The Sun Sūtra

 

In the Indian Language [Sanskrit]: Surya Sūtra [sūrya-sūtra]

In the Tibetan Language: Nyimay Do (nyi ma’i mdo)

In the English Language: The Sun Sūtra

 

BOWS OF DEVOTION TO THE EXALTED THREE JEWELS!

               Thus have I heard: At one time, the Transcendent and Accomplished Conqueror was near Śrāvastī, in the benefactor Anāthapiṇḍada’s relaxation garden in Jetavana Grove. At that time, the divine son Sūrya [‘the Sun’] was captured by a king of the demi-gods, Rāhula.

Thereupon, the divine boy Sūrya contemplated the recollection of the Transcendent Conqueror. At that time, he spoke the following verses:

 

I bow to the Buddha, the Hero,

Please free us all quickly.

As I call out to you from this mouth of mine,

I go for refuge in you!

 

Then, the Transcendent Conqueror, for the sake of the young god Sūrya, bestowed the following sacred words of verse to the king of demi-gods, Rāhula:

 

As the Buddha has love for the world,

Since Sūrya has gone for refuge

In the Arhat Tathāgata,

Rāhula [i] will now behold the Sun.

Whatever darkness there is, through illumination it will be dispelled.

The brilliant radiance of the fierce illuminator, the disc-like Moon,

And the Sun in the sky: Rāhula cannot obscure them.

As for this Sun, Rāhula, behold it!

 

Thereupon the king of the demi-gods Rāhula released the young god Sūrya, and returning to his previous form, went before the king of the demi-gods, Splendid Threads. Having gone there, as his mind was unhappy and saddened, his hairs stood on end, and he stayed to one side. As he stood to one side, the king of the demi-gods Splendid Threads spoke the following verses to the king of demi-gods Rāhula:

 

Why is it that your mind has become upset?

Rāhula has seen the Sun,

And now your body’s appearance is absolutely horrendous.

Why is it that, out of fear, you have come here?

 

Rāhula spoke thus:

 

Because I heard the Buddha’s verses,

I was not able to steal the Sun,

And so my head split into seven pieces:

In my life, I have no happiness!

 

THE SUN SŪTRA IS COMPLETE.

 

In the presence of the Mahāpaṇḍita Ānandaśrī, the translator of much learning, the Śākyan monk Nyima Gyëlts’en Pël Zangpo [Excellent Glorious Victory Banner of the Sun] translated, edited, and proofread this at the dwelling place of the bilingual ones, the great temple Pël T’arpa Ling. On this earth, may it become like the sun and the moon!

 

Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos

The translation was first done during late 2010 in Sidhpur, India near Dharamsala, and was later revised during September 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand.  

[i] Rāhula (Sanskrit: ‘hindrance’) is a term for many things: an ancient Indian astronomical and astrological conception, a planet, a demon, a Tantric meditational deity, and the phenomenon of eclipses; it is also the name of the Buddha’s son. Rāhula is generally associated with destructive or wrathful astro-geological activities and phenomena, and their related psychological correlates. Rāhula trying to steal the sun in this Sūtra is probably a metaphor for an eclipse on the microcosmic level, and more broadly the obscuring process of ignorance ‘eclipsing’ wisdom on the macrocosmic level. Sūrya, the Sun, takes refuge in the Buddha, and in so doing, the Buddha helps him to unveil his true power, thereby dispelling the malevolent ecliptic celestial force of Rāhula. This Sūtra is rather cryptic, and perhaps can be seen as primarily a cultural fable relating natural phenomena with the spiritual journey and its process. The main message seems to be that faith in the Buddha (that is, Awakening itself) is the primary cause for dispersing obstacles (or hindrances, Rāhula), both physical and spiritual.

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One thought on “The Sun Sūtra

  1. This is certainly the same text with the Pali Suriya Paritta which is often recited in Sri Lanka and included in the Pirit Potha (Book of Protection). A similar situation also occured in the counterpart sutra (Canda Paritta) where Candra was chased by Rahu the asura.

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