There Is No Suffering 29

The third gate is no-vow. Bodhisattvas vow to attain buddhahood and to deliver sentient beings. The path to buddhahood must begin with vows, otherwise there would be no clear direction, no enduring will, no motivation. We ordinary beings need vows to persist in practice, and so we repeat the four great vows of a bodhisattva and the ten vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.14 As ordinary sentient beings, we must continue to make vows. Even bodhisattvas at the first through seventh bhumis15 continue to vow to help all sentient beings. At the eighth bhumi, however, there is no longer any effort or intention to make vows, for at this level there is no longer any notion of a self.16 If there is no self, there will be no corresponding notions of sentient beings to deliver, or buddhahood to attain. Nonetheless, bodhisattvas still respond compassionately and appropriately to the needs of sentient beings. Only at this level of no-vows is bodhisattva truly liberated. This does not mean that one ceases to exist. As far as buddhas and great bodhisattvas are concerned, notions of existence and non-existence do not apply. Sentient beings, on the other hand, see things differently.

Experience of Prajna

A bodhisattva who “courses in the deep prajnaparamita” has attained perfection and liberation, has crossed the ocean of suffering to the other shore. Is there deep prajna and shallow prajna? Why should wisdom have different levels? We can explain it in two ways. On the level of experience, there is a difference in the wisdom attained by an ordinary person, a bodhisattva at the first bhumi, and a bodhisattva beyond the eighth bhumi.