Twenty Sanghas

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Twenty Sanghas (Tib. དགེ་འདུན་ཉི་ཤུ་, gendün nyishu, Wyl. dge 'dun nyi shu) — an enumeration of the sanghas found in the Basic Vehicle. In The Ornament of Clear Realization, these twenty sanghas are used to illustrate the twenty sanghas of the Great Vehicle.

In the prajnaparamita sutras, forty-eight kinds of bodhisattvas are taught, but they can be condensed into the twenty Basic Vehicle Sanghas. The Ornament of Clear Realization mentions that the reason for imputing the names of the twenty Basic Vehicle Sanghas to the Great Vehicle Sanghas is that this will benefit and take care of the shravakas, through showing them their similarity.

In the explicit presentation of the Ornament of Clear Realization's root text, according to Haribhadra, there are fifteen or seventeen kinds (depending on whether the three types of 'leapers' are counted together as one or separately), whereas Vimuktisena considers there are sixteen kinds. The remaining ones are shown implicitly.

Within the five general categories of stream-enterers, once-returners, non-returners, emerging arhats and pratyekabuddhas, there are further twenty subdivisions of sangha.

The Twenty Sanghas of the Basic Vehicle

The following presentation follows Mipham Rinpoche's word by word commentary on the Ornament of Clear Realization, the White Lotus Garland.

- The five stream-enterers

  • 1-2) There are the two emerging stream-enterers, those with dull faculties and those with sharp faculties, who abide in any of the 15 moments of the path of seeing and who strive to accomplish the discards and realization of a stream-enterer. The former are also called followers who gain confidence through faith, and the latter are also called followers of Dharma or 'those who attain through seeing'.
  • 3) Following that, the merely established stream-enterer abides in the 16th moment of the path of seeing and has either not relinquished any discards of the desire realm's path of meditation, or has relinquished some of the emotional discards of the desire realm, up to the fifth.
  • 4-5) Such a merely established stream-enterer can then become one of the two special[1] established stream-enterers, who take birth in the desire realm and then migrate from the class of humans or gods to the same class.

- The three returners

  • 6) After the state of stream-enterer has been attained, an emerging returner is someone who has relinquished through the path of meditation up to and including the fifth emotional obscuration of the desire realm, and is striving to relinquish the sixth. They are either of dull faculties (follower who gain confidence through faith) or of sharp faculties (who attain through seeing).
  • 7) A merely established returner has relinquished six emotional obscurations of the desire realm and abides in the path of liberation (the antidote). They will be reborn twice in the desire realm, but not twice in the same class.
  • 8) Once this merely established returner has removed the 7th or 8th emotional obscuration of the desire realm's path of meditation and attained the antidote of the untainted path, they still need to be reborn once as a god of the desire realm. Since there is still one life left, these special established returners are called those with one obstacle.

- The ten non-returners

  • 9) The emerging non-returner is someone who is striving to discard the 9th emotional obscuration of the desire realm. They are either of sharp faculties (those who attain through seeing) or dull faculties (followers who gain confidence through faith).
  • 10) Established non-returners have relinquished the nine emotional obscurations of the desire realm and have attained the antidote of that. If they then discard the fetters of the form realm, but not discard the fetters which give rise to the intermediate state, they go to the form realm's intermediate state and actualize the path there. They are then called those who attain nirvana in the intermediate state.
  • 11) Those who attain nirvana upon being born are those who have not relinquished the two fetters[2] and are born in the form realm, where they then put an end to suffering.
  • 12) With effort are those who are born in the form realm, but then need to make effort to actualize the path and reach the end of suffering.
  • 13) Without effort are those who are born in the form realm, and then actualize the path and pass beyond suffering, without having to make any effort.
  • 14) If these non-returners are born in the Heaven of Brahma and then progress to Akanishtha, they are called leapers. If they are born in the Heaven of Brahma, then progress to a few lower pure heavens in between, and finally go to Akanishtha, they are called half-leapers. If they pass through all the abodes of the form realm and finally progress to Akanishtha, they are called those who die and transmigrate in all abodes. All these who transmigrate to the higher realms can be condensed into the three leapers.
  • 15) If those non-returners who are in possession of a life-support of the desire realm, proceed to one of the form realms (up to Great Fruition), but then disregard the Five Pure Heavens and proceed to the formless realms, which they traverse gradually, and then actualize nirvana with a life-support of the Peak of Existence, they are called those who progress to the highest peak of existence. Another name for them is those who progress to the form realms.
  • 16) Those who progress to the formless realms are those with a life-support of the desire realm who subdue attachment to form (since they relinquish the discards of the form realm's path of meditation) and then attain the state of arhat with a life-support of the formless realm.
  • 17) Those who see peace in their present life are those who attain the state of non-returner and then actualize the peace of an arhat with the same life-support in which they saw the truth. An example of this is the supreme pair, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana.
  • 18) Some non-returners become those who actualize nirvana with the body in which they attained the absorption of cessation. They are different from those who progress to the form and formless realms.

- Arhats

  • 19) Emerging arhats are those who have relinquished the peak of existence's 8th discard of the path of meditation and are striving to discard the 9th. Established arhats can be divided into the adorned arhat who is liberated from both the emotional obscurations and the obscurations of absorption, and the unadorned arhat who attained liberation based on intelligence, and who is only liberated from the emotional obscurations. If they are divided according to their faculties, there are those who gain confidence through faith and those who attain through seeing. Here, the two of established arhats and emerging arhats are counted as one.
  • 20) If a buddha has not come [into the world], they will become pratyekabuddhas and remain solitary like a rhinoceros.

The Twenty Sanghas of the Great Vehicle

- The five stream-enterers

  • 1) Those who enter merely by faith are bodhisattvas who migrate from the human realm back to the human realm. They posses dull faculties and are not able to quickly obtain the dharanis, meditations and so on. They obtain meditative concentration, but since they are not skilled in means they cannot revert being born as a long-lived god, after which they are born again as humans.
  • 2) Those who attain through seeing are born here in the human realm, coming from Tushita or other buddha fields. They posses sharp faculties and quickly acquire qualities, such as the fact that, even though they have a mind of the higher realms, they are not born there, but take birth in pure realms in order to please the buddhas.
  • 3) A merely established stream-enterer is a bodhisattva who abides in the 16th moment of the path of seeing of the Great Vehicle
  • 4-5) Then there are those who take birth among the two classes of humans and gods, even though they have obtained the mind of the two higher realms, in order to benefit beings.

- The three returners

  • 6) The bodhisattva who possesses extraordinary faith and wisdom is given the name of an emerging returner.
  • 7) A merely established noble bodhisattva achieves enlightenment after having returned once to this world.
  • 8) Those who, although they have attained the eighteen unshared attributes of a buddha, in order to venerate the buddhas and benefit beings, delay the attainment of buddhahood with one life, are called those with one obstacle.

- The ten non-returners

  • 9) The bodhisattva who abides on the eighth bhumi, whether of sharp or dull faculties, is called an emerging non-returner.
  • 10) Those who attain buddhahood in the intermediate realm [i.e. the form realm] are those who attain nirvana in the intermediate state.
  • 11) Those who, after being born in this world, awaken to buddhahood in front of the bodhi tree and then teach the Dharma for an eon, or even longer than an eon, are called those who attain nirvana upon being born.
  • 12) Those who make enormous effort to benefit beings are called with effort.
  • 13) Those who make little effort are called without effort.
  • 14) Those who migrate from the Heaven of Brahma up to Akanishtha, ([but skipping Great Brahma,])[3] and then awaken to buddhahood are those who progress to Akanishtha. Leapers are those who meditate on the four meditative concentrations, [but then regress]. After they attain the first again, they progress from the stage of the Heaven of Brahma to Akanishtha, and finally attain buddhahood. Half-leapers are those who, after they pass away in the Heaven of Brahma, cross over one or two pure heavens and finally transmigrate to Akanishtha, where they attain enlightenment. Those transmigrators of all abodes are born in all the seventeen abodes, where they benefit beings. These are the three leapers.
  • 15) Those who progress to the highest peak of existence are born in the form realm, since they have obtained the mind of the two higher realms (except for the pure heavens), and then attain buddhahood.
  • 16) Those who subdue attachment to form are those who awaken to buddhahood once they trained their minds in the formless absorptions.
  • 17) Bodhisattvas who are in their last existence and will attain enlightenment in that very life are those who see peace in their present life.
  • 18) Non-returners who actualize with the body are those who achieve the meditation of direct crossing, after which they actualize the absorption of cessation by means of the 'body' of intelligence.

- Arhats

  • 19) A bodhisattva on the tenth ground is called an emerging arhat, since he or she is actualizing enlightenment and emerging as a buddha.
  • 20) A noble bodhisattva who acts for the benefit of beings in realms where there are no buddhas nor shravakas, is called a rhinoceros.

Notes

  1. Special here means that they make effort to attain a higher result.
  2. The two fetters here are the emotions which cause one to be reborn in the form realm and in the intermediate state of the form realm.
  3. Since the only ones being born there are universal monarchs, they skip this realm.