaching to everyone present. Thousands thronged Magadha Zangmo’s house for teachings from the Buddha. Having heard the Buddha’s teachings, many people of Gokhara took refuge in the Buddha and the Three Jewels.
It was due to Magadha Zangmo’s faith and devotion that the people of Gokhara were able to meet with Buddha, receive the Dharma and have their minds liberated. Magadha Zangmo was like her father, Anathapindika who established the culture of hosting the Buddha and the Sangha so that the Dharma would grow in her region.
There are many recorded accounts of Magadha Zangmo in the different Buddhist canons which indicates that Magadha Zangmo was not an ordinary being. When the Buddha’s attendant remarked to the Buddha how auspicious it was for the Buddha to answer Magadha’s prayers to visit, the Buddha responded that Magadha Zangmo had in her past life been the daughter of King Krkin, who was the main patron of the Buddha Kasyapa, and even then she had been a great devotee of the Dharma, and was the one who introduced her father, King Krkin to Buddha Kasyapa. And even before that, she had been a poor girl who had made an offering of a crown of flowers to the sanctuary of a Pratyekabuddha and made a vow to continue to do so lifetime after lifetime. Magadha’s story is that of pure devotion towards the Dharma that in turn made the Dharma available to countless people.
Magadha Zangmo lived her life serving the Buddha and the Dharma, bringing benefit to countless beings who came to listen to Buddha’s teachings. It is said that she achieved Arhatship during her lifetime as a lay householder, another indication that a practitioner can gain realizations even when we are not living the life of a monk or nun. Her story is still taught in Buddhist curriculum of today, reminding us to be humble and to always seize the chance to be generous and make offerings to the Buddhas.
From her act of offering incense to the Buddha came the tradition of making offerings to the Buddhas which is still practiced today across all Buddhist traditions. It is from her act of making incense offerings and reciting the verse of invocation which started the tradition of invocation prayer. Magadha Zangmo’s life legacy came filled with spiritual meaning and it was said that she continued to return to Samsara as great Buddhist masters as well as ordinary incarnations to benefit more beings after her passing.
“In India, in the Buddha’s time, there was a woman called Magadha Zangmo, who lived somewhere near Bodhgaya, I think. She was Buddhist and her husband was a Hindu. She wanted to invite Buddha to her home and offer lunch to Buddha and his disciples, so she cleaned the house and made the lunch to offer Buddha and his disciples. Her husband said that Buddha wouldn’t come, but she said, “Buddha is coming,” and made everything ready.
Magadha Zangmo then stood outside holding incense in her hand and recited this prayer, “Ma lü sem chän kün gyi…nä dir sheg su söl.” All the disciples came first, each arhat radiant and riding on a different animal. With each one, her husband said, “Is this Buddha?” and she said, “No.” Another disciple would come; he would ask, “Is this Buddha?” and she would say, “No.” All the disciples came first, and Buddha was the last one to come. Magadha Zangmo then made offering to Buddha. So, this invocation comes from Magadha Zangmo.”
“The account of Buddha appearing in the skies refers to the story of Magadha Zangmo, daughter of Anathapindika, a great patron of the Buddha. She lived in Gorakhpur, far from where Buddha was staying. One night, moved by great faith, she climbed to the roof of the house and prayed for the Buddha to appear. At once the skies became filled with miraculous sights the poem describes.”
From Splendor of the Autumn Moon and in the commentary of the Praise of the Buddha by Lama Tsongkhapa.
Stone carvings of the Magadha Zangmo Sutra preserved until today
Additional information – Tibetan
Also known as Sumagadha, Ma ga dha bZang mo’i, Cula-Subhadda or Cula-Sumadhi, there exist many sources about her deeds which I share with you here. They can be found in English, Chinese and Tibetan, showing that Magadha Zangmo had a widespread impact on Buddhism throughout the ancient world. Below is information about Magadha Zangmo as compiled from Tibetan sources.
Magadha Sangmo Prayer recited by Khendrup Rinpoche (of Lijiang)
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This is the prayer that Magadha Sangmo recited as she offered incense requesting the Buddha and his disciples to come to her home to receive offerings. Here it is recited by Khendrup Rinpoche who currently resides in Lijiang.
Collected works (sungbum) of Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche
Oral History of Magadha Sangmo
Composed by Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche
Translated by Geshe Cheme Tsering
Source: [Page 248 Line 4] Losel Gakye: Annotated Commentary on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche
Receiving the Buddha’s assent, he agreed to give his daughter. Thereafter, they saw off Magadha Sangmo, bedecked in finery, to Pundravardhana which was at a distance of a hundred and sixty pagtsad [1 pagtsad ≈ 1 mile]. Knowing that at this distant region, she would not be able to see the Buddha, she set out with tears in her eyes.
Thereafter, at her stepparents’ and husband’s home, she treated them with loving-kindness and good conduct for a long period of time. Joy and happiness increased in their house.
At one time, the family invited and entertained many religious preceptors who were outside the Buddha’s teachings. They were uneducated, they were naked, their hair was loose, they did not cover their genitals, and their conduct was unrestrained. Sangmo was not pleased. She asked her stepmother, “It is deplorable that you honor people whose conduct is no better than bulls and cows.”
The stepmother asked, “In that case, what type of religious preceptors do you have in your region?”
Sangmo replied, “The preceptor who is honored in my home is the teacher known as the Buddha. He is handsome. You can’t take your eyes off him.” Describing each of them, she said, “He has the 32 major marks etc. of a great being. He is calm, peaceful, and tamed. His clairvoyance and psychic powers have no obstruction. He treats all [page 249] migratory sentient beings with loving-kindness and compassion, with such love as if he is their parent.”
She explained in great detail these and other exceptional qualities of the Buddha. They were deeply moved. “Is there a chance that we can meet this spiritual preceptor of yours? Will we be able to invite him here if we try?”, they asked. Sangmo replied, “Physical distance and selectiveness in one’s kindness do not exist for my teacher. If one prays to him, he will come and can be seen.”
The family cleaned the house. They set exceptional offerings. Taking some incense and flowers, Sangmo went to the roof of the house. Turning towards the direction where the Buddha dwelled, she folded her hands and, with eyes wet with tears, prayed, “Buddha, this disciple of yours has come to live in this region much like an animal driven from a lotus pond. However, there is no selectiveness in your loving compassion. Please consider being my guest tomorrow.”
She folded her hands. She sprinkled flowers. With sweet fragrance, the white, yellow, red and blue flowers gradually rose to the sky, amidst incense smoke. They gently fell in Magadha at the Buddha’s feet amidst melodious words of Magadha Sangmo’s prayers.
The Buddha said to Ananda, “Tomorrow morning, we are to be guests at Magadha Sangmo’s alms offering. It is far away, at a distance of a hundred and sixty pagtsad. We have to cover that in half a day. Distribute counting sticks among the monks who have psychic powers.”
At midnight, Ananda distributed the counting sticks. Purnomaitreyaniputra, an old monk, reclining with a vase for his pillow, stretched his hands out to pick out a counting stick. Ananda smiled and said, “Purnomaitreyaniputra, we are not going on foot to the house of Anaathpindika’s daughter tomorrow. She is a hundred and sixty pagtsad away. We have to arrive at her Bhuramshingphel region in half a day. We are going there through psychic power.”
Purnomaitreyaniputra did not have that ability. He became dejected. He lowered his head. “Because of a subtle obscuration on account of non-virtue from immemorable past, I have no psychic powers even though I have attained arhatship. What an embarrassing matter this is in front of one’s community”, he thought. By meditating that night, he instantly attained the psychic powers.
Early the next morning, the arhats who had the psychic ability put on fine robes, congregated at the assembly hall, and rose into the sky.
Far away at Bhuramshingphel region, Magadha Sangmo along with her stepparents and household servants were at the rooftop of their house. They were finely dressed and searching the sky with flowers and parasols in their hands. Magadha Sangmo prayed,
“The refuge of each and every sentient being,
The truly divine one who has overcome all maras and their hosts,
The one who knows everything as they really are – Fully Enlightened One,
We invite you here together with your followers.”
A very dignified monk having a radiance comparable to the sun arrived on a chariot, from the sky. The stepparents and all others saw him. They were amazed. “Is this the Buddha?” they asked. “He is the monk Ajnatakaundinya”, Sangmo replied.
Another monk arrived astride a mountain. “Is this your teacher now?” “No, this is Mahakashyapa, who is like a tree of gold. He is supreme among disciples who dwell at peace in practicing austerities”, explained Sangmo.
Another one arrived, who seemed to be riding a roaring lion. “Is this he?” “No, this is Mogallanaputra, who is of supreme merit”, explained Sangmo.
Another one arrived on a golden flower with deep blue leaves. Fragrance filled the atmosphere. “Is this he?” “This is also not him; this is the monk known as Anurudha.”
Another monk arrived at high velocity. He appeared to ride a garuda whose flapping wings were dispersing the clouds in the skies. “Is this he?” “No, this is Purnomaitreyaniputra, the son of Jhama.”
An extremely peaceful [page 251] monk arrived. He appeared on what seemed to be a pond. “Is this he?” “No, this is Asvajit, who is supreme among those who have tamed their minds.”
Another one arrived. People perceived him as riding a plantain tree with swaying leaves. Magadha Sangmo explained that this was Upali, the monk with clear and complete merit.
Another monk arrived. They perceived him astride a blue palatial mansion adorned with designs of gold and sparkling linings of precious stones. She explained that this was the monk Kaatyan.
Another monk arrived. He was firmly riding a buffalo. Sangmo explained that this was the monk Kaushila, who was known for his firm mind.
Another appeared on a swan, radiating rays of light. She explained that this was the monk Silindpadapa, supreme among practitioners of austerities.
Another one arrived. They saw him astride trees and golden lotus pond. She explained that he was Shronakotīkran, who has no attachment to any object of the world.
Again, another one arrived. He was turning a wheel which appeared to fill all directions with golden light. She explained that this was Rahul, the Buddha’s son.
Then, the entire landscape became illuminated with rays of light. Innumerable monks appeared. After that, amidst an innumerable array of offerings held by goddesses, accompanied by Brahma and Sakra who were surrounded by divinities, and accompanied by divinities of wealth such as the Four Guardian Kings, in the splendor of golden rays of light appeared the Buddha descending from the sky, and from eighteen different gates which appeared from nowhere in the city, from each of these gates a Buddha came.
The Buddha manifested a crystal mansion. He and his followers took their seats in the mansion. Along with her relatives and acquaintances and others, Magadha Sangmo honored the assembly with great wealth and performed prostrations at their feet. Those of the public who could not find seats inside made offerings from outside the mansion. [page 250] To all present, the insides of the mansion were as clear as a mural on the wall. The Buddha and the assembly accepted the offerings.
The Buddha gave an extensive Dharma talk to Magadha Sangmo’s household members, and the public present on the occasion. All of them saw truth. All those regions became followers of the Buddha’s teachings.
Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche
Here, Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche explains that when we request the wisdom beings to come before us, the manner in which they arrive resembles the way they came when invited by Sumagadha.
ma ga d+ha bzang mo’i rtogs brjod/ Sumagadha Narrative in the Kangyur (Lhasa edition)
Magadha Sangmo Tagpo Chopa
Translated by Geshe Cheme Tsering
Source: Various Sutras of the Three Turnings of the Wheel. Volume HA (29), folio 460b (page 921), Lhasa edition.
Salutation to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
The Buddha was residing at Prince Jeta’s Grove in Shravasti. Then, at that time in Shravasti, there lived a daughter of Anaathpindika called Su Magadha. She was devout, good-natured, of virtuous mind, benefitting oneself and others.
In the town known as Pundravardhana, another merchant had a son named Khyuchogzin. He cultivated other, non-Buddhist, teachers. As such, he was devout towards the Jains.
At the time, when the Buddha demonstrated the great miraculous powers, the non-Buddhist teachers remained on the sidelines. Some of them stayed in the town called Zangjhed. Some in Mudgirika. Some lived in Pundravardhana.
Khyuchogzin had not started a family up to that time. The Jains told him “Anaathpindika has a daughter by the name of Su Magadha. She is attractive, pleasing to the eye, beautiful, and is like a noble person.” Hearing this, he disguised himself as a Jain and set out for Shravasti.
When he went to beg at Anaathpindika’s home, he saw the daughter. Upon laying eyes on the daughter, he became completely attached to her. He accepted the alms by extending his hat. Seeing this improper behaviour, she laughed, remarking, “He is accepting alms thoughtlessly.”
Khyuchogzin felt ashamed and, returning to Pundravardhana, related the incident to his father. He sought the girl’s hand in marriage. When Anaathpindika reported this to the Buddha, the Buddha said, “… When this Su Magadha goes to Pundravardhana, she will fulfill the purpose of the Order and the purpose of Buddha.” After some time, after telling this to the relatives, Anaathpindika gave his daughter and she was taken to Pundravardhana.
At another time, Jains were having food in that home and the mother-in-law summoned her. “Today, mendicants are having food in our home. Come to see them.” Upon hearing it, Su Magadha felt delighted and said to herself, “Definitely, either the great Shariputra, or Maudgalyāyana, or others have come.”
Happily and confidently, she went. She saw naked ascetics. (…) Just as she saw them, Sumagadha felt embarrassed and averted her eyes. The stepmother asked “My daughter, why are you disappointed?”
Sumagadha asked “If people like this are mendicants, then what would non-mendicants be like?” The other one asked “My daughter, do you have some teacher far better than this.”
“At my father’s temple at the Jeta Grove. There is a teacher called a Buddha. He is the object of reverence to both the animate and inanimate world,” she replied.
“What does your teacher look like?”
“My preceptor is pure as gold. Like pure gold he is without stain. He is pure in ethics. He is very pure in knowledge. He has no comparison in the three worlds. He is beyond migratory beings.”
They became very happy upon hearing this. They said, “Daughter, can you show us that Buddha tomorrow?”
Sumagadha replied, “Prepare clean foods. We shall invite him tomorrow.”
“We will prepare clean foods. You should invite the Buddha”, they said after some time.
Sumagadha went to the roof of the house. Turning towards the direction where the Buddha was dwelling, she folded her hands. She prostrated. Remembering his qualities she sprinkled flowers. She grounded incense. To invite the Buddha she also set the water of gold vase. In beautiful voice she called out, Buddha, the Compassionate One, I am forlorn like a forest animal in hinterlands. I am separated from the Three Jewels. Think of me. Please come here with the Sangha”. She also called him in this way: Pure in conduct and very pure in knowledge / O great hearers, you core of the devout ones / To help me who is forlorn / kindly visit us in your compassion!”
The flowers and incense and water in the gold vase gradually rose into the air.
At that time the Buddha also rose from meditative immersion and gave teachings to the four assemblies. The water in gold vase remained before the Buddha like a plant of vaidurya. The flowers hovered above him like a multi-storied dwelling. The incense smokes also appeared, taking the shape of clouds. Seeing these Ananda asked the Buddha, “Lord, these inviters, where are they from?” “They are from … A city which is a hundred and sixty three pagtsad away. Ananda, that city is held by outsiders. Distribute counting sticks among the monks and nuns, announcing that we shall go there by pschyic mastery.
Starting with the elders, Ananda laid the counting sticks. He also announced, “Tomorrow we shall go to … That city is held by outsiders. Those among you who have attained psychic mastery should take the counting sticks. Starting with the elders the monks began taking the counting sticks. Purnakundaudpada, an elder, was also present at that place. Also, he reached out for a counting stick. “We are not going to Anaathpindika’s residence,” Ananda said. “A hundred and sixty three pagtsad away, there is a city known as … We are going there.” The monk thought to himself, “Since I have abandoned delusions with which I had been habituated to from beginningless time, what difficulty could be there in psychic mastery, an attainment that is common with the outsiders?” and exerted himself. Before the second round of distribution began he attained the mastery. Reaching out for it like an elephant extending its trunk, he stretched his hand and took a counting stick. Standing beside the elders Ananda announced that those who have taken the sticks should go to …
In the morning the second day, the monks set out using their psychic mastery. The four guardian kings also wanted to witness the happenings in Shravasti.
(page 911) After some time, the monk known as Ājnatkondinya arrived at Pundravardhana on a chariot drawn by horses. It appeared that when he arrived there was a gentle rain amidst lightening in the sky. Displaying his own mastery of psychic powers in this way, he arrived. Sumagadha’s husband asked her, “Sumagadh, is he your teacher?” She replied, “He is Ājnatkondinya. When the Buddha turned the wheel of law the first time, he was the one who realized non-self.”
(In different ways characterized by display of psychic mastery, the Elders) Ājnatkondinya, Mahākasyap, Shariputra, Maudgalyāyana, Anurudha, Purnomaitreyaniputra, Asvajit, Upāli, Mahākātyān, Mahākoshtril, Shronakotīkran and Rāhul (and others) arrived. (The Sutra gives detailed information of this including Subhadra’s introduction of each of these and other disciples. Page 911-919)
(page 919) The city had eighteen gates. Manifesting a Buddha at each of these gates, the Buddha came to Sumagadha’s home. Not being able to see the Buddha, the large number of people became restive. They started attacking Sumagadha’s home. The Buddha blessed the city in such a way that the entire place appeared as a crystal city. In each home they perceived a Buddha.
Hundreds and thousands of people including Sumagadha honored the Buddha with flowers, scented waters, flower garlands and incense. With the view to give them a teaching hearing which Sumagadha and hundreds and thousands of sentient beings would actually see the truth, the Buddha gave such a Dharma teaching. (page 920) All in the audience became inclined towards the Buddha. They flowed into the Dharma. They came to the Sangha.
The monks became confused, and they asked the Buddha, the Dispeller of Uncertainties, “How wonderful it is, Lord, that there is Sumagadh! How wonderful it is that hundreds and thousands of sentient beings have become inclined towards the higher rebirths and liberation! How wonderful it is that she has done the deed of a Buddha!” The Buddha said, “Not only at this time, but also in the past she had done the deeds of a Buddha. Listen to this.
Monks, once in the past, when people could live twenty thousand years, there appeared in the world a Buddha known as Kashyapa. He was endowed with (clear) vision, (virtuous) conduct, gone into bliss, knower of worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, unsurpassed, teacher of gods and humans, the completely enlightened one. Also at that time, there ruled in the city of Varanasi the king Krikrī. A girl with a golden garland was born to him. He gave her the name Ser(gold) Treng(garland).
When she grew up, in the company of five hundred girls she paid honor to the perfectly enlightened Buddha Kashyapa. (page 921) She developed genuine faith in him. She decided to honor Buddha Kashyapa with robes, alms, bedclothes, medicine and resources so long as she lived. Again, at that time, in one night king Krikrī happen to see ten dreams. An elephant, the leader of a flock, had emerged out of a window. But its tail was stuck in it.
A man in an ocean was reaching out from a well. A man was exchanging a bag of pearls for a bag of dust. Sandalwood was being regarded as ordinary wood. Thieves were marauding a garden having flowers and fruits. An elephant cub was expelling the chief of elephants. A monkey with feces on its body was smearing others with it. A monkey was being anointed as king. A piece of cloth, though being pulled in eighteen directions, remained intact. A great mass of people came together. They fought, argued, waged war and found fault with each other. So, they perished. When the king woke up after that, he became frightened. He was sad and apprehensive about his life. He wanted to know if he was going to lose the throne.
(page 922) Collecting Brahmins who could interpret dream omens, he related those dreams. They also harbored hatred against Sertrengcan (Sumagadha in her previous life). So, they said, “Lord, we recommend that you perform a fire offering. It should include the heart of the one whom you hold dearest.”
Deeply dejected, the king thought, “The one dearest to me is my Sertrengcan.” Sertrengcan was also intelligent. When she heard that, she went to the king. “Lord, when the sun is shining, what need is there for lamps? The enlightened Buddha Kashyapa is at the Deer Park. Ask him. Whatever that Buddha advises you, uphold that.”
Then, king Krikrī made a public announcement that he would be going to Varanasi where the Buddha is presently residing. With a public numbering hundreds of thousands, and with Sertrengcan, he went to the dwelling place of the Buddha. Performing prostration at the feet of the Buddha, he sat down before him to listen to Dharma teachings. Presently, he got up and bowing with folded hands, (page 923) he said, “Lord, there in one night I had ten dreams. Elephant emerging from the window and its tail being stuck there and so on as mentioned earlier. Lord, please tell me what do they mean.”
“O Great king,” the Buddha replied, “Do not be afraid. Your kingdom will not decline. There is also no danger to your life. O great king, they relate to another matter. When people’s lifespan come down to a hundred years in the future, a fully enlightened Buddha known as Shakyamuni will appear in the world. In the future after him, there will be disciples who are unrestrained in body, unrestrained in mind, not bound by precepts and with untamed knowledge. Leaving behind relatives, they will take the going forth. Regarding their monasteries as if they are their home, they will become attached. The elephant emerging from the window but the tail stuck there is pre-indication of this.
O Great king, you saw a dream in which reaching out to the well from outside. It is indication that, even though those disciples will teach the Dharma (page 924) to those who live in the monastery, the listeners will not be interested to listen. They will not retain it in their mind. This is indicated.
O Great king, the dream about one exchanging a bag of pearls for a bag of dust is indication about his disciples. Just for the sake of food, they will elaborately expound on the Indriyas, the powers and the precious factors of enlightenment. The pre-indication of that is this.
O Great King, you dreamt people regarding sandalwood as if it is an ordinary piece of wood. His disciples will take up the words of outsiders (Non-Buddhists) and hold it on the par with words of the Buddha. The pre-indication of that is this.
O Great King, in your dream, thieves were marauding a garden full of flowers and fruits. Among his disciples will be ones with unrestrained in body, untamed in mind, with loose ethics and untamed knowledge. They will pluck out the best flowers and the best fruits of the Order, and give it to householders. The pre-indication of this is that dream.
Great King, you saw in your dream an elephant cub expelling a supreme elephant. Those of his disciples whose ethics are torn, and who are given to non-virtues, they will override Sangha members whose ethics is pure and who are virtuous. The pre-indication of this is that dream.
Great King, you saw a monkey covered with feces and smearing others with it. In his Sangha members will be members whose ethics are torn and who are given to non-virtues. These will criticize those others whose ethics are intact. The pre-indication of this is that dream.
O Great King, you dreamt of a monkey being anointed king. In those times, the ignorant will be appointed kings. The pre-indication of this is that dream.
O Great King, you dreamt of a piece of cloth remaining intact even though it was being pulled apart by eighteen men. Even though his teachings will separate into eighteen, the liberating flavor of the fabric cannot be rent. The pre-indication of this is that dream.
O Great King, you dreamt of a great number of people assembling, and fighting, arguing, waging war and finding fault. His teachings will be sunk by argumentation. The pre-indication of this is that dream.
These endless events will happen in the future.”
The Buddha (Shakyamuni) then said, “With the Buddha Kashyapa also, King Krikrī and Sertrengcan established root virtues conducive to liberation. Monks, what do you think of this: the person who was Sertrengcan at that time is this Sumagadha herself. Now also, she has come and performed deeds of a Buddha.”
The Sangha members again became confused, and asked the Buddha, “Lord, by performing what action was Sertrengcan (born with) a golden garland?”
The Buddha said, “Monks, there is a deed that she has performed in the past when she was wife to another farmer, the stringed together flowers of many colors into a garland and strung that flower garland to a stupa dedicated to the memory a Pratykbuddha. As a ripening result of that action, she was born with the golden garland.
Therefore, monks, (page 927) definitely dark actions will produce consequences that are definitely dark. Definitely white actions will produce consequences that are definitely white. Mixed actions will have mixed ripening results. Monks, therefore abandon actions that are definitely dark and that are mixed. Apply yourselves to actions that are definitely white. Monks, you should train like that.”
When the Buddha said that, those monks praised what he had said. This concludes the account of Sumagadha.
Translated by the Indian Abbot Dharma Shri Bhadra and Lotsawa Gelong Tsultrim Yonten. Corrected and finalized by the great translator Gelong Rinchen Zangpo.
Ordinary Wisdom: Sakya Pandita’s Treasury of Good Advice by Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen
The Blue Annals, Part 2 by George N. Roerich
Magadha Zangmo’s previous life was Kancanamala. Kancanamala was the daughter of King Krkin and according to the text below, King Krkin was the sponsor of the previous Buddha Kasyapa.
The Buddhist princess and the woolly turban by Hildegard Diemberger
In the text below, the author refers to the story of a Buddhist princess being forced to marry a Bon practitioner. He mentions that it was depressing to watch Bonpo rituals being conducted for the Buddhist princess, saying that it was just as bad as if Magadha Zangmo had left Buddha Shakyamuni to follow the Jain teachers of her husband’s faith.
Additional information – Sanskrit
Also known as Sumagadha, Ma ga dha bZang mo’i, Cula-Subhadda or Cula-Sumadhi, there exist many sources about her deeds which I share with you here. They can be found in English, Chinese and Tibetan, showing that Magadha Zangmo had a widespread impact on Buddhism throughout the ancient world. Below is information about Magadha Zangmo as compiled from Sanskrit sources.
Ajanta Paintings: 86 Panels of Jatakas and Other Themes by Rajesh Kumar Singh
Along the Ancient Silk Routes: Central Asian Art from the West Berlin State by Herbert Härtel, Marianne Yaldiz, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Literary History of Sanskrit Buddhism (From Winternitz, Sylvain Levi, Huber) by Gushtaspshah Kaikhushro Nariman, J.K. Nariman
Sumāgadhāvadāna by Yutaka Iwamoto
Indian Kāvya Literature: The art of storytelling (Volume 6) by Anthony Kennedy Warder
Sumagadhavadana Sutra of Magadha Zangmo (in Sanskrit)
Sumagadhavadana Sutra of Magadha Zangmo (transliterated from Sanskrit)
Additional information – Chinese
Also known as Sumagadha, Ma ga dha bZang mo’i, Cula-Subhadda or Cula-Sumadhi, there exist many sources about her deeds which I share with you here. They can be found in English, Chinese and Tibetan, showing that Magadha Zangmo had a widespread impact on Buddhism throughout the ancient world. Below is information about Magadha Zangmo as compiled from Chinese sources.
Additional information – Pali
Also known as Sumagadha, Ma ga dha bZang mo’i, Cula-Subhadda or Cula-Sumadhi, there exist many sources about her deeds which I share with you here. They can be found in English, Chinese and Tibetan, showing that Magadha Zangmo had a widespread impact on Buddhism throughout the ancient world. Below is information about Magadha Zangmo as compiled from Pali sources.
Buddhist Legends (Part 3) by Eugene Watson Burlingame and Charles Rockwell Lanman
Dictionary of Pali Proper Names (Volume 1) by G.P. Malalasekera
The Lineage Tree of Dorje Shugden
Before Dorje Shugden arose, his immediate previous incarnation was Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen. However, many incarnations before that, the very incarnation of Dorje Shugden was actually Magadha Sangmo who was a direct disciple of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. Later, Magadha Sangmo reincarnated to become Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen, the famous scholar Panchen Sonam Drakpa, followed by Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen and then Dorje Shugden.
Therefore below is the lineage tree of Dorje Shugden (a.k.a. Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen) where Magadha Sangmo appears as the first incarnation in the top left (circled), in her traditional pose of offering incense to the Buddhas.
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At the very centre of the thangka is Dorje Shugden. Immediately above Dorje Shugden is a close list of lamas who held his lineage. From top to bottom, the list of lineage lamas begins at Gaden Yiga Choling (or Tushita Heaven) where Buddha Maitreya resides and from where the practice of Dorje Shugden originates. To Maitreya’s left is Lama Tsongkhapa in the yellow hat; to Maitreya’s right is Atisha in the red hat. Below Tushita is Lama Tsongkhapa followed by Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen, Mahasiddha Tagphu Dorje Chang Pemavajra, Je Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, Yongzin Trijang Dorje Chang and then His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche.
The left and right groups of lamas branching out from the principal deity Dorje Shugden depicts the previous incarnations of Dorje Shugden.
In the left branch of lamas, just below Yamantaka, the previous incarnations of Dorje Shugden begin with Manjushri followed Venerable Magadha Sangmo (circled), Mahasiddha Virupa, Thonmi Sambhota, the Dharma King Trisong Detsen, Mahasiddha Naropa, Akaramati, Ngok Loden Sherab, Khyungpo Naljor and Je Khutonpa Chenpo.
The list of previous incarnations continues in the right branch of lamas just below Heruka. From top to bottom (and left to right) is Ra Lotsawa Dorje Drag, Khenchen Shakya Shri, Kunkhyen Chokyi Ozer, Thamche Khyenpa Buton Rinchen Drub, Sakya Pandita, Tsarchen Losel Gyatso, Panchen Sonam Drakpa, Tulku Yeshe Wangpo, Tulku Ngawang Sonam Geleg and finally Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen who arose to become Dorje Shugden.
To Dorje Shugden’s left and right are depictions of his emanations, known as the five families of Dorje Shugden (Shugden Rig Nga). On the left and seated on the horse is Gyenze (Ratna Shugden) whilst Shize (Vairochana Shugden) rides on an elephant.
To the right, seated on the dragon is Wangze (Pema Shugden) and on the wrathful garuda is Trakze (Karma Shugden).
Below Dorje Shugden are his entourage comprising of the Nine Mothers, the Eight Guiding Monks and the Ten Youthful and Wrathful Deities (Assistants). Finally, Dorje Shugden’s Chief Minister Kache Marpo is depicted as riding on a horse in the bottom centre, carrying a spear.
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