The life, Enlightenment and teachings of Buddha are collected in thousands of sutras — but one scene is perhaps the most iconic and profound — is the heroic conquest of Samsara at the foot of the great Bodhi Tree of Enlightenment. There, Buddha overcame the hosts of Maras. You can view this seminal, historical, profound moment as metaphorical or “inner Maras” or as something more. There is no difference.
Through the many centuries since, this transitional moment of Enlightenment — the conqueror’s battle with the maras — has been celebrated not only in the sutras, but in praises from the great Mahasiddhas, the Panditas and lineage holders. Among the most powerful of these, was the Prayer to the King of the Shakyas, written by the great Sayka Pandita (1182-1251) (Kunga Gyeltsen (Tibetan: ས་སྐྱ་པཎ་ཌི་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན, Wylie: Sa skya Paṇḍita Kun dga’ rgyal mtshan).
In this amazing prayer, which is preserved in Sakya Panditas written texts, is the Prayer to the King of the Shakyas — which is a daily practice for many of us. It is also a Dharma prayer of singular importance and power — by virtue of the teachings it contains. It is inspiring to remind ourselves of this epic triumph against all the mars — internal and external — by Gautama Buddha.
Prayer to the King of the Shākyas
Gang zhig chang chub shing wang drung du dü dé pung che sa dang kha’ la kun khyab ching
When you were at the foot of the great tree of enlightenment, Mara and his host filling the sky and
Dor jé dung tung dang ni khor lo mé dang ri dang gang ri’i treng we char beb pa
Raining down a cascade of short vajra-lances, fire-wheels, mountains, and glacier mountains,
Dzu trul nam par trul ché tob den mé tog da’ chen chang chub dog chir tson pa na
Emanating miraculous displays, powerful, with flower-arrows, striving to turn back your enlightenment,
Cham pa’i tug kyi leg par pam dze dzog pa’i sang gye gang nyé dé la gö chag tsal
You truly overcame with a mind of loving-kindness: I pay homage with my head to you who obtained complete Buddhahood.
Khyö kyi zhen gyi dön le du Sam dang jor wa pun tsok pe
You, for the sake of others, with perfect intention and application,
Chang chub dam par tug kyé tsé Sa yang nam pa drug tu yö
When arousing the mind to holy enlightenment, caused the earth to shake in six ways.
Jin dang tsul trim leg drub shing Zö dang tson drü gom par dze
Generosity and moral behaviour well accomplished, patience and diligence cultivated,
Sam ten shé rap tar chin pe Pa rol chin dzog khyö chag tsal
Meditation and discriminating insight perfected, thus the perfections fulfilled: homage to you!
Dro gön dang po tam pa na Jig ten khe pa tam che ga’
When you, Protector of Beings, were first born, all the wise ones in the world were delighted.
Dü nam shin tu dog pa kyé Mu teg ché pa ta’ dag trag
The Maras were greatly afraid. All the Tīrthikas were frightened.
Dé le khyö kyi ten pa ni Nyi ma’i ö zhin trin le nga’
On account of that, to you whose doctrine is active like the rays of the sun,
Nam pa kun tu mi lu wa’i Tsa lag khyö la dag kyab chi
Not deceiving in any way, root and branch, I go for refuge.
Khyö kyi sung rap seng gé’i dra Lhar che jig ten drag pa na
Your excellent speech, a lion’s roar, when proclaimed in the world, including the god realms,
Tsang dang khyab jug kug par gyur Lha yi la ma wa tar zhum
Made Brahma and Vishnu mute, the highest gods intimidated like a fox.
Tub pa kang mig drog khar dang Drang song gye pa ne jog sog
The sages Akshapada and Valmiki, the rishis Vyasa, Vasishtha, and others,
Drag pa tob pa dé dag kun Chö kyi pam dze khyö la dü
All those who obtained fame; to you who overcame their doctrines, I bow.
Khyö kyi chang chub chog nyé ne Dro wa’i dön dze ngo tsar ché
You, having attained the supreme enlightenment, acted for the benefit of beings, Wondrous One!
Si pa’i sé le ma drol war Ku sog tang we wa pu dang
Not freed of the cravings for existence, you abandoned body and life, hair raising!
Nyi kyi ku sog mi zig par Khyé la pen par cha o zhé
Without regard for your body and life, saying, “I will act to benefit you,”
Gön mé dag chag jé zung wa Gön po khyö la dag kyab chi
Caring for us without protector, we go to you, Protector, for refuge.
Gyal we dü dé tul wa dang Mu teg ma lü pam dze dang
The Conqueror defeated the demonic host, overcame all the Tīrthikas,
Nyen tö lob ma drang mé trol Gyal se dam pa lung ten dze
Liberated countless Hearers and students, and predicted the holy Conqueror’s Children.
Dén dra’i leg tsok tong wa nam Khyö kyi yön ten dön nyer we
Because those beholding such excellent accumulations aspire for your qualities,
Chang chub le du jug pa dag Lar yang khyö la dag kyab chi
I who engage for the sake of enlightenment, once more go to you for refuge.
Khyö kyi se ni jam pa’i yang Lob ma sha ra dva ti’i bu
Your sons are Mañjughoṣa, disciple Shariputra, and
Cham pa gyal tsab dam par dze Sem shé su zhig té tsom za
Maitreya, the holy regent: who, knowing their minds, has doubts?
Khyö kyi yön ten mö chi tsal Se kyi yön ten tong we khum
What need to speak of your qualities? Due to seeing the qualities of your children, I am
Kya reng shar wa’i zi ji kyi Pe mö nyen gyi ö zer go
By the brilliance of the rising dawn, the light rays of the friend of the lotus are known.
Ji ta was dang jin yé chö Khyö kyi name pa kun nyé pe
Because you obtained all aspects—the nature and the extent of the Dharma,
Zhé pa’i trin le dön zhin du Drub pa khyö la dag chag tsal
To you who accomplished the desired deeds according to the goal, I pay homage.
Dé tar dro wa’i la ma sha kya’i rig Bu ram shing pa’i dung gyü le trung pa
Accordingly, Guru of Beings, born from the lineage of the Shākya clan, the “Sugar-Caners,”
Chom den dzog pa’i sang gye tö pa yi Dro we kun khyen nyur du tob par sho
Blessed One, Complete Buddha, by this praise may beings quickly obtain omniscience.
This fifteen-verse Prayer to the King of the Shākyas, the Blessed One, glorious Sakya Pandita composed at the Lhasa Temple.
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Lee Kane is the editor of Buddha Weekly, since 2007. His main focuses as a writer are mindfulness techniques, meditation, Dharma and Sutra commentaries, Buddhist practices, international perspectives and traditions, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen. He also covers various events.
Lee also contributes as a writer to various other online magazines and blogs.