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Life of a Saint

Vimalakirti (vegan): The Wise & Eloquent Bodhisattva, Part 1 of 2

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Bodhisattva Vimalakirti was a renowned lay disciple and wealthy patron of Shakyamuni Buddha. He is also the legendary figure of “The Teaching of Vimalakirti,” a scripture that is included among the classic Mahayana sutras. His story, as well as the teachings recorded in the Vimalakirti Sutra, are important and highly respected in Buddhist history. The name Vimalakirti means “pure reputation.” Everything Vimalakirti did was in accordance with Buddha’s teachings and to spread Dharma to people at all levels, leading them to liberation and enlightenment. In his lively and magical ways, he taught people to the see through the traps of religion and seek the ultimate Truth in spiritual practice. He would show up in taverns to teach the drinkers about mindfulness, and went to brothels to educate people about abstaining from sensual indulgence. For several incarnations, Vimalakirti had dedicated himself to serve the previous Buddhas. He learned the Dharma from the Buddhas face-to-face, receiving the full penetration of their Teachings, and attained enlightenment. He had the power of a Great Bodhisattva and was gifted with superb eloquence. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of sentient beings to help present them with spiritual teachings. Supreme Master Ching Hai has mentioned Vimalakirti and the Vimalakirti Sutra several times, including during a 1994 lecture in Thailand. “One of his foremost disciples was Vimalakirti, and he was a lay, rich person. He had never left home, never shaved his head, never became a monk. But all the monks of the Buddha were afraid of him because he was very, very highly awakened, almost near to the Buddha – Buddhahood. So, whenever the monks or anyone visited Vimalakirti, they were very respectful and very, very aware of his spiritual power.” Vimalakirti benefitted sentient beings by setting himself as an example and encouraging others to follow his practices. His ample merit brought him inexhaustible prosperity. He practiced the perfection of concentration, and rested his mind one-pointedly in the union of Shamata, which translates to the “tranquility of the mind,” and Vipassana, meaning “to see things as they really are.” He tamed beings who were restless or easily troubled by dullness and agitation. He ascertained emptiness with his wisdom and guided many beings with his insights on the selflessness of persons and of phenomena.
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