Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

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Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Guy » Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:33 am

Hello All,

Another thread made me wonder, what are the Theravada and/or Mahayana views on someone who renounces the path of a Bodhisatta in order to practice for Arahantship. Is this mentioned at all in the Suttas of either tradition?

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:46 am

Greetings,

If you do that in Vajrayana, supposedly you end up in Vajra Hell.

Tantric Buddhists are in the position of a snake inside a bamboo tube; one hole faces up to the Dharmakaya, the other down toward Vajra Hell. There are only two options -- up or down; no in-between. Keeping samaya (commitment) determines which way the snake slides.


http://www.khandro.net/TibBud%20_vajrayana.htm

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: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Reductor » Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:59 am

Guy wrote:Hello All,

Another thread made me wonder, what are the Theravada and/or Mahayana views on someone who renounces the path of a Bodhisatta in order to practice for Arahantship. Is this mentioned at all in the Suttas of either tradition?

With Metta,

Guy


I don't know about suttas, but an interesting passage from Ajhan Mun's bio goes:

Ãcariya Mun related that in ages past he had made a similar resolution
– in his case, a solemn vow to become a Buddha. As with Ãcariya
Sao, intensifying his efforts at meditation caused Ãcariya Mun to recollect
this long-standing intention, and this underlying attachment made
him reluctant to strive for the attainment of Nibbãna in his present life.
Ãcariya Mun renounced his vow to be a Buddha only after he began
practicing dhutanga kammaååhãna, for he then realized that its fulfillment
would take far too long. It required eons of traversing the round
of saÿsãra: being born, growing old, becoming ill, and dying over and
over again, enduring misery and pain indefinitely.
Renouncing the original vow relieved Ãcariya Mun of this concern,
opening the way for his meditation to progress smoothly. The fact that
he could so easily abandon the original vow indicates that it was not yet
so firmly fixed in his conscious being that he couldn’t detach himself
from it.


That bio is avialable at:
http://www.luangta.com/English/site/books.php

But be warned -- it is long, and fantastical, and fantastic too (IMO).
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Dan74 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:02 am

Guy wrote:Hello All,

Another thread made me wonder, what are the Theravada and/or Mahayana views on someone who renounces the path of a Bodhisatta in order to practice for Arahantship. Is this mentioned at all in the Suttas of either tradition?

With Metta,

Guy


I guess the intention (as always) would be crucial. What do you actually mean by these words, Guy? What exactly is being renounced?

As for sutric references I can't think of any specifically on this topic. There is a lot of stuff contrasting the merits of a Bodhisattva with those of Arahat.

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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:20 am

Guy wrote:Hello All,

Another thread made me wonder, what are the Theravada and/or Mahayana views on someone who renounces the path of a Bodhisatta in order to practice for Arahantship. Is this mentioned at all in the Suttas of either tradition?

With Metta,

Guy
Since the idea of a bodhisatta vow is something that was developed after the death of the Buddha (before the rise of the Mahayana), the Pali suttas do not mention the "bodhisatta vow." Within the Pali tradition (not the suttas) and likely in common with other Mainstream schools (before the rise of the Mahayana) one vowed to be come a sammasambuddha at the feet of a living Buddha, being only a step away from becoming an arahant. Later Theravadin commentaries developed a variation to accomadate those who would want to follow this path but did not have access to a living Buddha.

I rather doubt that there was a concern within the Theravada for giving up the vow. That seems to have arisen with the radical change broutht about by the Mahayana (and the Vajrayana) to the idea of beconing a bodhisattva. Give-up-the-vow-and-you-are-going-to-hell is hard to take seriously, but then I do not take the idea of a bodhisattva vow very seriously, either. If it were an actual path of practice, the Buddha would have taught it.
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: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Dan74 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:32 am

Maybe he did teach it... :shrug:

Whether the apocryphal Jataka takes or many examples of the Buddha's life, he certainly embodied compassion and concern for others. This seems to be a far cry from the stereotypical modern Theravada monk described by Ven Dhammika for example.

After all the practical significance of the vows is to set a selfless course from the outset. At least that's what I understand and this appears to be largely the justification for their historical importance - monks were becoming too arrogant and self-centered (according to Mahayana texts promoting the path of the Bodhisattva).

But I might be getting it all wrong... (wouldn't be the first time)

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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:55 am

Even in late commentarial Theravada literature, there are three "bodhisatta paths", one towards savaka-bodhi, one for paccekabuddha-bodhi, and another for sammasambuddha-bodhi.

Also, in Theravada literature from beginning to end, the term "arahat" is used to describe any of these three, eg. the sammasambuddha is also an arhat.

So, we may wish to clarify questions like "someone who renounces the path of a Bodhisatta in order to practice for Arahantship". Technically, without specifying which type of bodhisatta or which type of arahant, this is a flat out contradiction! ie. all liberated beings are arahants, and all of them practiced some form of bodhisatta path.
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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:16 am

Dan74 wrote:Maybe he did teach it...
I have taught the Dhamma without an inner or an outer version. The Tathagata has no closed fist with regard to teachings. — DN 16. No bodhisatta path to be found taught by the Buddha in the suttas or Vinaya. It is a later development.

Whether the apocryphal Jataka takes or many examples of the Buddha's life, he certainly embodied compassion and concern for others. This seems to be a far cry from the stereotypical modern Theravada monk described by Ven Dhammika for example.
Huh? Ven Dhammika? the stereotypical modern Theravada monk described by Ven Dhammika And he is a reliable source? Mahayana monks are super-duper compassionate, but the "typical" Theravadin monk is not? I think there might be some problems with that. So the typical Theravadin monks and nuns, according to one critic, are hardly exemplars, but can we say that the "typical" Mahayana monks/nuns live up to the ideal fully - right?

After all the practical significance of the vows is to set a selfless course from the outset.
The problem is that selfishness is going to be part of one's course until there is an actual insight into the nature of the self. Also, implied in the this that Theravadins are selfish in their motivation, but Mahayanists are not. One cannot selfishly opt for a "selfless" practice to show how wonder one is?

In Shantideva's compendium of Mahayana thought, the "Sikshasammuccaya," we find quoted from the Mayahana Ayrya-Sagaramati Sutra:

"There is another rule that can serve as the epitome of Mahayana: 'By taking care to avoid stumbling oneself, one will protect all beings.'"

And he quotes from the Bodhisattva-Pratimoksa:

"If, O Sariputra, one wishes to protect others, one should protect oneself."
But then, of course, without individual concern, concern for others is not too terribly meaningful. It is worth noting that the above is a reflection of what can be found in a more expansive earlier Pali texts where we find the Buddha stating:

"'I shall protect myself,' in that way the foundations of mindfulness should be practiced. 'I shall protect others,' in that way the foundations of mindfulness should be practiced. Protecting oneself one protects others; protecting others one protects oneself. And how does one, in protecting oneself, protect others? By the repeated and frequent practice of meditation. And how does one, in protecting others, protect oneself? By patience and forbearance, by a non-violent and harmless life, by compassion and loving kindness." -- S 52,8

At least that's what I understand and this appears to be largely the justification for their historical importance - monks were becoming too arrogant and self-centered (according to Mahayana texts promoting the path of the Bodhisattva).
And Mahayana monks were never too arrogant and self centered. The problem is that early Mahayana, once it introduced the us-versus-them ugly word hinayana and it baggage, it became in many ways an oppositional teaching: We are more compassionate (look at our bodhisattva ideal ((they developed))), we are have more wisdom, our Buddha is wiser, more powerful, our path of practice is deeper, better, etc, etc.

The bodhisattva ideal can be a basis of motivation for practice, but it does have its pit falls.

Digha Nikaya 28, Sampasadaniya Sutta:
Sariputta states: All those Arahant Buddhas [arahanto sammasambuddha] of the past attained to sambodhi by abandoning the five hindrances, defilements of the mind which weaken understanding, having firmly established the four foundations of mindfulness, and realized the seven factors of awakening as they really are. All the Arahant Buddhas of the future will do likewise, and you, Lord, who are now the Arahant, fully-awakened Buddha, have done the same.
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.

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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby BlackBird » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:24 am

I have a question. What causes someone to choose the Paccekabuddha path? What does one gain by striving to be a Paccekabuddha if the end result of Nibbana is the same as if one had pursued the path to arahantship?

metta
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Dan74 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:32 am

Tilt you make some points that I will have to return to later after some thought and research. As regards contrasting Theravada and Mahayana monks, this was neither explicitly nor implicitly in what I wrote. Mahayana monks have their share of issues and challenges, no doubt.

That a certain deep kind of selfishness has crept in is evident not just through Ven Dhammika's criticism and not just in Theravada, but through many signs. Heard of many Buddhists NGO's? Quakers, that tiny little group is responsible for setting up Greenpeace, Amnesty International and countless relief initiatives worldwide. What have we done? "Engaged Buddhism" is a kind of an oxymoron, isnt it, in spite of good Thay's trying.

My point above was to show that a strong intention (Bodhisattva vow) was intended to set a positive direction. To what extent this has succeeded and whether as a result Mahayana monks are more selfless than Theravada monks, not only I don't know, I would even touch that!

I know I value the vows and they are meaningful to me. That's all (after all the unnecessary speculation is swept aside).

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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:37 am

BlackBird wrote:I have a question. What causes someone to choose the Paccekabuddha path? What does one gain by striving to be a Paccekabuddha if the end result of Nibbana is the same as if one had pursued the path to arahantship?

metta
Jack :heart:

bodhi
(from verbal root budhi, to awaken, to understand): awakenment, enlightenment, supreme knowledge. "(Through Bodhi) one awakens from the slumber or stupor (inflicted upon the mind) by the defilements (kilesa) and comprehends the Four Noble Truths (sacca)" (Com. to M. 10).

The enlightenment of a Buddha is called sammā-sambodhi, 'perfect enlightenment'. The faith (saddhā) of a lay follower of the Buddha is described as "he believes in the enlightenment of the Perfect One" (saddahati Tathāgatassa bodhim: M.53, A.III.2).

As components of the state of enlightenment and contributory factors to its achievement, are mentioned in the texts: the 7 factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga = bodhi-anga) and the 37 'things pertaining to enlightenment' (bodhipakkhiya-dhammā). In one of the later books of the Sutta-Pitaka, the Buddhavamsa, 10 bodhipācana-dhammā are mentioned, i.e. qualities that lead to the ripening of perfect enlightenment; these are the 10 perfections (pāramī).

There is a threefold classification of enlightenment:

1. that of a noble disciple (sāvaka-bodhi, q.v.). i.e. of an Arahat,
2. of an Independently Enlightened One (pacceka-bodhi, q.v.), and
3. of a Perfect Enlightened One (sammā-sambodhi).
This 3-fold division, however, is of later origin, and in this form it neither occurs in the canonical texts nor in the older Sutta commentaries. The closest approximation to it is found in a verse sutta which is probably of a comparatively later period, the Treasure Store Sutta (Nidhikkanda Sutta) of the Khuddakapātha, where the following 3 terms are mentioned in stanza 15: sāvaka-pāramī, pacceka-bodhi, buddha-bhūmi (see Khp. Tr., pp. 247f.).

The commentaries (e.g. to M., Buddhavamsa, Cariyapitaka) generally give a 4-fold explanation of the word bodhi:

1. the tree of enlightenment,
2. the holy path (ariya-magga),
3. Nibbāna,
4 omniscience (of the Buddha: sabbaññutā-ñāna).
As to (2), the commentaries quote Cula-Nidesa where bodhi is defined as the knowledge relating to the 4 paths (of Stream-entry, etc.; catūsu maggesu ñāna).

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. This conception of a choice between three aspirations is, however, frequently found in present-day Theravāda countries, e.g. in Sri Lanka. http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/b_f/bodhi.htm
Ven Nyanatiloka may not be totally correct in the second to last sentence. There does seem to be some suggestion in the commentaries, following the later story - not found in the suttas - of Sumedha (on the verge of becoming an arahant) vowing before the Buddha Dipankara, that one might be able to follow suit. The Buddha, however, never taught this a a way of practice. One does not vow to be a Paccekabuddha; it happens as result of one's practice.
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.

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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:38 am

Greetings Dan,

Dan74 wrote:"Engaged Buddhism" is a kind of an oxymoron, isnt it

Only if you get entangled in the world (and it adds to cravings, aversion and such)... otherwise it's a good outlet for lovingkindness and compassion.

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: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:46 am

Dan74 wrote:
That a certain deep kind of selfishness has crept in is evident not just through Ven Dhammika's criticism and not just in Theravada, but through many signs. Heard of many Buddhists NGO's? Quakers, that tiny little group is responsible for setting up Greenpeace, Amnesty International and countless relief initiatives worldwide. What have we done? "Engaged Buddhism" is a kind of an oxymoron, isnt it, in spite of good Thay's trying.



Going further and further off topic:

The organization called Buddha Light International Association (BLIA) is registered as an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, as of 2003. See:
http://www.un.org/dpi/ngosection/asp/fo ... NGOID=3087

Ven Naht Hanh got a lot of his ideas about (what later got translated into English as) "Engaged Buddhism" from a particular scholar monk in Taiwan, Yinshun.
Yinshun is the doctrinal force behind the very powerful modern Buddhist force in Taiwan known as "renjian fojiao" (人間佛教), translated (not very well in my books) as "Humanistic Buddhism".
The BLIA is the lay wing of Foguang Shan monastery, probably the largest of the groups propouding Humanistic Buddhism.
The organization Compassionate Relief (Tsu Chi = 慈濟 Ciji) led by Ven Cheng Yen, is also part of this movement, as is Dharma Drum. You will often find members of Compassionate Relief as they first people to respond to any number of major and minor disasters worldwide, eg. recent earthquakes, etc.

Buddhism outside of Asia is relatively young. It first needs to get some other things in order before it will ever become a large social force. However, in the meantime, there are plenty of such great Buddhist groups in action in Asia. (Not disparaging his marvellous efforts, Ven Naht Hanh and Plum Village, etc. is a very tiny group in comparison.)
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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Dan74 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:57 am

I hope so, Venerable!

I recall the Dalai Lama drawing attention to this problem. He said that instead of a new temple in Dharamsala, they should build more hospitals and schools. But I guess the rich get more merits from building a temple. :shrug:

I know human nature is what it is, but I see an institutional problem here (maybe wrongly).

As for the Vows, your last point is well-worth repeating:

all liberated beings are arahants, and all of them practiced some form of bodhisatta path


and hopefully there will be some clarity forthcoming as to what people understand by these terms, otherwise the discussion cannot progress.

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retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Dan,

Dan74 wrote:"Engaged Buddhism" is a kind of an oxymoron, isnt it

Only if you get entangled in the world (and it adds to cravings, aversion and such)... otherwise it's a good outlet for lovingkindness and compassion.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Quite so!

Of course I meant it not as a principle but as a social reality...

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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Guy » Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:08 pm

Hi Venerable and Dan,

Paññāsikhara wrote:Even in late commentarial Theravada literature, there are three "bodhisatta paths", one towards savaka-bodhi, one for paccekabuddha-bodhi, and another for sammasambuddha-bodhi.

Also, in Theravada literature from beginning to end, the term "arahat" is used to describe any of these three, eg. the sammasambuddha is also an arhat.

So, we may wish to clarify questions like "someone who renounces the path of a Bodhisatta in order to practice for Arahantship". Technically, without specifying which type of bodhisatta or which type of arahant, this is a flat out contradiction! ie. all liberated beings are arahants, and all of them practiced some form of bodhisatta path.


Dan74 wrote:I guess the intention (as always) would be crucial. What do you actually mean by these words, Guy? What exactly is being renounced?


To clarify - What I mean is a hypothetical situation where someone vows to be a Bodhisatta with the intention of perfecting the Ten Paramis to become a SammaSamBuddha sometime in the future but then (at a later time, perhaps many lifetimes later) they decide that they would rather not endure so much suffering and instead decide to pursue the path of Arahantship in this very life to end suffering ASAP in a time when the Teachings of a SammaSamBuddha are already alive and well in the world.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:20 pm

Guy wrote:
To clarify - What I mean is a hypothetical situation where someone vows to be a Bodhisatta with the intention of perfecting the Ten Paramis to become a SammaSamBuddha sometime in the future but then (at a later time, perhaps many lifetimes later) they decide that they would rather not endure so much suffering and instead decide to pursue the path of Arahantship in this very life to end suffering ASAP in a time when the Teachings of a SammaSamBuddha are already alive and well in the world.

With Metta,

Guy
From a Theravadin standpoint this is not an issue. From a Mahayana standpoint - generally - it is really a meaningless thing to do, given that according to some Mahayanists the arhats end up in a sort of "fake" nibbana, thinking they have attained what needs to be attained. Somewhere down the line they sort of wake up to the fact that they need to recognize that their supposed awakening really is not what they thought and that they need to get on with being bodhisattvas.

Accoring to the lengthy discussions of this question I have seen elsewhere, forsaking the Mahayana bodhisattva vow is likely to be seen as big bad news with big bad consequences, which are even worse if you are a Vajrayana practitioner.
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.

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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Dan74 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:24 pm

This hypothetical doesn't quite make sense to me, because I see these vows as actually beneficial for practice and realization, since they strike at the root of attachment to the self and its priorities (eg "getting rid of suffering"). It's a kind of a paradox I've also heard from Thai Forest teachers - embracing suffering, one puts an end to it. Letting go of one's concern for liberation in favour of the liberation of everybody else, one brings it closer.

As for delaying nirvana, this interpretation of the vows is just one interpretation, and one that doesn't completely make sense to me (and is also rejected by most Vajrayana people).

Then on the other hand I've heard a teacher share that in the course of meditation the vow came back and barred the entry (or rather the exit), so to speak. So it varies.

[Edit: If you make explicit vows to keep getting reborn in order to be of assistance to other beings, well in order to pull all that off I imagine you'd already have to be very close to Buddhahood, but I wouldn't like to speculate on the actual workings of all that).]

I've done some work in prisons and my wife works with people with disabilities, so this amazing good fortune that we have is something I don't want to take for granted. Striving just for my own sake strikes me as kind of insensitive and even a bit pointless (I am an extrovert). This is the meaning of the Vows for me (No, Tilt, I am not saying Theravada practitioners practice only for themselves (I have no idea of other people's motivation), I am just talking about my practice :group: )

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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:29 pm

Dan74 wrote: Striving for my own sake strikes me as kind of insensitive and even a bit pointless. This is the meaning of the Vows for me (No, Tilt, I am not saying Theravada practitioners practice only for themselves, I am just talking about my practice ::peace::)
As for striving for one's self, if, from a Theravadin point of view, you areteally doing the practice, "striving for one's self makes no sense, though there is the recognition that "self" cultivation is necessary: "Cunda, it is impossible that one who is himself sunk in the mire should pull out another who is sunk in the mire. But it is possible, Cunda, that one not sunk in the mire himself should pull out another who is sunk in the mire.
"It is not possible, Cunda, that one who is himself not restrained, not disciplined and not quenched [as to his passions], should make others restrained and disciplined, should make them attain to the full quenching [of passions]. But it is possible, Cunda, that one who is himself restrained, disciplined and fully quenched [as to his passions] should make others restrained and disciplined, should make them attain to the full quenching [of passions].
-- Majjhima Nikaya 8

By doing evil, one defiles oneself;
by avoiding evil, one purifies oneself.
Purity and impurity depend on oneself:
no one can purify another.
Dhp 165
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.

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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Dan74 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:32 pm

Yes, of course.
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Re: Renouncing Bodhisatta Vows

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:34 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

If you do that in Vajrayana, supposedly you end up in Vajra Hell.

Tantric Buddhists are in the position of a snake inside a bamboo tube; one hole faces up to the Dharmakaya, the other down toward Vajra Hell. There are only two options -- up or down; no in-between. Keeping samaya (commitment) determines which way the snake slides.


http://www.khandro.net/TibBud%20_vajrayana.htm

Metta,
Retro. :)

Seems reasonable... :coffee: :(
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
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