Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Universal Virtue

The Bodhisattva of the Great Practice 


Located at the left end of the Hall (as you face the Bodhisattvas), the first celestial Bodhisattva you will meet is Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, known in Chinese as Pu Hsien (Puxian) P'usa. In English, he is sometimes known as "The Bodhisattva of Universal Virtue."

In the Hsi Lai scheme (as in much of Chinese Buddhism), Samantabhadra represents "Great Practice." He is also said to represent "Great Conduct." Both of these attributes result from the fact that Samantabhadra made Ten Great Vows and, more importantly, followed through on them. A vow is worthless if it is not put into practice.

Advanced pilgrims may want to meditate on these Ten Great Vows. They are:

  1. To worship the Buddhas
  2. To praise the Tathagata (the Shakyamuni Buddha).
  3. To make offerings to all the Buddhas.
  4. To confess past sins and to reform.
  5. To rejoice in the virtues and happiness of others.
  6. To request Buddha to preach the Law
  7. To request Buddha to stay in the world.
  8. To study the Dharma in order to teach it.
  9. To benefit all sentient beings.
  10. To transfer all merit and virtue to others.

Notice that the first eight Vows would advance the Bodhisattva's progress, but the last two are directed to others. This is common amongst the Vows of Bodhisattvas.

Samantabhadra may be shown with a docile elephant lying down or standing. Sometimes, in place of six tusks, the elephant has three heads. It is also common to see Samantabhadra holding a lotus, a wish-fulfilling jewel, or a scroll bearing his sutra (scripture). Also, like Avalokitesvara, Samantabhadra is often portrayed as female. In Chapter 10 of The Lotus Sutra, the Buddha promises Enlightenment to both men and women; as Samantabhadra is the Patron of devotees of the Lotus (having the final say in the last chapter), and as he has attracted many female devotees, he/she has taken on a feminine form.


In front of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva:

O Samantabhadra, Bodhisattva of Great Practice!

I ask you to help me gain control over my body and destroy all unwholesome appetites.

Through your great discipline, you have brought your body and mind under control.

Through physical posture and controlled breathing, you have shown us that the dangerous elephant of the mind can be tamed.

Let me also, by disciplining my body, attain this excellence.

Help me to conquer bad habits.

Help me to practice right eating, right breathing, right sexual conduct, right exercise, right posture, and all other aspects of physical activity, and to develop right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration,

that I may dedicate further merit to the enlightenment of all sentient beings.

O great One of Universal Virtue, hear my prayer!

O great Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, hear my prayer!

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