Sutra of the Three Heaps

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Sutra of the Three Heaps (Skt. Trīskhandhadharmasūtra; Wyl. phung po gsum pa'i mdo), also known as the sutra of the confession of downfalls (Tib. tung shak) - a sutra used in the confession and purification of transgressions of vows, especially downfalls of the bodhisattva vow. It features the thirty-five buddhas of confession. The 'three heaps' or three sections referred to in the title are 1) homage, 2) confession, and 3) rejoicing or dedication.

Origin of the Sutra

A group of thirty-five monks who had taken the bodhisattva vow and had accidentally caused the death of a child while they were out begging for alms went to Upali, one of the closest disciples of the Buddha, and asked him to request from the Buddha a method of confessing and purifying what they had done. The Buddha then spoke this sutra, and as he did so, light radiated from his body and thirty-four other buddhas appeared in the space all around him. The thirty-five monks prostrated before these buddhas, made offerings, confessed their misdeed, took refuge and re-awakened bodhichitta.

Translations

  • Bokar Rinpoche, Taking the Bodhisattva Vow, ClearPoint Press, San Francisco, 1997
  • (in French, Le Voeu de bodhisattva, Claire Lumière, Mas Vinsargues, 1996)
  • Ngawang Dhargye, The Confession of Downfalls, translated by Brian Beresford, LTWA
  • Padmakara Translation Group, The Sutra in Three Parts, 2004