In the various Bodhisattva vows (sometimes called the Bodhisattva Precepts) of
Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattvas take vows stating that they will strive for as long as samsaraendures to liberate all sentient beings from samsara and deliver them into Nirvana. The Bodhisattva does not seek bodhi(Awakening) solely for him/herself, but chiefly for the sake of freeing all other beings and aiding them into the bliss of Nirvana. This can be done by venerating all Buddhas and by cultivating supreme moral and spiritual perfection, to be placed in the service of others. Bodhisattvas vow to amass inconceivable amounts of merit ( punya), which they will dedicate to all other sentient beings, so as to help them attain Nirvanaand Awakening. Such great vows are made out of compassionand the bodhisattva devotes his/her powers to helping others attain Nirvana. A fine example of a Bodhisattva vow is found at the very end of the Avatamsaka Sutraby Samantabhadra.
Buddhist lay persons may take the bodhisattva vows in order to initiate their spiritual journey. The following table of the fourfold vow is as practiced by the Chan and
Zentradition. Within Japan the bodhisattva precepts are recognised as being full ordination for all sects of Buddhism.
Berzin (1997: unpaginated) links the
mindstreamto the bodhisattva vows:
The promise to keep bodhisattva vows applies not only to this life, but to each subsequent lifetime until enlightenment. Thus these vows continue on our mind-stream into future lives. [Berzin, Alexander (1997). "Taking the Kalachakra Initiation: Part III: Vows and Closely Bonding Practices." Source: [http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/e-books/published_books/kalachakra_initiation/pt3/kalachakra_initiation_06.html] (accessed: January 25, 2008). NB: Originally published asBerzin, Alexander. Taking the Kalachakra Initiation. Ithaca, Snow Lion, 1997 ]
Brahma Net Sutra
The Brahma Net Sutra translated by
Kumarajiva(circa 400 AD) has a list of ten major and forty-eight minor Bodhisattva vows. The ten major vows are as follows:
#Not to kill any living creature
#Not to steal anything
#Not to engage in any form of sexual misconduct
#Not to lie or use false speech
#Not to trade alcoholic beverages
#Not to discuss the faults and misdeeds that occur by any Buddhist
#Not to praise oneself or disparage others
#Not to be stingy or abusive towards those in need
#Not to harbor anger or resentment or encourage others to be angry
#Not to criticise or slander the
Asanga(circa 300 AD) delineated 18 major vows and forty-six minor vows. These Bodhisattva vows are still used by the Gelukpaand Kagyutraditions of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. The eighteen major vows (as actions to be abandoned) are as follows:
#Praising oneself or belittling others due to attachment to receiving material offerings, praise and respect.
#Not giving material aid or (due to miserliness) not teaching the Dharma to those who are suffering and without a protector.
#Not listening to others' apologies or striking others
#Abandoning the Mahayana by saying that Mahayana texts are not the words of Buddha or teaching what appears to be the Dharma but is not.
#Taking things belonging to Buddha,
#Abandoning the holy Dharma by saying that texts which teach the three vehicles are not the Buddha's word.
#With anger depriving ordained ones of their robes, beating and imprisoning them or causing them to lose their ordination even if they have impure morality, for example, by saying that being ordained is useless.
#Committing any of the five extremely negative actions: (1) killing one's mother, (2) killing one's father, (3) killing an
arhat, (4) intentionally drawing blood from a Buddha or (5) causing schism in the Sangha community by supporting and spreading sectarian views.
#Holding distorted views (which are contrary to the teaching of Buddha, such as denying the existence of the Three Jewels or the law of cause and effect etc.)
#Destroying towns, villages, cities or large areas by means such as fire, bombs, pollution or black magic.
#Teaching emptiness to those whose minds are unprepared.
#Causing those who have entered the Mahayana to turn away from working for the full enlightenment of Buddhahood and encouraging them to work merely for their own liberation from suffering.
#Causing others to abandon their
#Belittling the Śrāvaka or
Pratyekabuddhavehicle (by holding and causing others to hold the view that these vehicles do not abandon attachment and other delusions).
#Falsely stating that oneself has realised profound
emptinessand that if others meditate as one has, they will realize emptiness and become as great and as highly realized as oneself.
#Taking gifts from others who were encouraged to give you things originally intended as offerings to the Three Jewels. Not giving things to the Three Jewels that others have given you to give to them, or accepting property stolen from the Three Jewels.
#Causing those engaged in calm-abiding meditation to give it up by giving their belongings to those who are merely reciting texts or making bad disciplinary rules which cause a spiritual community not to be harmonious.
#Abandoning the either of the two types of
Bodhicitta(aspiring and engaging).
Atishathe Pratimokshavows are the basis for the Bodhisattva vows. Without keeping one of the different sets of Pratimoksha vows (in one of existing Vinayaschools), there is no Bodhisattva vow. [Great Kagyu Masters: The Golden Lineage Treasury by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen, Snow Lion Publications, see pages 154-186]
* The 22 Vows of Ambedkar and his followers
Classical Commentaries in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism
* Asanga's Chapter on Ethics With the Commentary of Tsong-Kha-Pa: The Basic Path to Awakening, the Complete Bodhisattva, translated by Mark Tatz, ISBN-10: 088946054X
* Complete Explanation of the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva and Vajrayana Vows: "Buddhist Ethics" (Treasury of Knowledge: Book Five), Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, ISBN 1-55939-191-X
* Ngari Panchen: "Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows", ISBN 0-86171-083-5; commentary by
* "The Bodhisattva Vow", by Geshe Sonam Rinchen, ISBN-10: 1559391502
* [http://www.ymba.org/bns/bnstext.htm Brahma Net Sutra]
*The [http://berzinarchives.com/vows/actions_train_aspiring_bodhichitta.html eight Pledges of aspiring Bodhichitta] , [http://www.berzinarchives.com/vows/root_bodhisattva_pledges.html the eighteen root vows] and the [http://www.berzinarchives.com/vows/secondary_bodhisattva_pledges.html forty-six secondary Bodhisattva vows] according to Tibetan Gelug Tradition (including commentary) by Alexander Berzin
* [http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism/A%20-%20Tibetan%20Buddhism/Authors/Chandragomin/Twenty%20Verses%20on%20the%20Bodhisattva%20Vow/Twenty%20Verses%20on%20the%20Bodhisattva%20Vow.htm Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattva Vow] by Chandragomin
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