Last time we started looking at the vows of Dharmakara bodhisattva; and we looked at what are called The Three Great Vows, 18th, 19th and 20th vows. Now I’d like to share with you the 22nd vow.

The 22nd vow is concerned with the bodhisattva path - the bodhisattva ideal - which is one of the foundational principles of Mahayana Buddhism. So, I'll read the vow to you. It says in the sutra:

"Oh, Blessed One, may I not come to the complete awakening if, when I have done so, all those reborn in my Pure Land are not only one more rebirth away from complete nirvana, except for

  • those who choose otherwise and adopt bodhisattva vows:
  • who don the armour of great vows for the welfare of the whole world,
  • who are single-mindedly devoted to the well-being of all
  • who are dedicated to bringing all living beings to spiritual maturity,
  • who travel freely to practice the bodhisattva practice in all worlds,
  • who wish to serve and revere all Buddhas,
  • who instruct, lead and transform beings as numerous as sand grains in the Ganges, and
  • who cultivate the virtues of Samantabhadra.”

Samantabhadra is an exemplar bodhisattva. The name Samantabhadra means literally The All Good One.

So, this is a description of the bodhisattva’s ideal: to be all good, to instruct and transform beings as numerous as the sand of the Ganges, and thereby to serve and revere all Buddhas; and to do this they will go wherever is needed and do whatever is needed, because they are dedicated to this task of bringing all living beings to spiritual maturity.

These are bodhisattvas and you can see that the idea here is that, when people have faith, they're reborn in the Pure Land. In the Pure Land they are in perfect conditions for attaining enlightenment, for entering nirvana, and so, if they enter the Pure Land as shravakas, as disciples, this will be the natural course: that they will complete their spiritual path to nirvana.

However, there will be those who turn back, who out of compassion for other sentient beings return to worlds like this one to serve all beings.

This is a very inspiring and comprehensive image, a myth you might say. A great mythology which can shape our lives and give us an ideal to keep in mind.

So, we might dedicate our lives to trying to realize something of this ideal as a bodhisattva and we might live a life of altruism and in great faith we might enter into the Pure Land and, in a sense, get a sort of topping up of the influence of the Buddha, before returning to another world of samsaric conditions in order to help yet more beings like this.

This is the cosmic image of the Mahayana Buddhist path and here it is in the Larger Sutra, established in the 22nd vow. This is why within the training programme of the Amida Shu we have an educational programme called "Vow 22", because it is concerned with what is necessary to pursue this path.

That's Vow 22.

Thank you very much
Namo Amida Bu

Dharmavidya
David

Details of the Vow 22 programme can be found at
http://www.amidashu.org/vow-22-in-depth-study-course/

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