Bodhisattva vow

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In the Mahayana tradition, the Bodhisattva vow is taken as a commitment to become a bodhisattva, one who works to lead all beings to the state of enlightenment. In particular, the bodhisattva vow is a commitment to develop bodhicitta, including practicing the six perfections of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom in order to fulfill their bodhicitta aim of attaining enlightenment for the sake of all beings.

One who has taken the vow is sometimes referred to as a bodhisattva-in-training.

Sample bodhisattva vow from the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra

In the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra, Shantideva presents a bodhisattva vow in the form of the following two verses:

Just as the sugatas of the past
cultivated their minds toward supreme enlightenment
and worked stage by stage
through the bodhisattva training,
so also will I, in order to benefit sentient beings,
cultivate my mind toward enlightenment,
and train stage by stage
in the relevant disciplines.[1]

These verses are said to be the last two verses of the Avatamsaka Sutra. [Clarify source]

East Asia

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The following table of the fourfold vow is as practiced by the Mahayana traditions of China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea.

Chinese (hanzi) Chinese (pinyin) Sino-Japanese Hangul Korean Vietnamese English
四弘誓願 Sì hóng shì yuàn Shi gu sei gan 사홍서원 sa hong seo won Tứ hoằng thệ nguyện The Four Encompassing Vows
眾生無邊誓願度 Zhòng shēng wúbiān shì yuàn dù Shū jō mu hen sei gan do 중생무변서원도 Jung saeng mu byeon seo won do Chúng sanh vô biên thệ nguyện độ Masses [of] creatures, without-bounds,
[I/we] vow to save [them all].
煩惱無盡誓願斷 Fánnǎo wújìn shì yuàn duàn Bon nō mu jin sei gan dan 번뇌무진서원단 Beon noe mu jin seo won dan Phiền não vô tận thệ nguyện đoạn Anxiety [and] hate, [delusive-desires] inexhaustible,
[I/we] vow to break [them all].
法門無量誓願學 Fǎ mén wúliàng shì yuàn xué Hō mon mu ryō sei gan gaku 법문무량서원학 Beob mun mu jin seo won hag Pháp môn vô lượng thệ nguyện học Dharma gates beyond-measure
[I/we] vow to learn [them all].
佛道無上誓願成 Fó dào wúshàng shì yuàn chéng Butsu dō mu jō sei gan jō 불도무상서원성 Bul do mu sang seo won seong Phật đạo vô thượng thệ nguyện thành Buddha Way, unsurpassable,
[I/we] vow to accomplish [it]


Buddhist monk rescuing injured sparrow. Likir Monastery, Ladakh, India

In Tibetan Buddhism there are two lineages of the bodhisattva vow. The first is associated with the Cittamatra movement of Indian Buddhism, and is said to have originated with the bodhisattva Maitreya, and to have been propagated by Asanga. The second is associated with the Madhyamaka movement, and is said to have originated with the bodhisttva Manjusri and to have been propagated by Nagarjuna, and later by Shantideva. The main difference between these two lineages of the bodhisattva vow is that in the Cittamatra lineage the vow cannot be received by one who has not previously received the pratimokṣa vows.[2]

See also


  1. Ken Holmes (translator), Ornament of Precious Liberation (Wisdom: 2017), 132
  2. Lama Jampa Thaye, Rain of Clarity: The Stages of the Path in the Sakya Tradition. London: Ganesha, 2006.

Further reading

External links

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