Renwang Jing (Humane Kings Sutra)

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The Renwang jing (Humane Kings Sūtra) is one of the more influential of the East Asian "apocryphal" scriptures—texts that purported to be translations of Indian works, but were actually composed in China and Korea. Although its full title indicates that it is a transcendent wisdom (prajñāpāramitā) text, it is better characterized as a blend of transcendent wisdom, YogĀcĀra school, and TathĀgatagarbha teachings. The Renwang jing is unusual in that its target audience is the rulership, rather than lay practitioners or the community of monks and nuns. Thus, whereas the interlocutors in most scriptures are arhats or bodhisattvas, the discussants in this text are the kings of the sixteen ancient regions of India. The foregrounded teachings, rather than meditation and wisdom, are humaneness and forbearance, these being the most applicable religious values for the governance of a Buddhist state.

A second "translation" was supposedly carried out a few centuries after the appearance of the original version by the monk Amoghavajra (Pukong, 705–774), one of the most important figures in the Chinese Mijiao (Esoteric) school. But this new version was actually just a rewrite, since there was no original Sanskrit version. This second version of the text (T 246), while based mostly on the original version (T 245), contains new sections that include teachings on maṆḌala, mantra, and dhĀraṆĪ. In the same way that other apocryphal works, such as the Fanwang jing (BrahmĀ's Net SŪtra), came to hold a special authoritative position in the subsequent development of Buddhism in Korea and Japan, as well as China, the Renwang jing became the standard model text in these East Asian countries for Buddhist-based state protection and statecraft.

See also:Apocrypha; Kingship; Politics and Buddhism; Prajñāpāramitā Literature


Orzech, Charles. Politics and Transcendent Wisdom: The Scripture for Humane Kings in the Creation of Chinese Buddhism. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998.

A. Charles Muller