Gandavyuha, The Quest for Awakening
Level 4, Inner Wall
5. The Aspiration for the Good Life

a large collection of high-definition creative commons photographs from Borobudur, Java, illustrating the Bhadra-cari-praṇidhāna in the Gaṇḍavyūha Sūtra, which tells about Samantabhadra’s aspiration to the good life, together with further information.

Play Moving Slideshow (72)

Level 2, Inner Wall,
Meetings with Spiritual Friends
Level 3, Inner Wall,
Maitreya reveals the Dharmadhātu
Level 3, Balustrade,
Good Deeds
Level 4, Balustrade,
Maitreya, Mañjuśrī and Samantabhadra
Level 4, Inner Wall,
The Aspiration to the Good Life

Reliefs on this Level:

East Wall    South Wall    West Wall    North Wall    East Wall


Introduction to the Gaṇḍavyūha Reliefs at Borobudur
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East Wall (Center to South)

The Bhadra-cari-praṇidhāna reliefs at Borobudur are some of the most pleasing, both in design and in state of preservation. Unlike some of the earlier reliefs, here we are on more solid footing when it comes to identifying the text being illustrated also.

I give the descriptions here interspersed with the verses of the Bhadra-cari-praṇidhāna, which inspired them. Note that in the verses Buddhas are many times referred to as Victors (Jina), and Bodhisattvas are referred to as Sons of Buddhas (Buddha-suta).

1. Ten Buddhas

Yāvata keci daśad-diśi loke, sarvă-triyadhva-gatā Nara-siṁhāḥ, tān-ahu vandami sarvi aśeṣān-kāyatu vāca manenă prasannaḥ; As many Lions of Men as there are in the worlds, in the ten directions, in all three times (past, present and future), faithfully I worship them all, without exception, with body, speech and mind. (1)

The first relief depicts the Buddhas of the ten directions, five on the top level, two standing, and three sitting, along with Bodhisattvas who are making various offerings. Sudhana can be seen offering flowers at the feet of one of the Buddhas. Samantabhadra is on the opposite side.


2. Six Buddhas

Kṣetra-rajopama-kāyă-pramāṇaiḥ sarva-Jināna karomĭ praṇāmam, sarva-Jinābhimukhena manena, Bhadra-carī-praṇidhāna-balena; I make a salutation to all Victors with a measure of bodies the same as there are atoms in a (Buddha) field, with a mind directed towards all Victors, with the strength of (my) Aspiration for the Good Life. (2)

Here we see two registers, with the top one lined with six Buddhas. Why six exactly is not clear, but it may just be signifying all the Buddhas. Below we see a gathering of Bodhisattvas, some holding offerings, others offering their worship to the Buddhas throughout the Dharmadhātu.


3. Buddhas amidst Bodhisattvas

Eka-rajāgri rajopama-Buddhā, Buddha-sutāna niṣaṇṇaku madhye, evam-aśeṣata Dharmata-dhātuṁ sarvadhimucyami pūrṇa Jinebhiḥ; On the tip of each single atom, Buddhas, like atoms, sit in the midst of the Sons of Buddhas; (and) so I am totally and completely intent on the Dharma Element which is filled with Victors. (3)

This scene is similar to the last with Buddhas on the top, holding different postures, and the Bodhisattvas pictured below.


4. Three Buddhas

Teṣu ca akṣaya-varṇa-samudrān sarvă-svarāṅga-samudra-rutebhiḥ sarva-Jināna guṇān-bhaṇamānas-tān-Sugatān-stavamī ahu sarvān; With a voice having an ocean of intonations, an ocean of letters and syllables, speaking of the virtues of all Victors, I praise all the Fortunate Ones. (4)

Here we see three Buddhas sat on lotuses, which signify purity. Two of the Buddhas are evidently in the forest, while one is seen inside a palace. Samantabhadra is identified by the lotus he holds up.


The next eleven reliefs depict the various offerings that are enumerated in the following three verses.

Puṣpa-varebhi ca mālya-varebhir-vādya-vilepana-chatra-varebhiḥ, dīpa-varebhi ca dhūpa-varebhiḥ, pūjana teṣa Jināna karomi; With the best flowers, with the best garlands, with the best parasols, creams and musical instruments, with the best lamps, with the best incense, I honour the Victors. (5)

Vastra-varebhi ca gandha-varebhiś-cūrṇa-puṭebhi ca Meru-samebhiḥ, sarva-viśiṣṭa-viyūha-varebhiḥ, pūjana teṣa Jināna karomi; With the best vestments, with the best fragrances, with powders and compounds similar to (Mount) Meru, and with the best array of all excellent (things), I honour the Victors. (6)

Yā ca anuttara pūja udārā tān-adhimucyami sarva-Jinānām; bhadra-carī-adhimukti-balena, vandami pūjayamī Jina-sarvān; Whatever unsurpassed and exalted offerings there are, I intend those for all Victors; with the strength and determination for the good life, I worship and honour all Victors. (7)

5. An Offering of Flowers

The first of these offerings is one of flowers. On the left of the relief Samantabhadra is holding up his lotus, as though making a permanent offering to the Buddhas. Sudhana is on the left side. Behind him one of the Bodhisattvas has a garland of flowers rolled on a plate to offer. And above in the skies the devas also come along to make offerings.


6. An Offering of Garlands

This is the offerings of garlands that are being made to the Buddhas, who are represented by the three depicted here. Between the Buddhas sit two Bodhisattvas, and below the central Buddha sits Sudhana. The central Buddha has garlands all round him, and three of the company seated on the floor also hold garlands as offerings.


7. An Offering of Instrumental Music

The Buddha sits in meditation posture inside a decorated palace or pavilion, while under trees on either side people gather and offer instrumental music on their various instruments, of which we see drums, bells, horns and flutes of various kinds. The trees are beautifully decorated with garlands. Sudhana is sat on a lotus flower, and has a nimbus around his head.


8. An Offering of Creams

One Buddha sits in the middle on a raised lotus seat, on either side of him are two Bodhisattvas, identified as Vajrapāṇī and Avalokiteśvara. Behind them on either side people hold small pots of creams (vilepana). A Bodhisattva sits on a lotus on the register below, with Samantabhadra on one side and Sudhana on the other.


9. An Offering of Parasols

This panel illustrates the offering on umbrellas or parasols (chatra), which are positioned between the four Buddhas sat on lotuses. Below, the devotees also hold up parasols, and we once again see Samantabhadra holding his lotus, and Sudhana with the nimbus.

South Wall


10. An Offering

Fontein identifies this as an offering of standards and pennants, which are mentioned in variant readings from Nepal.

What we do have is a central Buddha, sat, as usual, on a lotus. There are devas in the skies, apparently holding garlands. The bottom row is quite worn and it is hard to make out what they holding or offering. I tend to believe that this is just a general offering scene.


11. An Offering of Vestments

One central Buddha in an elaborate pavilion is surrounded by devas and Bodhisattvas. Hanging down from the clouds are strips of cloth, which cover the top of the trees. This then is the offerings of vestments spoken about in the verses. Above, and to either side of the pavilion fly devas who also make offerings to the Buddha.


12. An Offering of Incense

The Buddha in the middle sits atop the usual lotus, and is surrounded by flames indicating his purity, on either side the Bodhisattvas Vajrapāṇī and Avalokiteśvara stand on lotuses.

Samantabhadra is below the Buddha, and on either side of him there are censors, which is the principal offering represented in this relief. Sudhana is to the right of Avalokiteśvara, and sits under a tree.


13. A Buddha inside a Stūpa

Here a Buddha, holding the Dharma-cakra posture, is sat inside a stūpa accepting offerings that are presented by Samantabhadra holding three lotus flowers to the right of the panel. Sudhana sits with folded hands in respectful salutation on the other side.

Four more Buddhas sit on elevated lotuses on either side on the central figure, and there are devas in the sky on the sides of the stūpa.


14. An Offering of Lamps

Six Buddhas sit in different postures on lotuses rising above the world, and one in the middle is seen standing. On either side of the standing Buddha lamps are seen burning, and Sudhana, at the Buddha’s feet, also holds a lamp. This then is the offering of lamps (dīpa).


15. Various Offering

A single Buddha sits displaying the Dharma-cakra posture in the last of this series of offering reliefs. In the skies devas hold various offerings, and below on the ground are seen Sudhana on the left, with an incense burner on the floor, and Samantabhadra on the right.


Yac-ca kṛtaṁ mayi pāpu bhaveyyā, rāgatŭ dveṣatu moha-vaśena, kāyatu vāca manena tathaiva taṁ pratideśayamī ahu sarvam; Whatever wickedness may have been done by me, through delusion, hatred and passion, I confess all of it in the same way with body, speech and mind. (8)

Yac-ca daśad-diśi puṇya jagasya śaikṣa aśaikṣă-Pratyeka-Jinānām, Buddha-sutān-atha sarva-Jinānāṁ taṁ anumodayamī ahu sarvam; Whatever merit beings have in the ten directions, from trainees, those beyond training, Independent Buddhas, Sons of Buddhas and also all Victors, I rejoice in it all. (9)

16. Samantabhadra and Six Buddhas

This is an interesting relief showing four Buddhas sitting on lotus leaves in the upper section, and two in the lower. At almost the same height as the Buddhas on the top line are situated two Bodhisattvas, also on lotus leaves.

In the centre at the bottom sits Samantabhadra, recognisable from the lotus flower he holds, and it is he who seems to be the centre of attention for the people around him, commanding the same respect as the Buddhas.


17. Three Buddhas

In the centre of the panel we see a meditating Buddha sitting inside a stūpa-like pavilion; and in the skies raised high on lotuses blossoming from their stalks, sit two more Buddhas. The Buddhas at the top have a Bodhisattva on either side of them, and below, devotees gather round the meditating Buddha with offerings.


18. Ten Buddhas

Ye ca daśad-diśi Lokă-pradīpā, Bodhi vibuddha asaṅgată-prāptāḥ, tān-ahu sarvi adhyeṣami Nāthāṁ Cakru anuttaru vartanatāyai; Those Lights of the World in the ten directions, having awakened to Awakening, having attained non-attachment, I ask all those Lords to turn the unsurpassed Wheel (of Dharma). (10)

The Buddhas of the ten directions are represented by the ten Buddhas on the top register of the panel. In the lower section we see Sudhana, holding a offering of light, and Samantabhadra paying homage to the Buddhas above, and the seven Bodhisattvas on the right.


19. Samantabhadra gives Gifts

Ye ’pi ca nirvṛti darśitu-kāmās-tān-abhiyācamĭ prāñjali-bhūtaḥ, kṣetra-rajopama-kalpă sthihantu, sarva-jagasya hitāya sukhāya; Those who desire to realise cessation, I request, with my hands folded, to remain for as many aeons as there are atoms in a (Buddha) field, for the happiness and welfare of all beings. (11)

The monk, pictured on the left, represents those who desire cessation (for themselves alone). Behind him is a brahmin. In a glorious pavilion sits Samantabhadra, and his fellow workers pass out gifts to persuade them to remain for the benefit of others.


20. Samantabhadra Meditating

Vandana-pūjana-deśanatāya modanadhyeṣaṇa-yācanatāya: yac-ca śubhaṁ mayi saṁcitu kiṁcid-Bodhayi nāmayamī ahu sarvam; Through worship, honouring, teaching, through requesting, asking and rejoicing: whatever good has been accumulated by me I offer it all for (the attainment of) Awakening. (12)

On the top left of the relief two Bodhisattvas sit worshipping a Buddha; in the pavilion in the centre Samantabhadra is meditating, and to his left sits Sudhana and his companions. Interestingly Sudhana is displaying a teaching posture.


We cannot easily match the following verses to the next panels. With three mentions of the Buddha of the ten directions in the next three verses we might have expected the sculptors to have taken the cue, but they didn’t, and we are left unable to identify the panels certainly.

Pūjita bhontu atītaka Buddhā, ye ca dhriyanti daśad-diśi loke, ye ca anāgata te laghu bhontu pūrṇa-manoratha Bodhi-vibuddhāḥ; May the Buddhas of the past be honoured, and those existing in the world in the ten directions, may the (Buddhas) of the future quickly fulfil their desire to awaken to Awakening. (13)

Yāvata keci daśad-diśĭ kṣetrās-te pariśuddha bhavantu udārāḥ, Bodhi-drumendra-gatebhi Jinebhir-Buddha-sutebhi ca bhontu prapūrṇāḥ; As many (Buddha) fields as there are in the ten directions may they be purified and exalted, may they be filled with Sons of Buddhas, and with Victors who have come to the lordly Bodhi trees. (14)

Yāvata keci daśad-diśi sattvās-te sukhitāḥ sada bhontu arogāḥ, sarva-jagasya ca Dharmiku artho bhontu pradakṣiṇu ṛdhyatu āśā; As many beings as there are in the ten directions may they always be happy and healthy, and may the Dharma purpose and desire to pay respect to all beings be successful. (15)

21. Worshiping a Buddha

Sitting on the floor on the right we see Sudhana under a parasol with hands held in respectful salutation; behind him are his companions, and before him sits Samantabhadra.

On the left monastic disciples of the Buddha are making many offerings, while the Buddha himself is in teaching posture (vitarka-mudrā), therefore giving the gift of Dharma. In the skies the devas look on.


22. Worshiping a Buddha

A Buddha is again seen in teaching posture in this relief, he is isolated and highlighted by being placed in a stūpa-like pavilion. On the left of the panel we see Sudhana and a couple of his companions, while on the right Samantabhadra holds his hands in añjali.


23. Worshiping Four Buddhas

This panel shows four Buddhas, the one in the middle at the bottom holding the ‘calling the earth to witness’ posture (bhūmi-sparśa-mudrā), above him another is in Dharma-cakra posture, and on either side two Buddhas sit in meditation posture (dhyāna-mudrā).

On the lower level sit Sudhana and Samantabhadra with their companions, worshipping the Buddhas. It may be the postures the Buddhas hold represent their typical life stories.


Bodhi-cariṁ ca ahaṁ caramāṇo bhavi jāti-smaru sarvagatīṣu; sarvasu janmasŭ cyuty-upapattī pravrajito ahu nityu bhaveyyā; May I, walking towards Awakening, remember my births in all destinies; and in all births, fallings away and rebirths, may I always go forth. (16)

Sarva-Jinān-anuśikṣayamāṇo bhadra-cariṁ paripūrayamāṇaḥ, śīla-cariṁ vimalāṁ pariśuddhāṁ nityam-akhaṇḍam-achidra careyam; Training in the way of all Victors, fulfilling the good life, may I always live, unbroken and faultlessly, a virtuous life, stainless and pure. (17)

24. Samantabhadra Meditating

Samantabhadra sits in meditation inside a pavilion, and is the central figure of this panel. Sudhana can be seen on the right of the pavilion, kneeling before the Bodhisattva, and all around people gather to make offerings. The gods look on from above the trees.


25. Samantabhadra Meditating

Another panel with Samantabhadra at the centre of the scene, this time meditating under a magnificent tree which flourishes above him. From all sides people flock with their offerings, and Sudhana, whose figure is badly damaged, sits on the right under a parasol.


26. A Meditating Buddha

A Buddha sits in meditation posture inside a pavilion. A procession of people and gods come once more with offerings. Notice the seven stūpas on either side of the pavilion, on three different levels, larger below and smaller above. The Buddha is sitting on a lion seat (siṁhāsana).


27. Samantabhadra repluses Negativity

Samantabhadra is seen inside a heavily decorated palace, he is sitting and holding the karaṇa-mudrā, which indicates the repulsion of all negativity. It is a posture often associated with the Bodhisattva Vajrapāṇī. Sudhana is kneeling, and rests with his palms on his knees. This is one of the end reliefs, and is therefore not as wide as some of the other panels in this series.

West Wall


28. Samantabhadra Meditating

Samantabhadra is seen meditating inside a decorated palace, which has devas flying above it. Sudhana is seen to the right kneeling, and respectfully worshipping the Bodhisattva. Of note is the monk on the left of the palace who is holding a alms bowl in his left hand, and a staff in his right.


29. A Monk Teaching

In this relief it is a monk who takes centre stage, being sat on a lotus in a pavilion. He is gesturing towards three other monks who sit below him under the trees, along with other devotees. Sudhana is seen on the right with his companions, one of whom holds up the parasol. Above the trees, devas sit on the clouds watching the scene below.

Deva-rutebhi ca nāga-rutebhir-yakṣa-kumbhāṇḍa-manuṣya-rutebhiḥ, yāni ca sarva-rutāni jagasya, sarva-ruteṣv-ahu deśayi Dharmam; With the voices of gods, with the voices of nāgas, with the voices of yakṣas, khumbāṇḍas and humans, with whatever voices there are of all beings, may I teach the Dharma with all (these) voices. (18)


30. Devas

We now begin the panels that illustrate verse eighteen of the Bhadra-cari-praṇidhāna, quoted above. A badly damaged Samantabhadra sits inside the pavilion, and on either side are devotees, including Sudhana and his companions. On the clouds we see the gods, whose voices Samantabhadra, as it were, employs to teach Dharma.


31. Nāgas and Nāginis

We couldn’t see the posture Samantabhadra was holding in the last panel because of the damage, but here he is holding teaching posture (vitarka-mudrā), and on the left stand the nāgas and nāginis, identifiable by the snakes in their hair. Samantabhadra is using their voices to teach Dharma. On the right of the panel Sudhana stands under a tree, while his companions sit on the floor.


32. Yakṣas

Again Samantabhadra holds the teaching posture, though this time his legs are in princely posture. On the left of the panel are some yakṣas, generally portrayed as quite fierce, though they are part of the goldy realms. Strangely, Sudhana, who is seen standing on the right of the panel with a parasol over him, also seems to be holding the teaching posture. Above the central building are two tridents.


33. Kumbhāṇḍas

Similar to the previous panels we see Samantabhadra, who is using the voices of the khumbāṇḍas seen on the left of the panel to teach the Dharma. Sudhana was presumbly on the right, but the panel is so badly damaged we can no longer see him.


34. Lay People, Brahmins and Monastics

The human voices of the verses are made up of lay people, brahmins and monastics who all gather on the left of the panel. Samantabhadra sits on an inverted lotus in the pavilion, while Sudhana and his companions kneel to the right.


35. Nāgas, Yakṣas and Devas

This panel and the following seems to represent what is said in the verse to be all beings, as we see a human, a nāga and a yakṣa on the left side of the panel, with devas of various kinds above them on the clouds, from which hang garlands. Sudhana is seen making an offering of light to the Bodhisattva.


36. Samantabhadra Meditating

Samantabhadra sits on a lotus in meditation posture inside a pavilion looking straight out at the onlooker. He is therefore engaging our devotion as well as that of the other characters in the panel.

Sudhana seems to be striking a pose, but because of the damage it is hard to see what the hands may have been signifying. In the skies we see the devas are engaged by the scene below them.


37. Women and Musicians

Unfortunately this panel is quite badly damaged in places, and Samantabhadra’s features are missing. We can see he sits in princely fashion, with a knee strap.

The sculptors at Borobudur were very expert in portraying ensembles, as we see on the left of the panel here, which has a collection of women at the bottom and musicians in the middle. Above are seen the usual array of devas.


38. Samantabhadra Meditating

Four women sit on the floor on the left of the panel, and as we have seen throughout Sudhana’s meetings with spiritual friends, women are given a special prominence amongst his teachers.

Samantabhadra is in meditation posture and Sudhana is sat on the right of the panel, holding a lotus flower. Notice the leaf which is being used for shade amongst his companions.


Peśalu pāramitāsv-abhiyukto Bodhiyi cittu ma jātu vimuhyet; ye ’pi ca pāpaka āvaraṇīyās-teṣu parikṣayu bhotu aśeṣam; May the skilful mind devoted to the perfections and Awakening never be bewildered; and whatever wicked obstructions there are, may they be destroyed without remainder. (19)

Karmatŭ kleśatu Māra-pathāto loka-gatīṣu vimuktu careyam, padma yathā salilena aliptaḥ, sūrya śaśī gaganeva asaktaḥ; May I, in all worldly states, live liberated from Māra’s paths, from defilements and from (bad) deeds, like a lotus undefiled by water, (like) the sun and the moon unobstructed by the sky. (20)

39. Samantabhadra Meditating

On the bottom left of the panel we see a figure with ten arms who is variously postulated to be Māra or Cundā Bodhisattvā. If we associate this panel with verse 20, then it might be a reference to Māra, from which the meditating Samantabhadra is free.

Samantabhadra is sitting meditating on a lotus seat inside a pavilion. On the left stand some women; and on the right are various devotees. In the skies fly the devas with various offerings in their hands.


40. A Buddha Meditating

A Buddha sits in meditation posture (dhyāna-mudrā) inside a stūpa-like building, on the pilasters sit a couple of smaller stūpas. Samantabhadra is on the left, under the tree, holding his lotus flower, and a couple of devotees sit behind him. Sudhana is on the right under the parasol, which is held by one of his companions.


Sarvi apāya-dukhāṁ praśamanto, sarva-jagat sukhi sthāpayamānaḥ, sarva-jagasya hitāya careyaṁ, yāvata kṣetra-pathā diśatāsu; Pacifying all suffering in the lower worlds, establishing the happiness of all beings, may I live for the benefit of all beings, in as many directions as there are paths in the (Buddha) fields. (21)

Sattva-cariṁ anuvartayamāno, Bodhi-cariṁ paripūrayamāṇaḥ, bhadra-cariṁ că prabhāvayamānaḥ: sarvi anāgata-kalpa careyam; Serving the life of (all) beings, fulfilling the life of Awakening, increasing the good life: may I live (like this) in all future aeons. (22)

41. A Large Cushion

Here we have an unusual and intriguing panel: what we seem to see is an aniconic figure which is represented by the large cushion sitting on the lotus seat.

In the upper left we see Samantabhadra meditating, but turned away from the centre. It may be we are expected to see this as Samantabhadra liberated from his normal physical self and able to come and go as he wills. Sudhana is on the right under the parasol, with a tree above him.


42. A Procession away from a Palace

In the centre we see a palace, but unusually there is no one inside. On the right of the panel are ladies of the court and musicians, all obviously associated with royal life.

Fontein suggests that Samantabhadra is leading a procession to the palace, but it very much looks like it is a procession away from the palace, perhaps signalling the renunication of power and wealth while seeking the welfare of other beings.


43. The Freeing of Animals

Samantabhadra sits inside a palace and from his right hand he is releasing a bird that will join the others who are now flying in the skies.

We also see other living beings, like deer, squirrels and fish being released by the devotees who gather round. The teaching therefore concerns the gift of fearlessness (abhaya-dāna), an important practice even till today.


44. The Virtue of Giving

This is another scene representing the virtue of giving (dāna). In this relief we see the distribution of gifts to brahmins, pictured lop-left; monastics, on the same level, but closer to Samantabhadra; and lay people, on the bottom register.

Sudhana seems to be in conversation with his companions on the right of the panel, perhaps explaining to them the teaching he has learned from Samantabhadra.


45. Samantabhadra Meditating

This is one of the most damaged of the panels on the inner walls at Borobudur, from what we can make out Samantabhadra sits in meditation posture, while Sudhana sits worshipping him on the right of the panel.

North Wall


46. Building a Bridge

I tend to think that this panel, in which we see Samantabhadra leading the construction of a bridge, as a further illustration of the good works he has urged in verse 22. The scene, although a little worn by now, is still full of life. Samantabhadra holds an adze and behind him Sudhana again appears to be passing on the teaching to his companions.


47. A Buddha and Bodhisattvas

Another good deed, of course, is to worship the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and this panel may be illustrating that virtue. The Buddha is seen as the centre of a tryptich, with Avalokiteśvara and Vajrapāṇī on either side. Below Vajrapāṇī sits Samantabhadra and Sudhana, the first making an offering, the second holding his hands in añjali.


Ye ca sabhāgata mama caryāye tebhi samāgamu nityu bhaveyyā; kāyatu vācatu cetanato vā eka-cari praṇidhāna careyam; With those who share my life may I always be in harmony; through body, speech and mind may I live focused on my aspiration. (23)

Ye ’pi ca mitrā mama hita-kāmā, bhadra-carīya nidarśayitāraḥ, tebhi samāgamu nityu bhaveyyā, tāṁś-ca ahaṁ na virāgayi jātu; With those friends who, desiring my benefit, point to the good life, may I always be in harmony, and may I never alienate them. (24)

48. A Procession

We now have the first of two procession scenes. In the first Samantabhadra leads the way, with a large number of people following him. He is holding the hand of another Bodhisattva in a sign of their unity and harmony. On the floor in front of him are the devotees who make offerings, and in the skies above the devas look on approvingly.


49. A Procession

In this procession, which is somewhat similar to the previous one, Samantabhadra takes the hands of a devotee, seemingly to lift him up. Many other devotees look on at the gesture.

Behind Samantabhadra is the procession of Bodhisattvas and others, with Sudhana standing under the parasol. Sudhana once again seems to turn towards his companions and explain the scene to them.


50. A Buddha and Two Bodhisattvas

Saṁmukha nityam-ahaṁ Jina paśye, Buddha-sutebhi parīvṛtu Nāthān, teṣu ca pūja kareya udārāṁ, sarvi anāgata-kalpam-akhinnaḥ; May I always see the Victors face to face, those Lords in the midst of the Sons of Buddhas, may I pay exalted honour to them, unbrokenly throughout all future aeons. (25)

In a scene that is reminiscent of panel 47 we see a central Buddha figure, flanked by the two Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Vajrapāṇī. Below, Samantabhadra sits worshipping them, and behind him is Sudhana, who has his arms crossed. On the bottom left of the panel we see six monks, who bear lotuses and other offerings.


51. Samantabhadra Meditating

Dhārayamāṇu Jināna Săddharmaṁ, Bodhi-cariṁ paridīpayamānaḥ, bhadra-cariṁ ca viśodhayamānaḥ: sarvi anāgata-kalpa careyam; Upholding the Good Dharma of the Victors, explaining the life of Awakening, purifying the good life: may I live (like this) in all future aeons. (26)

Samantabhadra is seen meditating in the central pavilion, thereby purifying the good life, and upholding the Dharma. Sudhana sits with his hands in respectful salutation, while the gods pour down flowers from the skies.


52. The Giving of Gifts

Sarva-bhaveṣu ca saṁsaramāṇaḥ, puṇyatŭ jñānatu akṣayă-prāptaḥ, prajña-upāya-samādhi-vimokṣaiḥ sarva-guṇair-bhavi akṣaya-kośaḥ; Wandering through all existences, with merit, with knowledge, having attained the imperishable, with wisdom, skill in means, concentrations and liberations, and with all virtue, may I be an indestructible vessel. (27)

Samantabhadra sits in princely fashion, with his knee held up by a strap. Sudhana is seen under the parasol on the right. On the left we see various people handing out gifts to brahmins and what appears to be beggars who hold their hands out seeking largesse.


53. Nine Buddhas

Eka-rajāgri rajopama-kṣetrā, tatra ca kṣetri acintiya Buddhān Buddha-sutāna niṣaṇṇaku madhye paśyiya Bodhi-cariṁ caramāṇaḥ; The tip of one atom is like a (Buddha) field (full) of atoms, in these inconceivable (Buddha) fields may I see Buddhas sat in the middle of Sons of Buddhas, while living out the life of Awakening. (28)

On the top of the register we see nine Buddhas lined up, holding different postures: meditating, teaching, calling the earth to witness and blessing. On the upper right a monk is seen worshipping. On the far left and right we see the sun and the moon. On the lower section we see Samantabhadra teaching, with Sudhana worshipping him; flowers fall from above as if in blessing.


54. Ten Buddhas

Evam-aśeṣata sarva-diśāsu, bāla-patheṣŭ triyădhva-pramāṇān, Buddha-samudra thă kṣetra-samudrān otari cārika-kalpa-samudrān; In all directions without exception, (even) in the ways of the foolish, for the duration of the three times, (like) an ocean of Buddhas, may I plunge into oceans of (Buddha) fields, wandering through oceans of aeons. (29)

An unusual composition showing the Buddhas of the ten directions, seven are sitting on lotuses above, two are standing flanking those seven, and one sits on the lower part of the register on the left. Samantabhadra is seen worshipping him, and Sudhana sits behind him holding his hands in Dharma-cakra-mudrā. Again flowers rain down blessings from above.


55. Teaching the Dharma to the Animals

Eka-svarāṅga-samudra-rutebhiḥ sarva-Jināna svarāṅga-viśuddhim, sarva-Jināna yathāśaya-ghoṣān, Buddha-sarasvatim-otari nityam; Together with the voice of an ocean of singular intonations, the pure intonation of all Victors, may I always plunge into the Buddhas’ speech, sounds made according to the intentions of all Victors. (30)

Samantabhadra sits in the pavilion, with Sudhana and his companions on the right. On the left we see a congregation of all sorts of pairs of animals, including elephants, horses, lions, pigs, deer and rhino, who are listening to – and able to understand – the teacher.


56. Three Buddhas and Four Bodhisattvas

Teṣu ca akṣaya-ghoṣa-ruteṣu sarvă-triyadhva-gatāna Jinānām, Cakra-nayaṁ parivartayamāno, Buddhi-balena ahaṁ praviśeyam; Through those voices having the indestructible sounds of the Victors throughout all three times, rolling the systematic Wheel (of Dharma), may I attain (Awakening) through the strength of (my) intelligence. (31)

Samantabhadra is teaching again and Sudhana is on the right of the panel. On the left we see three Buddhas, separated by trees, perhaps signifying the three times of the verse. Below them are sat four Bodhisattvas.


57. A Buddha Meditating

Ekă-kṣaṇena anāgata-sarvān kalpă-praveśa ahaṁ praviśeyam, ye ’pi ca kalpă triyadhvă-pramāṇās-tān kṣaṇa-koṭĭ-praviṣṭa careyam; May I enter into all future aeons in an instant, and having reached the end of that instant, may I live through whatever aeons there are for the duration of the three times. (32)

In this relief it is a Buddha who sits meditating inside the pavilion, while Samantabhadra approaches from the right, with flowers falling all round him. Behind him is Sudhana, under the parasol, and behind him one companions. The sun and the moon on lotus seats are pictured either side of the building.


58. Three Buddhas and Six Bodhisattvas

Ye că triyadhva-gatā Nara-siṁhās-tān-ahu paśyiya ekă-kṣaṇena, teṣu ca gocarim-otari nityaṁ māya-gatena vimokṣa-balena; May I see in an instant whatever Lions of Men there are throughout the three times, always plunging into their range through the magical power of the liberations. (33)

Again because of the mention of the three times we see three Buddhas separated by trees on the top left of the panel. Below them are six Bodhisattvas. Samantabhadra and Sudhana approach from the right.


Ye că triyadhva-sŭkṣetra-viyūhās-tān-abhinirhari eka-rajāgre, evam-aśeṣata sarva-diśāsu otarĭ kṣetra-viyūha Jinānām; Having realised in the tip of one atom those arrays of good (Buddha) fields in the three times, may I plunge into the array of the Victors’ fields in all directions without exception. (34)

Ye ca anāgata Lokă-pradīpās-teṣu vibudhyana Cakră-pravṛttim, nirvṛti-darśana-niṣṭhă praśāntiṁ, sarvi ahaṁ upasaṁkrami Nāthān; Having understood the Wheel-rollings of all these future Lights of the World, continuing insight into cessation, peaceful, I approach all Lords. (35)

59. Three Buddhas

Again the mention of the three times prompts the sculptors to include three Buddhas, who are once again separated by trees. The Buddha in the middle holds the Dharma-cakra-mudrā, those on either side are in dhyāna-mudrā, or meditation posture.

Under the central Buddha is a beautiful tree, and Samantabhadra, together with three disciples, sits on the left of the panel. Sudhana and three companions are on the right.


Ṛddhi-balena samanta-javena, Yāna-balena samanta-mukhena, carya-balena samanta-guṇena, maitra-balena samanta-gatena; Through the strength of spiritual power, quick all-round, through the strength of the (Great) Vehicle, entering all-round, through the strength of conduct, virtuous all-round, through the strength of loving-kindness, established all-round. (36)

Puṇya-balena samanta-śubhena jñāna-balena asaṅga-gatena, prajña-upāya-samādhibalena Bodhi-balaṁ samudānayamānaḥ; Through the strength of merit, lovely all-round, through the strength of knowledge, established in non-attachment, through the strength of concentrations, means and wisdom, I am perfecting the strength of Awakening. (37)

60. Samantabhadra Levitating

One of the most lovely of the panels, this one is showing Samantabhadra in three different times. On the right he is stood under a tree, with Sudhana and his companions behind him. Between the temples he is standing on a lotus, and on the right he has taken off and is flying through the air, evidently illustrating the strength of spiritual power (ṛddhi-bala) of the verse. The two temples are wonderfully and attractively drawn in the stone.


61. A Buddha Teaching

We see Sudhana kneeling on a raised platform, in the midst of his companions in the holy life. He and Samantabhadra are kneeling before a Buddha, who is holding the Dharma-cakra-mudrā, and is seated in a large and elaborate building, the base of which has five trees carved on it.


62. A Buddha’s Blessing

Karma-balaṁ pariśodhayamānaḥ, kleśa-balaṁ parimardayamānaḥ, Māra-balaṁ abalaṁ karamāṇaḥ, pūrayi bhadra-carī-bala sarvān; Purifying the strength of deeds, crushing the strength of defilements, making powerless the strength of Māra, may I fulfil all the strengths of the good life. (38)

Samantabhadra and Sudhana approach, both under parasols, in procession from the right. The Buddha is sat on a lotus seat inside a pavilion holding a blessing posture (varada-mudrā).


63. Samantabhadra’s Blessing

Kṣetra-samudra viśodhayamānaḥ, sattva-samudra vimocayamānaḥ, Dharma-samudra vipaśyayamāno, jñāna-samudra vigāhayamānaḥ; Purifying an ocean of (Buddha) fields, liberating an ocean of beings, having insight into an ocean of Dharma (teachings), penetrating an ocean of knowledges. (39)

Samantabhadra is now centre stage, and is the one giving the blessing on this last panel of the northern wall. Sudhana is sat holding his hands in respectful salutation, while above the pavilion on either side the devas fly on clouds.

East Wall (North to Center)


64. A Giving of Gifts

Carya-samudra viśodhayamānaḥ, praṇidhi-samudra prapūrayamāṇaḥ, Buddha-samudra prapūjayamānaḥ, kalpa-samudra careyam-akhinnaḥ; Purifying an ocean of (good) conduct, fulfilling an ocean of aspirations, honouring an ocean of Buddhas, may I live through an unbroken ocean of aeons. (40)

Samantabhadra is sat in princely fashion inside a pavilion, while Sudhana and his companions are on the right. On the left stand two brahmins with hands outstretched ready to receive gifts.


65. Three Buddhas

Ye că triyadhva-gatāna Jinānāṁ Bodhi-cari-praṇidhāna-viśeṣāḥ tān-ahu pūrayi sarvi aśeṣān bhadra-carīya vibudhyiya Bodhim; May I fulfil, completely and without remainder, the special aspiration to the life of Awakening of those Victors of the three times, and through the good life may I awaken to Awakening. (41)

The Victors of the three times of the verse are represented by the three Buddhas in the relief. Samantabhadra sits in meditation posture inside a pavilion and Sudhana worships him. On the bottom at the far left sits a monk.


66. Samantabhadra and Bodhisattvas

Jyeṣṭhaku yaḥ sutu sarva-Jinānāṁ, yasya ca nāma Samantatabhadraḥ: tasya vidusya sabhāga-carīye nāmayamī kuśalaṁ imu sarvam; The eldest son of all the Victors, who is known as Samantabhadra: may I offer all of this wholesomeness to this wise one. (42)

Samantabhadra sits inside an elaborate pavilion, and Sudhana and his companions sit on the right of the relief. On the left and lower part of the register sit seven Bodhisattvas. Flowers and bells hang from the clouds on the left.


Kāyatu vāca manasya viśuddhiś-carya-viśuddhy-athă kṣetra-viśuddhiḥ, yādṛśa nāmana bhadra-vidusya tādṛśa bhotu samaṁ mama tena; Purified through body, speech and mind, then having pure conduct, a pure field (of action), may I be similar to the wise one, who is known as good. (43)

Bhadra-carīya samanta-śubhāye Mañjuśirī-praṇidhāna careyam, sarvi anāgata kalpam-akhinnaḥ pūrayi tāṁ kriya sarvi aśeṣām; May I live the aspiration of Mañjuśrī, in a good life, beautiful all-round, and through all future aeons, unbroken, may I fulfil all (good) deeds without remainder. (44)

67. Mañjuśrī and Three Buddhas

This is a very interesting panel in which the centre of attention switches to Mañjuśrī who is seen sat at bottom center with his hands held high in reverential salutation. He is flanked by two Buddhas on lotus thrones, and another hovers above his head. The devas in the sky play musical instruments, while below, monks gather round one tree and lay people around another.


68. A Buddha Teaching

A Buddha sits inside a pavilion on a lotus holding Dharma-cakra-mudrā posture. Samantabhadra – holding his hands in salutation – and Sudhana stand nearby. Four women appear kneeling in the palace building on the bottom right; and in the skies the devas fly by above the clouds.


69. Six Buddhas and a Stūpa

No că pramāṇu bhaveyya carīye, no că pramāṇu bhaveyya guṇānām, apramāṇa cariyāyă sthihitvā, jānayi sarvi vikurvitu teṣām; May there be no measure to this life, may there be no measure to these virtues, having established this immeasureable life, may I know all their transformations. (45)

On the top part of the register we see six Buddhas and a stūpa, all of which are positioned on similar lotus seats. The Buddhas hold various postures. On the lower section Samantabhadra is sat in meditation, and around him are sat twelve Bodhisattvas who are witnessing the scene.


70. A Buddha Teaching

Yāvata niṣṭha nabhasya bhaveyyā, sattva aśeṣata niṣṭha tathaiva, karmatŭ kleśatu yāvata niṣṭhā, tāvata-niṣṭha mama praṇidhānam; For as long as the sky continues, (and) beings without remainder continue, as long as defiled deeds continue, for that long my aspiration will continue. (46)

Again a Buddha sits inside a pavilion on a lotus holding Dharma-cakra-mudrā, while Samantabhadra is seen worshipping on the right of the panel with Sudhana behind him. Notice above the palace are portrayed the sun and the moon on lotus stands signalling the infinity of time and space.


71. Fifteen Buddhas

Ye ca daśad-diśĭ kṣetra anantā ratna-alaṁkṛtu dadyu Jinānām, divya ca mānuṣa saukhya-viśiṣṭāṁ kṣetra-rajopama-kalpa dadeyam; May I give decorated jewels to the Victors in the endless (Buddha) fields in the ten directions, may I give special comfort to gods and humans for as many aeons as there are atoms in the (Buddha) fields. (47)

The mention of the ten directions might have produced a depiction of ten Buddhas, but for unknown reasons fifteen have been sculpted, two standing, six seated on the lower section and seven in the sky. Samantabhadra and Sudhana are seen at the bottom central paying respects.


72. Seventeen Buddhas

Yaś-ca imaṁ pariṇāmana-Rājaṁ śrutva, sakṛj-janayed-adhimuktim, Bodhi-varām-anŭprārthayamāno, agru viśiṣṭa bhaved-imu puṇyam; May he, having heard this King of complete fulfilment, understand at once; determined, desiring the noble Awakening, may this merit be special and prominent. (48)

The relief of this series and indeed of the Gaṇḍavyūha and the last relief seen before rising to the terrace above shows nine Buddhas on the top register and eight below, with Samantabhadra and Sudhana both now portrayed as seated on lotuses.

The last fourteen verses of the Bhadra-cari-praṇidhāna have not been illustrated at Borobudur, and indeed the verses now change their character altogether and focus on the Pure Lands of Amitābhā – who is otherwise unmentioned in the Gaṇḍavyūha – and to praising the benefits of reciting the previous verses.

These verses were almost certainly not part of the original hymn, as Buddhabadhra in his translation of the text into Chinese in 420 CE didn’t have them. They seem to have been added at an unknown, but later, date. This explains the absence from the walls of Borobudur.

Nevertheless, the verses are of interest and still to this day form a part of the traditional collection and I include them here for the sake of completion.

Varjita tena bhavanti apāyā, varjita tena bhavanti kumitrāḥ, kṣipru sa paśyati taṁ Amitābhaṁ, yasy-imu Bhadra-cari-praṇidhānam; Warding off the lower worlds through this, warding off bad friends through this, quickly see Amitābhā, having this Aspiration for the Good Life. (49)

Lābha sulabdha sujīvitu teṣāṁ, svāgata te imu mānuṣa-janma, yādṛśa so hi Samantatabhadras-te ’pi tathā nacireṇa bhavanti; For these the good life and (true) gains are easily obtained, they are born in a good state as a human, through that they become in no long time similar to Samantabhadra. (50)

Pāpaka pañca anantariyāṇi, yena ăjñāna-vaśena kṛtāni, so imu Bhadra-cariṁ bhaṇamānaḥ kṣipru parikṣayu bhoti aśeṣam; The five wicked (crimes having retribution) immediately (after this life), performed through ignorance, he can quickly destroy through reciting the Good Life (verses found here). (51)

Jñānatu rūpatu lakṣaṇataś-ca varṇatu gotratu bhotir-upetaḥ; tīrthika-Māra-gaṇebhir-aghṛṣyaḥ pūjitu bhoti sa sarvă-tri-loke; He will be endowed with knowledge, (good) form, characteristics, class, lineage; he will be uncrushed by the legions of Māras and heretics, (and) honoured throughout the three worlds. (52)

Kṣipru sa gacchati Bodhĭ-drumendraṁ, gatva niṣīdati sattva-hitāya, budhyati Bodhĭ pravartayi Cakraṁ dharṣayi Māru sasainyaku sarvam; Quickly he goes to the Lord of Bodhi trees, and after going, he sits (there) for the benefit of (all) beings, realising Awakening, he can turn the (Dharma) Wheel, and can overpower Māra and his entire army. (53)

Yo imu Bhadra-cari-praṇidhānaṁ dhārayi vācayi deśayito vā Buddha vijānati yo ’tra vipāko Bodhi viśiṣṭa ma kāṅkṣa janetha; The Buddha knows him who remembers, recites and teaches this Aspiration for the Good Life, the result of which is the excellent Awakening, do not have (any) doubt. (54)

Mañjuśirī yatha jānati śūraḥ, so ca Samantatabhadra tathaiva, teṣu ahaṁ anuśikṣayamāṇo, nāmayamī kuśalaṁ imu sarvam; Just as the hero Mañjuśrī knows, so also does Samantabhadra. Training in these (practices) I offer all this wholesomeness (to them). (55)

Sarvă-triyadhva-gatebhi Jinebhir-yā pariṇāmana varṇita agrā, tāya ahaṁ kuśalaṁ imu sarvaṁ nāmayamī vara-bhadra-carīya; Complete fulfilment has been praised as the pinnacle by the Victors throughout all three times, I offer (to them) all the wholesomeness of this noble and good life. (56)

Kālă-kriyāṁ ca ahaṁ karamāṇo āvaraṇān vinivartiya sarvān, saṁmukha paśyiya taṁ Amitābhaṁ taṁ ca Sukhāvatĭ-kṣetră vrajeyam; When I am dying may I remove all obstables, and may I go to the Sukhāvati land and see Amitābhā face to face. (57)

Tatra gatasya imi praṇidhānā āmukhi sarvi bhaveyyu samagrā, tāṁś-ca ahaṁ paripūrya aśeṣān, sattva-hitaṁ kari-yāvata loke; Having gone there, may all these aspirations be present and complete, having fulfilled them without remainder, I will work for the welfare of as many beings as there are in the world. (58)

Tahi Jina-maṇḍali śobhani ramye, padma-vare rucire upapannaḥ, vyākaraṇaṁ ahu tatra labheyyā, saṁmukhato Amitābha-Jinasya; May I delight in the midst of the circle of Victors, (then) reborn on a splendid and noble lotus, may I gain there the prediction (of Awakening), face to face with the Victor Amitābhā. (59)

Vyākaraṇaṁ pratilabhya ca tasmin nirmita-koṭi-śatebhir-anekaiḥ, sattva-hitāni bahūny-ahu kuryāṁ dikṣu daśasv-api buddhi-balena; Having received the prediction there, may I, through the power of intelligence, perform abundant benefits for beings in the ten directions, through tens of billions of magical creations. (60)

Bhadra-cari-praṇidhāna paṭhitvā, yat-kuśalaṁ mayi saṁcitu kiṁcit, ekă-kṣaṇena samṛdhyatu sarvaṁ tena jagasya śubhaṁ praṇidhānam; Having recited this Aspiration for the Good Life, whatever wholesomeness has been accumulated, through that in an instant may all the good aspirations that beings have be accomplished. (61)

Bhadra-cariṁ pariṇāmya yad-āptaṁ puṇyam-anantam-atīva viśiṣṭam, tena jagad-vyasanaughani-magnaṁ yātv-Amitābha-puriṁ varam-eva; By completely fulfilling the good life, whatever endless, excellent merit has been obtained, through that may beings, overcome and immersed in the flood of misfortunes, go to the noble city of Amitābhā. (62)


Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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