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Asanga’s Chapter on Ethics – Issue 01

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Chapter on Ethics1

by Asaṅga2

(posted in 12 issues): Issue 1

The Chapter on Ethics

The contraction:

Essence and completeness,
Difficulty and universal gateway,
Endowment of a holy person,
As well as all the modes;
Endowment of distress and wishing,
Well-being here and there,
And purified: these nine aspects
Constitute ethics in brief.

What is ethics for the bodhisattvas? It has nine aspects: the essence of ethics, complete ethics, difficult ethics, universal gateway ethics, the ethics of a holy person, ethics as all modes, ethics as distress and wish­ing, ethics as well-being here and there, and purified ethics.

What is the essence of ethics? Briefly, to possess four qua­lities constitutes the essence of the ethics of the bodhisattva. What are the four? To correctly receive it from someone else, to have a quite purified intention, to make correction after failure, and to avoid failure by generating respect and remaining mindful of that.

Because he has correctly received it from someone else, when the bodhisattva fails in his training, then dependent upon the other, embarrassment will be born. Because of his quite purified intention, when the bodhisattva fails in his training, then dependent upon himself, a sense of shame will be born. Correcting the bases of training after failure, and generating respect so that failure will not occur in the first place, are both causes for a bodhisattva‘s freedom from regret. So de­pendent upon a correct reception and a purified intention, shame and embarrassment are produced. With a sense of shame and embarrassment, the correct reception of ethics will be preserved. Preserving it, he will be free of regret.

These two phenomena – the correct reception and the purified inten­tion – are what induce the other two phenomena – correction after failure and respect that avoids failure.

These three phenomena – the correct reception from someone else, the quite purified intention, and respect to avoid failure – should be under­stood to effectively prevent the failure of bodhisattva ethics. The cor­rection of failure should be understood to constitute rectification and recovery from breakage.

To undertake and proceed to train oneself in the essence of ethics endowed with these four qualities, should be understood as “whole­some,” because of benefit for oneself, benefit for others, benefit for many people, pleasure for many people, mercy for the world, and wel­fare, benefit, and pleasure for divine and human beings. Because “mea­sureless” comprehends the bodhisattva bases of training, they should be understood as “immeasurable.” Because they are lived for the bene­fit and pleasure of all sentient beings, they should be understood to be “favorable to all sentient beings.” Because they acquire and bestow the result of supreme, right and full awakening, they should be understood to be “a great result and advantage.”

What is complete ethics? Briefly, bodhisattva ethics is compri­sed by the lay side and the monastic side. This is known as “complete ethics.”

Furthermore, based upon the lay side and upon the monastic side there are, briefly, three sorts: the ethics of the vow, the ethics of collecting wholesome factors, and the ethics of benefiting sentient beings.

Among them, the ethics of the vow refers to undertaking the pratimokṣa vow as one of the seven classes: monk, nun, nun-probationer, male and female novice, layman and laywoman. Furthermore, it may be suitably understood as the householder side plus the monastic side. The ethics of collecting wholesome factors: The bodhisattva, subsequent to undertaking the ethics of the vow, for the sake of the great awakening accumulates, with his body and his speech, anything that is wholesome, all of which is called, briefly, the ethics of collec­ting wholesome factors.

What then is it? The bodhisattva who is based upon and maintaining ethics applies himself to hearing, to contemplation, to the cultivation of calm and insight, and to delight in solitude. Accordingly, he makes res­pectful address to his gurus from time to time, prostrating himself, rising promptly, and joining palms. Accordingly, he does respectful ser­vice to those gurus from time to time. He does service to the sick, out of compassion nursing their illnesses. Accordingly, he gives a “Well done!” to what has been well spoken. He assigns genuine praise to persons en­dowed with good qualities. Accordingly, he generates a satisfaction, from the bottom of, his heart, at all the, merit of all sentient beings of infinity; he appreciates it, describing it in words. Accordingly, he inves­tigates all the transgressions done by others and is forbearant. Accor­dingly, he dedicates everything wholesome he has done with body, speech, and mind, and all that he has yet to do, to supreme, right and full awakening. He sows various sorts of correct aspiration from time to time, and makes all sorts of extensive offerings to the Precious Three. He is always engaged and constantly making vigorous initiatives in wholesome directions. He remains vigilant. He guards himself by prac­ticing the physical and verbal bases of training with mindfulness and awareness. The gates of his senses are guarded and he is aware of mo­deration in food. He applies himself to wakefulness in the earlier and later parts of the night. He attends to holy persons and takes recourse in spiritual advisers. He also recognizes his own mistakes and looks at his faults; cognized and seen, they will be relinquished. And any mistake is confessed, as a lapse, to the buddhas, the bodhisattvas, and co­religionists. Ethics that procures, preserves, and increases wholesome factors such as those, is known as the bodhisattva‘s ethics of collecting wholesome factors.

(Issue 2)


  1. Asanga’s Chapter on Ethics with the Commentary of Tsong-Kha-Pa, The basic path to awakening, The complete Bodhisattva. Published by Edwin Mellen, USA, Canada © Mark Tatz 1986. ISBN 0 -88946-054-X. The Commentaries by Tsong-kha-pa and not included in the www.dailytheosophy.net online version. []
  2. More information about Asaṅga or Aryāsaṅga, the true one who lived some centuries BCE according to H.P. Blavatsky, see EDITORIAL 15c: Confusions about Buddhism and Theosophy []
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