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The Bodhisattva of Universal Worthy


     With Samanta meaning "universally extending" and Bhadra meaning "great virtue" the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra extends his virtue and compassion to all sentient beings.  Samantabhadra is known as the Bodhisattva of "Universal Worthy" as his virtue is that of a sage's.  As a cosmic entity, Samatabhadra is the embodyment of all Bodhisattva practices and merits indispensable in the attainment of Buddhahood.  



Image of Puxian 




    Ten Directions Puxian is located on the Emei Shan Mountain in the Sichuan providence of China.  Emei Shan is one of the four sacred mountains in China, and a popular pilgrimage site, where Puxian is said to live.  It was originally a Taoist site but became sacred Buddhist ground in the third century AD.  Puxian sits atop four elephants and faces four directions, so that he can protect and help all sentient beings from every direction.  His white elephant represents the power of Buddhism to rid the world of suffering.  Each elephant has six tusks, symbolizing detaching oneself from the six senses as well as the six paramitas (generosity, ethical conduct, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom).  On his elephant, Puxian can break his body into hundreds of thousands of bodies and ride in all ten directions (north, south, east, west, northeast, southeast, northwest, southwest, up, and down) to protect sentient beings and help guide them to achieve Enlightenment, which is why he is shown with ten crowned heads.  His ten heads also represent the ten vows he made in the Avatamasaka Sutra. In his hands, Puxian holds a lotus leaf parasol, a symbol of purity.  Puxian is a patron of the Lotus Sutra, which is why he is almost always shown with or atop a lotus leaf.



Image of Samantabhadra




    In Tibet, according to the Nyingma or "Old Translation" school, Samantabhadra is the primordial Buddha who gave rise to all other Buddhas.  He is often portrayed naked with a dark or bright blue body, to show nothingness and a lack of form.  The woman sitting on him is Samantabhadri, Samantabhadra's consort and female equivalent who is most often white, to represent wisdom.  Neither are clothed to show the simplicity of the mind.  The tantric embrace of Samantabhadri and Samantabhadra symbolizes the union of kindness and wisdom.


Image of Trinity



     This painting was done on silk and can be found in the Tokoji Temple in Japan.  Shakyamuni sits in the middle on a lotus, which, like Bodhisattvas, are pure despite growing in the material world.  His hands form the "fear not" mudra and he sits with his legs crossed, a pose often used for meditation.  On his left Manjusri sits on a lion, symbolizing the ability for Buddhism to defeat all impediments, and holds a sword to represent Buddhist Law.  In this trinity, Fugen always sits to the right of Shakyamuni, and often atop his white elephant.  Here he holds a scroll on which the Avatamsaka Sutra was written and his ten great vows.  Fugen is a patron of the Lotus Sutra, the only sutra to promise Enlightenment directly to women, so he is sometimes portrayed with feminine features.


The Myth of Fugen Bosatsu 

    One myth associated with Fugen Bosatsu regards a learned priest who prayed and meditated asking to see the Fugen Bosatsu in its true form as described in the holy text. One day, in the middle of his meditation, the priest fell asleep! Although this was bad, he was told in his dream to go to a certain courtesan's house and he would see Fugen Bosatsu. After waking up, the priest quickly left and found the house of the mentioned courtesan. When he arrived, the beautiful woman was entertaining her guests by playing a tsu-zumi (a small hand drum) and singing about a famous river. As the priest began to acclimate to his surrounding, the courtesan looked directly at him and to his surprise her form changed into the form of Fugen Bosatsu. A beam of light was emitted from her brow and she sat upon an elephant with six tusks. She continued to sing, but the words the priest heard were much different than the other men in the room: On the Vast Sea of Cessation, Though the Winds of the Six Desires and of the Five Corruptions never blow, Yet the surface of that deep is always covered, With the billowing of Attainment to the Reality -in-Itself.  After this moment, the courtesan went back to singing about the river and the priest realized that only he could see the manifistation of Fugen Bosatsu and the other men could only see the courtesan. After the song, the woman left the room and the other men began to depart. The priest was the last to leave the house and just before he reached the gate the courtesan appeared in front of him. To him she said, "Friend, do not speak yet to any one of what you have seen this night." She then disappeared back into her house. (www.horrormasters.com/text/a2036.pdf)

     This myth is meant to teach the priest and readers (or listeners depending on how the story is told) that the Fugen Bosatsu may choose any form and that the choosen form will likely have an important purpose. In the case of the courtesan, which is a low and sad existence, the Bodhisattva will help men to understand the deception of illusion. (www.horrormasters.com/text/a2036.pdf) The above encounter is believed to have occured in the thirteenth century and showed that Buddahood was potential in all beings (http://www.enotes.com/wm-encyclopedia/fugen-bosatsu).


The Importance of the Lotus Sutra 

     The Lotus Sutra is compossed of 28 chapters. There are two broad themes to the Lotus sutra, the first being found in the first fourteen chapters. The first fourteen chapters are meant to explain the reality of intrinsic commonalities that occur in human beings, while the remaining chapters describe the eternalness of the Buddha. (www.nshi.org/Buddisme/English%20Buddhisme/Lotus-And-Buddha.htm) The Lotus Sutra is the only sutra that promises the salvation of women, therefore it was a central part of the Japanese women's religion. According to other sutras, the only way for a woman to reach enlightenment would be for her to be reborn as a man, which is why this particular sutra was so important. Fugen was believed to be the protector of those who were devoted to the Lotus Sutra, so Fugen became an important figure to all women and their prayers (http://wsu.edu/~dee/ANCJAPAN/WOMEN.HTM). Like many other sutras, the Lotus Sutra can be recited and copied to pay alms by both men and women (http://news.fjnet.com/english/sutra/t20060617_29976.htm). Listen to the video below if you would like to hear the Lotus Sutra chanted.


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The Ten Great Vows


Samantabhadra contributed to the Avatamsaka sutra, which recites the practices of Bodhisattvas and the merits of the Buddhist teaching.  In the sutra, the Bodhisattva Samatabhadra teaches a student how wisdom is only present as long as it benefits everyone.  In his teaching he recites ten great vows that he uses to guide himself to enlightenment.  The Ten Great Vows included:


  1. To pay homage and respect to all Buddhas  
  2. To praise all the Buddhas  
  3. To make extensive offerings to all the Buddhas 
  4. To repent misdeeds and evil karmas
  5. To rejoice in others' merits and virtues
  6. To request the Buddhas to continue teaching (Turning the wheel of Dharma) 
  7. To request the Buddhas to remain in the world 
  8. To always follow Buddha's teachings 
  9. To accommodate and benefit all living beings 
  10. To dedicate all merits for the welfare of all living beings   


The first eight vows guide one to enlightenment through oneself; while the last two vows are drawn out to help others reach enlightenment.  The first vow is to show respect to all buddhas for their wisdom and compassion.  The second refers to Samantabhadra’s belief that there are infinite number of Buddhas and how all should be praised for their virtues.  The third is to make offerings like food or flowers to the Buddhas.  However, Samatabhadra stated that the most valuable offering is to practice the teachings of the Buddha so everyone can benefit.  In the fourth vow, Samatabhadra identifies how everyone has sinned from thoughts, words, or actions throughout their past lives. So, it is best to repent these sins by commiting one's self to not make the same mistakes.  With the fifth vow, Samantabhadra proposed to benefit from others merits and share the Buddhist teachings.  The sixth is intended to ensure that the Buddhist teachings will continues to be passed on.  The seventh vow is for the Buddhas to remain in the world so they would be able to guide more individuals.  By always following the Buddha’s teaching in the eighth vow, people are able to attain enlightenment by taking the Buddha’s same path.  The ninth is meant for all living beings to be able to live in harmony.  Finally, the last vow is designed to save all living beings by gaining merits from following the first nine vows.  http://taipei.tzuchi.org.tw/tzquart/98winter/qw98-19.htm


For his dedication to the Buddhist teachings and through his Ten Great Vows, Samantabhara also became known as the Bodhsattva of Extensive Conduct.  As well as, Samantabhadra’s vows have become a common practice in East Asian Buddhism and have been used regularly for morning rituals.  The Ten Great Vows have even become basic guidelines for bodhisattvas.  http://www.manjushri.com/Buddha-List/Samantabhadra.html 


 Samantabdhadra Mantra 


adaṇḍe daṇḍapati daṇḍa-āvartani daṇḍa-kuśale daṇḍa-sudhāri 

sudhārapati buddhapaśyane sarvadhāraṇi 

āvartani saṁvartani saṅgha-parīkṣite saṅgha-nirghātani 

dharma-parīkṣite sarva-sattva ruta kauśalya-anugate 

siṁha-vikrīḍite anuvarte vartani vartāli svāhā 




Stephanie Iwahashi

Millicent Rugg

Amber Solinger 

Kelsey Wentz

Comments (15)

elise.swanson@colorado.edu said

at 6:15 pm on Apr 9, 2010

The gold statue in the first image immediately caught my attention. It's amazing! I really enjoyed reading the description of it as well. This bodhisattva seems interesting, but I would have liked to see more background information to introduce the three forms it takes and how they came to be. I also think the page could be better organized because it was a little confusing jumping from section to section.

jenny.lee@... said

at 3:16 pm on Apr 10, 2010

Sounds like Samantabhadra is the ulimate bodisattva. the you tube video is cool, its crazy how they can recite that for so long.

samantha.feld@... said

at 4:03 pm on Apr 11, 2010

I liked that you included the video of the Lotus Sutra being chanted. It is always good to have an auditory example of what you are talking about, especially in Buddhism. I also liked that you not only included the 10 Great Vows, but you explained them as well.

Melissa Hagan said

at 1:26 pm on Apr 12, 2010

The set up of the page was nicely organized. I liked the diversity of the pictures you chose and the additional video you added. I thought your wiki was well rounded and very interesting.

lindsey.herron@... said

at 1:39 pm on Apr 12, 2010

I was interested and impressed by the image provided of the Ten Direction Puxian from China. The statue is incredibly impressive and I didn't know that it is a pilgrimage site and that it became a Buddhist ground in the 3rd century AD. I like what the image represents-protecting the world from suffering. Great description, very informative and intriguing.

jessica.townsend@... said

at 2:55 pm on Apr 12, 2010

I loved the video of the lotus sutra, and your inclusion of the feminism aspects of buddhism. I would liked to have read more on that subject! Otherwise, I enjoyed your layout and the detailed and varied images that were included.

Matt McQuown said

at 4:01 pm on Apr 12, 2010

The story of the courtesan is terrific! I love that it begins with the priest making the mistake of falling asleep while meditating. I think it raises a sense of compassion, awareness, and levels the moral playing field so to speak. A priest lets down his guard, loses vigilance, and a woman is forced to be a courtesan, which is worse? The fact that a Bodhisattva takes the form of a courtesan, alluding to the idea that all is not as it seems, is a great lesson. It reminds me of Subha and her initial run in with the rogue.

Sean Weinstein said

at 11:25 am on Apr 14, 2010

I was especially intrigued by the different representations in the photos. It was interesting to see Japanese representation of the trinity compared to both of the other images. I got a good sense of the importance to each region that held. I enjoyed the lotus video, good job all around.

hunter.thompson@... said

at 12:13 pm on Apr 14, 2010

Easy to follow, it flows very nicely. The descripitions of the images are very informative and I liked the youtube video, it helped me understand the importance of the Lotus sutra so there was not really text that was neccessary. Overall I really liked this page, very well done. 4.5/5

kate.levin@... said

at 11:32 am on Apr 15, 2010

good job, nice lay out, easy to follow 5/5

ryan.schnirel@colorado.edu said

at 10:04 am on Apr 16, 2010

This page is well organized, chalked full of good information, and all around well considered. I love the video, it brought serenity to a hectic morning. I also enjoy your images, they are all useful in response to the content. Overall Great Job!

matthew.mceachern@... said

at 12:13 pm on Apr 16, 2010

Very neatly put together and the lotus video at the end is a great idea. the silk painting was fascinating. I really like this page, 5/5

logan.loeb@colorado.edu said

at 4:47 pm on Apr 16, 2010

very nice looking page, enjoyable to read. the images and the video were great additions.

Henry said

at 12:16 pm on Apr 17, 2010

This is a comprehensive look at Samantabhadra. It addresses all the significant points of the assignment. Nice analysis of his name! One technical detail is, a number of the URLs don’t function properly. As to content, the analysis of symbolism is extensive as are the comments on literature associated with the Buddha/Bodhisattva. I would like to see more regarding ritual practices as well as a more extensive analysis of Samantabhadra’s role in Tibetan Buddhism. It would also be useful to distinguish which traditions regard this figure as a Bodhisattva and which consider him a Primordial Buddha. At one point the author writes, “The Lotus Sutra is the only sutra that promises the salvation of women.” This is inaccurate; other sutras within the Mahayana do not draw distinctions as to the enlightenment potential of the genders. The other sutra that immediately comes to mind is the "Vimalakirti Nirdesha Sutra" (Robert Thurman, trans., The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti, 1976: pg. 61-63). Overall well researched and well written with good use of images.

Henry said

at 2:03 pm on Apr 17, 2010

Grade: 4.5

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