Dong Hung Buddhist Temple
Dharma Discussion Group

June 24, 2014

Topic:        Bodhisattvas,

The Venerable Thay Thanh led the discussion.  The group met on June 17 without a teacher present.  We compiled the following questions for the next discussion with one of our teachers.

In the Buffalo sutra, we first thought the Bodhisattva decided to appear in life as a buffalo.  We later concluded that the Bodhisattva actually experienced life as a buffalo before becoming a Bodhisattva.  Is this interpretation correct?
We are wondering about the difference between reincarnation and rebirth.
Does a Bodhisattva choose a life form to appear in?
Is a Bodhisattva actually clinging to his/her vow to return to help all sentient beings?
Or, in spite of making a vow, is a Bodhisattva free from fetters?  Can we learn more about the 52 steps?
We want to get a better understanding of how person calling out to a particular Bodhisattva for help with a situation differs from other religions that call out to God, Saints or other religious beings for help with a situation.


Our interpretation of the Buffalo sutra was a correct interpretation.  But, we later learned that Bodhisattvas can also choose life forms to appear in, which means we can also interpret in the Buffalo sutra that the Bodhisattva chose to return as the buffalo.
Thay Thanh encourages us to move away from the term reincarnation and to use rebirth when referencing this phenomena. Reincarnation is interpreted to mean the rebirth of the same soul, which in Buddhism is a wrong view. Rebirth encompasses the continuation of a consciousness in the circle of life and death.  Consciousness contains karma.
Yes, higher level Bodhisattvas can chose forms to appear in.
A Bodhisattva is not suffering or clinging to his vow.  Rather, he is fulfilling the obligation he took upon himself as the vow. A Bodhisattva is not limited by the vow and thus is not limited from becoming a Buddha.  Fulfilling the obligation of a vow is a driving force, a means, not an end that one is clinging to.
The first part of this question is answered in number 4. Thay Thanh indicated that there isn’t a specific set of sutras or other readings we can read to study the 52 levels of becoming a Bodhisattva. It sounds to me like this is an accumulation of knowledge and practice.
We spent a lot of time on this question.  The conclusion is that when a Buddhist practitioner “calls out” to a particular Bodhisattva in a specific situation, this action is not similar to the practice of other religions calling out to deities or other entities for help.  The Buddhist practitioner in this situation is looking within for a redirection of his own energy and concentration by focusing on the Bodhisattva rather than his usual concentration practice.  We are all one in the universe.  We are attempting to access a different level of energy within ourselves by changing the focus of our concentration in these situations.

Mark Palamara
June 28, 2014

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