Buddha-field

Vimalakirti I thought I’ll take a break from my Hades Moon for a bit.

My Buddhist group is currently studying The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: A Mahayana Scripture (alternatively known as the
Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra). We covered Chapter One* last week called ‘The Purification of the Buddha-field’, which led to a discussion of what that ‘buddha-field’ might be.

Originally, I thought it might be something akin to an aura, but looking at the formal definitions, which describe it as a ‘field of influence’ (of a buddha or bodhisattva) that transcends time and space, I realised it is something far more abstract. Robert Thurman describes it as being akin to a ‘buddha-verse’, as in ‘uni-verse’, which makes the concept a bit easier to grasp.


In the chapter, there is a long list of how one might encounter a bodhisattva‘s buddha-field:

“Yet, Ratnakara, a bodhisattva’s buddha-field is a field of positive thought. When he attains enlightenment, living beings free of hypocrisy and deceit will be born in his buddha-field.

“Noble son, a bodhisattva’s buddha-field is a field of high resolve. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who have harvested the two stores and have planted the roots of virtue will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field is a field of virtuous application. When he attains enlightenment living beings who live by all virtuous principles will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field is the magnificence of the conception of the spirit of enlightenment. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who are actually participating in the Mahayana will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field is a field of generosity. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who give away all their possessions will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field is a field of tolerance. When he attains enlightenment, living beings with the transcendences of tolerance, discipline, and the superior trance – hence beautiful with the thirty-two auspicious signs – will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field is a field of meditation. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who are evenly balanced through mindfulness and awareness will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field is a field of wisdom. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who are destined for the ultimate will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field consists of the four immeasurables. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who live by love, compassion, joy, and impartiality will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field consists of the four means of unification. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who are held together by all the liberations will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field is skill in liberative technique.

When he attains enlightenment, living beings skilled in all liberative techniques and activities will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field consists of the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment. Living beings who devote their efforts to the four foci of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four bases of magical power, the five spiritual faculties, the five strengths, the seven factors of enlightenment, and the eight branches of the holy path will be born in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field is his mind of total dedication. When he attains enlightenment, the ornaments of all virtues will appear in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field is the doctrine that eradicates the eight adversities. When he attains enlightenment, the three bad migrations will cease, and there will be no such thing as the eight adversities in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field consists of his personal observance of the basic precepts and his restraint in blaming others for their transgressions. When he attains enlightenment, even the word ‘crime’ will never be mentioned in his buddha-field.

“A bodhisattva’s buddha-field is the purity of the path of the ten virtues. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who are secure in long life, great in wealth, chaste in conduct, enhanced by true speech, soft-spoken, free of divisive intrigues and adroit in reconciling factions, enlightening in their conversations, free of envy, free of malice, and endowed with perfect views will be born in his buddha-field.

“Thus, noble son, just as is the bodhisattva’s production of the spirit of enlightenment, so is his positive thought. And just as is his positive thought, so is his virtuous application.

As we discussed in the group, while these qualities are, on the one hand, a list of a bodhisattva’s perfections, which may forever elude us; they are also, on the other hand, a list of aspirations. Should we even achieve a few of them, perhaps our own buddha-fields may go a small way in influencing others?

*Robert Thurman’s translation is available online, and his audio and video teachings on the sutra can be found here.

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3 Responses to Buddha-field

  1. Jane Streeter says:

    Check out Robert Thurman’s teachings of Vimalakirti Sutras on his podcast.

    http://www.bobthurmanpodcast.com

  2. hitchhiker72 says:

    Hi Jane, thanks for this. I’ll add it to the post.

  3. monica says:

    This was really helpful, I didn’t read the book yet, but I heard a speaking on it on a podcast from the Village Zendo in NY. Your entry cleared up a lot of the confusion I had about the Buddha Field.

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