Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “the buddha enters into the samadhirajasamadhi” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Act 1.1: The Buddha enters into the Samādhirājasamādhi

Sūtra: Then, having himself arranged the lion-seat, the Bhagavat sat down cross-legged;[1] holding his body upright and fixing his attention, he entered into the samādhi called King of Samādhis, in which all the concentrations are included (Atha khalu bhagavān svayam eva siṃhāsanaṃ prajñapya nyaṣīdat paryaṅkaṃ baddhvā ṛjukāyaṃ praṇidhāyābhimukhīṃ smṛtim upasthāpya samādhirājaṃ nāma samādhiṃ samāpadyate sma yatra sarvasamādhayo ’ntargatāḥ).

Śāstra: Question. – The Buddha has a servant (upasthāyaka) and numerous bodhisattvas; why does he arrange the lion-seat (siṃhāsana) himself?

Answer. – This seat was created (nirmita) by the Buddha himself in accordance with the great assembly; this is why Ānanda [the Buddha’s servant] could not arrange it. Besides, it is the Buddha’s mind (citta) that creates this seat; this is why it is said that he arranges it himself.

Question. – What is this siṃhāsana? Did the Buddha create a lion? Is a real lion [111b] present, or did he make a lion out of gold, silver, wood or stone? Besides, since the lion is not a nice animal, the Buddha does not need it and, since there is no need for it, the lion should not be there.

Answer. – The lion in question is not a real lion but, since the Buddha is a lion among men (puruṣasiṃha), the seat where he sits down, whether it be on a bed (āsana) or on the ground (bhūmi), is called the ‘lion’s seat’. In the same way, even today the seat where the king is enthroned is called a lion’s seat, the chief who commands warriors is called a lion-man (puruṣasiṃha) and people call the king of the land puruṣasiṃha. Just as a lion among animals is strong, fearless and can conquer all (abhibhavati), so the Buddha triumphs over all ninety-six heretical systems[2] and is called puruṣasiṃha.

Question. – Sitting postures are numerous; why does the Buddha take just the cross-legged posture (paryaṅkabandha)?

Answer. – 1) Among sitting postures, the cross-legged position is the calmest (kṣema) and the least tiring; this is the posture of those in dhyāna for, by holding the hands and feet in this way, the mind does not wander.

2) Furthermore, among the four bodily positions (kāyeryāpatha), it is the most calming (kṣema): it is the posture of ecstasy, the usual position for finding the Path (mārgalābha). When king Māra sees it, he is sad and frightened. Sitting in this way is customary for the monastic (pravrajita): he actually sits cross-legged under a tree in the forest; the crowds who see him feel joyful and know that this monastic will certainly attain the path. Some stanzas say:

When one sits cross-legged
The body is at peace, one enters into samādhi.
Powerful people regard you with respect
Like the sun that lights up the continent.

Slothfulness and mental disturbances are driven away,
The body is light and does not know fatigue.
The intellect also is alert;
This peaceful posture is like the coiling up of a snake.

If merely a painting of crossed legs
Causes king Māra to feel sad and afraid,
How much more so if it is a person entered onto the Path
Sitting peacefully and motionlessly.

This is why one sits with crossed legs.

3) Furthermore, the Buddha told his disciples that they should sit this way.[3] There are some heretics who search for the path by always standing on one foot, or by always remaining standing, or by placing their feet on their shoulders; such tortures plunge the mind into a sea of bewilderment; these postures are not calming.[4] This is why the Buddha recommends that his disciples sit with crossed legs holding the body upright (ṛjukāyaṃ praṇidhāya).

Why? When one keeps the body straight, it is easy to control the mind; in those whose body is straight, the mind is not idle. With right mind, the ascetic fixes his attention (abhimukhīṃ smṛtim upasthāpayati); when the mind wanders, he seizes it and brings it back. In order to enter into samādhi, he keeps his mind free of any distraction. It is by fixing his attention thus that [the Buddha] entered into the Samādhirājasamādhi.

What is the Samādhirājasamādhi? This samādhi is foremost among all the samādhis; [111c] it takes innumerable samādhis at will as object (ālambate). Just as the king (rājan) is foremost of all men, just as the cakravartin king is foremost among kings, just as the Buddha is foremost among all the beings of earth and heaven, so this samādhi is foremost of all samādhis.

Question. – By virtue of the power of the Buddha, all the samādhis [practiced by him] are necessarily foremost. Why do you call only the Samādhirāja foremost?

Answer. – Although all the samādhis practiced by the Buddha are necessarily foremost by virtue of his miraculous power (ṛddhibala), nevertheless there are differences (viśeṣa) among them; they do not all have the same value.

Question. – In what absorption (samāpatti) is the Samādhirājasamādhi contained (saṃgṛhīta), and what is its nature (lakṣaṇa)?

Abswer. – a) Some claim that the Samādhirājasamādhi has mastery (vaśita, aiśvarya) as its nature, that it is contained in the five good elements (pañcakuśalaskandha)[5] and that it resides in the fourth dhyāna (caturtha dhyāna). Why?

It is in the fourth dhyāna that all the Buddhas, travelling on the path of seeing the truths (satyadarśanamārga), attain the fruit of A na han (anāgamin), and that they attain Buddhahood in eighteen mind-moments.[6] It is in the fourth dhyāna that the Buddhas abandon life and it is in the fourth dhyāna that they enter into nirvāṇa-without-residue (nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇa).[7] The eight stages (bhavasthāna),[8] the [eight] vimokṣas and the [eight] abhibhvāyatanas[9] are contained in the fourth dhyāna. The kṛtsnāyatanas are abundant in the fourth dhyāna. The fourth dhyāna is free of disturbances (āniñjya); it is not an obstacle (āvṛṇoti) to the dharmas of absorption. [On the contrary], in the desire realm (kāmadhātu), desire (kama) counteracts the mind of absorption (samāpatticitta); in the first dhyāna, investigation (vitarka) and analysis (vicara) stir up the mind; in the second dhyāna, it is great joy (prīti) that moves it; in the third dhyāna, it is great pleasure (sukha) that moves it. But in the fourth dhyāna, there is no disturbance.[10]

Moreover, the first dhyāna is burned up by fire (tejas), the second is flooded by water (āpas), the third is blown away by wind (vāyu), but the fourth is free of these three torments (bādhana);[11] there is no inbreath or outbreath (āśvāsa, praśvāsa);[12] it is pure in its equanimity and its memory (upekṣāsmṛtipariśuddha)[13] This is why the Samādhirājasamādhi should be in the fourth dhyāna in the same way that a precious object has its place in a treasury.

b) Others say: Who can know the nature (lakṣaṇa) of a samādhi of the Buddha? All the dharmas of the Buddha have a unique nature (ekalakṣaṇa), without mark (animitta), immense (aprameya), incalculable (asaṃkhyeya), inconceivable (acintya). If the other samādhis [of the Buddha] are immense, incalculable and inconceivable, what then could be said of the Samādhirājasamādhi? The Buddha is the only one who knows it. If the basis of his miraculous power (ṛddhipada) and his morality (śīla) is inconceivable, what then could be said of the Samādhirājasamādhi?

Moreover, all the samādhis are collected (antargata) in the Samādhirājasamādhi; this is why it is called ‘king of samādhis’. In the same way, all the rivers and all the streams of Jambudvīpa empty into the great ocean and all the people depend on their king.

Question. – The Buddha is omniscient (sarvajñā) and knows everything. [112a] Why does he enter into the Samādhirājasamādhi and what will he know subsequently (pṛṣṭham)?

Answer. – 1) He wishes to show that his wisdom (prajñā) is the result of causes and conditions (hetupratyayasamutpanna) and astound the six heretic teachers who claim: “Wisdom is always present in us; we always know.”[14] This is why it is said that the Buddha knows because he has entered into the Samādhirājasamādhi and, if he did not enter it, he would not know.

Question. – If that were so, the power of the Buddha would be very reduced!

Answer. – No, because he never has any trouble entering into Samādhirājasamādhi, and it takes him but a moment to do so. It is not the same for the śrāvakas, the pratyekabuddhas and the lesser bodhisattvas[15] who try in every way (upāya) to enter samādhi.

2) Moreover, when he has entered Samādhirājasamādhi, the Buddha, with his six super-knowledges (abhijñā), penetrates the ten directions without obstacle or limit.

3) Moreover, when he has entered Samādhirājasamādhi, he manifests his great miraculous power (ṛddhibala) by means of all kinds of metamorphoses (nirmāṇa). If he manifested his great miraculous power without entering into Samādhirājasamādhi, some people might think that the Buddha was using the powers of magic (māyabala) or of spells (mantrabala), or that he is a very powerful nāga, or that he is a god and not a human. Why? When a single body emits countless bodies and when all sorts of rays (raśmi) are created (nirmita), we might [easily] think that this is not the doing of a human. It is to prevent such an error that the Buddha enters into Samādhirājasamādhi.

4) Moreover, if the Buddha entered some samādhi other [than the Samādhirāja], the devas, śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas would be able to probe it: they would say that the miraculous power of the Buddha is great but nevertheless knowable, and their veneration (gurukāra) would be small. It is because the Buddha enters into Samādhirājasamādhi that no ārya nor even a tenth-bhūmi (daśabhūmi) bodhisattva is capable of sounding it out. [Actually, when the Buddha is deep in this Samādhirāja], no one knows what the support (āśraya) or what the object (ālambana) of the Buddha’s mind is. This is why the Buddha enters into the Samādhirājasamādhi.

5) Moreover, there are occasions (samaya) when the Buddha emits great rays (raśmi) and manifests his great miraculous power (ṛddhibala): when he attains bodhi, when he turns the wheel of Dharma (dharmacakra), when a great assembly of devas and āryas gathers, when he astounds the heretics (tīrthika).[16] He emits great rays on all these occasions. Indeed, it is in order to manifest his superiority (viśeṣa) that he emits great rays, so that all the beings of the ten directions, human and divine, so that all the arhats, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas might know him by sight. This is why he enters into the Samādhirājasamādhi.

6) Finally, rays (raśmi) and miraculous power (ṛddhibala) may be lesser (avara), medium (madhya) or superior (agra): i) spells (mantra) and magic (māyā) can produce luminous effects (raśminirmāṇa) that are lesser; ii) devas, nāgas and asuras, by virtue of retribution (vipaka) for their actions, have rays and miraculous power that are medium; iii) the one who has entered into samādhi by actual qualities (guṇa) and mental power (cittabala), is able to emit great rays and manifest great miraculous power that are superior. This is why the Buddha enters into the Samādhirājasamādhi.

Question. – All the samādhis have their own nature (svalakṣaṇa); how can they all be included in this [Samādhirājasamādhi]?

Answer. – 1) When one obtains the Samādhirājasamādhi, one obtains all the samādhis [by that very fact]. [112b] This is why ‘they enter into it’ (tarāntargata). By the power of the Samādhirāja, all the samādhis become immense (aprameya), incalculable (asaṃkhyeya) and inconceivable (acintya). This is why it is said that they are contained in it.

2) Furthermore, by entering into the Samādhirājasamādhi, one enters into all the other samādhis if one wishes.

3) Furthermore, when one has entered into the Samādhirājasamādhi, one can contemplate the nature of all the samādhis in the way one contemplates everything below from the top of a mountain.

4) Finally, when the Buddha is in Samādhirājasamādhi, he is able to contemplate all the universes (lokadhātu) of the ten directions and also all beings (sattva). This is why he enters into the Samādhirājasamādhi.

Footnotes and references:


The Buddha should be visualized as seated in padmāsana, ‘a position in which the legs are tightly folded with the soles of the feet turned upwards’. This lotus posture had always been utilized by the yogins of India and is still used by the sādhus (Foucher, Art Gréco-bouddhique, II, p. 325). Also, as the Buddha is in samādhi, he exhibits the meditation mudrā in which the two hands are superimposed one on the other in the lap. Buddhist sculptures often show the Buddha in this posture.

Although according to the Mppś the lion-seat should be understood in a symbolic sense as the seat of the lion-man (puruṣasiṃha), the Buddha is sometimes represented seated on a siṃhāsana, ‘a throne supported by lions’. Among other examples, see: a Buddha from Gandhāra, in A. von Le Coq, Von, Land u. Leuten in Ost-Turkestan, Leipzig, 1928, pl. 44; bodhisattva-buddha at Mathurā in Foucher, Art Gréco-bouddhique, II, p. 670, fig. 550; Vogel, Sculpture de Mathurā, pl. XXVIa. As Le Coq notes, o.c. p. 166–167, the lion-seat is still used among the Muslim Persians. For further details, see J. Auboyer, Un aspect de la souveraineté dans l’Inde d’après l’iconographie des trônes, RAA, XI, 1937, p. 88–101.


Made up of the systems of the six heretical teachers plus the fifteen schools founded by each of them. Bukkyô daijiten, p. 296a–b.


For example, in the Satipaṭṭhānasutta (Majjhima, I, p. 56): Kathañ ca bhikkhave bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī vihārati … parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā.


These postures have been condemned by the Buddha in Dīgha, I, p. 167.


The five pure skandhas are śīla, samādhi, prajñā, vimukti and vimuktijñānadarśana (Dīgha, III, p. 279; Saṃyutta, I, p. 99–100; Kośa, I, p. 48).


The Buddha attained bodhi in dependence on the fourth dhyāna: this detail is noted by all the stories of the enlightenment; see, among other sources, Majjhima, I, p. 247; Mahāvastu, II, p. 283, l. 12; Lalitavistara, p. 344, l. 3. – The P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 153, p. 780a–b; Kośa, II, p. 206, VI, p. 177, explain how the Bodhisattva comes to bodhi in one session (ekāsanataḥ) in dependence on the fourth dhyāna. This session consists of 34 mind-moments:

i) The sixteen moments of the path of seeing (darśanamārga) or understanding of the truths (abhisamaya) make of the future Buddha an anāgāmin detached from all existence except for the bhavāgra. These sixteen moments have been discussed above.

ii) The eighteen moments (nine prahāṇas or ‘abandonments’, nine vimuktis or ‘deliverances’) of the path of meditation (bhāvanamārga) or repeated study (abhyāsa) of the truths destroy the passions (kleśa) relating to bhavāgra in the future Buddha and assure him the quality of samyaksaṃbuddha.


This detail is noted in the stories of the Parinirvāṇa: Catutthajjhānaṃ samāpajji; catutthajjhānā vuṭṭhahitbā samanantarā Bhagavā parinibbāyi: Dīgha, II, p. 156; Saṃyutta, I, p. 158; Chinese translations of the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra: T 1, k. 4, p. 26c; T 6, k. 2, p. 188c; T 7, k. 2, p. 205a.


There are three stages for each of the first three dhyānas, and eight stages for the fourth dhyāna: anabhraka, puṇyaprasava, bṛhatphala and the five śuddhavāsikas – in all, seven places for rūpadhātu. This is the opinion of the Bahirdeśakas or Pāścātyas, “Westerners”, i.e., Sarvāstivādins from Gandhāra. See Kośa, III, p. 2–3 as a note, where other opinions are mentioned.


The relationships between the dhyānas on the one hand and the vimokṣas and abhibhvāyatanas on the other hand are very complicated: see Kośa, VIII, p. 204 seq.


See Majjhima, I, p. 454; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 50, p. 743b; Kośa, IV, p. 107; VII, p. 161; Kośavyākhyā, p. 677: prathamaṃ dhyānaṃ vitarkavicārābhyāṃ kaṃpyate, dvitīyaṃ prītyā, tṛtīyaṃ sukhena; naivaṃ ebhiś caturthaṃ kaṃpyate.


Kośa, III, p. 215


In kāmadhātu and the first three dhyānas, there is inbreath and outbreath (ānāpāna) (Kośa, VI, p. 153), but in the fourth dhyāna, these two breaths along with the other six apakṣāla are eliminated (Kośa, VIII, p. 161).


Upekṣāpariśuddhi is one of the four members of the fourth dhyāna (Kośa, VIII, p. 148).


See, for example, the pretentions to omniscience of Pūraṇa Kassapa, in Aṅguttara, IV, p. 428: Pūraṇo Kassapo sabbaññū sabbadassāvī … ñāṇadassanaṃ paccupaṭṭitan ti. – We have already seen the conceited attitude of Saccaka Nigaṇthīputta.


I.e., the bodhisattvas before their entry into the bhūmis.


The Lalitavistara never fails to mention the lights rays emitted by the Bodhisattva-Buddha on the great occasions: when he leaves Tuṣita heaven (p. 51), when he is born (p. 80), when he goes to the bodhimaṇḍa (p. 278–279), when he gets ready to teach the Dharma at Benares (p. 420). – Corresponding passages in Foucaux’ translation, p. 51, 80, 240, 341. – The Pāli scriptures are much more restrained on this subject.

As for the blazing of the Buddha “When a great assembly of devas or aryas gathers and when he astounds the heretics”, it is represented frequently on the bas-reliefs, even when the texts find it unnecessary to mention it: see Foucher, Art Gréco-bouddhique, I, fig. 246 (Indra’s visit); fig. 261 (dispute with the naked heretics).