The King of Samādhis Sūtra
Degé Kangyur, vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 1.b–170.b
Translated by Peter Alan Roberts
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2018
Current version v 1.45.25 (2022)
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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.
Translated from the Tibetan, with reference to Sanskrit editions, by Peter Alan Roberts. The Chinese consultant was Ling-Lung Chen. Edited by Emily Bower and Ben Gleason.
This translation has been completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous donation of an anonymous donor, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
Then the Bhagavān said to the youth Candraprabha, “Young man, bodhisattva mahāsattvas who wish for this samādhi, and wish to attain quickly the highest, complete enlightenment of perfect buddhahood, should plant roots of merit and apply themselves to practicing generosity through the Dharma or generosity through material things.
“Those bodhisattva mahāsattvas should dedicate that generosity through four prayers of dedication.
“What are the four dedication prayers? The first dedication prayer is: ‘I plant1179 the roots of merit of this generosity so that I may attain skills in methods, those skills in methods by which the buddha bhagavāns attained the highest, complete enlightenment of buddhahood.’
“The second dedication prayer is: ‘I plant the roots of merit of this generosity so that I may listen to those skills in methods from kalyāṇamitras, remember them, understand them, possess them, and recite them, and so that I will always be in the company of those kalyāṇamitras who will attain the highest, complete enlightenment of buddhahood.’
“The third dedication prayer is: ‘I plant the roots of merit of this generosity so that all may obtain the requisites that sustain life in the world, and so that these requisites may come together for me.’1180
“The fourth dedication prayer is: ‘I plant the roots of merit of this generosity so that I may attain an existence in which I take care of beings, taking care of them in two ways: taking care of them through the Dharma and taking care of them through material things.’
“Young man, the bodhisattva mahāsattvas dedicate those roots of merit through those four prayers of dedication. [F.121.a]
“Moreover, young man, bodhisattva mahāsattvas who yearn for this samādhi, and wish to attain quickly the highest, complete enlightenment of perfect buddhahood, whether they are homeless renunciants or householders, should sincerely1181 serve, provide for,1182 and attend upon a bodhisattva mahāsattva who has correct conduct, good qualities, and wisdom.1183 If that bodhisattva mahāsattva bhikṣu who possesses this samādhi were to become ill, afflicted by a powerful illness, then they should eagerly cure him of the illness with their own flesh and blood. Young man, the bodhisattva mahāsattvas who with the perfect higher motivation yearn for this samādhi and wish to attain quickly the highest, complete enlightenment of perfect buddhahood should fearlessly and confidently1184 give even their own flesh and blood so that the dharmabhāṇaka bhikṣu will be healed from his illness.
“Young man, this is how that teaching is to be understood.
“Young man, in a past countless eon—numerous, incalculable, countless eons ago—at that time and in those days, there was a tathāgata, an arhat, a perfectly enlightened buddha perfect in wisdom and conduct, a sugata, a knower of the world, an unsurpassable guide who tamed beings, a teacher of devas and humans, the Bhagavān Buddha Acintyapraṇidhānaviśeṣasamudgatarāja who had appeared in the world.
“Young man, before the end of the day on which he attained the highest, complete enlightenment of perfect buddhahood, he manifested incalculable, innumerable buddha emanations and guided countless beings, establishing them in the arhathood in which all outflows have ceased, [F.121.b] and he established countless beings in irreversible progress toward the highest, complete enlightenment. And then, before that day had ended, he passed into nirvāṇa.
“The Dharma of that Bhagavān who had passed into nirvāṇa remained for a hundred thousand quintillion years.
“Young man, in the last five hundred years before the Dharma of Bhagavān Acintyapraṇidhānaviśeṣasamudgatarāja finally came to an end, there were many bhikṣus who held the view of objective existence. They had no yearning, no aspiration for a sūtra like this and opposed it and attacked it. They harmed and even killed the bhikṣus who possessed this sūtra. They had attachment to gain and honor and therefore they killed thousands of bhikṣus who possessed a sūtra like this.
“Young man, at that time and in those days, King Jñānabala ruled over Jambudvīpa. He possessed the Dharma and had appeared because of his perfect prayers in previous lifetimes.
“Young man, at that time and in those days, in this Jambudvīpa there was a bhikṣu named Bhūtamati who possessed this sūtra. That dharmabhāṇaka went to the king’s palace and became a kalyāṇamitra who was altruistic, was compassionate, and wished to benefit others. The king never tired of gazing upon him and always longed to see him. He came to him for teaching and for discussions on the Dharma. He honored him, asked him questions, obtained answers, and was able to understand what was spoken.
“That dharmabhāṇaka bhikṣu was wise in the behavior,1185 conduct, aspirations, natures, and propensities of beings. He knew the extent of the powers, strengths, and diligence of beings. He was wise in natures and propensities.1186 He was wise in implying the truth. He was also wise in giving answers without implied meaning. He had profound eloquence and was wise in the ways of guiding all beings. He spoke sincerely.1187 His face was free of frowns. [F.122.a] He remained in a state of greatness of mind. He was dedicated to great compassion. He could not be defeated by any opponent.
“Young man, at that time and in those days, King Jñānabala’s daughter was sixteen years old and she was beautiful, attractive, and charming. She had a lovely complexion, and was magnificent. Her name was Jñānāvatī. The bhikṣu Bhūtamati was her ācārya. He taught her the virtuous qualities, extolled them, delighted in them, and made her develop them.
“Young man, at that time and in those days, the dharmabhāṇaka bhikṣu developed widespread, black erysipelas on both his thighs, which did not respond to treatment and had no known cure, so that the physicians gave up trying to heal him. King Jñānabala with his harem, sons, daughters, and attendants, on learning that the bhikṣu was ill, wept and shed tears.
“Eighty thousand women, the inhabitants of the cities and towns, the people of the kingdom, the people of the market towns and the regions, the astrologers, ministers, and prime ministers, and the doorkeepers and attendants, hearing that the bhikṣu was ill, wept and shed tears and cried, ‘May this bhikṣu not die!’
“Young man, at that time and in those days, the goddess of King Jñānabala’s family since ancient times, who was always by his side, instructed the king in a dream, saying, ‘Great king, if fresh, unspoiled human blood1188 is applied to this bhikṣu’s erysipelas, and if fresh, untarnished human flesh is prepared with various flavors and given to him to eat, then this bhikṣu will be cured of his illness.’
When that night had passed and King Jñānabala awoke from his sleep he entered his harem and he described the dream to his harem, saying, ‘This is the kind of dream that I have had.’ [F.122.b]
“Young man, none of the women in the harem, the king’s wives, had the fortitude to provide that remedy for the bhikṣu.
“Princess Jñānāvatī also dreamed that kind of dream. When she awoke, she went into the harem and described the dream to her circle of mothers, but none of the women had the fortitude to provide that remedy for the bhikṣu.
“Then Princess Jñānāvatī became happy, delighted, thrilled, joyful, pleased, and glad, and made this resolution: ‘In that case I shall cut from myself the remedy, and as instructed will give him the fresh blood and fresh flesh. I am the youngest and least within the royal household, and my body, speech, and mind are untarnished. I seek untarnished wisdom, and therefore I shall offer my flesh and blood to the untarnished dharmabhāṇaka, so that I may heal this bhikṣu of his illness!’
“Then Princess Jñānāvatī returned to her own dwelling and, taking up a sharp knife and with her mind focused on the Dharma, she cut flesh from her own thigh. She prepared it, adding various excellent flavors. Bringing the blood, too, she went to her ācārya1189 and, seated before King Jñānabala, she applied the blood onto the black erysipelas and nourished the bhikṣu with the well-prepared meal.
“Then the bhikṣu, not knowing, unaware, and unsuspecting, ate that food. As soon as he had eaten it, the bhikṣu’s illness completely vanished and he was entirely cured of his illness. Freed from pain and happy, he taught the Dharma so that twelve hundred beings from among the harem and the assembled people from the land, towns, and countryside developed the aspiration to highest, complete enlightenment.
At this point, the Bhagavān said to the youth Candraprabha, “Therefore, young man, when the princess had heard this Dharma of the bodhisattva, which is marvelous, wonderful, and very difficult to practice, in order to serve the sick dharmabhāṇaka for whom there was no medicine, she used her own flesh and blood to heal him. Even the gift of just one finger will be a service to the stūpa of the Dharma for beings.”
Thereupon the Bhagavān gave a detailed teaching on that account of the past by chanting the following extensive verses to the youth Candraprabha:1192
The Indian preceptor Śrīlendrabodhi, and the chief editor Lotsawa Bandé Dharmatāśīla, translated and revised this work. It was later modified and finalized in terms of the new translation.
|BHS||Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.|
|Chinese||Sixth century Chinese translation by Narendrayaśas (see introduction, i.7).|
|Commentary||Mañjuśrīkīrti (see bibliography).|
|Gilgit||Sixth to seventh century Sanskrit manuscript (see introduction i.9 and bibliography under Dutt).|
|Hodgson||Later Nepalese Sanskrit manuscript (see introduction i.9 and bibliography under Dutt).|
|Matsunami||Matsunami’s Sanskrit edition (see bibliography).|
|Shastri||Later Nepalese Sanskrit manuscript (see introduction i.9 and bibliography under Dutt).|
|Vaidya||Vaidya’s Sanskrit edition (see bibliography).|
Tibetan Editions of the Samādhirājasūtra
chos thams cad kyi rang bzhin mnyam pa nyid rnam spros pa ting nge ’dzin gyi rgyal po’i mdo (Sarvadharmasvabhāvasamatāvipañcitasamādhirājasūtra). Toh 127, Degé Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 1.a–175.b.
———. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 108 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2006–2009, vol. 55, pp. 3–411.
———. Lhasa Kangyur (lha sa bka’ ’gyur) vol. 55 (mdo sde, ta), folios 1.b–269.b.
———. Narthang Kangyur (snar thang bka’ ’gyur) vol. 55 (mdo sde, ta), folios 1.b–273.b.
———. Shelkar Drima Kangyur (shel mkhar bris ma bka’ ’gyur) vol. 54 (mdo sde, ja), folios 157.a–436.a.
———. Stok Palace Kangyur (stog pho brang bris ma bka’ ’gyur) vol. 58 (mdo sde, ja), folios 145.a–405.a.
———. Urga Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), 1.b–170.a.
Sanskrit Editions of the Samādhirājasūtra
Dutt, Nalinaksha. Gilgit Manuscripts Vol. II, part I. Calcutta: J. C. Sarkhel, 1941. [This Sanskrit edition in three volumes is based on the Gilgit manuscript but also includes and represents the two Nepalese manuscripts of Hodgson and Shastri, see Introduction i.9 and n.4.
———. Gilgit Manuscripts Vol. II, part II. Calcutta: J. C. Sarkhel, 1953.
———. Gilgit Manuscripts Vol. II, part III. Calcutta: J. C. Sarkhel, 1954.
Matsunami, Seiren (ed.). “Bonbun Gattō Zanma kyō.”.in TDKK [Memoirs of Taisho University, Department of Buddhism and Literature] vol. 60 (1975), pp. 188–244.
———. “Bonbun Gattō Zanma kyō.” in TDKK [Memoirs of Taisho University, Department of Buddhism and Literature] vol. 61 (1975), 761–796.
Vaidya, P. L., ed. Samādhirājsūtra. Darbhanga, India: The Mithila Institute of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Sanskrit Learning, 1961.
Other canonical references
da ltar gyi sangs rgyas mngon sum du bzhugs pa’i ting nge ’dzin gyi mdo (Pratyutpanna-buddha-samukhāsthita-samādhi-sūtra) [The Sūtra, The Samādhi of Being in the Presence of the Buddhas of the Present]. Toh 133, Degé Kangyur vol. 56 (mdo sde, na), folios 1.a–70.b.
dam pa’i chos pad ma dkar po’i mdo (Saddharmapuṇḍarīka-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the White Lotus of the Good Dharma]. Toh 113, Degé Kangyur vol. 67 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1.a–180.b. English translation in Roberts 2018.
de bzhin gshegs pa’i ye shes kyi phyag rgya’i ting nge ’dzin gyi mdo (Tathāgata-jñāna-mudrā-samādhi-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the Samādhi of the Seal of the Wisdom of the Tathāgatas]. Toh 131, Degé Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 230.b–253.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2020b.
dge ba’i rtsa ba yongs su ’dzin pa’i mdo (Kuśala-mūla-saparigraha-sūtra) [The Sūtra of Possessing the Roots of Goodness]. Toh 101, Degé Kangyur vol. 48 (mdo sde, nga), folios 1.a–227.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2020c.
de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi sku gsung thugs kyi gsang chen gsang ba ’dus pa zhe bya ba brtag pa’i rgyal po chen po (Sarva-tathāgata-kāyavākcitta-rahasyo guhyasamāja-nāma-mahā-kalparāja) [The Great King Entitled the Union of the Great Secrets: the Secret of the Body, Speech, and Mind of all the Tathāgatas]. Also known as the Tathāgataguhyaka Sūtra [The Sūtra of the Secret of the Tathāgatas] and the Guhysamaja-tantra. Toh 442, Degé Kangyur vol. 81 (rgyud, ca), folios 90.a–157.b.
gser ’od dam pa mdo sde’i dbang po’i rgyal po’i mdo (Suvarṇa-prabhāsottama-sūtrendrarāja-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the King Who Is the Lord of Sūtras: The Supreme Golden Light]. Toh 556, Degé Kangyur vol. 89 (rgyud, pa), folios 151.b–273.a.
lang kar gshegs pa’i mdo (Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra) [Entry into Laṅka Sūtra]. Toh 107, Degé Kangyur vol. 49 (mdo sde, ca), folios 56.a–191.b.
sangs rgyas rjes su dran pa (Buddhānusmṛti) [Being Mindful of the Buddha]. Toh 279, Degé Kangyur vol. 68 (mdo sde, ya), folios 55.a-55.b.
rab tu zhi ba rnam par nges pa’i cho ’phrul gyi ting nge ’dzin gyi mdo (Praśanta-viniścaya-prāthihārya-samādhi-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the Absorption of the Miraculous Ascertainment of Peace]. Toh 129, Degé Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 174.b–210.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2020.
rgya cher rol pa’i mdo (Lalitavistara-sūtra) [The Play in Full]. Toh 95, Degé Kangyur vol. 46 (mdo sde, kha), folios 1.b–216.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2013.
sa bcu pa’i mdo (Daśabhūmika-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the Ten Bhūmis]. Chapter 31 of the Avataṃsaka, Toh 44. Degé Kangyur vol. 36 (phal chen, kha), folios 166.a–283.a. English translation in Roberts 2021b.
sdong po bkod pa (Gaṇḍavyūha) [The Stem Array]. Chapter 45 of the Avataṃsaka, Toh 44-45. Degé Kangyur vols. 37 and 38 (phal chen, ga-a), folios ga 274.b–363.a. English Translation in Roberts 2021a.
shes rab pha rol tu phyin pa brgyad stong pa (Aṣṭa-sāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra) [The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines]. Toh 12, Degé Kangyur vol. 33 (brgyad stong pa, ka), folios 1.b–286.a.
’od dpag med kyi bkod pa’i mdo (Amitābhavyūhasūtra) [The Array of Amitābha]. Also known as The Longer Sukhāvatīsūtra. Toh 49, Degé Kangyur vol. 39 (dkon brtsegs, ka), folios 237.b-270.a.
’od zer kun du bkye pa’i bstan pa’i mdo (Raśmisamantamuktanirdeśasūtra) [The Teaching on the Effulgence of Light]. Toh 55, Degé Kangur vol. 40 (dkon brtsegs, kha), folios 195.a–255.b.
tshong dpon bzang skyong gyis zhus pa’i mdo (Bhadrapāla-śreṣṭhi-paripṛccha-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the Questions of Bhadrapāla the Merchant]. Toh 83, Degé Kangyur vol. 44 (dkon brtsegs, cha), folios 71.a–94.b.
yang dag par spyod pa’i tshul nam mkha’i mdog gis ’dul ba’i bzod pa’i mdo (Saṃyagacārya-vṛtta-gagana-varṇa-vinaya-kṣānti-sūtra) [The Sūtra on Patience with the Discipline Through Practicing in a Way that is Like The Colour of the Sky]. Toh 263, Degé Kangyur vol. 67 (mdo sde ’a), folios 90.a–209.b.
Candrakīrti. dbu ma la ’jug pa (Madhyamakāvatāra) [Entering the Middle Way]. Toh 3861, Degé Tengyur vol. 102 (dbu ma ’a), folios 201.b–219.a.
———. dbu ma rtsa ba’i ’grel pa tshig gsal ba (Mūlamadhyamakavṛttiprasannapadā) [Clear Words: A Commentary on the Root Middle Way]. Toh 3860, Degé Tengyur vol. 102 (dbu ma, ’a), folios 1.a–200.a.
Dārika. ’khor lo sdom pa’i dkyil ’khor gyi cho ga de kho na nyid la ’jug pa (Cakrasaṁvaramaṇḍalavidhitattvāvatāra) [Entering the Truth: A Maṇḍala Rite of Cakrasamvara]. Toh 1430, Degé Tengyur vol. 20 (rgyud ’grel, wa), folios 203.b–219.b.
Kamalaśīla. sgom pa’i rim pa (Bhāvanākrama) [Stages of Meditation]. Toh 3915, 3916, and 3917, Degé Tengyur vol. 110 (dbu ma, ki), folios 22.a–41.b, 41.a–55.b, and 55.b–68.b.
Mañjuśrīkīrti. ’phags pa chos thams cad kyi rang bzhin mnyam pa nyid rnam spros pa ting nge ’dzin gyi rgyal po zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo’i ’grel pa grags pa’i phreng ba zhes bya ba (Ārya-sarva-dharma-svabhāva-samatā-vipañcita-samādhi-rāja-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra-ṭika-kīrti-mālā-nāma) [The Garland of Fame: A Commentary on The Mahāyāna Sūtra Entitled The King of Samādhis: The Revealed Equality of the Nature of All Phenomena]. Toh 4010, Degé Tengyur vol. 117 (mdo ’grel, nyi), folios 1.b–163.b.
———. Idem, in bstan ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Tengyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 120 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 1994–2008, vol. 117 (mdo ’grel, nyi), 752–1181.
Prajñākaramati. byang chub kyi spyod pa la ’jug pa’i dka’ ’grel (Bodhisattvacaryāvatārapañjikā) [Commentary on Difficult Points in Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas]. Toh 3872, Degé Tengyur vol. 105 (dbu ma, la), folios 41.b–288.a.
Śāntideva. byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ’jug pa (Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra) [Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas]. Toh 3871, Degé Tengyur vol. 105 (dbu ma, la), folios 1.a–40.a.
———. bslab pa kun las btus pa (Śikṣasamuccaya) [Compendium of Training]. Toh 3939, Degé Tengyur vol. 111 (dbu ma, khi), folios 3.a–194.b.
Non-Canonical Tibetan Sources
Gampopa (sgam po pa bsod nams rin chen). dam chos yid bzhin nor bu thar pa rin po che’i rgyan. Kathmandu: Gam-po-pa Library, 2003.
Pekar Sangpo (pad dkar bzang po). bstan pa spyi’i rgyas byed las mdo sde spyi’i rnam bzhag bka’ bsdu ba bzhi pa zhes bya ba’i bstan bcos. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2006.
Rinchen Palzang (rin chen dpal bzang). mtshur phu dgon gyi dkar chag kun gsal me long. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1995.
Tsongkhapa (tsong kha pa). lam rim chen mo. In rje tsong kha pa chen po’i gsung ’bum vol. 8, Zi ling: mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1999.
Bailey, D. R. Shackleton. The Śatapañcāśatka of Mātṛceta. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951.
Cüppers, Cristoph. The IXth Chapter of the Samādhirājasūtra: A Text-Critical Contribution to the Study of Mahāyāna Sūtras. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1990.
Dharmachakra Translation Committee, trans. (2013). The Play in Full (Lalitavistara, Toh 95). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2020a). The Absorption of the Miraculous Ascertainment of Peace (Praśāntaviniścayaprātihāryasamādhi, Toh 129). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2020b). The Absorption of the Thus-Gone One’s Wisdom Seal (Tathāgatajñānamudrāsamādhi, Toh 131). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2020c). Upholding the Roots of Virtue (Kuśalamūlasaṃparigraha, Toh 101). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2022). The Teaching on the Effulgence of Light (Raśmisamantamuktanirdeśa, Toh 55). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Dimitrov, Dragomir. “Two Female Bodhisattvas in Flesh and Blood,” in Aspects of the Female in Indian Culture. Marburg: Indica et Tibetica, 2004, pp. 3–30.
Gómez, Luis O. and Silk, Jonathan A. Studies in the Literature of the Great Vehicle: Three Mahāyāna Buddhist Texts. Ann Arbor: Collegiate Institute for the Study of Buddhist Literature and Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, The University of Michigan, 1989.
Leslie, Julia. “A Bird Bereaved: The Identity and Significance of Valmiki’s Krauñcha,” in Journal of Indian Philosophy 26.5 (1998): 455–87.
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———, trans. (2021a) The Stem Array (Gaṇḍavyūha, Toh 44-45). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2021b). The Ten Bhūmis (Daśabhūmika, Toh 44-31). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
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Thrangu Rinpoche. King of Samadhi: Commentaries on the Samadhi Raja Sutra and the Song of Lodrö Thaye. Hong Kong, Boudhnath & Århus: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1994.