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I just finished re-watching this lecture by Jan Nattier, an academic expert in Mahayhana Buddhism. She mentioned that the 10 Bhumis in the 26th chapter of the Avatamsaka had a predecessor called the Buddavatamasaka which had a more coherent enumeration of 10 Bhumis and had steps that mere mortals could follow.

I can't find it it anywhere. Wikipedia does mention the Daśabhūmika Sūtra, but that appears to be the free standing later version of the 10 Bhumis.

The Cleary translation of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra is the later version of the 10 Bhumis that is mostly opaque literary bombast, describes the results of the steps but not the steps and other than bodhicitta, doesn't describe any steps that mere mortals can engage in in this life.

  • Please post the time stamp where Jan discusses this text. I'd like to hear her pronounce the name of the text and listen for any extra information. – Jayarava Sep 9 '15 at 17:22
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To the best of my knowledge there is no other translation of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra.

As far as text called Buddhāvataṃsaka - there is nothing in the Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon; nor in GRETIL - Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages.

This suggests that no Sanskrit manuscript survives. Searching for a Sanskrit name in the Chinese Canon is not quite impossible, but very very difficult.

Responding to the comment:

Taisho Edition of the Chinese Tripiṭaka (with links to the online CBETA version):

  • T280 佛說兜沙經; Scripture on the Original Deeds of the Bodhisattva as Explained by the Buddha (Ch 7 & 8 of Avataṃsaka)
  • T282 佛說菩薩求佛本業經; Original Deeds of Bodhisattvas Seeking Buddhahood. (Ch 11)
  • T282 菩薩十住行道品; Book on Bodhisattvas’ Ten Abodes in the Practice of the Way (Ch 15)

But these are not all attributed to Lokakṣema. The last looks most promising, but is attributed to Dharmarakṣa in some sources. However see Nattier: A Guide to the Earliest Chinese Buddhist Translations: Texts from the Eastern Han and Three Kingdoms Periods. This article questions the traditional attributions and assigns T280, T282 and T283 to Lokakṣema. The last looks most promising as a source for the Daśabhūmi or 10 Levels, but I cannot see any English translations online. Unfortunately very little of the Chinese Tripiṭaka is yet available in English. Though there is a Numata Foundation project under way to translate it all, it will take decades.

  • Another clue from someone taking notes on the same lecture. "taisho 280, 282, 283 can be reconstructed to be Lokaksema’s translation of the Buddhavamtasaka." dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=63&t=4182 – MatthewMartin Sep 9 '15 at 18:00
  • I updated my answer to include this info. – Jayarava Sep 9 '15 at 19:03
  • I tracked down Nattier's paper that summarized the Sutra she was referring to & posted it as an answer. Thanks for the help researching! – MatthewMartin Sep 11 '15 at 21:05
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Okay, with some help I tracked down Jan Nattier's paper on the Buddhavatamsaka which summarizes the 10 Bhumis. The original text provided 20 bullet points for each Bhumi. I'll summarize the summary.

  1. See the Buddhas of the 10 directions, learns their qualities. (Sounds to me like a meditative visualization exercise similar to the Pure Land visualizations)
  2. Maitri/Metta practice. Seeing oneself as others. Dharma study.
  3. Detachment from experience.
  4. Determining that everything is empty.
  5. Working for the benefit & enlightenment of all beings, even though they are empty.
  6. Working on equanimity. More work on seeing things as empty.

This is the cut off point for non-retrogression.

  1. Can switch back and forth between seeing things conventionally and seeing things as empty.
  2. Prince stage-- cultivates siddhis, various magical powers.
  3. Crown prince stage-- cultivates siddhis, various magical powers.
  4. Establishes the dharma in various other worlds, cultivates various siddhis.

So so everything up to the 7th Bhumi is something that could be done without being reborn elsewhere or as a superbeing. The middle Bhumis, 4-7 sound like variations on the same thing. This is a quality of the Avatamsaka in general-- the authors are always trying to hit a list of 10 things, and sometimes they run out of items and just repeat one a few times.

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