Samantabhadra (Sanskrit: Universal Worthy), is a Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism associated with Buddhist practice and meditation. Together with Shakyamuni Buddha and Manjusri Bodhisattva(文殊師利菩薩), he forms the Shakyamuni trinity in Buddhism.
He is the patron of the Lotus Sutra and, according to the Avatamsaka Sutra, made ten great vows which are the basis of being as a Bodhisattva. In China, Samantabhadra is associated with action, whereas Manjusri Bodhisattva is associated with wisdom.
According to the sutra itself, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva was born in the east Pure Wonder Land. He practices the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. He protects the Dharma teachings from every kind of persecution. He witnesses the merits obtained by those who practice the teachings and the punishments of those who slander the Dharma or persecute the practitioners. He proves that those who violate the Dharma can be delivered from their transgressions if they are sincerely penitent.
In the Meditation Sutra, the Buddha describes Samantabhadra's body as unlimited in size, and the range of his voice and the forms of his image are also described as unlimited. He possesses divine powers that enable him to come into the world when he wishes and shrink down to a smaller size. Through his wisdom-power, he appears transformed as if mounted on a white elephant to the people of Jambudvipa(南贍部洲) defiled by the three heavy hindrances: Arrogance, envy, and covetousness.
Universal Virtue rides the white elephant for the sole purpose of guiding the people of Jambudvīpa, or the saha-world(娑婆世界), through practices that are associated with their environment. The Bodhisattva riding on his white elephant is a symbolic image of Buddhist practice, as well as a representation of purity. The purity of the six sense organs is represented by the six tusks of Universal Worthy's white elephant.
In the Avatamsaka Sutra(華嚴經), the Buddha states that Samantabhadra Bodhisattva made ten great vows in his path to full Buddhahood:
To pay homage and respect to all Buddhas.
To praise the Thus Come One-Tathagata.
To make abundant offerings. (i.e. give generously)
To repent misdeeds and evil karmas.
To rejoice in others' merits and virtues.
To request the Buddhas to continue teaching.
To request the Buddhas to remain in the world.
To follow the teachings of the Buddhas at all times.
To accommodate and benefit all living beings.
To transfer all merits and virtues to benefit all beings.
The ten vows have become a common practice in East Asian Buddhism, particularly the tenth vow, with many Buddhists traditionally dedicating their merit and good works to all beings during Buddhist liturgies.