Friday, March 25, 2011

Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Puxian)

Bodhisattva Samantabhadra/Puxian
(Image: Painting by Dharma Master Yilin 依林法師繪)

According to the Chinese Buddhist tradition, the Birthday of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (普賢菩薩聖誕) is observed on the 21st day of the 2nd Chinese lunar month. Samantabhadra’s name in Chinese is Puxian (普賢 Universal Worthy). In Chinese Buddhism, Samantabhadra is known as the Bodhisattva of Great Action (大行菩薩 Daxing Pusa) because of his Ten Great Vows of Action (十大行願 Shida Xingyuan) which are taught in the Avatamsaka Sutra (Flower Adornment Sutra) (華嚴經 Huayan Jing) in the Chapter on the Vows of Action of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (普賢菩薩行願品 Puxian Pusa Xingyuan Pin). These Ten Great Vows were pledged by Samantabhadra when he embarked on his spiritual journey to Buddhahood. They are accepted as ten practices that all Buddhists of the Mahayana tradition should follow and observe. They are listed as follows:

1. To practice veneration and respect to all the Buddhas (禮敬諸佛)
2. To praise all the Buddhas (稱讚如來)
3. To make extensive offerings (廣修供養)
4. To repent one’s karmic obstacles [that arise from past misdeeds] (懺悔業障)
5. To rejoice in the merits and virtues of others (隨喜功德)
6. To request the turning of the Dharma Wheel [to request Buddhist teachings] (請轉法輪)
7. To request the Buddhas to always remain in the world (請佛住世)
8. To follow the teachings of the Buddhas at all times (常隨佛學)
9. To always accommodate and benefit all sentient beings (恆順眾生)
10. To transfer all merits and virtues to universally benefit all sentient beings (普皆迴向)

Poster of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra/Puxian
with the Ten Great Vows of Action written on both sides
(Image: Source unknown)

Samantabhadra is usually seen in a trinity with Vairochana Buddha (毘盧遮那佛 Piluzhena Fo) and Bodhisattva Manjushri (文殊菩薩 Wenshu Pusa). The three together are known as the Avatamsaka Trinity or Three Holy Ones of the Avatamsaka World (華巖三聖 Huayan Sansheng).

In traditional Chinese Buddhist iconography, Samantabhadra is depicted in female form, similar to Guanyin (Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara), and seated on a white elephant with six tusks which represent the Six Paramitas/Perfections (六波羅密 Liu Boluomi).

Bodhisattva Samantabhadra/Puxian
(Image: Source unknown)

Homage to Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Great Action (南無大行普賢菩薩 Namo Daxing Puxian Pusa)!

Text © 2011 Harry Leong


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  3. Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is depicted with Three Heads sitting in Three Elephants with six tusks. What is the meaning of this.