The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Postby ground » Sun Jan 31, 2010 10:31 am

Hi pt1

pt1 wrote:
TMingyur wrote:what is meant is naked exposure to pure being after having seen the equalness of samsara and nirvana by means of "prajnaparamita".


Hi TMingyur,

With respect, this seems to be vajrayana terminology and I’m not sure how to interpret it correctly. Could you please clarify:

“naked exposure to pure being” – this would be vipassana I guess?

You are right. Sorry, I drifted into a wording that actually is not appropriate, i.e. wrong imaginative wording (speech) not being grounded on reason. Such kind of speech may cause projections and speculations thus I committed a fault. Sorry for that. Speaking from the right conventional perspective of the two truths only "putting on the armor of prajnaparamita" is the correct wording and I should have left it at that.

pt1 wrote:“having seen the equalness of samsara and nirvana” – afaik, according to Theravada, nirvana as a dhamma is experienced for the first time with magga citta – path consciousness, which can be of four kinds and resulting in stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning or arahantship. Since I believe none of those four are acceptable for bodhisattvas, then what kind of magga citta do bodhisattvas experience in order to experience nirvana and conclude on that basis that samara and nirvana are equal? Or perhaps they can exprience nirvana without magga citta? Then with what kind of a citta?

You are right all four kinds of magga cittas are inacceptable for bodhisattvas according to Mahayana. Actually the boddhisattva will practice prajnaparamita in alternation with (i.e. accompanying) the practice of the other paramitas and those will get more and more integrated in the course of travelling the paths and bhumis. Never will the boddhisattva "enter" nirvana (or one of the magga cittas) in the sense of abiding "there" and the antidot against "abiding" is said to be authentic "bodhicitta".

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Postby pt1 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 1:09 pm

Thanks for clarifications Ven.Pannasikhara and TMingyur.

If you have time, I'm trying to understand why is bodhicitta given such a prominent role in Mahayana and I'm wondering how is bodhicitta different from the paramis (if it is at all)? I mean, to me bodhicitta seems like an amalgamation of three theravadin paramis of adhitthana (determination, resolution), wisdom and metta.

Reading about paramitas on wikipedia, though only six are listed for Mahayana, it is also stated that Dasabhumika sutra adds four paramitas more of which pranidhana (vow, resolution, aspiration, determination) is one, and it seems to correspond to theravadin adhitthana parami. Further, reading about bodhicitta on wikipedia, the first definition is that it is the wish to attain complete enlightenment (buddhahood), so I'm wondering how is this wish aspect of bodhicitta different from adhitthana?

The second definition of bodhicitta is that it is the union of compassion and wisdom, so I'm wondering how it is different from the two theravadin paramis of wisdom and metta? I understand that it could be said that metta isn't exactly karuna, but, if considered that non-aversion as one of the kusala roots is in essence the base of metta, and that karuna as a kusala cetasika can only accompany a kusala citta with non-aversion as one of the roots, and that one can extended mahametta and mahakruna with attaniment of (if I'm not mistaken) fourth jhana, it seems then that these two paramis of wisdom and metta in developed form are equivalent to bodhicitta.

Please correct me if I'm misunderstanding/misrepresenting what bodhicitta is. Thanks.

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Postby ground » Tue Feb 02, 2010 7:08 am

Hi pt1

pt1 wrote:If you have time, I'm trying to understand why is bodhicitta given such a prominent role in Mahayana and I'm wondering how is bodhicitta different from the paramis (if it is at all)? I mean, to me bodhicitta seems like an amalgamation of three theravadin paramis of adhitthana (determination, resolution), wisdom and metta.

Reading about paramitas on wikipedia, though only six are listed for Mahayana, it is also stated that Dasabhumika sutra adds four paramitas more of which pranidhana (vow, resolution, aspiration, determination) is one, and it seems to correspond to theravadin adhitthana parami. Further, reading about bodhicitta on wikipedia, the first definition is that it is the wish to attain complete enlightenment (buddhahood), so I'm wondering how is this wish aspect of bodhicitta different from adhitthana?

Since my knowledge and experience are both very limited I can only try to repeat what I have been taught and take the responsibility for any error.
There are several aspects of bodhicitta that are given different qualifying names: conventional and ultimate bodhicitta, aspirational and engaging bodhicitta.
"conventional" refers to conventional reality expressed in words and thought.
"ultimate" refers to the direct realization of emptiness.
"aspirational" refers to the mere wish.
"engaging" refers to taking the vow and learning, practicing the paramitas.
So actually the "conventional" comprises the "aspirational" and the "engaging" whereas the "ultimate" refers to the wisdom that is the culmination of the practice of the 6th paramita.

On Dharma Wheel Ven. Huifeng has provided a quote which covers both, the conventional and the ultimate aspect of bodhicitta:
Huifeng wrote:An excellent example of what is meant by bodhicitta is to be found in the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra (aka: the Diamond Sutra). Conze's translation has:

The Lord said: Here, Subhuti, someone who has set out in the vehicle of a Bodhisattva should produce a thought in this manner: 'As many beings as there are in the universe of beings, comprehended under the term "beings" egg-born, born from a womb, moisture-born, or miraculously born; with or without form; with perception, without perception, and with neither perception nor non-perception, as far as any conceivable form of beings is conceived: all these I must lead to Nirvana, into that Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind. And yet, although innumerable beings have thus been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana.' And why? If in a Bodhisattva the notion of a 'being' should take place, he could not be called a 'Bodhi-being'. 'And why? He is not to be called a Bodhi-being, in whom the notion of a self or of a being should take place, or the notion of a living soul or of a person.'

It involves the compassion to lead beings to nirvana, and also the wisdom of emptiness that sees that ultimately there is no "living being".


Now the crucial point is the altruistic intention which is directed towards all other beings and that the wisdom aspect does not negate this "directedness". This "altruism being directed towards others" is the mark of the path and must not be abandoned at any time, because the moment it is abandoned in the context of [motivation for] practice one immediately lapses from the path of the bodhisattva. "Mindfulness" for a bodhisattva also means to permanently hold bodhicitta in his/her mind and to practice on the basis of bodhicitta and dedicate any result of practice to perfect buddhahood for the benefit of other beings which actually means to give all "merits" that may have been collected by means of practice to other beings (which is an aspect of the 1st paramita).


pt1 wrote:The second definition of bodhicitta is that it is the union of compassion and wisdom, so I'm wondering how it is different from the two theravadin paramis of wisdom and metta? I understand that it could be said that metta isn't exactly karuna, but, if considered that non-aversion as one of the kusala roots is in essence the base of metta, and that karuna as a kusala cetasika can only accompany a kusala citta with non-aversion as one of the roots, and that one can extended mahametta and mahakruna with attaniment of (if I'm not mistaken) fourth jhana, it seems then that these two paramis of wisdom and metta in developed form are equivalent to bodhicitta.

The basis of conventional bodhicitta actually are the four immeasurables:
- impartiality (sometimes called "equanimity") and the intention to "give" this impartiality to others because partiality is the root of samsara
- love which is the wish and the intention to give happiness to others and to provide/train all the causes for happiness
- compassion which is the wish and the intention to eliminate other's suffering and the causes
- prevent that others undergo lower "re-births" and establish them in liberation through skillful means

A type of "union of compassion and wisdom" may be the merging of prajnaparamita and altruistic bodhicitta (manifested in the "method aspect" of the paramitas) on the 8th bhumi and the following. The 8th bhumi is said to be point where the practitioner achieves either liberation/cessation of an arhat if bodhicitta has been abandoned in the course of the path and has not been re-established or she/he continues further to the 10th level if bodhicitta has been kept "intact". More experiential presentations of this "union" one may find in the vajrayana.

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Postby fig tree » Tue Feb 02, 2010 7:59 am

pt1 wrote:Reading about paramitas on wikipedia, though only six are listed for Mahayana, it is also stated that Dasabhumika sutra adds four paramitas more of which pranidhana (vow, resolution, aspiration, determination) is one, and it seems to correspond to theravadin adhitthana parami.

Dhammapala discusses how you get different numbers: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/wheel409.html. Look for "how many are there". As I recall, the four ones added to get ten again are thought of as a way of breaking down one of the six.

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:28 am

fig tree wrote:
pt1 wrote:Reading about paramitas on wikipedia, though only six are listed for Mahayana, it is also stated that Dasabhumika sutra adds four paramitas more of which pranidhana (vow, resolution, aspiration, determination) is one, and it seems to correspond to theravadin adhitthana parami.

Dhammapala discusses how you get different numbers: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/wheel409.html. Look for "how many are there". As I recall, the four ones added to get ten again are thought of as a way of breaking down one of the six.

Fig Tree


The six were also used by non-Vaibhasika Sarvastivadins, probably around Gandhara (but not Kasmir).
The Kasmiri Vaibhasikas had four. They argue that the other two are already included.
(But this may also reflect notions of a non-arya bodhisattva who doesn't perfect dhyana - lest it result in awakening too soon.)

The Dasabhumika stuff is a fair bit later. But still no where near as late as Dhammapala's Theravada bodhisatta contributions.
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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:49 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:(But this may also reflect notions of a non-arya bodhisattva who doesn't perfect dhyana - lest it result in awakening too soon.)
And good gawd, we would not want that.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:57 am

:jumping:
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:05 am

:smile: I should be so unfortunate.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:12 am

I was chuckling to myself as I wrote it, too.

The Sarvastivada did have a very interesting bodhisattvology, though, very detailed in a number of ways.
I think that a number of schools probably had similar ideas to those mentioned in that last post.
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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Postby pt1 » Sat Feb 06, 2010 3:40 am

Thanks TMingyur, Fig Tree and Ven.Pannasikhara for the extra info. Much appreciated.

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