Eight great bodhisattvas

From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The eight great bodhisattvas (Skt. aṣṭamahābodhisattva), also known as the eight great close sons (Skt. aṣṭamahopaputra; T. nye ba'i sras chen brgyad; C. ba da pusa) or eight close sons (Skt. aṣṭa utaputra; T. nye ba'i sras brgyad ཉེ་བའི་སྲས་བརྒྱད་), are eight bodhisattvas that are depicted as a retinue of Buddha Shakyamuni within the Sanskrit Mahayana tradition. This group of bodhisattvas are identified in numerous sutras and tantras, such as the Avatamsaka Sutra and the Lotus Sutra.[1] Stories about the activities and magical displays of these bodhisattvas (within the sutras) are meant to inspire readers and demonstrate the inconceivable nature of the Mahayana path.[1]

The eight bodhisattvas are:

Each bodhisattva fulfills a particular role to help beings. In the Vajrayana tradition, the eight bodhisattvas represent the pure state of the eight consciousnesses.[2]

Qualities of the eight bodhisattvas

Although the eight bodhisattvas or ‘close sons of the Buddha’ all possess the same qualities and powers, each one displays perfection in a particular area or activity.

  • Manjushri embodies wisdom;
  • Avalokiteshvara embodies compassion;
  • Vajrapani represents power;
  • Kshitigarbha increases the richness and fertility of the land;
  • Sarvanivaranavishkambhin purifies wrong-doing and obstructions;
  • Maitreya embodies love;
  • Samantabhadra displays special expertise in making offerings and prayers of aspiration; and
  • Akashagarbha has the perfect ability to purify transgressions.

Khenpo Chöga says:

Among the immeasurable qualities of the Buddha, eight of his foremost qualities manifest as the eight bodhisattvas:
1) the personification of the Buddha’s wisdom (Tib. ཡེ་ཤེས་ཀྱི་རང་གཟུགས་, Wyl. ye shes kyi rang gzugs) is Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī;
2) the personification of the Buddha’s compassion (Tib. སྙིང་རྗེའི་རང་གཟུགས་, Wyl. snying rje’i rang gzugs) appears as Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara;
3) the personification of the Buddha’s power or capacity (Tib. ནུས་པའི་རང་གཟུགས་, Wyl. nus pa’i rang gzugs) is Bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi;
4) the personification of the Buddha’s activity (Tib. ཕྲིན་ལས་, Wyl. phrin las) is Bodhisattva Maitreya;
5) the personification of the Buddha’s merit (Tib. བསོད་ནམས་རང་གཟུགས་, Wyl. bsod nams rang gzugs) arises as Bodhisattva Kṣitigarbha;
6) the personification of the Buddha’s qualities (Tib. ཡོན་ཏན་གྱི་རང་གཟུགས་, Wyl. yon tan gyi rang gzugs) appears as Bodhisattva Sarvanīvaraṇaviṣkambhī;
7) the personification of the Buddha’s blessings (Tib. བྱིན་རླབས་ཀྱི་རང་གཟུགས་, Wyl. byin rlabs kyi rang gzugs) arises as Bodhisattva Ākāśagarbha; and
8) the personification of the Buddha’s aspirations (Tib. སྨོན་ལམ་གྱི་རང་གཟུགས་, Wyl. smon lam gyi rang gzugs) is manifest as Bodhisattva Samantabhadra.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mipham, A Garland of Jewels, "Introduction"
  2. RW icon height 18px.png Eight great bodhisattvas
  3. In Drops of Nectar: Khenpo Kunpal's Commentary on Shantideva's Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas, www.kunpal.org, vol. 1 p.282

Further reading

In Tibetan

  • Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé, nye ba'i sras brgyad kyi rnam thar la bsngags pa bstod chen rgya mtsho rnam bshad
  • Mipham Rinpoche, Tib. བྱང་སེམས་ཉེ་སྲས་བརྒྱད་ཀྱི་རྟོགས་བརྗོད་ནོར་བུའི་ཕྲེང་བ།, Wyl. byang chub sems dpa' chen po nye ba'i sras brgyad kyi rtogs brjod nor bu'i phreng ba (Translated by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso. See below)
  • Mipham Rinpoche, nye sras brgyad kyi sgrub pa rin chen gter bum

In English

External links

This article includes content from Eight great bodhisattvas on Rigpawiki (view authors). Licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0 RW icon height 18px.png