The Prophecy of Kshemavati

From Rigpa Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This sutra, The Prophecy of Kshemavati (Skt. Kṣemavatīvyākaraṇa; Tib. བདེ་ལྡན་མ་ལུང་བསྟན་པ།, Wyl. bde ldan ma lung bstan pa), begins with Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciple, the bodhisattva Maitreya, walking through the city of Rajagriha on their morning alms round. As they near King Bimbisara’s palace, they are met by Queen Kshemavati, who is adorned with a dazzling display of royal jewellery. The Buddha asks the queen, in a seemingly playful way, for the name of the tree that produced the magnificent fruit that she is wearing. Kshemavati continues the analogy by describing her jewellery and her current station in life as the “fruit” borne by the “tree” of her past good deeds accumulated over lifetimes. This exchange emphasizes one of the main themes of the text: one’s current situation is the result of previous actions, so if we desire a good future we should persevere in meritorious behaviour. This applies not just to ordinary happiness but to spiritual pursuits as well. While Kshemavati’s “fruit” might at first seem worldly, she firmly sets the “tree” of her own past and present actions within the framework of the bodhisattva path, with her aspiration to awakening and her practice of the six paramitas. The fruit and tree analogy continues throughout the sutra, with the Buddha describing his own station, that of complete awakening and all its excellent qualities, as also being the result of his past good deeds. His account of his own path reflects that of Kshemavati, similar to his even if much less advanced in time.

The text concludes with Kshemavati declaring that she will dedicate all her future good deeds toward reaching buddhahood and thereby be of benefit to all beings. The Buddha responds to this prayer by prophesying the queen’s eventual awakening to buddhahood.

Twice in this sutra, Queen Kshemavati aspires to be reborn as a man so that she may continue to progress on her path to awakening thus imposing the traditional stance of male primacy. But even so, this sutra focuses on a bodhisattva who is a woman, and can therefore be seen as belonging to a distinct but quite large genre of texts that counter such assumptions, and hence is an inspiration to women, and ends with many thousands of women developing the intent to reach buddhahood. .[1]


The Tibetan translation of this sutra can be found in the General Sutra section of the Tibetan Kangyur, Toh 192.


  1. 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.