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.