The Ten Grounds (Flower Garland Sutra, Chapter 26)

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by Cino, Jan 26, 2020.

  1. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    The Avatamsaka Sutra, also known as "Flower Garland Sutra" or "Flower Ornament Sutra", is more like a complete corpus of scripture than a single teachng discourse. @Beautiful previously posted a pdf translation of the sutra here, and there was some discussion of its first chapter (in Biblical terms, it would have been more like a complete book than a chapter).

    Here is the original post, with the download link (click the little blue upward pointing arrow in the title of the box to be taken to the post):

    Chapter 26 of the sutra is a treatise of meditation-related spiritual progress, or a spiritual "map", maybe similar to "maps" found in other religions, like the "Cloud of Unknowing" from medieval Christianity.

    The Ten Grounds, or Ten Bhumis, represent various milestones on the Bodhisattva path of Mahayana Buddism.

    An online translation (City of 10000 Buddhas translation) of the Ten Grounds chapter can be found here: http://www.cttbusa.org/avatamsaka/avatamsaka26.asp

    In the PDF posted by Beautiful (the Cleary translation), the chapter starts on page 695 (642 in terms of how a pdf reader will number the pages)

    I tend to get drawn into technical aspects, extracting detailed descriptions from texts such as this one. It would be a welcome counterpoint for someone to provide a more overarching view of the chapter, as I suspect it to have many levels of meaning and many ways to approach it. So, if you do not want to watch me go into nerd overdrive, please chime in!

    I think the 3-page portions of the previous reading was a good pace. This would bring us to the end of 697 in the pdf (644 in pdf reader terms), or on the online version, up until the first occurrence of the phrase, "what are the ten?".

    Onward and upward, then!
     
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  2. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    I can't find page numbers
     
  3. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    The page numbers are for the PDF posted by @Beautiful in the other thread.
     
  4. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    When I open the PDF, I don't see page numbers
     
  5. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Is it the scanned book pdf? Mine has the page numbers at the top of the page (left/right for odd/even numbered pages)

    Does your pdf reader let you type a page number you want to go to? If so, let it take you to p. 642.

    I like the City of the 10000 buddhas version (web page, which I linked up in my OP) better, because it does not translate words like Bodhisattva.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2020
  6. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    A little glossary for the first three paragraphs of the online version (http://www.cttbusa.org/avatamsaka/avatamsaka26.asp):

    • Buddha: a being who reached enlightenment all on their own. The most recent one, Gautama, is the historic Buddha.
    • Dharma: law (with connotations of something like natural law in science), teaching, dispensation, but can also mean, phenomenon
    • The World-Honored One: Epithet of the Buddha
    • Thus-Come-One: a stilted way of translating "Thatagatha", an epithet of the Buddha.
    • Arhat: a fully-enlightened being. Unlike a Buddha, who reaches enlightenment on his own without instruction, an Arhat reaches full enlightenment by following a Buddha's teaching.
    • Bodhisattva: a being who vows to become a Buddha. In Mahayana Buddhism, a being who vowed to become a fully-enlightened Buddha, but only after every other being has reached enlightenment as well. The Bodhisattva Vows are an innovation of Mahayana Buddhism over older schools.
    • anuttarasamyaksambodhi: unexcelled, full enlightenment.
    • Wisdom ("prajna"): one of the virtues of a Bodhisattva, arguably the most written-about one: Mahayana has an entire literature about perfecting the virtue of wisdom, the "perfection of wisdom", prajnaparamita.
    • "diligently practice without rest": echoing the historic Buddha's last words of encouragement to his disciples.
    • "the ultimate shore": a way of saying "enlightenment", drawn from the many similes about "crossing the ocean" of existence.
    • "birth and death": a link in the chain of "dependent origination", the list of causes and effects that lead from ignorance to suffering.
    • Nirvana: the Unmanifest, the Unconditioned.
    • dhyana, liberation, samadhi, samapatti, spiritual penetration, clear knowledge: various deep meditation attainments, some of these are states, some are stages, some are results of mediative practices. Maybe we'll get into these individually, later in the text.
    • spiritual powers: magical powers such as bi-location, teleportation, clairvoyance, clairaudience, levitation...
    • Dharma Wheel: a particular dispensation of the Buddhist teachings, this is a reference to the first-ever sermon by the historical Buddha, the "Discourse of Setting the Wheel of Dharma in Motion", which contained a summary of his teachings. Later schools of buddhism re-used the metaphor, giving the Dharma wheel another few spins: Mahayana, Vajrayana...
    • Vajra: a thunderbolt, perhaps fashioned form an immense diamond, symbolizing the shattering or cutting through of ignorance. Vajras are depicted as "open" bar-bell shaped tools.
    • Vairocana: in Mahayana, the archetypal Buddha.

    The Sutra begins, as is customary with Buddhist sutras, with establishing the time and place and the beings present.

    Theravada Suttas tend to be very down-to-earth as it were, setting the action in such places as "the bamboo grove" and the assembled audience as monks or laypersons (though there are some exceptions even in the Theravada canon).

    Mahayana Sutras like this one tend to be more exuberant. We are in a heavenly palace, with the Buddha preacing to a highly exalted, pan-galactic audience of almost-fully-enlightened spiritual superheroes - the Bodhisattvas. The first few paragraphs establish just how refined their practice is, and how great their dedication. Then comes a list of names of the assembled Bodhisattvas, culminating with the name of their leader, "Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva".

    Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva, it is then mentioned, has recently mastered a meditative state known as the "Bodhisattva's Great Wisdom Light Samadhi". He is given credit for this achievement by the Buddhas that appeared to him in this meditative state, they list some qualities of such highly-accomplished Bodhisattvas as him, and the blessings he received as a consequence of attaining to this particular Samadhi, and finally touch him on the head, whereupon he arises and begins to lecture on the ten Grounds.

    (As I mentioned, please chime in, otherwise I will geekily explore every little intricacy and cross-reference of this interesting text)
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2020
  7. StevePame

    StevePame Administrator Staff Member

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    Can you please clarify what you mean "all on their own"? As opposed to what?
     
  8. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    As opposed to following an example, being instructed.

    In Buddhism, there is a belief that the Dharma, and with it the possibility of enlightenment, is gradually lost over time, until it it completely forgotten. Aeons later, someone rediscovers it, becoming a Buddha. The timespans envisioned for these cycles are truly cosmic.

    Not every Buddha decides to become a teacher, or is successful in founding a long-lived dispensation.

    The whole topic of reincarnation plays into this in interesting ways - in the face of these immense timespans and the rarity of buddhas, how likely is it to be born with the opportunity to learn and practice the Dharma? How can one game the system? - but that would go way beyond the scope of this thread.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
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  9. StevePame

    StevePame Administrator Staff Member

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    Very interesting. Thanks for the additional information!
     
  10. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    On with the text.

    Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva (in the pdf version, he is called "Diamond Matrix"), after receiving the pat on the head, enumerates the ten "grounds" (bhumis) or stages of enlightenment:

    1. One, the Ground of Happiness;
    2. two, the Ground of Leaving Filth;
    3. three, the Ground of Emitting Light;
    4. four, the Ground of Blazing Wisdom;
    5. five, the Ground of Invincibility;
    6. six, the Ground of Manifestation;
    7. seven, the Ground of Traveling Far;
    8. eight, the Ground of Immovability;
    9. nine, the Ground of Good Wisdom;
    10. ten, the Ground of the Dharma Cloud.
    He points out that this is a universal teaching, by stressing that all past, present, and future Buddhas, of all places, would say the same thing. This is not some idiosyncratic teaching of some particular school or teacher, he states. Then he falls silent.

    His audience does not appreciate this cliff-hanger teaser, and wants to hear more. Their spokesperson, a certain "Moon of Liberation Bodhisattva", speaks up in verse, saying that the audience is sufficiently spiritually advanced to learn more. Vajra Treasury replies, stressing once more how advanced this teaching really is.

    The two go pack and forth, in the process enumerating the prerequisites for receiving this teaching. Purity of conduct, stability of mind, faith/confidence in the Buddha, Vajra Treasury always backing up, saying that he's withholding the information out of compassion for the unprepared, and Moon of Liberation reassuring him that the audience really is prepared.

    Finally, the entire assembly forms a chorus to ask Vajra Treasury to give further instruction, and the historical Buddha (Shakyamuni) as well as the other Buddhas shoot out a beam of light from between their eyebrows, illuminating the clouds and channeling magical power into Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva.

    We're already at the end of this three-page section in the pdf (p.700). Quite the fireworks, quite the stern warnings for the casual reader.

    Compared to the Theravada Suttas I am most familiar with, the scenery and ornate dialogue is a striking difference. However, the simple enumeration of ten stages is very much in-line with how teachings are presented in Theravada. The Buddha, it seems, was fond of summarizing his teachings in neat little lists - four noble truths, eight-fold path, three roots of suffering, and so on.

    So while the presentation is more elaborate, the basic elements of this Mahayana text are very similar to a Theravada text: The introductory setting, the listing of qualities required of a practitioner, the explicit teaching, in the form of a terse list, without comment or explanation, and a back-and-forth, three times, requesting teachings which are initially refused.

    What I'd love to explore is similarities and differences between this and other lists of spiritual way stations from other traditions. It seems to be a thing among spiritual seekers to describe the "journey" in terms of "milestones" and the challenges leading up to each. Any comments welcome!
     
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  11. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Signs of the True Ground by Meister Eckhart:

    The first sign is told to us by the chief exponent of knowledge and wisdom and transcendental understanding, who is himself the truth, our Lord Jesus Christ. He says, 'Thereby ye shall know that ye are my disciples, if you love one another and keep my commandment. What is my commandment? That ye love one another as I have loved you,' as though to say, ye may be my disciples in knowledge and in wisdom and high understanding but without true love it shall avail you little if nothing at all. Balaam was so clever he understood what God for many hundred years had been trying to reveal. This was but little help to him because he lacked true love. And Lucifer, the angel, who is in hell, had perfectly pure intellect and to this day knows much. He has the more hell pain and all because he failed to cleave with love and faith to what he knew.
    The second sign is selflessness; they empty themselves out of themselves giving free furlough to things.
    The third sign: they have wholly abandoned themselves to God: God works in them undisturbed.
    The fourth sign: wherever they still find themselves they leave themselves; sure method of advancement.
    The fifth sign: they are free from all self-seeking: this gives them a clear conscience.
    The sixth sign: they wait unceasingly upon God's will and do it to their utmost.
    The seventh sign: they bend their will to God's will till their will coincide with God's.
    The eighth sign: so closely do they fit and bind themselves to God and God to them in the power of love, that God does nothing without them and they do nothing without God.
    The ninth sign: they naught themselves and make use of God in all their works and in all places and all things.
    The tenth sign: they take no single thing from any creature, neither good nor bad, but from God alone, albeit God effect it through his creature.
    The eleventh sign: they are not snared by any pleasure or physical enjoyment or by any creature.
    The twelfth sign: they are not forced or driven by insubordination: they are steadfast for the truth.
    The thirteenth sign: they are not misled by any spurious light nor by the look of any creature: they go by the intrinsic merit.
    The fourteenth sign: armed and arrayed with all the virtues they emerge victorious from every flight of vice.
    The fifteenth sign: they see and know the naked truth and praise God without ceasing from this gnosis.
    The sixteenth sign: perfect and just, they hold themselves in poor esteem.
    The seventeenth sign: they are chary of words and prodigal of works.
    The eighteenth sign: they preach to the world by right practice.
    The nineteenth sign: they are always seeking God's glory and nothing at all besides.
    The twentieth sign: if any man fight them they will not let him prevail before accepting help of any sort but God's.
    The twenty-first sign: they desire neither comfort nor possessions, of the least of which they deem themselves all undeserving.
    The twenty-second sign: they look upon themselves as the most unworthy of all mankind on earth; their humbleness is therefore never-failing.
    The twenty-third sign: they take the life and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ for the perfect exemplar of their lives and in the light of this are always examining themselves with the sole intention of removing all unlikeness to their high ideal.
    The twenty-fourth sign: to outward appearance they do little who are working all the time at the virtuous life, hence the disteem of many people, which, however, they prefer to vulgar approbation.

    These are the signs of the true ground wherein lives the image of the perfect truth and he who does not find them in himself may account his knowledge vain and so may other people.
     
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  12. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    St Teresa speaks of the Seven Mansions in her work The Interior Mountain; St Bonaventure offers a vaguely numerical procession in his The Ascent of the Soul into God ... is this the sort of thing you're thinking of?
     
  13. Beautiful

    Beautiful Active Member

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    Sariputta's Lion's Roar

    16. Then the Venerable Sariputta went to the Blessed One, respectfully greeted him, sat down at one side, and spoke thus to him:

    "This faith, Lord, I have in the Blessed One, that there has not been, there will not be, nor is there now, another recluse or brahman more exalted in Enlightenment than the Blessed One."

    "Lofty indeed is this speech of yours, Sariputta, and lordly! A bold utterance, a veritable sounding of the lion's roar! But how is this, Sariputta? Those Arahants, Fully Enlightened Ones of the past — do you have direct personal knowledge of all those Blessed Ones, as to their virtue, their meditation, their wisdom, their abiding, and their emancipation?"

    "Not so, Lord."

    "Then how is this, Sariputta? Those Arahants, Fully Enlightened Ones of the future — do you have direct personal knowledge of all those Blessed Ones, as to their virtue, their meditation, their wisdom, their abiding, and their emancipation?"

    "Not so, Lord."

    "Then how is this, Sariputta? Of me, who am at present the Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One, do you have direct personal knowledge as to my virtue, my meditation, my wisdom, my abiding, and my emancipation?"

    "Not so, Lord."

    "Then it is clear, Sariputta, that you have no such direct personal knowledge of the Arahats, the Fully Enlightened Ones of the past, the future, and the present. How then dare you set forth a speech so lofty and lordly, an utterance so bold, a veritable sounding of the lion's roar, saying: 'This faith, Lord, I have in the Blessed One, that there has not been, there will not be, nor is there now another recluse or brahman more exalted in Enlightenment than the Blessed One'?"

    17. "No such direct personal knowledge, indeed, is mine, Lord, of the Arahants, the Fully Enlightened Ones of the past, the future, and the present; and yet I have come to know the lawfulness of the Dhamma. Suppose, Lord, a king's frontier fortress was strongly fortified, with strong ramparts and turrets, and it had a single gate, and there was a gatekeeper, intelligent, experienced, and prudent, who would keep out the stranger but allow the friend to enter. As he patrols the path that leads all around the fortress, he does not perceive a hole or fissure in the ramparts even big enough to allow a cat to slip through. So he comes to the conclusion: 'Whatever grosser living things are to enter or leave this city, they will all have to do so just by this gate.' In the same way, Lord, I have come to know the lawfulness of the Dhamma.

    "For, Lord, all the Blessed Ones, Arahants, Fully Enlightened Ones of the past had abandoned the five hindrances,
    the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; had well established their minds in the four foundations of mindfulness; had duly cultivated the seven factors of enlightenment, and were fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment.

    "And, Lord, all the Blessed Ones, Arahants, Fully Enlightened Ones of the future will abandon the five hindrances, the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; will well establish their minds in the four foundations of mindfulness; will duly cultivate the seven factors of enlightenment, and will be fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment.

    "And the Blessed One too, Lord, being at present the Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One, has abandoned the five hindrances, the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; has well established his mind in the four foundations of mindfulness; has duly cultivated the seven factors of enlightenment, and is fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment."
     
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  14. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Yes, that kind of thing!

    I had a busy week, hope to resume this reading project soon.
     
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  15. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Nice find of the literary device "all the previous and future Buddhas teach this" in this Theravada Sutta!
     
  16. Nicholas Weeks

    Nicholas Weeks Bodhicitta

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    Two new translations of this Sutra by Bhikshu Dharmamitra are now available. One version by Kumarajiva has never been translated into English I believe. His Kalavinka Press also has two other seminal bodhisattva texts now out. All are English only or if you want Sanskrit & Chinese thrown in, there are editions with those too.

    http://www.kalavinka.org/

    This version by Rulu, online & in book form, has been around for several years.

    http://www.sutrasmantras.info/sutra36a.html
     
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  17. Nicholas Weeks

    Nicholas Weeks Bodhicitta

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  18. Nicholas Weeks

    Nicholas Weeks Bodhicitta

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    The bodhisattva develops the gentle mind,
    the harmonious mind, the capable mind,
    the mind imbued with goodness, the serene mind, the genuine mind, the unmixed mind,
    the unattached mind, the happy mind, and the magnanimous mind.
    Once he has acquired these ten kinds of minds, he succeeds in entering the second ground.

    The bodhisattva dwelling on this ground perfects all of the meritorious qualities,
    always abandons the killing of beings,
    and does not inflict distress on any of them.
    He always abandons stealing,
    does not produce thoughts inclined toward sexual misconduct, practices truthful speech, refrains from divisive speech,
    and does not engage in harsh speech or frivolous speech.
    With regard to the possessions of others,
    he has no covetous thoughts,
    does not visit anguish on any being,
    and, employing the straight mind, courses in right views.

    He has no arrogant thoughts
    nor does he indulge flattering or devious thought.
    He is pliant-minded and refrains from neglectfulness,
    while protecting and upholding the Dharma of the Buddhas.

    Realizing that all those severe sufferings and torments endured in the hell realms, in the animal realms,
    and by the hungry ghosts in their flaming bodies
    all come into existence due to evil thought,
    He thinks, “I have now already eternally abandoned
    all such circumstances associated with practicing what is evil.

    Practice in accordance with genuine principles,
    the good dharmas associated with quiescence,
    and all circumstances in which one may experience happiness, from the human realm on up to the peak of existence,
    including the bliss found in dhyāna and in the Three Vehicles —
    This all arises through practicing the ten good karmic deeds."

    Part of Vajragarbha Bodhisattva's summary of Second Ground.
     
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  19. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Nice find, thanks for restarting the reading project!

    Would you expound a bit on specific terms like the bliss of dhyana and the three vehicles, to make this passage more accessible?
     
  20. Nicholas Weeks

    Nicholas Weeks Bodhicitta

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    Dhyana is a general term for types of meditation, which if mastered well will produce forms of happiness, insight, calm etc.
    The three vehicles or yanas are the Sravaka or Listeners, the Prateykabuddha or Solitary buddhas & Bodhisatvas or enlightened warriors who help all beings - always.
     

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