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The Samādhirāja-sūtra (T. ting nge 'dzin gyi rgyal po'i mdo ཏིང་ངེ་འཛིན་གྱི་རྒྱལ་པོའི་མདོ་; C. yuedeng san-mei jing 月燈三昧經), or King of Samādhis Sūtra, is one of the earlier Mahāyāna sūtras to appear in India. It presents teachings on emptiness, bodhisattva conduct, and mendicancy, as well as tales of previous lifetimes and prophecies for the future. Its teaching on emptiness is much quoted by Madhyamaka masters such as Candrakīrti and Śāntideva, as well as in later Buddhist literature.[1]

Peter Alan Roberts states:

The samādhi of the title does not simply refer to meditation, but is used to designate both the sūtra itself and an entire range of Buddhist practices for conduct, meditation, motivation, and realization. The sūtra enumerates over three hundred of the samādhi’s qualities. One of the samādhi’s main descriptive epithets is given in the long form of the title itself as “the revealed equality of the nature of all phenomena.”
However, far from being a systematic textbook on the features of any one practice or doctrine, the sūtra has a complex, convoluted structure and includes long narrative passages. These not only relate the Buddha’s interactions with Candraprabha, the main interlocutor, but also tell lengthy stories in mixed prose and verse from the Buddha’s past lives—in his own words— exemplifying the points he teaches. Interspersed in these narratives, often in the form of verse teachings given by past tathāgatas, are some of the profound statements on the nature of phenomena, and on the essential points of the path, for which the sūtra is justly celebrated.[1]

This text is one of a group of samādhi sūtras within the Mahayana tradition.

Title variants

Commonly known as the King of Samadhi Sutra (Samādhirājasūtra, Tib. ting nge 'dzin gyi rgyal po'i mdo), it is also known as the Moon Lamp Sutra (Skt. Candrapradīpa Sutra, Tib. zla ba sgron me’i mdo).[2][3]

The full Tibetan title in the Kanjur is 'Phags-pa chos thams-cad kyi rang-bzhin mnyam-pa-nyid rnam-par spros-pa ting-nge-'dzin gyi rgyal-po zhes byaba theg-pa chen-po'i mdo. This corresponds to Sarva-dharmasvabhavā-samatā-vipancita-samādhirāja-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra, which is the Sanskrit title given in the sutra itself. The Chinese have preferred Yueh-teng san-mei ching, corresponding to *Candrapradīpa-samādhisūtra.[4]


Peter Alan Roberts states:

This sūtra, much quoted in later Buddhist writings for its profound statements especially on the nature of emptiness, relates a long teaching given by the Buddha mainly in response to questions put by a young layman, Candraprabha. The samādhi that is the subject of the sūtra, in spite of its name, primarily consists of various aspects of conduct, motivation, and the understanding of emptiness; it is also a way of referring to the sūtra itself. The teaching given in the sūtra is the instruction to be dedicated to the possession and promulgation of the samādhi, and to the necessary conduct of a bodhisattva, which is exemplified by a number of accounts from the Buddha’s previous lives. Most of the teaching takes place on Vulture Peak Mountain, with an interlude recounting the Buddha’s invitation and visit to Candraprabha’s home in Rājagṛha, where he continues to teach Candraprabha before returning to Vulture Peak Mountain. In one subsequent chapter the Buddha responds to a request by Ānanda, and the text concludes with a commitment by Ānanda to maintain this teaching in the future.[5]

Historical significance

Gomez and Silk (1989) state:

Although it is questionable how much the sutra itself was read in Tibet, it is often cited in Tibetan philosophical literature, probably mostly on the basis of quotations found in Indian texts. The sutra seems to have had a less glorious history in the Far East, where it was translated several times but was seldom quoted. It is not part of any of the sutra collections within the Tibetan and Chinese Canons, though it is found as an independent text in both. In Nepal the Samādhirāja Sūtra was counted as one of the 'Nine Dharmas,' a set of texts so highly revered that its manuscripts were used as objects of worship.[6]

Translations and recensions

Chinese translations

There are three Chinese translations of this text.

Peter Alan Roberts states:

The entire sūtra was translated into Chinese by Narendrayaśas in 557. Narendrayaśas (517–589) was a much-traveled Indian monk from Orissa who arrived in China in 556. This Chinese version is widely known under an alternative title, Candrapradīpasamādhisūtra (The Sūtra of the Samādhi of the Lamp of the Moon, Taishō 639); this title is closely related to the alternative title used in some Indian commentaries... Narendrayaśas’s translation is divided into ten chapters, in contrast to the forty of the Tibetan. There are fragments of three Sanskrit manuscripts from central Asia, dated to the fifth or sixth centuries, that correspond to this version, but no complete manuscript has survived.[1]

According to Konstanty Regamey, two other Chinese translations include an alternate version of the equivalent of the sixth fascicle by Xiangong (逮慧三昧經, The Attainment of Wisdom Samādhi Sūtra) and an alternative translation of the equivalent of the seventh fascicle by Xiangong (文殊師利菩薩十事行經, The Ten Practices of Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva Sūtra).[7]

Tibetan translation

The Tibetan translation is listed as Toh 127 of Degé Kangyur.

Peter Alan Roberts states:

The ninth century Tibetan translation of the sūtra in the Kangyur was made from a Sanskrit version no longer extant, but longer than the one translated into Chinese. The Tibetan was translated during the reign of King Ralpachen (815–838) by Śīlendrabodhi and Chönyi Tsultrim (who used the Sanskrit version of his name, Dharmatāśīla).[1]

Sanskrit texts

Peter Alan Roberts states:

The earliest complete Indian manuscript to have survived is the one discovered in 1938 in the ruins of a library near Gilgit. It is dated, from the calligraphy of its Gupta script, to the sixth century. It has some additional verses that do not appear in the Chinese version, but is significantly shorter than the Tibetan translation, with fewer verses and prose passages. Much closer to the Tibetan is a group of twelve later Sanskrit manuscripts found in Nepal, including the one referred to here as the Hodgson manuscript; another group of Nepalese manuscripts contain additional material usually not found in the Tibetan, and includes the one referred to here as the Shastri manuscript.[1]

A Devanagari version of the Gilgit manuscript, along with English summary of chapters, is available online:

English translations

The following English language translations are available:

  • 84000.png Peter Alan Roberts (2022), The King of Samādhis Sūtra , 84000 Reading Room
  • The first four chapters have been translated by Luis O. Gomez and Jonathan A. Silk.[8]
  • The fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth chapters were translated by John Rockwell in an MA thesis at Naropa Institute.[9]
  • The eleventh chapter was translated by Mark Tatz in his MA thesis at the University of Washington (1972).
  • The eight, nineteenth and twenty-second chapters were translated by Konstanty Regamey.[10]
  • Thrangu Rinpoche has published an extensive commentary on this sutra.[11]


Peter Alan Roberts states:

The sūtra is quoted in a number of Indian treatises as well as many Tibetan works. Indian authors such as Candrakīrti and Śāntideva referred to it by the title Candrapradīpasūtra (zla ba sgron ma’i mdo); other authors used the title Samādhirāja.
The earliest known quotations from the sūtra were made by Candrakīrti in the seventh century; he quoted from it twenty times in his Prasannapadā (Clear Words), and also in his Madhyamakāvatāra (Entering the Middle Way). He also quoted verses that appear only in the longer version of the sūtra, and not in the manuscript that was translated into Tibetan in the early ninth century. It would therefore seem that variants of the sūtra already coexisted in India in the seventh century.
Candrakīrti is followed by Śāntideva in the late seventh to early eighth century, who quotes it twenty times in his Śikṣāsamuccaya (Compendium of Training).
The sūtra, particularly its verses on emptiness, is quoted by other prominent Indian authors such as Prajñākaramati in his Bodhisattva- caryāvatārapañjikā (Commentary on Difficult Points in “Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas”), which is a commentary on Śāntideva’s Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra (Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas) and Kamalaśīla’s Bhāvanākrama (Stages of Meditation).[1]

Selected quotes

The Samādhirāja Sūtra states:

Those who, while walking, sitting, standing, or sleeping, recollect the moon-like Buddha,
will always be in Buddha’s presence and will attain the vast nirvāṇa.[12]


His pure body is the color of gold, beautiful is the Protector of the World.
Whoever visualizes him like this practises the meditation of the bodhisattvas.[12]


By seeing, hearing or offering to the buddhas, a boundless store of merit is amassed.
Until we are rid of all the destructive emotions and the suffering of saṃsāra, this compounded merit will never go to waste.[12]


The essence of the sugatas pervades all beings.
I generate bodhicitta—thorough, expansive, and supreme.
For all beings possess the cause of buddhahood;
Not a single one is unsuitable as a vessel.[13]


Existence and non-existence are extremes,
Purity and impurity are extremes as well,
Thus, having relinquished both extremes,
The wise do not dwell even in the middle.[14]


A magician causes forms to appear,
Creating horses, elephants, chariots, and so on.
But though they appear they do not exist at all.
Know that all phenomena are like that.

In a young woman’s dream
She gives birth to a son and then sees him die.
She is happy when he’s born and sad when he dies.
Know that all phenomena are like that.

In the night the reflection of the moon
Appears on clear, undisturbed water,
But it is empty of a moon and there is nothing to grasp.
Know that all phenomena are like that.[15]

And (as quoted in The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism):

In thousands of world systems
The sūtras which I have explained
Differ in words and syllables but have the same meaning.
It is impossible to express them all,
But if one meditates deeply on a single word,
One comes to meditate on them all.
All the buddhas, as many as there are,
Have abundantly explained phenomena.
But if those skilled in meaning
Were to study only the phrase:
All things are emptiness
The doctrine of the Buddha would not be scarce.[16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 84000.png Roberts, Peter Alan (2022), The King of Samādhis Sūtra , 84000 Reading Room, Introduction
  2. Robert E. Buswell Jr., Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton: 2014), s.v. Samādhirājasūtra
  3. LotsawaHouse-tag.png Kongshak Dorje Töllu, fn1, Lotsawa House
  4. Luis O. Gomez and Jonathan A. Silk, Studies in the Literature of the Great Vehicle: Three Mahayana Buddhist Texts. Ann Arbor 1989 pgs 15
  5. 84000.png Roberts, Peter Alan (2022), The King of Samādhis Sūtra , 84000 Reading Room, Summary
  6. Luis O. Gomez and Jonathan A. Silk, Studies in the Literature of the Great Vehicle: Three Mahayana Buddhist Texts. Ann Arbor 1989 pg 11
  7. Regamey, Konstanty (1990). Philosophy in the Samādhirājasūtra. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas. pp. 7–26. 
  8. Luis O. Gomez and Jonathan A. Silk, Studies in the Literature of the Great Vehicle: Three Mahayana Buddhist Texts. Ann Arbor 1989 pgs 11-88
  9. "Samadhi And Patient Acceptance Four Chapters of the Samadhiraja-Sutra" Translated From The Sanskrit And Tibetan by John Rockwell, Jr.
  10. Philosophy of the Samādhirājasūtra by Konstanty Regamey, Motilal Banarsidass, 1990
  11. King of Samadhi. Boudhanath, Nepal: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1994
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Translation from Dharmachakra Translation Committee, A Treasury of Blessings
  13. LotsawaHouse-tag.png Kongshak Dorje Töllu, Lotsawa House
  14. LotsawaHouse-tag.png Commentary on the Madhyamakāvatāra—Part 2, Title and Translators Homage, Lotsawa House
  15. 84000.png Roberts, Peter Alan (2022), The King of Samādhis Sūtra , 84000 Reading Room, Chapter 9, verses 24-26
  16. Dorje, Jikdrel Yeshe (Dudjom Rinpoche, author), & translated and edited: Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (1991). The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History. Boston, USA: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-199-8, p.318.

Further reading

  • Bennett, A.A.G. (1968). "Excerpts from the Samadhiraja-Sutra", The Maha Bodhi 77, Calcutta 1958, 295-298
  • Cüppers, Christopher (1990). The IXth Chapter of the Samadhirajasutra. Stuttgart
  • Gomez, L.O. and J.A. Silk, eds (1989). "The Sutra of the King of Samādhis, Chapters I-IV." Studies in the Literature of the Great Vehicle, University of Michigan
  • Hartmann, Jens-Uwe (1996). "A note on a newly-identified palm-leaf manuscript of the Samadhirajasutra", Indo-Iranian Journal 39, 105-109
  • Rockwell Jr., John (1980). Samadhi and Patient Acceptance: Four Chapters of the Samadhiraja-sutra. translated from the Sanskrit and Tibetan. M.A.Thesis, The Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado
  • Skilton, Andrew T. (1999). "Dating the Samadhiraja Sutra." Journal of Indian Philosophy 27, 635-652
  • Skilton, Andrew T. (2000). "The Gilgit Manuscript of the Samadhiraja Sutra." Central Asiatic Journal 44, 67-86
  • Skilton, Andrew T. (1999). '"Four Recensions of the Samadhiraja Sutra." Indo-Iranian Journal 42, 335-336
  • Skilton, Andrew T. (?). "Samadhirajasutra", MonSC 2, 97-178
  • Skilton, Andrew T. (2002). "State or statement? Samadhi in some early Mahayana Sutras", The Eastern Buddhist 34.2, 51-93
  • Tatz, Mark (1972). Revelation in Madhyamika Buddhism. M.A.Thesis, University of Washington.
  • Thrangu Rinpoche (2004). King of Samadhi: Commentaries on the Samadhi Raja Sutra and the Song of Lodrö Thaye. North Atlantic Books: ISBN 962-7341-19-3

External links

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