V. The Stages

I have talked about how to become a Bodhisattva, but there are ten Bhumis or Stages of being a Bodhisattva. Now I will talk about these ten bhumis, their names and meaning, what the practices of each of the ten bhumis are and how to shorten the time of the ten bhumis by Vajrayana practice. I will begin with the names and brief description of each of the ten stages:
1. The first stage is called in Sanskrit Pramudita, or Very Happy. Bhumi means stage or ground. From the position of Bodhisattva to become a Buddha, one must go through the ten Bhumis, the ten stages or stations. The first is called the Very Happy station because in this first stage the Bodhisattva has recognized the Sunyata not only by thinking or just by visualization, but he has exactly and truly realized the Sunyata. Because he recognized the Sunyata, he is in another world, a world of Sunyata, not a world of ignorance or selfishness. So he feels very happy, and feels joy at having overcome the former difficulties. So it is called the Very Happy Station.
2. The second bhumi is Vimala or Renounce the Defilement because as a Bodhisattva he knows how to get the Sunyata and abide in the Sunyata more and more. Within the Sunyata he knows everything is pure, while outside everything is defiled. Actually it may seem that the Renounce the Defilement stage should be even before the first bhumi, but here Renounce the Defilement means the very subtle, not the gross one. So the second bhumi is the stage of purity when the Bodhisattva experiences freedom from all possible defilement.
3. The third bhumi is called Prabhakari or Shines Light Stage because as the Bodhisattva's meditation goes deep, his Samadhi shines light, so this is called the Shines Light or Enlightened Stage or Eminate Stage because a lot of light shines out from his Samadhi.
4. The fourth bhumi is Arcismati or Burning Wisdom. The Bodhisattva has burned up all sorrows in the fire of wisdom so this is called the burning or glowing wisdom stage.
5. The fifth bhumi is Sudurjaya or Very Difficult to be Victorious by Others. That means that few others can suffer such a difficult practice and get to this victory stage. It indicates mastery of utmost or final difficulties.
6. The sixth bhumi is called Abhimukhi or Appearance Stage. The appearance referred to is not something very common but something very special which appears: It is the Sunyata itself. You know there is Sunyata conception, Sunyata thoughts, Sunyata visualization, Sunyata of Happiness, there is Sunyata of Light, of Sun, of Fire, but here is the Sunyata itself which appears in its very embodiment. This means from an abstract idea comes a concrete countenance.
7. The seventh bhumi is the Far from the World Journey Stage or Duramgama. This means the Bodhisattva keeps going further, far from the habitual karma, far from sentient beings, far from the Bodhisattva of the sixth stage. He is getting above ideas of self in order to save others.
8. The eighth bhumi is called Acala, or No Moving Stage. Such a Bodhisattva cannot be moved by any kind of sorrow, by any kind of false view, by any kind of love of money, of fame, or reputation, by anything, good or bad; he cannot be moved and is calm and undisturbed.
9. The ninth stage is Sadhumati or Very Good Wisdom Stage because whereas in the fourth stage he attained wisdom of fire, here the Bodhisattva has the wisdom of goodness also which means he can speak very well, he can promote the Dharma very well and can get very wide wisdom. In the Chinese language "Fa-Shih" means a teacher of Dharma who should reach this stage. When a Bodhisattva gets the goodness wisdom, the ninth stage, then he can begin to talk with others and give lectures for he then has obtained the finest discriminatory wisdom and knows where and how to save others.
10. The tenth bhumi is called Dharmamegha or Dharma Cloud. At this stage a Bodhisattva is not only able to talk to promote the Dharma but really can make Dharma rain, so this is the tenth bhumi's name.

VI. The Ten Bhumi Practices

You may ask, Why are there so many stages? A Bodhisattva has already met the Sunyata in the first stage, and as you said the Sunyata is the most important thing, then why are there so many more stages? The next topic we must thus cover is about the main practices connected with each of the ten Bhumis.
1. In the first Bhumi because the Bodhisattva was a sentient being he still has his self, his personality, and so he still has some ignorance left, just like a common person. To overcome this, the practice is divided into two parts: one is passive, to forbid him to continue certain things, and the other is active, to gather and practice to achieve some good. There are many kinds of ignorance which can cause you to transmigrate to the lower three realms. There are the three good realms, of God, Asura and Man, but even these still have the Dharma ignorance of the ego itself which must be destroyed. Concerning the lower three realms, those with some anger may fall into Hell, with ignorance into an animal state, and with lust into the hungry ghost realm. Having these three poisons, Bodhisattvas must forbid themselves to practice evil things and in order to rid themselves of the ignorance of the three good realms, the Bodhisattva must practice Non-Egoism. These two practices must be fulfilled to achieve the first bhumi of a Bodhisattva: first, to destroy the selfishness, second, to destroy the egoism. When egoism is destroyed, then he can see the Sunyata and be happy. When all the seeds of evil are stopped and are completely finished, then he can be happy, otherwise he will still have some sorrow as a common person.
2. The second bhumi practice is to stop the subtle poisons. Even if he has stopped the main evil seeds, there are still some subtle mistakes which he must stop through practice. Even if he will not fall into the three lower realms, nevertheless he still has some tendency toward the three poisons and even a little tendency must be stopped. Once I was in a new hermitage which formerly was a school. All the school's things were moved out but there was still a needle with thread on the wall. I thought, "Oh, this might be very useful, but no, even though useful, it is not mine." So I stopped thinking about this for this is a tendency to steal. Even so small a thing you have to be immediately aware of. Once I went into an elevator in which stood a very beautiful girl. I thought, in such a secret place, I could kiss her and nobody would know, but then I thought "God knows, Buddha knows, the Bodhisattvas know, I should not kiss her." So you must be awake, for the tendency is there and you must even destroy such small tendencies. Then how can you practice Vajra Love you might ask--but this is quite different. The Dakini will be sent to you by God, she will have special signs and it will be first permitted by Buddha; then she will come and really offer you, then at that time everything can be done with the Sunyata. This second bhumi practice is very difficult as these poisons are not so obvious and rough but very subtle. A tendency just means you have such a thought in your mind but do not really go about and do the action. Even such a tendency one must be quickly and immediately aware of.
3. In the third stage practice one must rid oneself of any remaining lustful worldly desire. Whatever subtle desires remain must be recognized and destroyed through practice. Also, in this stage the Bodhisattva still does not recognize the meaning of all incantations. He must practice to grasp the whole essential meaning of the incantations, not by logic but by wisdom. Through practice he must learn to explain and recognize all secret incantations, mantras, Dharani.
4. For the fourth bhumi practice there is too much love of Samadhi and too much love of Dharma, which is also a kind of ignorance. The Bodhisattva must not be lustful to love Samadhi or be attached to the Dharma. For example, my wife's mother died while I was in my hermitage at home. My wife knocked on my door and cried, "My mother died, please unlock the door and come with me to go back." I thought to myself at that time, "I will immediately send her consciousness to Sukhavati. She died at a good time. We need not cry here and stop my meditation." I did not say anything and stayed in my hermitage. This was too much love of concentration.
5. There is still too much desire to want to escape transmigration by the Bodhisattva and the fifth bhumi practice tries to correct this. This is all right for the common person at the beginning of practice, but the real Bodhisattva must be willing to continue in transmigration in order to save others. He must not strongly hold the idea of renouncing transmigration. At this stage the Bodhisattva also pays too much attention to wanting to go to Nirvana. He wants to get Full Enlightenment so earnestly but he should not be so attached to Nirvana and must practice accordingly.
6. In the sixth stage he does not yet know very clearly every kind of seed, its course and result, in transmigration. Secondly, he has his own thoughts which go out. Therefore he can not be without any ignorance because some thoughts are good, some thoughts are bad, some must be let go, some must be kept. He must practice to control these. There are also many kinds of wisdom which he did not completely gain. He must learn these.
7. In the seventh stage practice, he has some subtle thought of forms which are not under his control and which still come out. He may think "This time my meditation has no thought," but actually the thoughts are there, as water which seems very calm and still but yet underneath continues to move. This kind of movement is very difficult to recognize. The mind is very wonderful, it thinks "Oh, I meditate very well, I have no thoughts," but actually the thoughts are always there. Except when you die the thoughts are there, and even when you die, some other consciousness will still have thoughts.
The second part of this practice is that from Sunyata the Bodhisattva has learned the subjective non-form thought method but he still doesn't have the means to conveniently use it to help others. He can not yet really carry out nonform thought, as forms still appear.
8. In the eighth stage the Bodhisattva must objectively learn to function from non-form. At this point he still has some ignorance and does not know the non-form well. We have said we have non-form as sunyata but how non-form functions is very difficult to know. Until he can get the non-form function, he cannot get the very powerful freedom from form. So he must very carefully control every kind of form while knowing every form.
9. In the ninth bhumi, there are many dharma works, sentences, essays, compositions which he cannot write down, so he must practice until he has full knowledge of all Dharma works. Also, his rebuttal ability with others is not yet so powerful and perfect, so he must practice on this.
10. The tenth stage practice concerns supernatural power. He has supernatural powers at that time but he doesn't know how he happened to get them. He must learn about this. The second part of the practice is that he must recognize and realize the subtle secrecy of the Tantric Dharma. When he finally passed through all these practices of the ten bhumis, he will become Buddha.
This is a basic outline of the practices of the Ten Bhumis. To talk is very easy, the practice is very difficult. We all are not Bodhisattvas but I just speak according to what books and the Buddha have said on this matter. Because this practice is so subtle, so deep and so complex, the Bodhisattva according to Mahayana doctrine must practice a very long time, a duration called the three great Kalpas. A Kalpa is a Sanskrit term which means a certain number of years during which the earth is created and destroyed. Yet it is said that the Bodhisattva should not hate transmigration and must not tire of being reborn many, many times in order to save others. In Chinese history there was a person who announced that he was a Bodhisattva who came back to atone for his past sins and that he would be killed at a certain time by a certain person. He was really killed in such a way and came to show sentient beings the direct chain of cause and effect. He said he would be born again and would not tire of rebirth in order to help others.

VII. Shortening the Stages
The Mahayana scriptures speak of the three great Kalpas of many years necessary to achieve Buddhahood, but the Tantra has a special method to shorten the time of practice to one lifetime.
We are not exactly either Mahayana Bodhisattvas or Vajrayana Vajrasattvas but as we have contacted so many gurus, his Holiness Karmapa and his Tantra, we can at least say we are believers of this Tantra. The Tantra always says everybody can get Buddhahood in this lifetime. How to so shorten the practice? The ten bhumis are a certain distance one has to go, just like on earth we might want to go from Berkeley to Oakland, and from Oakland to San Francisco. There is a certain map, with certain stations and stops along the way. By walking it may take us many days to complete our journey, by bus a few hours, and by airplane still faster. But even an airplane must pass certain places. The pilot may not be able to make them out very clearly, but he must still pass those landmarks. You must know this is Oakland, this is Berkeley, this is Shattuck Avenue. On the map it may be very clear, but the person himself must know the landmarks otherwise he will miss the way.
So how can the Tantra allow you to complete the practice in one lifetime, so short a time, when compared with three Kalpas which are so very long? This is a very important question. According to what I have read in the Tantra, there are many reasons to allow us to believe this.
Along the ten bhumis there are what are called five paths. So when we talk about how to shorten the time of practice, we must talk both about all the five paths and ten stages and the three Kalpas. In the first great Kalpa must be gathered the first two paths. These are the Path of Spiritual Food and the Path of Foregoing, the Preparation. These two paths are preparations before the Bodhisattva reaches the first Bhumi. This means that when a person comes to a Buddhist altar he cannot immediately say he is a Bodhisattva but he must do many things first: worship, offer mandalas, incense, all those things called spiritual food. You have to prepare spiritual food because you have a long way to go and must store up spiritual food to pass through all the necessary places. But this is all still before reaching the first bhumi of Bodhisattva.
The second path of Foregoing, the Preparation, continues the more subtle preparations. As the nine stages of Samatha practice is a kind of preparation for good meditation, the Path of Spiritual Food is a rough, common preparation, as giving offerings, doing something good, giving alms. The second path of Foregoing, the Preparation, is for the concentration, for all the breathing and subtle preparations for the entire practice. These two paths are within the first Kalpa. According to Mahayana, before one becomes a Bodhisattva one has to gather the preparation of these two paths.
The Third Path coincides with the first Bhumi and is called the Path of Right View. The Right View refers to the first, you get the Sunyata View. That is why this path begins with the first bhumi. That means you not only read the Prajna Paramita Sutra, the Heart Sutra, and the Diamond Sutra, gathering this kind of spiritual food, but really feel the Sunyata, exactly touch and realize the Sunyata; this is called the Path of Right View. You really see it, not just think and read of it. The Spiritual Food Path and the Foregoing, the Preparation, Path are just like a map, but the Right View Path actually brings you inside into the very place. At first you only know Berkeley on the map and you just prepare your car to go there, but the Path of Right View means you have already finished your journey and arrived there at least as far as the boundary and have seen that place in fact. This is the Bodhisattva Path of Right View.
The fourth path is called the Practice Path and extends from the second bhumi to the seventh bhumi. This means that before you have seen the Sunyata you have not really started to practice, for every moment of real practice must be with the Sunyata. Without entering the Sunyata your practice is just a preparation. When you have the Right View of Sunyata you then meditate more and more and enter this Path of Practice, finally achieving the eighth bhumi. The first Kalpa is needed for the first two paths of Spiritual Food and Preparation, while the second Kalpa is used to see the Sunyata and really practice it.
From the eighth bhumi to Buddhahood is called the Non-Practice Path. From the eighth bhumi on, the Bodhisattva actually practices very nicely but he still has a practice, a practical religion, so he must now refine that until it comes naturally, then his practice will seem no practice at all. This is the so-called Non-Practice Path. Through this you can become Buddha. This last Path takes the last great Kalpa to achieve.
Because of this progressive practice, the Mahayana needs the Three Great Kalpas. The first great Kalpa includes the Spiritual Food Path and the Foregoing, the Preparation, Path. From the first bhumi to the seventh are the third and fourth paths, The Path of Right View and the Path of Practice which take the second great Kalpa. From the eighth bhumi to Buddhahood is the fifth path of Non-Practice and the third Kalpa. Now that you know the three Kalpas, you must know how to shorten the time of practice through the Tantra of Vajrayana.
The first Kalpa can be quickly shortened through the Tantra. In other kinds of practices you worship one deity, you repeat his incantation one by one. But in Tantra there are methods to visualize one person worshiping many, many Buddhas and before each of the many, many Buddhas there are many, many practitioners worshiping there. So that when you repeat one incantation, it is not only oneself that repeats it, but also the Buddhas repeat with you and the six realms of sentient beings all follow you to repeat the incantation. For example, yesterday when I performed a cemetery puja I visualized not only all the ghosts in the Piedmont cemetery but all the ghosts of the whole world, and not only those in the whole world but all the ghosts of the whole universe so that all the dead persons in all the cemeteries came together. This kind of visualization is from Tantra and not from Mahayana. It makes the spiritual food of only one minute equal to that of one Kalpa. How can you do it? When you receive initiation from the Guru, the initiation is from the Sunyata and the Sunyata is the whole universe so the whole universe takes part in the practice. That is why when I send fish free I repeat the following stanza which I composed:
I send you from Samsara and Nirvana,
Return to your home--the place of Tathata;
When one is sent, all sentient beings are sent too,
Born from non-born, you are the same as Buddha.