The sutra is also known as the Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra and in its abbreviated form as Śrī-mālā-sūtra ; the original author is unknown. Scholars concur that it was written in the Andhra region of South India in the third-century A.D. and since its inception has greatly influenced Buddhist China, Korea and Japan. According to Alex Wayman the Queen in its title is referenced to the glorious garland (Śrīmālā) given to the main protagonist in the sutra by her mother, Mallikā, whose name means the daughter of the garland maker. All in all, though, the opening setting of the sutra that introduces her is half historical and half fictional. The central thrust of the sutra is that all sentient beings potentially have the Buddha-seed; this is reinforced through the dominant doctrines of the One-Vehicle and Its primary conduit of the Tathagatagarbha. Wayman states:
According to the Śrī-mālā, the “One Vehicle” (ekayāna) is the Great Vehicle (mahāyana) which incorporates all vehicles. The Śrī-mālā agrees with the Lotus Sutra that the “Great Vehicle” is the Buddha Vehicle which has discovered and taught all Buddha truth. Another important agreement with the Lotus Sutra is the application of the “One Vehicle” to the nirvāṇa doctrine. The two scriptures agree that there are also partial nirvāṇas which are shown by the Tathāgatas as a means for promoting persons spirituality. The Śrī-mālā takes the “embryo of the Tathāgata” (Tathāgatagarbha) as the basis of “One Vehicle”. That “embryo” potentially is not predestined to various enlightenments; rather all sentient beings arrive at identical enlightenment or nirvāṇa, because their “species” (gotra) is precisely that “embryo of the Tathāgata”. Accordingly, the theory of One Vehicle rivals the Prajñāpāramitā exegesis of radically different paths and fruits for the Disciples, the Self-Enlightened, and the Bodhisattvas. (The Lion’s roar of Queen Śrīmālā , A Buddhist Scripture on the Tathāgatagarbha Theory, Alex and Hideko Wayman, pg.37)
As is discerned, it is within the Sole Vehicle of the Tathagata-garbha that the bodhi-seed takes root and the developing gotra—the Bodhichild—comes to enjoy enlightenment in and through the Tathata-family. Eventually, as the sutra will reveal, it is through the Immaculate, or Alaya Consciousness of the developing garbhachild that will taste the very essence of truth [the Dharmakaya]. The Immaculate (in her spirit) Queen Śrī-mālā, through her dharma-teaching will reveal the following:
… the Dharmakāya 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 Dharmakāya of the Tathagāta 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..
Alex Wayman’s translation divides the sutra into separate chapters. This is a fine-tunement of the concluding gathas in the epilogue. While his translation will be referred to when warranted, the primary translation will be from the version as set forth by the Buddhist Association of the United States. It flows rather nicely (as n.yeti would most likely say, in very “supple fashion”) and gives it the added dimension of poetic-verse.
In regard to the “mythic” elements of this and other early scriptures, I think it is important to understand the language of mysticism is not confined to didactic or dogmatic modes of thought. The opening of awareness which makes it possible to accrue merit and dispel delusion by reading or reciting a sutra does away with attachment to word-forms except as necessary to guide the seeker toward the recognition of mind.) Those who adhere to nihilistic or strictly materialist views object to such language because the images raised conflict with the world of appearances; they do not know the didactic or word-form teachings themselves are but expedient and that the truth revealed thereby in no way depends upon the teaching. To then go cherry picking (so to speak) through the sutras, discarding that which is of a mythic character, and clinging to that which seems real and in conformity with Western philosophic materialism, is to misread them in my opinion and closes off understanding. The dharma eye which is opened has no difficulty entering the mythic mode or the material mode of language without confusion, because the apparent reality of the rational material world and the apparent reality of myth or lyrical gate as are not different. To embrace one and reject another is not understanding.
That last part should read “mythic or lyrical gathas” not “gate as”. Sorry for the unintended auto-correct.
Very good comment apropos the understanding of the “mythic”, n. yeti! Thank you.
(It seems Europeans (“Westerners”) are especially allergic to the Sambhogakāya… There’s also an idée fixe (can see traces of it within myself) – that every path must be full of self-denying and cold dry suffering. – I remember a wise man once telling me: “Buddhism is a happy religion!” – To me, a person full of “Catholic-Theravadin guilt”, that was quite hard to believe! Surely the path must be full of self-crucifying and self-denying, without any joy or bliss, I thought back then! – But when one meets a true teacher (or perhaps one is lucky enough to stumble upon it by chance) – one realizes, in an instant: “oh! after all, this matter was always beyond words and letters! how wonderful! how wonderful!” – If that Light wants to send us various gifts in form of divinities, energies, and Bodhisattvas, even prophecies and visions, why should we reject it, one-sidedly preferring the senses instead? As if the senses were more reliable than the “celestial body”! – A Dharma master once said that dreams are more reliable than the senses, because in dreams, mind is not disturbed by the senses’ interference.)