MCTB The Tibetan Ten Bhumi Model

This is probably a good time to introduce the Tibetan Ten Bodhisattva Bhumi Model. The word “bhumi” mean ground, or something like level. It is a model of progressive stages of enlightenment that gets very different emphases depending on the author, but one of those emphases has to do with powers and how many duplicates of one’s self one can manifest psychically. I actually like the Bhumi model, as other takes on it have to do with giving up the notion of personal territory and realizing shunyata or emptiness and deeply integrating that into our perception, paradigm, practice, and personality. It is a model that addresses many fronts, only one of which unfortunately is the powers.

The details of the Ten Bhumi Model can be found in various Mahayana texts, such as “The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom” and “The Jewel Ornament of Liberation”. Chogyam Trungpa gives a nice description of it in The Myth of Freedom. Some texts also list other numbers of bhumis, such as seven or thirteen, but they all share similar elements. I do not consider myself an expert on this model, though I do understand the territory it covers. It is a very complex model that ascribes a wide range of exceedingly high and complex criteria involving emotions, paradigms, concentration abilities, perceptions, psychic powers and a whole host of other aspects to those of each stage. Thus, from my point of view, it is fraught with problems and assumes simultaneous, synchronized development on numerous axes, a notion I consider a bit naive and idealized. However, like most of the teachings, it contains some very interesting points made in what I consider very unfortunate ways. Thus, I recommend you check it out cum grano salis, particularly if you want to understand Tibetan texts or do practices in that tradition.

Lining the model of the Bhumis up with the Four Paths also involves some controversy. That the first bhumi is stream entry is straightforward. Beyond that, things get difficult. At points I have lined anagamihood up with anywhere from the fourth to the seventh bhumis and arahatship with anywhere from the sixth to the tenth bhumis. These are not perfect correlations, and if you spend some time reading about the model you will see why. I recommend that you check out the sources listed above if you are interested in further information about the Bhumis.

The biggest problem with this model is that it delineates the number of duplicates of one's self that one should be able to manifest as bodhisattvas at each bhumi, and as the bhumis progress the numbers quickly get so large as to be absurd. Why some whackjob included this bizarre ideal of manifold bi-location in the model I have no idea, but somehow no Tibetan since has had the balls to throw it out, and so a thousand years later they are still stuck with it. Aside from these problems, the texts that describe the bhumis make for very interesting reading, particularly in the middle stages of enlightenment.

MCTB The Tibetan Five Path Model