Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra

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Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra (T. Lha mo dpal phreng gi seng ge’i sgra’i mdo ལྷ་མོ་དཔལ་ཕྲེང་གི་སེང་གེའི་སྒྲའི་མདོ་; C. Shengman shizihou yisheng da fangbian fangguang jing 勝鬘師子吼一乘大方便方廣經), or Sutra of the Lion’s Roar of Queen Śrīmālā, is one of the Tathāgatagarbha sūtras, which were the initial group of texts to develop the concepts of tathāgatagarbha and buddha-nature.

The Tsadra editors state:

One of the more prominent sūtra sources for the Ratnagotravibhāga, this text tells of the story of Śrīmālādevī taking up the Buddhist path at the behest of her royal parents based on a prophecy of the Buddha. It includes mention of important concepts related to the teachings on buddha-nature, such as the single vehicle and the four perfections, or transcendent characteristics, of the dharmakāya. It also mentions the notion that buddha-nature, which is equated with mind's luminous nature, is empty of adventitious stains but not empty of its limitless inseparable qualities. In his commentary on the Ratnagotravibhāga, Asaṅga quotes this sūtra more than any other source text. In particular, it is considered a source for the fifth of the seven vajra topics, enlightenment.[1]

This sutra was especially influential in East Asian Buddhism.[2] Over twenty commentaries on this text were composed in the Chinese language.[2]


Sanskrit language

A complete Sanskrit version of this text is no longer extant.[2] However:

The Śrīmālādevīsiṃhanādasūtra is cited in Sanskrit in the Ratnagotravibhāga (see Ogawa, 2001), and the Schøyen collection includes Sanskrit manuscript fragments of the text dating to the 5th century ce (Matsuda, 2000; Sander, 2000, 293).[3]

Translations into Asian languages


The Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra was translated to Chinese in 436 CE by Guṇabhadra (394-468) and later by Bodhiruci (672-727).[4]

Korean and Japanese

The text was translated into Korean and Japanese.


The text was translated into Tibetan with the title: ལྷ་མོ་དཔལ་ཕྲེང་གི་སེང་གེའི་སྒྲའི་མདོ། (lha mo dpal phreng gi seng ge'i sgra'i mdo; The Lion's Roar of Śrīmālādevī). This version has not yet been translated into English.[5]

This text is included in the Ratnakuta Sutra within the Tibetan canon.

Translations into the English language

The following translations are available in English:

  • Alex & Hideko Wayman (2007). Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala: A Buddhist Scripture on the Tathagatagabha theory. Motilal Banarsidass.
    (Based on avaialable Chinese, Japanase and Tibetan texts, as well as Sanskrit fragments.)
  • Diana Y. Paul (2004), The Sutra of Queen Srimala of the Lion's Roar, in The Sutra of Queen Śrīmālā of the Lion's Roar and The Vimalakīrti Sutra. BDK America.


Brian Edward Brown, a specialist in Buddha-nature doctrines, writes that the composition of the Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra occurred during the Īkṣvāku Dynasty in the 3rd century CE as a product of the Caitika schools of the Mahāsāṃghikas.[6] Alex Wayman has outlined eleven points of complete agreement between the Mahāsāṃghikas and the Śrīmālā, along with four major arguments for this association.[7]


Micheal Radich states:

In the frame narrative of the Śrīmālādevīsiṃhanādasūtra, young Queen Śrīmālā receives a miraculous visitation from the Buddha, who prophesies that she will attain unexcelled perfect awakening (anuttarasaṃyaksaṃbodhi) and preside over her own Buddha land (a perfect heavenlike world created by the power of a Buddha to provide a perfect environment for sentient beings to attain liberation). Śrīmālā makes ten vows to practice various perfections. On the basis of those vows she performs an act of truth, in which the very truth of her words causes physical manifestations in the visible world, and this causes several miracles (flowers from the sky, heavenly sounds, etc.). Śrīmālā expresses three times the aspiration to teach the dharma in numerous lifetimes. The Buddha bestows on her the eloquence to teach, and she preaches the Śrīmālādevīsiṃhanādasūtra. The Buddha approves and levitates back to Śrāvastī (present-day Saheth-Maheth). Śrīmālā returns to Ayodhyā and converts the entire populace.[3]

Description from When the Clouds Part

Karl Brunnhölzl states:

The Śrīmālādevīsūtra shares even more ideas with the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta and explains them in greater detail (it even contains some almost identical passages). Just as the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra and other sūtras, the Śrīmālādevīsūtra speaks of the single yāna (the buddhayāna) and links this notion to tathāgatagarbha. Like the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta, it speaks of the dharmakāya as "the permanent and everlasting refuge" and also takes the tathāgatagarbha to be the basis of both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. Both sūtras use the same terms to describe the dharmakāya—"permanent," "eternal," "everlasting," and "peaceful," which also appear repeatedly as typical terms in the Uttaratantra and RGVV. Furthermore, both sūtras speak of the inseparable and inconceivable buddha qualities of the tathāgata heart that cannot be realized as being divisible from it and far surpass the sand grains in the river Gaṅgā in number. They also equate tathāgatagarbha with the dharmakāya obscured by stains and say that śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas cannot realize tathāgatagarbha. However, the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta’s discussion of "those with great desire" (icchantika),[note 1] who cling to the dharmakāya and the dhātu of sentient beings as being different, is not mentioned in the Śrīmālādevīsūtra.
Further crucial notions in the tathāgatagarbha teachings found in the Śrīmālādevīsūtra include linking tathāgatagarbha with emptiness in a particular twofold way—the tathāgata heart (or naturally luminous mind) is empty of adventitious stains but not empty of its limitless inseparable qualities. This is said to be the correct understanding of emptiness, and to understand tathāgatagarbha means to understand emptiness. Those who cling to everything’s being purely empty are those whose minds are distracted from emptiness’s being understood in a proper manner (śūnyatāvikṣiptacitta).[note 2] Also, the sūtra speaks of the fruition of tathāgatagarbha being the dharmakāya that consists of the four pāramitās of purity, self, bliss, and permanence.[note 3] Furthermore, the crucial notion of "the ground of the latent tendencies of ignorance" as the basis and sum of all obscurations of the tathāgata heart is used several times in the sūtra. Besides all these elements also being found in the Uttaratantra and RGVV, the general outstanding significance of the Śrīmālādevīsūtra for the teachings on buddha nature is highlighted by the fact that it is the sūtra with by far the greatest number of quotes and references in RGVV (cited twenty-eight times).[8]
  1. Note that, in Tibetan texts, this term is often understood as, or equated with, "those whose disposition is cut-off" (rigs chad), in the sense of people who do not possess any disposition for nirvāṇa or buddhahood (agotraka) and thus will never attain it. However, if "disposition" (got) is understood as an equivalent of buddha nature, many sūtras, RGVV, and other texts explain that there is nobody who does not possess it. On the other hand, if "disposition" is understood as roots of virtue (as in some other sūtras and Yogācāra texts such as the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra), one speaks of beings who have no disposition for nirvāṇa because they lack any roots of virtue. Still, there are different opinions as to whether this means that these beings will never attain nirvāṇa or are eventually able to attain it through accumulating virtue at some point in the future. For details on this issue, see the note on the potential verse from the Abhidharmamahāyānasūtra in the translation of RGVV (J37).
  2. As elaborated in a note on RGVV’s explanation of this term (J75), it entails some ambiguity because it can be understood as being distracted by or from emptiness. To be distracted by emptiness refers to being distracted by a wrong understanding of emptiness (such as taking it to be nihilism or clinging to emptiness as an entity). To be distracted from emptiness means to be distracted from the correct understanding of emptiness, which RGVV identifies as the principle of what emptiness means in the case of the tathāgata heart.
  3. According to K. Takao (see Shiu 2006, 79), based on his research on the development of the four characteristics of the dharmakāya as being permanent, blissful, pure, and a self, the Bodhisattvagocaropāyaviṣayavikurvāṇanirdeśasūtra was the third-earliest sūtra on tathāgatagarbha. However, I could not even find any mention of the dharmakāya, let alone its having these four characteristics, in the Tibetan version of this sūtra (D146).


  1. Tsadra commons icon.jpg Tsadra editors (2023), Śrīmālādevīsūtra, Buddha Nature: A Tsadra Foundation Initiative
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Śrīmālādevīsiṃhanādasūtra.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Radich 2015, p. 263.
  4. McRae 2004, p. 5.
  5. 84000.png The Lion's Roar of Śrīmālādevī
  6. Brown 2010, p. 3.
  7. Barber 2008, pp. 153-154.
  8. Brunnhölzl 2014, pp. 14-15.


  • Barber, Anthony W. (2009), Buddhism in the Krishna River Valley of Andhra, NY: State Univ of New York 
  • Brown, Brian Edward (1994), The Buddha Nature. A Study of the Tathagatagarbha and Alayavijnana, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers 
  • Brunnholzl, Karl (2014). When the Clouds Part, The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sutra and Tantra. Boston & London: Snow Lion. 
  • Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Buswell, Robert E.; Lopez, Donald S. (2014), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University 
  • McRae, John (2004), The Sutra of Queen Śrīmālā of the Lion's Roar and the Vimalakīrti Sutra (PDF), Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, ISBN 1886439311 
  • Radich, Michael (2015), "Tathāgatagarbha Scriptures", in Silk, Jonathan A.; von Hinüber, Oskar; Eltschinger, Vincent, Brill's Encyclopedia of Buddhism, Vol. 1, Literature and Languages, Leiden: Brill, p. 263 

Further reading