Avatamsaka Sutra

{Practices and Vows of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra}

[This is an excerpt from one of the great Buddhist sutras. Buddha Shakyamuni preached it in heaven shortly after his attainment of Buddhahood. The sutra reveals different causes and ways of cultivation of many great Bodhisattvas, such as Ten Grades of Faith, Ten Stages of Wisdom, Ten Activities, Ten Transference of Merits, Ten Stages of Bodhisattvas, Absolute Universal Enlightenment, Wonderful Enlightenment, etc. It also reveals how to enter Avatamsaka World (Buddha's world) from the Saha World. "The Flower Adornment Sutra" -- whose full title is the "Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra" -- is the longest Sutra in Mahayana Buddhism. Referred to by Buddhist scholars as "the King of Kings of Buddhist scripture" and the "epitome of Buddhist Thought, Buddhist sentiment, and Buddhist experience," the Flower Adornment Sutra is 81 rolls (bamboo scrolls) long and contains more than 700,00 Chinese characters.]

{Dear BIONA readers, we would be very grateful for a complete copy of this text.}

At one time Samantabhadra addressed the assembled, having praised the exalted merits and virtues of Buddha Vairocana, the Bodhisattva Bodhisattvas, along with Sudhana, as follows:

"Good men, even if all the Buddha’s of all the ten directions were to speak continuously, for as many eons as there are fine motes of dust in a incalculable number of Buddha lands (worlds), the merits and virtues of the Buddha could never be fully described.

"Those wishing to achieve these merits and virtues should cultivate ten vast and great practices and vows. What are these ten?

First, Pay homage and respect to all Buddha’s.

Second, Praise all the Buddha’s.

Third, Make abundant offerings.

Fourth, Repent misdeeds and evil karma’s (actions).

Fifth, Rejoice in others’ merits and virtues.

Sixth, Request the Buddha’s to teach.

Seventh, Request the Buddha’s to remain in the world.

Eighth, Follow the teachings of the Buddha’s at all times.

Ninth, Accommodate and benefit all living beings.

Tenth, Transfer all merits and virtues universally."

After explaining the significance of the first eight vows, the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra continues:

Ninth Vow

"Sudhana, to accommodate and benefit all living beings is explained like this: throughout the oceans of worlds in the ten directions exhausting the Dharma realm (cosmos) and the realms of empty space there are many different kinds of living beings. That is to say, there are those born from eggs, the womb-born, the transformational born, as well as those who live and rely on earth, water, fire and air for their existence. There are beings dwelling in space, and those who are born in and live in plants and trees. This includes all the many species and races with their diverse bodies, shapes, appearances, life spans, families, names, and natures. This includes their many varieties of knowledge and views, their various desires and pleasures, their thoughts and deeds, and their many different behaviors, clothing and diets.

"It includes beings who dwell in different villages, towns, cities and palaces, as well as gods, dragons, and others of the eight divisions, Humans and non-humans alike. There are also footless beings, beings with two feet, four feet, and many feet, with form and without form, with thought and not entirely with thought and not entirely without thought.

" I will accord with and take care of all these many kinds of beings, providing all manner of services and offerings for them. I will treat them with the same respect I show my own parents, teachers, elders, Arhats, and even the Buddha’s. I will serve them all equally without difference.

" I will be a good Physician for the sick and suffering. I will lead those who have lost their way to the right road. I will be a bright light for those in the dark night, and cause the poor and destitute to uncover hidden treasures.

"The Bodhisattva impartially benefits all living beings in this manner.

"Why is this? If a Bodhisattva accords with living beings, then he accords with and makes offerings to all Buddha’s. If he can honor and serve living beings then he honors and serves the Buddha’s. If he makes living beings happy, he is making all Buddha’s happy. Why is this? It is because all Buddha’s take the mind of great compassion as their substance. Because of living beings, they develop great compassion. From great compassion the bodhi mind is born; and because of the bodhi mind, they accomplish supreme, perfect enlightenment (Buddhahood).

"It is like a great regal tree growing in the rocks and sand of a barren wilderness. When the roots get water, the branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits will all flourish. The regal Bodhi-tree growing in the wilderness of birth and death is the same. All living beings are its roots; all Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas are its flowers and fruits. By benefiting all beings with the water of great compassion, one can realize the flowers and fruits of the Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas wisdom. Why is this? It is because by benefiting living beings with the water of great compassion, the Bodhisattvas can achieve supreme perfect enlightenment; therefore, Bodhi belongs to living beings. Without living beings, no Bodhisattva could achieve supreme, perfect enlightenment.

"Good man, you should understand these principals in this way: When the mind is impartial towards all living beings, one can accomplish full and perfect great compassion. By using the mind of great compassion to accord with living beings, one perfects the offering of the Dharma to the Buddha’s. In this way the Bodhisattva constantly accords with living beings.

"Even when the realms of empty space are exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma’s of living beings are exhausted, I will still accord endlessly, continuously, in thought after thought, without cease. My body, speech and mind never weary of these deeds.

Tenth Vow

"Moreover, good man, to transfer all merits and virtues universally is explained like this: all merits and virtues, from the first vow, to pay homage and respect up to and including the vow to accommodate and benefit all living beings throughout out the Dharma realm (cosmos) and to the limits of empty space. I vow all living beings will be constantly happy without sickness or suffering. I vow that no one will succeed in doing any evil, but that all will quickly perfect their cultivation of good karma. I vow to shut the door to evil destinies and open the right paths of humans, gods and that of Nirvana. I will stand in for living beings and receive all the extremely severe fruits of suffering which they bring around with their evil karma. I will liberate all these beings and ultimately bring them to accomplish unsurpassed Bodhi (Buddhahood). The Bodhisattva cultivates transference’s in this way.

"Even when the realms of empty space are exhausted, the realms f living beings are exhausted, the karma’s of living beings are exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will transfer all merits and virtues endlessly, continuously, in thought after thought without cease. My body, speech and mind never weary of these deeds.

"Good man, these are the ten great vows of the great Bodhisattvas in their entirety. If all Bodhisattvas can follow and abide by these great vows, then they will succeed in bringing all living beings to maturity. They will be able to accord with the path of the supreme, perfect enlightenment and complete Samantabhadra’s sea of conduct and vows. Therefore, good man, you should know the meaning of this…

"Further, when a person who recites these vows is on the verge of death, at the last instant of life, when all his faculties scatter and he departs from his relatives, when all power and status are lost and nothing survives, when his "Prime Minister, great officials, his inner court and outer cities his elephants, horses, carts, and treasures of precious jewels" can no longer accompany him, these great vows alone will stay with him. At all times they will guide him forward, and in a single instant he will be reborn in the land of ultimate bliss arriving there, he will see Amitabha Buddha, The Bodhisattvas Manjushri, Samantabhadra, Avalokiteshvara, Maitreya, and others. The appearance of these Bodhisattvas will be magnificent and their virtues and merits complete. Together they will surround him.

"This person will see himself born from a lotus flower and will receive a prediction of Buddhahood. Therefore, he will pass through a incalculable number of eons and, with his power of wisdom, he will accord with the minds of living beings in order to benefit them everywhere, throughout the countless worlds of the ten directions.

"Before long he will sit in front of the Bodhi-mandala (place of enlightenment), subdue the demonic armies, accomplish supreme, perfect enlightenment, and turn the wonderful Dharma Wheel (Preach Buddhism). He will cause living beings in worlds as numerous as the fine motes of dust in Buddha lands to develop the Bodhi mind (Mind of Enlightenment).

"According with their inclinations and basic natures, he will teach, transform, and bring them to maturity.

"To the exhaustion of the oceans of future eons, he will greatly benefit living beings..."

At that time the great Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, wishing to restate his meaning, contemplated everywhere in the ten directions and spoke in verse.

1. Before the Buddha’s "Lions Among Men,"

Through out the worlds of the ten directions,

in the past, in the present, and also in the future,

With Body, Speech and Mind entirely pure,

I bow down before them all, omitting none.

With the awesome power of Samantabhadra’s Vows,

I appear at the same time before every Buddha,

And in transformed bodies as numerous as motes of dust in all lands,

Bow to the Buddha’s as numerous as motes of dust in all lands.

2. With oceans of sound I every where let fall

Words and phrases, wonderful and endless,

Which now and through all the eons of the future,

Praise the wide, deep sea of the Buddha’s Merits and Virtues.

3. Flower garlands, supreme and wonderful,

Music, perfume, parasols, and canopies,

And other decorations rich and rare,

I offer to every Buddha.

Fine clothing, superior incense,

Powdered and burning incense, lamps and candles,

Each one heaped up as high as mount Sumeru,

I offer completely to all Buddha’s

With a vast, great, supremely liberated mind,

I believe in all Buddha’s of the three periods of time,

With the strength of Samantrabhadras conduct and vows

I make offerings to all Buddha’s everywhere.

4. For all the evil deeds I have done in the past,

Created by my body, speech, and mind,

From beginning-less greed, anger, and delusion,

I now know shame and repent them all.

                    5.-I rejoice in the merits and virtues,

of all beings in the ten directions,

from the most humble to the Arhats,

Pratyekabuddhas, Bodhisattvas and Buddha’s.

                    6.-Before the "Lights of the Worlds" of the ten directions,

Who have just accomplished supreme Bodhi,

I now request and beseech them all,

To turn the foremost, wondrous Dharma Wheel.

7. If there are Buddha’s who wish for Nirvana,

I request with deep sincerity,

That they dwell in the world for a long time,

To bring benefits and bliss to every being.

The good roots gained,

from following and rejoicing in merit and virtue

and from repentance and reform,

I transfer to living beings and the Buddha way.

8. I study with the Buddha’s and practice

the perfect conduct of Samantabhadra;

I make offerings to all the Buddha’s of the past

and to all present Buddha’s throughout the ten directions

All future "Teachers of Gods and Men"

Whose aspirations and vows have been completed,

I will follow in study throughout the three periods of time

And quickly attain the great Bodhi…

I vow that every being in all directions

Will be peaceful, happy, and without worry.

May they obtain the proper Dharmas profound aid,

And may their afflictions be wiped away,

Without exception.

In my practice striving for Buddhahood,

I will gain the knowledge of my past lives

In all destinies.

I will always leave the home-life and cultivate

pure precepts,

Without default, never broken, and without stain.

Be they Gods, Dragons, Yakshas, or Kumbhandas,

Humans, Non-humans, and the rest,

In the many languages of all such living beings,

With every sound I will speak the Dharma.

I will cultivate the pure paramitas with vigor,

and never abandon the Bodhi Mind.

I will banish all Obstructions and defilement’s,

And fulfill all wondrous practices.

From all delusions, karma’s, and demon states,

amid all worldly paths, I will be freed,

As the lotus does not touch the water,

As Sun and Moon do not stop in Space.


                9. -Ending the sufferings of the paths of evil,

And to everyone equally bringing joy,

May I for eons like the motes of dust

in all the lands

ever benefit all in the ten directions

Always in accord with living beings,

Cultivating through all future eons

The vast conduct of Samantrabhardra,

The unsurpassed Bodhi will I perfect.

I vow always to meet Buddha’s face-to-face

And the hosts of disciples who gather around them;

I will raise offerings, which are vast and great,

Untiring to the end of future eons.

I will hold high the subtly wondrous Dharma

And illuminate all the practices of Bodhi;

I will be ultimately pure in Samantabhadra’s way,

Practicing until the end of time.

Inexhaustible blessings and wisdom,

I cultivate throughout all worlds;

By concentration, wisdom, skillful means,

and samádhis,

I will gain an endless store of merits and virtues.

In one mote of dust are lands as numerous as motes of


In each land are incalculable numbers of Buddha’s.

In every place where Buddha’s dwell I see the host


Endlessly proclaiming all the practices of Bodhi.

In ten directions everywhere, throughout the sea of


Every hair-tip encompasses oceans of past, present and


So, too, there is a sea of Buddha’s, a sea of Buddha


Pervading them all I cultivate for seas of endless time.

The speech of all Buddha’s is pure;

Each word contains an ocean of sounds.

According with what beings like to hear,

The Buddha’s’ seas of eloquent flows forth…

I can penetrate the future

And exhausting all eons in a single thought.

In a single thought I compress

All eons of the three periods of time.

In one thought I see all "Lions of Men"

Of the past, present, and future;

I constantly fathom the Buddha’s' states,

Their magical samádhis and their awesome strength.

On the tip of an extremely fine hair,

Appears jeweled lands of past, present and future;

Lands on hair-tips as numerous as dust motes in all

lands of the ten directions,

I deeply enter, adorn, and purify …

The seas of lands I everywhere adorn and purify,

And I liberate all living beings, without exceptions.

With skill I make selections from among the seas of


And enter deeply into the wisdom sea …

Each Buddha has an elder disciple

Named Samantabhadra, Honored One.

I now transfer all good roots, and I vow

To perform deeds of wisdom identical to his.

I vow that my body, speech and mind will be

forever pure,

And that all practices and lands will be also.

I vow in every way to be identical

To the wisdom of Samantabhadra.

I will wholly purify Samantabhadra’s conduct,

And the great vows of Manjushri as well.

All their deeds I will fulfill, leaving nothing undone.

Till the end of time I will never tire.

Infinite and measureless is my cultivation;

Boundless merit and virtue I obtain.

Amid limitless practices I will dwell in peace,

And penetrate the strength of spiritual powers.

10. Manjushri has wisdom, courage and bravery;

Samantabhadra’s conduct and wisdom are the same.

I now transfer all good roots

In order to follow them in practice and in study…

In the three periods of time, all Buddha’s praise

such vows as these, lofty and great.

I now transfer all good roots, wishing to perfect

The supreme practices of Samantabhadra

I vow that when my life approaches its end,

all obstructions will be swept away;

I will see Amitabha Buddha,

And be born in his land of Ultimate Bliss and Peace.

When reborn in the western land,

I will perfect and completely fulfill,

without exception, these great vows,

To delight and benefit all beings.

The assembly of Amitabha Buddha is completely pure;

When from a matchless lotus I am reborn,

I will behold the Buddha’s Measureless light as he

appears before me

To bestow a prediction of Buddhahood.

Receiving a prediction from the Buddha,

I will take countless appearances and forms,

and with wisdom power vast and great, pervade ten directions

to benefit all the realms of living beings.

Realms of worlds in empty space might reach an end,

And living beings, Karma’s and afflictions be


But they will never be exhausted,

and neither will my vows.

With myriad jewels in boundless lands in all


I make decorations and offerings to the Buddha’s,

For eons as numerous as the motes of dust in

all lands,

I bring the foremost peace to gods and humans.

Yet, if anyone believes in these great vows,

as they pass by the ears a single time,

And in search of Bodhi thirstily craves these vows,

The merits and virtues gained will surpass these


With bad advisers forever left behind,

From paths of evil he departs for eternity,

Soon to see the Buddha of limitless light

And perfect Samantrbhardras supreme vows.

Easily obtaining the blessings of long life,

Assured of a noble rebirth in the human realm,

before long he will perfect and complete

the practices of Samantabhadra.

In the past, owing to a lack of wisdom power,

The five offenses of extreme evil he has committed;

In one thought they can be wiped away by reciting

The great vows of Samantabhadra.

His clan, Race, features and characteristics

with his wisdom are all perfected and complete;

Demons and externalists will have no way to harm him,

and he will be a field of merits in the triple realm.

To the regal Bodhi tree he will quickly go,

and seated there subdue hordes of demons,

Supremely and perfectly enlightened, he will turn the

Dharma Wheel,

To benefit all sentient beings.

If anyone can read, recite, receive, and hold high

Samantrabhadras vows and proclaim them,

His reward only the Buddha’s will know,

and he will achieve Supreme Enlightenment.

If anyone recites Samantrabhadras vows,

I will speak of a portion of his good roots:

in one single thought he can fulfill

the pure vows of sentient beings.

The supreme and endless blessings from

Samantrabhadras conduct

I now universally transfer;

May every living being, drowning and adrift,

Soon return to the pure land, the land of

Limitless light!

When the great Bodhisattva Samantabhadra finished speaking these pure verses on the great Vows of Samantabhadra before the Buddha, the youth Sudhana was overwhelmed with boundless joy. All the Bodhisattvas were extremely happy as well, and the Buddha applauded saying "Good indeed, Good Indeed…"