The Vimalakīrti Sūtra or Vimalakirti Nirdesa (Chinese: 維摩詰經) is a Mahayana sutra, belonging to Mahayana Buddhism. The sutra expounds the Mahāyāna as opposed to Hinayana teachings. It is a polemical text since it portrays highly revered Buddhist Arahant saints as being foolish and having incorrect understanding of the Buddhist teachings.
The sutra claims to focus on the explication of the meaning of nonduality. A important aspect of this scripture is that it contains a report of a teaching addressed to highly accomplished and revered Buddhist disciples (amongst which Sariputra, Moggallana and Mahakassapa) by the layman (and bodhisattva) Vimalakīrti, who claims to expound the doctrine of Sunyata to them, and eventually resorts to silence. This particular teaching by Vimalakirti is thus used to portray the most accomplished disciples of the Buddha as deficient in understanding, in order to be able to present the ideal of Bodhisattvaship as higher than Arahantship.
There are three classical Chinese translations extant:
- the 維摩詰所說經 Wéimójié suǒshuō jīng (trans. by Kumārajīva ; T 475.14.537a-557b).
- the 說無垢稱經 Shuō wúgòuchēng jīng (6 fasc. trans. Xuanzang . T 476.14.557-587)
- the 佛說維摩詰經 Fóshuō wéimójié jīng (2 fasc. trans. Zhi Qian . T 474.14.519-536).
In addition to these, earlier translations had been done by Lokakṣema (188), Dharmarakṣa (308), Upaśūnya (545), and Jñānagupta (591). Of the three extant renditions, Kumārajīva's has traditionally been the most popular.
There are also two translations from the original Sanskrit into Tibetan. In 1999, Prof. Hisao Takahashi of Taisho University discovered a Sanskrit original among the Chinese Government's Potala collection in Tibet.
- Yuimagyō Gisho, an annotated Japanese version of the sutra.