Prayer Wishes for Good Conduct
Introduction

This prayer of aspiration is found in the liturgies of most if not all Tibetan Buddhist sects and a good number of commentaries have been written on it.1 Its source is the last chapter of the Densely Arrayed Sūtra or Array of Stalks Sūtra (gaṇḍavyūha, stug po bkod pa/sdong po bkod pa), which itself is the last chapter-text of the Flower Garland Sūtra (avataṃsaka, phel po che), when the protagonist Sudhana visits the last of a list of fifty-three teachers, Samantabhadra. This prayer is so popular that it occurs several times in the Coné edition of the Kangyur alone, a fact which is mirrored in the Tibetan Buddhist centers outside of Tibet where it has been translated innumerable times.2 The point of this translation was not to correct previous ones or “do a better job,” but to familiarize myself more closely with the subject matter. This text was referred to by Vimalamitra in his Sudden Entry, the Object of Non-Conceptual Meditation, and it was for this reason I was led to translate the Prayer Wishes for Good Conduct. It has not been done under the guidance of a Tibetan teacher or with reference to any of the numerous commentaries on the text. Needless to say, the translation is rough.

The sixty-three verses of the text follow the standard format for such prayer wishes. There is of course the obligatory homage to the three jewels that opens every Great Vehicle text. This is followed by elements that are found in most such prayer-wish texts. These are related to the vows made by Samantabhadra during his entry into the Bodhisattva path and which are described by the Buddha at the end of the Densely Arrayed Sūtra. Thus, the Prayer-Wishes for Good Conduct proceeds with verses on:

• praise of the buddhas;

• worship of them with the traditional accoutrements of Indian worship—incense, lamps, flowers, etc;

• offerings of clothing, perfumes, and so on;

• bowing in obeisance to the Buddhas;

• confession of one’s wrong-doings;

• rejoicing in others’ merit;

• entreating the Buddhas to teach the doctrine;

• pleading them to remain in the world without passing away, and

• finally the dedication of merit gained by doing the preceding actions.

One can see the same elements portrayed in greater length and arguably more eloquently in the first three chapters of Śāntideva’s well-known Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.3 Another common element this text shares with the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life and other Great Vehicle texts of this era is the use of the ocean as a simile for an incalculably large amount, as in last half of verse 29:

May I enter into ocean of worlds with oceans of Buddhas

And practice for oceans of eons.

Such language emphasizes the unimaginable vastness of the Bodhisattva’s quest in a way meant to inspire rather than dishearten.

One theme that figures more prominently in this text than in Śāntideva’s is the interpenetrations of worlds. This is the notion that each atom contains in itself a universe along with the corollary that our universe is but an atom of a larger universe. This theory of the interpenetration of worlds is a hallmark of the Flower Garland Sūtra and becomes one of the central doctrines of the Hua-Yen School in China which bases itself on that sūtra. The Prayer-Wishes for Good Conduct refers to the idea several times, introducing it early in verse 3:

In one atom there are Buddhas as numerous as atom themselves

Sitting amongst their sons of the Buddha.

Similarly, imagine the whole realm of phenomena

Without exception is filled with Conquerors.

The Prayer-Wishes for Good Conduct thus portrays an infinitely expansive world into which one can send similarly expansive prayers to do immeasurable good and receive immeasurable benefit.

This text is often referred to as Samantabhadra’s Prayer-Wishes for Good Conduct, because being located in the chapter of the Densely Arrayed Sūtra where Sudhana meets the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, it is in essence a synopsis of the Bodhisattva vows taken by Samantabhadra. However the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra is also mentioned three times in the text itself. First in verse 42 in reference to the vows being modeled on that Bodhisattva’s example:

I dedicate all this merit

In order to practice in the manner of that skilled one,

The sage, son of all Conquerors,

The second reference is a comparison of Samantabhadra with Mañjuśrī in verse 55:

As knowledgeable and powerful as Mañjuśrī is

I will train following their example and

Completely dedicate these merits to all [beings].

The comparison is telling. It seems the putative audience for this verse is one where the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī is well known, perhaps a group familiar with the Perfection of Wisdom, but who are maybe less familiar or less inclined toward Samantabhadra. Hence, the claim of their equality. The final reference to Samantabhadra is in the closing verse of dedication at end of the text, one that is aptly echoed at the beginning as well:

May this supreme and chief king of prayer-wishes

Give assistance to all the limitless sentient beings, and

With it, may they achieve the way heralded by Samantabhadra, and

May all the lineages of bad migrations be completely emptied.

1See sources at the end for editions used for this translation and some of the existing English translations. I have not researched or reference the commentaries, but to give an example, the translator Yeshé Dé write a commentary on this prayer based on four Indian commentaries by Dignāga, Śākyamitra, Buddhakīrti, and Bhadrāvaha. See Ye shes sde, bzang spyod kyi ’grel pa, Thimpu, Bhutan: National Library of Bhutan, 1985, https://www.tbrc.org/#!rid=W1KG22349 (Accessed May 25, 2020). There are numerous other Tibetan commentaries as well.

2A small sample of these translations is given in the sources section. I did not refer extensively to other translations.

3Śāntideva [active 7th century], A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life =. Bodhisattvacharyavatara = Byang. Chub. Sems. Dpaiʹ. [Sic] Spyod. Pa. La. Jug. Pa, translated by Stephen Batchelor (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1979). https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uva.x000395955.

Translation

The King of Prayer-Wishes for Good Conduct

A text from the Tibetan Word of the Buddha

In Tibetan, ’phags pa bzang bo spyod pa’i smon lam gyi rgyal po.

[In English, The King of Prayer Wishes for Good Conduct.]

Homage to the youthful Mañjuśrī!

[1] To all the lions of men however many there are

Who throughout the three time course in this world of ten directions,

To all of them I bow sincerely

With my body, speech, and mind.

[2] With the powers of prayer-wishes for good conduct,

I pay absolute homage to every conqueror

By bowing bodies as numerous as atoms in the universe

While directly perceiving all the conquerors with my mind. [NT 281b]

[3] In one atom there are Buddhas as numerous as the atoms themselves

Sitting among the sons of the Buddha.

Similarly, imagine that the whole realm of phenomena1

Without exception is filled with Conquerors.2

[4] By a full sea of melodious sounds

I fully express the good qualities of all the Conquerors,

With oceans of inexhaustible accolades to them

And praise all the Ones Gone to Bliss.

[5] I worship3 those Conquerors

With the finest flowers and the finest garlands,

With music as well as the best ointments and parasols,

With exquisite butter lamps and the finest incense.

[6] I offer7 to those Conquerors

The best clothing and finest perfumes,

Vessels of aromatic powders the size of Mt. Sumeru,

And everything supreme made even better by being arranged [nicely].4

[7] I intend those insurmountably vast offerings

For all the conquerors.5

By the power of faith in good conduct

I offer obeisance to all the Conquerors.

[8] Whatever wrong-doings I have performed

With body, speech, as well as mind,

Through the power of desire, hatred, or ignorance,

I lay bare all of them individually.

[9] I rejoice in all of whatever merit there is

Of all the Conquerors in the ten directions and the sons of the Buddha,6

Of the Solitary Realizers, the learners, and those of no more learning,

And of all the migrators [in cyclic existence].

[10] All those protectors who have discovered

Unattached Buddhahood becoming enlightened in stages

Are [like] lamps to the disintegrating worlds of ten-directions.

I entreat them all to turn the highest wheel [of the doctrine].

[11] With palms joined, I beg those

Who desire to demonstrate passing beyond sorrow [NT 282a]

To remain for the health and welfare of all migrators

For as many eons as there are atoms in the world.

[12] Whatever small merit I have accumulated by paying homage

Making offerings, confessing wrong-doings,

Rejoicing [in others merit], exhorting [to teach], and beseeching [to remain],

I dedicated it all for the sake of enlightenment.

[13] I worship the Buddhas of the past

And those who dwell in the worlds of the ten-directions.

May those who have not yet come quickly [form] the intention

And come to Buddhahood through the stages of enlightenment.7

[14] However many worlds there are in the ten directions,

May they all be extensively and thoroughly purified.

May they be completely filled with Buddhas who have gone

To the foot of the powerful tree of enlightenment and their sons.

[15] However many sentient beings there are in the ten directions,

May they always be blissful and without sickness

May their goals be in accord with the [Buddhist] doctrine

And may they achieve all they hope for.

[16] May I perform the conduct [leading to] enlightenment and

Be mindful of all beings that are born.

May I always renounce the world throughout the lineage of [my] lives

When being reborn [after] the transference of death.8

[17] Training in the [path] that follows all the Conquerors

May I complete the good conduct.

Without degeneration or fault may I always practice

The pure and stainless ethical conduct.

[18] May I teach the doctrine in all languages:

The language of the gods, the language of nāgas and demons,

The languages of monsters9 and humans, and

In whatever languages there are among all migrators [of cyclic existence].

[19] Striving for certainty and perfection

May I never forget the mind of enlightenment.

May I purify without exception

All those obscurations that are negativities. [NT 282b]

[20] May I be released from the workings of the devils, actions and afflictive emotions, and

Just as water does not stick to a lotus blossom and

Like the sun and moon are unhindered in the sky

May I act for [the welfare of all] migrators in cyclic existence.

[21] In however many dimensions and directions of the realm [of existence] there are

May the suffering of bad destinations be pacified.

May all migrators be established in blissful ones.

I will act to help all migrators.

[22] Completing the activities for enlightenment,

I will engage in activities that accord with [the welfare of] sentient beings.

Demonstrating good conduct

I will act this way for all future eons.

[23] May I always befriend those [people]

Whose conduct is in accordance with mine [in seeking enlightenment].

And in body, speech, and mind,

May our conduct be the same as our prayer wishes.

[24] May I always meet with those friends

Who desire to help me and

Teach me good conduct.

May I never disregard them.10

[25] May I always clearly see the conquerors

The protectors surrounded by the sons of the Buddhahood.

In every future eon, may I make oceans of offerings

To them without being disheartened.

[26] May I comprehend the excellent doctrine of the Conquerors and

Thoroughly illuminate the conduct for enlightenment.

May I not only train in the good conduct but

Do so in every future eon.

[27] As I cycle throughout all existence

May I obtain inexhaustible merit and exalted wisdom.

May I become an inexhaustible treasury of method, wisdom,

Concentration, liberation, and all good qualities.

[28] In every atom there are worlds as numerous as atoms.

In each of those there dwell inconceivable Buddhas

Sitting among of the sons of the Buddha.

May I see them all and under them practice the conduct for enlightenment.

[29] All of them are everywhere even in something the size of a hair.

They are found throughout the three times. [NT 283a]

May I enter into oceans of worlds with oceans of Buddhas

And practice for oceans of eons.

[30] May I always engage in the sayings of the Buddha

The pure branches of melodious speech of all the Conquerors

Spoken in accord with the thoughts of each migrator

With a language where one saying has an ocean of meanings.11

[31] With the power of awareness may I thoroughly engage

In the inexhaustible sayings of melodious speech

That all the Conquerors who come in the three times

Thoroughly turn [the doctrine] in the manner of a wheel.12

[32] In all future eons when I am engaging [in the teachings]

May I enter them in a single second.

May I engage in a mere second

Those [teachings] which span the eons of the three times.

[33] I will see in a single second

Those lions of men who come in the three times.

By the power of their magical story13

I will always engage in their range of activity.

[34] They lay out Buddha-fields throughout the three times.

These are actually accomplished in a single atom.

I will enter into every field of the Conquerors

Thus arrayed in all directions.

[35] When any of those lamps of the world that have not yet come

Gradually become enlightened and turn the wheels [of the doctrine]

And demonstrate the final ultimate peace of nirvāṇa.

May I be in the presences all [these] protectors.

[36] Through the power of the magical swiftness,

The power of the vehicles that are entryways for all,

The powers of thoroughly practicing good qualities,

The power of [feelings of] all pervasive love

[37] Through the powers of thoroughly virtuous merit

The power of exalted wisdom which is without attachment

And through the powers of insight, means and concentration

May I truly accomplish the force of enlightenment.

[38] I will thoroughly purify the powers of karma and

Completely destroy the force of the afflictions. [NT 283b]

I will render powerless the strength of demons and

Perfect the force of good conduct.

[39] I will purify an ocean of Buddha-fields and

Liberate oceans of sentient beings,

Perceive oceans of doctrines, and

Realize oceans of exalted wisdom.

[40] I will purify oceans of conduct and

Complete oceans of prayer wishes.

I will make oceans of offerings to the Buddhas.

I will train without remorse for oceans of eons.

[41] I will complete each and every particular prayer wish

Of any of the Conquerors that have come in the three times

Through which, with good conduct, they have

Become extensively purified unto enlightenment.

[42] I dedicate all this merit

In order to practice in the manner of that skilled one,

The sage, son of all Conquerors,

[43] In terms of purity of body, speech, and mind,

Purity of conduct, purity of fields,

And dedication, however this good wise man does it

May I do it the same as he does.

[44] In order to practice the good and thorough virtues

May I perform the prayer-wish of Mañjuśrī.

May I complete each of his activities

Without regret throughout all future eons.

[45] May my activities be immeasurable.

May my good qualities be without end.

And even while remaining in ceaseless activity,

May I seek all their emanations.15

[46] May my prayer-wishes go as far as

Whatever is the end of space.

Similarly may they go to each and every sentient being, and

To the extent of however many karmic actions and afflictions there are.

[47] Decorating all the realms in any of the ten directions

With jewels one may give them to the Conquerors.

One may also give the supreme bliss of gods and humans

For as many eons as there are atoms in the universe.

[48] But better than that is the one who hears this king of dedication,

Develops a great belief seeking after supreme enlightenment, and

Generates faith even for a single moment.

He has the best merit of them all.

[49] The one who plants this prayer-wish for good conduct

Moreover, one will soon behold limitless visions.

[50] Once obtained, one will nurture the bliss of receiving them.

Even in this human life [the visions] will surely come.

They will be, just as it was for Samantabhadra,

Uninterrupted for a long time.

[51] Even those who under the power of ignorance do

One of the five sins of immediate retribution,

If they say this [prayer-wishes for] good conduct,

They will be quickly and absolutely purified.

[52] They will have wisdom, physique,

Name, family, and beauty.

Any number of demons and Forders will be unable to best them.

They will be worshiped in all the three worlds.

[53] They will soon go to the foot of the powerful tree of enlightenment.

Having gone, they will sit there in order to benefit sentient beings.

They will thoroughly turn the wheel of enlightenment and become a Buddha.

They will subdue all demons and their armies.

[54] Anyone who bears in mind this prayer-wish

For good conduct by teaching or reading

Will know the fruit of that, Buddhahood,

And should have no doubts about supreme enlightenment.

[55] As knowledgeable and powerful as Mañjuśrī is

I will train following their example and

Completely dedicate these merits to all [beings].

[56] With those supreme praises which are blessed

By all the Conquerors who have come in the three times

I thoroughly dedicate all these roots of merit

For the sake of good conduct.

[57] If I do [this dedication] at the time of death

It will clear away all obstructions, and

Having directly seen limitless visions,

I will proceed to the land of bliss, Sukhāvati (Déwajen).16

[58] Once I have gone there may all these prayer-wishes

Become manifest without exception.

May I fulfill them all thoroughly.

May I help however many sentient beings there are in the world.

[59] Born from a beautiful and excellent lotus,

There in the beneficent and joyous maṇḍala of the Conqueror,

In direct sight of the Conqueror Amitābha,

May I obtain the prophecy [of my future enlightenment].

[60] Once I have obtained the prophecy there,

May I, through strength of awareness, do much benefit

For whatever sentient beings there are in the ten directions

With [my] many billions of emanations.

[61] By whatever slight virtue I have accumulated

Through planting the prayer-wishes for good conduct,

May all migrators receive the virtues

Of their prayer-wishes in a single second.

[62] Through the limitless and excellent merit obtained

By dedicating the prayer-wishes for good conduct,

May the migrators who are sunk in a river of suffering

Gain the land of Amitābha.17

[63] May this supreme and chief king of prayer-wishes

Give assistance to all the limitless sentient beings, and

With it may they achieve the way heralded by Samantabhadra and

May all the lineages of bad migrations be completely emptied.

This completes the Noble King of Prayer-Wishes for Good Conduct.

1ཆོས་ཀྱི་དབྱིངས་ (SP 259.4).

2KG 175.12-13, NC 470.2-3, NT 562.1-2: རྒྱལ་བ་དག་གིས་གང་བར་མོས།; SP 260.1: རྒྱལ་བདག་གིས་གང་བར་མོས།.

3མཆོད་པར་བགྱི་ (281b.3, 281b.4).

4བཀོད་པས་ཁྱད་པར་འཕགས་པའི་མཆོག་ཀུན་གྱིས་ (NT 281b.4).

5མཆོད་པ་གང་རྣམས་བླ་མེད་རྒྱ་ཆེ་བ། །དེ་དག་རྒྱལ་བ་ཐམས་ཅད་ལ་ཡང་མོས། (NT 281b.4).

6i.e., Bodhisattvas.

7གང་ཡང་མ་བྱོན་དེ་དག་རབ་མྱུར་བར། །བསམ་རྫོགས་བྱང་ཆུབ་རིམ་པར་སངས་རྒྱས་སྤྱོན། (NT 282a.2-3). The phrase བྱང་ཆུབ་རིམ་པར་སངས་རྒྱས་ also appears above. I am not sure of my translation of this.

8ཚེ་རབས་ཀུན་ཏུ་འཆི་འཕོ་སྐྱེ་བ་ན་ (282b.5). Or, “when generating the transference of death.”

9གྲུལ་བུམ་ (NT 282a.6). Technically, this is a ghoul in the form of an animal-headed yakṣa or demon.

10དེ་དག་བདག་གིས་ནམ་ཡང་ཡིད་མི་དབྱུང་ (NT 282b.4, CN1 282a.7, CN2 353b.6, KG 179.3-4). Rigpa Translations (7.4) has “Never will I disappoint them!” Jesse Fenton has “And never displease that excellent friend.” TDCM (2:2575) has “སེམས་སྐྱོ་བ།(be sad, depressed, dejected) as the second definition of ཡིད་འབྱུང་ But the verb used here is definitively དབྱུང་ which means to “extract, pull away, remove”.

11གསུང་གཅིག་ཡན་ལག་རྒྱ་མཚོའི་སྒྲ་སྐད་ཀྱིས་ (NT 283a.1). Literally, “with a language in which one saying has an ocean of branches” (i.e., secondary meanings).

12In Buddhism, the Buddha’s teaching is referred to as “turning the wheel of the doctrine”. Later Buddhism defines three wheels of the doctrine representing different stages of teaching aimed at different levels of practitioners.

13སྒྱུ་མར་གྱུར་པའི་རྣམ་ཐར་སྟབས་ཀྱིས་ (NT 283a.4). Literally, “by the power of [their] biography/liberation which is a magical illusion”.

14ཀུན་ཏུ་བཟང་པོ་ (NT 283b.4). Literally, “the All Good one”.

15དེ་དག་འཕྲུལ་པ་ཐམས་ཅད་འཚལ་བར་བགྱི། (NT 283b.6). Rigpa Translations: “May I accomplish all the miraculous powers of enlightenment.” Jesse Fenton: “May I actualize infinite emanations.”

16བདེ་བ་ཅན་ (NT 284b.1).

17འོད་དཔག་མེད་ (NT 284b.5).

Sources

Editions of the Text

As a staple of the Tibetan Buddhist liturgy this prayer can be found in a wide variety different sources. Only a relatively few have been chosen for this translation to correct for misspellings and scribal errors. In the Coné Kangyur alone there are at least four versions of this common prayer, of which I have used two. Because the titles are essentially the same, the entries here are organized alphabetically by sigla used in the text. Thus the two Coné verions (CN1 and CN2) are listed first, whiel the Sengdrak Trülku (SN) comes last.

bzang spyod/ In bka' 'gyur (co ne). TBRC W1PD96685. 24: 280b.8-284b.4 (564-572). Cone rdzong: Co ne dgon, 1926. http://tbrc.org/link?RID=O4CZ3720|O4CZ37201KG90646$W1PD96685 Referred to as CN1. bzang spyod smon lam/ In bka' 'gyur (co ne). TBRC W1PD96685. 107: 352a.6-356a.5 (707-712). Cone rdzong: Co ne dgon, 1926. http://tbrc.org/link?RID=O4CZ3720|O4CZ37201KG91144$W1PD96685 Referred to as CN2.

bzang po spyod pa’i smon lam. In Karma Guru, bka’ brgyud zhal ‘don phyogs bsgrigs/. TBRC W25185: 190 - 200. Zhang Kang: zhang kang then ma dpe skrun khang, 2001. http://tbrc.org/link?RID=O3JT2710|O3JT27103JT2761$W25185 (Accessed May 18, 2020). Referred to as KG. 'phags pa bzang po spyod pa'i smon lam gyi rgyal po. In gnas chung rdo rje sgra dbyangs gling gi 'don chog. TBRC W00EGS1016248. 1: 473 - 481. Delhi: Lobzang Tondan, 1983. http://tbrc.org/link?RID=O00EGS1016248|O6248C2O0087$W00EGS1016248 (Accessed May 18, 2020). Referred to as NC.

bzang spyod smon lam rgyal po. In bstan ’gyur (snar thang). TBRC W22704. 224: 281a.5-284b.6 (565-572). [Narthang]: [s.n.], [1800?]. http://tbrc.org/link?RID=O2DB75712|O2DB757121KG75931$W22704 (Accessed May 18, 2020). This is the main edition used for the translation and its pagination is included in line in the translation.. Other editions are referred to in notes for alternate or corrected readings. Referred to as NT. bzang po spyod pa’i smon lam gyi rgyal po. In Seng-brag sPrul-sku, ’don cha nyer mkho phan bde’i bum bzang. TBRC W23685, vol. 6: pp. 263 - 328. rDo rje gLing: ’brug sgar dpe mdzod khang, 2001. http://tbrc.org/link?RID=O23685|O236854CZ198556$W23685 (Accessed May 18, 2020). The volume has a title page “This is the Garland of Jewels, the Cycle of Special Prayer Wishes” (སྨོན་ལམ་ཁྱད་པར་ཅན་གྱི་སྐོར་རིན་པོ་ཆེའི་ཕྲེང་བ་བཞུགསོ།།). Referred to as SP.

Other Translations

This is not by any means a comprehensive list of all the versions available on line but as with the Tibetan versions of the text, the list below gives a random but representative sample of available versions. They are organized alphabetically by translated title. In my translation above references to these other translations are given by the translator’s name.

The King of Aspiration Prayers. Translated by Rigpa Translations. Lotsawa House, 1996. https://www.lotsawahouse.org/words-of-the-buddha/samantabhadra-aspiration-good-actions (Accessed May 24, 2020).

The King of Aspiration Prayers of Noble, Excellent Activity. Translated by Pamela Gayle White under the guidance of the 14th Sharmapa. Bodhi Path Buddhist Centers, 2009. http://www.bodhipath.org/sangcho_monlam/ (Accessed May 25, 2020). This includes both the Tibetan original and English translation.

King of Prayers. Translated by Jesse Fenton. Seattle: Dharma Friendship Foundation, 2002. https://dharmafriendship.org/king-of-prayers/ (Accessed May 24, 2020) and https://fpmt.org/wp-content/uploads/prayers/king_of_prayers_c5.pdf (Accessed May 25, 2020).

The King of Prayers: Samantabhadra’s Aspiration to Excellent Conduct. Translated by Elizabeth Callahan under the guidance of Khanpo Tsultrim Gyatso. Siddhartha’s Intent: 1994.

Prayer Wishes for Good Conduct
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