Posted in bodhisattva, way of the bodhisattva

Bodhicitta

Bodhicitta is the quality that drives away the suffering in ourselves and others. “Bodhi” means awake, free from delusion. “Citta” means mind. So this is about the mind of awakening that we’re trying to develop and strengthen.

The way of the Bodhisattva is the way of compassion and wisdom, of realizing your own boundless potential. It comes from realizing that Enlightenment is our true nature, that we have a basic goodness and wakefulness that is fundamental to our being.

Bodhicitta is what the diligence of the Bodhisattva is based on. It’s what helps us overcome the delusions that keep us from seeing our true nature. These delusions are things that we can overcome. They are impermanent like everything else. They may obscure our minds, but we can overcome them. Bodhicitta is our tool for doing this.

In “The Way of the Bodhisattva,” Shantideva said this about Bodhicitta:

The mighty buddhas, pondering for many ages,

Have seen that this, and only this, will save

The boundless multitudes,

And bring them easily to supreme joy.

People have been talking about the great benefits of Bodhicitta for a long time. Although the same words aren’t always used, these kinds of spiritual teachings have been present throughout history. Bodhicitta is so powerful because it helps us combat our self-centeredness. It gives us a chance to put down some of our egotism. We all share the same suffering and craving. By having that aspiration to save all beings we free ourselves from that mind that thinks “I-Me-Mine” all the time. We can think about our shared humanity. These teachings are here to direct us toward more compassionate living.


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Posted in buddhism, way of the bodhisattva

Shantideva on the first 5 Perfections

In “Way of the Bodhisattva” Shantideva starts going through the six perfections, our method for practicing the bodhisattva path. This section is only going to be about the first five. The sixth perfection, the Perfection of Wisdom, is something we will be saving for later.

The teaching of the Six Paramitas was created early in the history of Mahayana Buddhism.

Paramita is usually translated as “perfection” and that’s how I’m going to translate it. It doesn’t mean we do any of this perfectly (obviously) it just means that cultivating these virtues is very important.

5.9

If transcendent giving is

To dissipate the poverty of beings,

In what way, since the poor are always with us,

Have former buddhas practiced perfect generosity?

5.10

The true intention to bestow on every being

All possessions–and the fruits of such a gift:

By such, the teachings say, is generosity perfected.

And this, as we may seem, is but the mind itself.

This is about the perfection of generosity. The Perfection of Generosity is about more than simply giving things. It’s an expression of non-attachment to possessions, but it also represents other forms of giving, such as giving our time to others, helping them with difficult tasks, or just listening when someone needs to be heard.

5.11

Where could beings

Be placed to shield them from suffering?

Deciding to refrain from harming them

Is the perfection of virtue.

The Perfection of Virtue is not necessarily about living according to rules. We have plenty of rules in Buddhism. Living by rules is important, but more important, in this context, is the idea of living in harmony with others. We should strive to bring harmony to all of our relationships, whether personal or professional. If we set an example of virtue we can make the world a better place.

5.12

The hostile multitudes are vast as space–

What chance is there that all should be subdued?

Let but this angry mind be overthrown

And every foe is then destroyed.

This refers to the tool we use against aggression, the perfection of patience.

The Perfection of Patience represents not only patience with ourselves and others, but also tolerance and endurance. It represents our ability to “weather the storm”, to bear hardship without letting it get us down and, especially, to avoid lashing out at others because of our personal difficulties.

5.13

To cover all the earth with sheets of hide–

Where could such amounts of skin be found?

But simply wrap leather around your feet,

And it’s as if the whole earth has been covered!

This is a famous verse, often quoted from the Way of the Bodhisattva. Our problems can’t be solved by making the world a perfect place. They can only be solved by working on ourselves and figuring out how we can better respond to the world around us.

5.14

Likewise, we can never take

And turn aside the outer course of things.

But only seize and discipline the mind itself,

And what is there remaining to be curbed.

Controlling our minds, controlling ourselves, is all we can really do. Shantideva implores us to discipline our minds.

5.15

A clear intent can fructify

And bring us  birth in a better realm.
The acts of body and of speech are less-

They do not generate a like result.

This is a little bit less clear, but the clear intent Shantideva refers to is the perfection of diligence.

The Perfection of Diligence is about tirelessly overcoming obstacles, walking the path even when it’s difficult and it would be simple to give up. Without diligence we might not have the determination necessary to continue to walk the path when things get difficult.

5.16

Recitations and austerities,

Though they may be long,

If practiced with distracted mind,

Are futile.

We can practice and practice, but we really need to be better at avoided distraction. The perfection of concentration is about taming our minds, so we can weather the storms of life with a clear and direct focus.

The Perfection of Concentration represents those practices that are dedicated to helping us improve our ability to focus and concentrate. These include several meditation and mindfulness practices. We are cultivating our mental stability and our ability to contemplate things clearly without getting held back by distractions or preconceptions. We are training our minds so we can have focus, composure, and tranquility.

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Posted in way of the bodhisattva

Bodhisattva Mindfulness

There’s a long section in “Way of the Bodhisattva” where Shantideva writes about mindfulness. I’d like to share some of it with you here.

5.1

Those who wish to keep a rule of life

Must guard their minds.

Without this guard on the mind,

No discipline can be maintained.

5.2

Wandering where, the elephant of mind,

Will bring us down to hell.

No beast, however wild,

Could bring us such calamities.

5.3

If, with mindfulness’ rope,

The mind is tethered,

Our fears will come to nothing,

Every virtue will drop into our hands.

Training our minds to be here is called mindfulness training. Mindfulness is like a rope that keeps our minds in control. Mindfulness brings us back to our experience, to this moment, to being here now.

It’s important that mindfulness brings us to this moment. It takes effort to cultivate mindfulness, but mindfulness is important. Our mental habits take a long time to work on, so we need to start with diligence. The quality of patience helps us a great deal.

5.4

Tigers, lions, elephants, and bears,

Snakes and other hostile beasts,

Those who guard hell,

All ghosts and ghouls,

5.5

By binding this mind,

All these things are bound.

By taming this mind,

All these things are tamed.

5.6

For all anxiety and fear,

All sufferings,

Their source is the mind itself,

Thus the truthful one has said.

Shantideva is telling us that all of our problems go away if we tame our minds. I’m not sure if this is true, but I am sure that many many of our problems are created in our own minds. We often let ourselves be consumed by trivial things and the reason for this is because of our minds. When we are present, our emotions don’t take control of us and dominate us quite so much.

5.7

The hellish whips to torture living beings–

Who has made them and to what intent?

Who has forged this burning iron ground;

Whence have all these demons sprung?

5.8

All are but the offspring of the mind,

Thus the mighty one has said.

Thus throughout the world

There is no greater bane than the mind itself.

Shantideva is being more direct here. He’s telling us, “These problems come from your mind”. Our minds distract us and lead us to all sorts of harm. Only with mindfulness can we bring our minds under control.


 

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