The Noble Mahāyāna Sutra on Wisdom at the Hour of Death

In the language of India:   Āryātyayajñānanāmamahāyānasūtra

In the Tibetan language: ’phags pa ’da’ ka ye shes zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo

Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!

Thus did I hear at one time. While the Blessed One was residing in the palace of the king of the gods in the Akaniṣṭha realm, he taught the Dharma to the entire assembly. The bodhisattva mahāsattva Ākāśagarbha then paid homage to the Blessed One and asked, “Blessed One, how should we think about the mind of a bodhisattva who is about to die?”
The Blessed One replied, “Ākāśagarbha, when a bodhisattva is about to die, he should cultivate the wisdom of the hour of death. The wisdom of the hour of death is as follows: “All phenomena are naturally pure. So, one should cultivate the clear understanding that there are no entities. All phenomena are subsumed within the mind of enlightenment. So, one should cultivate the clear understanding of great compassion. All phenomena are naturally luminous. So, one should cultivate the clear understanding of non-apprehension. All entities are impermanent. So, one should cultivate the clear understanding of non-attachment to anything whatsoever. When one realizes mind, this is wisdom. So, one should cultivate the clear understanding of not seeking the Buddha elsewhere.”
The Blessed One then spoke the following verses:

“Since all phenomena are naturally pure, one should cultivate the clear understanding that there are no entities.
“Since all phenomena are connected with the enlightened mind, one should cultivate the clear understanding of great compassion.
“Since all phenomena are naturally luminous, one should cultivate the clear understanding of non-apprehension.
“Since all entities are impermanent, one should cultivate the clear understanding of non-attachment. “Since the mind is the cause for the arising of wisdom, do not look for the Buddha elsewhere.” After the Blessed One had spoken, the whole assembly, including the bodhisattva Ākāśagarbha and others, were overjoyed and full of praise for the Buddha’s words.

This concludes the Noble Mahāyāna Sutra on Wisdom at the Hour of Death.

Translated by Tom Tillemans’ class in the University of Vienna’s program of Buddhist Translation Studies under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. V 1.24 (2019).

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འཕགས་པ་འདའ་ཀ་ཡེ་ཤེས་ཞེས་བྱ་བའི་མདོ།

’phags pa ’da’ ka ye shes zhes bya ba’i mdo

The Sutra on Wisdom at the Hour of Death

By:

Buddha Śākyamuni
This short sutra condenses Mahāyāna pith instructions as to how one should practice at the time of death, with the recognition of the nature of mind and phenomena. An important sutra for several Tibetan lineages including the Nyingma lineage of Dzokchen, it was said to have been translated on Guru Rinpoche's recommendation for use as King Trisong Deutsen's daily practice.

This sutra was translated under 84,000's patronage, and more information regarding its history and contents can be found with the translation's latest version in the 84,000 reading room.

You can also download Lhasey Lotsawa's earlier translation of this sutra along with two commentaries by Prajñāsamudra and Śāntideva in a free booklet published by Lhasey Lotsawa.

Samye Institute also offers a course built around video teachings of Kyapgön Phakchok Rinpoche giving experiential instructions based on his own contemporary commentary on the sutra.