The Teaching on the Effulgence of Light

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The sutra, The Teaching on the Effulgence of Light (Skt. Raśmisamantamuktanirdeśa; Tib. འོད་ཟེར་ཀུན་དུ་བཀྱེ་བ་བསྟན་པ།, Wyl. ‘od zer kun du bkye ba bstan pa), is the eleventh among the forty-nine sutras included in the Heap of Jewels section in the Dergé Kangyur. The sutra presents a series of teachings, composed mainly in verse, that focus on the nature of the lights emitted by awakened beings. Questioned by the bodhisattva Chandraprabhakumarabhuta, Shakyamuni Buddha reveals the specific spiritual achievements underlying his manifestation of light rays, and the way those lights manifest to ripen beings with varying spiritual inclinations. As the Buddha displays the magnificence of his miraculous powers to the assemblies in attendance, he repeatedly emphasizes the fact that the lights displayed by the buddhas spontaneously emerge from insight into the emptiness of all phenomena and from the absence of clinging to marks that results from this realization. Besides the doctrine of emptiness, which is expounded at length throughout the text, this discourse also introduces two dharanis and discusses general themes associated with the Mahayana, such as the qualities required to progress on the path, and the importance of the practice of generosity.

The sutra also presents two brief accounts of previous lives of Chandraprabhakumarabhuta—the primary interlocutor of the Buddha—related to past occasions on which he received similar instructions on the lights emitted by awakened beings. In these narratives, he is respectively portrayed as a devoted king who worshiped a past buddha and as a young boy who witnessed the Buddha Dipamkara prophesying the future awakening of Shakyamuni Buddha. Chandraprabhakumarabhuta is often portrayed by Tibetans as a past incarnation of Gampopa, the famous physician who established the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. He is mentioned in several Great Vehicle sutras—notably the King of Samadhi Sutra (Toh 127) and the White Lotus of Great Compassion Sutra (Toh 111)—where the Buddha narrates his past lives and makes prophecies about his future lives.[1]


The Tibetan translation of this sutra can be found in the Heap of Jewels section of the Tibetan Kangyur, Toh 55.


  1. 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.