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Drumakinnararājaparipṛcchā (T. mi ’am ci’i rgyal po sdong pos zhus pa མི་འམ་ཅིའི་རྒྱལ་པོ་སྡོང་པོས་ཞུས་པ་; C. Tun-chen-t’o-lo ching), or The Questions of the Kinnara King Druma, is an early Mahayana sutra that presents a series of teachings focused on the doctrine of emptiness (sunyata) and the six perfections of a bodhisattva.[1]

The Dharmachakra Translation Committee states:

The Questions of the Kinnara King Druma, initiated by the questions of the bodhisattva Divyamauli, consists of a series of teachings by the kinnara king Druma, given within a rich narrative framework in which music plays a central role in teaching the Dharma. This sūtra presents a variety of well-known Great Vehicle Buddhist themes, but special attention is given to the six bodhisattva perfections and the perfection of skillful means, as well as to the doctrine of emptiness that is discussed throughout the text.[2]

And also:

The Questions of the Kinnara King Druma [...] presents a series of teachings focusing on the doctrine of emptiness and the bodhisattvas’ perfections, presented in a rich narrative framework in which Druma, the king of the kinnaras, is the protagonist. Kinnaras are mythological beings found in both Buddhist and Hindu literature, where they are portrayed as creatures half human, half animal (usually half bird). They are also usually depicted as highly skilled celestial musicians. King Druma is himself a well-known figure in canonical Sanskrit sources, where he frequently appears, albeit mostly in minor roles, offering musical worship to the Buddha. For example, King Druma appears in such a role in the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra (Toh 113) where he is one of four kinnara kings (the other three are Mahādharma, Sudharma, and Dharmadhara) attending the Buddha’s teaching. He is also included in the Samādhirājasūtra (Toh 127) where he arrives with his queens to make an offering of his music to the Buddha.
The title of this text is actually somewhat misleading since the questions that bring forth the sūtra’s doctrinal content are not in fact posed by Druma, but instead by the bodhisattva Divyamauli, who is the primary interlocutor throughout this sūtra. As such Druma assumes the role of the teacher who over the course of the text displays a profound understanding of the doctrine of emptiness. The Buddha accordingly commends him for his grasp of the truth and extols Druma as a great bodhisattva whose level of realization far surpasses that of any hearer or solitary buddha. Toward the end of the teaching, the Buddha also prophesies Druma’s future awakening in great detail.
Music plays a central role throughout this sūtra. As Paul Harrison has noted, music is presented in several episodes as a metaphor for the ungraspable nature of reality—emptinesss—as it serves as the basis for Druma’s teachings to Divyamauli and the rest of the assembly. In one remarkable episode, the power of Druma’s music is such that even the accomplished elders among the monks lose control of their bodies and start to dance helplessly to the tune of Druma’s lute, while only those who have reached the bodhisattva levels are able to remain seated.
The sūtra elaborates on a variety of general themes associated with the Great Vehicle. As well as the doctrine of emptiness, discussed at various points in the text, it gives special attention to the six perfections and in particular to the mastery of skillful means. It also contains a lengthy teaching on the ways in which women can be reborn with a male body — something that, according to several Great Vehicle sūtras, is a prerequisite for attaining awakening as a buddha.[1]

Text and translations

While no Sanskrit manuscript of The Questions of the Kinnara King Druma appears to be extant, we do have translations of this sūtra in both Chinese and Tibetan. [1]

Chinese translation

The Dharmachakra Translation Committee states:

Two Chinese translations are available: one produced by Lokakṣema (T.624) and the other by Kumārajīva (T.625). Lokakṣema was born around 147 ᴄᴇ in Gandhāra and is one of the earliest known translators to have produced Chinese translations of the Great Vehicle Buddhist sūtras from Sanskrit. The date of his translation is unknown, but Harrison suggests that it must have been completed while he was residing in the Han capital of Luoyang during the years 170–190 ᴄᴇ. Lokakṣema’s version is therefore of great historical importance since it represents one of the earliest literary sources for the Great Vehicle available to us today.
The second Chinese translation was produced by the renowned translator Kumārajīva (334–413 ᴄᴇ), who completed the translation in the early fifth century, toward the end of his life, as he resided in the then Chinese capital of Chang’an. According to Harrison, the two Chinese versions are very similar, and they do not differ substantially in content from the Tibetan.[1]

Tibetan translation

The Tibetan text is included in the General Sutra Section of the Tibetan Kangyur, Toh 157.[1]

The Dharmachakra Translation Committee states:

The Tibetan translation was completed in the early translation period and is listed in the early ninth-century Denkarma (ldan dkar ma) catalogue. According to the colophon to the Tibetan translation, the sūtra was translated into Tibetan by the prolific translators Kawa Paltsek (ska ba dpal brtsegs) and Palkyi Lhünpo (dpal gyi lhun po), both of whom participated in numerous translation projects in Tibet during the early translation period when the majority of Indian sūtras were translated into Tibetan (late eighth to early ninth century). Kawa Paltsek was also one of the initial seven Tibetans to be ordained during the founding of the first Tibetan monastery of Samyé (bsam yas). He translated numerous canonical texts, both sūtra and tantra, and became one of the most active translators of his time. Some Tibetan translators, including Palkyi Lhünpo, are known to have translated certain Indian texts without the help of Indian teachers, and this may well have been the case with The Questions of the Kinnara King Druma, as no Indian scholars are mentioned in the colophon.[1]

English translation


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 84000.png Dharmachakra Translation Committee (2023), The Questions of the Kinnara King Druma, "Introduction", 84000 Reading Room
  2. 84000.png Dharmachakra Translation Committee (2023), The Questions of the Kinnara King Druma, "Summary", 84000 Reading Room