Bhumi (Skt. bhūmi; Wyl. sa), stage or level — the word bhumi literally means ‘ground’. Just as the ground is the support for everything, both animate and inanimate, the bhumis are said to be ‘supports’ for enlightened qualities. So this term is used when referring to the stages a bodhisattva traverses on the path to enlightenment. There are ten bhumis in the Sutrayana, with the eleventh being buddhahood, and thirteen in the Tantrayana. The Dzogchen teachings sometimes speak of sixteen bhumis.
Luis Gomez has written:
- ...the translations "ground, earth," etc. for bhūmi may be examples of Buddhist Hybrid English (I am not sure "the first bodhisattva ground" makes much sense). The Skt. word means essentially the surface of the earth, any habitable surface, or one on which one can stand, hence it also means the floor of a house or building, hence, "story" (as in British "storey") or "level," and then, metaphorically as in English, "stage" or "ranking." I realize that saying that a bodhisattva progresses through ten levels or stages does not sound very poetical, but going through "ten grounds" is not poetical either.
- Luis O. Gómez, 'The Way of the Translators: Three Recent Translations of Sântideva's Bodhicaryâvatâra'. Buddhist Literature I (1999) p.310.