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Asanga’s Chapter on Ethics – Issue 05

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Chapter on Ethics[1]

by Asaṅga[2]

 

(posted in 12 issues): Issue 5

 

The threefold aggregate of bodhisattva ethics, those aggregates of ethics that comprise the ethics of the vow, the ethics of collecting wholesome factors, and the ethics of accomplishing the welfare of sen­tient beings, is a measureless aggregate of merit.

The bodhisattva, whether lay or monastic, who aspires to train himself in this threefold aggregate of ethics that is the bodhisattvatraining, who has made the resolve for supreme, right and full awaken­ing, should first fall at the feet of a bodhisattva who is a co-religionist in that he also has made the bodhisattva resolve, who has taken and knows the vow, and who is capable of grasping and understanding the meaning of its verbal communication, and then entreat him as follows:

“I seek to receive from you, kulaputra[3] the bodhisattva vow-of-ethics obligation. If it be no importunity, may it suit you to hear me for a moment and to grant it, out of pity.”

Then that capable bodhisattva, having described to the aspirant bodhisattva in detail the advantages of the bodhisattva vow, should also correctly describe to the vow-aspirant the [relatively] grave and trivial bases of training, and encourage him, speaking thus:

“Listen, kulaputra! Do you aspire to cross over the stranded, to re­lease the bound, to revive the breathless, to bring to nirvana those not yet in nirvana, and to continue the lineage of the buddhas? For that, you must be firm in the generation of the thought, and firm in the obligation.”

Having observed that he belongs to a class unaware of such things, he should speak thus, so as to encourage him.

Then the aspirant, having made a good entreaty, throws his upper robe over one shoulder and does worship to lord buddhas of past, present, and future and to bodhisattvas advanced to a high stage – attain­ing great gnosis and majesty – who abide in the ten directions. And while making their qualities evident, he generates a thought of serene faith from the bottom of his heart or, at least he generates a little, as well as he is able, with whatever power of [past] causes he may possess. Setting up before himself an image of the Tathāgata, he does proper worship and in a humble manner, kneeling on his right knee or in a squatting position, he should thus address the learned bodhisattva:

“Kulaputra!” or, “Long-lived one!” or, “Reverend! Please grant me the bodhisattva vow-of-ethics obligation.”

Adopting one-pointed mindfulness, he promotes a thought that is nothing but serene: “Now my obtainment of the great treasury of merit – supreme, inexhaustible, and measureless – is not far off.” Contem­plating that goal, he should keep silence.

The learned bodhisattva, who may be standing or seated, shall say, with an unwavering thought, to the entering bodhisattva:

“Kulaputra!” or, “Dharma brother so-and-so’ Are you a bodhisattva?

Have you made the resolve for bodhi?”

And this he must affirm, saying, “It is so.”

Thereupon, he should be addressed thus: “Will you, kulaputra so-and-so, receive from me all the bodhisattva bases of training and all the bodhisattva ethics – the ethics of the vow, the ethics of collec­ting wholesome factors, and the ethics of accomplishing the welfare of sentient beings – whatever the bases of training and the ethics of all bodhisattvas of the past, whatever the bases of training and the ethics of all bodhisattvas of the future, and whatever the bases of training and the ethics of all bodhisattvas presently abiding in the ten direc­tions may be – whatever the bases of training and the ethics in which all past bodhisattvas have trained, all future bodhisattvas will train, and all present bodhisattvas are training?”

And he must affirm, “Yes, I will.”

The learned bodhisattva should speak so a second and a third time, and when asked, the recipient bodhisattva should, all three times, affirm it.

The learned bodhisattva, thus having three times imparted to the recipient bodhisattva the bodhisattva vow-of-ethics obligation and received the affirmation, should, with the recipient bodhisattva not yet risen, before that same image of the Tathāgata, fall at the feet of all buddhas and bodhisattvas alive and flourishing in the ten directions and, joining his palms, make an announcement:

“This bodhisattva, named so-and-so, has three times received from me, the bodhisattva so-and-so, the bodhisattva vow-of-ethics obligation. I announce myself witness to those highest of nobles in the boundless, infinite realms of the universe in the ten directions who, though not visible, have intellects to which all sentient beings are entirely visible:

This bodhisattva, named so-and-so, has from myself, named so-and-so, undertaken the bodhisattva vow of ethics.”

This he should declare a second and a third time.

As soon as the act of undertaking the vow of ethics has been thus completed, the very nature of things is that a sign will appear to buddhas and high-stage bodhisattavas, alive and flourishing in the bound­less, infinite realms of the universe in all directions, by which it comes to their notice that “A bodhisattva has undertaken the bodhisattva vow-of-ethics obligation.” Thereupon, that bodhisattva comes to their notice. From that notice proceeds their intuitive vision. Because of their intui­tive vision the realization enters their hearts, exactly as it is, that “The bodhisattva so-and-so, in a certain realm of the universe, has re­ceived the bodhisattva vow-of-ethics obligation from the bodhisattva so­-and-so.” And they all, with their good hearts, love him variously as a son, and as a brother.

The wholesome factors of that bodhisattva, thus loved variously by good hearts, should be expected only to grow, and not to decrease.

The announcement of the vow-of-ethics undertaking should be under­stood to have reached them.

(Issue 6)

 

  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 [<<]
  3. Sanskrit term meaning ‘a nobly born son’ or ‘member of a clan’, a term used frequently in Mahāyāna sūtras to denote lay male devotees, often with the added implication that they are bodhisattvas. The Pāli equivalent, ‘kulaputta’, is equally common in Pāli sūtras. [<<]
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