The Skill in Means (Upayakausalya) Sutra


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This rare sutra, ancient but timely, has long been treated with

circumspection because of its liberal attitude toward sexuality and other

ethical concerns. One of the original statements of the early Mahayana

School, it is here collated from Chinese and Tibetan translations, and from

passages that remain in the original Sanskrit. Originally part of a larger

sutra on the six perfections that included the well-known perfection of

Wisdom sutra, the Skill in Means sutra explicates the other five

perfections of the bodhisattva. The translator has traced its source to

verses of the Ratnagunasamcaya-gatha that have no counterpart in the

Perfection of Wisdom. The Skill in Means is also found as part of the

Ratnakuta collection of sutras, under the title “The Question of


In Part One, this Sutra establishes the liberal, even anti-monastic

observance of Bodhisattva ethics, especially in matters of sexual

involvement, introducing ‘skill in means’ into the fabirc of Buddhist

ethical life. Parts Two and Three constitute a reinterpretation of the life

of the Buddha, demonstrating his motivation by ‘skill in means’; this is a

primary source for the Buddhology of the Mahayana.

The older and newer versions are translated side by side; extant Sanskrit

passages are included. An introduction places the text in historical and

literary prospective. There are copious notes, indexes and a bibliography.


This little volume is a valuable contribution to the textual and doctrinal

history of early Mahayana Buddhism.


About the Author(s)

Additional information

Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 10 × 11 × 12 cm
Book Author

Mark Tatz

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