Sunday, March 04, 2007


In the Buddha's teaching, the Sutra collection and the Vinaya collecti
on comprise two kinds of Dharma. The Sutras are the collection of the Buddha's discourses given over a forty-year period in the Ganges valley, in India, nearly 2,6000 years ago, and they are concerned with the nature of mind and experience and the reality of the suffering, unsatisfactoriness, and the frustration of conditioned existence. The Vinaya is the collection that sets forth the discipline of body and speech that bhikkhus and bhikkhunis (Buddhist monks and nuns) must practice. This monastic code of discipline is undertaken upon ordination, when one formally leaves home life, and Vinaya of this sort is primarily the concern of the Sangha (monastic body). An expanded version of this Buddhist training is the Bodhisattva ordination, wherein one undertakes the practice of the fundamental bodhisattva Dharma of body and mind. This Bodhisattva Dharma encompasses many levels and degrees of practice, both worldly and transcendental, and it is truly wondrous and inconceivable.
Many people are familiar with the term "Bodhisattva", but the genuine meaning of the term could stand some clarification. The average person perhaps considers images made of clay, wood or gold or portraits and paintings of saintly personalities to be some manner of substitute Bodhisattva. Indeed, through Asian national customs and traditions, we have come to associate religious statuary of this sort with the term "Bodhisattva". Needless to say, this is incorrect. We should understand that there are Buddha rupas portraying a higher degree of practice than Bodhisattva and also images of lesser sages, patriarchs, and even demons with bodies of oxen and serpents. These images should not be indiscriminately lumped together under the designation "Bodhisattva". Actually, men and women cannot look like the representations of Bodhisattva that artists have created. However, we are human beings with mind, and if we vow to practice Bodhisattva behavior, then we can gradually become Bodhisattvas.
The Sanskrit term "Bodhisattva" is composed of two words: /Bodhi/, which means enlightenment or awakening; and /sattva/, which means being. The designation "Bodhisattva" originally meant a living being who had developed or had determined to hold the Bodhicitta. /Citta/ is a Sanskrit work that means mind or heart; in the East, the two words "heart " and "mind" are synonymous. To search with the great perseverance for the Supreme Bodhi and to develop a compassionate heart in order to effect the liberation of all sentient beings from their states of conditioned suffering -- such is the authentic meaning of the life and path of one who has taken the Bodhisattva vows. Therefore, if we can resolve determinedly to develop the Bodhicitta, to search above for the Tao of the Buddha and seek the below to convert all sentient being to the right path -- not simply in theory but in genuine practice -- then we are practicing real Bodhisattva Dharma. Only one who urges all beings to strive upward and penetrate the region of the great enlightenment can validly be recognized as and be called _a_ bodhisattva. Thus, it should be clear that images of clay or gold are not the real thing; and only those who have determined the Bodhicitta are genuine Bodhisattvas.
To initiate the Tao of the Bodhisattva, one need not already stand in the highest regions of sanctity. By the same token, when we observe our own natures closely, we see that pure-mind realms are not so very far away. Starting from our worldly state, we march, step by step, toward the highest, holiest region and create purity and freedom. Staring from the shallow and progressing to the deep, we transform inferior into superior beauty. Beginning as worldlings with the bodhicitta, we eventually shall enter the blessed stage of the final Diamond Heart. This is the condition of the superlatively enlightened Bodhisattva.
Most people who have confidence in the Buddhadharma and consider themselves Buddhists do not vow the develop the bodhicitta. Thus, they remain mere worldlings if they do not choose to add to themselves to dimension of Bodhisattva mind. Genuine Buddhists who have determined the Bodhicitta are as rare as the feathers of a phoenix or the horn of a unicorn. Another kind of Buddhist are those who, after encountering the Buddhadharma, imagines the accomplishment of Buddhahood to be so lofty as to be virtually unreachable. Because of their inadequate self- confidence, such people fail to realize the real goal and cannot complete the Buddha Tao. They grasp the expedient teaching which was revealed gradually by the Buddha -- i.e., wholesome karma in this world and the subsequent reward of heavenly bliss. Learning this very shallow dharma, they wish only to satisfy their desire for bliss and blessings in the present life. They can be said to have learned some Buddhadharma, but they are still quite far, in reality, from any genuine, profound understanding of teaching. In short, they are merely grasping expedient teaching as absolute truth. Buddha was the censure this kind of understanding as /ichchantika/ or the state of being unable to make spiritual progress.
Yet another kind of Buddhist is the sort who is personally aware of the suffering of birth and death and so learns the void dharma of the Middle-Way beyond the two extremes of "is" and "is not". Always grasping the extremes of "is" and "is not", and then one can enter the stage of void samadhi. Even though this is considered a superior position and can lead to the practice of Mahayana, it is, however, not the Bodhisattva Tao leading to the Supreme Buddha Fruit. Thus, this approach was censured by the Bodhisattva Dharma, whether high or samadhi. The practice of Bodhisattva Dharma, whether high or low, worldly or transcendental, starts from the human level and proceeds until the complete Tao of Bodhi is won. This characterizes that practice that goes all the way through from top to bottom, and it require nothing apart from determining the Bodhicitta and vowing to act as a Bodhisattva. This development is analogous, by way of example, to a person beginning kinder-garten and proceeding until he eventually reaches the research institute and earns his doctoral degree; at all stages of his academic career he is called a student. Similarly, in developing Bodhisattva practice, one begins by vowing to determine the Bodhicitta and progresses to the Final-Diamond-Heart stage. The beginning one approaches the Buddha Fruit. All stages are termed Bodhisattva, and practice is an ongoing matter. The Bodhisattva stage immediately preceding the Buddha Fruit is termed the Final Diamond Heart. Though it is not easy to carry through, by not letting go of Bodhisattva Mind even for one instant, one will gradually complete the work and achieve the goal.
The practice of this Bodhisattva Dharma is easily initiated by accepting the Three Refuges of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Because it is feared that a person might stray onto wrong paths, one, after accepting the Three Refuges, is encouraged to determine to hold the Four Great Vows. These are:(1) Sentient beings without number I vow to enlighten; (2) Vexations without number I vow to eradicate; (3) limitless approaches to Dharma I vow to master; (4) Supreme Bodhi I vow to achieve. The purpose of taking the Three Refuges is to enable people to disentangle themselves from erroneous views; the Four Great Vows are used to teach people to hold to no desire for the bliss of men and devas and the void samadhi of Dviyana (the two yanas of Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas). This path can be termed the direct road of the Bodhisattva Tao that leads one to the Supreme Bodhi. After accepting the Three Refuges and thus inaugurating the Bodhisattva-Dharma training, it is very important for one to practice everywhere, continually turning the wheel of the Dharma and aiding all sentient beings. Relative to this view, the /Vimalakirtinirdesa Sutta/ says: "The Bodhimandala (place of spiritual practice) of the Bodhisattva is everywhere

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