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.