Eighteen root downfalls

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Eighteen root downfalls (Tib. རྩ་ལྟུང་བཅོ་བརྒྱད་, Wyl. rtsa ltung bco brgyad) — according to the tradition of Profound View, and following specifically the Akashagarbha Sutra, and Shantideva's Compendium of Training and other texts, these are the main actions to be avoided once one has taken the bodhisattva vow. They consist of the five downfalls of the king, the five downfalls of the minister, and the eight downfalls of ordinary people. Two further downfalls, abandoning the bodhichitta of aspiration and action, are sometimes added to make a total of twenty downfalls.

Five Downfalls of a King

The five downfalls of the king are so called because people in positions of power are liable to commit them. But of course they are downfalls for anyone who has taken the bodhisattva vow. They are:

  1. With an evil intention, to take the property of the Three Jewels or to induce others to do the same.
  2. To repudiate any of the three vehicles or to lead someone into the belief that they do not constitute the path to liberation.
  3. To rob, beat, imprison or kill wearers of the monastic robe, or to force them to return to lay status.
  4. To commit any of the five crimes with immediate retribution.
  5. To hold wrong views.

Five Downfalls of a Minister

The first downfall of a minister is to destroy a homestead, village, small town, large town, or region. The other four downfalls correspond to the first four downfalls of a king.

Eight Downfalls of Ordinary People

  1. To teach emptiness to those who are unprepared for it, since they will abandon bodhichitta.
  2. Consciously to direct people of a Mahayana disposition away from the Mahayana path.
  3. By injudicious praise of the Mahayana, to lead people of a Hinayana disposition to give up their pratimoksha vows.
  4. To maintain that following the Hinayana path does not eradicate defilements or that the shravakas do not have an authentic path to liberation.
  5. To criticize bodhisattvas openly and to praise oneself.
  6. To claim falsely that one has realized the profound view.
  7. To encourage powerful people to persecute practitioners, and secretly to appropriate offerings.
  8. To disrupt the practice of meditators by appropriating their goods, or disturb those engaged in shamatha meditation with bad rules and regulations.