Samantabhadra Meditation Sutra
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The Samantabhadra Meditation Sūtra (traditional Chinese: 觀普賢菩薩行法經; simplified Chinese: 观普贤菩萨行法经; pinyin: guān pǔxián púsà xíngfǎ jīng; Japanese: 普賢經; Rōmaji Fugen-kyō), also known as the Sūtra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, is a Mahayana Buddhist sutra teaching meditation and repentance practices.
The extant Chinese text of the meditation sutra was translated by Dharmamitra between 424 and 442 CE (T09n277). The Samantabhadra Meditation Sūtra is often included in the so-called "Threefold Lotus Sutra," along with the Lotus Sutra and the Innumerable Meanings Sutra. It is not known, however, when or by whom the sutra was first recited, but it is considered by many Mahayana sects to be a continuation (an epilogue) of the Buddha's teachings found within the Lotus Sutra. This sutra is believed to have followed two earlier translations, including one by Kumarajiva, which are now lost; no original Sanskrit translation has been found.
According to the sutra itself, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva ("Universal Virtue") was born in the east Pure Wonder Land and whose form was already mentioned clearly by the Buddha in the Avatamsaka Sutra. In the Threefold Lotus Sutra, the chapter preceding the Samantabhadra Meditation Sūtra, chapter 28 of the Lotus Sutra, describes Samantabhadra as a perfect example of an adherent to the four practices:
- He practices the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
- He protects the Dharma teachings from every kind of persecution.
- He witnesses the merits obtained by those who practice the teachings and the punishments of those who slander the Dharma or persecute the practitioners.
- He proves that those who violate the Dharma can be delivered from their transgressions if they are sincerely penitent.
In the Meditation Sutra, the Buddha describes Universal Virtue's body as unlimited in size, and the range of his voice and the forms of his image are also described as unlimited. He possesses divine powers that enable him to come into the world when he wishes and shrink down to a smaller size. Through his wisdom-power, he appears transformed as if mounted on a white elephant to the people of Jambudvīpa defiled by the three heavy hindrances: Arrogance, envy, and covetousness. The Buddha Shakyamuni describes in detail the form of the elephant on which Universal Virtue is mounted:
- "The elephant has six tusks and, with its seven legs, supports its body on the ground. Under its seven legs seven lotus flowers grow. The elephant is white as snow, the most brilliant of all shades of white, so pure that even crystal and the Himalaya Mountains cannot be compared with it. The body of the elephant is four hundred and fifty yojanas in length and four hundred yojanas in height. At the end of the six tusks there are six bathing pools. In each bathing pool grow fourteen lotus flowers exactly the size of the pools. The flowers are in full bloom as the king of celestial trees. On each of these flowers is a precious daughter whose countenance is red as crimson and whose radiance surpasses that of nymphs. In the hand of that daughter there appear, transformed of themselves, five harps, and each of them has five hundred musical instruments as accompaniment. There are five hundred birds including ducks, wild geese, and mandarin ducks, all having the color of precious things, arising among flowers and leaves. On the trunk of the elephant there is a flower, and its stalk is the color of a red pearl. That golden flower is still a bud and has not yet blossomed. Having finished beholding this matter, if one again further repents one's sins, meditates on the Great-vehicle attentively with entire devotion, and ponders it in his mind incessantly, he will be able to see the flower instantly blossom and light up with a golden color. The cup of the lotus flower is a cup of kimshuka gems with wonderful Brahma jewels, and the stamens are of diamond. A transformed buddha is seen sitting on the petals of the lotus flower with a host of bodhisattvas sitting on the stamens of the lotus flower. From the eyebrows of the transformed buddha a ray of light is sent forth and enters the elephant's trunk. This ray, having the color of a red lotus flower, emanates from the elephant's trunk and enters its eyes; the ray then emanates from the elephant's eyes and enters its ears; it then emanates from the elephant's ears, illuminates its head, and changes into a golden cup. On the head of the elephant there are three transformed men: one holds a golden wheel, another a jewel, and yet another a diamond-pounder. When he raises the pounder and points it at the elephant, the latter walks a few steps immediately. The elephant does not tread on the ground but hovers in the air seven feet above the earth, yet the elephant leaves on the ground its footprints, which are altogether perfect, marking the wheel's hub with a thousand spokes. From each [mark of] the wheel's hub there grows a great lotus flower, on which a transformed elephant appears. This elephant also has seven legs and walks after the great elephant. Every time the transformed elephant raises and brings down its legs, seven thousand elephants appear, all following the great elephant as its retinue. On the elephant's trunk, having the color of a red lotus flower, there is a transformed buddha who emits a ray from his eyebrows. This ray of light, as mentioned before, enters the elephant's trunk; the ray emanates from the elephant's trunk and enters its eyes; the ray then emanates from the elephant's eyes and again enters its ears; it then emanates from the elephant's ears and reaches its head. Gradually rising to the elephant's back, the ray is transformed into a golden saddle which is adorned with the precious seven. On the four sides of the saddle are the pillars of the precious seven, which are decorated with precious things, forming a jewel pedestal. On this pedestal there is a lotus-flower stamen bearing the precious seven, and that stamen is also composed of a hundred jewels. The cup of that lotus flower is made of a great jewel."
Universal Virtue rides the white elephant for the sole purpose of guiding the people of Jambudvīpa, or the sahā-world, through practices that are associated with their environment. The bodhisattva riding on his white elephant is a symbolic image of Buddhist practice, as well as a representation of purity. The purity of the six sense organs is represented by the six tusks of Universal Virtue's white elephant.
It is undeniable that the Meditation Sutra is a continuation of the Lotus Sutra, because the sutra itself testifies to the "Dharma Flower Sutra" three times. The person who composed this sutra was perhaps a profound believer of the Lotus Sutra and took the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue as an ideal from descriptions in the Lotus Sutra and the Avatamsaka Sutra.
Meaning of Repentance
The denotational meaning of the word "repentance" in a general sense, is the confession or remorse of one's own past physical and mental misdeeds, or transgressions. When we repent, we purify our minds and we free ourselves from a sense of sin, and we feel greatly refreshed. Psychoanalysts have applied this principle in helping many people who are mentally afflicted.
Contemplation of Reality
In Japan, the text is also called the Repentance Sutra (Japanese: 懺悔經; Rōmaji: Sange-kyō). The second chapter of the Lotus Sutra explains in detail the concept of Tathātā, or "Suchness". The sutra emphasizes repentance by means of meditating on "the true aspect of reality" and the "Vaipulya sutras."
- The ocean of impediment of all karma
- Is produced from one's false imagination.
- Should one wish to repent of it
- Let him sit upright and meditate on the true aspect of reality.
- All sins are just as frost and dew,
- So wisdom's sun can disperse them.
- Kato, Bunno (1993). The Threefold Lotus Sutra. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Company. p. 348. ISBN 4333002087. PDF
- Niwano, Nikkyo (1976), Buddhism For Today: A Modern Interpretation of the Threefold Lotus Sutra, Tokyo: Kōsei Publishing Co., ISBN 4333002702 PDF
- Reeves, Gene (2008). The Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic. Somerville: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0861715713.