Part of a series of talks on the 41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Ornament Sutra).
- The four, three, and two buddha bodies
- The causes to attain the buddha bodies
- The two collections: merit and wisdom
- The two wings of a bird
“May all beings attain the form buddha bodies.”
This is the prayer of the bodhisattva when getting up.
The last several verses have brought up the topic of the four buddha bodies, or sometimes it’s said to be three buddha bodies. And these can all be condensed into two buddha bodies.
If we condense them then we have the dharmakaya (the truth body, the mind of the Buddha), and the rupakaya (or form body, which is the physical manifestation of the Buddha.) These have parallels as to what are their causes and so forth.
For example, the principal cause of attaining the Buddha’s form bodies (which are the ones that we prayed that we and other sentient beings can attain in the fifth verse—it says “may all beings attain the form bodies of the Buddha, this is the prayer of the bodhisattva when getting up.”) To attain the form body of the Buddha the principal cause is the collection of merit. And to attain the truth body of the Buddha the principal cause is the collection of wisdom.
Now, to gain the collection of merit then we want to practice the method side of the path, which entails the determination to be free (or renunciation), and compassion, and the bodhisattva practices such as generosity, ethical conduct, patience, and so forth. And to gather the collection of wisdom then we want to practice the wisdom side of the path. And in the six far-reaching practices that’s chiefly the practice of the last one, far-reaching wisdom. But it’s often combined with the far-reaching meditative stabilization, which can also sometimes be included in the method aspect of the path, in the collection of merit. Because we also need meditative stabilization to generate bodhicitta and to do those practices. And then effort goes in both the method side of the path and the wisdom side of the path.
We have, on one hand, method and wisdom. And then that goes up to the collection of merit and the collection of wisdom. And then those ripen (I’m doing respectively here) those ripen in the form bodies of the Buddha and the truth bodies of the Buddha.
The form bodies are the ways that the buddhas directly help us by manifesting. And the truth bodies are the Buddha’s mind, and then the empty nature of that mind and the true cessations in that mindstream.
This is very, very helpful to understand as you’re going along the path. Because they often say that just as birds need two wings to fly, then as practitioners we need both aspects of the path: the method and the wisdom, to collect merit and to collect wisdom, to attain the form body and the truth body.