Bhumi (Skt. bhūmi; Tib. ས་, 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 practitioners traverse on the path to enlightenment. There are the eight grounds of the Hinayana path, the ten bhumis in the Sutra Mahayana, with the eleventh being buddhahood, and thirteen in the Tantrayana. The Dzogchen teachings sometimes speak of sixteen bhumis.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has said:
- What makes a bhumi? Simply, it is a combination of wisdom and method. In Sanskrit, bhumi literally means earth, land or country – it can refer to many things. For example, in Indonesia, the language has a lot of Sanskrit influence. In their official forms, they use words like ‘bhumiputra’ when they talk of citizenship. We use the name ‘bhumi’ for the combination of wisdom and method because the ground or earth acts like a container for all things to function. For example, you can hoist this tent because of the ground. Likewise, all the enlightened qualities can grow on the base of the combination of wisdom and method.
- Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Introduction to the Middle Way, Khyentse Foundation, 2003, p.24