Monday, May 14, 2012

The Ten Bhumis - The Stages of a Bodhisattva

1. The first stage is called in Sanskrit Pramudita, or Very Happy. Bhumi means stage or ground. From the position of Bodhisattva to become a Buddha, one must go through the ten Bhumis, the ten stages or stations. The first is called the Very Happy station because in this first stage the Bodhisattva has recognized the Sunyata not only by thinking or just by visualization, but he has exactly and truly realized the Sunyata. Because he recognized the Sunyata, he is in another world, a world of Sunyata, not a world of ignorance or selfishness. So he feels very happy, and feels joy at having overcome the former difficulties. So it is called the Very Happy Station.

2. The second bhumi is Vimala or Renounce the Defilement because as a Bodhisattva he knows how to get the Sunyata and abide in the Sunyata more and more. Within the Sunyata he knows everything is pure, while outside everything is defiled. Actually it may seem that the Renounce the Defilement stage should be even before the first bhumi, but here Renounce the Defilement means the very subtle, not the gross one. So the second bhumi is the stage of purity when the Bodhisattva experiences freedom from all possible defilement.

3. The third bhumi is called Prabhakari or Shines Light Stage because as the Bodhisattva's meditation goes deep, his Samadhi shines light, so this is called the Shines Light or Enlightened Stage or Eminate Stage because a lot of light shines out from his Samadhi.

4. The fourth bhumi is Arcismati or Burning Wisdom. The Bodhisattva has burned up all sorrows in the fire of wisdom so this is called the burning or glowing wisdom stage.

5. The fifth bhumi is Sudurjaya or Very Difficult to be Victorious by Others. That means that few others can suffer such a difficult practice and get to this victory stage. It indicates mastery of utmost or final difficulties.

6. The sixth bhumi is called Abhimukhi or Appearance Stage. The appearance referred to is not something very common but something very special which appears: It is the Sunyata itself. You know there is Sunyata conception, Sunyata thoughts, Sunyata visualization, Sunyata of Happiness, there is Sunyata of Light, of Sun, of Fire, but here is the Sunyata itself which appears in its very embodiment. This means from an abstract idea comes a concrete countenance.

7. The seventh bhumi is the Far from the World Journey Stage or Duramgama. This means the Bodhisattva keeps going further, far from the habitual karma, far from sentient beings, far from the Bodhisattva of the sixth stage. He is getting above ideas of self in order to save others.

8. The eighth bhumi is called Acala, or No Moving Stage. Such a Bodhisattva cannot be moved by any kind of sorrow, by any kind of false view, by any kind of love of money, of fame, or reputation, by anything, good or bad; he cannot be moved and is calm and undisturbed.

9. The ninth stage is Sadhumati or Very Good Wisdom Stage because whereas in the fourth stage he attained wisdom of fire, here the Bodhisattva has the wisdom of goodness also which means he can speak very well, he can promote the Dharma very well and can get very wide wisdom. In the Chinese language "Fa-Shih" means a teacher of Dharma who should reach this stage. When a Bodhisattva gets the goodness wisdom, the ninth stage, then he can begin to talk with others and give lectures for he then has obtained the finest discriminatory wisdom and knows where and how to save others.

10. The tenth bhumi is called Dharmamegha or Dharma Cloud. At this stage a Bodhisattva is not only able to talk to promote the Dharma but really can make Dharma rain, so this is the tenth bhumi's name.

From Rigpa Shedra:
Ten bhumis (Skt. daśabhūmi; Tib. sa chu; Wyl. sa bcu)

1. Perfect Joy (Skt. pramuditābhūmi; Tib. rabtu gawa; Wyl. rab tu dga’ ba)

2. Immaculate / Stainless (Skt. vimalābhūmi; Tib. drima mepa; Wyl. dri ma med pa)

3. Luminous / Illuminating (Skt. prabhākarībhūmi; Tib. ö jepa; Wyl. ‘od byed pa)

4. Radiant (Skt. arciṣmatībhūmi; Tib. ö tro chen; Wyl. ‘od ‘phro can)

5. Hard to Keep / Hard to Conquer (Skt. sudurjayābhūmi; Tib. shintu jankawa; Wyl. shin tu sbyang dka’ ba)

6. Clearly Manifest (Skt. abhimukhībhūmi; Tib. ngöntu gyurpa; Wyl. mngon du gyur ba)

7. Far Progressed (Skt. duraṅgamabhūmi; Tib. ringtu songwa; Wyl. ring du song ba)

8. Immovable (Skt. acālabhūmi; Tib. miyowa; Wyl. mi g.yo ba)

9. Perfect Intellect (Skt. sādhuṃatībhūmi; Tib. lekpé lodrö; Wyl. legs pa’i blo gros)

10. Cloud of Dharma (Skt. dharmameghaābhūmi; Tib. chökyi trin; Wyl. chos kyi sprin)

The eleventh bhumi, Universal Radiance (Tib. kuntu ö; Wyl. kun tu 'od), is buddhahood according to the sutra system.

From Wikipedia:


The bodhisattva's path of awakening in the Mahayana tradition progresses through ten hierarchically arranged stages, referred to as the "bodhisattva bhūmis" (enlightenment-being grounds/levels, Tibetan: byang chub sems dpa'i sa, ). The Sanskrit term bhūmi literally means "ground" or "foundation", since each stage represents a level of attainment and serves as a basis for the next one. Each level marks a definite advancement in one's training that is accompanied by progressively greater power and wisdom.
Mārgas and Bhūmis

The bhūmis are subcategories of mārgas (Paths), five (pañcamārga, in Wylie Tibetan: lam lnga) ) in all:

1. The path of accumulation (saṃbhāra-mārga, Wylie Tibetan: tshogs lam)

2. The path of preparation or application (prayoga-mārga, Wylie Tibetan: sbyor lam)

3. The path of seeing (darśana-mārga, Wylie Tibetan: mthong lam)

4. The path of meditation (bhāvanā-mārga, Wylie Tibetan: sgom lam)

5. The path of no more learning or consummation (aśaikṣā-mārga, Wylie Tibetan: mi slob pa’I lam or thar phyin pa'i lam)

Passage through the grounds and paths initializes when an individual, realizing deeply that nothing but enlightenment gives one the power to help others in a way that truly makes a difference, attains the spontaneous wish for himself or herself to become enlightened for the benefit of all beings. Termed Aspiring Bodhicitta, this wish becomes Engaging Bodhicitta upon actual commitment to the Bodhisattva vows. With these steps, the practitioner becomes a Bodhisattva, and enters upon the paths[1].

Before attaining the ten grounds, the bodhisattva traverses the first two of the five Mahayana paths:

1. The path of accumulation

2. The path of preparation

The ten grounds of the bodhisattva are grouped within the three subsequent paths:

1. Bhūmi 1: The path of seeing

2. Bhūmi 2-7: The path of meditation

3. Bhūmi 8-10: The path of no more learning

More generally, the bhumis are an extremely advanced part of the Buddhist path; e.g. in Hua-yen Buddhism there are some 40 previous stages before the first bhumi (namely, the 10 faiths, 10 abodes, 10 practices and 10 merit-transferences). It may be illuminating to note that in Tientai Buddhism the practitioner of its so called "perfect teaching" are equal in attainment to arhats by just the 4th faith. Mahayana literature often features an enumeration of "two obstructions" (Wylie: sgrib gnyis), the "obstructions of delusive emotions" (Sanskrit: kleśa-varaṇa, Wylie: nyon-mongs-pa'i sgrib-ma) and the "obstructions to knowledge" (Sanskrit: jñeyāvaraṇa, Wylie: shes-bya'i sgrib-ma).[2] It is said that the kleśa-varaṇa is overcome at the attainment of the path of seeing, and the jñeyā-varaṇa is overcome over the course of the path of meditation. This is not a statement agreed upon by all Buddhist schools, e.g. Korean Son's Kihwa states that the obstructions to knowledge are overcome by the 10th bhumi.

Ten bhūmis

The Avatamsaka Sutra refers to the following ten bhūmis:[3]

1. The first bhūmi, the Very Joyous. (Skt. Paramudita), in which one rejoices at realizing a partial aspect of the truth;

2. The second bhūmi, the Stainless. (Skt. Vimala), in which one is free from all defilement;

3. The third bhūmi, the Luminous. (Skt. Prabhakari), in which one radiates the light of wisdom;

4. The fourth bhūmi, the Radiant. (Skt. Archishmati), in which the radiant flame of wisdom burns away earthly desires;

5. The fifth bhūmi, the Difficult to Cultivate. (Skt. Sudurjaya), in which one surmounts the illusions of darkness, or ignorance as the Middle Way;

6. The sixth bhūmi, the Manifest. (Skt. Abhimukhi) in which supreme wisdom begins to manifest;

7. The seventh bhūmi, the Gone Afar. (Skt. Duramgama), in which one rises above the states of the Two vehicles;

8. The eighth bhūmi, the Immovable. (Skt. Achala), in which one dwells firmly in the truth of the Middle Way and cannot be perturbed by anything;

9. The ninth bhūmi, the Good Intelligence. (Skt. Sadhumati), in which one preaches the Law freely and without restriction;

10. The tenth bhūmi, the Cloud of Doctrine. (Skt. Dharmamegha), in which one benefits all sentient beings with the Law (Dharma), just as a cloud sends down rain impartially on all things.

The first bhūmi, the Very Joyous

The First bhūmi, called the "Very Joyous", is attained with the first direct perception of emptiness and is simultaneous with entry into the third of the five paths to awakening, the path of seeing.[4][5] It is called "very joyous" because the bodhisattva works at the perfections of generosity and develops the ability to give away everything without regret and with no thought of praise or reward (for themselves). All phenomena are viewed as empty and as subject to decay, suffering, and death, and so bodhisattvas lose all attachment to them. According to Tsong Khapa, first level bodhisattvas directly understand that persons do not exist by way of their own nature. Due to this, they overcome the false idea that the five aggregates constitute a truly existent person. They also eliminate predispositions toward corrupted ethics so completely that they will not arise again.[6]

Despite having directly Perceived emptiness, bodhisattvas on the first level are primarily motivated by faith. They train in ethics in order to cleanse their minds of negativity and, so they prepare themselves for the cultivation of mundane meditative absorption that comes on the second level.

The second bhūmi, the Stainless

Bodhisattvas on the second level, the "Stainless", perfect ethics and overcome all tendencies towards engagement in negative actions. Their control becomes so complete that even in dreams they have no immoral thoughts. According to Tsong Khapa for such a bodhisattva,

on all occasions of waking and dreaming his movements or activities of body, speech and mind are pure of even subtle infractions...he fulfills the three paths of virtuous actions-abandoning killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct-with his body; the middle four-abandons lying, divisive talk, harsh speech, and senseless chatter-with his speech; and the last three-abandoning covetousness, harmful intent, and wrong views-with his mind. Not only does he refrain from what is prohibited but he also fulfills all the positive achievements related to proper ethics.[7]

And according to Nagarjuna,

The second is called the Stainless Because all ten [virtuous] actions Of body, speech, and mind are stainless And they naturally abide in those [deeds of ethics]. Through the maturation of those [good qualities] The perfection of ethics becomes supreme. They become Universal Monarchs helping beings, Masters of the glorious four continents and of the seven precious objects.

Because of this, the bodhisattva's mind becomes purified and equinanimous, which is a prerequisite for training in the four dhyānas (meditative absorptions) and the four arupya-samapattis (formless absorptions).

The third bhūmi, the Luminous

Tsong Khapa states that the third bhūmi is called the "Luminous" because when it is attained "the fire of wisdom burning all the fuel of objects of knowledge arises along with a light which by nature is able to extinguish all elaborations of duality during meditative equipoise."[8] Bodhisattvas on this level cultivate the perfection of patience. Their equanimity becomes so profound that

even if someone...cuts from the body of this bodhisattva not just flesh but also bone, not in large sections but bit by bit, not continually but pausing in between, and not finishing in a short time but cutting over a long period, the bodhisattva would not get angry at the mutilator.[9]

The Bodhisattva realizes that his tormentor is motivated by afflicted thoughts and is sowing seeds of his own future suffering. As a result, the bodhisattva feels not anger, but a deep sadness and compassion for this cruel person, who is unaware of the operations of karma. Trainees on the third level overcome all tendencies toward anger, and never react with hatred (or even annoyance) to any harmful acts or words. Rather, their equanimity remains constant, and all sentient beings are viewed with love and compassion:

All anger and resentment rebound on the person who generates them, and they do nothing to eliminate harms that one has already experienced. They are counterproductive in that they destroy one's peace of mind and lead to unfavorable future situations. There is nothing to be gained through anger and resentment, revenge does nothing to change the past, and so the bodhisattva avoids them. Moreover, one's present suffering is only a result of one's own past misdeeds; so one's enemy is only an agent of the inevitable fruition of karma.

Bodhisattvas on this level also train in the four form meditations, the four formless meditations, and the four immeasurables, and the higher knowledges.

The fourth bhūmi, the Radiant

On the fourth level, the "Radiant", bodhisattvas cultivate the perfection of effort and eliminate afflictions. According to Wonch'uk, this level is so named because fourth bhumi bodhisattvas "constantly emit the radiance of exalted wisdom." He also cites Maitreya's Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras, which explains that bodhisattvas on this level burn up the afflictive obstructions and the obstructions to omniscience with the radiance of their wisdom.[10] They enter into progressively deeper meditative absorptions and attain a powerful mental pliancy as a result. This eliminates laziness and increases their ability to practice meditation for extended periods of time. They destroy deeply rooted afflictions and cultivate the thirty-seven harmonies with awakening.

Through training in these thirty-seven practices, bodhisattvas develop great skill in meditative absorptions and cultivate wisdom, while weakening the artificial and innate conceptions of true existence.

The fifth bhūmi, Difficult to Cultivate

The fifth level is called the "Difficult to Cultivate" because it involves practices that are so arduous and require a great deal of effort to perfect. It is also called the "Difficult to Overcome" because when one has completed the training of this level one has profound wisdom and insight that are difficult to surpass or undermine. According to Nagarjuna,

The fifth is called the Extremely Difficult to Overcome Since all evil ones find it extremely hard to conquer him; He becomes skilled in knowing the subtle Meanings of the noble truths and so forth.[11]

Bodhisattvas on this level cultivate the perfection of samadhi. They develop strong powers of meditative stabilization and overcome tendencies toward distraction. They achieve mental one-pointedness and they perfect calm abiding. They also fully penetrate the meanings of the four noble truths and the two truths (conventional truths and ultimate truths) and perceive all phenomena as empty, transient and prone to suffering.

The sixth bhūmi, the Manifest

The sixth level is called the "Manifest" because the bodhisattva clearly perceives the workings of dependent arising and directly understands "signlessness" (Mtshan ma med pa, Tibetan. Animitta, Sanskrit). Signlessness refers to the fact that phenomena seem to possess their apparent qualities by way of their own nature, but when one examines this appearance one realizes that all qualities are merely mentally imputed and not a part of the nature of the objects they appear to characterize.

As a result of these understandings bodhisattvas manifest meditative wisdom and avoid attachment to either cyclic existence or nirvana.[12] Having overcome all attachments, bodhisattvas on this level can attain nirvana, but because of the force of the mind of awakening they decide to remain in the world in order to benefit other sentient beings. They cultivate the Perfection of Wisdom, through which they perceive all phenomena as lacking inherent existence, as being like dreams, illusions, reflections, or magically created objects. All notions of "I" and "other" are transcended, along with conceptions of "inherent existence" and "inherent nonexistence." These sixth-level bodhisattvas abide in contemplation of suchness, with minds that are undisturbed by false ideas.

The seventh bhūmi, the Gone Afar

Bodhisattvas on the seventh level develop the ability to contemplate signlessness uninterruptedly and enter into advanced meditative absorptions for extended periods of time, thus passing beyond both the mundane and supramundane paths of śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas (Hearers and solitary realizers). For this reason, this level is called the "Gone Afar."[13] According to Nagarjuna,

The seventh is the Gone Afar because The number of his qualities has increased, Moment by moment he can enter The equipoise of cessation,[14]

On this level bodhisattvas perfect their skill in means of meditation and practice (Thabs la mkhas pa, Tibetan; Upaya-Kausalya, Sanskrit), which is their ability to cleverly adapt their teaching tactics to the individual proclivities and needs of their audiences. They also develop the ability to know the thoughts of others, and in every moment are able to practice all the perfections. All thoughts and actions are free from afflictions, and they constantly act spontaneously and effectively for the benefit of others.

The eighth bhūmi, the Immovable

The Eighth level is called the "Immovable" because bodhisattvas overcome all afflictions regarding signs and their minds are always completely absorbed in the dharma. According to Nargarjuna,

The eighth is the Immovable, the youthful stage, Through nonconceptuality he is immovable; And the spheres of his body, speech and mind's Activities are inconceivable.[15]

Because they are fully acquainted with signlessness, their minds are not moved by ideas of signs. Eighth Bhumi bodhisattvas are said to be "irreversible", because there is no longer any possibility that they might waver on the path or backslide. They are destined for full buddhahood, and there are no longer any inclinations to seek a personal nirvana. They cultivate the "perfection of aspiration", which means that they undertake to fulfill various vows, due to which they accumulate the causes of further virtues.[16] Although they resolve to work for the benefit of others and they pervade the universe with feelings of friendliness toward all sentient beings, these bodhisattvas have transcended any tendency to imagine that there are truly existent beings.

Their understanding of suchness is so complete that it overturns afflicted views, and reality appears in a completely new light. They enter into meditation on emptiness with little effort. Bodhisattvas on this level are compared to people who have awakened from dreams, and all their perceptions are influenced by this new awareness. They attain the meditative state called "forbearance regarding nonarisen phenomena", due to which they no longer think in terms of causes or causelessness. They also develop the ability to manifest in various forms in order to instruct others. Compassion and skill in means are automatic and spontaneous. There is no need to plan or contemplate how best to benefit others, since these bodhisattvas skillfully adapt themselves to every situation.

The ninth bhūmi, the Good Intelligence

From this point on, bodhisattvas move quickly toward awakening. Before this stage, progress was comparatively slow, like that of a boat being towed through a harbour. On the eighth through tenth bhumi, however, bodhisattvas make huge strides toward buddhahood, like a ship that reaches the ocean and unfurls its sails. On the ninth level, they fully understand the three vehicles - hearers, solitary realizers, and bodhisattvas - and perfect the ability to teach the doctrine. According to the Sutra Explaining the Thought,

Because of attaining faultlessness and very extensive intelligence in terms of mastery of teaching the doctrine in all aspects, the ninth level is called the "Good Intelligence."[17]

Ninth bhūmi bodhisattvas also acquire the "four analytical knowledges"-of doctrines, meanings, grammar, and exposition. Due to this, they develop wondrous eloquence and skill in presenting doctrinal teachings. Their intelligence surpasses that of all humans and gods, and they comprehend all names, words, meanings, and languages. They can understand any question from any being. They also have the ability to answer them with a single sound, which is understood by each being according to its capacities. On this level they also cultivate the perfection of power, which means that because of the strength of their mastery of the four analytical knowledges and their meditation they are able to develop the six perfections energetically and to practice them continually without becoming fatigued.[18]

The tenth bhūmi, the Cloud of Dharma

On the tenth bhūmi, bodhisattvas overcome the subtlest traces of the afflictions. Like a cloud that pours rain on the earth, these bodhisattvas spread the doctrine in all directions, and each sentient being absorbs what it needs in order to grow spiritually. Thus Nargarjuna states that

The tenth is the Cloud of Dharma because

The rain of excellent doctrine falls,

The Bodhisattva is consecrated

With light by the Buddhas.[19]

At this stage bodhisattvas enter into progressively deeper meditative absorptions and develop limitless powers with respect to magical formulas. They cultivate the perfection of exalted wisdom, which, according to Asanga, enables them to increase their exalted wisdom. This in turn strengthens the other perfections. As a result they become established in the joy of the doctrine.[20]

They acquire perfect bodies, and their minds are cleansed of the subtlest traces of the afflictions. They manifest in limitless forms for the benefit of others and transcend the ordinary laws of time and space. They are able to place entire world systems in a single pore, without diminishing them or increasing the size of the pore. When they do this, the beings inhabiting the worlds feel no discomfort, and only those who are advanced bodhisattvas even notice.

Bodhisattvas on this level receive a form of empowerment from innumerable buddhas. This is called "great rays of light", because the radiance of these bodhisattvas shines in all directions. This empowerment helps them in removing the remaining obstructions to omniscience and gives them added confidence and strength. At the final moment of this stage they enter into a meditative state called the "vajralike meditative stabilization", in which the subtlest remaining obstacles to buddhahood are overcome. They arise from this concentration as Buddhas.

Additional bhūmi

With the 10 bhūmi, various Vajrayana schools recognize 3-10 additional bhūmi.[21][22]


^ Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang (2003). Joyful Path of Good Fortune. England: Tharpa Publications; Fourth Edition, p.535-6. ISBN 0-948006-46-3

^ Dorje, Jikdrel Yeshe (Dudjom Rinpoche, author), translated and edited: Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (1991). The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History. Boston, USA: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-199-9, p. 107(Enumerations).

^ 1998, The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism, Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada, 2nd ed..[1]

^ This explanation is given by the Korean scholar Wonch'uk in his Commentary on the Sutra Explaining the Thought (Arya-gambhira-samdhinirmocana-sutra-tika; 'Phags pa dgongs pa zab mo nges par 'grel pa'i mdo'i rgya cher 'grel pa; Delhi: Delhi Karmapae Choedhey, Gyalwae Sungrab Partun Khang, 1985, mdo 'grel, vol. thi [119], p. 523.3)

^ See also Nargajuna's Precious Garland(Ratnavali; tr. Jeffrey Hopkins: The Precious Garland and the Song of the Four Mindfulnesses; London: George Allen & Unwin, 1974), verse 441.

^ See Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism, pp. 140-142.

^ Ibid., pp. 193-194.

^ Ibid., p.204.

^ Ibid., p.206.

^ Wongch'uk, vol. thi [119], p. 527.5.

^ The Precious Garland, p.85

^ This explanation is given by Wonch'uk (vol. thi [119], p. 531.1, whose source is the Sutra on the Ten Bhumis

^ This explanation is given by Wonch'uk (vol. thi [119], p. 532.6), on a basis of a commentary on the Sutra on the Ten Bhumis, but he does not provide that exact title.

^ The Precious Garland, p. 86.

^ Ibid., P. 86.

^ This explanation is found in the Compendium of Mahayana, p. 208.

^ Sutra Explaining the Thought, p. 116.3.

^ See La Somme du Grand Vehicule d'Asanga, p. 208

^ The Precious Garland, P. 87.

^ La Somme du Grand Vehicule d'Asanga, pp. 208-299.

^ 大圆满隆钦宁提派前行念诵文列编

^ 大圆满心性休息颂



Anonymous said...

Oho, very beautiful articles.
It's the first time I read about the stages of Bodhisattva, since I have only learnt about stages to enter Nirvana.

BuddhaThought said...

Very Nice and Impressive Article.