Journey to Suvarnadvipa
Salutations to Arya Maitreya and
I, Bhikshu Dipankara Shrijnana (Atisha) set out on a visit to the guru
Suvarnadvipa, a voyage that lasted for thirteen months. When five months
had gone by, a son of Maheshvara, desiring to disrupt my bodhicitta, sent
forth a tempest of contrary winds and a huge leviathan that blocked the
way forward. Moreover, thunderbolts were hurled upon me from the sky.
Whereupon, by fixing my contemplation on loving kindness and compassion, I
calmed the tempest and the six great thunderbolts were seen forming a
pattern in the sky. But still the leviathan blocked the way forward and,
owing to the violence of the waves raised by that strong tempest, the ship
trembled and leapt up like a banner whipped by the wind. Sometimes it
leapt towards the sky and sometimes sank into the ocean as if thrown, so
that the four great sails were blown away, even though four massive lumps
of bronze had been cast down to the sea-bed as anchors. Then, as though
great drums were being beaten in the four directions, there came a
deafening noise; lightning and thunder terrified my trembling attendants.
Again, while I was contemplating loving kindness and compassion, the
pandita Bhumisara prayed thus to me, his
"Rise up, rise up O merciful
Assuredly you must have enemies on this
Else why was this dreadful phenomenon
created by forces hostile to religion?
out of your great compassion, calm the
If it is destined that all beings are
to be freed from the ocean of samsara
the evil ones allowed to afflict us so?
See how the tempest blows and thunderbolts upon
See the huge leviathan blocking our way
forward! Pray save us from this danger.
the ocean is blown by the wind.
And the waves
mount up to the sky!
Dreadful is this
thunderous din, dreadful this red
Ah, how the ship shakes with the
Swinging up towards the sky
and hurtling down into the ocean troughs!
Lord, save us from this terror.
Drawn by your
knowledge unlimited as the sky,
The hosts of
attendants and guardians of religion flock to you like
If these beings flying round in the sky
are able to annihilate obstacles,
Why do they
not protect us in the face of obstacles
How uncompassionate they are, those
dwellers in solitary places!
Now ye dakinis and
guardians of the Dharma, who protect both tantric adepts and the
Ye heroes and heroines, subduers of
hostile forces and gods of wisdom,
Ye gods who
protect the virtuous and now encircle us on every side, here in this great
Pray by your merciful powers, drive back
May the victorious tutelary deity,
Red Bhagavan (Yama, god of death),
to foes and surrounded by his fearful
May the faithful attendants of the ten
The protectors from eight fears,
the devi of blessings and prosperity,
to aid our holy guru! O exalted Buddha, lord of the
O spotless lord
Ye who assuage the sufferings
of all beings like holy rulers, father and
The time has come to support your kindred
by your great compassion !
Rain down the pure
water of your blessing continuously."
heard them uttering this marvellous prayer. Thereupon I transformed myself
into the Bhagavan Yamaraj, with red complexion, mighty belly, darkish
bristling hair, red eyes surveying the ten directions. Like me, other
deities raised their weapons in fierce postures. Our right hands grasped
vajras raised towards the sky; our left hands held nooses pointed in
wrathful gestures (mudra). Thence we hurled the vajras, which, wheeling
through the sky, crashed upon the mountains, smashing them to pieces, and
then plunged into the depths of the golden earth. Simultaneously the great
ocean was so shaken that the water boiled up red with the blood of the
leviathan, whose bones were stripped of flesh. Then that creature appeared
on the ship in the guise of a young girl of pale complexion. Having bowed
down, she spoke these words with folded
"O, King of Wrath! possessed of mighty
Supremely merciful, sole protector of
I am sick with terror. Now I pray
you, spare me in your great compassion!"
taking a vajra-sceptre in my hands, I cried: "HUM! I am the master of all
that lives. 4
is the power of great compassion and therefore have I not destroyed
Henceforth to my disciples you shall not
preach the heretic religion, nor the words of fortune-tellers or liar
priests nor any false doctrine, for I am the master of your
Thereupon she spoke in a melodious
voice, saying: "O greatly compassionate lord, listen to
To the followers you convert, I shall never
preach the false religion.
Therefore, I beg you
to bestow your affectionate regard on me, since my life is in your power."
When she had spoken thus, a white-complexioned man appeared from near the
galley and uttered the following stanzas:
not make the journey to the Himalayas, Nor sail in this ship,
To the islands of Tamradvipa or
elsewhere. Cease your journeying!
Put a halt to
Then was heard a (divine) voice
crying: "Droom Hri Yasha!" The tempest, waves, lightning and thunder all
subsided and the great ship rode tranquilly. The ship's company regained
their senses and engaged in joyful talk among themselves. Then I, the
guru, still in the form of wrathful Yama, perambulated the deck and
affixed the vajra-bolt to the vessel. Thereupon the great ship came to a
standstill, motionless as an island; and, on going to discover the cause,
I heard the laughing voices of some maidens and peered about to find them.
Then, still determined and in the guise of the Wrathful King, I stepped
into the ocean, which came only to my knees and drove the boat forward
from east to west like a young man handling a wooden trough, the crown of
my head lost among the clouds. From the sides of the ship, twenty-one
looking backwards, cried; "If we sisters had not been here, would you have
been so powerful today?"
To them I
"Salutations to the Tara who gives
protection from the eight fears!
to the Tara who intensifies prosperity.
Salutations to the Tara who blocks the gates leading to undesirable
Salutations to the Tara who leads
beings to the path of heaven.
Always we have
been protected by you and still we seek your
To this prayer, the ladies
"If you had not been here, we should
have gone to Savabhavana, the city of heretics to smash it to
Then hearing the sound of your prayer,
we stopped to discover who it was.
are the noblest among all beings.
have we, too, come here to support you.
not the power of this pale young girl wax
It would lead to great disasters.
Never let this youth out of this ship, Balpo, from now
Then calling upon Bhumisara 6
"Reverend one, cast these flowers
of the sky upon Savabhavana and we who belong to an order of beings
strongly inclined (to religion) will accept bodhicitta and seek refuge in
the Triple Gem."
Hearing this, pandita
Bhumisara, making a threatening sign with his fingers, picked up a
vajra-bolt. and sent it wheeling through the sky to Savabhavana, the city
of heretics in the north, where Devi Caracaka dwelt, obliterating the
temple and the goddess. Again he cast a vajra-bolt upon the dwelling of
the Maheshvara and smashed it to the ground. A part of its flash struck
that king of heretics and destroyed half his body. Another flash of
lightning fell upon the palace of the ruler of the Turuks and interrupted
communications between the Mongols and Buddha Gaya for thirteen years. One
flash of lightning fell on the black tent of the Shangshung King and
demolished the devotees of Bonpo, except for one or two survivors who fled
to the Himalaya mountains. One flash of lightning destroyed the black
palace in the southern poisonous ocean and blocked the progress of the
malady called cancer. One flash of lightning fell upon Lanka and smashed
the palace of Lanka's cannibal demon king to pieces, whereupon the eating
of human flesh ceased.
Then Bhumisara uttered
these words of pride:
"I am the master of this
I shall smash the forces of evil to the
The Great Hero 7
is my master.
King Hayagriva, who neighs
fearfully in the land of Udyana, Destroy and pulverize Maheshvara into
dust. And utterly demolish the power of the Bonpo's
OM Padma Takrita Vajra Krota Hayava
Hulu Hulu HUM PHAT!"
This utterance I heard.
Then after a while, the Bhagavan Yamaraj vanished and I changed myself
into a holy bhikshu. My followers fell into an ecstasy of rejoicing and
thus they prayed:
"You, the spiritual king,
can be likened to the jewelled mountain which sprang forth miraculously
and was not made by human hands.
By the power
of your glorious wisdom signs,
Make us enjoy
Excellent, O master of
Go with us over this
Lord, And, when danger
We shall take shelter at your
Pray be sure to save
After that, for twenty-one days we dared
not proceed, but when the, fear of danger was past, we raised the four
great sails and drew up the bronze anchors into the ship. Then, sailing
with a favourable wind day and night, we spent two and a half months
continuously on the great ocean. Again, seven months (from the start of
our voyage) the tempest assailed the bow of our ship, driving it back for
a distance of about one day's voyage. However, the tempest subsided on our
praying to the Triple Gem, the dakinis and protectors of Dharma. But, as
no favourable wind blew, we had to stay in that place for a half month,
which was due to our accumulation of evil karma. Again taking maitri,
karuna and bodhicitta as the objects of our contemplation as before, we
sailed with a good wind and thus reached land after sailing for another
two months and twenty-six days.
This ends the
summary of how Atisha encountered difficulties in his quest for his guru
and the Dharma and of how he defeated the Maheshvara of the ocean.
Salutations to Arya Maitreya and
Avalokiteshvara. After crossing the great ocean, we approached the six
meditator disciples of guru Suvarnadvipa dwelling at the Golden Stupa of
Sukhagati established by a Tibetan king. It was surrounded by the
Suvarnadvipa forest in the north, by beautiful lotus in the south, by
thick bamboo forest in the west and by crocodile country in the east.
There we lived with them for fourteen days making detailed enquiries about
guru Suvarnadvipa, such as to what degree of Dharma he had attained, which
tradition the immaculate monk followed, how much knowledge of scriptures
he possessed, the depth of his comprehension of that knowledge, and so on.
All these enquiries were addressed to the meditators. The meditators
narrated to us the life story of their guru without additions and
exaggerations. Thereafter we felt as much joy as if we had attained the
parthama bhumi (the ten stages of saintly perfection of a
The meditators, too, made
enquiries about my life story from pandita Bhumisara and the others, who
related how I had entered into the sangha after renouncing my kingdom, and
how I had mastered the countless scriptures after attending innumerable
gurus. When they described the vastness of the knowledge that their master
possessed, the meditators asked: "Well, this great pandita is an Indian
abbot known by the name of DipankaraShrijnana 8
is he not?" Bhumisara replied:
"Yes, he bears
the name of the second Buddha, well known on this
Highly honoured is he by all the
fifty-two famous panditas.
Admired is he by
followers of the schools of Buddhism, both the Greater and Lesser
(Mahayana and Hinayana).
Well-famed indeed is
the name of our great Indian abbot!"
"How excellent that the
master of the earth has come here to this
Hearing his sweet voice, we feel moved
to see him.
We are fortunate to be here on the
day that the great scholar has arrived by
Were you not obstructed by mara on the
Did you come to no harm from leviathans
And, during the long voyage, did not
shortage of food cause you trouble?"
"During our voyage of thirteen
months, the great Maheshvara sent forth a leviathan to oppose us and
raised a great tempest.
By our immediately
fixing our contemplation on loving kindness and
Mara was subdued and all was well
Sailing once more in our ship, our Lord
entered the Akashakosh samadhi and all evil forces grew tranquil, so no
fatigue has fallen upon his one hundred and twenty-five
The meditators, on hearing these
words from pandita Bhumisara, came to me in great joy and uttered this
"We heard of your reputation
even from very far away.
Now that we have the
happiness to meet you, we are full of joy.
Now, the great pandita has come here among us and we, so deep was the
darkness of our ignorance, did not even know of your
Now with body, speech and mind, we
pay you most humble respects."
So saying they
prostrated themselves at my feet.
return, having relinquished pride, paid homage to
Again, the meditators enquired: "For
what particular purpose has the great pandita come
We are here to help you; so pray let us
I replied: "I have come to the princely
I have come to make full use of
this noble endowment of a human body.
Therefore, all of you must soon approach the guru and pray him to fulfil
Thereupon, the meditators went to
the noble guru Suvarnadvipa and said to him:
"Pray listen to us, noble guru. Today, there has come to this island an
Indian abbot called Dipamkara Shrijnana together with his one hundred and
twenty-five followers. Sailing across the vast ocean for thirteen months,
they subdued maras, heretics and the great Maheshvara by contemplating
maitri and karuna. They arrived at the place where we stay with no sign of
fatigue of body, speech or mind and we, having listened to his Dharma
discourses for fourteen days, are filled with rejoicing and delight. Now,
he desires to pay you a visit. The great pandita wishes to study the
Prajnaparamita (the Wisdom Teachings) which have given birth to all the
buddhas of the three periods, and also to develop bodhicitta and the
accomplishments that stem therefrom to the stage of highest bliss. He
desires, too, to practise the Mahayana and also other doctrines culled
from the ocean of the guru's teaching, day and night continuously.
Therefore, in your great compassion, grant him this
On hearing these words, guru
Suvarnadvipa thus replied:
master of earth has come!
Excellent, the son
of the king has come!
Excellent, the lord of
all beings has come!
Excellent, the great hero
Excellent, he has arrived with his
Excellent, he has overcome all
Excellent, he has won a vast
Excellent, he has come in full
O monks, put on your robes and
prepare the reception of this noble one."
Presently five hundred and thirty-five monks clad in three robes of
similar color stood holding holy water vases and metal cymbals, looking as
impressive as arhants. As they were accompanied by sixty-two novices, led
by guru Suvarnadvipa, they totalled five hundred and ninety-seven persons
who had renounced the world. From far away, we could see them standing in
line to receive us.
Thereupon we experienced
the utmost pleasure, excitement and rejoicing as if we were in the
presence of the exalted Buddha encircled by arhants. At once I requested
four upasakas to unpack the articles loaded on the backs of two elephants.
Among us to pay honor to the guru were panditas well versed in the five
sciences and bhikshus expert in the Tripitaka. All these bhikshus wore
slippers and were clad in three robes excellently dyed with (the juice of)
crocus of Kashmir, that being the admirable costume of the Mahasangika
school of Buddhism. Auspiciously, each carried a standard iron bowl in
good condition, a cylindrical copper pot fashioned in Magadha and used as
a measuring jug with a capacity of one drona, and a metal wand, all as
decreed by the exalted Buddha, as well as other beautifully fashioned
ritual objects. All the panditas humbly wore their panditas' caps and
wielded white fans. Of great panditas, there were Sukhagati, Dharmamittra,
Kasalasambhava, Shuravajra, Devamati, Ravigupta, Bhumisara, Jannasara,
Veghaindra, Danashrimittra, Prajabhadra, Suchandra, Samantabhadra,
Guptasara, Anantamati, Samadravici, Rajsemeru and Shuralalita, among
others; Bhikshu Jannabadra and other experts on the Tripitaka, one hundred
and sixty-eight bhikshus, thirteen shamaneras and four other great
bhikshus totalling one hundred and eighty-five in all, followed after me.
So spaced that they were neither too close to nor too far from one
another, they walked in line like a colourful rainbow to the place where
Guru Suvarnadvipa dwelt.
Devas, on seeing this
display of the three perfections, namely, grace, glory and wealth,
showered down a rain of flowers. Although I had had a spiritual
relationship with that guru since time immemorial, yet, being there to
receive Dharma exhortations which I had not heard before, and for the sake
of the panditas who followed after me, I prostrated myself at his feet.
Then the followers of the guru perceived that all my disciples were at one
in observing the practices and holding right views, since they had all
been taught by me. The disciples of guru Suvarnadvipa, observing all these
things, were overcome by the glory of my great followers and in turn
prostrated themselves to us.
From the time of
my studying there, I was honoured by all both in Tibet and in India. At
the time of my visit, I possessed a jewelled vase, its lower half a great
bulb flattened at the bottom, its neck long and so shaped that water came
out in a straight line from the spout. This jewelled vase, which was
completely transparent so that all its contents could be seen from
outside, I now filled with precious objects—gold, silver, pearls, coral
and malachite—and offered it to the guru. My followers, too, offered a
gold coin to each of the disciples of guru
Then the noble guru Suvarnadvipa
spoke in verse about the difficulties experienced on my way,
"Do you faithfully practise vinaya,
Do you hold to shila, reverend
Do you cling to the practice of
mahakaruna, reverend sir?
Have you come here
as a king of religion?
I have heard of your
fame from far away
And, on meeting you today,
how can we not rejoice at your coming, reverend
In performing your extensive works in the
holy land of India for the sake of all beings,
Did you protect them all by your great compassion without partiality,
Have you striven well (for
religion) since becoming a pandita, reverend
Did many gurus not protect you, reverend
Did many panditas not take
responsibilities to bestow the Dharma on you, reverend
Today it is fortunate that you have
arrived at this place. O lord of beings, I have heard that for thirteen
months you sailed across the ocean.
marvellous that you overcame such baffling
I have heard that you subdued
How wonderfully you have made
your name resound!
It is amazing that you
overcame your fears
pandita, having travelled
from so far away,
Are you not exhausted both
in mind and body?
Were no obstacles created by
the evil powers?
And did you not feel
How auspicious is this day of
the great pandita's arrival!
Some of my
disciples are meditating in scattered places,
But the rest of us have come here to receive
How fortunate we are to meet you
Let us proceed now to the
Where many are gathered in the
The circumstances of your journey we
shall discuss later.
Come, let us now converse
on spiritual matters."
To this I replied:
"Yes, reverend one,
I have come from the
central part of India.
And, in accordance with
the Dharma, I have tackled obstacles,
to the unceasing power conferred by the Triple
The black Maheshvara was defeated owing
to his accumulation of evil karma.
preserved our three endowments of body, speech and mind from the powers of
evil and arrived well and unfatigued.
dwell here in good health, unwearied by your efforts for the benefit of
beings, sir? Do you dwell serenely here, discoursing on the inimitable
Do you dwell here with an
ever-widening ocean of wisdom as you subdue the hordes of mara,
I have heard that you, O guru, are a
master of religion dwelling here in Suvarnadvipa and preaching to all
beings day and night with the deepest loving-kindness and
Therefore, I pray you, O
omniscient one, be my guru.
knowledge infinite as the sky,
I pray you to
increase my wisdom." Thus I besought him.
fortunate that the noble man has come!
too, shall take pleasure in hearing the Dharma with you," cried the monks
with one voice.
Then our whole company
proceeded to the grove, where I paid respect to an aged mahathera bhikshu
who was preaching Dharma to some disciples there. At that time he made no
return to my gesture of respect. Afterwards, when I was seated in the
chamber of the guru in the Golden Umbrella Palace, that mahathera, having
finished preaching, approached and, paying me respect, spoke
"Fortunate are we that the noble man has
come here! My failure to welcome you just now was not due to pride; it was
because I remembered that the best way to please a noble one is to
continue one's religious works."
these words, I replied with joy: "It is admirable that you have so well
understood both the Dharma and (the nature of the) person (you
addressed)." Then, when we were well settled in our quarters, the guru
preached to us, an abhisamayalankara course of fifteen sessions, giving us
a lucid exposition on the law of dependent
After that, I spent day and night
in listening, pondering, and contemplating in the Palace of the Silvery
Thus ends the story of how Atisha
went to Suvarnadvipa and met the guru.