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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

on 12 July 2011
If you're looking at this book it's probably because you're interested in Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism is the school of Buddhism in which practitioners seek to follow Buddha's teachings on how to attain full enlightenment (as opposed to the lesser enlightenment of personal liberation or 'nirvana'). A person who has the spontaneous wish to attain full enlightenment as the best way to benefit all living beings is called a 'Bodhisattva'. A Bodhisattva takes and keeps the Bodhisattva vow as a way of strengthening their pure wish and protecting themselves from losing it. Even before we become an actual Bodhisattva we can begin to gain familiarity with this vow and put it into practice to the best of our ability, this is of huge personal benefit, benefits everyone around us and prepares the path to enlightenment for us. This book is a practical guide to understanding, taking and maintaining this vow for the interested reader and the sincere practitioner alike.
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on 20 January 2001
An indispensable guidebook for those who have taken the Bodhisattva vows or are considering doing so. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso outlines the Root and Secondary downfalls of a Bodhisattva and presents methods for purifying broken commitments. The text is accompanied by extensive explanations of the practice of the six perfections. Very useful.
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on 14 August 2011
Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a fully qualified Buddhist Master, and this becomes immediately obvious when reading his books.
The Bodhisatva Vow is a perfect commentary to the a set of vows taken once you become a Buddhist. Introducing commitments and behaviours into you life in order to become a wiser and more compassionate person is an essential part of being a Buddhist. This book describes this area perfectly.
No one, in my experience, explains the wonderful intricacies of Buddhist Philosophy in such a clear and simple way. This is a truly a masterful book that I feel very fortunate to have encountered.
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on 1 February 2009
This is a useful book, about the practice of the 35 Confession Buddhas (a karmic purification practice) and the Bodhisattva's root and secondary vows (or 'training pledges'), associated with the Mahayana vehicle.

However, Kelsang Gyatso*, the author of this text, made a remarkable mistake, I wish to point out in this review, because it has to be seen in the context of the author's organisation, the New Kadampa Tradition - IKBU (aka as "Kadampa Buddhism"), in which he encourages and emphasizes the totally reliance on himself as the sole authentic (contemporary) Buddhist authority and actively discourages his followers to read other books, because this would 'confuse' them.

Kelsang Gyatso claims on page 23 the 34th Bodhisattva vow would be:
"34 'Preferring to rely upon books rather than our Spiritual Guide'
The root of Dharma realizations is sincere reliance upon our Spiritual Guide. If we neglect this practice and prefer to acquire our understanding from books, we incur a secondary downfall."

This is incorrect and misleading.

The vow is: "Deprecating him and referring to the letter". This has two meanings: not to be disrespectful to the teacher, and secondly: not to rely on his words literally; one has to look for the meaning of the teachers' words.

Je Tsongkhapa, based on Asanga's Commentary, explains the 34th Bodhisattva training pledge as follows:

>>"Deprecating him and referring to the letter."<<
"To deliberately discount the person speaking doctrine - not sincerely conceiving of him as a spiritual adviser and a teacher - and to fail to pay respect to him with one's body, while ridiculing him with humiliating [questions] and making sarcastic remarks with harsh words, and referring to the literary expression in the sense of making much of it, is a defiled fault.

Briefly, if the words are not good but the meaning is good he fails to rely upon the meaning, whereas if the words are good but the meaning is not he does rely upon it. Some would have it that the deprecation amounts to saying to the preacher that his teaching is only literary expression, without meaning, or that the meaning is incomprehensible--in other words, failing to enter into the spirit of the letter. This should be taken as explained earlier in the Bodhisattva Bhumi in context of the four points of reference.

Jinaputra and Samudra further gloss this as a misdeed of 'disrespect for the doctrine'.

These three misdeeds are explained by the new commentary as failing, respectively, in eliminating bad view, in application to study, and in service to the lama, [all] as part of collecting wholesomeness. 'Makes his reference the letter' is explained as relying upon the literary expression in the sense of discounting the person who is speaking doctrine."

(quoted from Asanga's Chapter on Ethics With the Commentary of Tsong-Kha-Pa: The Basic Path to Awakening, the Complete Bodhisattva, page 232)

As I said above this book of Kelsang Gyatso claims instead that it would be a fault in the Bodhisattva Ethic: "Preferring to rely on books, rather than to rely on our spiritual guide".

I don't know if Kelsang Gyatso invented this vow or not but this claim is defacto not correct when compared with the origin Indian or Gelug authoritative scriptures or even temporary commentaries-ecxept the LTWA edition which seem to have copy and pasted from Kelsang Gyatso's list of the vows...

It was Je Tsongkhapa himself who distrusted Tibetan authors much and was very keen to check if what had been said about Buddha's teachings is in accordance with Indian (Sanskrit) scriptures. Je Tsongkhapa remarked if something is in contraction to the origin Indian sources it should not be accepted.

The spin of this vow it would be a secondary downfall to 'Prefer to rely upon books rather than our Spiritual Guide' is the complete opposite of Je Tsongkhapa's own approach and invites to follow blind devotion.

Explanation of the Buddhist practices explained in the book without such errors can be found in:
Confession of Downfalls, published by LTWA, and in
The Bodhisattva Vow by Geshe Sonam Rinchen.

The most genuine and precise commentary on the Bodhisattva vows in the context of the Gelug school is the quoted text by Asanga and Je Tsongkhapa:
Asanga's Chapter on Ethics With the Commentary of Tsong-Kha-Pa: The Basic Path to Awakening, the Complete Bodhisattva

* Usually the author is known to hold a Geshe degree, however different sources (e.g. his monastery Sera Je Dratsang, Newsweek or the Tibetan Government in Exile) dispute this claim.
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on 14 September 2014
Great read
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on 24 September 2015
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