[INDOLOGY] Caste system and Buddhism

Matthew Kapstein mkapstei at uchicago.edu
Sat Jun 4 21:37:31 UTC 2016

Dear friends,

The Bodhisattvabhumi does indeed teach that the bodhisattva may violate the vows of the pratimoksa
if motivated by compassion on behalf of beings. I don't have the Engle translation, or the time right now
to locate the passage in Skt., but in Mark Tatz's translation of the relevant section (Tatz, Asanga's Chapter
on Ethics with the Commentary of Tsong-kha-pa), we read (pp. 214-215):

"The object is a robber, thief, etc. who is .... about to murder many hundreds of auditors ... and bodhisattvas for
the sake of a few material goods. ... Seeing someone like this, he thinks, 'If I slay him, I myself may be reborn in hell. Nevertheless that would be far better...........' Should he take life in this way there is no fault, but a
spread of much merit."

and so on with examples that follow of righteous theft, sexual misconduct, etc.

In other words, in particular extreme circumstances, the bodhisattva vow overrides the pratimoksa.

Forgive the missing diacritical marks.

all best,

Matthew Kapstein
Directeur d'études,
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
The University of Chicago

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