Despite having directly and correctly perceived emptiness, bodhisattvas on the first level are primarily motivated by faith. They train in ethics in order to cleanse their minds of negativity and so they prepare themselves for the cultivation of mundane meditative absorption that comes on the second level.
Bodhisattvas on the second level, the "Stainless", perfect ethics and overcome all tendencies towards engagement in negative actions. Their control becomes so complete that even in dreams they have no immoral thoughts. According to Tsong Khapa for such a bodhisattva,
The Bodhisattva realizes that his tormentor 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.
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 level is called the "Difficult to Master" because it involves practices that are so arduous and require a great deal of effort to perfect. It is also called the "Difficult to Overcome" because when one has completed the training of this level one has profound wisdom and insight that are difficult to surpass or undermine. According to Nāgārjuna,
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.
Before attaining the ten grounds, the bodhisattva traverses the first two of the five Mahayana paths:
The ten grounds of the bodhisattva are grouped within the three subsequent paths:
In Hua-yen Buddhism there are some 40 previous stages before the first bhumi:
Mahayana literature often features an enumeration of "two obstructions" (Wylie: sgrib gnyis):