The Vow of Practice of Universal Good


Of all the twists and turns in this marvelous Avatamsaka Saga, who would have suspected that Sudhana’s search for the “supreme perfect enlightenment” would simply return him to the beginning of his quest—in the presence of Mañjuśrī. It’s like Glinda telling Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz that she need not had journeyed any further than within her deepest and inmost-self. Maitreya sets the stage:

“Now go back to Manjushri and ask him how an enlightening being is to
learn and carry out the practice of enlightening beings, enter the sphere of
universally good practice, undertake and carry it out, expand it, follow it,
purify it, enter fully into it, and fulfill it. He will show you the real benefactor.
Why? The best of vows of decillions of enlightening beings is Manjushri’s; vast is the outcome of the practice of Manjushri; measureless is the accomplishment of vows of Manjushri; ceaseless is Manjushri’s achievement of the best of virtues of all enlightening beings; Manjushri is the mother of decillions of buddhas…
Manjushri sees all things according to their true significance; Manjushri has ranged far into all modes of liberation; he is immersed in the practice of universally good enlightening beings…
“Therefore when you go to Manjushri, do not be faint-hearted, do not become weary in receiving instruction in all virtues. Why? All the spiritual benefactors you have seen, all the ways of practice you have heard, all the modes of liberation you have entered, all the vows you have plunged into, should all be looked upon as the empowerment of Manjushri; and Manjushri has reached the ultimate perfection.”

Yea, Mañjuśrī was the key all along. He is the bestower of unparalleled Buddha-gnosis. As articulated in an earlier blog series, Mañjuśrī is the ever-present guide and interlocutor in countless sutras. He is the Spiritual Benefactor par-exellence who directs and empowers the True Mind Adept into Holy and Enlightened Union with the Unborn.



Then Sudhana, passing more than one hundred and ten cities, went to
Sumanamukha and stayed there thinking about Manjushri, wishing to see
and meet with Manjushri. Then Manjushri extended his hand over a hundred
and ten leagues and laid it on the head of Sudhana, who was standing in
the city of Sumanamukha, and said, “Good, good! Those without the faculty
of faith, those who are weary or sluggish in mind, those who have not
accumulated efforts, those whose vigor recedes, those who are satisfied with
meager virtues, those imbued with only one root of goodness, those
unskilled in carrying out practical vows, those who are not in the care of
spiritual benefactors, those who are not minded by the buddhas, cannot
know this true nature, this principle, this sphere, this abode—they are
unable to know, to fathom, to penetrate, to believe, to conceive, to know
exactly, or to attain.”
Having caused Sudhana to see by means of his spiritual talk, having directed him, inspired him, gladdened him, imbued him with countless facets of truth, illumined him with the great light of infinite knowledge, led him into the endless mental command, presence of mind, concentration, and superknowledge of enlightening beings, plunged him into the sphere of
universally good practice, and established him in his own place, Manjushri
left the presence of Sudhana.

It’s as if Sudhana had never left Mañjuśrī’s side in his first encounter with him in the city of Dhanyākara. In just one brief moment of Mañjuśrī’s touch, Sudhana was projected and experienced all of his extraordinary meetings with the Spiritual Benefactors—apparently traveling vast vistas yet not moving an inch in the created order. Mañjuśrī then points Sudhana towards his True Spiritual Home within the Majestic-Body of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra.



Now, after being properly prepared in the mind-meld with Mañjuśrī, Sudhana is transported into the Absolute Mind-ground of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. The vision of Samantabhadra, likened unto so many countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, is one of perfected Luminosity—his body blazing forth light rays illuminating in all directions the wonders of innumerable Buddhaic-realms. After being anointed by Samantabhadra—an act that produces visions of “countless Samantabhadras” anointing “countless Sudhanas”, he soon enters into those myriad worlds:

Then, Sudhana, son of a guild-leader, contemplating the body of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, saw in each pore untold multitudes of buddha-fields, each filled with countless buddhas. And in each of the buddha-fields, he saw the buddhas surrounded by assemblies of bodhisattvas . He saw all of these multitudes of lands situated and arranged in various ways, in various patterns, with multiple manifestations, mountain ranges, clouds in the sky, various buddhas arising, and various proclamations of the wheel of Dharma.

And just as he saw in one pore, he saw in every pore, in all of the marks [of a superior person] , in the limbs and parts of Samantabhadra’s body. In each he saw multitudes of worlds, and from them emerged clouds of created buddha-bodies, as many as the number of atoms in all buddha-fields, pervading all worlds in the ten directions and bringing developing beings to full awakening.

Then Sudhana, guided by the words and teachings of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, entered into all the worlds within Samantabhadra’s body and cultivated beings there toward maturity . . . . As he entered one buddha-field with qualities as many as atoms in untold buddha-fields within Samantabhadra, so with each moment of awareness he entered more such buddha-fields; and as in one pore, so it was in all pores. In each moment of awareness he proceeded further among worlds as countless as atoms in untold buddha-fields, going into worlds of endless eons – and still he did not come to an end. . . . He moved through one buddha-field in an eon. He moved through another in as many eons as atoms in untold buddha-fields without moving from that field. In each moment of awareness he cultivated beings toward full awakening. Thus he continued until he achieved equality with Samantabhadra in his practices and vows, and with all tathagatas in their pervasion of all buddha-fields, in their fulfillment of practices, in their full awakening, visionary transformations, and visions, in their turning of the wheel of Dharma, in their purity of knowledge, in their voice and speech, in their level of awakening, in their great friendliness and compassion, and in the inconceivable enlightening transformation of the bodhisattvas…

It is through Samantabhadra—known as the Bodhisattva of Universal Good and thus representing the culmination of Sudhana’s enlightening journey. Symbolically Sudhana becomes one with Samantabhadra, who leads all the other Bodhisattvas at the beginning of the Gandavyūha-sūtra. Thus, that “home-motif” comes full-circle, revealing the “Cosmic” symbolization and symbiotic-unification of the “Bodhisattva” Samantabhadra with the “Primordial” Adi-Buddha Samantabhadra—or the Buddha Absolute. Thus all that was manifested in the sutra was non-other than an emanation of this Elemental Buddha.

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