Gandavyuha Sutra

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The Gandavyuha Sutra (Skt. Gaṇḍavyūhasūtra; Tib. སྡོང་པོ་བཀོད་པ་, do dong po kö pa, Wyl. mdo sdong po bkod pa), or in English The Stem Array, is the forty-fifth and lengthy final chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra and is called a ‘chapter’ rather than a sutra.

It is unique in that most of its narrative takes place in South India, far from the presence of the Buddha and follows the journey of the young Sudhana from teacher to teacher, or kalyanamitra (literally “good friend”), beginning with his meeting Manjushri when that bodhisattva came to South India. The previous chapters of the Avatamsaka have already presented the view that various buddhas are manifestations of the Buddha Vairochana, and it is by the name Vairochana that Shakyamuni is referred to in this sutra.

The sutra primarily describes both the inner qualities and the external displays of miraculous powers that have been attained by the various kalyanamitras whom Sudhana meets. It concludes with the bodhisattva Samantabhadra composing The Prayer for Completely Good Conduct.

The title is somewhat obscure and appears to have no connection with the content, unless it is taken to refer to the successive joints in a bamboo stem, as an analogy to the successive episodes in Sudhana’s journey.[1]


The Ganda­vyuha Sutra first existed in India as an independent sutra and still exists as an independent sutra in Sanskrit manuscripts. The successive Chinese translations reveal a gradual growth in the contents of the sutra, with the addition of more teachers in the Indian version before its eventual translation into Tibetan. There was an Indian version longer than the one that was translated into Tibetan, though no Sanskrit manuscript of this version has survived.[2]

Early Translations

The Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit text can be found in the Derge Kangyur, Ornaments of the Buddhas (Skt. Buddhāvataṃsaka) section, Toh 44-45.

Modern Translations


  • Thomas Cleary, tr., Entry into the Realm of Reality: The Gaṇḍavyūha (Boston: Shambhala, 1987), translation from Chinese
  • Peter Alan Roberts under the patronage and supervision of 84000: The Stem Array


  • Soûtra de l’Entrée dans la dimension absolue – Gandavyuhasutra avec le commentaire de Li Tongxuan, traduit par Patrick Carre (Padmakara, 2019), translation from Chinese


There are no known commentaries in Sanskrit or Tibetan, only in Chinese.

Famous Quotations

རིགས་ཀྱི་བུ་ཁྱོད་ཀྱིས་བདག་ཉིད་ལ་ནད་པའི་འདུ་ཤེས་བསྐྱེད་པར་བྱའོ། །

ཆོས་ལ་སྨན་གྱི་འདུ་ཤེས་བསྐྱེད་པར་བྱའོ། །
དགེ་བའི་བཤེས་གཉེན་ལ་སྨན་པ་མཁས་པའི་འདུ་ཤེས་བསྐྱེད་པར་བྱའོ། །

ནན་ཏན་ཉམས་སུ་ལེན་པ་ནི་ནད་ཉེ་བར་འཚོ་བའི་འདུ་ཤེས་བསྐྱེད་པར་བྱའོ། །

Noble one, think of yourself as someone who is sick,
Of the Dharma as the remedy,
Of your spiritual teacher as a skilful doctor,
And of diligent practice as the way to recovery.

Buddha Shakyamuni, Gandavyuha Sutra

Further Reading

  • Osto, Douglas. The Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra: a study of wealth, gender and power in an Indian Buddhist Narrative, 2004


  1. 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.
  2. 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.