The Buddha’s Birthday, or hanamatsuri (花祭り) in Japanese, falls on April 8th every year1 and so I felt like revising an old, old post I made many years ago. Here is the 10 Vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva (fūgen bosatsu 普賢菩薩) as quoted directly from the Flower Garland Sutra.
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is a lesser-known bodhisattva, but one of the primary figures of the Flower Garland Sutra. Also, for the Lotus Sutra, he is the primary figure in the epilogue, the Samantabhadra Meditation Sūtra (i.e. Meditation Sutra of the Bodhisattva Universal Good). Samantabhadra as a bodhisattva represents the virtue of “practice” and “vows”, hence the 10 vows are a well-known part of Mahayana Buddhism.
The 10 vows can be found at the very end of the Flower Garland Sutra, chapter 39. The 39th chapter is its own sutra too, called the Gandavyuha Sutra (“Entry into Reality”). The Flower Garland Sutra, like the Lotus Sutra, has a format containing the sutra text followed by a shorter “verse” form often used for chanting. These are the 10 vows described in verse form with translation by Thomas Cleary:
First Vow: To Pay Homage to all the Buddhas
As many buddhas as there may be in any world
Throughout the ten directions, throughout past, present and future,
I honor them all, without exception,
Pure in body, speech, and mind.
Second Vow: To Respect all the Buddhas
I laud all the buddhas therein [the cosmos],
Expounding in all languages
The qualities of all buddhas,
With endless oceans of manifestations.
Third Vow: To Make Offerings to all the Buddhas
With the finest flowers, garlands,
Musical instruments, perfumes and parasols,
The finest lamps and incenses,
I make offerings to those buddhas.
Fourth Vow: To Repent One’s Misdeeds
Whatever evil I may commit
Under the sway of passion, hatred, or folloy,
Bodily, verbally, or mentally,
I confess it all.
Fifth Vow: Rejoice in the Merits of Others
And whatever the virtue of beings everywhere,
Hearers, saints, self-conquerors,
Enlightening beings and buddhas,
In all that I do rejoice.
Sixth Vow: To Request the Buddha to Teach
And all the Lamps of the Worlds in the ten directions
Who have realized enlightenment and attain non-obstruction
I seek as guides, that they may turn
The supreme wheel of teaching.
Seventh Vow: To Request that the Buddhas Remain in this World
And those who wish to manifest extinction
I petition respectfully to remain
For eons as many as atoms in the land
For the welfare and happiness of all beings.
Eighth Vow: To Follow the Teachings of the Buddhas At All Times
Learning from all the buddhas,
Fulfilling the practice of good,
I will practice pure conduct,
Always free from defect.
Ninth Vow: To Accommodate and Benefit All Beings
Extinguishing all the miseries of bad states [of existence]
And bringing all beings to happiness,
I will act for the welfare of all beings
In all lands everywhere.
Tenth Vow: To Transfer All Merits and Virtues Universally
As the hero Manjushri [bodhisattva of wisdom] knows, so too does Universal Good [Samantabhadra bodhisattva];
As I learn from them I dedicate all this virtue.
By the supreme dedication praised by the buddhas of all times
I dedicate all this virtue to the practice of the highest good.
Speaking from experience, if you recite the entire verse section, it’s a moving experience. I only quoted the relevant lines from the sutra here, but you can find other versions online, including Buddhanet.
Somehow the 10 Vows always reminds me of the Roger Zelazny book, Isle of the Dead and this quote in particular:
Earth-son, I greet you by the twenty-seven Names that still remain, praying the while that you have cast more jewels into the darkness and given them to glow with the colors of life.
For me, it seems the 10 vows can be summed up in this line about “casting jewels into the darkness, giving them glow”.
Namo Shaka Nyorai
1 According to solar calendar. Korea, China and Vietnam use the lunar calendar instead, which falls on the 8th day of the 4th month. For 2013, this is May 17th.