Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

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Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby cddesjar » Sat Apr 30, 2011 7:28 pm

Hi,
I wondering if one can take the Bodhisattva vow and be a Theravada Buddhist? Does it make sense? I have been really drawn to Theravada over the various schools of Mahayana but I wonder if taking the Bodhisattva vow is consistent with Theravada Buddhism and something that a lay person could take?
Thanks,
Chris
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby bodom » Sat Apr 30, 2011 10:25 pm

The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Apr 30, 2011 11:03 pm

If you are refering to a vow to become a future Buddha, I see no contradiction with Theravada. If you are refering to the bodhisattva vows traditionaly found in Mahayana, take a look at this (the 4th vow) and ponder if you want this kind of commitment:

4. Abandoning the Mahayana.
If you reject the Mahayana, or any part of it, saying that it is not the teaching of the Buddha, you will break this root vow. To some, the Mahayana seems complicated and overly mystical. The teachings assert the existence of countless manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Some people are unable to come to grips with this vast scope and such things as the sophisticated tantric methods contained in the Mahayana. They may come to think, or even say to others, 'The Mahayana is mixed with non-Buddhist practices. It is not a pure teaching of the Buddha as is the Hinayana.' By thinking in this way you abandon the Mahayana and break this vow
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby Dan74 » Sun May 01, 2011 12:05 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:If you are refering to a vow to become a future Buddha, I see no contradiction with Theravada. If you are refering to the bodhisattva vows traditionaly found in Mahayana, take a look at this (the 4th vow) and ponder if you want this kind of commitment:

4. Abandoning the Mahayana.
If you reject the Mahayana, or any part of it, saying that it is not the teaching of the Buddha, you will break this root vow. To some, the Mahayana seems complicated and overly mystical. The teachings assert the existence of countless manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Some people are unable to come to grips with this vast scope and such things as the sophisticated tantric methods contained in the Mahayana. They may come to think, or even say to others, 'The Mahayana is mixed with non-Buddhist practices. It is not a pure teaching of the Buddha as is the Hinayana.' By thinking in this way you abandon the Mahayana and break this vow


This is not "the bodhisattva vows traditionaly found in Mahayana". It may be taken in some Tibetan traditions, but in Zen/ Chan/ Seon, the Bodhisattva Vows sound something like this:
I vow to liberate all beings, without number
I vow to uproot endless blind passions
I vow to penetrate dharma gates beyond measure
I vow to attain the way of the Buddha
_/|\_
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 01, 2011 12:20 am

Greetings Dan,

Thanks for the clarification, but now let's get...

:focus:

Metta,
Retro. :)
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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby cddesjar » Sun May 01, 2011 1:41 am

Thanks this has been helpful. Especially the links to previous posts.
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby evord » Tue May 24, 2011 6:12 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:4. Abandoning the Mahayana.
If you reject the Mahayana, or any part of it, saying that it is not the teaching of the Buddha, you will break this root vow. To some, the Mahayana seems complicated and overly mystical. The teachings assert the existence of countless manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Some people are unable to come to grips with this vast scope and such things as the sophisticated tantric methods contained in the Mahayana. They may come to think, or even say to others, 'The Mahayana is mixed with non-Buddhist practices. It is not a pure teaching of the Buddha as is the Hinayana.' By thinking in this way you abandon the Mahayana and break this vow


Reading this bugs me a little. It sounds a kind of like, "don't question the Mahayana, just believe in its ways. Doubting the Mahayana is wrong". My understanding is that questioning and seeking to reconcile beliefs with experiences are core parts of Buddhist practice. This quote seems to go against that.

Perhaps I'm just misunderstanding what this is saying. I discovered Buddhism not very long ago (less than a year) and there's so very much to it to learn.
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby Dan74 » Wed May 25, 2011 12:38 am

evord wrote:
Modus.Ponens wrote:4. Abandoning the Mahayana.
If you reject the Mahayana, or any part of it, saying that it is not the teaching of the Buddha, you will break this root vow. To some, the Mahayana seems complicated and overly mystical. The teachings assert the existence of countless manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Some people are unable to come to grips with this vast scope and such things as the sophisticated tantric methods contained in the Mahayana. They may come to think, or even say to others, 'The Mahayana is mixed with non-Buddhist practices. It is not a pure teaching of the Buddha as is the Hinayana.' By thinking in this way you abandon the Mahayana and break this vow


Reading this bugs me a little. It sounds a kind of like, "don't question the Mahayana, just believe in its ways. Doubting the Mahayana is wrong". My understanding is that questioning and seeking to reconcile beliefs with experiences are core parts of Buddhist practice. This quote seems to go against that.

Perhaps I'm just misunderstanding what this is saying. I discovered Buddhism not very long ago (less than a year) and there's so very much to it to learn.


I guess these vows are taken in order to cement commitment. They probably originated at the time when there was a lot of tension between schools I am not sure. I would do some serious investigation and discuss matters with teachers before taking such a vow.

In Theravada there is taking of the Refuge, which is also a strong commitment and when you say I take refuge in the Dhamma, I guess it is implicit that this is the Dhamma of the Theravada.

Either way, it is good to investigate, talk to teachers and if you are still interested in Tibetan Buddhism I am guessing there are many places where such vows are only taken after quite some time.
_/|\_
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby Fitz » Wed May 25, 2011 10:00 pm

Chris-

As I understand it the Bodhisattva vow involves vowing to reach the edge of enlightenment but wait to help all sentient beings out of samsara. This doesn't really work in the Theravada tradition because the goal is ultimate enlightenment and if you were on the edge of release why would you want to stop? Also, as an unenlightened being would you really be in a position to decide what you should do in the future when your on the cusp of nibbana?

Metta,
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby Aloka » Thu May 26, 2011 5:36 am

We can't really ''help'' others on a spiritual level until we have practised and then gained some understanding ourselves first.

''Saving all sentient beings'' doesn't actually make any sense and reminds me a lot of evangelical "Jesus Saves" posters.

In Theravada there's the inclusion of Metta practice ,contemplation of the Brahma Viharas, and Reflections on Universal Well-Being - all of which help generate loving kindness and compassion for others.

In my opinion these qualities will arise quietly and naturally anyway, as a result of practice both on and off the cushion, without any need for an emphasis on formal 'Bodhisattva Vows' .


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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby Ben » Thu May 26, 2011 6:15 am

Fitz wrote:Chris-

As I understand it the Bodhisattva vow involves vowing to reach the edge of enlightenment but wait to help all sentient beings out of samsara. This doesn't really work in the Theravada tradition because the goal is ultimate enlightenment and if you were on the edge of release why would you want to stop? Also, as an unenlightened being would you really be in a position to decide what you should do in the future when your on the cusp of nibbana?

Metta,
Fitz


Actually, Ledi Sayadaw elucidates the path for the Bodhisatta aspirant in his work 'Manual of the Excellent Man'. Its a little different to the Mahayana/Vajrayana ideal. The path is essentially to develop the ten paramitas and not engaging in "insight exercises"; the path ensures that one continues as a putthujana. Once one has 'entered the stream' as a sotapanna, then one's destiny as set as an ariya which then cuts off forever the possibility of ever attaining Buddhahood. But its a very long path. In order to acquire the paramitas in order to meet with a Buddha and for him to predict your future Buddhahood takes, at least, as long as it does for the bodhisatta to attain the final goal of Buddhahood.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 26, 2011 6:21 am

Greetings,

This point is worth highlighting...

Ben wrote:Once one has 'entered the stream' as a sotapanna, then one's destiny as set as an ariya which then cuts off forever the possibility of ever attaining Buddhahood.

That's very different to the notion of a high-level (bhumi) Mahayana bodhisattva who is considered more advanced than an arahant, who has the spiritual mastery to decide their own rebirth and elect not to 'abide' in nirvana.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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


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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby Ytrog » Thu May 26, 2011 7:09 am

I still have a pure logical problem with vowing for the liberation of all other beings before yourself: if anyone other than you also takes this vow you have a deadlock.

This alone is enough reason for me to consider it a noble, but totally unrealistic practice.
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby Aloka » Thu May 26, 2011 7:51 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

This point is worth highlighting...

Ben wrote:Once one has 'entered the stream' as a sotapanna, then one's destiny as set as an ariya which then cuts off forever the possibility of ever attaining Buddhahood.

That's very different to the notion of a high-level (bhumi) Mahayana bodhisattva who is considered more advanced than an arahant, who has the spiritual mastery to decide their own rebirth and elect not to 'abide' in nirvana.

Metta,
Retro. :)



In Vajrayana, a Theravadin 'stream winner' is considered to be on the same level as a bodhisattva on the first of the 10 bhumi levels.

:anjali:
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 26, 2011 8:56 am

Aloka wrote: In Vajrayana, a Theravadin 'stream winner' is considered to be on the same level as a bodhisattva on the first of the 10 bhumi levels.
Correctly stated: In the Vajrayana, a Hinayana stream winner . . . . Hinayana and Theravada are not equivalent terms. The Vajrayana did not interact with or reference the Theravada. It is not a safe thing to assume that how the Vajrayana, or Mahayana in general, used various terms is the same way as the equivalent terms are understood by the Theravada.

And this is certainly so with the idea of the bodhisattva. The Theravadin bodhisatta notions are not at all the same as what the Mahayana more or less finally settle upon after centuries of development for their ideas of what a bodhisattva is supposed to be.

The Theravada does not need to measure itself in terms of the much later Mahayana notions of a bodhsattva.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby PeterB » Thu May 26, 2011 9:01 am

cddesjar wrote:Hi,
I wondering if one can take the Bodhisattva vow and be a Theravada Buddhist? Does it make sense? I have been really drawn to Theravada over the various schools of Mahayana but I wonder if taking the Bodhisattva vow is consistent with Theravada Buddhism and something that a lay person could take?
Thanks,
Chris


To me cddesjar your post indicates that to some degree you are conflicted about which path to dedicate yourself to.
I think when you answer that for yourself the dilemma will not arise.
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby Aloka » Thu May 26, 2011 9:13 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Aloka wrote: In Vajrayana, a Theravadin 'stream winner' is considered to be on the same level as a bodhisattva on the first of the 10 bhumi levels.
Correctly stated: In the Vajrayana, a Hinayana stream winner . . . . Hinayana and Theravada are not equivalent terms. The Vajrayana did not interact or reference the Theravada. It is not a safe thing to assume that how the Vajrayana, or Mahayana in general, used various terms is the same way as the equivalent terms are understood by the Theravada.

And this is certainly so with the idea of the bodhisattva. The Theravadin bodhisatta notions are not at all the same as what the Mahayana more or less finally settle upon after centuries of development for their ideas of what a bodhisattva is supposed to be.

The Theravada does not need to measure itself in terms of the much later Mahayana notions of a bodhsattva.



Hi Tilt,

I'm in total agreement with you that Theravada doesn't need to measure itself in terms of later Mahayana notions of bodhisattvas.

However just as a point of accuracy regarding my previous post, in "Path to Buddhahood - teachings on Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation " by Ringu Tulku, it say on page 141 under the heading of "Insight" at the bottom of that section.

"This third phase corresponds to the first bhumi of the bodhisattva levels, as well as to the level of the "stream enterer" in Theravada"


with kind wishes,

Aloka
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Re: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 26, 2011 9:29 am

Aloka wrote:However just as a point of accuracy regarding my previous post, in "Path to Buddhahood - teachings on Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation " by Ringu Tulku, it say on page 141 under the heading of "Insight" at the bottom of that section.

"This third phase corresponds to the first bhumi of the bodhisattva levels, as well as to the level of the "stream enterer" in Theravada"
And here you have an example of Theravada being inappropriately used in place of the term hinayana. One can find in the bhumi discussion elsewhere that it is the "hinayana" stream winner. It is meaningless to try to plug the Theravada into these categories.

Within the Theravada, the bodhisatta is not ariya, and can only meaningfully make the vow to sammasambuddha-hood on the verge of becoming an arahant, stopping from completing that path, opting to the attainment sammasambuddha-hood, which is a far more meaningful thing than expecting that every Tom, Dick, and Harriet tries to tred that the path to sammsambuddha-hood. The bottom line, however, is that the Buddha did not teach this path.

Neither in the canonical texts nor in the old commentaries is it stated that a follower of the Buddha may choose between the three kinds of enlightenment and aspire either to become a Buddha, a Pacceka-Buddha, or an Arahat-disciple. --Buddhist Dictiuonary
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: Bodhisattva vow in Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 26, 2011 9:32 am

Greetings Chris,
cddesjar wrote:I wonder if taking the Bodhisattva vow is consistent with Theravada Buddhism and something that a lay person could take?

So to consolidate some of the above responses, the Mahayana conception of the Bodhisattva Vow is not compatible with Theravada.

Theravada has a concept of a bodhisatta path, but it is very different to the Mahayana one, and not commonly followed... so much so that I think the aspiration to follow it needs to be made at the foot of one of the previous Buddhas, so unless you did that (or plan to in the distant future), it's a moot point really.

That said, I think this topic has gone as far as it needs to in order to answer your question, and any continuation of this topic is merely going to rehash old ground covered in other bodhisattva-related topics on the forum such as those linked to by Bodom above.

Hence, we'll close this one here. If you have follow up questions, feel free to ask them in one of the topics Bodom linked to.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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


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