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Asanga’s Chapter on Ethics – Issue 03

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Chapter on Ethics[1]

by Asaṅga[2]


(posted in 12 issues): Issue 3

The bodhisattva established in the ethics of the vow does not become angry at others because he has been struck by hand, clump of earth, club, or weapon. How then could he emit an evil word or return the blow? And what need to mention [anger] because of the slightly painful injuries of scolding, anger, and reproach?

The bodhisattva established in the vow is endowed with vigilance com­prised by five limbs: endowed with the former limit, endowed with the latter limit, endowed with the mean, the prior duty, and the subsequent combined practice. The bodhisattva training in the bodhisattva trainings, when any fault has developed in the past, has remedied it according to the doctrine: This is vigilance endowed with the former limit. Any fault that will develop in future he will remedy according to the doctrine:

This is vigilance endowed with the latter limit. Any fault that develops in the present he remedies according to the doctrine: This is vigilance endowed with the mean. Before any fault has yet developed, the bodhisattva thinks, most conscientiously, “Let me live and act in such a way that faults will not develop”: This is the bodhisattva‘s vigilance as a prior duty. Based upon this same vigilance as a prior duty, to live and act in such a way that faults do not develop is the vigilance of subse­quent combined practice.

The bodhisattva established in the ethics of the vow does not show off his virtues; he makes a clean breast of his vices; he is easily satis­fied and content; he thinks nothing of suffering and his nature is free from anxiety; he is not frivolous nor is he wavering; his deportment is calm; and he is free from all the factors of wrong livelihood, beginning with hypocrisy.

With these ten branches, the bodhisattva established in the ethics of the vow possesses an ethics that is well restrained: disregarding sensory desires of the past, not anticipating those of the future nor longing for those of the present, to enjoy dwelling in isolation, perfect purity of speech and preoccupation, not underestimating oneself, tenderness, forbearance, vigilance, and purity of lifestyle and of livelihood.

Furthermore, the bodhisattva established in the ethics of col­lecting wholesome factors will not allow himself to pay even scant re­gard to body and enjoyments: What need to mention a great deal? He will not allow any occurrence of defilement or subsidiary defilement, such as anger and rancor, which are the foundations of immorality. He will not allow himself enmity, resentment, and spite towards others. He will not allow laziness and indolence to arise. He will not allow himself to savor the taste of the equalization process, nor allow defilements of equalization. He wisely knows the five topics, exactly as they are: He wisely knows the advantages of the effects of virtue, exactly as they are. He wisely knows, exactly as they are, the causes of virtue, the distortions in regard to the effects caused by virtue, the non-distortions, and the impediments to collecting virtue. Seeing the advantages of the effects of virtue, the bodhisattva searches out the causes of virtue in order to collect wholesomeness. The bodhisattva wisely knows, exactly as it is, what is distorted and what is not distorted. He does not expect to find permanence in the impermanent when the fruition of virtue has been obtained, nor pleasure in the painful, purity in the impure, or a self in what is self-less. He comes to wisely know the impediments to collecting wholesomeness and he eliminates them.

With this set of ten aspects, someone established in the ethics of collecting wholesome factors will collect virtue quickly, and all aspects will be collected. That is to say, they are collected by the common grounds of giving, morality, patience, vigor, and meditation, and by the five aspects of wisdom.

Furthermore, there are eleven modes by which the bodhisattva is established in the ethics of accomplishing the welfare of sentient beings in all its modes; he is possessed of each mode, and he is posses­sed of all.

The bodhisattva renders assistance by assessing the needs and deciding what is to be done to minister to the various needs of sentient beings, by being a travelling companion, by employment in good work, by guar­ding property, by reconciling the divided, by festivity, and by meritori­ous deeds.

Furthermore, the bodhisattva ministers to the suffering. He nurses sentient beings stricken by illness. He guides the blind and shows them the way. The deaf he makes to understand by hand language, teaching them signs as names. Those without limbs he transports on top of him or by conveyance. He dispels the suffering of involvement in sense-desire for sentient beings who suffer involvement in sense-desire. He dispels the involvement of sentient beings who suffer involvement in ill will, languor, drowsiness, excitedness, regret, and doubt. He dispels the preoc­cupation with objects of desire of sentient beings who suffer involve­ment in preoccupation with objects of desire. As with preoccupation with objects of desire, so one should understand preoccupation with ill will, injury, kinfolk, fellow countrymen, and deities, as well as preoccupation connected with repudiation and family prosperity. He dispels the suffer­ing of humiliation and defeat by others from sentient beings who suffer humiliation and defeat by others. He dispels the suffering of exhaustion from those who are road-weary, by giving them a place to stay and a seat, and by massaging their limbs.

Furthermore, the bodhisattva teaches sentient beings with rele­vancy. To eliminate misbehavior in sentient beings who course in mis­behavior, he teaches them doctrine with literary expression that is fit­ting, connected, congruent, coherent, skilful, appropriate, compliant, and painstakingly resourceful.

Looking at it in another way, he teaches with skill in means. To eli­minate misbehavior in sentient beings who course in misbehavior he will, for example, to eliminate stinginess in the stingy, [teach them with skill in means] how to correctly and with little difficulty acquire and keep goods in this life. Those who are hostile to this [Buddhist] teaching, he causes to obtain faith, to obtain vision and, by purifying their views, to rise above a bad rebirth and eventually to transcend all suffering by making an end of all fetters. Furthermore the bodhisattva, seeing an occasion for showing gratitude to sentient beings who have helped him, treats them with re­spect. He accosts, addresses, and greets them, saying, “Come here, you are welcome.” He receives them offering a seat and a place to stay. He waits upon them with gain and respect that is either greater than or the equal of theirs, but not less. If he tends to their needs unsolici­ted, what need to mention when he has been asked? And as with those whom he tends to in this case, so also does this apply to those who suf­fer, and to showing the right way, guarding from fear, relieving the sor­row of calamities, providing requisites, giving himself as a resource, mental compliance, applauding good qualities, putting a stop though in­wardly gentle, and frightening and bending to his will by working wonders.

Furthermore, the bodhisattva protects frightened sentient beings from fear. He protects sentient beings from fear of harm by beasts of prey, from fear of sharks and the deeps, from fear of kings, from fear of robbers, from fear of adversaries, from fear of landlords and overlords, from fear of loss of livelihood, from fear of defamation, from fear of public bashfulness and from fear of inhuman beings and zombies.

Furthermore, the bodhisattva relieves the sorrow of sentient beings who have suffered a calamity, beginning with calamities involving relatives and friends. That is to say, he relieves the sorrow of the death of parents. He relieves the sorrow of the death of children and spouse, of female and male servants, of staff and employees, of friends, counselors, paternal and maternal relations and of such persons as teachers, preceptors, and gurus.

(Issue 4)



  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 Confusions about Buddhism and Theosophy [<<]
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