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Suramgamasamadhi sutra

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The Suramgamasamadhi Sutra (not to be confused with the Surangama Sutra, which is an entirely different Mahayana sutra) is an early Mahayana sutra of Indian origin[1] which focusses on the transcendental nature, magical powers and transformational feats bestowed upon the meditation practitioner by the meditational state called suramgama or 'heroic progress'. The scripture was translated from the Sanskrit into Chinese by Kumārajīva probably between 402 and 409 C.E.[2] and was later translated into Tibetan by Sakyaprabha and Ratnaraksita at the beginning of the 9th century[3].

General Features

The sutra describes the various powers and abilities which accrue to a Buddha or great Bodhisattva while operating from within this samadhi (state of transcendental concentration). Professor Etienne Lamotte writes of the nature of the Buddha presented herein: 'This is Sakyamuni in Heroic Progress, a pure ray of wisdom and power, who manifests himself simultaneously in our little universe of four continents, in the Great Cosmos ... and in all the great cosmic systems ...; there, he is some divinity .... He is the same as the Buddha Vairocana'[4].

Amongst the wonders which the Buddha can perform whilst in this state of suramgamasamadhi (attainable only by Buddhas and 10th-level Bodhisattvas) is the projection or conjuration of 84,000 other Buddhas (identical replicas of himself and equally real).[5]. Others of the 100 'miracles' which this samadhi empowers its possessor to perform include being able to change sex at will; placing immense Buddha Paradises (universes) into a single pore of the skin; always presiding over the superknowledges (abhijna); always emitting rays of light over all universes without exception; being able to speak and understand all languages of all universes; and possessing a knowledge which is profound and unfathomable[6]. Part of that knowledge is that all dharmas (things) have their basis in the dharma-dhatu - the Totality of all that is, the All. In this sense, there is non-duality that characterises everything, since everything is possessed of the 'one flavour' of the dharma-dhatu. The Buddha states: 'A bodhisattva knows that all dharmas rest eternally on the fundamental element (dharmadhatu) without coming or going.'[7].

This particular samadhi is equally praised in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, where it is explained by the Buddha that this samadhi is the essence of the nature of the Buddha and is indeed the 'mother of all Buddhas'[8]. The Buddha also comments that the suramgamasamadhi additionally goes under several other names, specifically prajnaparamita (perfect insight), vajrasamadhi (diamond samadhi), simhanadasamadhi (lion's roar samadhi), and the Buddhasvabhava (Buddha essence)[9].

The Buddha remarks in the Suramgamasamadhi Sutra that any being who cultivates this samadhi will be able to know 'through personal experience'[10] [pratyatmajnanam - through knowing directly within oneself] all the attributes of a Buddha[11]. Amongst those attributes is sovereignty over all humans and gods. The Buddha states of great Bodhisattvas and Buddhas who possess this samadhi: 'They possess sovereignty over all the gods and mankind, but do not fall into pride ...'[12]. A Bodhisattva who is immersed in this samadhi also rises beyond birth and death. The Buddha comments: 'He appears to die, but he is beyond birth, death and passing on.'[13]. Even the writing down, studying and teaching of this Suramgamasamadhi Sutra by a master of Dharma will bestow immense blessings, twenty in number. These include inconceivable knowledge and wisdom, inconceivable vision of all the Buddhas, and inconceivable virtues and sovereign powers.[14]. One of these powers is demonstrated by the future Buddha, Maitreya, who transforms himself into innumerable different types of leading spiritual personages in countless world-systems at the same time. Commenting on the great qualities of those such as Maitreya who preside over the suramgama samadhi, a whole host of great Bodhisattvas declare in the presence of the Buddha: 'Bhagavat [Blessed One], just as gold, even if it has gone through the forge, never loses its self-nature [svabhava - essential nature], so these great Satpurusas [True Beings], wherever they may go, manifest everywhere their natures of inconceivable qualities.'[15].


  1. E. Lamotte, Suramgamasamadhi Sutra: The Concentration of Heroic Progress; An Early Mahayana Buddhist Scripture, tr. Sara Boin-Webb, Curzon Press, London, 1998, p. 1
  2. E. Lamotte, op cit., p.1
  3. ibid
  4. E. Lamotte, op cit., pp. 3-4
  5. E. Lamotte, op. cit., p. 4
  6. E. Lamotte, op. cit., pp. 121-125
  7. E. Lamotte, op. cit., p. 130
  8. E. Lamotte, op. cit., p. 36
  9. E. Lamotte, ibid
  10. E. Lamotte, op. cit., p. 240
  11. ibid
  12. E. Lamotte, op. cit., p. 113
  13. E. Lamotte, op. cit., p. 131
  14. E. Lamotte, op. cit., pp. 238-239
  15. E. Lamotte, op. cit., pp. 227-228
vi:Thủ-lăng-nghiêm-tam-muội kinh


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