The Causes of a Bodhisattva

The Causes of a Bodhisattva

 

GSUM PA NI, GAL TE NYAN RANG GNYIS THUB DBANG LAS DANG, THUB DBANG RNAMS BYANG SEMS LAS ‘KHRUNGS NA, BYANG SEMS DE DAG GI RGYU GANG YIN ZHE NA,

 

This brings us to the third section from above: a description of the three principal causes of a bodhisattva.  We may begin with the following question: “Given that both the listeners and the self-made buddhas are born from the Lords of the Able; and that these Lords themselves take their holy birth from the bodhisattvas; what then is it that serves as the cause of those bodhisattvas?”

 

 

‘CHAD PAR ‘GYUR BA’I SNYING RJE’I SEMS DANG, DNGOS PO DANG DNGOS PO MED PA LA SOGS PA’I MTHA’ GNYIS SU MED PA STE GNYIS DANG BRAL BA’I DON RTOGS PA’I BLO SHES RAB DANG BYANG CHUB KYI SEMS GSUM NI, RGYAL SRAS BYANG SEMS RNAMS KYI GTZO BO’I RGYU YIN NO,,

 

The principal causes of the children of the victors—the bodhisattvas—are three, all of which we will be explaining here in our text: the attitude of compassion; wisdom, referring to the state of mind with which we grasp that object which is “free of the two” (meaning devoid of two typical extremes, such as being a thing or not being anything); and the Wish for enlightenment.

 

 

BYANG CHUB KYI SEMS NI ‘DIR ‘GREL PAR MDO DRANGS PA LAS BSTAN PA BZHIN YIN ZHES GSUNGS LA, MDO LAS NI, RANG GIS CHOS KYI DE KHO NA NYID RTOGS NAS, CHOS NYID ‘DI SEMS CAN RNAMS KYIS KHONG DU CHUD PAR BYA’O SNYAM NAS, SEMS GANG SKYES PA DE NI BYANG CHUB KYI SEMS ZHES BYA’O, ZHES GSUNGS SO,,

 

Here the Wish for enlightenment is explained in the commentary as being the way it is described in a citation from sutra.[1]  Here is how the sutra words it:

 

What is this thing that we call “the Wish for enlightenment”?  It is a state of mind where we ourselves first come to a realization of the suchness of all things, and then have the thought, “I will work to see that each and every living being comes to grasp this way that all things are.”[2]

 

 

‘DI NI [@10a] SEMS BSKYED KYI CHED DU BYA BA’I PHYOGS GCIG TZAM LA DMIGS PA YIN PAS MTSAN NYID MA RDZOGS LA, YANG ‘GREL PAR BDAG GIS ‘JIG RTEN ‘DI MTHA’ DAG SDUG BSNGAL NAS BTON TE, SANGS RGYAS NYID LA NGES BAR SBYAR BAR BYA’O SNYAM DU NGES PAR SEMS SKYED PAR BYED DO, ZHES GSUNGS PA LA YANG THOB BYA BYANG CHUB LA DMIGS PA MED PAS MTSAN NYID PHYOGS GCIG PA’O,,

 

This description of the Wish focuses upon only one part of its intended purpose, and so cannot be considered a comprehensive definition of it.  The following description from the Commentary also lacks an element of the full definition—where we ourselves are intent upon reaching enlightenment:

 

One should quite certainly develop the Wish for enlightenment, where you think to yourself: “I will rescue this entire world from pain, and without any doubt guide them to nothing less than Buddhahood.”[3]

 

 

DES NA ‘GREL PAR SNYING RJE LA BRTEN NAS BYANG CHUB KYI SEMS SKYE BAR STON PA’I SKABS SU, DAM PA’I CHOS KYI BDUD RTZI’I RO PHUL DU BYUNG BA ‘BYUNG BA’I RGYU, PHYIN CI LOG GI RTOG PA MTHA’ DAG LOG PA’I MTSAN NYID, ‘GRO BA YONGS KYI GNYEN NYID KYI RANG BZHIN DU GYUR PA, SANGS RGYAS NYID YANG DAG PAR THOB PAR ‘DOD PA YIN NO, ZHES THOB BYA’I BYANG CHUB LA DMIGS PA GSAL BAR BSHAD PAS,

 

Nonetheless, this element of our being intent upon reaching enlightenment ourselves does receive separate attention in the section of the commentary where Master Chandrakirti describes how the Wish for enlightenment is developed by relying upon compassion:

 

We aspire to achieving, perfectly, nothing less than Buddhahood itself: that source from which the exquisite flavor of the nectar of the holy teachings flows; that being with whom, by their very essence, all misperceptions are turned away; that one who is, by their own nature, the one friend of every single living creature.[4]

 

 

CHED DU BYA BA SEMS CAN THAMS CAD KYI DON DU THOB BYA BLA NA MED PA’I BYANG CHUB THOB PAR ‘DOD PA SEMS BSKYED KYI MTSAN NYID RDZOGS PAR ‘DOD PAR BYA STE,

 

Thus we can say that what we accept as the full definition of the Wish for enlightenment is: “The desire to attain the goal of matchless enlightenment for the sake of every living being.”

 

 

‘GREL BSHAD LAS KYANG DE LTAR ‘BYUNG BA LEGS SHING, MNGON RTOGS RGYAN LAS GSUNGS PA DANG LUGS ‘DI LA MI ‘DRA BA MED DO,,

 

The fact that the Explanation gives this same definition is excellent; [5] and there is absolutely no difference between our definition and that which is stated in The Ornament of Realizations.[6]

 

 

DE LTAR CHOS GSUM PO BYANG SEMS KYI RGYUR ‘JOG PA NI, RIN CHEN ‘PHRENG BA LAS,

 

Setting forth these three items as being the cause of a bodhisattva reflects the system found in the String of Precious Jewels:

 

 

,BDAG NYID DANG NI ‘JIG RTEN ‘DIS,

,BLA MED BYANG CHUB THOB ‘DOD NA,

,DE YI RTZA BA BYANG CHUB SEMS,

,RI DBANG RGYAL PO LTAR BRTAN DANG,

,PHYOGS MTHA’ GTUGS [@10b] PA’I SNYING RJE DANG,

,GNYIS LA MI BRTEN YE SHES LAGS,

ZHES GSUNGS PA’I LUGS SO,,

 

If what you want

Is for you and all this world

To reach matchless Buddhahood,

 

Then you will need its roots:

A Wish for enlightenment

As firm as Mount Everest;

 

A compassion which reaches

Through infinite space;

And a form of wisdom

Which no longer rests on the two.[7]

 

 

LUNG DES BYANG CHUB KYI RTZA BAR BSTAN GYI BYANG SEMS KYI RTZA BAR DNGOS SU MA BSTAN KYANG, RTZA BA NI DANG PO’I DON DANG, DE’I DUS KYI GTZO BO’I RGYU GSUM STON PA’I SKABS YIN PAS, BYANG SEMS KYI GTZO BO’I RGYU YIN PAR SKABS LAS SHES SO,,

 

Now it is true that this citation only indicates that these three are the root of enlightenment, and does not directly indicate that they are the root of a bodhisattva; nonetheless, the word “root” is meant to convey the idea of “original” cause—and this is the point in Arya Nagarjuna’s text where he is presenting the three principal causes during this initial period of the journey to enlightenment.  As such, we can deduce from the context that he considers them the primary causes of a bodhisattva.

 

 

CHOS GSUM BYANG SEMS KYI RGYUR STON PA ‘DI NYAN RANG SANGS RGYAS LAS DANG, SANGS RGYAS BYANG SEMS LAS ‘KHRUNGS NA, BYANG SEMS GANG LAS ‘KHRUNGS ZHES DPYOD PA’I SKABS YIN PAS, BYANG SEMS KYI RNAM ‘JOG GI RGYUR MI RUNG BAS SKYED BYED KYI RGYU’O,,

 

Now someone may come and raise the following objection:

 

This section, where these three items are described as the causes of a bodhisattva, is a juncture where we are examining the question of what it is that gives bodhisattvas their holy birth—since we have just covered how listeners and self-made buddhas take their holy birth from Buddhas, and Buddhas themselves take theirs from bodhisattvas.  As such, we must be talking about “causes” here in the sense of the causes which give birth to a bodhisattva, and not “causes” in the sense of the requirements for saying that someone is a bodhisattva.

 

 

DE LTAR ‘DI GSUM GANG GI RGYUR BZHAG PA’I BYANG SEMS DE’I MA MTHA’, LAM ZHUGS KYI BYANG SEMS THOG MA PA LA BYED DAM MI BYED, BYED NA THEG CHEN GYI SEMS BSKYED DE’I RGYUR ‘JOG PA MI ‘THAD DE, DE THOB MA THAG BYANG SEMS SU GZHAG DGOS PA’I PHYIR RO,,

 

This being the case, we ask you the following question: Is it or is it not true that the bodhisattva who is said to have these three as their causes is someone whom you consider to be, at the very least, a brand-new bodhisattva who has already entered one of the five paths?  If it is true, then it cannot be correct to say that the Wish, in the form it takes upon the greater way, is a cause of this bodhisattva—because it is only just after one attains this Wish that we can consider them a bodhisattva.

 

 

MTHA’ GNYIS LA MI BRTEN PA’I YE SHES BYANG SEMS KYI RGYUR ‘JOG PA YANG MI ‘THAD DE, BYANG SEMS RNAMS NI THOG MAR KUN RDZOB BYANG CHUB KYI SEMS BSKYED NAS, DE’I ‘OG TU BYANG SEMS KYI SPYOD PA PHYIN DRUG LA SLOB PA YIN PAS, DE LTA BU’I SHER PHYIN LA SLOB PA’I SKABS NYID NAS, MTHA’ GNYIS LA MI BRTEN PA’I YE SHES LA SLOB PA YIN PA’I PHYIR RO,,

 

It is as well incorrect to say that the type of wisdom which no longer rests upon the two extremes is one of the causes of a bodhisattva.  This is because a bodhisattva first develops the deceptive form of the Wish for enlightenment, and only after that begins their training in the activities of a bodhisattva: the six perfections.  And it is only at the point where they train themselves in the perfection of wisdom found among these six that they are training themselves in the wisdom which no longer rests upon the two extremes.

 

 

MI BYED NA NI ZLA BA TSES PA LTA BU’I BYANG SEMS SU BSHAD PA DANG, SMAN GYI LJON SHING GI MYU GU LTA BU’I BYANG SEMS SU BSHAD PA DANG ‘GAL [@11a] BAR ‘GYUR RO ZHE NA,

 

And suppose instead that you reply, to our question above, that is it not true that the bodhisattva with these three as their causes is at least a brand-new bodhisattva who has already entered one of the five paths.  In this case you would be contradicting the description of this bodhisattva as one who is like a waxing moon, or as one who is like the first sprout of a medicinal tree.

 

 

JI SKAD BSHAD PA’I SKYON DU ‘GYUR BA’I PHYIR PHYOGS GNYIS PA NI KHAS MI LEN PAS DANG PO KHAS LEN NO, ,’ON KYANG SNGAR BKOD PA’I SKYON NI MED DE, BYANG SEMS KYI SNGON DU ‘GRO BA’I SEMS BSKYED PA NI, SEMS BSKYED SGOM PA’I SKABS LA DGONGS KYI, BSGOMS PA LA BRTEN NAS SKYES PA’I SEMS BSKYED DNGOS MIN PA’I PHYIR RO,,

 

We certainly don’t accept this second position, since doing so would in fact lead to the problems which you have pointed out.  Therefore, we accept the first position: that we must be referring at least to a brand-new bodhisattva who is already upon one of the five paths.  We don’t agree though that this position leads to the other problems, the ones that you brought up first here.  This is because—when we refer to the Wish for enlightenment which precedes the bodhisattva—we are speaking of the form that this Wish takes while we are working to develop it.  We are not in this case speaking of the actual Wish for enlightenment—the one which we develop as a result of having completed this work.

 

 

DE YANG DPER NA BUR SHING GI SHUN PA’I RO MYONG BA DANG, SHUN PA’I NANG GI RO MYONG BA DANG ‘DRA BAR SEMS CAN THAMS CAD KYI DON DU SANGS RGYAS THOB PAR BYA’O SNYAM PA TZAM NI, TSIG RJES ‘BRANGS PA’I GO BA TZAM YIN PAS BUR SHING GI SHUN PA’I RO DANG ‘DRA STE, DE LA SEMS BSKYED PA ZER YANG SEMS BSKYED DNGOS MIN NO,,

 

We can compare this distinction to the difference between tasting the skin of a piece of sugar cane and then actually tasting the inside.  Just thinking to yourself “I will reach enlightenment for the sake of every living being” is no more than an intellectual understanding of the Wish, and so it resembles the taste of the skin of a piece of sugar cane.  You can call it a “wish for enlightenment,” but it’s not the real thing.

 

 

BYANG CHUB KYI SEMS SBYONG BA’I MAN NGAG BZHIN DU SBYANGS PA LA BRTEN NAS, YID LEGS PAR ‘KHUL THUB PA’I MYONG BA KHYAD PAR CAN SKYES PA NI, SHUN PA’I NANG GI BUR SHING DNGOS KYI RO DANG ‘DRA BAS, SEMS BSKYED MTSAN NYID PA YIN TE,

 

If on the other hand you follow the instructions on developing the Wish, and work at it, you can reach a point where you have a deep experience and are able to push the mind fluently into these thoughts.  This then is like tasting the inside of the sugar cane, and can thus be considered the Wish in its definitive form.

 

 

DON ‘DI LA DGONGS NAS LHAG BSAM BSKUL BA LAS KYANG,

,JI LTAR SHUN PA DE BZHIN SMRA BA STE,

,RO LTA BU NI ‘DI LA DON SEMS YIN,

ZHES GSUNGS SO,,

 

It is with this point in mind that the sutra called Urging Us to Take Personal Responsibility says:

 

Talking is like skin of the cane;

The actual state of mind

Is like the taste within.[8]

 

 

BYANG SEMS KYI RIGS CAN DBANG PO RNON POS SNGON DU DE KHO NA NYID KYI LTA BA BTZAL NAS, DE NAS SEMS BSKYED PA YIN PAS SKYON GNYIS PA YANG MED PA NI ‘CHAD PAR ‘GYUR RO,,

 

Furthermore, practitioners of the bodhisattva type possessed of sharp faculties first seek out the worldview of suchness, and only afterwards give birth to the Wish.  The second problem you raise is thus also obviated, as we will elucidate further on in this work.

 

 

GNYIS SU MED PA’I BLO NI GZUNG ‘DZIN GNYIS SU SNANG BA MED PA MIN GYI, ‘GREL PAR MTHA’ GNYIS [@11b] DANG BRAL BA’I SHES RAB LA BSHAD LA, DE YANG BYANG SEMS KYI SNGON DU ‘ONG BA MI ‘GAL LO,,

 

Moreover, the “state of mind beyond duality” mentioned here is not one which is free of the appearance of an independent duality of object and subject; rather, it is explained in the Commentary as referring to a kind of wisdom which is free of the two extremes.  As such, it is no contradiction to say that it could come prior to the Wish for enlightenment.

 

 

DON DAM PA’I SEMS BSKYED LA ‘CHAD PA NI SHIN TU MA ‘BREL TE, GNYIS SU MED BLO ZHES PAS THOG MAR ZHUGS PA’I BYANG SEMS KYI RGYU’I SHES RAB KYANG STON DGOS PAS SO,,

 

Interpreting this particular “state of mind beyond duality” as being the ultimate form of the Wish for enlightenment is irrelevant to the extreme, since the phrase as used here must apply as well to the wisdom which is the cause of a bodhisattva who has just stepped on to the five paths.



[1] A citation from sutra: See ff. 222a-222b of the Autocommentary (%S3, TD03862).

[2] I will work to see: The Autocommentary (at f. 222a, %S3, TD03862) identifies the sutra as The Exalted Sutra on the Way of All Things (Tib: ‘Phags-pa Chos kun ‘gro-ba’i mdo).  The native Tibetan catalog to the Derge edition of the Tengyur, in listing The Exalted Sutra named “The Perfect Compendium of All Things” (Skt: Āryasagīti Nāma Mahāyāna Sūtra, Tib: ‘Phags-pa Chos yang-dag-par sdud-pa zhes-bya-ba theg-pa chen-po’i mdo, %S15, KL00238), says that “Some have explored the question of whether this is the same work as The Exalted Sutra on the Discussion of All Things [note the slight but significant difference in the Tibetan here: ‘Phags pa Chos kun bgro-ba’i mdo], which is mentioned in The Great Catalog” (see f. 131a of %B8, KL04568).  And in fact we do find the present quotation in The Perfect Compendium, at ff. 123a-123b.

[3] Nothing less than Buddhahood: See the Autocommentary, f. 222b (%S3, TD03862).

[4] The one friend of every single living creature: See the Autocommentary, f. 223b (%S3, TD03862). {@it says ‘og ma’i mtsan nyid for log pa’i mtsan nyid @jiki check carving, then gmr fix master autocomm if needed}

[5] The Explanation gives the same definition: See f. 11a of Master Jayananda’s Explanation of “Entering the Middle Way,” where he says, “As such, we can describe the nature of the Wish for enlightenment as being the aspiration where we focus upon achieving perfect and total enlightenment for the sake of others” (%S1, TD03870).

[6] Definition which is stated in “The Ornament of Realizations”: Perhaps the most famous definition of the Wish for enlightenment ever: “The Wish for enlightenment is the desire / To reach perfect and total enlightenment / For the sake of others” (f. 2b, %S10, TD03786).

[7] Which no longer rests on the two: See f. 113b of Arya Nagarjuna’s classic.  All three of our editions of Illumination give the spelling as it is found here, mtha’-gtugs, but the spelling found in the reference version of the Tengyur is more comfortable: mthas-gtugs  (%S16, TD04158).

[8] The taste within: See f. 267a of the original sutra, at %S17 (KL00069).  The translation of smra-ba here as the gerund talking is based on the surrounding context of the sutra, where talking rather than doing is being criticized.