Dharma Pearls

Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Related Discourses

Alternate Translations

Taisho 110: The Three Turnings of the Dharma Wheel Sūtra

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Bhagavān was staying at Ṛṣipatana in the Deer Preserve of Bārāṇasī.

2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the five monks, “You, monks! This is the noble truth of suffering. Reasoned attention to what’s heard in this teaching gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening. You, monks! This is the teaching of the noble truth of suffering’s accumulation … suffering’s cessation … the path leading to suffering’s cessation. Reasoned attention to what’s heard in this teaching gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening.[2]

3. “You, monks! This noble truth of suffering is a teaching to comprehend. Thus, it should be known. Reasoned attention to what’s heard in this teaching gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening.

4. “You, monks! This noble truth of suffering’s accumulation is a teaching to comprehend. Thus, it should be ended. Reasoned attention to what’s heard in this teaching gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening.

5. “You, monks! This noble truth of suffering’s cessation is a teaching to comprehend. Thus, it should be realized. Reasoned attention to what’s heard in this teaching gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening.

6. “You, monks! This noble truth of the path leading to suffering’s cessation is a teaching to comprehend. Thus, it should be cultivated. Reasoned attention to what’s heard in this teaching gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening.

7. “You, monks! This noble truth of suffering is a teaching to comprehend. Thus, it has been known. Reasoned attention to what’s heard in this teaching gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening.

8. “You, monks! This noble truth of suffering’s accumulation is a teaching to comprehend. Thus, it has been realized. Reasoned attention to what’s heard in this teaching gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening.

9. “You, monks! This noble truth of suffering’s cessation is a teaching to comprehend. Thus, it has been realized. Reasoned attention to what’s heard in this teaching gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening.

10. “You, monks! This noble truth of the path leading to suffering’s cessation is a teaching to comprehend. Thus, it has been cultivated. Reasoned attention to what’s heard in this teaching gives rise to vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening.

11. “You, monks! If I had yet to comprehend the teaching of these four noble truths in three turnings and 12 aspects, then vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening couldn’t have arisen in me. I wouldn’t have rid myself of the afflicted mind and attained liberation while I was among gods, [504b] Māra, Brahmā, and all the world’s ascetics and priests. I couldn’t have realized the unsurpassed enlightenment.

12. “You, monks! It was because I understood this teaching of these four truths in three turnings and 12 aspects that vision, knowledge, insight, and awakening all could arise in me. I then rid myself of the afflicted mind and attained liberation while I was among the gods, Māra, Brahmā, and all the world’s ascetics and priests. It was then that I could realize the unsurpassed enlightenment.”

13. When the Bhagavān explained this teaching, the elder Kauṇḍinya and 80,000 gods became dustless and spotless and attained purification of the Dharma eye. The Buddha addressed Kauṇḍinya, “Did you understand this teaching?”

He replied, “I understood it, Bhagavān.”

14. “Did you understand this teaching?”

He replied, “I understood it, Sugata.”

15. It was because Kauṇḍinya understood that teaching that he was thenceforth called Ajñāta Kauṇḍinya (Ajñāta meaning “Understood”).

16. Just then, the earth-dwelling yakṣas who heard the Buddha’s discourse raised a great cry, addressing humans and gods, “Gentlemen, you should know, the Buddha is staying at Ṛṣipatana in the Deer Preserve of Bārāṇasī, and he has explained in detail the three turnings and 12 aspects of the Dharma wheel. Because of this, he is able for gods, humans, Māra, Brahmā, ascetics, priests, and the whole world to make a great benefit, leading them to be equal to the religious life and swiftly reach the place of well-being and Nirvāṇa. The gods will flourish and the asuras will diminish!”

17. From that address made by the yakṣas, the sky gods in the host of the four god kings all heard and understood it. Thus, they instantly passed it on to all six of the desire heavens. In the span of an instant, the call reached the Brahma heavens, where its echo was heard by all. After the host of Brahma heard it, then they again addressed everyone, explaining in detail as before. For this reason, this sūtra is named the “Three Turnings of the Dharma Wheel.”

18. Then those five monks, humans, and gods who heard what the Buddha had taught rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. This sūtra is parallel to SN 56.11, SĀ 4.1 and T109. It’s an extract from Yijing’s translation in 710 CE of the Mūlasarvâstivāda Vinaya (T1451.292a29-c15) that also appears in the Taisho as an independent text. [back]
  2. what’s heard in this teaching. Yijing’s version omits “never before” (Skt. pūrvam an-) from this refrain that’s remarkably consistent across the various versions of the Turning the Dharma Wheel Sūtra. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 14 September 2020