From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Saddharmasmṛtyupasthāna [alt. Āryasaddharmasmṛtyupasthāna] (T. dam chos dran pa nyer bzhag), or The Application of Mindfulness of the Sacred Dharma, is a sutra from the Tibetan canon which presents two main topics: 1) an explanation of the Buddhist path that includes a detailed description of Buddhist cosmology; 2) instructions on mindfulness of the body.

This text is found in the General Sutra Section of the Tibetan Kangyur (Toh 287).[1] The Tibetan translation is attributed to Patshap Tsultrim Gyaltsen.[1]


The Dharmachakra Translation Committee states:

The epic discourse of The Application of Mindfulness of the Sacred Dharma (AMSD) unfolds as a single, sustained reply to a short question that is put to the Buddha Śākyamuni as the sūtra opens. A group of newly ordained monks have been challenged by the members of another religious group, who suggest that the Buddha’s teachings are indistinguishable from those of their own teacher. Not knowing how to reply, the monks request that the Buddha explain how the path of the sacred Dharma is unlike any other. As the Buddha responds to the monks, he describes the path from the perspective of an adept meditating monk, who applies the Dharma teachings correctly and so discovers the truths of the Dharma. In an account that spans the full spectrum of life in saṃsāra, from the horrifying misery and intense pain of the lower realms to the enrapturing beauty and bliss in the heavens, the Buddha explains how different kinds of physical, verbal, and mental behavior of humans lead to rebirth in such realms of existence.
The generic and unnamed monk, from whose perspective the Buddha explains the subject matter, witnesses the myriad realms of existence from the Hell of Ultimate Torment to the Heaven Free from Strife, sometimes by means of the divine eye that is accomplished through meditation, and at other times through the eye of insight that is acquired through hearing the teachings. In this way, the monk comes to directly recognize the matrix of causes and effects that keeps the wheel of cyclic existence turning, and he realizes with full clarity how, throughout all this, life and beings’ experiences are utterly impermanent and always determined by their own past actions. A very substantial part of the sūtra describes the ravishing sceneries and amazing events that take place in the heavens. In the midst of these breathtaking descriptions, the sūtra frequently presents pithy teachings of the Dharma, typically given in verses that may be spoken by gods, such as Śakra, or by divine birds, such as the king of swans or the peacock king.
The account of the heavens and the actions that lead to rebirth there comes to an abrupt end in the midst of the descriptions of the Heaven Free from Strife. Instead follows, for the remainder of the scripture, a teaching on mindfulness of the body. This latter teaching, which functions mostly as an independent part of the sūtra, presents mindfulness of the body within the framework of the “internal” human body and the “external” body of the outer world. This latter section includes an elaborate description of the human realm according to Buddhist cosmology.[1]


Alternate titles

The title of this text is translated as:

  • The Application of Mindfulness of the Sacred Dharma[1]
  • Great Mindfulness Scripture[2]
  • etc.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 84000.png Dharmachakra Translation Committee (2021), The Application of Mindfulness of the Sacred Dharma , 84000 Reading Room
  2. Book icoline.svg Jamgön Kongtrul (2003), Myriad Worlds, The Treasury of Knowledge, Book One, Snow Lion