Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby Astus » Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:03 pm

In the Vimalakirti Sutra (ch. 8: Path to Buddhahood) we read:

"Mañjuśrī then asked Vimalakīrti, “How should the bodhisattva penetrate the path of buddhahood?” Vimalakīrti said, “If a bodhisattva traverses the unacceptable paths, this is to penetrate the path of buddhahood.” [Mañjuśrī] also asked, “How does the bodhisattva traverse the unacceptable paths?” [Vimalakīrti] answered, “The bodhisattva practices the five [deeds of] interminable [retribution] without becoming distraught. ... He manifests acting out of lust ... He manifests the practicing of flattery and deception ... He manifests acting out of the afflictions ... He manifests becoming old and sick ... if a bodhisattva can traverse the unacceptable paths in this way, this is to penetrate the path of buddhahood ... Therefore, you should understand that all the afflictions constitute the seed of the Tathāgata. It is like not being able to attain the priceless jewelpearl without entering the ocean. Therefore, if one does not enter the great sea of the afflictions, one will not be able to attain the jewel of omniscience."

There's also Linji's saying (ch. 21, reference to Lankavatara Sutra 3.58), "Virtuous monks, by creating the karma of the five heinous crimes, you attain emancipation." And this (ch. 22), "Followers of the Way, don’t take the Buddha to be the ultimate. As I see it, he is just like a privy hole. Both bodhisattvahood and arhatship are cangues and chains that bind one. This is why Mañjuśrī tried to kill Gautama with his sword, and why Aṅgulimāla attempted to slay Śākyamuni with his dagger."

As I see it, these Mahayana teachings take the prajnaparamita as the essential realisation of a bodhisattva. Unlike those teachings where they focus on taming the minds of uneducated people (prthagjana), these are meant for those on the bodhisattva vehicle. I find this aspect of the Dharma to be neglected, so many thinks that Mahayana is without deeper teachings and put aside the studying of the sutras only to read the systematised and summarising treatises. That I take as a natural progress just as it's happened with the agamas put aside for abhidharma, and it gives the proper reason for eventually making direct meditation instructions (Vipassana, Pure Land, Zen, Tantra) the living core of the path, while the sutras, in their times, were such instructions too.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby Huifeng » Sun Dec 26, 2010 1:07 pm

There is also the very cool story of Manjusri's past life in the Prajnaparamita Upadesa, which not only gives the same teaching, but also some interesting results of attitudes towards it.
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby Astus » Sun Dec 26, 2010 1:59 pm

Huifeng wrote:There is also the very cool story of Manjusri's past life in the Prajnaparamita Upadesa, which not only gives the same teaching, but also some interesting results of attitudes towards it.


Could you paste it here? Or is it only in Chinese?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby Huifeng » Mon Dec 27, 2010 10:59 am

From Ven Migme Chodron's English translation of Lamotte's translation of the Māhāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa from Chinese, Vol I, pp. 323-326:


Mañjuśrī said to the Buddha: “Bhagavat, once in times gone by, (bhūtapūrvam atīte 'dhvani) - [107b] innumerable incalculable periods ago - there was a Buddha called Che tseu yin wang (Siṃhanādarāja). The lifetime of the Buddha and of beings was a hundred thousand koṭinayuta years; the Buddha saved beings by the three Vehicles (yānatraya); the country was called Ts'ien kouang ming (Sahasrāloka). In this land, the trees (vṛkṣa) were made of the seven jewels (saptaratna) and emitted immense and pure sounds of the Dharma (apramāṇaviśuddhadharmasvara): the sounds of emptiness (śūnyatā), signlessness (animitta), wishlessness (apraṇihita), non-arising (anutpāda), non-cessation (anirodha) and nothingness (ākiṃcanya). The beings who heard these sounds found their minds opening up and discovered the Path. When the Buddha Siṃhanādarāja preached the Dharma to the first assembly, 99 koṭis of human beings attained the state of arhat. It was the same for the bodhisattva assembly: all these bodhisattvas had acquiescence of the teaching of non-arising (anutpattikadharmakṣānti), they penetrated all sorts of religious texts (dharmaparyāya), they saw innumerable Buddhas whom they served (arcana) and honored (pūjā), they were able to save innumerable and incalculable beings, they possessed innumerable dhāraṇīmukhas, they used innumerable samādhis of all kinds; from the first production of mind (prathamacittotpāda), they had crossed through the gate of the Path. It would be impossible to cite and list all these bodhisattvas and describe the beauties (alaṃkāra) of this buddha-field (buddhakṣetra). Finally, when the Buddha had converted them all, he entered into nirvāṇa-without-remainder (nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇa); his Dharma lasted 60,000 more years and then the trees stopped emitting the sounds of the Dharma (dharmasvara).

There were, at that time, two bodhisattva bhikṣus named Hi ken (Prasannendriya) and Cheng yi (Agramati). The Dharma teacher Prasannendriya, of frank and simple manner, had not renounced the things of the world (lokadharma) and did not distinguish good from evil. His disciples were intelligent (medhāvin), loved the Dharma and understood admirably the profound meaning (gambhīrārtha). Their teacher did not recommend moderation in desires (alpecchāsaṃtuṣṭi) to them or the observance of the precepts (śīlacaryā) or the practice of the dhūtas. He spoke to them only of the true nature (satyalakṣaṇa) of the dharmas which is pure (viṣuddha). He said to them: 'The dharmas are characterized by desire (rāga), hatred (dveṣa) and delusion (moha), but all these characteristics (lakṣaṇa) may be reduced to the true nature (satyalakṣaṇa) of the dharmas which is without hindrance (apratihata).' It was by these soteriological means (upāya) that he instructed his disciples and introduced them into the knowledge of the unique nature (ekalakṣaṇajñāna). Thus his disciples felt no hostility (pratigha) or affection (anunaya) for people and, as their minds were unperturbed, they had obtained the patience towards beings (sattvakṣānti); provided with the patience towards beings, they acquired the patience relating to the dharmas (dharmakṣānti). In the presence of the true doctrine, they remained motionless (acala) like a mountain.

By contrast, the Dharma teacher Agramati, clinging to the purity of the precepts (śīlaviśuddhi), practiced the twelve dhūtas, had acquired the four dhyānas and the formless absorptions (ārūpyasamāpatti). His disciples were of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) and clung to distinguishing the pure (śuddha) [practices] from the impure (aśuddha) ones; their minds were always disturbed [by qualms].

On various occasions, Agramati went to the village (grāma) among the disciples of Prasannendriya, and seated there, he praised the precepts (śīla), moderation in desires (alpecchāsaṃtuṣṭi), the practice of solitude (araṇya) and the dhyānas. He criticized their teacher Agramati, saying: “This man, who preaches the Dharma and teaches people, introduces them into wrong views (mithyādṛṣṭi). He says that desire (rāga), anger (dveṣa) and delusion (moha) are not an obstacle (pratigha), that people of mixed practices (miśracaryā) are not really pure.” The disciples of Prasannendriya, who had keen faculties (tīkṣṇendriya) and the patience relating to [107c] dharmas, asked Agramati:

- O Venerable One, what are the characteristics of desire?
- Desire has affliction as its nature.
- Is this affliction of desire internal (ādhyātmam) or external (bahirdhā)?
- This affliction of desire is neither internal nor external. If it were internal, it would not depend on causes and conditions (hetupratyaya) to take birth; if it were external, it would not have anything to do with the self and would be unable to torment it.
People then retorted:
- If desire is neither internal (adhymatmam) nor external (bahirdhā) nor in the [four] directions; in the east (pūrvasyāṃ diśi), in the south (dakṣiṇasyāṃ diśi), in the west (paścimāyāṃ diśi) or in the north (uttarasyāṃ diśi), nor in the four intermediate directions (vidikṣu), nor at the zenith (upariṣṭād diśi) nor at the nadir (adhastād diśi), one might look everywhere for its true nature and one would never find it. This dharma does not arise (notpadyate) and does not cease (na nirudhyate) and, since it lacks the characteristics of birth and cessation (utpādanirodhalakṣaṇa), it is empty (śūnya) and non-existent (akiṃcana). How could it torment [the ātman]?

Deeply displeased on hearing these words, Agramati could not reply. He rose from his seat, saying: “[Your teacher] Prasannendriya deceives many beings and clings to wrong ways (mithyāmārga).” This bodhisattva Agramati did not know the ghoṣapraveśadhāraṇī; he was happy when he heard the speech of the Buddha and grieved when he heard a heretical (tīrthika) word; he was sad when he heard speak of the three evil (akuśala) things and rejoiced when he heard speak of the three good things (kuśala); he hated speaking about saṃsāra and loved to speak about nirvāṇa. Leaving the dwellings of the vaiśya, he went back to the forest and returned to his monastery (vihāra). He said to his bhikṣus: “You should know that the bodhisattva Prasannendriya is an impostor who leads people to evil. Why? He claims that the nature of desire, hatred and delusion (rāgadveṣamohalakṣaṇa) as well as all the other dharmas is not an obstacle.”

Then the bodhisattva Prasannendriya had this thought: “This Agramati who is so fierce is covered with faults and will fall into great sins (mahāpatti). I am going to teach him the profound Dharma (gambhīradharma). Even if he cannot grasp it today, this teaching will earn him buddhahood later.” Then gathering the saṃgha together, Prasannendriya spoke these stanzas:

Rāga is the Path,
Dveṣa and moha are also the Path.
In these three things are included
Innumerable states of buddhahood.
Whoever makes a distinction
Between rāga-dveṣa-moha and the Path
Departs as far from the Buddha
As the sky is far from the earth.
The Path and rāga-dveṣa-moha
Are one and the same thing.
The person who listens to his fears
Wanders far from buddhahood.
Rāga is not born, it does not perish,
It is incapable of calling forth anxiety;
But if the person believes in the ātman
Rāga will lead him to bad destinies.
To distinguish existence (bhava) from non-existence (abhava)
Is not freeing oneself from them.
[108a] Recognizing their fundamental identity
Is to win the victory and realize buddhahood.

Prasannendriya spoke seventy more stanzas of this kind and at that moment, 30,000 devaputras found acquiescence in the doctrine of non-production (anutpattikadharmakṣānti); 18,000 śrāvakas, detached from all dharmas, found deliverance (vimokṣa). The bodhisattva Agramati fell into hell (niraya) where he suffered torments for 10,000,000 years; then he was reborn among humans where he was exposed to ridicule for 740,000 lifetimes. For innumerable kalpas he never heard the name of the Buddha pronounced, but, as his sin was becoming lighter, he heard the Buddhist doctrine preached. Becoming a monk (pravrajita) in search of the Path, he gave up the precepts (śīla) and so, for 603,000 lifetimes, he completely neglected the precepts. Finally, for innumerable lifetimes, he was a śrāmaṇa, but although he no longer neglected the precepts, his faculties remained closed (āvṛta). - As for the bodhisattva Prasannendriya, he is the Buddha in the eastern region (pūrvasyāṃ diśi) beyond 100,000 koṭis of buddha-fields (buddhakṣetra): his land is called Pao yen (Ratnavyūha) and he himself is named Kouang yu je ming wang (Sūryālokasamatikramantarāja).

Mañjuśrī [continued this story], saying to the Buddha: “At that time, I was the bhikṣu Agramati; I knew that I had to endure these immense sufferings.” Mañjuśrī said again: “Those who seek the Path of the three vehicles (yānatrayamārga) and do not want to undergo such suffering should not reject the [true] nature of dharmas or give themselves up to hatred (dveṣa).”

The Buddha then asked him: “When you heard these stanzas [of Prasannendriya], what benefit did you get from them?” Mañjuśrī replied: “When I heard these stanzas, I came to the end of my suffering. From lifetime to lifetime I had sharp faculties (tīkṣṇendriya) and wisdom (prajñā), I was able to find the profound Dharma (gambhīradharma) and I excelled in preaching the profound meaning (gambhīrārtha); I was foremost among all the bodhisattvas.”
Thus 'to be skillful in preaching the [true] nature of the dharmas' is 'to excel in saving appropriately (yāthātmyāvatāraṇakuśala).'


Whether this answers the question of this teaching being for "beginners" or not, I am not sure, but this is further evidence - amongst many - that this is definitely a bodhisattva teaching at some level or another.

Posting it here, of course, puts things at the risk of misinterpretation or misunderstanding. But this misunderstanding is in a sense the very message of this passage, perhaps more so than the content of the teaching itself. I hope that intelligent readers can keep this in mind.

Huifeng :namaste:
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby Astus » Mon Dec 27, 2010 11:51 am

Thank you Master Huifeng for posting it. These kinds of instructions are good examples for the presence of seemingly newer styles of teachings, like Zen, within fundamental Mahayana texts. As for the question of "beginnerness", these teachings fit into the category of meditation practice, so there's a direct connection with the method of observing the three states of dharmas and insight into the three gates of liberation. It also rhymes with the Tibetan teaching on having the view of a buddha (emptiness), practice of a bodhisattva (compassion) and conduct of a sravaka (morality).

Here's one from a contemporary Zen master (mistress?), Daehaeng Kun Sunim:

"As the sea and the waves are not separate, enlightenment and deluded thoughts are not two. So don't spend your time trying to figure out which thoughts are deluded and which are not - just let go of everything. When you do this, thoughts of "I," discriminations, and deluded thoughts will naturally disappear. ... Because even deluded thoughts arise from Juingong, entrust everything to Juingong, completely let go of it. When you return defilements and delusions inside, to your fundamental mind, its evolutionary power can shine forth. Lotus flowers bloom in mud, and the Buddha-Dharma blooms in the midst of defilements. I've never said that you shouldn't possess money, fall in love, or be upset when angry. Do all of this as you need to. But it is important to know that all of this is being done by your foundation. Watch and see if you are doing things from attachments to "I" or "mine." If you live harmoniously, knowing that there is nothing that is not yourself, you will be able to take everything in the world as material for your spiritual practice."
(No River to Cross, p. 45-46.)
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby catmoon » Mon Dec 27, 2010 1:43 pm

Huifeng wrote:From Ven Migme Chodron's English translation of Lamotte's translation of the Māhāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa from Chinese, Vol I, pp. 323-326:


Mañjuśrī said to the Buddha
.....


This teaching is causing me considerable difficulty. Perhaps I should just ignore it completely?
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby ground » Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:10 pm

catmoon wrote:
Huifeng wrote:From Ven Migme Chodron's English translation of Lamotte's translation of the Māhāprajñāpāramitā Upadeśa from Chinese, Vol I, pp. 323-326:


Mañjuśrī said to the Buddha
.....


This teaching is causing me considerable difficulty. Perhaps I should just ignore it completely?


This teaching is simply one manifestation of the never ending story:

Taken the verbal expressions as words both are wrong, Prasannendriya and Agramati. However if you speak you have to decide: What is "less wrong" - which is impossible since something is either wrong or right.
So the question actually is: What is more skillful / conducive? And here is where "opinions" that are usually based on dichotomic "categories" differ.


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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby ground » Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:27 pm

In tibetan buddhism to the save beings from the suffering of lower realms comes first. That is why teachings compliant with so called "common sense" that foster ethical conduct on a conventional basis of understanding are always preferred and considered more skillful.
And teaching emptiness to the "unprepared" is considered a transgression in the context of the vows. And to apply terms like "non-existent" in the context of conventionally valid phenomena is actually considered to be "the peak of unskillfulness" by some (i.e not all).

I guess this is where some east-asian forms of buddhism and some indo-tibetan forms of buddhism will never "meet".

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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby Astus » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:53 pm

catmoon wrote:This teaching is causing me considerable difficulty. Perhaps I should just ignore it completely?


There are different teachings exactly because some are easy for one but difficult for the other. If it is confusing there are two options. Either you try to figure it out on your own or asking people, or you just put it aside. It's really up to you.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby Will » Mon Dec 27, 2010 10:13 pm

Ven. Huifeng, this sounds like a mistake (in para 4): "He criticized their teacher Agramati, saying: “This man,...

Should it not read? "Agramati criticized their teacher Prasannendriya, saying: “This man,
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby White Lotus » Mon Dec 27, 2010 10:45 pm

I think this could be related to the aphorism... "just live".
it can be said that on the path "nothing is required".
"just breathe", "just be".

moral and immoral behaviour can be seen as the same essence... mind.
however it is also of the nature of mind to discriminate between helpful and unhelpful. good and bad. a freedom we should reserve for ourselves.

remember... there is no mind. since the beginning not a single thing is.

rgds, Tom.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby ground » Tue Dec 28, 2010 2:59 am

Extremist wordings provoked the 3rd turning of the wheel. With that I am not saying that the authors minds had been necessarily extremist too, but obviously they were not willing to integrate but preferred provocative wordings.
How this is compatible with compassion that covers worldlings/householders too and is not restricted to disciplined monks under surveillance... I don't know.

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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby Huifeng » Tue Dec 28, 2010 7:39 am

Will wrote:Ven. Huifeng, this sounds like a mistake (in para 4): "He criticized their teacher Agramati, saying: “This man,...

Should it not read? "Agramati criticized their teacher Prasannendriya, saying: “This man,


Hi Will, you are correct. I'm not sure if the mistake is Lamotte's, or Ven Chodron's, however.
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby Huifeng » Tue Dec 28, 2010 7:40 am

TMingyur wrote:I guess this is where some east-asian forms of buddhism and some indo-tibetan forms of buddhism will never "meet".

Kind regards


How do you come to this conclusion? All the texts cited in this thread are Indian.
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby ground » Tue Dec 28, 2010 7:52 am

Huifeng wrote:
TMingyur wrote:I guess this is where some east-asian forms of buddhism and some indo-tibetan forms of buddhism will never "meet".

Kind regards


How do you come to this conclusion? All the texts cited in this thread are Indian.


I have been referring to the way of presentation and interpretation. Also "some" was meant to exclude "all".


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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby White Lotus » Tue Dec 28, 2010 3:40 pm

This teaching is causing me considerable difficulty. Perhaps I should just ignore it completely?


if you dont find it helpful, dont become attached to its difficulty. let it go and it will come back to you in a more helpful form at a later date... perhaps as a certain cat, or a movie you see on television. nothing is ever lost, nothing is ever missing.

dont worry! be happy. if you are an english speaker you arn't going to acquire the truth from a book written in a foreign language, except with major difficulty. so why worry. just trust. things have a way of working themselves out.

chill!

love, white lotus.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby catmoon » Tue Dec 28, 2010 8:32 pm

Thanks for the kind thoughts. Maybe there is some sort of attachment trap in rigorous practice of sila. Possibly the sutra above is pointing this out in a really over-the-top kind of way.
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby ground » Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:29 am

A reasonable conclusion.


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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby Huifeng » Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:29 am

I really don't think so.
In the four siddhanta system of the text, it's a paramartha teaching, not a pratipaksa.
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Re: Training of Beginner Bodhisattvas

Postby ground » Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:09 am

Huifeng wrote:I really don't think so.
In the four siddhanta system of the text, it's a paramartha teaching, not a pratipaksa.

Hmh .. could you elaborate?

I found "paramartha" meaning "absolute truth" but I could not find a simple correlate of "pratipaksa".

However if it is a teaching referring to "absolute truth" then it is aimed at non-attachment which IMO complies with catmoons conclusion.

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