Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas
Text Section 56-61
Now Khenpo Kunpal explains four reasons why the teaching capacity of an arhat teacher is inferior to that of a buddha teacher, since arhats cannot teach in the three miraculous ways, which are possible only for the Buddha himself:
1. In text section 57 Khenpo Kunpal explains that arhats do not know what is occuring in very distant places [gnas kyi bskal pas mi shes pa]. An arhat’s limited supernatural perception only pervades ‘the second order of thousand world systems’ [stong gnyis], meaning one thousand world systems to the power of two, within a trichiliocosm [stong gsum]. A pratyekabuddha can reportedly perceive the events within an entire trichiliocosm, meaning one thousand world systems to the power of three. The Buddha, however, can perceive in actuality every detail within countless trichiliocosms throughout the three times.
When the mother of Buddha’s main student Maudgalyāyana [maudgal gyi bu] passed away, Maudgalyāyana tried to locate her place of rebirth through supernatural insight. Unable to see where she had been reborn, he went to the Buddha, who told him that his mother had been reborn in a very distant buddha field called Mārīci [’od zer can].
2. The second reason that an arhat’s teaching capacity is inferior to that of the Buddha is that arhats are ignorant about distant times [dus kyi bskal pa]. The noble Śāriputra [sha ri’i bu] could not see any merit, any seed for liberation, in the mind of the old householder Śrīja [sbyin bdag dpal skyes]; yet the Buddha was able to explain to Śāriputra that Śrīja had accumulated some merit many aeons previously. Śāriputra’s supernatural perception was simply not powerful enough to see so far back into Śrīja’s past lives.
3. The third reason arhats lack the teaching abilities of the Buddha is that arhats are ignorant regarding the virtually unfathomable nature of cause and effect. Thus, they are unable to precisely determine the causes and conditions of something as minor as each individual particle of a single body hair. They cannot fathom the endless sequence of causes leading to the existence of that single hair. Nor do arhats know what will happen to this hair in the future, not to mention the future of each particle of that hair, such as what will become of each particle after the hair itself has decomposed.
This is what the statement: unfathomable results that come from unfathomable causes [rgyu thug med kyi ’bras bu thug med] means. The true nature of both causes [rgyu] and results [’bras bu] is unfathomable [thug med] for arhats. Only the Buddha is able to see the subtle causes that lead to a single spot of color [mdangs bkra gcig / sgro thig gcig] on a peacock’s feather. The Buddha can clearly see every detail that has contributed to the unique shape and color of the spot on the peacock’s feather.
On one occasion, some people brought the Buddha the ashes of various pieces of brocade that had been burned, asking him to identify their origins. Based on the ashes alone, the Buddha recounted every detail of the brocade and its owners. On another occasion, some householders brought the Buddha different types of rice, and he told them exactly where each variety had come from and to whom it belonged.
4. Finally, the fourth reason is that arhats actually lack most of the Buddha’s qualities, such as the ten powers [stobs bcu], the four kinds of fearlessness [mi ’jigs pa bzhi], the eighteen non-associated qualities [ma ’dres pa bco brgyad], and so forth. All of these are wisdom qualities, not physical powers, and they are among the Buddha’s special qualities [sangs rgyas kyi khyad chos], distinguishing him from an arhat. Not even a tenth level bodhisattva possesses the eighteen non-associated qualities.
To further detail some of these qualities of the Buddha, the dharmakāya of the Buddha is said to possess twenty-one categories of non-defiling qualities [zag pa med pa’i chos sde tshan nyer]. These are enumerations of the Buddha’s wisdom qualities [sangs rgyas kyi mkhyen pa’i yon tan].
Among them are the ten powers of the Tathāgata [de bzhin gshegs pa’i stobs bcu]:
- The power of knowing what is accurate and what is inaccurate [gnas dang gnas ma yin pa’i mkhyen pa’i stobs]. A buddha knows the specific cause of a specific result, thus knowing for himself the truth that virtue leads to happiness and not to suffering. A buddha knows exactly which cause brings which result. Whatever there is to know, everywhere and at all times, a buddha knows in one instant, clearly and without impediment.
- The power of knowing the ripening of karma [las kyi rnam smin mkhyen pa’i stobs]. A buddha knows the individual karmas of all beings, be they virtuous or non-virtuous, defiling or non-defiling, and he further knows how all of these karmas will ripen.
- The power of knowing the different kinds of dispositions and characters [gshis ka] of beings [khams ji snyed pa sna tshogs mkhyen pa].
- The power of knowing the different inclinations of beings [mos pa rnam pa sna tshogs mkhyen pa]. A buddha knows the individual likes and dislikes of all beings.
- The power of knowing the various sharp and dull capacities of beings [dbang po rno rtul rnam pa sna tshogs mkhyen pa]. A buddha knows perfectly the individual capacities of beings.
- The power of knowing where all the different paths lead [kun tu ’gro ba’i lam sna tshogs pa mkhyen pa]. A buddha knows the paths that lead to the higher forms of rebirth and the paths that lead to liberation and omniscience. He knows the necessary causes as well as the methods that enable beings to traverse all the different paths.
- The power of knowing all the different forms of concentration [bsam gtan gyi bkod pa sna tshogs pa ji snyed pa mkhyen pa]. A buddha knows all forms of concentration, those which are still entangled in the afflictions as well as those that are free from afflictions. He knows the reasons, the methods, and the results of all possible forms of concentration.
- The power of remembering the former existences of himself and others [rang gzhan sngon gyi gnas sna tshogs pa ji snyed pa mkyhen pa]. A buddha knows the previous births of all sentient beings.
- The power of knowing all the births and deaths of beings in the past and where they will take birth in the future [’gro ba rnams ’chi ’pho ba dang ma ’ongs pa’i skye ba ji snyed pa mkhyen pa]. A buddha knows through the divine eye [lha’i mig] when and where each being has died and taken rebirth throughout their past, present, and future lives.
- The power of knowing the exhaustion of all defilements and the path to reach such exhaustion [zag pa thams cad zad pa nyid du gyur pa’i lam dang ’bras bu mkhyen pa]. Only a buddha has realized the ultimate fruition, the exhaustion of all obscurations, afflictive as well as cognitive. A buddha also knows how to guide others on the path that leads to the exhaustion of all defilements.
The twenty-one categories of the non-defiling qualities [zag pa med pa’i chos sde tshan nyer] of the Buddha’s dharmakāya also include the four kinds of fearlessness [mi ’jigs pa bzhi]. After Buddha attained enlightenment, Māra, the evil one, raised doubts in the face of the Buddha’s enlightenment.
Buddha touched the earth with the fingertips of his right hand in the mudra of fearlessness [mi ’jigs pa’i rgya] and called upon the Earth Deity [sa yi lha mo bstan ma] as his witness, proclaiming the lion’s roar:
“I have gained perfect enlightenment!”
The Earth Deity bore witness to the truth of this statement of the Buddha.
The four kinds of fearlessness are:
1. A buddha is fearless in proclaiming the perfect realization which benefits himself [rang don rtogs pa phun tshogs zhal gyis bzhes pa la mi ’jigs pa], saying,
“I have perfectly realized all there is to know.”
2. A buddha is fearless in proclaiming the perfect overcoming which benefits himself [rang don spang ba phun tshogs zhal gyis bzhes pa la mi ’jigs pa], saying,
“I have overcome all there is to overcome, such as the two obscurations together with their habitual tendencies.”
These two proclamations truthfully state how a buddha has benefited himself.
3. A buddha is fearless in showing the path of renunciation and liberation which benefits others [gzhan don du nges par ’byung ba’i lam ston pa la mi ’jigs pa], saying,
“Through the paths of realizing egolessness and so forth, my students can reach the level of liberation.”
4. A buddha is fearless in showing the obstacles on the path in order to benefit others [gzhan don du lam gyi gegs ston pa la mi ’jigs pa], saying,
“The afflictions such as attachment and so forth are the obstacles on the path.”
These two proclamations truthfully state how a buddha benefits others.
No one of great stature in this world, be it a god, a māra, the knowledgeable Brahma, a brahmin, or anyone else can say in accordance with the dharma concerning these proclamations, “It is not like this.” Because the Buddha is beyond dispute, he proclaimed to his entourage, like a lion, without fear or inhibition, the lion’s roar.
Thus, in accordance with the truth, the Buddha has stated:
- “I have gained omniscience”;
- “I am free of all defects”;
- “The path that I teach leads to liberation”; and
- “Afflictions are the obstacles that prevent liberation.”
Since the Buddha has gained utter certainty, he has no hesitation or fear to speak the truth and teach the dharma accordingly.
The twenty-one categories of the non-defiling qualities [zag pa med pa’i chos sde tshan nyer gcig] of the Buddha’s dharmakāya also include the eighteen non-associated qualities [ma ’dres pa’i chos bco brgyad]:
The six non-associated qualities concerning his conduct [spyod pas bsdus pa’i drug]:
- The Tathāgata’s physical conduct is without delusion [sku las ’khrul ba mi mnga’ ba].
- The Tathāgata’s speech is without unnecessary sounds [gsung la ca co mi mnga’ ba].
- The Tathāgata’s memory is without failure [thugs la dran pa nyams pa mi mnga’ ba].
- The Tathāgata’s mind never leaves equanimity [mnyam pa ma bzhag pa’i thugs mi mnga’ ba].
- The Tathāgata is without various concepts [’du shes sna tshogs mi mnga’ ba].
- The Tathāgata is without an undiscerning equanimity [ma brtags pa’i btang snyoms mi mnga’ ba].
The six non-associated qualities concerning his realization [rtogs pas bsdus pa drug]
- The Tathāgata’s aspiration is without degeneration [’dun pa nyams pa mi mnga’ ba]. His aspirations for the lineage holders of the dharma and the benefit of all sentient beings never degenerate.
- The Tathāgata’s diligence is without degeneration [brtson ’grus nyams pa mi mnga’ ba]. His diligence is joyful for the benefit of others.
- The Tathāgata’s awareness is without degeneration [dran pa nyams pa mi mnga’ ba]. His awareness never loses the vision of all phenomena exactly as they are.
- The Tathāgata’s wisdom-knowledge is without degeneration [shes rab nyams pa mi mnga’ ba]. He never loses his wisdom-knowledge of clear discernment.
- The Tathāgata’s samādhi is without degeneration [ting nge ’dzin nyams pa mi mnga’ ba].
- The Tathāgata’s perfect liberation is without degeneration [rnam par grol ba mnyams pa mi mnga’ ba]. His wisdom is utterly freed from all obscurations.
The three non-associated qualities concerning his activity [mdzad pas bsdus pa gsum]:
- All the activities of the Tathāgata’s body are preceded by wisdom and followed by wisdom [sku’ las thams cad ye shes sngon du ’gro zhing ye shes kyi rjes su ’brang ba’am ’jug pa].
- All the activities of the Tathāgata’s speech are preceded by wisdom and followed by wisdom [gsung gi las thams cad ye shes sngon du ’gro zhing ye shes kyi rjes su ’brang ba’am ’jug pa]
- All the acivities of the Tathāgata’s mind are preceded by wisdom and followed by wisdom [thugs kyi las thams cad ye shes sngon du ’gro zhing ye shes kyi rjes su ’brang ba’am ’jug pa].
Thus, all activities of his body, speech, and mind are in all circumstances and at all times meaningful.
The three non-associated qualities concerning time [dus kyis bsdus pa gsum]:
- The Tathāgata has entered into the unobscured and unhindered wisdom perception in regard to the past [’das pa’i dus la ma chags ma thogs pa’i ye shes gzigs pa ’jug pa].
- The Tathāgata has entered into the unobscured and unhindered wisdom perception in regard to the future [ma ’ongs pa’i dus la ma chags ma thogs pa’i ye shes gzigs pa ’jug pa].
- The Tathāgata has entered into the unobscured and unhindered wisdom perception in regard to the present [da lta’i dus la ma chags ma thogs pa’i ye shes gzigs pa ’jug pa].
Thus, he knows everything throughout all times.
As can be seen from the description of the qualities of a buddha quoted above, the Buddha’s sublime qualities of overcoming and realization [spangs rtogs gi yon tan] vastly transcend the qualities of arhats.
A buddha has perfected every possible quality that needs to be perfected, has overcome every fault that needs to be overcome, and has realized the totality of everything that can possibly be realized.
A buddha has fully perfected every aspect of body, speech, mind, qualities, and activities. He has reached the end, as for a buddha there is nothing left to accomplish or perfect.
A buddha is like a vase perfectly filled with nectar. These examples show the degree to which a buddha’s realizations and qualities surpass those of the śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas. Although these latter have reached extremely worthy states of attainment, nevertheless, they still have not perfected all there is to realize, nor have they overcome all there is to overcome.
Footnotes and references:
See dad pa’i nyin byed, pages 271-274.
For more details on this story see khyim bdag dpal skyes kyi gtam rgyud, in gtam rgyud, pages 57-66; rab tu byung ba’i yon tan bsngags pa’i le’u, in mdzangs blun, page 125-150; sangs rgyas bcom ldan ’das kyi rnam thar, pages 318-319.
See mi pham mkhas ’jug, pages 315-316.
See mi pham mkhas ’jug, pages 317-318.
See Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Vol. II, page 130: 1) Fearless in the knowledge of all things [chos thams cad mkhyen pa la mi ’jigs pa]; 2) fearless in the knowledge of the cessation of all corruption [zag pa zad pa thams cad mkhyen pa la mi ’jigs pa]; 3) fearless to declare definitively that phenomena which obstruct the path do not become anything else [bar du gcod pa’i chos rnams gzhan du mi ’gyur bar nges pa’i lung bstan pa la mi ’jigs pa]; 4) the fearlessness that the path of renunciation, through which all excellent attributes are to be obtained, has been just so realized [phun sum tshogs pa thams cad thob par ’gyur ba nges par ’byung ba’i lam de bzhin du gyur ba la mi ’jigs pa].
See mi pham mkhas ’jug, pages 318-320.