The Powers of Tenth-Ground Bodhisattvas

The following article is from the Winter, 2012 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

When bodhisattvas come back and start working on their mind again, they remember their previous existences and their progression in the practice. But they, too, have to travel along the path of liberation during each new existence since they develop from life to life a kind of training, "the training toward enlightenment," the liberation from suffering.

They rediscover the training from life to life as they are linked to other bodhisattvas who pursue the same goals. Each time, they come upon the teaching, receive, assimilate, practice, and realize it anew in order to finally transmit it themselves so as to prevent its loss and allow beings to be liberated from suffering. In this way, they form a sort of garland or malathe Buddhist rosarywhere each pearl immediately follows the previous one. This is why the tradition speaks of the "golden rosary" of the practice.


The Buddha taught a "progression" toward enlightenment in ten grounds, ten "levels" of realization. Those who have realized the tenth ground have attained enlightenment but refuse the state of the "thus gone," that is, buddhahood. They renounce it out of compassion for all beings, in order to "remain" with them in sam- sara without being stained by it, similar to a lotus growing in the mud. Thus, although they are among us, they are free from the confusion and suffering of ordinary beings and can therefore teach us how to leave suffering behind....


According to the fifteenth Karmapa, Jamgdn Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo emanated in twenty-five different bodies each.

Multiple Emanations

Bodhisattvas of the tenth ground can emanate multiple manifestations, either with a physical nirmanakaya form or with a purely luminous sambhogafi kaya form. There can be many human emanations at the same time, often three or five, that are emanations of the bodhisattva's body, speech, mind, qualities, and activity. In the case of the Karmapas, only one emanation holds the name "Karmapa." Tulkus of high-ground bodhisattvas are only reflections of the activity of enlightenment.


They are thus able to emanate in multiple bodies, just as the moon is simultaneously reflected in a hundred lakes. According to the fifteenth Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo emanated in twenty-five different bodies each.

This does not mean that the mind is divisible, but rather that its fundamental nature, being empty in essence, is everywhere. This is why mind's activity has no limits for those who know how to direct it....

The present seventeenth Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who has left handprints in rock on numerous occasions, comments on these exceptional faculties lent to the Karmapas, "You can call it supernatural powers. I believe that whatever power is there is the power of the Dharma [the teaching of the Buddha]. It is due to this that all my predecessors did many unusual things such as leaving hand- or footprints in stone. People say there are many things 1 can do. But for anyone who practices the teachings, these things might happen."

adapted from History of the Karmapas

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