The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Feb 06, 2014 8:01 pm

This is a fascinating subject and one that I have always been curious about.

For example, why are the bodhisattva vows transmitted seperately to monks and nuns, if they are similar to the bodhisattva vows of laypeople?

Does someone who took the sramanera ordination have to take it again when he participates in the "Triple Platform" to become a bhikshu?

How common is it for people to go through the Triple Platform again to renew their vows?

Is the text of the procedure available in the English language?
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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Fri Feb 07, 2014 2:33 am

Ven Khedrup,

I'll try to take the time to respond to this thread and your questions here in the next few weeks. I do want to make statement right now, however, before anyone else responds, though: If those who respond here could state whether or not they have personally participated in such an ordination, it would be very helpful for other readers to know what is personal and what is second (or third, etc.) hand knowledge of this tradition.

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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Feb 07, 2014 8:22 am

Thanks Ven. Huifeng, I look forward to your responses. The Triple Platform is a fascinating tradition.
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: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:35 am

Point 1:

JKhedrup wrote:For example, why are the bodhisattva vows transmitted separately to monks and nuns, if they are similar to the bodhisattva vows of laypeople?



First of all, keep in mind that the entire transmission of the Bodhisattva precepts, the third and last of the precept transmissions for the entire event, happens in the context of what is mainly a bhiksu/ni ordination. Thus, as much as possible, the two assemblies of bhiksus and bhiksunis are kept separate.

Second, the transmission of these precepts, unlike the sramanera/ika, but similar to the bhiksu/ni ordination, is done in small groups. The entire batch of ordinands are in "ban" and "tang", of 9 and 9+9=18 people. So, a batch of nine is done at a time. Similar process for the bhiksu/ni ordination, where the Vinaya stipulates the maximum at a time. So, is it not feasible to do a large group of bhiksus' and bhiksunis' bodhisattva ordination at the same time.

Lastly, because at the end of the bodhisattva ordination, the "precept burns" are given, and it requires a number of people to do this. It is impractical to do everyone all at once, or have everyone else wait. This is more of a process issue than a technical issue.

Note: the Bodhisattva precepts for bhiksus and bhiksunis are identical, there is no distinction made.

That's the first point.

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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby plwk » Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:31 am

I really wonder if the mark burning is necessary anymore these days as it was back then, both for the Vinaya & Bodhisattva Sila recipients, since neither texts prescribe it?
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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Sat Feb 22, 2014 2:37 am

Point #2

JKhedrup wrote:
Does someone who took the sramanera ordination have to take it again when he participates in the "Triple Platform" to become a bhikshu?



Yes. The basic structure is three distinct ordinations, 1. sramanera/ika, 2. bhiksu/ni, and 3. bodhisattva. If one has already received sramanera/ika ordination, they are still obviously considered to be a sramanera/ika (they don't disrobe or anything!), but they still go through the ceremony again.

The main reason is this. In the past, when one began the ordination process, they would first tonsure (tidu), becoming a member of sangha. At this point, they are considered a "appearance novice" (xiangfa shami(ni)). They have all the external charateristics of a novice, have the same basic expectations, etc. but simply haven't formally received sramanera/ika ordination. For smaller temple or monasteries, they would have to wait until a full triple platform ordination was being organized somewhere, to which they would attend. They would then first receive their sramanera/ika ordination, then bhiksu/ni and finally bodhisattva.

However, if they tonsured in a fairly large monastery, there may be occasion for them to receive sramanera/ika ordination some time before the opportunity to attend a triple platform ordination. Nowadays, given that a number of larger monasteries in Taiwan doing fairly regular (1-3 times per year) "short term monastic retreats", wherein participants take sramanera / siksamana ordination but then return that at the end of the week, some tonsured "appearance novices" may be ordained as sramanera/ikas at this point. They may then still have to wait some time, even several years, until a full triple platform ordination is being organized somewhere, to receive full bhiksu/ni and then bodhisattva ordination.

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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Sun Feb 23, 2014 12:04 pm

Point #3

JKhedrup wrote:
How common is it for people to go through the Triple Platform again to renew their vows?



In the sense of "renew their vows" then it doesn't happen at all, at least as far as I know. However, I do know of some cases where people were not sure if their original ordination was legit or not--for whatever reason--and thus did it again elsewhere. But, as I said, that really isn't "renew their vows" but maybe "make sure they got the vows in the first place".

The practice of "renewing vows" does happen quite a bit in Chinese Buddhism--again, at least in my experience--among lay vows, either refuge plus the five precepts, or the bodhisattva precepts. As mentioned in earlier posts, the entire Triple Platform Ordination is a very large scale event. Which monastery hosts it, even if they bring in a lot of people from other monasteries, has a big responsibility. It is never done for money, though people may make some donations in some way, shape or form. Therefore, if people regularly participated to "renew" their vows, on is putting a big responsibility on that monastery.

If one wished to go through the same kind of discipline again for part of their practice, the best way would be to assist with such a Triple Platform Ordination in some other contributing capacity. Of course, all the regular stuff in the monastery needs to be done, from the kitchen onwards. A number of "guiding venerables" (yinli fashi) are required, usually 1 per 18 ordinands; and many of the preceptors would require attendants during the event, too. To do the serious stuff like be the discipline officer (jiucha), or master of ceremonies (kaitang heshang), requires some very deep and specialized skills and practice. Such a person gets asked to do it, rather than offering their skills per se.

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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Feb 23, 2014 12:41 pm

Thanks Ven. Huifeng for the interesting details.

Is there a specific text recited for the transmission of the bhikshu/bhikshuni vows? Are the Bodhisattva precepts transmitted according to the Brahma Net Sutra, or something else?

What are the commonly performed rituals during the days of the ordination that do not involve the actual transmission of the precepts? What would be the shortest block of time in which a Triple Platform ordination would be conveyed?
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: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:07 am

Point #4 (?)

JKhedrup wrote:
Is the text of the procedure available in the English language?


Kind of depends what is meant by "available"... I certainly have copies of it, print and digital. So, it does exist somewhere. Of course, this is because I was one of the people who translated the material into English. It is also given to those monastics who go through the ordination itself, in print form. But, I have not seen it around in the public sphere -- but I haven't been looking for it, either.

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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Thu Feb 27, 2014 1:22 am

plwk wrote:I really wonder if the mark burning is necessary anymore these days as it was back then, both for the Vinaya & Bodhisattva Sila recipients, since neither texts prescribe it?


Plwk,

I'm not sure what you actually mean by "necessary". Is there some implication that without the jieba the ordination is somehow not valid? For I have not heard of such a position at all. Moreover, in many places nowadays they are either not made, or are optional. For example, in the PRoC they are officially banned. Though many still do them anyway. In Taiwan, some places make them entirely optional, or, option of between head, forearm, or none at all. So, I'm not entirely sure of the point you are trying to make here.

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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby plwk » Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:38 am

I'm not sure what you actually mean by "necessary".
Two things I had in mind...
a. Why was it even started in the first place then?
b. I was told by certain quarters that this practice was meant to distinguish Buddhist and non Buddhist monastics back then when there was much confusion over who's from where and what but in these times now, is it still a necessary practice to distinguish to that extent? And secondly, that it is to 'prove' one's sincerity and sacrifice on the path, like how a war general earns his/her stripes by the burn marks? Maybe the Venerable can help dispel this 'myths' of distinguishing and playing a 'religious hero' for me as when I have asked for sources of this claim, none was forthcoming?
Is there some implication that without the jieba the ordination is somehow not valid? For I have not heard of such a position at all. Moreover, in many places nowadays they are either not made, or are optional. For example, in the PRoC they are officially banned. Though many still do them anyway. In Taiwan, some places make them entirely optional, or, option of between head, forearm, or none at all.
Well, for years, various lay and monastics alike seems to imply that for me, as if this practice is an integral 'rite of passage'. But yes, I am quite aware of those who make it an option but I am more interested in tackling with those who still insist on it. Like at one time, there was a widespread belief here that the Bodhisattva Sila was only for monastics and the aged and that the laity can't even read or touch its source texts like as if they are Tantric stuff. Thanks to some conscientious teachers, it took time to correct these misconceptions, like the nagging issue of joss paper burning. I would concede on one point though, that this kind of info passed around could be the work of the less informed, made into some kind of gospel truth, like many other religious myths passed around in Buddhist circles
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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:57 am

In the circles that I spend my time, I've not really seen this attitude. So, from my point of view, these "problems" (if that is what one wishes to call them) don't exist. And so would be the attitude that I would teach my students, be it at FGU, FGS Buddhist College, regular classes in branch temples, or in public talks. Maybe I just hang out in more progressive circles... but really, I don't see much of a problem that requires rectification. I'm also more interested in what the present and next generation of Buddhists will think and do, than that of the older generation that is on its way out.

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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Fri Feb 28, 2014 12:52 pm

JKhedrup wrote:
Is there a specific text recited for the transmission of the bhikshu/bhikshuni vows?



The text that is used--I wouldn't really use just the term "recited"--is that of the basic rite itself. This contains a number of distinct elements, from the opening preparation, invitation of the teachers / preceptors / holy beings, to the answering of the various questions as per the Vinaya, exhortations again as per Vinaya, and so forth.

But, that is just the rite for the "transmission" proper. The whole event will include detailed teachings of these topics. This will be studied in a class format, rather than just a recitation. The class format may use the straight Pratimoksa itself, or the Vinaya, or some abridged version of the Vinaya more suitable for study, or some other such work. At my ordination, we used a very nice Vinaya / Pratimoksa summary containing all of the bhiksu precepts compiled, edited and commented upon by the Vinaya Master Hongyi. We managed to go through all of the precepts over about a week of intensive classes.

JKhedrup wrote:
Are the Bodhisattva precepts transmitted according to the Brahma Net Sutra, or something else?



The precepts proper are transmitted again by the standard rite. But again, apart from the rite itself, there will be intensive classes and lectures on the content. Chinese Buddhism has often swung back and forth between the Mahayana Brahmajala Sutra and the Yogacara Bodhisattva Precepts for this ordination. In my case, we did both, having two different lecturers who taught on both of these texts respectively.

So, the short answer is: The transmission of each of these sets of precepts in the rite proper uses the text of the rite. However, this is supported by intensive classes using classic texts--Vinaya, Pratimoksa, Sutra and Sastra--and commentary on those texts.

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Re: The Triple Platform Ordination of East Asian Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Tue Mar 04, 2014 12:02 pm

JKhedrup wrote:What are the commonly performed rituals during the days of the ordination that do not involve the actual transmission of the precepts? What would be the shortest block of time in which a Triple Platform ordination would be conveyed?


Apart from the days of the actual transmission of the precepts, there is still a lot to do.

Above, I have mentioned the various classes and so forth on the Vinaya, Pratimoksa, Bodhisattva-sila, etc. texts that are taught. Won't repeat here.

In addition, quite some amount of time is spent rehearsing the ordination rite itself. Involving as it does a fairly long ritual, including various forms of invitation / request, chanting, recitation, call and response, all interspersed with much bowing and prostrating, all while wearing the various robes, holding sitting mat and carrying bowl, getting everything clearly sorted out is a distinct advantage.

But as for "other rituals": often, services such as the Yoga Flaming Mouth (Yuqie yankou) are performed, perhaps at the very start of the whole event, or immediately after one of, or each of, the three transmissions. That is fairly common, I understand. Often, these are as much for the laity who will gather around for such events. Now, given that the laity can't participate in the transmission proper, but they are eager and keen, this is one way for them to participate.

The daily liturgy is still is progress, of course. Usually, this is the stock standard Chan school daily liturgy (chanmen risong). Morning includes the Surangama mantra, the ten small mantras and great compassion dharani (mantra), etc. Evening includes the eight-eight Buddhas repentance and the smaller Sukhavativyuha (ie. the Amitabha sutra).

The shortest length of time to do the whole thing? I am not sure. In theory, I guess one could do them on three consecutive days... but who would want to?! In practical terms, about 3 weeks (21 days) is the shortest I have heard of; and 108 days (3.5 months) is the longest.

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