Whattsa Who'sa Bodhisattva - Vimalakirti

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39441

    Whattsa Who'sa Bodhisattva - Vimalakirti

    That's an image of the lay master Vimalakirti in his sick bed where, amid his physical illness and infirmity (or the appearance thereof), he expounds the teachings of Emptiness to the Great Arhats and Bodhisattvas, giving each a run for their money in his powerful expression of Dharma.

    And money is something that Vimalakirti has loads of, though he uses it for good and to aid those in need. He does not hide from the world, but rather is described as practicing and realizing enlightenment right at home with wife and kids, and through his business ownership. He'd go anywhere to teach, from the government offices of the great ministers to schools to shops to bar rooms and brothels. While in the world "although he had a wife and children, yet he was chaste in action ... although he ate and drank like others, what he truly savored was the joy of meditation."

    For obviously reason, the story of Vimalakirti has been popular with those espousing the power of lay practice through the centuries.

    Taigen Dan Leighton writes, in his wonderful book Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and their Modern Expression ...

    Vimalakirti practiced as a layman amid the delusions of the world, without being ensnared by them. ... Vimalakirti in all his activities embodies the Mahayana view of being in the world but not of it [and in fact] a central point of the Vimalakirti Sutra is that the bodhisattva can only awaken in the context of intimate contact and involvement with the follies and passions of the world and its beings. ... Bodhisattvas can develop only through fully entering, before transcending, the turbulent seas of passions and delusions.
    Vimalakirti even denies the necessity of "home leaving" or retreat to a monastery (a subject of some discussion these days) in order to truly "leave home" ...

    Vimalakirti's critiques express his special commitment to lay practice as a bodhisattva model. Many of his comments and admonitions involve the tendency of the disciples to withdraw from engagement with the ordinary world. He criticizes priestly roles and religious trappings for masking inauthenticity of practice or interfering with the full development of spiritual potential of common people.

    Home-office-factory-nursery-jail-or-city streets ...

    ... each our "monastery" when perceived as such.

    Today’s Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.

    Last edited by Jundo; 04-25-2016, 01:50 AM.
  • Byokan
    Treeleaf Unsui
    • Apr 2014
    • 4288


    sat today
    展道 渺寛 Tendō Byōkan
    Please take my words with a big grain of salt. I know nothing. Wisdom is only found in our whole-hearted practice together.


    • Onkai
      Treeleaf Unsui
      • Aug 2015
      • 2887

      Thank you for this talk, Jundo.

      美道 Bidou Beautiful Way
      恩海 Onkai Merciful/Kind Ocean

      I have a lot to learn; take anything I say that sounds like teaching with a grain of salt.


      • Kyōsen
        • Aug 2019
        • 311

        I've become interested in the Vimalakirti Sutra recently because of Bob Thurman's videos (on YouTube) and it came up in a podcast hosted by Michael Taft. I ended up listening to a three-part talk on it (each part being around 2 hours) and I was quite surprised to learn that the Heart Sutra can (more or less) be found within this sutra! I find it so interesting that the entirety of the sutra can be found to be within the first chapter in a kind of holographic principle kind of way. The presenter had a neat hypothesis: He thinks this sutra was meant to be performed like a play based on the way it's structured - that maybe there was a group that traveled around performing the sutra to bring Dharma wisdom to villagers who maybe couldn't read.

        It also seems like it's an old sutra, perhaps as old as 2000 years.

        I found it interesting that in the sutra, Sariputra was presented as a kind of fool when, in the Theravada tradition, he's known as being the most intelligent of the Buddha's disciples. The presenter of the talk pointed out that in this sutra, Sariputra is meant to be a stand-in or representative of the Theravada tradition itself.

        I'm likely to track down a copy of Bob Thurman's translation. I've heard it's good if you're somewhat familiar with certain Sanskrit/Tibetan terms, otherwise the Watson translation is the way to go.

        kyō (bridge) | sen (river)