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  • Dianne McKinnon

Bodhisattva Vows

At the auspicious time of the approaching Lunar New Year, Geshela sent along these instructions in regard to the methods and steps of taking the Bodhisattva Vows.

There are two vows relating to bodhicitta– aspiring and engaging. As for receiving them, one can take these vows themselves by means of the ritual that utilizes recitation of verses from chapter three in The Way of the Bodhisattva.

Note: You can use any translation of Way of the Bodhisattva that you prefer. Dr. Alexander Berzin has made his translation available on his website here:

Aspiring Bodhicitta: aspiring to develop bodhicitta and be bodhisattva in the future, and Engaging Bodhicitta: pledging to presently generate bodhicitta and take up the activities and conduct of a bodhisattva. The vows can be taken separately on different occasions, or together at the same time.

How to Take the Vow(s)

1. Recitation of the 7 Limb Prayer (as in the Seven-Limb Prayer to Arya Tara, or the concise Seven- Limb Prayer**)

2. Recitation of the Vows ( options a, b, c)

a. Aspiration Bodhicitta- recite first two lines of verse 23 and first two of 24 ( 3x)*

b. Engaging Bodhicitta -recite second two lines of verses 23 and second two of 24 (3x)*

c. Both taken together- recite (entire) verse 23 and 24 (3x)***

3. Conclude with the recitation of a few uplifting Verses of celebration, and Rejoicing chosen from among vs. 26- 34. Any verses that personally resonate for the one taking the vows can be recited. Geshela mentioned that HHDL as part of the conclusion, also very often recites this verse below (from the dedication chapter) after bestowing Bodhisattva vows.

And now as long as space endures,

As long as there are beings to be found,

May I continue likewise to remain

To drive away the sorrows of the world

** Short Seven-Limb Prayer

Whatever merit I have accumulated through prostrating, offering, confessing, rejoicing in the merits of others, exhorting and beseeching, I dedicate all towards the highest perfect enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

* The vow is placed/received with the final words of the last line of the third recitation.

The Bodhisattva Vow ( aspiring and engaging)***

Just as the buddhas of the past gave rise to bodhicitta and progressed along the bodhisattva path, I too, for the benefit of all sentient beings, give rise to bodhicitta and apply myself to accomplish the stages of the path.

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