Question Regarding Bodhisattva Vows

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Question Regarding Bodhisattva Vows

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:49 pm

Hi Everyone,

In the few traditions I have studied within the Mahayana (Soto Zen, Korean Seon and Kagyu), I have noticed and been uncomfortable with the vows to save all beings. I have often wondered where this comes from as the Lord Buddha himself made no such asseveration (at least according to the Pali canon). I find much to admire and practice in all of the traditions mentioned parenthetically above but the vow to save all beings makes me uncomfortable whether it is a vow made in earnest or a rhetorical device.

I would appreciate your thoughts on the question and my apologies if I have offended anyone. Mettaya!
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Re: Question Regarding Bodhisattva Vows

Postby plwk » Mon Dec 02, 2013 1:03 pm

One perspective...
http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhi ... neng6.html
Learned Audience, all of us have now declared that we vow to deliver an infinite number of sentient beings; but what does that mean?
It does not mean that I, Hui Neng, am going to deliver them. And who are these sentient beings within our mind?
They are the delusive mind, the deceitful mind, the evil mind, and such like minds -- all these are sentient beings.
Each of them has to deliver himself by means of his own Essence of Mind. Then the deliverance is genuine.

Now, what does it mean to deliver oneself by one's own Essence of Mind?
It means the deliverance of the ignorant, the delusive, and the vexatious beings within our own mind by means of Right Views.
With the aid of Right Views and Prajna-Wisdom the barriers raised by these ignorant and delusive beings may be broken down; so that each of them is in a position to deliver himself by his own efforts. Let the fallacious be delivered by rightness; the deluded by enlightenment; the ignorant by wisdom; and the malevolent by benevolence. Such is genuine deliverance.
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Re: Question Regarding Bodhisattva Vows

Postby seeker242 » Mon Dec 02, 2013 1:41 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote: I find much to admire and practice in all of the traditions mentioned parenthetically above but the vow to save all beings makes me uncomfortable whether it is a vow made in earnest or a rhetorical device.



It's much more than just a rhetorical device. It's one of the Basic Points Unifying the Theravāda and the Mahāyāna

Point 4 specifically:

"Following the example of the Buddha, our Teacher, who is embodiment of Great Compassion (mahākaruṇa) and Great Wisdom (mahāprajñā), we consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness and peace; and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth."

Point 8 is interesting too.

"There are three ways of attaining Bodhi or Enlightenment according to the ability and capacity of each individual: namely, as a Sravaka (disciple), as a Pratyekabuddha (Individual Buddha) and as a Samyaksambuddha (Perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest and most heroic to follow the career of a Boddhisattva and to become a Samyksambuddha in order to save others. But these three states are on the same Path, not on different paths. In fact, the Sandhinirmocana-sutra, a well-known important Mahayana sutra, clearly and emphatically says that those who follow the line of Śrāvakayāna (Vehicle of Disciples) or the line of Pratyekabuddha-yana (Vehicle of Individual Buddhas) or the line of Tathagatas (Mahayana) attain the supreme Nirvana by the same Path, and that for all of them there is only one Path of Purification (visuddhi-marga) and only one Purification (visuddhi) and no second one, and that they are not different paths and different purifications, and that Sravakayana and Mahayana constitute One Vehicle One Yana (ekayana) and not distinct and different vehicles or yanas."
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: Question Regarding Bodhisattva Vows

Postby plwk » Mon Dec 02, 2013 1:44 pm

Another here...
http://www.cttbusa.org/vajra/vajrasutra.asp
The Buddha told Subhuti, “All Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, should thus subdue their minds with the vow,
‘I must cause all living beings – those born from eggs, born from wombs, born from moisture, born by transformation; those with form, those without form, those with thought, those without thought, those not totally with thought, and those not totally without thought – to enter nirvana without residue and be taken across to extinction.’

Yet of the immeasurable, boundless numbers of living beings thus taken across to extinction, there is actually no living being taken across to extinction.
And why? Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva has a mark of self, a mark of others, a mark of living beings, or a mark of a life, he is not a Bodhisattva.

Then the sagacious Subhuti said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, will there be living beings in the future who will believe this sutra when they hear it spoken?”
The Buddha said, “Subhuti, they are neither living beings nor no living beings.
And why? Subhuti, living beings, living beings, are spoken of by the Tathagata as no living beings, therefore they are called living beings.”

“Subhuti, what do you think? You should not maintain that the Tathagata has this thought: ‘I shall take living beings across.’
Subhuti, do not have that thought. And why?
There actually are no living beings taken across by the Tathagata. If there were living beings taken across by the Tathagata, then the Tathagata would have the existence of a self, of others, of living beings, and of a life.
Subhuti, the existence of a self spoken of by the Tathagata is no existence of a self, but common people take it as the existence of a self.
Subhuti, common people are spoken of by the Tathagata as no common people, therefore they are called common people.

Some thoughts from an article and the late Ven Master Dr Sheng Yen...

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Re: Question Regarding Bodhisattva Vows

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:59 pm

Thank you both for your answers. I have heard a variationof the explanation given by Master Hui Neng before but for some reason it fails to satisfy. I will have to watch the videos of Master Shen Yen later. Every good blessing!
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Re: Question Regarding Bodhisattva Vows

Postby pemachophel » Mon Dec 02, 2013 8:59 pm

Practice at the level you have faith in and devotion for. We all have our own karma, and one size Dharma doesn't fit all. That's why Lord Buddha taught 84,000 doors to Dharma. IOW, all the Yanas (Vehicles) are valid and all will lead you to Awakening if practiced with faith, sincerity, and diligence.

Good luck and best wishes.

:namaste:
Pema Chophel པདྨ་ཆོས་འཕེལ
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Re: Question Regarding Bodhisattva Vows

Postby sukhamanveti » Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:48 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Hi Everyone,

In the few traditions I have studied within the Mahayana (Soto Zen, Korean Seon and Kagyu), I have noticed and been uncomfortable with the vows to save all beings. I have often wondered where this comes from as the Lord Buddha himself made no such asseveration (at least according to the Pali canon). I find much to admire and practice in all of the traditions mentioned parenthetically above but the vow to save all beings makes me uncomfortable whether it is a vow made in earnest or a rhetorical device.

I would appreciate your thoughts on the question and my apologies if I have offended anyone. Mettaya!


Hi, Khalil Bodhi.

How one might relate the Bodhisattva Vow(s) in any of its forms to the Nikāyas/ Āgamas is a good question. I've been thinking about this. Here's what has occurred to me thus far:

In the discourses of the four "major" Nikāyas/ Āgamas we don't find a bodhisattva vow, but we do read that the Buddha became a buddha out of compassion for the world. In the Aṅguttara Nikāya the Buddha speaks of himself as the one "who arises in the world" for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world (AN 1.13.1/ sutta 170; cf. MN 4.21, 12.63). The two verbs translated here as "arises" by Bhikkhu Bodhi mean "to come into existence" or "to be produced" (or in some contexts "to be reborn"). In other words, a (samyaksaṁ)buddha comes to be a buddha out of compassion for the world and to benefit "the many" by teaching the way to liberation. He becomes a buddha in order to liberate beings and not only for his own benefit. He doesn't only teach out of boundless compassion. He attains unsurpassed awakening out of boundless compassion for the world of suffering beings. A bodhisattva vow to liberate all beings seems compatible with what we read here, if one thinks that the vow can eventually be fulfilled.

A vow to become a buddha in order to liberate beings appears in the admittedly late scripture the Buddhavaṁsa (Bu. 2.56) in the Khuddaka Nikāya of the Pāli Tipiṭaka and in the Pāli commentarial literature, such as the Nidānakathā and the Cariyāpiṭaka-aṭṭhakathā. This later Theravāda material might be seen as more of an interpretation or explanation of the earlier material instead of necessarily contradictory to it.

In Mahāparinibbāna Sutta of the Dīgha Nikāya (at DN 16.3.22-23) the Buddha hints at the immeasurable scope of his compassionate, liberative activity. He says that he appeared in various assemblies of kṣatriyas, brahmins, householders, śramaṇas, devas of the Catur-Mahārāja, devas of the Trāyastriṃśa, māras, and Brahmās, manifesting the appearance and speech of those in the respective groups in which he appeared, and taught them the Dharma. Similarly, in the Majjhima Nikāya (at MN 26.21) he examines the whole world with compassion from the seat of his awakening to see whom he might teach and, after observing individuals easy to teach and those difficult to teach, he declares, "Open for them are the doors to the Deathless..." In the Apadāna of the Khuddaka Nikāya and in the commentaries the Buddha is called lokagaru, "Teacher of the World." The title seems to imply that the Buddha seeks to liberate the world of beings.

Historically, many Theravāda kings, monks, copyists (of scripture), and writers of commentaries have taken a bodhisatta vow to liberate all beings (see http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/jeffrey2.htm ). Therefore, it seems that it must be possible to read the Pāli Tipiṭaka in a way that is compatible with such a vow.

Ed
namo bhagavate śākyamunaye tathāgatāyārhate samyaksaṁbuddhāya | namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyaḥ ||

"Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas love all beings in the world equally, as if each were their only child..." Buddhāvataṃsakamahāvaipulya Sūtra
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