Friday, October 30, 2009

Last Post

This will be my last post on this blog. It hasn't worked ou as I originally intended and Lama has asked me to practice Tibetan, so I won't have as much time as I used to. If you are interested in my thoughts, you can follow my other blog, The Careless Hand.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Psychic Powers

All Buddhas say the cause for the completion
Of the collections, whose nature is
Merit and exalted wisdom,
Is the development of higher perception.

The Sanskrit term which is translated here as higher perception is abhijna. The closest term in English is psychic powers. We're talking about reading minds, seeing things at a distance, being able to see invisible beings, and so on. Without these powers, one's ability to help others is limited. One can guide a student better when one can see what's going on in their mind. And most of the six classes of beings are invisible to us, we can't help them if we don't have psychic powers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Two Accumulations

Therefore, through effort in the vow made by
Bodhisattvas for pure, full enlightenment,
The collections for complete enlightenment
Will be thoroughly accomplished.

Enlightenment depends upon the two accumulations of merit and wisdom. The discussion so far has concerned the accumulation of merit. We start out with the accumulation of merit because until we are a good ways along on the path, it's difficult to accumulate wisdom. Once the accumulation of merit is well established, the other qualities that lead to enlightenment can also be established.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Observing the Vow

When those observing the vow
Of the active altruistic intention have trained well
In the three forms of discipline, their respect
For these three forms of discipline grows,
Which cause purity of body, speech and mind.
After taking the vow, which is aspirational bodhicitta, one engages in active bodhicitta. These are the two types of relative bodhicitta.  Part of active bodhicitta is observing the moral conduct of body, speech, and mind. When this behavior becomes habitual, one has achieved purity of body, speech, and mind.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Virtuous Conduct

"I shall purify all my bodily
And my verbal forms of activity.
My mental activities, too, I shall purify
And do nothing that is non-virtuous."

Here again the aspiring bodhisattva vows to only engage in virtuous conduct. In addition to the reason given earlier, a bodhisattva needs to avoid non-virtue so that they will not fall into the lower realms, which would prevent further spiritual progress.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Enlightenment Delayed

"I shall not be eager to reach
Enlightenment in the quickest way,
But shall stay behind till the very end,
For the sake of a single being."

A bodhisattva does not enter the enlightenment of cessation, but remains in the world to help others.  They are able to both remain in the world and attain complete enlightenment because they attain an enlightenment that makes no distinction between samsara and nirvana. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pure Conduct

"From this moment onwards
Until i attain enlightenment,
I shall not harbor harmful thoughts,
Anger, avarice or envy"
"I shall cultivate pure conduct,
Give up wrong-doing and desire
And with joy in the vow of discipline
Train myself to follow the Buddhas"
A bodhisattva vows to benefit all beings and lead them to enlightenment. Harming others in thought, word, or deed would contradict this vow, so a bodhisattva forswears them. Virtuous conduct is the root of all attainment on the bodhisattva's path, so an aspiring bodhisattva  cultivates positive qualities and abandons  negative ones.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Vow to Full Enlightenment

"In the presence of the protectors,
I arouse the intention to gain full enlightenment.
I invite all beings as my guests
And shall free them from cyclic existence"

The "protectors" are the buddhas of the ten directions, who, through their omniscience, are aware of those who take the bodhisattva vow, and in that sense present. Full enlightenment is the enlightenment of a buddha, which is greater than that of a pratyekabuddha or arhat, because their accumulation of merit and wisdom is greater. And because they are greater, they have greater resources for helping others. A buddha aims to free all beings from ignorance, so in that sense they are guests of the buddha.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Manjushri's Vow

I shall write here very clearly, as explained
In the Ornament of Manjushri's Buddha Land Sutra,
How, long ago, when Manjushri was Ambaraja,
He aroused the intention to become enlightened 

Manjushri is the bodhisattva of wisdom. If you want to know more about him, you can read A Garland of Jewels by Ju Mipham, which is a collection of excerpts from the Mahayana sutras about the great bodhisattvas. The next several verses are verses of aspiration that Manjushri made about his enlightenment.  Verses of aspiration are common in Tibetan Buddhism, and some compositions are well known.
 Manjushri's aspirations are meant to serve as a model for us.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Taking the Vow Alone

However, in case you try but cannot
Find such a spiritual teacher,
I shall explain another
Correct procedure for taking the vow.

Although it is best to take the bodhisattva vow from a spiritual preceptor, if you cannot find one, you can take the bodhisattva vow by imagining that you are in the presence of the buddhas  and reciting one of the forms of the vow. The best known version is from the Bodhicharyavatara, but the Lamp for the Path gives another version in the next few verses.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Taking the Bodhisattva Precepts

According to the ritual described in
The chapter on discipline in the Bodhisattva Stages,
Take the vow from a good
And well-qualified spiritual teacher.
Understand that a good spiritual teacher
Is one skilled in the vow ceremony,
Who lives by the vow and has
The confidence and compassion to bestow it. 

Normally the bodhisattva vow is taken in front of a teacher, although if no teacher can be found, it can be taken alone. The teacher must also have taken the vow and understand how to perform the ceremony. Ideally they should have a wise and loving nature.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pratimoksha Vows

Those who maintain any of the seven kinds
Of individual liberation vow
Have the ideal [prerequisite] for
The Bodhisattva vow, not others
The Tathagatha spoke of seven kinds
Of individual liberation vow.
The best of these is glorious pure conduct,
Said to be the vow of a fully ordained person.

Before one can take the bodhisattva vow, one must first take refuge, which is the ceremony where one formally declares oneself a Buddhist. And one must also take the pratinmoksha vows along with refuge.  Pratimoksha is Sanskrit for individual liberation. In the Pratimoksha vow one commits to a code of conduct. There are three levels of vows: lay, novice ordained, and fully ordained. Three times the two sexes makes six. And the seventh? Nuns have an extra level of vows between novice and fully ordained. (i think. I don't have my copy of Jewel Ornament.) There are five lay pratimkosha vows (no killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, or intoxicants), ten novice vows, and approximately 250 vows for the fully ordained. Fully ordained nuns have the most vows, they are the pratimoksha champs! The point of taking vows is to lead a harmless and restrained life.  In this way the pratimoksha vows serve as the basis of bodhisatta vows, as they have the same intent. And the vows of the fully ordained serve as the best basis for the bodhisattva vow, although any will do.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bodhisattva Precepts

Having developed the aspiration for enlightenment
Constantly enhance it through concerted effort.
To remember it in this and also in other lives,
Keep the precepts properly as explained.
 Without the vow of the engaged intention,
Perfect aspiration will not grow.
Make effort definitely to take it,
Since you want the wish for enlightenment to grow.

The bodhisattva vow should be repeated daily. This is usually done by reciting the verses from Shantideva's Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds (Bodhicharya avatara). Along with reciting the vow every day, one should also keep the bodhisattva precepts. There are two different traditions on what these traditions are: the  tradition of vast activity, which comes through Asanga, and the tradition of profound meaining, which comes through Shantideva.  The two sets of vows are explained on the linked pages. It's beyond me to give a detailed explanation of them.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Limitless Merit

The Sutra Requested by Viradatta
Fully explains the merit therein.
At this point, in summary,
I will cite just three verses.
If it possessed physical form,
The merit of the altruistic intention
Would completely fill the whole space
And exceed even that.
If someone were to fill with jewels
As many Buddha fields as there are grains
Of sands in the Ganges
To offer to the Protector of the World
This would be surpassed by
The gift of folding one's hands
And inclining one's mind to enlightenment,
For such is limitless.
I'm including all three verses because they all have the same point: the merit from bodhicitta is unlimited. This is because bodhicitta is the cause of Buddhahood and a Buddha benefits countless sentient beings through his activities. There are many citations in Buddhist scripture to support this and here are three.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Recollecting the Vow

Having learned about the infinite benefits
Of the intention to gain full enlightenment
By reading this sutra or listening to a teacher,
Arouse it repeatedly to make it steadfast

Once you have taken the bodhisattva vow, you should repeat it every day to reinforce it. Otherwise, you will lose the vow, as it goes against our normal way of thinking. There are two ways to do this. First, when you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, you can say, "Today I will act to help every being that I meet." And at night, just before you go to bed, you can recall your encounters with others and check if they were beneficial or harmful. If they were beneficial, you can rejoice in them, if not, you regret them and promise to do better in the future. 

The other way is to repeat the bodhisattva vow in long or short form at the beginning of your daily meditation practice in order to establish the proper motivation for practice. And at the end of your practice, you should dedicate the merit from the practice towards enlightenment and the benefit of all beings.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Qualities of Bodhicitta

The qualities of developing
Such an aspiration are
Fully explained by Maitreya
In the Array of Trunks Sutra.

I've been posting my remarks in the comment section. Since this blog hasn't been the discussion I originally planned, I'm moving them to the front page. If you have a comment to make, you are still free to make it in the comments section.  I try to do two verses a week. This week I came up short because I've been busy with Lama Gursam's visit. 

The sutra mentioned in this verse is the Gandavyuha Sutra, which is included in the Avatamsaka Sutra. According to the commentary I have from Geshe Sonam Rinchen, the sutra lists two hundred good qualities of bodhicitta, the aspiration for enlightenment. Taking this vow multiplies the merit of whatever virtuous activity we perform immeasurably.  This is because the activity is directed to the best possible goal, the liberation of all beings. Even our neutral activity, such as sleeping generates merit. We also come under the protection of all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and dharma protectors, as we are working for the same purpose.  Our afflictive emotions lessen and equanimity increases. There are just some of the qualities mentioned.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Arousing Bodhicitta

Then, since you want to free these beings
From the suffering of pain,
From suffering and the cause of suffering,
Arouse immutably the resolve
To attain enlightenment

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Love and Compassion

Next, beginning with an attitude
Of love for all living creatures,
Consider beings, excluding none,
Suffering in the three bad rebirths,
Suffering birth, death and so forth.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Refuge Vows

With the seven part offering
From the [Prayer of] Noble Conduct
With the thought never to turn back
Till you gain ultimate enlightenment,

And with strong faith in the Three Jewels,
Kneeling with one knee on the ground
And your hands pressed together,
First of all take refuge three times.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shrine Offerings

Facing paintings, statues and so forth
Of the completely enlightened one,
Reliquaries and the excellent teaching,
Offer flowers, incense - whatever you have.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Purpose of the Text

For those excellent living beings,
Who desire supreme enlightenment,
I shall explain the perfect methods
Taught by the spiritual teachers.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Persons of Highest Capacity

Those who, through their personal suffering,
Truly want to end completely
All the suffering of others
Are persons of supreme capacity.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Persons of Middling Cpacity

Those who seek peace for themselves alone,
Turning away from worldly pleasures
And avoiding destructive actions
Are said to be middling capacity.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Persons of Lesser Capacity

Know that those who by whatever means
Seek for themselves no more
Than the pleasures of cyclic existence
Are persons of the least capacity

Monday, July 13, 2009

Three Kinds of Persons

Understand there are three kinds of persons
Because of their small, middling and supreme capacities.
I shall write clearly distinguishing
Their individual characteristics.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Opening Verse

I've set this blog up to serve as a discussion group for Atisha's text, The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Every couple of days I will post a verse from Atisha's text. Discussion will take place in the comments on the post. Tonight I'll start with the first verse of the text:

I pay homage with great respect

To the Conquerors [Buddha] of the three times [the past, present and future]

To their teaching and to those who aspire to virtue.

Urged by the good disciple Jangchup Wo

I shall illuminate the lamp

For the path to enlightenment