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Title: Introduction to the Ten Practices of Virtue
Post by: Dharmakara on September 27, 2012, 02:45:40 pm
"There are three ways of attaining bodhi or Enlightenment, according to the ability and capacity of each individual: namely, as a disciple (sraavaka), as a Pratyeka-Buddha, and as a Samyak-sam-Buddha (perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest, and most heroic to follow the career of a Bodhisattva and to become a Samyak-sam-Buddha in order to save others."

excerpt from The Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and Mahayana
World Buddhist Sangha Council, Sri Lanka (1966)

The Bodhisattva is considered a higher ideal of spiritual aspiration than that of the Arhat. Whereas the goal of the Arhat was only nirvana (the extinction of the asravas) on the individual level, the goal of the Bodhisattva is enlightenment (or spiritual awakening) of oneself and others. This is the path to the enlightenment of the whole world.

The Bodhisattva understands the extinction of the asravas is not an end itself but part of a greater spiritual reality that transcends one’s own personal liberation. One is not alone --- one is part of a spiritual reality that is much greater than oneself. There is both one’s own practice and the influence of others --- the two are inseparable if the self is not real in and of itself. The four truths become the springboard for the four vows that are the resolve of the Bodhisattva.

The path of the Bodhisattva begins with what is known as the first inspiration of the awakened mind (Bodhicitta). It is this first inspiration of the Bodhi mind that is the wonderful original cause of enlightenment, causing one to embark on the path of enlightenment and become a Buddha. Each and every cause one makes contributes to the spiritual destiny of the whole world.

The life of Siddhartha Gautama exemplified this. After attaining enlightenment, he spent the rest of his life teaching and guiding others toward enlightenment.

The virtues of mercy and compassion distinguish the Bodhisattvas from those of the Two Vehicles. The Bodhisattvas defer their own liberation from the threefold realm of mortal existence in Life and Death (Samsara) so that they can help others along the path to spiritual enlightenment.

Whereas practioners of the Two Vehicles seek to avoid the threefold realm through detachment, the Bodhisattvas have the wisdom to accept the reality of the threefold realm for what it is without being attached to it and use it as part of the vehicle for attaining enlightenment. Therefore, instead of separating themselves from life in this world, the Bodhisattvas become engaged in it to fulfill their purpose for appearing in it.

Whereas those of the Two Vehicles only emphasize the emptiness of all existence, the Bodhisattvas not only understand this emptiness, but they also understand that which is temporary and provisional in this world and how it may be used to give joy and happiness and help guide living beings towards enlightenment. The Bodhisattva is ever on the path of finding the golden mean between the absolute and the mundane that leads to enlightenment.

Whereas practioners of the Two Vehicles are focused on their own practice, the Bodhisattva understands that his or her own practice, as well as the influence of others, is an inseparable dynamic. The spiritual realms are constantly penetrating, influencing and transforming each other.

The primary practice within Bodhisattva Dharma is the Paramitas, the ten perfections which transport them to "the other shore" of enlightenment. These ten perfections are:

Dana - Generosity, Charity, Giving of Oneself
Sila - Morality, Purity of Conduct
Ksanti - Endurance, Forbearance, Patience
Virya - Diligence, Zeal
Dhyana - Meditation, Mental Concentration
Prajna - Spiritual Insight, which is said to include the last four, which are
Upaya - The Ways and Means of Emptiness and Detachment
Pranidhana - Spiritual Vows
Bala - Spiritual Powers
Jnana - Spiritual Wisdom

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