Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Chunda Main Page

Female Imagery

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
--- Four Armed
--- Eighteen Armed: 9094, 16911
--- Three Faces, Twenty-six Armed: 40453
- Source Texts (below)
- Masterworks: 9094
- Confusions: White Prajnaparamita, White Manjushri
- Others...

Video: Chunda: A Dharani Goddess

Chunda is a relatively unknown minor female deity in Himalayan and Tibetan Buddhist art. There are a number of common variant spellings of her name: cunda, chunda, cundi, and chundi. She is a dharani goddess meaning that she is the personification of a magic spell or incantation called a dharani in the Sanskrit language. She appears to be principally associated with the Abhayakara Group of catalogued deities. She has three described forms: four armed, eighteen armed and twenty-six armed. She is peaceful in appearance and generally white in colour. Belonging to the Kriya classification of tantra, the principal text is The Incantation of the Goddess Cundā. The mantra of Chunda was also made famous in the Karandavyuha Sutra [2.79]. (See below).

The Chinese Buddhist tradition associates Chunda with Avalokiteshvara and even refers to her as a female emanation of Lokeshvara. This of course is most likely a result of the first reference to the Chunda dharani/mantra found in the Karandavyuha Sutra which likely predates The Incantation of the Goddess Cundā text. Early Tibetan texts do not relate or conflate the entities of Chunda and Lokeshvara. The sutra clearly states that the dharani is the utterance of 70 million buddhas without any mention of an associated female deity.

Ritual descriptions for the four armed iconographic form of Chunda can be found in the Bari Gyatsa (Konchog Lhundrub edited version #34) and the Drub Thab Gyatso (Namkha Chime edited version #69). Each publication has a single entry for Chunda. The twenty-six armed form belongs to the tradition of Shakyashri Rakshita and contained in the Rinjung Gyatsa of Jonang Taranata. The Sadhanamala (Sanskrit edited version) by Benoytosh Bhattacharaya (1925) has three entries for Chunda, #129, 130, and 131. All three entries describe a four armed peaceful goddess.

[34] Chunda: Four Arms:
"Chunda, white [with] one face and four hands. The first right [hand is in the gesture of] supreme generosity. The first left [holds] a white lotus with the Prajnaparamita book above. The lower two hold a begging bowl above clasped [hands]. Having jewel ornaments and silk garments. Seated with the feet in the vajrasana [posture]." (Konchog Lhundrub, 1497-1557. [Based on the Bari Gyatsa. Lineage: Pandita Amoghavajra, Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag]).

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Jeff Watt, 6-2006 [updated 1-2019, 10-2021]


84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
Karandavyuha Sutra

Toh 116. The Basket’s Display. ཟ་མ་ཏོག་བཀོད་པ། · za ma tog bkod pa. Kāraṇḍa­vyūha.

2.79
Seventy-seven times ten million samyaksaṃbuddhas gathered there, and those tathāgatas recited this dhāraṇī:

Namaḥ saptanām saṃyak­saṃbuddha­koṭinām tadyathā Oṁ cale cule cunde svāhā.

[The homage by seven times ten million samyaksaṃbuddhas is like this: Oṁ cale cule cunde svāhā.]

That was the dhāraṇī recited by seventy-seven times ten million samyaksaṃbuddhas.

(See the Karandavyuha Sutra (Selections) on HAR).
Source Texts:

Toh 613/989. The Incantation of the Goddess Cundā. ལྷ་མོ་སྐུལ་བྱེད་མའི་གཟུངས། · lha mo skul byed ma'i gzungs. cundadevīdhāraṇī. (A poor quality English translation can be found withy this link).

Toh 116. The Basket’s Display. ཟ་མ་ཏོག་བཀོད་པ། · za ma tog bkod pa. Kāraṇḍa­vyūha. (Selected verses).

Bari Gyatsa (Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag). Tibetan Title: (short) ba ri brgya rtsa. (long) lhag pa'i lha rnams kyi sgrub thabs kun las btus pa ba ri brgya rtsa'i rgya gzhung rnams. (TBRC 1393. Sde-dge Bstan-'gyur (Rgyud 'grel) Vol-077. Folio 1-119).

Drub Tab Gyatso (Sanskrit: Sadhanasamucchaya) (Lotsawa Dragpa Gyaltsen). Tibetan Title: sgrub thabs rgya mtsho (TBRC 1393 Sde-dge Bstan-'gyur(Rgyud 'grel) Vol-077, folio 120-514).