The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

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bodom
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The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by bodom »

I am interested in the Bodhisattva ideal of Theravada Buddhism and have a question regarding the eight qualifications through which the aspiration for Buddhahood succeeds. According to the Treatise on the Paramis by Acariya Dhammapala it is stated that the eight qualifications for aspiration to Buddhahood can only succeed when eight factors are met. The eight qualifications through which the aspiration succeeds are: the human state, the male sex, the cause, the sight of the Master, the going forth, the achievement of noble qualities, extreme dedication, and strong desire (Bv. IIA,v.59). Now the fourth qualification is making the aspiration for Buddhahood in the presence of a living Buddha. Does this mean that those who aspire for Buddhahood and are practicing the Bodhisattva path today are practicing in vain? Is the Bodhisattva path a viable option for buddhist's today? Are these qualifications found in Mahayana literature? Could it be that in a former life i have already completed this qualification?

:anjali:
With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasaka Keep Nanayon

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bodom
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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by bodom »

And now that i read further into this commentary qualification 5 states (5) The going forth (pabbajjaa): The aspiration succeeds only when made in the presence of the Exalted Buddha by one who has gone forth (into the homeless state of a monk), either as a bhikkhu or as an ascetic who maintains the doctrine of kamma and the moral efficacy of action; it does not succeed for one living in the household state.

And qualification 6 states: Aspiration only succeeds when made by one who has gone forth and gained the eight meditative attainments and the five mundane types of direct knowledges.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el409.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

This is not looking very promising. I would like to undertake the Bodhisattva path but not through the Mahayana tradition and these qualifications make it look rather bleak. Are there any here who aspire to the Bodhisattva path through the Theravadin tradition?
With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasaka Keep Nanayon

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Sekha »

bodom wrote: I would like to undertake the Bodhisattva path but not through the Mahayana tradition and these qualifications make it look rather bleak. Are there any here who aspire to the Bodhisattva path through the Theravadin tradition?
Are you prepared for several asankheyyas of becoming? It took 4 to Gotama. 'Mahayanists' totally neglect this fact. I feel there is a lot of building up ego under this fashion.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by bodom »

Dukkhanirodha wrote:
bodom wrote: I would like to undertake the Bodhisattva path but not through the Mahayana tradition and these qualifications make it look rather bleak. Are there any here who aspire to the Bodhisattva path through the Theravadin tradition?
Are you prepared for several asankheyyas of becoming? It took 4 to Gotama. 'Mahayanists' totally neglect this fact. I feel there is a lot of building up ego under this fashion.
Yes i am aware of the length of time it takes to perfect the paramis. From the commentary:

As a minimum, four incalculables (asa"nkheyya) and a hundred thousand great aeons (mahaakappa); as a middle figure, eight incalculables and a hundred thousand great aeons; and as a maximum, sixteen incalculables and a hundred thousand great aeons.

For the sake of the supreme enlightenment, the Great Being, striving for enlightenment, should first of all surrender himself to the Buddhas thus: "I offer myself up to the Buddhas."
With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasaka Keep Nanayon

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Paññāsikhara »

Dukkhanirodha wrote:
bodom wrote: I would like to undertake the Bodhisattva path but not through the Mahayana tradition and these qualifications make it look rather bleak. Are there any here who aspire to the Bodhisattva path through the Theravadin tradition?
Are you prepared for several asankheyyas of becoming? It took 4 to Gotama. 'Mahayanists' totally neglect this fact. I feel there is a lot of building up ego under this fashion.
Re: 'Mahayanists' totally neglect this fact. - this statement is incorrect.

There are some groups that have other interpretations, but the vast majority of practicing Mahayana Buddhists, ie. Chinese Buddhists, all very clearly and explicitly accept a Mahayana path of many asamkhya kalpas to complete.
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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Paññāsikhara »

bodom wrote:
This is not looking very promising. I would like to undertake the Bodhisattva path but not through the Mahayana tradition and these qualifications make it look rather bleak. Are there any here who aspire to the Bodhisattva path through the Theravadin tradition?
The Treatise by Acariya Dhammapala calls it the "Mahabodhiyana".

Perhaps you are thinking that the "Mahayana" is a doctrinal system, ie. a "vada".
Actually, it is not, but a "vehicle / path", ie. a "yana".
It is possible to have different vadas for different yanas, eg. Madhyamaka vada for Sravaka-yana; or Thera-vada for Maha-yana.
eg. see the "Theravadin Mahayanikas" that Xuan Zang met whilst in South India during the 7th century.

The basic definition of "mahayana" is the yana that leads to anuttara samyak sambodhi (in Skt or Pali).
So, the Treatise by the Acariya is a Mahayana treatise, and also Theravadin, too. There is no necessary contradiction here.
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by bodom »

After reading Ledi Sayadaws Manual of the excellent man it seems there are additional factors to be cultivated leading towards fulfillment of the eight qualifications and the Noblest Aspiration.

Ledi says "The four conditions, the four root causes, and the six inclinations are the factors for declaring the Noblest Aspiration and for taking up the higher perfections."

The four conditions are: exceptional energy, a keen intellect, steadfastness, compassion.

The four root causes: perfections, compassion, fortitude, friendship.

The Six Natural inclinations are sees the danger in greed, hate, delusion, sensuality, socializing and the danger of birth.
Last edited by bodom on Tue Jan 26, 2010 12:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasaka Keep Nanayon

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by bodom »

Thank you for the clarification Bhante. So these eight conditions are found in the Mahayana tradition also? Am i able to undertake this path as a Theravadin buddhist despite the fact of not knowing if i have completed any of these qualifications in a past life or will in this or a future life? Is it enough in this life to just take the vows and practice the paramis?

:anjali:
With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasaka Keep Nanayon

suanck
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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by suanck »

Paññāsikhara wrote: There are some groups that have other interpretations, but the vast majority of practicing Mahayana Buddhists, ie. Chinese Buddhists, all very clearly and explicitly accept a Mahayana path of many asamkhya kalpas to complete.
Dear Bhante,

My own experience with many Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhist friends (they are "ordinary" Buddhists, not scholar monks/nuns) is different: To them, there is no clear distinction between "Buddha" and "Samma Sambuddha"; to become a Buddha just means to be enlightened and it can be instant (intstant enlightenment), not several kalpas. To follow the Bodhisatva path, to them, is just a inspiring vow to make ones more engaged in social services.

Suan.

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by tiltbillings »

THE BODHISATTVA IDEAL IN THERAVAADA

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/jeffrey2.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

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tiltbillings wrote:THE BODHISATTVA IDEAL IN THERAVAADA

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/jeffrey2.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Yes tilt thank you i have read through that article as well as this one by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

Arahants, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas by Bhikkhu Bodhi

http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha335.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:anjali:
With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasaka Keep Nanayon

Paññāsikhara
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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Paññāsikhara »

suanck wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote: There are some groups that have other interpretations, but the vast majority of practicing Mahayana Buddhists, ie. Chinese Buddhists, all very clearly and explicitly accept a Mahayana path of many asamkhya kalpas to complete.
Dear Bhante,

My own experience with many Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhist friends (they are "ordinary" Buddhists, not scholar monks/nuns) is different: To them, there is no clear distinction between "Buddha" and "Samma Sambuddha"; to become a Buddha just means to be enlightened and it can be instant (intstant enlightenment), not several kalpas. To follow the Bodhisatva path, to them, is just a inspiring vow to make ones more engaged in social services.

Suan.
Of course to them there is no difference between "buddha" and "samma sambuddha", because to them they are the same thing, but something very very different from either an arhat or pratyekabuddha.

I only used the term to make a distinction here, amongst Theravadins, who may well say that arhats are also buddhas, because they have realized bodhi. I wouldn't disagree with them in the Theravadin context, but that context is inappropriate for most Chinese Buddhists.

As for "instant enlightenment", even for Chan, most will say that that is just a basic insight, not full awakening.

I'm not sure about the groups you associate with, but those that I do would explain it as I have here. That include "ordinary" buddhists, too. The groups I associate with make a key point of explaining the Buddhist doctrines, and not just doing Dharma services and rituals. We may also wish to make a distinction between those who just mix up any and all east asian religions, (usually coming out with a pot pourri of Dao-Fo-Ru mashed together) and those who are often considered "orthodox" Buddhists, who know the difference between the three.
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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Paññāsikhara »

bodom wrote:So these eight conditions are found in the Mahayana tradition also?
In many "mahayana" traditions, the arising of the aspiration to attain full awakening is sufficient to make one a bodhisattva.
However, others indicate that certain attainments are necessary, and some of them bear close resemblance to srotaapannatva in terms of the absence of identity views (satkaya-drsti), etc.
There is no single "mahayana" POV on a large range of issues. That's why it is a "yana", and not a "vada".
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by bodom »

I came across this excellent article:

Bodhisattva Ideal in Buddhism Ven. Dr. W. Rahula

http://www.viet.net/~anson/ebud/ebdha126.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:anjali:
With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasaka Keep Nanayon

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Re: The path of the Bodhisattva in Theravada Buddhism

Post by pt1 »

bodom wrote:I am interested in the Bodhisattva ideal of Theravada Buddhism and have a question regarding the eight qualifications through which the aspiration for Buddhahood succeeds. According to the Treatise on the Paramis by Acariya Dhammapala it is stated that the eight qualifications for aspiration to Buddhahood can only succeed when eight factors are met. The eight qualifications through which the aspiration succeeds are: the human state, the male sex, the cause, the sight of the Master, the going forth, the achievement of noble qualities, extreme dedication, and strong desire (Bv. IIA,v.59). Now the fourth qualification is making the aspiration for Buddhahood in the presence of a living Buddha. Does this mean that those who aspire for Buddhahood and are practicing the Bodhisattva path today are practicing in vain? Is the Bodhisattva path a viable option for buddhist's today? Are these qualifications found in Mahayana literature? Could it be that in a former life i have already completed this qualification?
Hi bodom, I was researching this topic a bit as well.

There's an interesting entry in the "Dictionary of Pali Names" by G P Malalasekera:
In the developed form of the ideas regarding Bodhisattas, a Bodhisatta's career started with his making a resolution before a Buddha (abhinīhārakarana or mūlapanidhāna) to become a Buddha for the welfare and liberation of all creatures. In later literature, the abhinīhāra is preceded by a period during which the Bodhisatta practises manopanidhi, when he resolves in his mind to desire to become a Buddha without declaring this intention to others.
As I understand it, abhinihara happens with the fulfilled 8 requisites that you've already quoted from the Treatise on paramis, but this "manopanidhi" seems to precede abhinihara, so kind of like the practice of getting ready for it - i.e. developing jhanas, abhinas and everything else required for abhinihara to be successful. Of course, I don't know what are the actual sources for this and what does "later literature" mean. Would that be Buddhavamsa and its commentary, Jatakas or something else? Don't know, haven't had a chance to read these yet. Either way, I think that manopanidhi would be comparable to the practice of "aspiring" bodhisattas, though of course, there'd be no assurance of success until a prediction is obtained from a buddha.

Another even more interesting point (to me at least) is what happens with development of insight/wisdom in case of a bodhisatta who has already made the successful abhinihara, or even in the case of the one who’s still in the manopanidhi stage (so could be compared to an ordinary savaka). I mean wisdom is one of the paramis (as well as paramitas) so the question is to what point it can be developed without resulting in stream-entry. I.e. for abhinihara to work, one has to be able to become arahant in that very life, which should mean that his insight/wisdom is well in the advanced stages already.

At the moment there seem to be two viewpoints in Theravada that I can detect – one is that he develops insight (especially in lives as a monk under different Buddhas) – but only up to the stage of sankhar’upekkha nana (equanimity towards formations), which is just one stage short of anuloma nana when the stream-entry (or higher) is initiated and irrevocable. There are two posts on dsg by Ven.Dhammanando that I found very informative regarding this viewpoint: #42575 and #42602

The other viewpoint is that a bodhisatta never develops insight/wisdom past the point of the first few insight knowledges (until sammasana nana if I’m not mistaken), because at that point according to commentary one becomes a cula sotapanna – someone who’s ensured of becoming a sotapanna in that very life. This thing about cula-sotpanna is mentioned somewhere in the Path of purification as well as by Ledi Sayadaw I think.

What I don’t understand though is whether the issue of cula sotapnna applies to bodhisattas at all, because it might be possible that their vows in fact keep them from becoming a sotapanna even if their insight advances up to sankhar’upekkha nana.

As for Mahayana view on the progress of insight, I asked Ven.Pannasikhara once about this on e-sangha, but as far as I could understand him, the insight knowledges are not discussed in Mahayana, so that kind of the wisdom framework just isn’t applicable to Mahayana. Whether that means that in Mahayana insight is never developed quite as far as in Theravada (which is understandable as they are not interested in becoming a stream-enterer or higher until they have developed all the other paramis to perfection), or they just never developed a detailed system of describing development of insight as Theravada did, I simply don’t know.

Best wishes

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