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My recent posts were a “fail!” as teachings, because I pointed out the “18 Root Downfalls” of the bodhisattva…
March 2nd, 2013 (March 3rd, 2013)

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

My recent posts were a "fail!" as teachings, because I pointed out the "18 Root Downfalls" of the bodhisattva vows and the "six perfections" as the summation of bodhisattva practice, but I should obviously have started with the bodhisattva vows themselves!

The vow is found in the mahāvaipulya Buddhāvataṃsaka sūtra (or avataṃsaka sūtra for short: "flower garland sūtra"), a mahāyāna text:
« Just as all the previous ones who attained Peace, the buddhas generated the mind of enlightenment and accomplished all the stages of the bodhisattva training, so will I too, for the sake of all beings, generate the mind of enlightenment and accomplish all the stages of the bodhisattva training. »

The sūtra is far from limited to this and is among the longest buddhist texts. Its two main topics are
• the interdependency of all phenomena (including 'people'),
• the progression of the buddhist path to full Enlightenment.
If anything, the vow links the two topics together.

But this may sound a bit 'general', and e.g. the Zen tradition uses another form, the "four encompassing vows":
Beings are numberless, I vow to save them all;
defilements are inexhaustible, I vow to end them all;
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter/master them all;
Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.

This is still 'general' but one has to remember that this is about intention:
• intention to see beyond one's own interests;
• intention to apply oneself, and to keep paying attention (notably to new 'certainties' we generate when we successfully free ourselves from old ones);
• intention to appreciate the different paths and stay open-minded;
• intention to stay with these intentions ;-)

Intention is karma, and the vows are important. This being said, the bodhisattva vows do not need to be complicated…
You should note however that this is not about beating oneself up for not being strong enough (yet) to save all beings, or to avoid all mistakes, etc. The vows are definitely not a call to drown oneself or sacrifice oneself for others, as this would still be blind to the interdependency! We are part of the web of life. The vows are about seeing that we're all in the same boat, and we can support each other. This puts great importance on inspiring others, or leading by example…

But if that is still too 'general', then one can then rely on the "six perfections" as the heart of the bodhisattva's practical translation of the intention, and the "18 root downfalls" (breaking the vow, which then needs to be taken again) and 46 minor downfalls (which don't break the vow —everybody makes mistakes…— but should be avoided as much as possible). In the Gelug tradition, refraining from the 18 root downfalls is sometimes considered the bodhisattva vow itself! This is similar to the Buddha stating that fully respecting the five precepts (not killing, not stealing, no sexual misconduct, not lying or slandering, not intoxicating oneself and loosing control) are already a great Dharma-inspired gift to others!

#Buddhism   #Dharma   #buddhistcircle  
photo: tarsiers (author unknown), just because these are great animals for the one most important message of the vow: pay attention! The interdependency of all phenomena offers the biggest promises of positive contributions, even from the tiniest wholesome acts, but also hides the biggest traps, even from the tiniest lapses. Pay attention!