Vows of the Bodhisattva
Bodhisattvas are spiritual trainees dedicated to the cultivation and fulfillment of the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment, by gradually traversing the five paths and ten levels. Rather than simply seeking freedom from their own individual suffering, they cultivate four immeasurable aspirations: loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. They vow to remain within cyclic existence in order to remove the sufferings of all sentient beings.
At the same time, they cultivate discriminative awareness through which selflessness and absence of conceptual elaboration are fully realized. To this end, the aspiring bodhisattva will act virtuously in accord with the six perfections. He will control malpractices by avoiding nineteen or twenty root downfalls (and forty-six lesser transgressions). These are described as perpetual vows, which are to be maintained over a succession of lifetimes.
The nineteen root downfalls are enumerated as follows: Five root downfalls are certain for kings, namely, to steal the wealth of the Three Precious Jewels, to punish disciplined monks, to divert a renunciate from his or her training, to commit the five inexpiable crimes, and to hold wrong views. Five are for ministers, namely, to subjugate towns, countryside, citadels, cities, and provinces. Eight are for ordinary persons, namely, to teach emptiness to those of unrefined intelligence, to oppose those who enter the Mahayana, to break monastic vows on the pretext of joining the Mahayana, to support the Hinayana, to praise oneself and deprecate others, to extol one's own patience, to dispense or receive property belonging to the Buddhist community, and to teach the meditation of calm abiding to those who are loud-mouthed.