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Verse 17-1: Closing the door to the lower realms

Part of a series of talks on the 41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Ornament Sutra).

  • Chief cause of lower rebirth is negative karma
  • Closing the door means abandoning ten non-virtue and keeping vows well

41 Prayers to cultivate bodhicitta: Verse 17-1 (download)

We were talking about “May I open the door of liberation for all beings. This is the the practice of bodhisattva when opening a door.” Clearing away the obstacles, opening the path so that sentient beings can go through. Of course, the principal way a buddha or bodhisattva does that is by teaching, not by opening a literal door, not by crawling inside the brain and opening some neurons, not like that. They open the door though giving teachings.

And then the 17th one was:

“May I close the door to the lower forms of life for all beings.”
This is the practice of the bodhisattva when closing a door.

When opening the door, we’re opening the door to liberation. When closing the door, we’re closing the door to lower rebirths. How do we close the door to lower rebirths? Well the chief cause of lower rebirth is negative karma. So whenever we do any of the ten destructive actions, we are creating negative karma. So those ten destructive actions, three of them are physical, so they are killing, stealing and unwise sexual behavior; and then four verbal, lying, creating disharmony, speaking harshly and idle talk; and then three mental ones, coveting other people’s possessions, having malice, ill-will towards others and then distorted views.

Whenever we create those ten nonvirtues then we are opening the door for lower rebirth. So we don’t want to do that. Closing the door means abandoning those ten. Not only those ten, but when we take any kinds of vows, whether they’re pratimoksha vows or bodhisattva vows, tantric vows, then keeping those vows well, because when we transgress those, that’s also opening the door to the lower rebirths.

We have to practice this ourselves just like we’re talking yesterday, if we’re going to lead other sentient beings to the door of liberation, we better go through ourselves and not just hang back with our resistance and laziness and trying to tweak our Samsara to make it nicer, but go through that door to liberation. And similarly close the door to the lower rebirths. And so that means abandoning the ten non-virtues and then on that basis, then we can talk about closing the door to lower rebirths for other sentient beings which is what we’ll get into tomorrow.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.