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Asanga’s Chapter on Ethics – Issue 08

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Chapter on Ethics[1]

by Asaṅga[2]

 

(posted in 12 issues): Issue 8

Even in the case of what is reprehensible by nature, the bodhisattva acts with such skill in means that no fault ensues; rather, there is a spread of much merit.

Accordingly, the bodhisattva may behold a robber or thief engaged in committing a great many deeds of immediate retribution, being about to murder many hundreds of magnificent living beings – auditors, inde­pendent buddhas, and bodhisattvas – for the sake of a few material goods. Seeing it, he forms this thought in his mind: “If I take the life of this sentient being, I myself may be reborn as one of the creatures of hell. Better that I be reborn a creature of hell than that this living being, having committed a deed of immediate retribution, should go straight to hell.” With such an attitude the bodhisattva ascertains that the thought is virtuous or indeterminate and then, feeling constrained, with only a thought of mercy for the consequence, he takes the life of that living being. There is no fault, but a spread of much merit.

Accordingly the bodhisattva, if he has the capability, acts with a thought of mercy or the intention of doing benefit to overthrow kings or high officials from the power of ruling the dominion, stationed in which they spread great demerit by being generally violent and pitiless toward sentient beings, and engaged in absolutist oppression of others. The bodhisattva confiscates property from robbers and thieves – those who steal the property of others – who take a great deal of the property of community and shrine by theft for their own enjoyment. He thinks, “Let not this enjoyment of property result in extended harm and misfor­tune for them.” Upon that condition only, he steals it back and restores that of the community to the community, and that of the shrine to the shrine. The bodhisattva investigates storekeepers or par k custodians who clumsily waste the property of the community or shrine, and those who use it for themselves. He thinks, “Let not that deed and that misuse result in extended harm and misfortune for them,” and removes them from power. In this way the bodhisattva, while taking what has not been freely given, incurs no fault; but there is a spread of much merit.

Accordingly, the lay bodhisattva comes to a woman with the dharmaof sexual embrace, she being single and her thought subjected to an agony of desire to end her celibacy. He thinks, “Let her not develop a thought of enmity, and much demerit spread. Rather, let her come under my influence for abandonment of the unwholesome, and whatever is desired be employed as a root of good.” Adopting a thought that is no­thing but merciful he resorts to an uncelibate dharmaof copulation, and there is no fault, but a spread of much merit. (For the monastic bodhisattva, who guards against breaking the auditors’ training, to resort to uncelibacy is entirely out of the question.)

Accordingly the bodhisattva, in order to save the lives of many sen­tient beings, to save them from bondage, to save them from mutilation of hand, foot, nose, and ear, and to protect them from gouging of eyes, will speak a false word, whereas a bodhisattva will not knowingly speak a false word for the sake of his own life. In short, the bodhisattva sees only what [will accomplish] the welfare of sentient beings, not the reverse. Having no thought of self-interest, no basis but a desire for the benefit of sentient beings, he changes his [expressed] opinion and knowingly speaks a word that diverges from it. There is no fault in thus speaking, but a spread of much merit.

Accordingly the bodhisattva, relying upon a thought of mercy towards sentient beings who have been captured by an unwholesome adviser, speaks as well as he is able, as well as he can, words to divide them from the unwholesome adviser. He thinks, “Let not extensive harm and misfortune come to those sentient beings through contact with a sinful companion.” He enjoys it, and even delights in it. In that way, although he creates discord among friends, there is no fault, but a spread of much merit.

Accordingly, the bodhisattva rebukes sentient beings who are taking the wrong path, who are doing wrong, with words harsh and severe, by which means to move them from an unwholesome to a wholesome situation. Although there is harsh speech on the part of the bodhisattva there is no fault, but a spread of much merit.

Accordingly the bodhisattva, for sentient beings inclined to dance, song, and instrumental music, and for those inclined to tales of kings and robbers, food and drink, prostitutes and street scenes, is learned in varieties of dance, song, music, and narrative. With a merciful inten­tion he pleases them with varieties of narrative containing dance, song, and music, and endowed with idle chatter. He bends them to submission to his will and influence. Having drawn them in to listen to his words, he moves them from an unwholesome to a wholesome situation. So al­though there is idle chatter on the part of the bodhisattva, there is no fault, but a spread of much merit.

The bodhisattva who allows the occurrence of events of the wrong ways of getting livelihood – hypocrisy, sweet talk, hint, extortion, and seeking to profit from possessions – feeling no constraint at them and failing to remove them, is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction; there is defiled fault. If he has generated the will and begun to attempt to remove them, but continues to act so because his mind is overcome by a great share of defilement, there is no fault.

If the bodhisattva is restless, with his mind caught up by ex­citement, and he enjoys that restlessness, showing his excitement and distractedness with a horse laugh, sporting and clamoring and wishing others to share his laughter and merriment, then on those grounds he is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction; there is defiled fault. Done absentmindedly, the fault is not defiled.

There is no fault if he has generated the will to remove it, as before.

If he desires by that means to remove enmity that has been created in others, there is no fault. If he desires by that means to dispel sorrow that has arisen in others, there is no fault. If he does it to attract others who have that sort of nature, who enjoy it, or to guard those who have taken the lead, or to comply with them, there is no fault. If he does it to show his pure intention with cheerful countenance towards others whom he suspects might take a dislike to the bodhisattva, or whom he suspects might come to have an enmity and aversion towards him, there is no fault.

Any bodhisattva who holds and espouses the view that “The bodhisattva should not look forward to nirvāṇa, but should remain aver­ting his face from it. Nor should he fear the defilements and the sub­sidiary defilements. He should not set his mind too far apart from them, for the bodhisattva must accomplish bodhi in this way, revolving through saṁsārafor three incalculable aeons” – is possessed of fault, possessed of contradiction; there is defiled fault.

Why so? The auditor must devote himself to anticipating nirvāṇa, his thinking alarmed at the defilements and the subsidiary defilements, and the bodhisattva must devote himself to anticipating nirvana and develop a sense of alarm at the defilements and the subsidiary defile­ments a million-millionfold more. For the auditor has an interest in only his own welfare, whereas the bodhisattva is striving for the welfare of all sentient beings. So he must carry out exercises that will free his mind of being defiled. He is no arhat, but he is distinguished from them in that he may course in things that are bound up with outflow without being defiled.

The bodhisattva who does not guard against, who fails to dis­pel a stench of ignominy about himself, an insult and a bad report, when it is a matter of fact, is possessed of fault, possessed of contra­diction; there is defiled fault. To fail to guard against and to dispel what is not a matter of fact is a fault and contradiction, but the fault is not defiled. If the other is a tīrthika, or anyone else who is prejudiced, there is no fault. If he utters the insult on the basis of [the bodhisattva] being ordained, living on alms, or living virtuously, there is no fault. If he utters it because he is overcome with anger or because his think­ing is distorted, there is no fault.

If the bodhisattva sees that some caustic means, some use of severity would be of benefit to sentient beings, and does not employ it in order to guard against unhappiness, he is possessed of fault, pos­sessed of contradiction; there is fault that is not defiled. If little bene­fit would result for the present, and great unhappiness on that basis, there is no fault.

(Issue 9)

  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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