Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verse 116

Transglomeration: Thereby in the establishing and realisation of (albeit) just a fraction of the qualities of the Buddha Dharma, ordinary beings are asserted to be equal to the Conquerors, but none of them are the equals of the Buddhas who are unbounded repositories of unlimited realisations of every good quality like an Ocean.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 115greatness of number of beings; greatness of realisation of Buddhas
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 116beings = Buddhas as causes of Enlightenment, not in virtue

{qualification/distinction/discernment from 115}

Stitching: sentient beings ≠ great (but are conditions of Enlightenment)   —/—   Buddhas = Great (because Enlightened)

Overstitching: sentient beings are not great in themselves (cf. v. 114) [because they endlessly self-proliferate in a dualistic universe and suffer thereby – the Truth of Suffering & the Truth of the Cause of Suffering], but they are conditions of the path to full Awakening/Enlightenment   —/—   Buddhas are () great (‘Oceans of Virtue’ ()) in themselves [because they have transcended all duality and are () therefore Enlightened – the Truth of Cessation and the Truth of the Path to Cessation]

Reflection: this qualifies the assertion made in verse 115 (that there is a ‘greatness’ in both sentient beings and Buddhas), and builds on top of the qualification already established in verse 114 (that sentient beings are great in terms of the fruits/outcomes that they can be part of for a person on the path to Awakening), by having it that the part established by relying on sentient beings is definitely a significant part of achieving Awakening, but it is, nevertheless, only a part, it is not the whole ‘ocean’ of virtues; sentient beings are equal to the Buddhas in enabling the realisation of enlightened qualities; the factor of even a minute particle of friendliness within any being, high or low, is of immense power from the perspective of the bigger picture (i.e. will lead to Enlightenment in the long run) and therefore in this way there is a similarity with Enlightened Beings, a likeness; having friendliness is, after all, an expression of one’s true nature, one’s Buddha-nature, Buddhas are beings who have fully realised their nature, so there is a natural affinity between friendliness and Awakening … in terms of the effect; this is not a meritocracy, so much, as organic; it would seem that the greatness of sentient beings is as an object on which to rely and through which to develop the faculty of love and compassion which is essential for the realisation of Awakening, for the practitioner, i.e. ‘oneself’ in the Buddha/sentient beings/oneself trichotomy, there’s no other object that could be used to develop love and compassion, so the ‘greatness’ of sentient beings is, again, not innate, but in the sense of being indispensable, sentient beings are great in effect, not in kind (with the Buddhas); but sentient beings are not just a ‘stepping stone’ to get to Awakening – to be unwrapped and discarded when used – because the Bodhichita motivation galvanises the development of love/compassion far beyond just ‘sympathy’, it completes the care generated towards sentient beings by being able to do something about it – the development of love/compassion is not an end in itself; the Bodhisattva doesn’t stand on the banks wringing hands and wailing about the child drowning, they jump right in and get them out

Buddha/Sentient Beings/Oneself Trichotomy: taking all beings as a whole, they are either Enlightened, or not; but further differentiating ‘oneself’ from ‘sentient beings’ enables the dynamic of cultivating Awakening, of transforming one’s sentient being-ness to Enlightened-Being; the distinction (of ‘self’ and ‘other’) is already deeply there in us – our self-grasping from the start, our self-cherishing making it stronger – and it is only oneself that can make that transformation happen (we can’t make others Enlightened, and neither can Buddhas make others Enlightened), and if it is not oneself that cultivates Awakening, then the gulf between Enlightened and not-Enlightened is unbridgeable; so ‘oneself’ in the trichotomy is essential for that link between non-Enlightened/Enlightened to be made; furthermore, ‘oneself’ is not just escaping from sentient being to Enlightened Being, that would be far too extreme a result (Nirvāṇa despite saṃsāra – clever as this achievement would be), rather one is predisposed to finish the job because the whole distinction of Enlightened/not-Enlightened (oneself included) is an illusory – and rather painful illusion at that – distinction; more-so and actually, you can’t just keep the analysis of Enlightened/not-Enlightened beings ‘out there’, taking a grand macro-view of the whole situation as if you were doing a bit of metaphysical philosophy because, oneself is one of those non-Enlightened beings which is doing the analysis in the first place, one is part of the problem (one is the whole of the problem from one’s own point of view): in working to break down the self-grasping and the self-cherishing, the distinction between ‘self’ and ‘other’ breaks down, the distinction between ‘inner’ (i.e. the inner ‘me’) and ‘outer’ (the outer world) also breaks down, one is not making ‘oneself’ enlightened so much as enlighten-ing; the absolute differentiation of Enlightened and non-Enlightened has since become a-referential (that grey but perfectly defined smudge between inner cause and outer effect in the diagram … dissipate), the relative differentiation has become the ongoing practice of loving and compassionate activity …

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