I recently listened to the Dalai Lama (through his translator) say something on a karma related subject. He said that even a simple act of virtue like feeding an animal (even ants) when it is done with an altruistic attitude (intention of helpfulness and compassion) with the idea of benefiting those sentient beings that this is what is meant by the term “bodhicitta”. The word translates from Sanskrit this way: bodhi means enlightened or awakened and citta means mind or consciousness. So we could say that bodhicitta means awakened mind and it is the compassionate act of a bodhisattva practitioner. To take it further, A person who has a spontaneous realization or motivation of bodhicitta is called a bodhisattva.
I would not go so far as to refer to myself as a bodhisattva but the Dalai Lama says even a simple act of conduct or action done in virtue with the intention of helpfulness and compassion are transformed into conditions of full enlightenment. I think of conditions being transformed in such a way that awakening, at least in moments, is favorable. So even simple acts of loving intention, he said, are like an elixir that transforms base metals into gold.
Only a true Buddhist would consider feeding ants. That has never occurred to me to do, but maybe will since the great teacher Dalai Lama mentioned it. However, I do feed stray cats. There is one little Buddha-Cat who honestly cracks my heart open every time he comes with the others to eat. He had a lot of fear right after he was born–really significantly frightened more than his brother or sisters. Now, he is warming up to me and the other neighbor here who feeds him. Here’s the thing. The others dive into the food platter — a clear plastic party platter works well for them, each having their own compartment. However, while he may be positioned to eat, he doesn’t start until he looks up into your eyes and reaches his head up so as to rub noses with you.
Each time I feed this cat, my heart opens more and he makes it easy for me to create the mindstate of a Bodhisattva. I accept any conditions that would lead me to full awakening. This sweet cat is helping me; may he remain protected and happy.
PS it is said that His Holiness rescued his cat from the slums of Dharmsala.
Imagine standing at the edge of a forest, and that you want to reach the other side.
Would you walk a straight line through it? Or, might the path meander in every possible direction, around boulders, between trees, along a stream, feeding the deer, conversing with the owls, and roasting marshmallows?
Yeah, every possible direction, because this is how things are in a forest.
Tree! The Universe
[the clever lines above received by email this morning from tut.com]
I’d just been thinking such a similar set of mental phrases. I sure am going the long way around wherever I’m going — and I quit trying to second-guess the ultimate destination a while back. I adapted the attitude of one of my teachers who said, “… you go where you’re sent in life.”
Today I am also thinking of the Bodhisattva vow: May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. May my action bodhichitta grow
Yeah, okay. I’m doing my best–so don’t laugh! And I seem to be meandering around a few boulders in the forest of life this year in general and this week most recently, but as my grandmother used to say “little by little” progress is made. So T-minus 4 days to take off! The next move is in 4 days and some final cleaning took place here in the kitchen yesterday and the skin on my fingertips are a bit raw to prove it. Never have gotten used to cleaning using rubber gloves. Clumsy and too much time taking them on an off as I’m pulled in other directions while cleaning–take answering the phone for one example.
Where is the ultimate destination? I don’t know! But I’m willing to let that be okay. I’ve located a number of possible paths and applied for the hiking permit (so-to-speak, speaking symbolically) and we’ll see what opens up.
Meanwhile, I have two small mirrors to un-anchor from the wall and some things to drive over to storage before the end of the week, aside from that, I don’t know what more I can do as I’ve always applied that girl scout motto: BE PREPARED
My trip to the rental office yesterday was productive in that I was able to tie up the loose ends and end the confusion about final notices and paperwork: there was a change of staff right in the midst of the apartment change. (Long story–don’t ask.) All’s well that ends well and I’m ending my association with this particular apartment about as well as I can do it.
So on to the next adventure, around this boulder here in 4 days. Maybe then I will see more clearly what’s ahead. I think sometimes my vision is blocked for good reason–perhaps I’m being spared in some way and that’s a blessing.
As I sometimes do, let me pull a card and ask (reaching for my tarot cards)… let me ask what is ahead around this current boulder, perhaps the card will show me? (I do love divination! but then I’m a psychic after all and should, right?)
For clarity sake, the boulder represents the current move into the new apartment with my sister. What is beyond that? At least for the near future–this is my question. Near future representing let us say the next 6 months. So here we go… asking for just one card, just to get a feel for the energy beyond the T-minus 4 days….
Well, it’s the 7 of Swords. Well first thing I get here is “confrontations being avoided” — and that may be a good thing. The herb associated with this card is WOOD BETONY which some wear to avoid evil spirits. That’s a bit dramatic. Let’s just say that Wood Betony can help one release fearful visions of the future… that I’ll go with. It helps with one’s nerves when used medicinally. There’s some reference to hidden intentions and deceptions. Sounds like honesty all around will be important on the other side of this boulder.
The affirmation for this card [according to the book] is: “With a peaceful heart, I gather information and truth for my plans and goals.”
This card involves “keeping something to yourself” and being a loner–like those blackbirds who keep to themselves and bow and then fly away when they see other birds. (Just this past week many blackbirds have been coming to the feeder–highly unusual) Blackbirds stay to them selves so much that it is said when you actually see two blackbirds together at once, it’s a good omen.
So this “keeping to one’s self” sounds like blackbird medicine advice. This card is also about preferring solitude–and that of course is no secret about me. This will likely not change is what the card is indicating. This card involves “separation from others”. And further, this card relates to self-reliance and using one’s own wits to solve problems and resources.
Boy O boy! The feeling that I’m getting here is that my life won’t really change all that much from what it is now. That “loner” and “self-reliant” energy that I carry (that blackbird energy) will not change. That’s a comfort to me.
This card also carries a meaning that relates to “running away” in some way—and that has to do with confrontations being avoided in this case (or so it feels). There’s a testy teenager who will be part of the household and since this card applies to my question about what is around the corner for me, the avoidance of confrontations (bow and fly away; blackbird energy) may be what this card indicates. (Astrologically speaking: If you’re an astrologer, this girl is a Leo Moon and Aries Sun with Saturn (in Aries) in the 7th, Virgo rising–3rd house Pluto. My Sun and Moon are in her 1st house within orb of her Chiron. Her Moon is on my 12th house Mars/Pluto/Saturn stellium. My sister is an very early Leo Sun and Aquarius Moon affecting her daughter’s 5th House Uranus.) Yeah, that 7 of Swords and Blackbird loner stuff …. probably good advice. A big message of the 7 of Swords has to do with the need to be calm and to keep things to yourself–I so get that.
I may re-evaluate my plans or goals once I get on the other side of the boulder too but meanwhile, I will meander just as I have been through the forest of life and enjoy whatever is beyond the boulder or around the curve in the path. Meanwhile, I will do my best to hold to my Bodhisattva vows and the 37 Practices.
I also may totally plan a get away camping trip for a week or so in the mountains too, providing I have the increase in $$ to do so. Anybody want to order a reading or sign up for my class? 🙂 Help! LOL
Part of the Vow:
Just as all the previous Sugatas, the Buddhas
Generated the mind of enlightenment
And accomplished all the stages
Of the Bodhisattva training,
So will I too, for the sake of all beings,
Generate the mind of enlightenment
And accomplish all the stages
Of the Bodhisattva training
This includes practice the “six perfections”: giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom in order to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings.
The Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva – Another Attempt to Reach Up from the Mud of Samsara
Can we really do this?
Something is being encouraged on deeper levels and something wants to reach up out of the mud of samsara (life/earth living/the illusion of the suffering of this dimension) and is growing and reaching toward the Sun like the Lotus (the flower associated with Buddhism).
The Universe, the Light of Divine Intelligence, the Harmony of Helios or however you want to name it, but some energy encourages this, as it always does and I even carried that encouragement around in my purse/handbag for nearly 5 weeks without realizing it!
And yesterday! Yesterday I received a reply email communication from a Tibetan Lama (the real Lama, not a secretary!)—my ego is impressed—in which the parting line was, “May all beings benefit from your practice of the dharma!” And my mind and body froze as if they were my marching orders from the head spiritual warrior!—or something like that. I felt the directive, the dictate, the command, the instruction, and the order deep within my heart, mind and soul.
“Deny samsara and help others do the same!”– Aye aye Captain! I was being given my marching papers or assigned my official mission from a Lama! Ha! And the Lama was probably simply just using a phrase to close the email with a customary, “May all beings benefit from your practice of the dharma!” Sounds like a simple wish to end an email with like “sincerely” or “may you have a nice day”– but for me it stopped my breath and my world for a moment as I swallowed hard and felt like, “Okay, this is IT.” And it’s time to get dead serious about it too! Especially since each day we get closer by-the-day to those final marching orders too.
Anyway, “dharma” is a word used to describe the teachings—practicing the dharma is doing the spiritual practices, following the teachings of Buddha who—and this is the part I love—said firstly that transformation of the mind is what is needed to alleviate suffering but most importantly he recommends examining the teachings carefully and objectively in order to know if it is something we can work with or live by or adopt. And secondly, if we do accept the teaching it is because we have done the (here comes my favorite phrase)… we have done the observation and correlation of the teaching. We apply it and see if there’s any truth to it through our own objective life experience and then if it turns out to be helpful and works for us, then (and only then) do we accept it as part of our own truth. Then, thirdly, we have the responsibility to put it into practice—to live the teaching.
When we do this, we create “bodhichitta” which is the mind of awakening or the enlightened mind that strives toward compassion for the benefit of all sentient (living) beings. It is a sudden and lasting compassion for all beings, accompanied by a falling away of the attachment to the illusion of an inherently-existing self. That last part is a kicker and I’ve been working on that one for some good long time now but since the purse-thing, finding that I’ve been carrying around the help for weeks now, is another strong synchronizing “hint” of encouragement.
One day shortly after I broke my toe (don’t ask) and while accompanying my daughter on some errands found myself at our local Goodwill store looking at the dusty old book section (no surprise, right?) Lo and behold I found a little book with a picture of the Dalai Lama on the front and the book was entitled “Essential Teachings”. Next thing you know my daughter calls out, “C’mon Mom we’re ready to go, are you ready?” Making my way to the checkout I pay something like 50 cents for the book, slide it into my purse/handbag and forgot about it.
In the meanwhile, 6 weeks later here, I’m watching a DVD of a Buddhist Lama teaching the Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva and although it wasn’t the first time I viewed it, and even though I have a good number of Buddhist books on the shelf in my apartment (and have read every one!), this time something really caught hold of me. That Lama seemed to explain it so well this time when I listened–and it was the very same Lama who gave me my mission via the email signature!
I’ve read the translations of The Middle Way: Nargajuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika and a number of books like it including quite few on Mahamudra. We also have ‘A Guide to the Boddhisattva Way of Life” by Shantideva to name a few. And I’ve spent hour upon hour viewing of teachings on DVD of the Dalai Lama on these very topics and teachings. This is conveyed, least you think that the path is very new–I’ve been traveling this way for a while and integrating Buddhism gradually. Anyway, so much for history…
A few days ago, I thought to blog about the Thirty Seven Practices (dharma teachings) to help myself and others—although I should have phrase that the other way around I suppose; but you get the idea. And from that thought, I began to wish to have these practices written down in a simple form just the way the Lama spoke about them. Well, I thought, why not look to see what’s out there from the Lama of Lamas: His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet! He says things so simply and he makes everything so easy to understand!
I could not find anything online and then had to stop my search anyway to go pick up my niece from her High School Driver’s Education Class. I didn’t want to be late. Once I got there, putting the car in park, and taking a breath, then found myself wishing I had a book along with me to read while I waited for my niece.
Then (light bulb turns on in the mind!) remembering that I had that old book from the Goodwill Store—the one I’d paid 50 cents for so many weeks ago—I smiled and pulled it out. I looked at the chapter headings and felt so moved and smiled from my heart seeing how this book by the Dalai Lama contains 37 chapters–each chapter being one of the 37 practices explained in his own simple words! There it was, just exactly what I was looking for and I had it with me all along. When the student is ready, the teacher… well, you know.
So I will be working with these now and blogging about them. Time’s up for now. If you follow along with future blogs, maybe (just maybe) we can do more to further create a ‘mind of awakening’ as we practice the dharma here.
“May all beings benefit from my practice of the dharma”–just like the Lama says!