Sunyata Doctrine Inscription in Candi Sungai Mas, Bujang Valley

A Buddhist inscription was discovered in Kampung Sungai Mas of the Candi footprint no 32 in 2007 and was described as Sungai Mas II inscription. The inscription consists of the sloka verses belong to the Mahayana tradition of Madhyamika of Sagaramatiparrcha text. It is one of the three similar inscription that consist of the similar verses. The script is written in Pallava grantha script and dated around 6th century.

Sungai Mas Footprint no 32
The Sanskrit text was already lost, however these verses can be found in the translated Chinese text and Tibetan Kangyur . The recent updated English translation is made available in the year 2021 with the effort from the Dharmacakra Translation Committee under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. All the verses can be found in a single text of Sagaramatipariprccha (The Questions of Sagaramati). This text was also mentioned by Nagarjuna in his major treatise Sutrasamuccaya (Compedium Excerpt of Sutras), Asanga’s commentary on Ratnagotravibhaga (Buddhanature of all beings) and Shantideva’s Siksamuccaya (Compedium of Training).


Row 1: balāni daśa catvāri ……. [vai?]
Row 2: aṣṭā daśa ca buddhanaṃ …….. dharm(m)ā

Row 3: jānite ya imā ko(ţi) …………
Row 4: tasya koţī gataṃ jñānaṃ …………..

There are only four row of verses being discovered in this location. The inscription discovered from the Candi Kampung Pendiat (Footprint no 2) consist of the similiar complete verses, in which six rows of verses were discovered.

Candi Kampung Pendiat (Footprint no 2)

Row 1: balāni daśa catvāri vaiśaradyāni yāni ca
Row 2: așţādaś a ca buddhānāṃ dharmmā āveṇīkā hi ye
Row 3: ye pratītyasamutpannā na te kecit svabhāvataḥ
Row 4: ye svabhāvā na vidyante na teșāṃ saṃbhavaḥ kvacit
Row 5: jānite ya imāṃ koţim jagatas samāṃ
Row 6: tasya koţi gataṃ jñānaṃ sarvva dharmmesu vartate

There was an early translation of these verses as published in 1940 of the archaeological research papers. However, with the latest translation of the Sagaramatiparrcha text from Tibetan Kangyur into English, below are the more precise of the expression of these verses.
These verses were found in the Sagaramatiparrcha sutra and were translated as;

“The ten strengths , The four fearlessnesses . The unique qualities of buddhahood , All eighteen of these.”
“Whatever is dependently originated, Is without any inherent nature. What lacks an essential nature, Never actually arises.”

“The one who knows the limit. In which the world is sameness without limit, Is someone whose wisdom has reached the limit, And so knows all phenomena.

Meaning of the Verses
The verses on row 1 and 2 are self-explained. These verses were extracted from Sagaramatiparrcha chapter 6.21 of the text.

The verses on row 3 and 4 were extracted from Sagaramatiparrcha chapter 6.17 of the text.
This verse can explained based on the writing of Nagarjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (MMK).
“No where at any time are entities originated from self, from other,from both or without a cause .”

Verses 5 and 6 were extracted from Sagaramatiparrcha chapter 6.18 of the text. This verse is also correlated to the writing of Nagarjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā that
“there is, on the part of saṃsāra, no difference at all from nirvāṇa ”

“Samsara and Nirvana are perceived as one single reality, In the state of ultimate awareness. To perceive the ultimate reality. I mark everything with the great seal of emptiness. This is the quintessence of non duality.”
- Milarepa

Sungai Mas was the political and administration center during for the Srivijaya empire in Old Kedah (Kataha/JueCha). And it was an important religious center during that period.

The verses in this inscription reflected the essence teaching of Sunyata (Emptiness). Emptiness means non-origination – the non-arising in reality of all phenomena. We are grateful to master Nagarjuna in his treatise to explain the meaning of this profound non duality of all phenomenas that were found from the Sagaramatiparrcha text. This footprint located in this place must be an important spiritual center. It could be another candi (stupa) for empowerment or initiation of the new disciples. Or it could be a meditation center that receiving masters from overseas like India, China and ancient Java as a transit point due to its location that is close to the port. The verses are very profound and the person who initiated this inscription could be a highly trained master. Morever, this Sanskrit inscription maybe the only Sanskrit fragments that surv ived as the original Sanskrit texts were lost. These verses were from the chapter six of the sutra that explaining the Qualities of the Buddhahood. Why were these verses being inscripted? Chinese monk Yi Jing spend some time in old Kedah, probably he ever visited this Candi before. Dharmakirti Serlingpa compiled the commentary on Prajnaparamita 'Durbhaloka' under the support of Kataha king (old Kedah) in the 10th century. This area could be one of the important Buddhist spiritual center at that time with many learned masters.