The Fourfold Task

The four observations on Sidarta Gautama’s first teachings are commonly stated in today’s language as:

  1. Existence is suffering
  2. The origin of suffering is craving
  3. The ceasing of suffering is the ceasing of craving
  4. The way to the ceasing of craving is the noble eightfold path

This contemplation gives birth to four efforts, freely translated using the lenses of secularism(1)(2) as:

  1. Suffering is to be fully known
  2. What arises is to be let go of
  3. The ceasing is to be beheld
  4. The way is to be cultivated

These efforts arouse the Tiantai Bodhisattva vows, phrased using Robert F. Rhodes’s translations along with Alcio Braz Eido Soho’s interpretation:

  1. All creations, innumerable, I vow to free them (As criações são inumeráveis, faço voto de libertá-las)
  2. All illusions, inexhaustible, I vow to transform them (As ilusões são inexauríveis, faço voto de transformá-las)
  3. All of reality, limitless, I vow to perceive it (A realidade é ilimitada, faço voto de percebê-la)
  4. The path of awakening, unsurpassable, I vow to embody it (O caminho do despertar é insuperável, faço voto de corporificá-lo)

In order to have a more direct correspondence of the four efforts and the Bodhisattva vows, in my own practice I have decided to frame the fourfold task as:

  1. Comprehend every anguish (Compreender cada angústia)
  2. Abdicate every compulsion (Abdicar de cada compulsão)
  3. Observe every contentment (Observar cada contentamento)
  4. ??? (???)

Differently from Zhiyi’s teachings in that the Bodhisattva vows arise from the realization of the four truths plus the compassion for other sentient beings (therefore the vows are a consequence of the enlightenment), my practice of these vows are justified from personal experience indicating that the effort employed on fulfilling the vows is the most pragmatic way to work on the fourfold task. That is, the vows are not a consequence but a strategic implementation.

  1. In liberating all creatures, through empathy, every anguish is to be comprehended
  2. In transforming all illusions, through detachment, every compulsion is to be abdicated
  3. In perceiving all of reality, through gratitude, every contentment is to be observed
  4. In embodying the path, through ???, every ???????