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Asanga’s Chapter on Ethics – Issue 04

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Chapter on Ethics[1]

by Asaṅga[2]

(posted in 12 issues): Issue 4

Furthermore, he relieves a set of sorrows beginning with calamities of property: for example, should someone’s property be confiscated by the king. The bodhisattva correctly relieves the minor, the medium, and the major sorrows of sentient beings based on their property which, because of clumsiness, brings about a calamity for them: by being stolen by rob­bers, for example, carried off by fire or water, gone to waste by being badly stored in the treasuries, resulting in ruin because the work was misapplied, carried off by unfriendly inheritors, or internal family squandering.

Furthermore, the bodhisattva provides requisites for those who want requisites. He gives food to those who want food. He gives drink to those who want drink, transport to those who want transport, clothing, ornaments to those who want ornaments, utensils to those who want utensils, perfume, garlands, and unguent to those who want perfume, garlands, and unguent, shelter to those who want shelter, and illumina­tion to those who want illumination.

Furthermore the bodhisattva, with the ethics of gathering, performs an act of gathering by attracting a crowd of sentient beings. With no thought of self-interest, backed only by a thought of mercy, he gives himself as a resource. He subsequently seeks, in accord with the doctrine, robes, food, bed and bedding, medicinal drugs, and other requi­sites from faithful Brahmans and householders for their sake. His own robes, food, bed and bedding, medicinal drugs, and requisites, which he obtains in accord with the doctrine, he uses in common, and not privately. From time to time he gives appropriate advice in eight modes, and instructs them with the five sorts of lesson. The advice and lessons are as found in the Balagotra chapter.

Furthermore the bodhisattva, with the ethics of mental com­pliance, complies with the expectations of sentient beings. Firstly, he knows the dispositions, the nature, and the elements of sentient beings. Knowing their dispositions, nature, and elements, he lives together with sentient beings as one should live with them; he acts toward sentient beings as one should act toward them.

When the bodhisattva, desiring to comply with the expectations of any sentient being, sees that doing something involving body or speech will result in pain and unhappiness, and the bodhisattva reflects that the pain and unhappiness will not move him from his unwholesome to a wholesome situation, he will reject that action of body or speech con­scientiously, and not perform it. If, on the other hand, he sees that the pain and unhappiness will move him from his unwholesome to a whole­some situation, he will reflect upon it holding only to mercy and not comply with the other’s inclination [to be free from pain],

When something of body or speech done to someone else would result in pain and unhappiness for a third party, whereas neither party would be moved from an unwholesome to a wholesome situation, the bodhisattva will reflect upon it and reject that act of body-speech on the grounds that it would not comply with the inclinations of the third par­ty. If, on the other hand, he sees that either party, or both would be moved from an unwholesome to a wholesome situation, the bodhisattva will reflect upon it adopting nothing but a thought of mercy, and per­form the action of body-speech so as not to comply with the inclina­tion of those sentient beings.

If the bodhisattva correctly sees that some action of his involving body-speech will result in pain and unhappiness for others, while the action of body-speech is not part of his bases of training, nor part of [the gathering of] the resources of merit and gnosis, and that the pain and unhappiness will not remove others from an unwholesome situation-­and so forth, as above – the bodhisattva will reject the action of body-­speech in order to guard the thought of others. The reverse behavior should be understood as above.

The details of pleasure and happiness may be understood by analogy with pain and unhappiness.

The bodhisattva who complies with the expectations of others makes no express praise of someone else who is possessed by involvement in anger, until the anger is gone. What then to say of dispraise? Nor does he apologize.

Furthermore, the bodhisattva who complies with the expectations of others will accost and greet someone else even when not accosted. What then to say when he has been accosted and greeted? The bodhisattva who complies with the expectations of others does not cause others to be upset; he only desires to rebuke them out of mercy, rebuking them with calm faculties. The bodhisattva who complies with the expectations of others does not ridicule someone else, nor make himself sarcastic and intimidating. He does not make someone regret not putting him at ease. When someone has already been punished and humbled, he does not accuse him with a punishable topic. He does not show himself to be grand before those who are downcast.

The bodhisattva who complies with, he expectations of others does not fail to cultivate others, nor does he cultivate others excessively, nor cultivate them unseasonably. He does not censure someone before his friends, nor praise him before his foes, nor does he confide in some­one who is unfamiliar. He does not beg continually; he knows the proper measure to be taken and does not ignore an invitation to food, drink, and the like, or he excuses himself in the right way.

Furthermore the bodhisattva, with the ethics of applauding genuine good qualities, applauds sentient beings. He applauds those en­dowed with the quality of faith, by discussing the quality of faith. He applauds those endowed with the quality of morality, by discussing the quality of morality. He applauds those endowed with the quality of lear­nedness, by discussing the quality of learnedness. He applauds those en­dowed with the quality of renunciation, by discussing the quality of renunciation. He applauds those endowed with the quality of wisdom, by discussing the quality of wisdom.

Furthermore the bodhisattva, with the ethics of suppression, puts a stop to sentient beings. Minor fault and minor transgression he rebukes with mild rebuke, his attitude gentle and free of bad feeling. Medium fault and medium transgression he rebukes with medium rebuke. Major fault and major transgression he rebukes with major rebuke. Acts of punishment should be understood by analogy with rebuke. In cases of minor and medium fault, and minor and medium transgression, the bodhisattva will, as a lesson to them and to others as well, with a thought of mercy and a thought of the benefit, banish them for a cer­tain period of time in order to subsequently regain them. In cases of major fault and major transgression he will banish them, out of mercy, so as not to regain them for as long as they live, never associating or sharing property with them again, in order that they not acquire even more demerit in regard to this [Buddhist] teaching, and as a lesson to others whom he desires to benefit.

Furthermore, the bodhisattva desires to frighten sentient beings and to bend them to his will by the power of working wonders. He takes those sentient beings who course in misbehavior and shows them at close range that the ripened fruits of misbehavior are the states of woe – the hells, the great hells, the cold hells, and the temporary hells. “Look you,” he says, “upon the unbearable ripening of unpleasant results of accumulated misbehavior, severe in the highest degree, that are being experienced by those who were once human.” And they, having seen it, will be frightened and alarmed, and they will reject that misbehavior.

In the case of some sentient beings seated in the great assembly who wish to cast ignominy upon the bodhisattva with humiliating questions, the bodhisattva will magically recreate himself as Vajrapāṇi or some other yakṣa of heroic station who is great in body and power and frighten, terrify them, for by this means belief will be born and they will cherish and respect him; he will be made to respond only to legiti­mate questions and, by his various responses, that great crowd will be converted.

He may employ various types of wonder that he manufactures: having been one, there are many; having been many, there is one; going straight through a wall, through a rocky hillside, through an enclosure, moving with his body unobstructed and exercising further control over his body up to the world of Brahmā, He may display the combined miracle [of water and fire] and absorption into the element of fire. Or, one might say that he demonstrates wonder-working power that he shares with the auditors. With this he bends them to his will, he pleases them, he causes them to rejoice; whereupon those without faith he projects into the blessed state of faith; the immoral, the unlearned, the miserly, and those of defective understanding he projects into the blessed states of morality, learnedness, renunciation, and wisdom.

This is how the bodhisattva comes into possession of the ethics of accomplishing the welfare of sentient beings in all modes.

(Issue 5)

  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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