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Asanga’s Chapter on Ethics – Issue 07

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Chapter on Ethics[1]

by Asaṅga[2]

 

(posted in 12 issues): Issue 7

Accordingly, one should know what is a fault for a bodhisattva established in the bodhisattva vow of ethics and what is not a fault, the defiled and the undefiled, the minor, the medium, and the major. Should the bodhisattva established in the bodhisattva vow of ethics pass a day and a night without having done something, be it great or small, as his office of daily worship to the Tathāgata or to a shrine that represents him, to the Doctrine or to doctrine in the form of a book – the collection of bodhisattva scriptures or its code – or to the Community – the community of high-stage bodhisattvas of the ten directions – not even so much as a single prostration with his body, not even so much as a single four-line verse composed on the qualities of Buddha, Doctrine, or Community, not even so much as a single act of faith guided by recollection of the qualities of Buddha, Doctrine, and Community with his mind – then he is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction [to his vow],

If developed out of lack of respect, laziness, or indolence, the fault is a transgression with defilement. If developed out of forgetfulness, the fault is a transgression without defilement. In the case of a dis­traught mind, there is no fault. For someone who has reached the stage of purified intention there is no fault, for in this case he is a bodhisattva whose attitude is pure. By analogy, the monk who has attained “faith through understanding” is always serving the Teacher, the Doc­trine, and the Community by the nature of things, and doing worship

with the highest offerings.

If the bodhisattva allows insatiability, discontent, and attachment to gain and respect to occur, then he is possessed of fault, posses­sed of contradiction; there is defiled fault. There is no fault if he has a will to eliminate it, takes the initiative in doing so, and continues to oppose it by keeping hold of the antidote, but nonetheless commits it over and over because he is by nature overwhelmed with a great share of defilement.

The bodhisattva who sees a co-religionist deserving deference

to his more advanced age and endowment of qualities and, repressed by pride or with a thought of enmity or resentment fails to rise and provide a seat, and who makes no reply in a suitable manner when ac­costed, addressed, and greeted by someone else and asked a question, being repressed by pride alone or with a thought of enmity or resent­ment, is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction; there is defiled

fault.

If he is not repressed by pride nor seized by a thought of enmity

or resentment, but acts so out of laziness and indolence or an indeterminate thought, or absentmindedly, then he is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction, but the fault is not defiled.

If he is critically ill or his mind is distraught, there is no fault. If he is met, accosted, addressed, and greeted, and asked a question with the notion that he is awake when he has fallen asleep, there is no fault. In cases of teaching doctrine to others or diligence in conducting a discus­sion, there is no fault. If he is engaged in greeting someone else there is no fault. If he is listening to the teaching of doctrine or overhearing others conduct a discussion, there is no fault. In guarding against incon­venience in a discussion of doctrine, and in guarding the mind of the person speaking doctrine [against a slight], there is no fault. In taming and disciplining the sentient beings in question by that means, and rai­sing them from an unwholesome situation to place them in a wholesome situation, there is no fault. In keeping an internal rule of the communi­ty, there is no fault. In guarding the thought of the majority, there is no fault.

If the bodhisattva, upon being invited by others to a home, to another monastery, or to other homes for requisites such as food, drink, and clothing, does not go, does not accept the invitation, repressed by pride or with a thought of enmity or resentment, then he is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction; there is defiled fault. To stay away under the influence of laziness and indolence is a fault that is not de­filed.

If he is sick and incapacitated, or if his mind is distraught, there is no fault. If the place is remote and the road dangerous, there is no fault. In desiring to tame and discipline by that means while moving them from an unwholesome to a wholesome situation, there is no fault. If he has already promised someone else, there is no fault. If he stays away in order to guard against interference with a wholesome direction [of his practice] in which he has been continuously diligent, there is no fault. If he stays away because he suspects that he will miss hearing a useful topic of doctrine he has not heard before, there is no fault. And conducting a discussion should be understood by analogy with hearing a topic of doctrine. If the other has called with malicious intent, there is no fault. In guarding against thoughts of enmity on the part of the majority, there is no fault. In keeping an internal rule of the communi­ty, there is no fault.

Should the bodhisattva obtain from others – that is to say, have the opportunity to be provided with – a great deal of fine wealth of various specifications such as gold and silver, jewels, pearl, and lapis lazuli, and he not take it, but refuse with a thought of enmity or re­sentment, he is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction; there is defiled fault, because it shows disdain for a sentient being. Not taking it out of laziness and indolence, he is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction, but the fault is not defiled.

In the case of a distraught mind, there is no fault. If he sees that by taking it his mind will grow enamored of it, there is no fault. If he suspects that the other will come to regret it, there is no fault. If he suspects that the other has made an error in giving [it to him], there is no fault. If he suspects that the donor, by reason of having renoun­ced all that he owns, will be impoverished and ruined, there is no fault. If he suspects that it belongs to the community or shrine, there is no fault. If he suspects that it has been improperly carried off from a third party, and might be the occasion for some harm such as slaying, bondage, fine, or condemnation, there is no fault.

Should the bodhisattva fail to give doctrine to those who seek doctrine, with a thought of enmity or resentment or being envious by nature, then he is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction; there is defiled fault. If he fails to give it out of laziness and indolence he is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction, but the fault is not defiled.

In the case of some tīrthika seeking an opening, there is no fault.

If he is critically ill, or if his mind is distraught, there is no fault. In desiring to tame and to discipline by that means, while moving them from an unwholesome to a wholesome situation, there is no fault. If he does not know doctrine, there is no fault. In failing to give it to some­one who would receive it disrespectfully, discourteously and with bad deportment, there is no fault. If he suspects that by teaching the awe-

some doctrine to someone of weak faculties, his obtaining it will end in trembling, wrong views, wrong adherence, impairment, and decay, there is no fault. If he suspects that coming into his hands, the doctrine will be diffused to third parties who are not fit vessels for it, there is no fault.

If the bodhisattva neglects or discounts violent and immoral sentient beings on the grounds of the violence and immorality, with a thought of enmity or resentment, then he is possessed of fault, pos­sessed of contradiction; there is defiled fault. To neglect them out of laziness and indolence, or to discount them absentmindedly, is to be possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction, but the fault is not defil­ed. Why so? The bodhisattva has a thought of mercy and a desire-to-dofurnished for sentient beings who are violent and immoral, who dwell in the cause for suffering, such as he does not have for those who are righteous and at peace in the performance of their physical, verbal, and mental activities.

In the case of a distraught mind, there is no fault. Desiring to tame them by that means, there is no fault, as before. Guarding the thought of many others, there is no fault. Keeping an internal rule of the com­munity, there is no fault.

The bodhisattva trains himself as do the auditors – making no distinction – according to what has been established by the Lord, in the prātimokṣa disciplinary code, to be reprehensible by precept, in order to guard the thought of others – that is to say, in order that those without faith may have faith, and those with faith may develop it further. Why so? Even the auditors, intent as they are upon their own welfare, train themselves in trainings that do not fail to guard the minds of others, that create faith in the faithless and develop it further in the faithful. How much more so must the bodhisattvas, intent as they are upon the welfare of others!

Then again, the bodhisattva does not train himself as do the auditors in what the Lord has established for auditors, beginning as they do with meager aims, few deeds, and dwelling in little concern, to be reprehensible by precept. Why so? The auditor excels in being intent upon his own welfare and in disregarding the welfare of others. In un­dertaking the welfare of others he has meager aims and few deeds; he dwells in little concern. The bodhisattva, for whom the welfare of others is paramount, does not excel in undertaking others’ welfare with meager aims and few deeds, while dwelling in little concern. So the bodhisattva, for the sake of others, should seek as many as a hundred, a thousand robes from unrelated Brahmans and householders. If any occa­sion presents itself, he should examine whether or not these sentient beings have enough, and accept what they require. As with robes, so al­so with begging bowls. And just as he should seek [robes], so also he should have them made, by unrelated weavers, out of yarn he has accep­ted. He should also furnish as many as a hundred beds of silk for the sake of others, and a hundred rugs for sitting. He should accept more than a million-million in gold and silver. If the bodhisattva established in the bodhisattva vow of ethics does train himself, in these and other matters, in accord with the legal improbity of the auditors, beginning with meager aims, few deeds, and dwelling in little concern, if he dwells in little concern, meager aims and few deeds with a thought of enmity or a thought of resentment, then he is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction; there is defiled fault. If he dwells in little concern, with meager aims and few deeds out of laziness and indolence, then he is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction, but the fault is not defiled.

(Issue 8)

 

  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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