Three sets of vows

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Ngari Panchen

The three sets of vows (Skt. trisaṃvara; Tib. སྡོམ་གསུམ་, dom sum, Wyl. sdom gsum) are:

  1. the vows of pratimoksha or of individual liberation (Tib. སོ་ཐར་གྱི་སྡོམ་པ་, sotar gyi dompa);
  2. the bodhisattva vows (Tib. བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའི་སྡོམ་པ་, changchub sempé dompa);
  3. the samayas of the secret mantrayana (Tib. གསང་སྔགས་ཀྱི་སྡོམ་པ་, sang ngag kyi dompa).

An alternative list is:

  1. The vows of pratimoksha;
  2. the dhyana vows; and
  3. the vows of undefilement.

Essence of the Vows

Dudjom Rinpoche said:

  • To abandon entirely all negative intentions and actions of body, speech and mind that might cause harm to others is the essence of the pratimoksha, or vows of individual liberation.
  • To practise wholeheartedly all types of virtue that bring benefit to others is the essence of the bodhisattva's vows.
  • At the root of these two is taming one's own unruly mind by means of mindfulness, vigilance and conscientiousness, and training oneself to recognize the all-encompassing purity of appearance and existence. This is the essence of the vows of secret mantra.[1]

Major Texts

Teachings Given to the Rigpa Sangha


Further Reading

  • Geshe Sonam Rinchen, The Bodhisattva Vow, translated and edited by Ruth Sonam, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2000
  • Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche, The Treasury of Knowledge, Book Five: Buddhist Ethics, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2003
  • Lama Mipham's Commentary to Nagarjuna's Stanzas for a Novice Monk and Tsongkhapa's Essence of the Ocean of Vinaya, translated by Glen H. Mullin and Lobsang Rapgay, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1978
  • Ngari Panchen, Perfect Conduct: The Absolute Certainty of the Three Vows with commentary by Dudjom Rinpoche, Boston: Wisdom, 1996
  • Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen, A Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes: Essential Distinctions among the Individual Liberation, Great Vehicle, and Tantric Systems, translated by Jared Rhoton, New York: SUNY, 2002
  • Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. Three-Vow Theories in Tibetan Buddhism: A Comparative Study of Major Traditions from the Twelfth through Nineteenth Centuries. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2002
  • Tsongkhapa, Tantric Ethics: An Explanation of the Precepts for Buddhist Vajrayana Practice, translated by Gareth Sparham, Boston: Wisdom, 2005

External Links