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The Śrīmālā Sūtra (full title: Śrīmālādevī-siṃha-nāda-sūtra) is one of the main early Mahayana Buddhist texts that taught the doctrines of tathagatagarbha and the Single Vehicle, through the words of the Indian Queen Śrīmālā. It was translated to Chinese in 436 CE by Gunabhadra (394-468). The Sanskrit original is no longer extant[1], although extensive quotations are found in the Sanskrit text of the Ratna-gotra-vibhāga as well as some recently discovered fragments conserved in the Schøyen Collection. It was later translated into English by Alex and Hideko Wayman as The Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala.

The sutra teaches the reality of an ultimate, immaculate Consciousness within each living being, which is the Buddhic "Dharmakaya" (essence of Truth), which is yet temporarily sheathed in obscuring defilement. This Dharmakaya, when viewed as intrinsically free from spiritual ignorance, is said to constitute Eternity, Bliss, the Self, and Purity in their perfect state. The use of the word "Self" in this sutra is in a way unique to this class of sutra; see Atman (Buddhism). The great Queen Srimala, empowered by the Buddha to teach the Dharma, affirms: "... the Dharmakaya of the Buddha has the perfection of permanence, the perfection of pleasure, the perfection of Self, the perfection of purity. Whatever sentient beings see the Dharmakaya of the Tathagata that way, see correctly. Whoever see correctly are called the sons of the Lord born from his heart, born from his mouth, born from the Dharma, who behave as manifestation of Dharma and as heirs of Dharma."[2]

The scripture also - extremely influentially by way of clarification of the Tathagatagarbha-Buddhist view of shunyata - insists that the ultimately correct understanding of Emptiness is that the Tathagatagarbha is empty of all knowledge that is not Liberation, whereas, in contrast, the qualities which characterise a Buddha are not empty of inconceivable virtues. An alternative title offered by the Buddha for this sutra expresses this idea of an ultimate meaning to the Emptiness doctrine: "The True Revelation of the Buddha's Intention when Teaching Shunyata [Emptiness]".

The sutra has, furthermore, significantly contributed to the Mahayana notion of the permanent, steadfast and eternal "Tathagatagarbha" (Buddha-Matrix), which is nothing less than the perfect Dharmakaya temporarily concealed by (ultimately unreal) mental contaminants.

There is some debate as to whether or not the tathagatagarbha constitutes true self or not, although that perfect Self is nowhere denied in the sutra, but affirmed.

See also

  • Mahaparinirvana Sutra
  • Anunatva-Apurnatva-Nirdesa
  • Tathagatagarbha Sutra
  • Angulimaliya Sutra
  • Tathagatagarbha doctrine
  • Buddha-nature
  • Kunjed Gyalpo Tantra
  • Dolpopa
  • Shōmangyō Gisho, an annotated Japanese version of the sutra.
  • Purity in Buddhism


  1. Being As Conciousness: Yogācāra Philosophy of Buddhism. by Fernando Tola and Carmon Dragonetti. pg xiii
  2. The Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala, p. 102


  • Wayman, A. & H. (translators)(1974). The Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala. Motilal, Delhi.
  • Paul, Diana (1979). 'The Concept of Tathāgatagarbha in the Śrīmālādevī Sūtra (Sheng-Man Ching)'. Journal of the American Oriental Society. Vol. 99, No. 2 (April - June, 1979), pp.191-203

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