Bodhicitta, Striving for Enlightenment
Bodhichitta is the one practice we cannot do without. Even if we have been
given the precious oral instructions on realizing the nature of mind, they will
not be the sufficient cause for realization if we have not learned to generate
Bodhichitta. The great Dzogchen yogi Patrul Rinpoche said,
If we have only one thing, the precious Bodhichitta is enough.
If we have nothing else, we must have the method of the precious Bodhichitta."
We should learn to develop Bodhichitta in a twofold way: through our aspirations
and through our actions. Aspiration Bodhichitta is our initial wish that all
sentient beings be liberated from the vast ocean of samsara's suffering. Action
Bodhichitta requires that we first generate aspiration Bodhichitta, and practice
the Six Paramitas as the method to establish the two benefits of 1) attaining
Buddhahood oneself to 2) be of ultimate benefit to others. The way to practice
aspiration and action Bodhichitta was taught by the omniscient Patrul Rinpoche,
The instructions for aspiration [Bodhichitta] are to practice the Four Immeasurables;
The instructions for action [Bodhichitta] are to practice the Paramitas."
Anyen Rinpoche, The Union of Dzogchen and Bodhichitta
Bodhicitta is like yeast that never looses potency. Anytime we add the moisture of warmth and compassion it will automatically expand. If we keep it in the freezer however, nothing happens.
Pema Chodron; The Places that Scare You
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Bodhicitta or the altruistic aspiration
to attain Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings
is a state of mind which cannot be cultivated or generated within
one's mental continuum simply by praying for it to come into being
in one's mind. Nor will it come into existence by simply developing
the understanding of what that mind is. One must generate that
mind within one's mind's continuum.
In order to engage in meditation with sustained effort over a
period of time what is crucial is first of all to be convinced
of the positive qualities of that mind, and the benefits and merits
of generating such a state of mind. It is only when one has seen
the qualities, merits and benefits of generating such a state
of mind that one will be able to generate within oneself a genuine
enthusiasm and perseverance in engaging in a meditation which
would enable the individual to generate the mind.
Any sense of conceit or self-importance gets in the way of cultivating the genuine
altruistic intention, and the most effective remedy against this is the cultivation
I can tell you a more recent story to illustrate this point. The great nineteenth-century
Tibetan Dzokchen meditator Dza Patrul Rinpoche always maintained a demeanour
of true humility. At one time, when he was giving a series of teachings to a
large crowd of students, he experienced a forceful yearning for solitude. So
one day he quietly left his residence and disappeared, dressed like an ordinary
pilgrim and carrying a walking staff and very little else. When he reached a
nomadic camp he sought shelter for a few days with one of the families. While
he was staying with them, his hostess asked him to read some texts and, since
he looked just like an ordinary pilgrim, in return for his food and lodging
she asked him to help with the household chores, which included the disposal
of the contents of her chamber pot.
One day, while he was away from the camp attending to this task, some of his
well-dressed monk students came looking for him. When his hostess heard their
description of him, she suddenly realised this was the same person she had asked
to throw away the contents of her chamber pot. (It is said she was so embarrassed
that she just ran away!) Such was the humility of this great teacher, who had
many thousands of students.
...great practitioners of the altruistic intention also possess a tremendous
courage grounded in real inner strength.... This combination of a total lack
of conceit yet possessing great depth of courage is what is required in a true
practitioner of bodhicitta, the altruistic mind of awakening.
Lighting the Way
The question arises, how to develop infinite altruism? It seems that it is possible to develop infinite altruism through wisdom and intelligence. Normally, when one talks about the need to cultivate love and compassion for others, one feels that this will be of benefit and help to others, but of no help to oneself, or irrelevant to oneself. This is a mistaken viewpoint because when you develop love and compassion for others, you are able to mentally develop profound satisfaction and courage. As a result you, the practitioner, benefit. You will have less fear, more willpower, more self-confidence. Automatically, one mentally becomes calmer.
Many Ways to Nirvana: Reflections and Advice on Right Living
Ho! Mesmerized by the sheer variety of perceptions,
are like the illusory reflections of the moon in water,
Beings wander endlessly astray in samsara’s vicious cycle.
In order that they may find comfort and ease in the luminosity
and all-pervading space of the true nature of their minds,
I generate the immeasurable love, compassion, joy and equanimity
of the awakened mind, the heart of Bodhicitta.
What need is there to say more?
The childish work for their own benefit,
The buddhas work for the benefit of others.
Just look at the difference between them.
If I do not exchange my happiness
For the suffering of others,
I shall not attain the state of buddhahood
And even in samsara I shall have no real joy.
May I become food and drink in the aeons of
famine for those poverty-stricken suffers.
May I be a doctor, medicine and nurse for all sick beings in the
world until everyone is cured.
May I become never-ending wish-fulfilling treasures materialising
in front of each of them as all the enjoyments they need.
May I be a guide for those who do not have a guide, a leader for
those who journey, a boat for those who want to cross over, and
all sorts of ships, bridges, beautiful parks for those who desire
them, and light for those who need light.
And may I become beds for those who need a rest, and a servant
to all who need servants.
May I also become the basic conditions for all sentient beings,
such as earth or even the sky, which is indestructible.
May I always be the living conditions for all sentient beings
until all sentient beings are enlightened.
The compassionate wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all others is called Bodhicitta in Sanskrit: bodhi refers to our enlightened essence, and citta means “heart.” So we could translate it as “the heart of our enlightened mind.” To awaken and develop the heart of the enlightened mind is to ripen steadily the seed of our buddha nature, that seed that, in the end, when our practice of compassion has become perfect and all-embracing, will flower majestically into buddhahood. Bodhicitta, then, is the spring and source and root of the entire spiritual path. This is why in our tradition we pray with such urgency:
Those who haven’t yet given birth to precious Bodhicitta,
May they give birth,
Those who have given birth,
May their Bodhicitta not lessen
but increase further and further.
December 12, 2011