According to one's learning
and level of practice, there is a
distinction made between Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism. Hinayana is a
term given by the Mahayana to those schools of Buddhism that practice to
attain Sravaka Budhi, the enlightenment of a sravaka, or one who listens
to and understands a Buddha's Teaching. This enlightenment is termed
that of an arahant, or accomplished one. Mahayana Buddhists aspire to
win the Annuttara Samyak Sambodhi of a Buddha, both for their own
liberation and for the liberation of all sentient beings. A traditional
simile concerning these two yanas is that a solitary individual riding a
bicycle is analogous to the Hinayana path, while riding in a train full
of people is comparable to the Mahayana.
According to the Bodhisattva
Dharma, an individual who has determined to
practice and seek deliverance for himself only has blockaded himself
within and limited himself to the region of Hinayana. In a contrast, one
who has determined to practice the Bodhicitta with the aspiration to
assist in the liberation of other living beings has entered the region
of Mahayana. The practice of Bodhisattva Dharma is just the promotion
of this Mahayana insight, and its basis spirit is the determination of
DETERMINING THE BODHICITTA; THE FOUR GREAT VOWS AND THE FOUR DEFEATS OF THE BODHISATTVA DHARMA
Determining the Bodhicitta
is spoken of in the last of the Four Great
Vows as follows:
"The Supreme Enlightenment we vow to achieve."
Enlightenment is Bodhi;
Supreme Enlightenment is the /Annuttara Samyak
Sambodhi/, or the Buddha Fruit. Determining the Bodhicitta means using
the faith of our worldly minds to vow to complete this path. However, if
one is to complete this vow, one should have the support of the other
three Great Vows. To arrive at Annuttara Samyak Sambodhi, one should
have the desire to spread the Buddhadharma and effect the liberation of
all the sentient beings. Therefore, the First vow is:
"Sentient beings without number we vow to enlighten."
For a Bodhisattva,the eradication of one's own suffering is joined with
the desire to aid in the eradication of all others' suffering as well.
The real Bodhisattva identifies the Immeasurable distress of all
sentient beings as his own. With this immeasurable compassion
(Mahakaruna), one can take up the second vow:
"Vexations without number we vow to eradicate."
The desire to win Supreme Bodhi, convert and liberate sentient beings,
aid in the eradication of their distress, etc., should not be an impulse
based on idle sentimentality or romantic notions of spiritual life. This
noble aspiration can only come to completion provided that there is a
strong foundation of wisdom. With wisdom only, and not otherwise, can
one spread the Dharma and assist living beings. This wisdom arises from
a keen desire to learn and practice the Buddhadharma. Therefore, the
Buddha said, "All Buddha in the three periods arise from learning and
practice". One who is not willing to learn will remain eternally
foolish, and what foolish man or woman ever completed the Bodhi Tao,
spread Dharma and assisted sentient beings? As there is Immeasurable
distress in the lives of sentient beings, there are innumerable methods
of Dharma practice. Therefore, the third vow of great compassion is:
"Limitless approaches to Dharma we vow to master."
When one perceives the suffering of sentient beings, one vows to
enlighten sentient beings without number. When perceiving the distress
in one's life and that of others, one vows to eradicate vexations
without end. Perceiving the myriad Dharma doors to enlightenment, one
vows to master them all. Perceiving the truth of nirvana, one vows to
attain the Supreme Bodhi. All Bodhisattvas who determine the Bodhicitta
hold there Four Vows of great compassion.
There are various condition
leading to the deterioration of the
bodhicitta and the practice of Bodhisattva Dharma. These conditions are
called /parajika/, or "defeats", and they are acts or thoughts that
break or defeat the Bodhisattva practice. This same term is used in
connection with the monastic Vinaya, where it denotes the first four
rules, transgression of which calls for expulsion from the order of
bhikkhus. The elder Tripitaka Master /Hsuan Tsang/ translated this term
as "overcoming by specific conditions." This means the good roots
necessary for the practice of Bodhisattva Dharma are overcome by the
specific conditions of unwholesome roots.
The first specific condition
which leads to the defeat of the Bodhicitta
is the tendency to praise oneself and to slander others. If the
Bodhisattva loses his Mahakaruna, he is no longer willing to profit
others at his own expense. Being solely concerned with his own name and
fame, he loses respect in the eyes of family, friends and society.
The second specific
condition leading to defeat is seeing someone in a
state of suffering and anxiety and not lifting a finger to help. Losing
one's Mahakaruna, one makes no effort to teach or profit those who may
come for assistance but, instead, cultivates miserly tendencies.
The third specific condition
leading to defeat is no receiving the
repentant or those desirous of following the right path. Losing one's
Mahakaruna, one allows himself to bear anger and grudges in his mind
and, as a result, is not willing to teach or assist those who are
The fourth specific
condition leading to defeat is the act of foolishly
deceiving others with pseudo-Dharma. Without wisdom, one manipulates
heterodox views, slandering the Buddhadharma and deceiving others with
what appears to be Dharma but which is, in fact, not genuine.
If a Bodhisattva falls
into any of these categories of defeat, he loses
the Bodhicitta and also the qualification of Bodhisattva practice.
Therefore, one should preserve the qualifications, protect the
Bodhicitta and increase the vast storehouse of Bodhisattva Dharma.
THE SIX PARAMITAS
The six Paramitas, or perfections, are the means for realizing the four
great vows and completing the Bodhisattva practice. They are as follows:
1) /Dana/, generosity or charity;
2) /Sila/, the precepts or morality;
3) /Ksanti/, patience or forbearance;
4) /Virya/, energy and zeal;
5) /Dhyana/, contemplative practice or meditation;
6) /Prajna/, Wisdom or the power to discern reality.
When one has heard the
Mahayana Dharma and developed great compassion,
the practice of the six paramitas is the natural next step on the
Bodhisattva Path. The great vows, deep as the ocean, should have a
mountain of practice of Six Paramitas, and filling (or fulfilling) the
vows means to complete the Supreme Bodhi of Buddha Fruit. The Tao of
Bodhisattva Dharma is the Practice of the Six Paramitas.
The first paramita is
Dana, or charity and generosity. The highest
worldly form of this is to give one's body, or even one's very life, for
the benefit of others. This is described as internal charity, while the
type of generosity regarding personal property, money, time, etc., is
referred to as external charity. Beyond Dana, in this internal and
external sense, there is a transcendental form, which is the use of
one's talents, intellect, scholarship, eloquence,etc., to spread the
message of buddhadharma. This is called the almsgiving of Buddha Truth.
The principle of Dana is the spirit of self-sacrifice in order to
benefit the multitude.
The second Paramita
is Sila, or morality. As stated above, the
discipline of Mahayana Bodhisattva is not only concerned with the
negative prohibitions but also with their positive counterparts. Sila
means the cessation of evil and the initiation of the good. This sila is
formulated as the 5,8,10 or 250 percepts. The principle of Bodhisattva
moral discipline is to attain the state of non-retrogression in one's
moral behavior whereby the observation of sila becomes automatic.
The third Paramita is
Ksanti, or patience and forbearance. Holding onto
the objective of doing good, especially in this age of chaos and
impurity throughout the six realms of sentient beings, is not an easy
affair. There are so many adverse circumstances to obstruct the
practice of Bodhisattva Dharma. The Bodhisattva, equipped with right
view and his practice of the Ksanti Paramita, is able to deal
successfully with these situations, effect his own liberation and aid
all other living beings. The Bodhisattva should also develop the
capacity for forgiveness, which arises from wisdom. Wisdom perceives
that all sentient beings are produced by causal conditions without self-
nature and are of the same nature as oneself.
The fourth paramita
is Virya, or energy. The term "energy" is used in
the sense of putting forth energy to win those states of wholesomeness
as yet unknown and unwon. One puts forth energy in the practice of the
Bodhisattva Dharma and energetically maintains the Bodhicitta. Without
developing Virya Paramita, one determines the Bodhicitta only
temporarily. When meeting with adverse conditions, one is disillusioned
and drops the practice. Virya, then, comes to mean persistence in the
face of disillusionment and energetic striving to complete the Bodhi Tao
and to win the supreme Buddha Fruit.
The fifth Paramita is
Dhyana, or contemplative practice. Dhyana, in
Sanskrit, means concentration practice and is synonymous with samadhi.
Joining the two words, we have the chinese phrase Ch'an-Ting. The
original meaning of Ch'an-Ting is to concentrate the mind on one point.
The effort of contemplation is the tonic of spiritual health. One
studying the Bodhisattva Tao who cannot control his confused and
disorderly mind must necessarily practice Ch'an-Ting and develop light
and power and the ability to be unmoved by desires. Ch'an-Ting is the
source of all wisdom and equanimity and the means to completion of the
The sixth Paramita is
Prajna, or wisdom. Although all worldly knowledge
and learning are thought of as wisdom, the wisdom tradition of the
Buddhadharma is not quite the same. According to the Buddha, wisdom is
the ability to recognize the truth behind the temporary show of
appearances and to possess confidence regarding this truth. The method
of practice leading to wisdom, called Ch'an-Ting, encourages us not to
seek anything but to unite ourselves with the Truth. This is called
Original Wisdom and it encompasses discriminative wisdom, so though its
scope and the approach to it are different. Original wisdom is the
apprehension of the truth that all things arise from causal conditions,
have no self-nature and are, therefore, void. The very essence of those
six Paramitas is wisdom, and the way of wisdom is the Bodhisattva Tao.
The Sanskrit term "Paramita"
means "Gone across to the other shore." The
practice of these Paramitas can lead one across the sea of birth, death
and distress to the other shore of peace and truth -- i.e., Nirvana.
The purified mind and wholesome behavior that arises through the
practice of the six Paramitas are praised by all sages, ancient and
modern. Perceptively, /Chuang T'se/ observed long ago: "The body as
rotten wood, the mind as cold ashes, losing all things, beyond the
world." Another Chinese sage, /Lao T'se/, also insightfully noted:
"Actions like the flow of water, mind calm as a mirror; the sounds of
the world appear as an echo."
THE FOUR ALL-EMBRACING VIRTUES
tool used to benefit others and oneself is
that of the four All-Embracing Virtues. Dana, in this sense, means
giving what others like to them in order to lead them to become
receptive and to lean toward the truth. Priyavacana means affectionate
and beautiful speech used for the same reasons as Dana. Arthakrtya means
conduct profitable to others and is used in the same way as Dana and
Priyavacana. Smanarthata means cooperation with and adaptation to others
for the sake of leading them to the truth. As Avalokitesvara appeared in
32 form, one, similarly, should manifest all kinds of forms to convert
and aid skillfully all sentient beings.
Depending on our wisdom,
we practice the Six Paramitas and the four All-
Embracing Virtures and complete the Tao of Bodhisattva Dharma. Each
individual, according to his position -- Whether it be farmer, soldier,
laborer, educator, politician, businessman, monk or nun, etc. -- can
determine the Bodhicitta. The unfolding of this Bodhicitta lies in the
practice of Bodhisattva conduct, spreading the truth of Buddhadharma,
and establishing the practicality of the Teachings as a way of life in a
genuinely humane society and culture. The principle of his practice is
that the spirit is consistent though the circumstances vary. The
Bodhisattva Tao should have no restrictions dependent on time and place
but should respond freely and spontaneously according to circumstances.
May all sentient beings
practice the Bodhi Tao and arrive at the