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Blog » Symposiums And Lectures » Precepts » The Excellence of the Bodhisattva Precepts

The Excellence of the Bodhisattva Precepts2014-02-22


  By Dharma Master Jin Fan
     English Translation by Lotus Lee

“We have heard that the foremost matter among the essential doors to entering the Buddhadharma is to bring forth the Bodhi resolve. The most important task in cultivation is to make vows. When vows are made, one will be able to cross over living beings. When one brings forth the Bodhi resolve, then one will be able to accomplish Buddhahood. If one does not bring forth the great Bodhi resolve and make firm vows, one will remain in the wheel of birth and death for as many kalpas as there are motes of dust. Even if one cultivates, all efforts will be in vain. Therefore, the Avatamsaka Sutra says: ‘If you forget your Bodhi resolve, cultivation of even wholesome practices becomes the karma of demons.’ Forgetting the Bodhi resolve is bad enough, let alone not having it at all. Hence, if one wishes to learn the Buddhadharma, one must make the vows of a Bodhisattva. This is most urgent and cannot be put off.”

This is the first paragraph of the “Exhortation to bring Resolve Upon Bodhi,” compassionately written by Great Master Xing’an. He points out that the main principle of cultivation is that “bringing forth the resolve is foremost; making vows is most important.” If one does not do so, no matter how much one cultivates, one will still be in the six paths of rebirth. The key to receiving the Bodhisattva precepts is to bring forth the Bodhi resolve. In the past few years, there have been many laypeople who keep asking when CTTB will transmit the Lay Bodhisattva precepts, as if they could not wait for it. This is very good, because some people forgo their cultivation and fail to retain their original intention.

Although we may have brought forth the Bodhi resolve, the Bodhi resolve may be as vast as empty space and the Dharma Realm, or as small as a mustard seed or a speck of dust. If one can uphold the three kinds of pure precepts—convergence of vinaya and comportment, convergence of wholesome dharmas, and benefiting sentient beings—then one’s resolve will have to follow certain guidelines. Precepts concerning the convergence of vinaya and comportment enable one to refrain from doing evil deeds; those concerning the convergence of wholesome dharmas enable one to do wholesome deeds; and those concerning benefiting sentient beings enable one to bring forth the great and vast Bodhi resolve. If one can cultivate according to the three kinds of pure precepts, one will be able to bring forth a Bodhi resolve that is great and proper, true and complete.

The six major and twenty-eight minor Lay Bodhisattva precepts are from the Upasaka-śila Sutra and are quite different from the Brahma Net Sutra’s ten major and forty-eight minor Bodhisattva precepts, but nevertheless, they share the common spirit of bringing forth the great and vast Bodhi resolve. One should diligently practice repentance before receiving the precepts, remember the Bodhi resolve at all times, and in thought after thought, benefit others, not just oneself, and enlighten others, not just oneself. Then, one will definitely obtain a pure precept substance when receiving the precepts. The expanse of the precept substance will vary according to the size and depth of your resolve.

According to the Upasaka-śila Sutra, if one can uphold the precepts diligently, “These precepts can serve as novice precepts, great Bhikshu precepts, the Brahma Net Sutra Bodhisattva precepts, and even the foundations of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.” Why? Because the six major and twenty-eight minor Lay Bodhisattva precepts include upholding the eightfold precepts on six days of each month. A main point is that on these days, one must completely sever lustful activity, and basically live the life of a monastic for a day. After a while, one will be accustomed to monastic life, and it will be easy to get settled quickly if one has the opportunity to leave the home life.

The Brahma Net Sutra says: “When sentient beings receive the precepts of the Buddha, they enter the state of all Buddhas. Now that they have entered the state of the Greatly Enlightened ones, they are truly disciples of the Buddha.” This is the excellence of the Bodhisattva precepts. When one brings forth the Bodhi resolve and receives the precepts, in that moment, one receives the prediction from the Buddha and in principle, attains the state that is the same as the fruition of all Buddhas. What follows is to uphold the precepts and put them into practice in cultivation. When principle and action are both complete, the Bodhisattva precepts will also be complete, and one will attain Buddhahood.