The origin of the Four Great Vows?

The origin of the Four Great Vows?

Postby Luke » Sun May 11, 2014 6:10 pm

I have read that the Four Great Vows are recited not only by Zen Buddhists, but by other types of Mahayana Buddhists, as well (according to the article below, Nichiren and Tendai).
http://buddhism.about.com/od/mahayanabu ... a-vows.htm

Are the Four Great Vows unique to Japanese Buddhism? Or do other Mahayana Buddhists schools, such as Chan, Pure Land, Seon, etc. also recite them?

Also, does anyone know the origin of the Four Great Vows? Do they appear in any Mahayana sutras?
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Re: The origin of the Four Great Vows?

Postby santa100 » Sun May 11, 2014 6:46 pm

From Ven. Hsing Yun's "From the Four Noble Truths to the Four Universal Vows":
Throughout various Buddhist sutras and commentaries, the context and explication of the Four Universal Vows are recorded in different manners:
(1) The Sixth Patriarch Platform Sutra:
i. Sentient beings are infinite, I vow to liberate them.
ii. Afflictions are infinite, I vow to eradicate them.
iii. Dharmas are inexhaustiable, I vow to study them.
iv. Buddhahood is supreme, I vow to obtain it.

(2) Sutra on the Practice of Prajnaparamita - Chapter 28:
i. THose who have not crossed to the other shore, I shall deliver them.
ii. THose who have not ended their suffering, I shall help them end it
iii. THose who have fear, I shall assuage them.
iv. Those who have not attained nirvana, I shall help them attain it.

(3) Lotus Sutra - Chapter 5:
i. THose who have not crossed over, I will enable them to cross.
ii. THose who have not been freed, I will free them.
iii. THose who are not at peace, I will put them at peace.
iv. Those who are not in nirvana, I will enable them to enter nirvana.

(4) Medallion Sutra on the Bodhisattva Path:
...
(5) The Collection of Dharanis:
...
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Re: The origin of the Four Great Vows?

Postby Luke » Sun May 11, 2014 7:29 pm

^Aha! Thank you very much for that information, Santa! :namaste:
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Re: The origin of the Four Great Vows?

Postby Huifeng » Mon May 12, 2014 1:13 am

Luke wrote:I have read that the Four Great Vows are recited not only by Zen Buddhists, but by other types of Mahayana Buddhists, as well (according to the article below, Nichiren and Tendai).
http://buddhism.about.com/od/mahayanabu ... a-vows.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Are the Four Great Vows unique to Japanese Buddhism? Or do other Mahayana Buddhists schools, such as Chan, Pure Land, Seon, etc. also recite them?

Also, does anyone know the origin of the Four Great Vows? Do they appear in any Mahayana sutras?


The basic formulation in East Asian Buddhism was by Master Tiantai Zhiyi. The later schools picked it up from there. In Chinese Buddhism, it's used across the board. Mainly because while it comes from Master Tiantai Zhiyi, people don't then think it somehow "belongs" to the Tiantai "school" as such. It's Dharma, it's good, use it!

~~Huifeng
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Re: The origin of the Four Great Vows?

Postby Luke » Mon May 12, 2014 6:47 pm

That's very interesting, Ven. Huifeng.
So the author of the Platform Sutra got its version of the Four Vows from Zhiyi... Did any other Tiantai ideas influence the Platform Sutra?
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