Padma Karpo Translation Committee
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Samantabhadra’s Prayer in Two Volumes

In-depth explanations of the prayer, supported by commentaries by Nagarjuna, Tenpa’i Wangchuk, Tony Duff, and others in two volumes

TitleSamantabhadra’s Prayer
Sub-TitleVolume I: The original sutra with prayer, the Indian commentary by Nagarjuna, and the Western commentary by Tony Duff.

Volume II: The original sutra with prayer and the Tibetan Commentary by Ontrul Tenpa’i Wangchuk
AuthorTony Duff
DetailsVol I: 298 pages, 2 colour plates, 6" X 9" (large format), US$30
Vol II: 224 pages, 1 colour plate, 6" X 9" (large format), US$25
ISBNVol I: paper book 978-9937-572-60-6, e-book 978-9937-572-61-3
Vol II: paper book 978-9937-572-83-5, e-book 978-9937-572-82-8
TextsTibetan texts in Tibetan script not included

The Prayer of Samantabhadra, also known as “a prayer of excellent conduct” and also as “a king of prayers” is one of the five great prayers of the Great Vehicle tradition and one of the most popular prayers in that tradition—for example, it is recited every day without fail by many Tibetans.  While using the prayer in Tibetan and English, the author discovered that existing English translations from Tibetan sources have many mistakes, all of which give readers a wrong understanding of what the prayer actually says.  Worse, translations into other languages such as German and Russian from the mistaken English translations have carried all the mistakes along with them.  Therefore, the author undertook a major study of the sutra in order to provide practitioners with a reliable translation and a complete set of explanations that would explain correctly and in depth every facet of meaning contained of the sutra.

Firstly, the prayer was not composed as a prayer.  It is actually a set of verses that were spoken by the bodhisatva Samantabhadra to summarize an amazing teaching he had just given to a young bodhisatva.  The teaching was on the subject of the excellent conduct of a bodhisatva.  The teaching and the verses were later recorded in one of the Great Vehicle sutras.  Later still, the verses were extracted from the sutra and written out alone for ease of recitation.  An unfortunate consequence of that has been that many people have mistakenly thought that the verses actually were composed as a discrete prayer, and so have lost the all-important connection to the actual teaching given in the sutra.  To rectify this problem and make the fullness of the prayer available to English-speaking practitioners, the author went on to make a translation of the entire sutra and its concluding verses.

However, still more was needed because there is an enormous amount of meaning hidden in the words of the verses, meaning that cannot be seen let alone understood without assistance.  Therefore, the author assembled everything needed to explain every facet of meaning of every word in the verses and published all of the work in two full volumes detailing the prayer.  The two volumes share a very extensive introduction that clarifies the nature of the prayer.  Following that, they share a translation of the entire sutra, including the verses.  After that, each volume presents its own commentaries in order to show the meaning of the verses.

Volume I has two commentaries, one by the Indian master Nagarjuna and one written by the author himself.  It is essential to have an Indian commentary as a basis for understanding and translating the prayer because it will show the original understanding of the prayer according to the Indian tradition of Buddhism.  Several such commentaries are preserved in the Tibetan Translated Treatises and the author read them all.  He selected the one by Nagarjuna because it is the earliest of all the preserved Indian commentaries and also because it is particularly clear, showing points of meaning and grammar that are essential to obtaining a correct translation of the prayer.  Likewise, it is essential to have a commentary written by an English-speaking expert so that all the issues related to the prayer in English translation can be clearly presented for readers.  For this commentary, the author drew together material from many Indian and Tibetan commentaries then explained the prayer directly in English, paying special attention to English-related issues that are not covered in Indian or Tibetan commentaries.

Volume II is taken up with a single, very large Tibetan commentary.  There are a number of commentaries by Tibetan masters.  Unfortunately, for several centuries these masters have explained the verses in ways that do not agree with the explanations of the Indian commentaries.  In fact, the Tibetan system of explanation of the prayer has been corrupt for several centuries, an issue which is explained in detail in the introduction to each volume.  Nevertheless, the Tibetan commentaries have much to offer, so one was chosen for this second volume.  The author of the chosen commentary was Ontrul Tenpa’i Wangchuk, who was regarded as one of the greatest living scholars and Dzogchen masters in Tibet until his recent passage.  His commentary is regarded as very useful because it goes through the verses word by word, in a level of detail not seen in any of the other Tibetan commentaries.  More than that, it is unique amongst all of the Indian and Tibetan commentaries in that it was not given as a scholarly exploration of the meaning of the verses but was given as practical advice to his lay disciples on how to follow the excellent conduct of a bodhisatva.  Therefore, his commentary is particularly useful for anyone wanting to use the prayer not only for recitation but as a basis for developing himself as a bodhisatva.

Volume I contains translations of the following texts:
The teaching of Samantabhadra given to Sudhana, concluded with Samantabhadra’s Prayer, recorded in the Avatamsaka Sutra
Samantabhadra’s Prayer Together with Explanation by Noble One Nagarjuna
A Thorough Explanation of Samantabhadra’s Prayer by Tony Duff

Volume II contains translations of the following texts:
The teaching of Samantabhadra given to Sudhana, concluded with Samantabhadra’s Prayer, recorded in the Avatamsaka Sutra
“The Enlightenment Highway”, A Commentary to the Excellent Conduct Prayer, Or Notes of This and That Remembered, Written as Practical Instructions for Men and Women Householders Encouraging them to Virtue by Ontrul Tenpa’i Wangchuk

Download Tibetan texts in TibetD format: not available yet.

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