Context of the 18 downfalls (Ākāśagarbhasūtra & Śikṣāsamuccaya)

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Context of the 18 downfalls (Ākāśagarbhasūtra & Śikṣāsamuccaya)

Post by Coëmgenu » Thu Sep 21, 2017 2:09 pm

From the Venerable Khenchen Kunzang Pelden (I have bolded two interesting downfalls):
In the first place, the things to be avoided comprise the eighteen root or fundamental downfalls, together with the two downfalls of giving up bodhicitta in intention and bodhicitta in action. The eighteen downfalls mentioned in the Ākāśagarbhasūtra are summarized in verse in Ven Śāntideva's Śikṣāsamuccaya
(1)To steal the Triple Jewel's possessions
Is said to be a downfall of complete defeat.
(2)The second downfall is to spurn the saddharma,
So the sage has said.
(3)The third is to assault the monks or to take their saffron robes-
Even from the ones who spoil their discipline,
To sentence them to jail, to kill
Or cause them to abandon their monastic state.
(4)The fourth is to commit the five sins of instant retribution.
(5)The fifth is to espouse wrong views.
(6)The sixth is to destroy a homestead and the rest:
All these are fundamental downfalls, so the sage has said.
(7)Then to set forth emptiness
To those whose minds are yet untrained;
(8)To turn those entering the path to buddhahood
Away from their complete enlightenment;
(9)To cause the ones who tread the path of pratimokṣa
To leave it for the Mahāyāna;
(10)To hold, and to lead others to believe,
That on the path of Hīnayāna learning
Craving and the like cannot be overcome;

(11) To praise oneself for sake of fame and wealth

[... to 18]
(Ven KKP, The Nectar of Mañjurśrī's Speech (jam dbyangs bla ma'i zhal lung bdud rtsi'i thig pa), commentary on Ven Śāntideva's Bodhicaryavatara, 141-2)[/quote]

For further context, the framing of the passage by Ven KKP:
When the root text says that Bodhisattvas "strive to never transgress" the disciplines of bodhicitta, this implies that it is pointless just to pretend to be learned and to make eloquent disquisitions tricked out with all sorts of examples concerning the Bodhisattva Precepts, ocean-vast as they are. The important thing is to have a general knowledge of what the Bodhisattva Precepts are and, in particular, to have a grasp of the crucial essence of these precepts. Regarding these precepts, one speaks, once gain, in terms og things to be avoided and things to be undertaken.

In the first place, the things to be avoided comprise the eighteen root or fundamental downfalls, together with the two downfalls of giving up bodhicitta in intention and bodhicitta in action. The eighteen downfalls mentioned in the Ākāśagarbhasūtra are summarized in verse in Ven Śāntideva's Śikṣāsamuccaya:

[here is omitted a dispensation of the 18 downfalls quoted in the first quote]

[...]

It is thus that the eighteen downfalls (the five downfalls liable to be committed by a king, the five liable to be committed by a minister, and the eight associated with ordinary people) are expounded, together with a method of confessing for them.
(Ven KKP, The Nectar of Mañjurśrī's Speech, 141-2)

Here is an issue: in the source material of the Buddhavacana, these are specifically downfalls for "beginner bodhisattvas". I do not have access to a version of the Śikṣāsamuccaya that I can easily and reliably check for this passage.

Ven KKP makes no mention of "beginner bodhisattvas", and lists the final downfalls are being those of "ordinary people". Similarly, he does not describe these as the "downfalls of X class of being" (save for X meaning "normal/ordinary"), which would imply that these downfalls only apply to certain contexts, instead, Ven KKP describes each downfall as "liable to be committed by X". Lending them an added universality, although not necessarily lending these downfalls complete universality.


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I would like to present a guess as to why Ven KKP seems to consider these offences to be "general Bodhisattva offenses" rather than "beginner bodhisattva offenses", looking back through the source text of the sūtra.

The part that I bolded in the OP seems to correspond to this passage in the source text:
“Furthermore, son of noble family, beginner bodhisattvas may say to some, ‘Son of noble family, eschew the discourses of the śrāvaka vehicle! Do not listen to them, do not read them, and do not teach them to others. Son of noble family, eschew the discourses of the śrāvaka vehicle! They are the reason why you cannot obtain the great result, why you are not able to eradicate the afflictions. Therefore, have faith in the discourses of the Mahāyāna. Listen to the Mahāyāna, study the Mahāyāna, and teach it to others. Thus you will not go to the lower realms, you will not enter any path leading to the lower realms, and swiftly you will manifestly and completely awaken to unsurpassable, perfectly complete enlightenment.’ If these words are spoken and the listener acts accordingly and adopts a similar view, then both actions incur a root transgression. This is the fourth root transgression of beginner bodhisattvas.
Ven Śāntideva renders it thusly:
"[not] To cause the ones who tread the path of prātimokṣa
To leave it for the Mahāyāna;"
Subtly different, and I can only imagine that is because the context of the rule/discourse is being adapted to a new setting and new circumstances. Interestingly enough, the rule also takes another subtly different expression in the lineage of bodhisattva vows attributed to the Venerable Nāgārjuna:
Turning self or others away from individual liberation or pratimoksha; to join the greater vehicle having rejected the pratimoksha vows.
(from this website.)

Either way, it seems that the leaving or abandoning of prātimokṣa is the issue, not the joining of Mahāyāna, probably because of the vow-breaking very likely implicitly involved in "caus[ing] the ones who tread the path of pratimokṣa/To leave it for the Mahāyāna", not because the path of prātimokṣa & Mahāyāna and necessarily identical, or anything similar of the like, does this strike one as contrived? I don't pretend to be solidly convinced on the matter, but it strikes me as a sensible conclusion. With this in mind, although it is a downfall of a "beginner bodhisattva", it strikes me as something that would also be a downfall for a "bodhisattva of unspecified attainment" (to a reasonable degree), to cause another to break his or her monastic vows, if what I have presented above is not riddled with errors.

Similarly, we have, from Ven Śāntideva:
To hold, and to lead others to believe,
That on the path of Hīnayāna learning
Craving and the like cannot be overcome;
The way that Ven Śāntideva phrases this is key here I think, and I alluded to it before. "Craving and the like" vs "ignorance and the like". If we interpret "and the like" to refer to complete and perfect awakening, then yes, Ven Śāntideva seems to be saying that bodhisattva and śrāvaka practice are identical and the same and have identical results. But given that he is most likely not saying this, it is likely that we are supposed to interpret this (and this is merely my own reading, which is subject to change) as saying that it is a hinderance, or a stumbling block, or whichever word for "bad thing" is preferable, to believe that on the path of Hīnayāna learning craving and the like cannot be overcome, because it is simply wrong. Craving, certainly, can be overcome on the "path of Hīnayāna learning", if we want to call it that. I don't think this is a controversial statement, but I am open to being wrong. Similarly, I would say that myriad kleśāḥ can be overcome on the "path of Hīnayāna learning". There are many things that I would say, IMO uncontroversially, can be overcome on the "path of Hīnayāna learning". Ven Śāntideva, we will note, does not talk about subtle ignorance being overcome on such a path.

Dealing with the sūtra, in the above quoted passage of the sūtra (not referring to the above quoted passage from the commentary), we have
"eschew the discourses of the śrāvaka vehicle! Do not listen to them, do not read them, and do not teach them to others. [...] They are the reason why you cannot obtain the great result"
Saying this, or variations of it, and having them come to lead someone to "adopt a similar view" (note: it does not actually say "convert to Mahāyāna", it says "adopt a similar view"), constitutes a pārājika (this point is not at all set in stone it seems, as that the commentary I am reading (by the Venerable Khenchen Kunzang Pelden) seems to regard the 18 downfalls as pārājika, while the commentators in the source sūtra here (source stolen from the user "Dharmic") seem to regard them lighter, as simply more generically named āpatti), but, for the sake of highlighting how the sūtra describes these āpatti or pārājika offenses on the Bodhisattva Path, from a little earlier in the sūtra:
Son of noble family, due to this root transgression, they will forfeit the entirety of their previously generated roots of virtue.
I think that there is a reason why the punishment is so severe. The person saying "eschew the discourses [etc]" fundamentally misunderstands the relationship that Mahāyāna sūtrāṇi have to comparatively more ancient scriptures. When someone says "eschew the discourses of the śrāvaka vehicle!" they are actually slandering a substantial amount of true and authentic Buddhavacana. Furthermore, when someone says "They are the reason why you cannot obtain the great result", I believe they are also mistaken, because they wrongly identify the reason why someone is not making progress. The Pāli Canon will not "hold you back" on the path (and this is a "rhetorical you" here), the Buddha's words are true and not false (Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra XVI). Even provisional teachings are perfectly "true" in their own specific way. Perhaps some views someone may hold regarding X subject will "hold them back". Perhaps some views someone may have been taught to hold by someone else regarding the interpretation of X or Y passage of Buddhavacana will "hold them back". Perhaps a lack of compassion, or diligence, or application will "hold them back," but I don't think, and maybe this is just me and my own eccentric interpretation, that the "discourses of the śrāvaka vehicle", be those particular discourses the Theravāda nikāyā, or the Sarvāstivāda āgamāḥ, or the scriptures of the Sautrāntikāḥ, for example, themselves "innately" lead away from progress on the path, or would be the "actual main cause", or reason, for backsliding or stagnating on the path. Relating to this, is the downfall in its context in the Śāntideva text itself:
If the beginner wins someone over to a false view of the kind expressed in these words, they both undergo a root downfall. This is the fourth root downfall of a beginner bodhisattva.
(Śikṣāsamuccaya LXI)

IMO, it is the wrong methodologies for conversion that are the problem here, and the proliferation of wrong views (attempts at "failed upāyāḥ"), that are the issue, and TBH I can't imagine these proliferations being less serious on some more comparatively advances stages of bodhisattvayāna than just "beginner".

How is this guess?
並畢竟空。並如來藏。並實相。非三 而三三而不三。非合非散而合而散。非非合非非散。不可一異而一異。
All three truths are ultimately empty, all are tathāgatagarbha, all are true aspect. Not three, they are three; three, they are not three. Neither combined nor separated, neither uncombined nor unseparated. Neither same nor different, yet in a sense same, and in a sense different.

夫三諦者。 天然之性徳也。 中諦者。 統一切法。 眞諦者。 泯一切法。 俗諦者。 立一切法。
The three truths. Heaven-sent natural characteristics. The middle truth unifies all dharmas. The ultimate truth demolishes all dharmas. The conventional truth establishes all dharmas.

摩訶止観始終心要Móhēzhǐguān, Shǐzhōngxīnyào.

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