The Stages of the Bodhisattva

January 02, 2019

“Bodhicitta comprises in it two elements, viz., enlightenment of the nature of essencelessness (sunyata) and universal compassion (karuna). This definition of Bodhicitta as the perfect comingling of sunyata and karuna had far-reaching effects in the transformation of the Mahayanic ideas into the Tantric ideas. After the production of Bodhicitta the adept becomes a Bodhisattva and proceeds on in an upward march through ten different stages which are called the bodhisattva-bhumis (i.e., the stages
of the Bodhisattva).

The first of these is the stage of Pramudita or the stage of delight or joy. Here the Bodhisattva rises from the cold, self-sufficing and nihilistic conception of Nirvana to a higher spiritual contemplation. The second is styled as the Vimala or the stage free from all defilement. The third is the Prabhakari or that which brightens; in this stage the Bodhisattva attains a clear insight - an intellectual light about the nature of the dharmas. The fourth stage is the Arcismati or ‘full of flames,’ - these flames are the
flames of Bodhi which burn to ashes all the passions and ignorance. At this stage the Bodhisattva practises thirty-seven virtues called bodhipaksikas which mature the bodhi to perfection. The next is the Sudurjaya stage or the stage which is almost invincible. This is a stage from which no evil passion or temptation can move the Bodhisattva. The sixth stage is called the Abhimukhi, where the Bodhisattva is almost face to face with prajna or the highest knowledge. The seventh is the Durangama which literally means ‘going far away.’ In this stage the Bodhisattva attains the knowledge of the expedience which will help him in the attainment of salvation. Though he himself abides here by the principles of void and non-duality and desirelessness, yet his compassion for beings keeps him engaged in the activities for the well-being of all the creatures. The eighth is the stage of Acala, which means ‘immovable.’ The next is the Sadhumati or the ‘good will’; when the Bodhisattva reaches such a stage all the sentient beings are benefited by his attainment of the highest perfect knowledge. The tenth or the last is the stage of dharma-megha (literally ‘the clouds of dharma’), where the Bodhisattva attains perfect knowledge, great compassion, love and sympathy for all the sentient beings. When this last stage of Dharma-megha is reached, the aspirer becomes a perfect Bodhisattva or a Buddha.”

Quotation from Shashi Bushan’s Dasgupta, An Introduction to Tantric Buddhism, Calcutta University Press, 1958, 9-10.

Summary

Pramudita

Joy

Vimala

Freedom from defilement

Prabhakari

Intellectual light about the dhmaras

Arcismati

Full of the flames which burn all passions and ignorance

Sudurjaya

Spiritual invincibility

Abhimukhi

Face to face with highest knowledge

Durangama

Knowledge of experience; compassion

Acala

Immovable (?)

Sadhumati

‘Good will’; all sentient beings are benefited by the Bodhisattva’s attainment of knowledge

Dhmarma-megha

Attainment of perfect knowledge, compassion, love, and sympahty for all beings

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Michael Helvey

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