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Fugen the life preserver.jpg
Sanskrit:  Samantabhadra
Chinese:  普賢菩薩 pŭ xián pú sà
Japanese:  普賢菩薩 Fugen Bosatsu
Tibetan:  ཀུན་ཏུ་བཟང་པོ། Kun-tu bzang-po
Vietnamese:  Phổ Hiền Bồ Tát
Venerated by:  Mahayana, Vajrayana
Attributes:  Action

Samantabhadra (Wylie: Kun-tu bzang-po, Mongolian: Qamugha Sain, Chinese: 普賢菩薩; ||pinyin]]: pŭ xián pú sà; ||Wade-Giles]]: P'u3 hsien2 p'u2 sa4; Japanese: Fugen bosatsu, Vietnamese: Phổ Hiền Bồ Tát, Korean: Pohyun Posal), meaning Universal Worthy, is a Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism associated with Buddhist practice and meditation. Together with Shakyamuni Buddha and fellow bodhisattva Manjusri he forms the Shakyamuni trinity in Buddhism. He is the patron of the Lotus Sutra and, according to the Avatamsaka Sutra, made the ten great vows which are the basis of a bodhisattva. In China he is associated with action, whereas the bodhisattva Manjusri is associated with wisdom. In Japan this bodhisattva is often worshipped by the Tendai and Shingon sects, and as the protector of the Lotus Sutra by the Nichiren sect.

In the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana, Samantabhadra is considered a primordial Buddha in indivisible yab-yum union with his consort Samantabhadri.

Samantabhadra/Kuntuzangpo is usually presented with colour black. The Dorje Zahorma hat, that is a special form of the Dorje Zahorma hat which is particular to Chatral Rinpoches tradition, is emblazoned with an image of Kuntuzangpo.[1]

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Samantabhadra, pictured in Bodhisattva of Universal Virtue who Prolongs Life, 12th century painting on silk, late Heian period.

Samantabhadra is a key figure in the Flower Garland Sutra, particularly the last chapter, the Gandhavyuha Sutra. In the climax of the Gandhavyuha Sutra, the student Sudhana meets the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, who teaches him that wisdom only exists for the sake of putting it into practice; that it is only good insofar as it benefits all living beings.

In the Lotus Sutra, he is described at length in the epilogue, The Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy (普賢經 Jp: Fugen Kyō), with special detail given to visualization of the bodhisattva, and the virtues of devotion to him.[2]

The Ten Vows of Samantabhadra

In the Flower Garland Sutra, the Buddha states that Bodhisattva Samantabhadra made ten great vows in his path to full Buddha-hood:

  1. To pay homage and respect to all Buddhas.
  2. To praise all the Buddhas.
  3. To make abundant offerings. (i.e. give generously)
  4. To repent misdeeds and evil karmas.
  5. To rejoice in others' merits and virtues.
  6. To request the Buddhas to continue teaching.
  7. To request the Buddhas to remain in the world.
  8. To follow the teachings of the Buddhas at all times.
  9. To accommodate and benefit all living beings.
  10. To transfer all merits and virtues to benefit all beings.

The ten vows have become a common practice in East Asian Buddhism, particularly the tenth vow, with many Buddhists traditionally dedicating their merit and good works to all beings during Buddhist liturgies.


Fugen Enmei (Japanese: 普賢延命菩薩), the life Preserver. Guimet Museum.

Unlike his more popular counterpart Manjusri, Samantabhadra is only rarely depicted alone and is usually found in a trinity on the right side of Shakyamuni, mounted on a white elephant. In those traditions that accept the Avatamsaka Sutra as its root instruction, Samantabhadra and Manjusri flank Vairocana Buddha, the central Buddha of this particular sutra.

Known as Pǔxián in Chinese, he is sometimes shown in Chinese art with feminine characteristics, riding an elephant with six pairs of tusks while carrying a lotus leaf 'parasol' (Sanskrit: chhatra), bearing similar dress and features to some feminine depictions of Kuan Yin. It is in this guise that Samantabhadra is revered as the patron bodhisattva of the monasteries associated with Mount Emei in western China.

Among those esoteric traditions that treat Samantabhadra as the 'Primordial' (Sanskrit: Dharmakaya) Buddha, he is often represented 'naked' ("sky clad"; Sanskrit: digambara), with a dark blue body, in union with his consort Samantabhadri.

In esoteric traditions

Samntabhadra is also known as Vajradhara and Viśvabhadra, the different names foreground different attributes and essence-qualities. Samantabhadra appears in the Vajrayana tantric text the Kunjed Gyalpo Tantra, as the Primordial Buddha, the 'embodiment' (Sanskrit: kaya) or 'field' (Sanskrit: kṣetra) of 'timeless awareness, gnosis' (Sanskrit: jñāna) awakened since before the very beginning. Therefore, in Tibetan Buddhism the Nyingma, or 'Old Translation' school, the Sakya and the Bön schools view Samantabhadra as the Primordial Buddha. However, the Kagyu and Gelug schools use Vajradhara to represent the Primordial Buddha.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche following the Nyingmapa Dzogchen tradition qualifies the nature and essence of Samantabhadra, the Primordial Buddha, as the origin-less wellspring of the timeless and unbounded Atiyoga teachings, and honours the converse view entertained by some interested parties which hold that the Dzogchen teachings originated with either the Bonpo tradition or the Chinese monk Moheyan (1990: p.xxi):

Samantabhadra is not subject to limits of time, place, or physical conditions. Samantabhadra is not a colored being with two eyes, etc. Samantabhadra is the unity of awareness and emptiness, the unity of appearances and emptiness, the nature of mind, natural clarity with unceasing compassion - that is Samantabhadra from the very beginning.[3]


  1. Photograph with explanatory text
  3. Khyentse, Dzongsar (1990). "Introduction: The Significance of This Biography" in: Palmo, Ani Jima (Eugenie de Jong; translator); Nyingpo, Yudra (compilor, et al.) (2004). The Great Image: the Life Story of Vairochana the translator. Shambala Publications, Inc.: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. ISBN 1-59030-069-6 (pbk.: alk. paper). p.xxi

References and Further Reading

  • Ancient Tibet: Research materials from the Yeshe De Project. 1986. Dharma Publishing, California. ISBN 0-89800-146-3
  • Dudjom Rinpoche and Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje. The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: its Fundamentals and History. Two Volumes. 1991. Translated and edited by Gyurme Dorje with Matthew Kapstein. Wisdom Publications, Boston. ISBN 0-86171-087-8</ref>

External links

bo:ཀུན་ཏུ་བཟང་པོ། cs:Samantabhadra ja:普賢菩薩 ru:Бодхисаттва Самантабхадра ta:சமந்தபத்திரர் th:พระสมันตภัทรโพธิสัตว์ vi:Phổ Hiền zh:普贤菩萨