Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different traditions

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Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different traditions

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:04 am

I am very interested in how the various different Mahayana traditions give the bodhisattva vows.

In Tibetan Buddhism the ceremony for them can be quite short, depending on the text that is used. For example, at the teachings of HH Dalai Lama, HH often gives the vows to the audience by having them repeat the relevant sections of the Bodhisattvacaryavatara by Shantideva. This is the system with which I am most familiar.

Also, in Vajrayana we recite a short verse for taking the bodhisattva vows as preparation for any type of empowerment.

What is the procedure in the other traditions?
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A straw floats on the surface of water,
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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby pueraeternus » Tue Jan 29, 2013 1:52 pm

I took mine in the Chan tradition, which is also quite short. Kneel before my master, recite the Three Refuge, undertake the Five Precepts and invoke the Four Bodhisattva Vows ("how ever immeasureable.. I vow to...").
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby plwk » Tue Jan 29, 2013 2:08 pm

Some visual varied samples from the Chinese Mahayana side...




Other reading links: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Sample discussions on types of Bodhisattva Precepts/Vows in East Asian Mahayana: 1 2
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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jan 29, 2013 2:29 pm

At Dharma Drum Mountain it is a three and a half day affair. You get taught how to prostrate, salute and bow according to prescription. Everyone wears haiqing robes. There are video lectures by the late Master Sheng Yen as well as some speeches by monastics. You go through the motions of receiving the precepts until five-hundred people can manage synchronized bowing. Everyone is expected to memorize the liturgy.

The night before the precepts are given, there is a ceremony where the precepts as conferred unto the deceased and/or any other lingering non-corporeal beings hanging around the shrine hall. In the morning the precepts, which are a compilation from several East Asian sources, are conferred. The preceptor recites the liturgy and asks if you can uphold the individual precepts, to which you say yes. He then claps some wooden blocks together after each precept. Everyone is given a ceremonial sash (called the "bodhisattva cloth"), which goes around the neck. I don't believe there is any precedent for this in history. It was an innovation by DDM as far as I know. It looks like this:

Image

The actual ceremony only takes a few hours, but for three days everyone is trained before rehearsing the ritual.

All the rehearsal might sound unnecessary, but for Chinese Buddhist it is all part of their spiritual transformation. The greater and grander the ritual, the more spiritual power it holds.

Elsewhere in Chinese Buddhism it is sometimes the case that bodhisattva precepts include incense scarring on the flesh. For laypeople I think it is usually done on the arm somewhere. Monastics of course take it on the scalp.
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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Jan 29, 2013 2:35 pm

Actually I think it is nice that a demanding ritual is prescribed for the Bodhisattva vows. I imagine it gives people an appreciation of their preciousness and the rarity of receiving them.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby plwk » Tue Jan 29, 2013 2:44 pm

Actually I think it is nice that a demanding ritual is prescribed for the Bodhisattva vows. I imagine it gives people an appreciation of their preciousness and the rarity of receiving them.

Imagine a burning incense cone on your forearm.... that seriouz :mrgreen:
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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Jan 29, 2013 2:46 pm

Yeah I'm not so sure about that part LOL. I suppose it could be a meaningful statement of faith.

It could also be ego's game, though.
I remember at CTTB one laywoman proudly pulled up her sleeve to reveal to me several rows of such marks. I barely knew her. It did bring a question mark to my mind!
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby plwk » Tue Jan 29, 2013 2:55 pm

Yeah I've met such types too but looking on the brighter side, for some, not many can parade their 'stripes' like the late Gen George S Patton Jr... :tongue:
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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:04 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Actually I think it is nice that a demanding ritual is prescribed for the Bodhisattva vows. I imagine it gives people an appreciation of their preciousness and the rarity of receiving them.


That's the idea behind such long rituals.

The source texts though generally sound a lot simpler, like the refuge and five precepts. In the early days you just stated it to the Buddha or a sangha member, and there you go, refuge and the five precepts in a few sentences.

Without religious theatre I guess many would feel it lacked worth.
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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby pueraeternus » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:22 pm

JKhedrup wrote:I remember at CTTB one laywoman proudly pulled up her sleeve to reveal to me several rows of such marks. I barely knew her. It did bring a question mark to my mind!


Is the left arm a green dragon and the right arm a white tiger?? 左青龙右白虎 :tongue:
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

- Leto II, the God Emperor
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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby seeker242 » Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:48 pm

In the American Korean Zen, Kwan Um, school, there is a ~20 minute ceremony. There is some chanting from everyone, a short dharma talk by the teacher, and you go before the teacher and publicly recite the vows. You receive a bowing robe and a kasa (rakusu), a Buddhist name and a little certificate. You also get a "precepts burn" where the teacher burns your arm with a couple sticks of incense, which is supposed to leave a small scar as a reminder of your vows.
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Re: Method of taking Bodhisattva vows in different tradition

Postby lisehull » Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:27 pm

When I took the Bodhisattva vow, I was a bit frustrated not to understand the words as they were in Tibetan. I didn't really know what I was repeating and stumbled over the words since I don't know much Tibetan. It was a fairly casual ceremony as well, done by the current Kalu Rinpoche. In some ways, I don't feel like I really took the vow.
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