Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Eighteen Root Bodhisattva Vows

The eighteen root vows require that you abandon the below actions of body, speech, and mind:

1. Praising yourself and denigrating others.
You must avoid praising yourself and, with delusion, criticising and denigrating others through wanting to gain offerings, respect or some sort of profit. Praising yourself and criticising, denigrating or complaining about others creates heavy negative karma as well as breaking this root bodhicitta vow.

2. Not giving wealth and Dharma.
If you refuse to help others with financial assistance or Dharma teachings when you are able to do so in response to their requests, you will break this root vow. You must practise generosity of material things and generosity of Dharma to those who are suffering, confused and dissatisfied. You should teach those who want teachings and show them how to meditate and remove their suffering. This root vow is part of the perfection of generosity

3. Not forgiving though someone apologises.
Refusing to accept the apology of someone who wrongs you and then apologises, breaks this root vow. Also, if someone breaks vows or precepts and confesses that negative action to you, you must be prepared to accept their confession.

4. Abandoning the Mahayana.
If you reject the Mahayana, or any part of it, saying that it is not the teaching of the Buddha, you will break this root vow. To some, the Mahayana seems complicated and overly mystical. The teachings assert the existence of countless manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Some people are unable to come to grips with this vast scope and such things as the sophisticated tantric methods contained in the Mahayana. They may come to think, or even say to others, 'The Mahayana is mixed with non-Buddhist practices. It is not a pure teaching of the Buddha as is the Hinayana.' By thinking in this way you abandon the Mahayana and break this vow

5. Stealing offerings to the Three Jewels. ("Kings vow")
You break this root vow if you steal anything that was offered, or intended to be offered, to the Three Jewels. Even stealing from others or taking things intended for others will break this vow.

6. Abandoning the Dharma. ("Kings vow")
Criticising or claiming that any part of the Hinayana, Mahayana or Vajrayana is not part of the Buddha's teachings will incur this root downfall. You should not criticise or denigrate a teaching from the Vinaya, sutra or Abhidharma baskets of the Dharma.

7. Disrobing monks or nuns. ("Kings vow")
If you force monks or nuns to give up their ordination by disrobing, or force them to do actions which break their ordination, you break this root vow. Harming the Sangha must be avoided as they are essential to the continuation of Buddhist teachings.

8. Committing the five heinous crimes. ("Kings vow")
The five heinous karmas are killing one's father, killing one's mother, killing a Foe Destroyer (Arhat), wounding a Buddha and creating a schism in the Sangha. Doing any of these very heavy negative actions will break this root vow.

9. Holding wrong views.
Wrong views are such as denying the existence of the Three Jewels, the law of cause and effect, the conventional and ultimate truths, the four noble truths, the twelve links of Dependent Origination and so on. Holding such wrong views will break this root vow because you will be unable even to benefit yourself, let alone others. For example, by denying karma you will not be concerned about the consequences of your actions and, with such carelessness, will continue to create negative karma and hurt others.

10. Destroying towns and so on. ("Kings vow")
If you completely destroy any place inhabited by living beings, you will break this root vow. Destroying a city or country habitat, whether by means of fire, bombs, black magic or any other means, will kill many living beings.

11. Teaching emptiness to the untrained. ("Minister vow")
If you teach the profound subject of emptiness to those who are not able to interpret it properly, or perhaps do not wish to practise it anyway, you will break this root vow. The danger is that some may misinterpret emptiness to mean nothingness, or non-existence, and fall to the nihilist extreme denying the relationship of cause and effect. The true meaning of the emptiness of inherent existence of self and phenomena is very profound and difficult to understand. Many believe that the great Acharya Nagarjuna, who strongly propagated this system, was a nihilist, but this was because they missed the brilliant subtlety of his thought. You should therefore only teach the final view of the nature of phenomenon to those who are ripe to understand it.

12. Reversing others' aspiration for complete enlightenment.
Inducing someone who is practising the Mahayana into the Hinayana path will break this root vow. If you were to tell someone that the six perfections are beyond his capacity and suggest that, since he will never attain enlightenment, it is better to practise the Hinayana - whereby liberation is attained quickly. You will then lead him or her from a greater goal into a lesser one and break this root vow.

13. Causing someone to abandon individual liberation.
You must not cause others to abandon their individual liberation vows, whether they be the two hundred and fifty three precepts of a monk, the thirty-six precepts of a novice, the eight or five precepts of a layman, or the practice of the ten virtues. You should never suggest that these are part of the lesser vehicle and not important for the Mahayanist. Neither should you encourage someone to ignore their vow not to drink alcohol, or other vows, by implying that such vows are of a lower level than the Vajrayana vows and therefore not important. If you cause others to abandon their individual liberation vows, you will break this root vow

14. Denigrating the Hinayana.
If you disparage the Hinayana with a negative mind, especially in the presence of a Hinayanist, you break this root bodhichitta vow. Some say that the Hinayana is a very low vehicle and it takes a long time to traverse that path, and therefore it is better that to practise the great Mahayana and rapid Vajrayana. This is not a suitable attitude because both the Hearer and Solitary Realiser paths lead to liberation and to the realisation of renunciation, which are fundamental to the Mahayana path.

15. Falsely claiming to have realised emptiness.
Falsely claiming to have the full realisation of the emptiness of inherent existence of self and phenomena breaks this root vow. It is a specific form of lying, whereby you deceive others into believing that you have special attainments. It is not necessary to claim explicitly that you have high realisations to break this vow. Just implying that you have high realisations also incurs the downfall.

16. Receiving the property of the Three Jewels.
If you accept things that were originally offered to the Three Jewels, then stolen or misappropriated and given to you, you will break this root vow. It also refers to people such as kings or government ministers who use their position of power to unjustly acquire wealth and then pass some or all of it on to you. Accepting such gifts is a form of wrong livelihood.

17. The person practising concentration giving his belongings to others.
Where a yogi, engaged in a concentration retreat, reluctantly accepts the offerings of a benefactor and then with some anger gives the offerings to others who are not seriously engaged in Dharma practice, he will incur this root downfall.

18. Giving up bodhichitta.
If you give up your aspiration to attain enlightenment, or your determination to benefit all living beings, or any single living being for that matter, you will incur this downfall. Having taken a vow to benefit all living beings, to give up this purpose is to abandon them and doing so cheats all living beings. You destroy the very basis of your Mahayana practice.

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