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By Daniel Scharpenburg

Recently I made a formal and official commitment to follow the Bodhisattva Precepts.

I am a Bodhisattva Monk. My ordained name is Shi Zhao Dao, which means Venerable Shining Path.

Not everyone who takes Bodhisattva Vows is a Bodhisattva Monk. It’s a special commitment beyond the Vows.

The original Buddhist monks followed a set of vows called the Vinaya. Those monks are called Bhikkus and they have what we think of as traditional monastic vows; they must be celibate, they can’t accumulate wealth, etc.

They essentially are separate from the world—set apart so they can devote all of their time to overcoming delusion and generating wisdom. That is a good path to take and very respectable.

The way of the Bodhisattva Monk is different.

Bodhisattva Monks follow a list of vows found in a text called the Brahma Net Sutra. They are like Vinaya Monks in that they have a strong commitment to the practice and have dedicated their lives to it, but they also live in the world, not separate from it.

Whereas Vinaya Monks must be associated with a specific temple, that is not necessary for Bodhisattva Monks. Vinaya Monks are also held to very specific modes of practice and they don’t deviate from those. Bodhisattva Monks can take a more eclectic approach to the practice.

Because Bodhisattva Monks travel around to spread the Dharma, rather than simply staying in monasteries, they have historically done a great deal in spreading and preserving the teachings.

Bodhisattva Monks have been known to go spread the teachings in a lot of places where Vinaya Monks would never be found—among the common people.

The Bodhisattva Monk chooses to live in the world, approaching the world’s ills directly. They are often more secular and less bound by strict adherence to ritual. To the Bodhisattva Monk the process of awakening is more natural and not the product of rigid rituals.

Motivated only by compassion and strengthened by wisdom, the Bodhisattva Monk generates the mind of Awakening and undertakes vows to uphold the teachings and to help others attain Enlightenment.

As a Bodhisattva Monk I lead an ordinary life.

In my career I’m one of the little people that makes things happen. I have a wife and children. I’m not a Vinaya Monk. But I’m not a layman either. The Bodhisattva Monk is a different position from that paradigm.

The Bodhisattva Monk ideal functions on the premise of compassion. It is the heartfelt expression of compassion for all of humanity without exception. This necessitates cultivation of spiritual and moral perfection through cultivating the six paramitas: generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom.

This is a formal and deep commitment to Buddhist practice.

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Editor: Dana Gornall