From Chapter 23:


Burton Watson, a famous translator, renders the passage thusly:

If there is a woman who hears this chapter on the Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King and is able to accept and uphold it, that will be her last appearance in a woman’s body and she will never be born in that form again.

Question: how does the 受 translate to "born in that form"? If 受 is not the character that is being read thusly, then how did Burton Watson arrive at his conclusion?

  • translation not literal: 受 occurs twice, 1.能受持者 able to accept and uphold it, 2.後不復受, thereafter will never again accept and uphold, note that among jukuu's 17 samples for 受持 there is only one with the unbroken pair 受持 which again is taken from text containing "Bodhisattva"
    – user6065
    Jun 23, 2017 at 5:17
  • If I may inquire further, where in the Chinese does it establish "born in that form"? That is what I can't make sense of.
    – Caoimhghin
    Jun 23, 2017 at 5:19
  • good question, 盡是女身 or 尽是女身 contains 身 (body, "form")
    – user6065
    Jun 23, 2017 at 5:33
  • This is a bad place to ask such question. India ancient Sutra contains lots of philosophy metaphor that you cannot translate straight from the sentences. We need a "Guru" to interpret the Sanskrit metaphor.
    – mootmoot
    Jun 23, 2017 at 15:32

2 Answers 2




After finishing this female form, she will not take/receive it again in the future lifes.



burton's translation is not a "word by word" mode, imo, it's quite good, if you understand the assumptions.

first, "受持" (vigrāhayati, to accept and maintain faith) is a specialised term.

the last character 受, i guess it's a short form of 受生 (utpadyamāna, being produced or generated)

the verse quoted, i would interpret it as:

if (若) there's a woman (有女人) hears (聞) this (是) bodhisattva medicine king's 藥王菩薩 former affairs (本事) chapter (品)

and (assumed) able to (能) accept and maintain faith (受持 vigrāhayati) 者 (article)

when (assumed) complete (盡 --> complete the life of) this (是) female body (女身)

afterward, (後) not again (不復) being produced (受 -->受生, utpadyamāna) as woman (assumed)

the underlying assumptions are:

in ancient buddhism, females are consider inferior than males. that, only males are able to attain buddhahood (成佛)

the verse emphasizes the greatness of lotus sutra (妙法蓮華經), that even an inferior being, such as "woman", if she can "hear, accept and maintain faith" in one of its chapter, she made good karma. with such good karma, she can avoid to reincarnate again as female; that she would reincarnate as a male, so, have chance to attain buddhahood.

very appealing in ancient patriarchal society, for females who are able to read.

edited, to rectify my mistakes.

in chapter 12 "提婆達多品", of lotus sutra (妙法蓮華經), there's a story of "dragon girl" (龍女).

sāriputta (舍利弗) said:







then, a dragon girl (龍女) suddenly changed to male; afterward, "attained buddhahood" (成佛).


. . .


hope it's correct now :)

enter image description here

  • 可能女士重要的。五祖弘忍根慧能说:有情来下种  因地果还生 无情既无种  无性亦无生 ‘无性亦无生‘!
    – Pedroski
    Jun 23, 2017 at 22:51
  • May I ask a simple question? 'What is the source of "only males can gain nivarna"? ' Many bhiksunis in the era of Buddha were arhats. If the female cannot enter nirvana, these saints should be alive now. Right?
    – young99
    Jun 24, 2017 at 4:24
  • @young99, i edited the answer, have a look :) Jun 24, 2017 at 9:18
  • Your logic is not correct. only male can attain buddhahood does NOT mean only male can gain nivarna. All arhats (阿羅漢), pratyekabuddhas (辟支佛) and Buddhas (佛陀) can gain nivarna. Although Buddhas must be males, the arhats and pratyekabuddhas can be females. So, the female can gain nivarna. Your explanation is not correct.
    – young99
    Jun 24, 2017 at 9:47
  • so, how do you interpret the story of "dragon girl"? Jun 24, 2017 at 10:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.