A Step by step guided meditation on the profound Mahayana text of Bodhicharyavatara by Patrul Rinpoche called “The Sun of Brilliant Clarity”
We begin the day again studying the very helpful text that compliments Bodhicharyavatara called “the Sun of Brilliant Clarity” composed by the great 19th century master Patrul Rinpoche to give us a structure of Step by step instructions to contemplate on the basis of the Bodhicharyavatara. In short, how we may best train step by step to give rise to bodhichitta, in order to incorporate it in our own conduct.
That bodhichitta is what Shantideva has defined as “a mind untainted by defilements, so it may become a way to liberate all sentient beings.”
We begin with generating bodhichitta in intent and generating the aspiration that all become accomplished in hearing, contemplating, and examining the teachings and all qualities particularly become accomplished in all qualities of cultivating. May they apply merit to become the seed to freedom from suffering, and have courage to awakening the enlightened mind in one’s self. So that that illumination is Intrinsic in oneself may completely dispels the darkness of ignorance, transforming oneself into a vehicle of happiness for self and other. So, with this intention generated as sincerely as possible, bringing direction to one’s path of practice, yesterday, we talked about text, providing a structure to follow clearly.
We talked about:
- What is bodhichitta? How it is defined in Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara.
- Why should one feel responsible to begin with? Why is it we ourselves should feel we should give rise to the awakened mind in oneself? It is because Bodhichitta is ultimately our intrinsic nature, and because of the relative want of happiness. From a relative perspective and an absolute, ultimate perspective, it makes sense to begin with oneself, holding oneself responsible for being the basis for generating this untainted mind of bodhichitta and attaining its virtuous qualities.
- Should we find we are the ones who are going to do it, how should we engage so that one may become able to become a suitable vessel for the arising of bodhichitta?
- How to train one’s mind, which is classified in 4 parts.
- Understand the person who is the support.
- How the attitude should be to engage correctly.
- Practice – how should one engage, how should one cultivate the practice so that one may to cultivate purely.
- What is result of engaging in this way?
One who engages in the practice is said to be a person endowed with the 2 qualities of devotion and compassion. Devotion was defined, including the characteristics, including 6 analogies that are the best ways to understand the faults or flaws of the absence of devotion. Compassion at this point is a sympathetic heart. Maybe ‘tainted’ is powerful word. This compassion is a little emotional, but still it is a sympathetic heart that is able to progress to become the source of liberation of self and others. With these two qualities, this is through both cultivating aspiration compassion and cultivating compassion in action.
How to cultivate aspiration bodhichitta is by generating 8 qualities, or factors. This is not wrapped in self-absorption. This is generated by: 1) thinking of other sentient beings as one’s mother, and then 2) reflecting on the kindness received, 3) reflecting on the gratefulness felt, 4) reflecting on how to repay that kindness, and then the essence of aspiration bodhichitta is training mind to hold 5) loving-kindness, or immeasurable kindness 6) compassion, 7) joy, and 8) equanimity. Here equanimity is directed to impartiality of all sentient beings. There is not so much holding mind in the peaceful state equanimity in this case. In the context of aspiration bodhichitta, we are much more focused more on being impartial, and non-biased. Compassion is impartial, Taking joy in others is impartial, not inclined toward those you love very much and being careless in acknowledging to others.
Application bodhichitta begin primarily by first aspiration. After the birth of aspiration bodhichitta, the enthusiasm of engaged bodhichitta arises through thorough investigation and the contemplation on the aspiration. Where mind really wants to do something, it aspires with great enthusiasm, and that gives birth to wanting to engage.
This is training the mind progressively, so realistically, it is empowered to being truly courageous, so setbacks don’t happen when one acts prematurely before your mind is not attuned. [eg. take on more than you can handle – LWWD]. Mind needs to be attuned to disciplines of bodhichitta practice. Therefore, the 7 branch offerings of Prostrations, Offerings, Confession/purification, Joyfulness, Supplicating, Requesting, and Dedication are given. These 7 contemplations practices are not just thinking, but in each, several classifications have been given that are features to allow precision details; a balance is created of contemplation, and recitation. In this way, it is not just contemplation, but is an engagement also. It is not full-fledged engagement, since no actual things given away but Prostrations, but it trains the mind. This is the Meeting grounds between aspiration and application bodhichitta. Actualized diligence, Actualized concentration, Actualized wisdom are all tempered by being all done mentally, not actually.
Now, the 3rd aspect of mind training.
Training the mind is to actually cultivate generation of engaging in bodhisattva practices. If one were to really work with the 7 branch offering for years over every day, keeping humility in Prostrations, giving vast kinds of offerings, letting go of self-grasping, constantly invoking in oneself the 4 powers, taking dharma as the antidote, having strong sense of resolve not to indulge again in negative emotions (especially anger and practicing patience), able to keep joyfulness of seeing good qualities of other, letting go of cynicism, letting go of jealousy, keeping in mind the good qualities of the dharma, recalling the quality of dharma, surrendering, taking refuge… Generate revulsion of defilements, every day when you see something negative, instead of criticizing, you say “see how mind confuses and say creates so much negativity.” Or say you become the cause of someone’s aggression. Rather than the usual response of blaming them, because you are training your mind, you can say “this is an opportunity, this is proof of the harmful effect of negativities, this is the proof what the ignorance in an harmful mind can do, here is opportunity for me to practice kindness, here is opportunity for me to practice patience. “
If mind is awake constantly, can discern constantly, there is a sincere natural knowledge of how valuable dharma is and encourage doing other… not just saying you appreciate dharma, but you see what value of dharma is. Like our teachers, one often repeated constantly “May all develop basic sanity.”
Patrul Rinpoche said “May all be able to overcome the insanity in their own minds, and awaken sanity.”
There can never be a greater aspiration for others as for all to develop their own ability to develop their own basic sanity and bring about cessation for sentient beings, this is far superior than “May I be of benefit for sentient beings.” (One of our teachers) used to joke “You otherwise imagine yourself as a broom to sweep away the negativities of others.”
May we benefit from dharma that each may awaken wisdom in oneself. Constantly everyday working with acquiring virtue, so when you make that action it primes thinking “may all the merit I have liberate others,” so that you have a realistic virtue to show. Each day, a meditator must have virtue to show, so the dedication I make is not an empty hope, so there is a substance. Thinking “this day, I protected so many lives, this day, I was able to someone else, I gave this to someone else, because of this action, and it helped alleviate another’s pain.” During the day, keep in mind the importance of positive causes.
But if the activity is not there, then you are a – I believe in North America there is a good term for this- “couch potato.” You can make smart remarks of compassion, but you are not realistically accomplishing much of anything.
Look back every day before sleep, and ask, “How did you live your day?” As a Buddhist Mahayana practitioner, engaged in the path of practice, this is most important. How did you live your day? In your 10, 15 hours of waking life, see carefully in yourself, how many minutes of those hours of awakened life were oriented toward doing things for yourself versus how many minutes of those hours were dedicated for other sentient beings? Some of you have a lifestyle dedicated to others. Those in the kitchen, making others comfortable here on the land, you are fortunate of having a lifestyle. It needs a little tweaking of your intention. If that doesn’t happen, and if you have personal ambition, even if you have the circumstance, you are not able to transform properly. You need to tweak to bring bodhichitta in; you have a lifestyle that has body, speech and mind that helps other sentient beings. Very, very few people have that opportunity. The rest of us over here? We would like to have such a lifestyle. For most of us, many of those minutes and hours you are awake are primarily for your own self, what you would like to achieve. You should have a sense of sadness. A sense of regret must be there. There must be a sense of “how sad it is that, despite being surrounded by dharma and having aspiration bodhichitta in my mind, it is also so difficult to cut through the patterns of self-indulgences, that magnetizes to self-indulgence.” Therefore, this is how samsara becomes so thick, such a maze. “May I through aspiration bodhichitta generate even greater enthusiasm.”
You may have aspiration bodhichitta, but is it weak. Think at this point “May I strengthen it. What can I do?” You can probably work with the 7 branch offering, till such a time comes when your whole life becomes a 7 branch offering with humility. When your whole day becomes an offering, there is no need to visualize anything. At that point, there is no need to say “I am following examples of bodhisattvas.” You ARE following the example of the bodhisattvas. There is no need to take formal refuge, because you have surrendered to truth of Buddha, dharma and sangha. You see that you have freed yourself from the formalities and technicalities of the 7 branch prayer, you yourself are an embodiment. But for those of us who are not there, the 7 branch offering is something we can at least do sincerely.
We can follow the examples of great masters. For example, you have read about my own grand uncle, Chun Rinpoche, His Holiness Mindrolling Trinchen Rinpoche’s uncle was said in Tibet to be like the sun of the entire Buddha dharma. He was a great master, very humble and very simple. He was one of the root teachers of many great teachers, including the 16th Karmapa himself. But throughout his life, he used to carry a pouch with him following the tradition of great masters of carrying a pouch of black and white pebbles. We’ve all heard stories about people who did so in the past, but he actually did this in his life. Every time he did or said something negative, he openly put a black pebble in front of him without hesitation. If he did or said something good, he put a white pebble in front of him. In his biography, he said for many years, it was very seldom white pebbles, usually black pebbles. But towards the end of his life, “I was mostly setting out white pebbles; black pebbles were quite few, sometimes not there, so I know I worked with myself.”
I heard this when I was young. Jetsunla and I tried; it didn’t work at all in our cases. There were lots of excuses. “This should be great.” (Laughter) After the first couple days of being enthusiastic, we failed. (Laughter) So don’t follow my example. (Laughter) Great beings became great beings not because of anything but their truly engaging in the path of practice.
The only difference between a bodhisattva and you is a single hesitation. That single thought. They knew, they did; we know, we don’t. It’s just the stubbornness with which we think knowing is sufficient. We wait for knowledge to turn into practice. Patrul Rinpoche says “making sincere effort in training mind of aspiration and 7 branch offering, one should without hesitation, clinging, ambition of ego- test oneself to actually train ones’ own mind is giving complete.”
Where you sit and do 7 branch offering each day, (you may think), “I should do better than flicking some rice. I should engage!” How long will you be content by mere aspiration, visualization, and intent? Challenge yourself to do it, and read Bodhicharyavatara verses, especially chapter 3, verse 11:“My body, thus, and all my goods besides, And all my merits gained and to be gained, I give them away withholding nothing To bring about the benefit of beings. “
This is said to be the core verse to train mind to give generously.
Give your body, material wealth, all merit gained and to be gained in future. “All I give to sentient beings,” with strong determination and resolve. Then, continually engage self. If some asks you to help, examine you own self. How generously can you give yourself? Your concentration, effort, orientation towards others. Generate a sense of material possessions for oneself. Learning to generously give material goods to others, things present in form, sound, taste, clothings. Any material you are attached to: test how joyfully, enthusiastically with kindness can you give to others, dedicating to others. Most important is the importance of acquiring of merit for others.
Truly keep these in mind. If someone says something mean, you burst in to tears. Now you know of 7 of this, 4 of that, 5 of this, and you know to prostrate here, and you know to meditate there. Here (in the shrine room), you say “yes, “give me more”. How much letting go is there? Otherwise, you will be buried under these thick books of classification.
Therefore, anyone who harms me /
Those who can’t keep bodhichitta in mind should know not to blame others, but you feel in blaming self. You want to make the other feel bad by breaking down in such a way to make them feel far worse than if you retaliate. So, be cable to watch self.
Verse 11- giving of one’s body, material possession, merit to be gained through generosity, patience, –
Make the mind able to cultivate possibilities keep aspiration, like 18th verse:
“May I be a guard for those who are protectorless, a guide for those who travel on the road. May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge, may I be a rock, a bridge, a boat, a bed, a slave, the jewel. May I be the tree of materials, just like the earth and space, may I be the ground of…”
How should a person practicing Mahayana bodhichitta be is like this. Nothing else makes sense, is of benefit than to be a source, a basis of happiness for all sentient beings. What should a dharma practitioner be doing? Live life in accordance with Mahayana? What does it mean? Thorough reflection on Buddha nature- what does it mean?
These are all done in order to have transformation of self as that basis where others may find happiness. In their happiness, will find your happiness. Dedicate – may I be able to accomplish this aspiration. When this aspiration is strong, that is the moment when you actually take the bodhisattva vow.
(Rinpoche re-reads verses 17-22.)
Constantly treading them, generate strong intention. Those who take bodhisattva vow, should always retake. Those who don’t want to be kind don’t have to take the bodhisattva vow. (laughter)
Wait, I don’t want to be kind so quickly. (laughter) All these polite conversation – yes, there is some wisdom- you are intelligent people who like to think a lot. (laughter) But keep in mind impermanence, habitual patterns, how strong karmic patterns are one should wait so much in making decision to do what is right. Yes, vows are given with thought you will keep, On the other hand, some of you have taken refuge/bodhisattva vows after 15 years! (laughter) the reason that you gave- it took 15 years to do a simply thing to make sure you could do it. That means you never make a mistake after! (laughter)
I always look at Mark Beckstrom when I talk about giving the Bodhisattva vow, I don’t know why. (laughter) After a lot of thought, is natural we do make mistakes. From Buddhist perspective, perfection is not the beginning. We are imperfect, but we don’t dwell on imperfection. We wish to transform to better states. As long as intention to work with it, I don’t think too much hesitation is essential. Without much doubt and hesitation, we give refuge and bodhisattva vow – with commentaries. For those that are taking refuge 1st time, I am giving refuge names. The Bodhisattva vow is much more open, some traditions they make it a bigger deal. In Patrol’s tradition, when everyone gives wise for benefiting beings, you have given birth to bodhichitta. You have taken the bodhisattva vow.
But, greater power within sangha.
(Bodhisattva vow given. )
All of us, having taken/ retaken bodhisattva vow- going to read quickly- general advice- being given to you, many times, are given but not articulated completely.
Nevertheless, Tibet was extremely fortunate in having great master who emphasized Mahayana extensively. When Buddha taught in India, was a holy land, but was often invaded. Brought destruction of temples, university, monasteries. Many levels of destruction and change. Nalanda become the core of the Sanskrit tradition in particular. Many came from Tibet after Padmasambhava. Atisha his best way was articulating in simple ways. There are the Atisha ways.
The 13 advices of how to maintain the bodhisattva vow-
One must not disparage the lower yanas. Though one is Mahayana, they are evolved from the Hinayana.
- Refrain from turning from cause and effect. Can’t be Mahayana without cause and effect. Guard against view of Eternalism- many of us act like we won’t die, – thinking of outside savior- or nihilism, not connection from cause and effect. Many Buddhists with careless ness of cause and effect often veer closer to nihilisms.
- Refrain from abandoning Hinayana, but also learn the Hinayana thoroughly. Subjugating the self is the only way to be of benefit.
- Not to discourage others from practicing 6 paramitas/Mahayana as too much work. Some out of misplaced kindness say ‘this is too hard’ – think about it a little word. Encouragement is much more needed than discourage
- Not to believe obscurations are not removable. Self-criticize, deprecation, lack of courage is detrimental – very-. Avoiding is essential.
- Not to hold onto one’s self or tradition as source of pride or arrogance. many times, spiritual arrogance, extol about lineage, customs, and teachers over others. Not to put others down for ego.
- Not to create dispute in sangha.
- Not to let go of bodhichitta. Keeping bodhichitta intent intact …
- Not to be intentionally impatient with others. There is no justification for anger at all.
- Not to turn negative action into dharma action. Not to justify negative actions. Trying to cover up for negative actions already engaged in. Making dharma part of our neurosis. Say not wanting to work is ‘renunciation.’ (laughter)
- Refrain from not helping others suffering. Nothing more important in the world of a Buddhist practitioner than to have opportunity to be of benefit to others. Those who have exclusive idea- I have heard ‘after coming into a sangha, for weeks or so, “this is not at all what I thought it would be like.” Everything you are doing – work to be done – people have idealistic idea of what is like to be a practitioner. Wake to gong, sit all day, walk holyly (is that a word? ) (Laughter) slow walk, talk, thinking, everything prepared very little distraction. This could happen, if we had a wish fulfilling tree, wish fulfilling cow, and wish fulfilling jewel. (Laughter) In olden times, there was said to be a wish fulfilling cow. Supplicate a wish fulfilling jewel for whatever you want, and then it would happen. If we had these, we could all walk around holy. (Laughter) But a human with a trained mind, where all the defilements are displayed, there is a 2nd tier. Knowledge that can stop certain patterns, but can’t dispel self-absorption. A lot of us try to work here; you give up a lot of things to work in this way- simplified already. Many say “what more can I give up?” worked with self, but not touched core of self-cherishing attitude. The Mahayana teachings say unless you go into core of self-cherishing mind, simply working on 2nd level can only make you very uptight and rigid. Will make you aggression, angry with self, generous, but hurt for self .you have to give up so much, get sensitive to everyone. I always joke/complain that there are wonderful practitioners who are ‘ice cubes’ – cold, unfriendly, sensitive. Cold makes you upset, sleep makes you upset, colors makes you upset, sounds makes you upset, people being there makes you upset, people not being there makes you upset, people standing makes you upset, people sitting makes you upset. A subtle aggression. Tremendous in your mind that knows asking you to go into that core, while you try to hold onto core yet try to reap benefits while not letting go. This is painful, but also very long there. Once you are there, most meditators disappear. This is when they isolate themselves. They become reclusive. They either distance themselves from dharma, or remains with dharma but go into retreats. Not all those into retreats are doing this. (laughter) But some say, “I am going to be with myself and my practice.” It is an intention, but “you are your own teacher and know self-best.” But then some exceptional practitioners think “you can’t sew with a two headed needle.” Self-cherishing must be let go of, so come to peace with letting go of self. Where that aggression becoming to be put to rest. One of the greatest changes. When you meet practitioners and say “I want to be like this” or our great teachers, who have such joyfulness, that is mark of starting to relax. That relaxation that brings about adaptively. The wonderful quality of sincerely engaging in the practice of bodhichitta in oneself.
- Being able to help others. That adaptability. Otherwise, where self-absorption is there, you distinguish spiritual practice and other activities- where people say “I have no time to meditate, I am always helping others.” Being in meditation – if you can go beyond methods to actualize front, that seizing it is necessary
- Becomes of ones’ own small hesitation, not able to extend to others. VERY missing in modern meditators. Everyone is good, devoted, would like to benefit others, but begin to become very possessive of self. Little bit of health problems, becomes a big deal. Nothing more important. Mental agitation – unfortunate when one falls sick, encounters confusion, but to make it is not such big deal. Take a mustard seed and say ‘this is bigger than whole universe.’ And stubbornly hold to that, what is this negative? This is fertile ground for self-indulgence. Sometimes will be health, money, relationships, habits whatever it is, ego is going to ask you to make this an important issue, in Tibetan, this is literally “there is very little patience with regard to changes.”
People say “everything changes all the time.” It’s not like as Buddhists we didn’t’ know it would change. In same way, shifting, many different small things day to day we make a big issue. Way you relate- with very little tolerance- ego picks on weakness- too small, too big, and uncomfortable. Want to be in another room. Seemingly small, but as every drop of water fills a bucket, all these little impatience build up to energy of gross impatience with all that happens. Destroys the ability to go beyond limitations. Have taken bodhisattva vow. “Your headache is bigger, or someone else’s cancer is bigger?” you say cancer bigger, but you come in evening for a little bit for them, but more concerned with headache. Not saying disregard problems completely. But one would only need to exert a little to make a big difference for people.
Also, some practitioners are offered money to make recitations /prayers for others. They give up shamatha to do recitation for others. Especially, for monks /nuns- not cause others to give up shamatha to emphasize shamatha.
These 13 and 18 are all those to be maintained by those who take bodhisattva vow. Patrul Rinpoche says “Speaking about compassion is one thing. Doing compassion is another.” Many of us don’t understand the vast spectrum of how we do like live life, how we reflect on situations. Therefore, a person aspiring to bodhichitta should live life differently. Where there is reluctance, you will find distance between aspiration and action bigger. Must let go of hesitation to transform self to Mahayana. Your thinking, speech, mind have to be kind, no exceptions. Completely changing ….decisions in life must have bodhichitta as most important factor. options must have bodhichitta,. Decisions must always come with “I can’t do that because I have bodhichitta.” My options must have essence of view of bodhichitta. In beginning, of course you…someone else.
That was the 13th advice.
Also the 18 supplementary precepts.
# 16 – important- falsely saying one has realized emptiness is easy as a hint to give- especially, for those of us teaching. But if not in how we live life….
17- a. lot of times, in east, Will not like to do that. Bad luck, you’ve taken bodhisattva vow. (Laughter) But without facing that difficulty, transformation won’t come. So, next time, make sure it isn’t so forced. Ultimately, is about a decision to make. Once you are decided that you will make heart/mind kinder, isn’t so much option otherwise available to you. Habitual ways vs. bodhisattva ways of thinking. Where you reduce the options …don’t take bodhisattva vow until thinking a lot of preliminaries. Where it is irrefutable, knowing that quality, reduce choice of reluctance, holding on to habitual patterns. Where resolution is strong, and you don’t face other option, only 1 direction – transcendence/transformation. Patrul Rinpoche says “at that moment where meditation engages in truly strengthening, no matter how difficult, to transform attitude, that person not only takes bodhisattva vow, but also engages in bodhisattva trainings.” He then goes into the 6 paramitas. One’s life must be permeated so the 6 paramitas becomes the life, heartbeat of you.
At the beginning, when we broke the text down into 4 parts: Person, attitude, classification, and result, this is number 3: “The practices so the person engages in bodhichitta and changes life to resemble life of bodhisattvas.”