The bodhisattva's path to awakening in the Mahayana tradition progresses through ten hierarchically arranged stages, referred to as the "Bodhisattva Bhumis" (byang chub sems dpa'i sa, Tibetan. Bodhisattva Grounds/Levels, English.). The Sanskrit term Bhumi literally means "ground" or "foundation", since each stage represents a level of attainment and serves as a basis for the next one. Each level marks a definite advancement in one's training that is accompanied by progressively greater power and wisdom.
The Bhumis are often correlated with Margas (Paths), five (pañcamarga, in Wylie Tibetan: lam lnga) ) in all:
They correlate as follows:
Before a bodhisattva arrives at the first ground, he or she first must travel the first two of the five paths:
The ten grounds of the bodhisattva then can be grouped into the next three paths
The Avatamsaka Sutra refers the following ten Bhumi :
Despite having directly Perceived emptiness, however, bodhisattvas on the first level are primarily motivated by faith. They train in ethics in order to clense their minds of negativities and, so they prepare themselves for the cultivation of mundane meditative absorbtions that comes on the second level.
on all occasions of waking and dreaming his movements or activities of body, speech and mind are pure of even subtle infractions...he fulfills the three paths of virtuous actions-abandoning killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct-with his body; the middle four-abandons lying, divisive talk, harsh speech, and senseless chatter-with his speech; and the last three-abandoning covetousness, harmful intent, and wrong views-with his mind. Not only does he refrain from what is prohibited but he also fulfills all the positive achievements related to proper ethics.And according to Nargajuna,
The second is called the Stainless Because all ten [virtuous] actions Of body, speech, and mind are stainless And they naturally abide in those [deeds of ethics]. Through the maturation of those [good qualities] The perfection of ethics becomes supreme. They become Universal Monarchs helping beings, Masters of the glorious four continents and of the seven precious objects.
Because of this, the bodhisattva's mind becomes purified and equanimous, which is a prerequisite for training in the four dhyānas (meditative absorbtions) and the four arupya-samapattis (formless absorptions).
even if someone...cuts from the body of this bodhisattva not just flesh but also bone, not in large sections but bit by bit, not continually but pausing in between, and not finishing in a short time but cutting over a long period, the bodhisattva would not get angry at the mutilator.The Bodhisattva realizes that his tormenter is motivated by afflicted thoughts and is sowing seeds of his own future suffering. As a result, the bodhisattva feels not anger, but a deep sadness and compassion for this cruel person, who is unaware of the operations of karma. Trainees on the third level overcome all tendencies toward anger, and never react with hatred (or even annoyance) to any harmful acts or words. Rather, their equanimity remains constant, and all sentient beings are viewed with love and compassion:
All anger and resentment rebound on the person who generates them, and they do nothing to eliminate harms that one has already experienced. They are counterproductive in that they destroy one's peace of mind and lead to unfavorable future situations. There is nothing to be gained through anger and resentment, revenge does nothing to change the past, and so the bodhisattva avoids them. Moreover, one's present suffering is only a result of one's own past misdeeds; so one's enemy is only an agent of the inevitable fruition of karma.
Bodhisattvas on this level also train in the four dhyānas (meditative absorptions); the four arupya-samapattis(formless absorptions) of limitless space, limitless consciousness, nothingness and the peak of cyclic existence; the four immeasurables of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity; and the five clairvoyances gained in the fourth dhyāna (magical creations, the divine ear, knowing others' minds, remembering former lives, and the divine eye).
Through training in these thirty-seven practices, bodhisattvas develop great skill in meditative absorptions and cultivate wisdom, while weakening the artificial and innate conceptions of true existence.
The fifth is called the Extremely Difficult to Overcome Since all evil ones find it extremely hard to conquer him; He becomes skilled in knowing the subtle Meanings of the noble truths and so forth.Bodhisattvas on this level cultivate the perfection of samadhi. They develop strong powers of meditative stabilization and overcome tendencies toward distraction. They achieve mental one-pointedness and they perfect calm abiding. They also fully penetrate the meanings of the four noble truths and the two truths (conventional truths and ultimate truths) and perceive all phenomena as empty, transient and prone to suffering.
As a result of these understandings bodhisattvas manifest meditative wisdom and avoid attachment to either cyclic existence or nirvana. Having overcome all attachments, bodhisattvas on this level can attain nirvana, but because of the force of the mind of awakening they decide to remain in the world in order to benefit other sentient beings. They cultivate the perfection of wisdom, through which they perceive all phenomena as lacking inherent existence, as being like dreams, illusions, reflections, or magically created objects. All notions of "I" and "other" are transcended, along with conceptions of "existence" and "nonexistence." These sixth-level bodhisattvas abide in contemplation of suchness, with minds that are undisturbed by false ideas.
The seventh is the Gone Afar because The number of his qualities has increased, Moment by moment he can enter The equipoise of cessation,On this level bodhisattvas perfect their skill in means of meditation and practice (Thabs la mkhas pa, Tibetan; Upaya-Kausalya, Sanskrit), which is their ability to cleverly adapt their teaching tactics to the individual proclivities and needs of their audiences. They also develop the ability to know the thoughts of others, and in every moment are able to practice all the perfections. All thoughts and actions are free from afflictions, and they constantly act spontaneously and effectively for the benefit of others.
The eighth is the Immovable, the youthful stage, Through nonconceptuality he is immovable; And the spheres of his body, speech and mind's Activities are inconceivable.Because they are fully acquainted with signlessness, their minds are not moved by ideas of signs. Eighth Bhumi bodhisattvas are said to be "irreversible", because there is no longer any possibility that they might waver on the path or backslide. They are destined for full buddhahood, and there are no longer any inclinations to seek a personal nirvana. They cultivate the "perfection of aspiration", which means that they undertake to fulfill various vows, due to which they accumulate the causes of further virtues. Although they resolve to work for the benefit of others and they pervade the universe with feelings of friendliness toward all sentient beings, these bodhisattvas have transcended any tendency to imagine that there are truly existent beings.
Their understanding of suchness is so complete that it overturns afflicted views, and reality appears in a completely new light. They enter into meditation on emptiness with little effort. Bodhisattvas on this level are compared to people who have awakened from dreams, and all their perceptions are influenced by this new awareness. They attain the meditative state called "forbearance regarding nonarisen phenomena", due to which they no longer think in terms of causes or causelessness. They also develop the ability to manifest in various forms in order to instruct others. Compassion and skill in means are automatic and spontaneous. There is no need to plan or contemplate how best to benefit others, since these bodhisattvas skillfully adapt themselves to every situation.
Because of attaining faultlessness and very extensive intelligence in terms of mastery of teaching the doctrine in all aspects, the ninth level is called the "Good Intelligence.Ninth bhumi bodhisattvas also acquire the "four analytical knowledges"-of doctrines, meanings, grammar, and exposition. Due to this, they develop wondrous eloquence and skill in presenting doctrinal teachings. Their intelligence surpasses that of all humans and gods, and they comprehend all names, words, meanings, and languages. They can understand any question from any being. They also have the ability to answer them with a single sound, which is understood by each being according to its capacities. On this level they also cultivate the perfection of power, which means that because of the strength of their mastery of the four analytical knowledges and their meditation they are able to develop the the six perfections energetically and to practice them continually without becoming fatigued.
The tenth is the Cloud of Doctrine becauseAt this stage bodhisattvas enter into progressively deeper meditative absorptions and develop limitless powers with respect to magical formulas. They cultivate the perfection of exalted wisdom, which, according to Asanga, enables them to increase their exalted wisdom. This in turn strengthens the other perfections. As a result they become established in the joy of the doctrine.
The rain of excellent doctrine falls,
The Bodhisattva is consecrated
With light by the Buddhas.
They acquire perfect bodies, and their minds are cleansed of the subtlest traces of the afflictions. They manifest in limitless forms for the benefit of others and transcend the ordinary laws of time and space. They are able to place entire world systems in a single pore, without diminishing them or increasing the size of the pore. When they do this, the beings inhabiting the worlds feel no discomfort, and only those who are advanced bodhisattvas even notice.
Bodhisattvas on this level receive a form of empowerment from innumerable buddhas. This is called "great rays of light", because the radiance of these bodhisattvas shines in all directions. This empowerment helps them in removing the remaining obstructions to omniscience and gives them added confidence and strength. At the final moment of this stage they enter into a meditative state called the "vajralike meditative stabilization", in which the subtlest remaining obstacles to buddhahood are overcome. They arise from this concentration as Buddhas.