Twenty Verses-Bodhisattva Vow

Bodhisattvasamvaravimsaka (Byang chub sems dpa’i sdom pa nyi shu pa)

by Chandragomin

(Please note that this is different from the Bodhisattva Vows given in the mahayana Brahma Net Sutra and observed by mahayana monks and nuns. Although both versions of the Bodhisattva Vows are Indian in origin, this text is taken from the Tibetan Canon, while the Brahma Net Sutra is from the Chinese Canon. Remember that different precepts are given at different times to different followers to address different karmic conditions.)

Homage to youthful Manjushri!


  • Pay homage with reverence and offer what you can to the Buddhas and their children.  This is the code of Bodhisattvas existing everywhere, throughout time.
  • Take that treasury of all merit, with an excellent intention, from a spiritual teacher with ability who observes the vow and is learned in it.
  • Then, because it is definite, Buddhas and their children with their virtuous hearts will always consider you their beloved child.


  •  For others and also for yourself, do what is useful even if painful, and what is both useful and pleasurable, not what gives pleasure but is of no use.
  • Coming from strong disturbing emotions [the four binding factors or “great contaminations” of 1) not wanting to stop but wishing to repeat the action, 2) lacking shame and decency, 3) taking joy and delight in the action, and 4) seeing nothing wrong with the action], they are what destroy the vow.  All four of their transgressions are considered to be like defeats.
    1. With attachment to reward, respect and service, praising oneself or disparaging others;
    2. Out of miserliness not giving teaching or wealth to the suffering and unprotected.
    3. Not heeding the confession of others; striking them in anger;
    4. Rejecting the Great Vehicle; giving a counterfeit of the excellent teachings.

The vow should be taken again [if any of the above four transgressions occur along with all of the four disturbing emotions or binding factors or contaminations].  Confess moderate contamination to three [people] and [minor contamination] to one.  The rest, with and without disturbing emotions, are similarly [confessed in] one’s own mind.

    1. Robbing what belongs to the Three Jewels is a downfall likened to a defeat.
    2. Rejecting the excellent teachings is named as the second by the Subduer.
    3. The third is to seize the robes, strike or put in prison, demote from ordination or deprive of life even a monk with faulty discipline.
    4. Performing the five heinous actions [patricide, matricide, killing a Foe Destroyer, causing schism in the spiritual community, and drawing blood from an enlightened being with the intention to harm], holding wrong views [not believing in the law of cause and effect or that there are no past and future lives], also destroying villages and so forth were said to be basic downfalls by the Subduer.
    5. Speaking about emptiness to a living being whose mind has not been prepared; making those engaged in [attaining] Buddhahood turn away from complete enlightenment; after they have given up individual liberation, involving them in the Great Vehicle.
    6. Saying and convincing them that the Learners’ Vehicle cannot eliminate attachment and so forth; also making them enter [the Great Vehicle].
    7. Speaking about one’s own good qualities and disparaging others for reward, respect and for the sake of verses.
    8. Saying what is false [such as] “I can tolerate the profound.”
    9. Having practitioners of virtue fined, and accepting what was given and donated to the Three Jewels.
    10. Making them give up calm abiding and giving to those who perform recitation the resources of practitioners of concentration—These are the basic downfalls which are causes for the hell realms of living beings.  They should be confessed in dream kneeling before Exalted Essence of Space.

Contrary to the practice of the perfection of giving:

  • Not offering the three [physical acts of homage, words of praise, and mental acts of faith] to the Three Jewels;
  • Following thoughts of desire;
  • Not respecting one’s seniors;
  • Giving no answer to questions.
  • Not accepting invitations;
  • Not taking such things as gold;
  • Not giving to those who seek teaching;

Contrary to the perfection of the practice of ethical discipline:

  • Disdaining [ignoring or deprecating] the immoral [those who have created any of the five heinous actions or any of the basic downfalls].
  • Not training for the sake of others’ faith;
  • Doing too little for the good of living beings;
  • With compassion there is no non-virtue;
  • Readily accepting a wrong livelihood [accepting what is acquired through hypocrisy, flattery, hinting, extortion, or giving little in hope of receiving much.  Also selling alcohol, poison, weapons, animals, dyes and glues, felling trees without care and pressing oil without checking for presence of living beings].
  • Getting very excited through distraction [horseplay, joking, fooling around and encouraging others to do the same];
  • Thinking to travel only in cyclic existence;
  • Failing to prevent defamation;
  • Not correcting even [those] with disturbing emotions.

Contrary to the practice of the perfection of patience:

  • Abuse in return for abuse, and so forth;
  • Ignoring those who are angry;
  • Disregarding another’s excuses;
  • Following thoughts of anger.

Contrary to the practice of the perfection of enthusiastic effort:

  • Gathering followers out of desire for reward and respect;
  • Not getting rid of laziness and so forth;
  • Indulging in gossip with passion;

Contrary to the perfection of concentration:

  •  Not seeking the object of meditative stabilization.
  • Not eliminating the hindrances to concentration;
  • Appreciating the taste of concentration;

Contrary to the practice of the perfection of wisdom:

  •  Giving up the Hearer Vehicle;
  • Effort in that, despite having one’s own method.
  • Without effort except for non-Buddhist treatises;
  • Making effort and also liking them;
  • Rejecting the Great Vehicle;
  • Praising oneself or disparaging others.
  • Not to go for the teachings;
  • Deprecating them and relying upon the letter;
  • Not being a friend in need;
  • Refusing to serve the sick.
  • Not removing suffering;
  • Not teaching the careless what is proper;
  • Not repaying a good deed;
  • Not assuaging others’ grief.
  • Not giving to whose who want wealth;
  • Not working for the welfare of followers;
  • Not conforming to others’ ideas;
  • Not speaking I praise of good qualities.
  • Not punishing to fit the circumstances;
  • Not using miraculous feats to threaten and so forth.

There is no fault if one who has compassion, is loving and has a virtuous mind.