Vows

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Vows [of Buddhism] (sdom pa)

  • The vows undertaken by practitioners of Buddhism, which are undertaken voluntarily in order to facilitate an individual's progress on the spiritual path to enlightenment, include short-term vows, such as the One Day Vows, lifelong vows such as the monastic vows of a fully ordained monk or nun, and permanent vows associated with the Greater Vehicle, which are to be maintained over a succession of lifetimes. Basically, all such vows may be subsumed within three categories: the monastic vows of the Vinaya, the special vows of the bodhisattvas, and the special commitments (Skt. samaya) undertaken by practitioners of the tantras. For an explanation of the first and third of these categories, see respectively under vinaya and commitment.
  • As for the second, the sūtras of the Greater Vehicle, exemplified by the Sūtra of Akasagarbha, indicate that bodhisattvas must be careful to maintain their altruistic vows, expressed in the verses of the four immeasurable aspirations, and to avoid nineteen specifically enumerated root downfalls (Skt. mūlāpatti) and forty-six transgressions (Skt. duṣköta). Among the root downfalls, there are five which affect kings (stealing the wealth of the Three Precious Jewels, punishing well-disciplined monks, distracting renunciates, comminting the five inexpiable crimes and holding wrong views), five which affect councillors (subjugating villages, countryside, towns, cities and provinces), eight which affect ordinary persons (teaching emptiness to those who are ill-prepared, opposing followers of the Greater Vehicle, abandoning monastic vows while joining the community of the Greater Vehicle, promoting the tenets of pious attendants and hermit buddhas, indulging in self-praise and deprecation of others, professing one's own profound understanding, misappropriating the wealth of the Three Precious Jewels, and disrupting the calm abiding of others), and one which affects all beings (to abandon the cultivation of an enlightened attitude). The transgressions, enumerated in Candragomin's Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattva Vow, include thirty-four which contradict an individual bodhisattva's accumulation of merit and twelve which contradict altruistic acts undertaken on behalf of others. In all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Vinaya, bodhisattva vows and commitments of the tantras are fully integrated. GD (from the Glossary to Tibetan Elemental Divination Paintings)