questions on bodhisattva vow

Tenzin Bob Thurman tbt7 at COLUMBIA.EDU
Thu Dec 18 02:24:31 UTC 2008

Hi Allen,

These questions are raised and debated interminably – supporting the 
doctrine that all teachings and theories about the relative reality are 
interpretable in nature. They say there are three ways of a bodhisattbva 
becoming a buddha, like a cowherd, like a ferryman, and like a king. The 
cowherd gets all the herd into the pasture then enters himself, the 
ferryman and passengers reach the shore at the same time, and the king 
firstr assums the royal position and power, and then lifts his kingdom 
into exaltation. The aspirational vow you mention expresses the 
sentiment of the former type, but the actual method is to fist become 
buddha and then help others become enlightened.

Another way to think about it is that upon attaining buddhahood, one;s 
awafreness expands into all three times, an so the future moments of 
other beings' attainment of nirvana and buddhahood become present to the 
bodhisattva in buddha-transition and so she has no sense of abandoning 
them for her own nirvana.


Allen W Thrasher wrote:
> The bodhisattva takes a vow not to enter into Nirvana until all other sentient beings have done so before him.
> 1.  Does this mean never?
> 2.  If so, is it because some beings are permanently disqualified from nirvana?
> 3.  Or is it that they are literally infinite in number, and so though each will eventually enter it, there will always be more?  (I'm not sure this makes sense logically, but I'm asking what's said.)
> 4.  Or do new sentient beings somehow get started, replacing the ones that have entered into nirvana?  (I can't remember any S.Asian source that says new sentient beings come into existence, except (according to B. L. Atreya somewhere, the YogavAsiSTHa).
> 5.  Are these or similar questions ever raised at all?
> Allen
> Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
> Senior Reference Librarian
> Team Coordinator
> South Asia Team, Asian Division
> Library of Congress, Jefferson Building 150
> 101 Independence Ave., S.E.
> Washington, DC 20540-4810
> tel. 202-707-3732; fax 202-707-1724; athr at
> The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of Congress.

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list