The Application of Mindfulness of the Sacred Dharma

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The Application of Mindfulness of the Sacred Dharma (Skt. Saddharmasmṛtyupasthāna; Tib. དམ་པའི་ཆོས་དྲན་པ་ཉེ་བར་གཞག་པ།, Wyl. dam pa’i chos dran pa nye bar gzhag pa) — a lengthy sutra on the topic of the effects of virtuous and unvirtuous actions.

The sutra tells that while on the way to Rajagriha to collect alms, a group of newly ordained monks are approached by some non-Buddhists, who suggest that their doctrine is identical to that of the Buddha, since everyone agrees that misdeeds of body, speech, and mind are to be given up. The monks do not know how to reply, and when they later return to the brahmin town of Nalati, where the Buddha is residing, Sharadvatiputra therefore encourages them to seek clarification from the Blessed One himself. In response to the monks’ request, the Buddha delivers a comprehensive discourse on the effects of virtuous and unvirtuous actions, explaining these matters from the perspective of an adept practitioner of his teachings, who sees and understands all this through a process of personal discovery.

As the teaching progresses, the Buddha presents an epic tour of the realm of desire—from the Hell of Ultimate Torment to the Heaven Free from Strife—all the while introducing the specific human actions and attitudes that cause the experience of such worlds and outlining the ways to remedy and transcend them. In the final section of the sutra, which is presented as an individual scripture on its own, the focus is on mindfulness of the body and the ripening of karmic actions that is experienced among humans in particular.[1]


The Tibetan translation of this sutra can be found in the General Sutra section of the Tibetan Kangyur, Toh 287. It is the first scripture within the collection of Shravakayana scriptures of this section.[2]


  1. 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.
  2. 84000: This placement among the Hinayana sutras has been a topic of some debate among Tibetans, since one finds frequent occurrences of the term “Mahayana” within the sutra’s later sections. Notably, however, the term is only found in the Tibetan translation of the sutra, not in the Chinese translation. Moreover, the Tibetan translator of the sutra, Patshap Tsultrim Gyaltsen (11th–12th c.), himself classified the text as a Mahayana scripture in his colophon to the sutra. Still, the editor of the Dergé Kangyur, Situ Panchen Chökyi Jungné classified the sutra as belonging to the Hinayana, basing himself on the earlier classification of Butön Rinchen Drup, the famous compiler of the Kangyur. Butön in turn seems to have relied on the Denkarma inventory (compiled in 812), which likewise classifies the sutra as a Hinayana scripture.