Bodhisattva Attitude: How to Dedicate Your Life to Others

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Bodhisattva Attitude is the first book in our new Heart Advice series, a series of core teachings—the "heart advice"—taken from the experiential instructions of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The topic of Bodhisattva Attitude is how to develop bodhicitta by practicing it throughout the day, from start to finish. The book is drawn from Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s essential teachings given from 2008 onward and is edited by Ven. Sarah Thresher.

The Motivations: Bodhisattva Attitude

How to Dedicate Your Life to Others

The Long Motivation

Recite these verses first thing in the morning after generating a bodhicitta motivation for life or at other times.Then contemplate the meaning and keep it in mind throughout the day. (Points for reflection from Rinpoche’s commentary are in small type below the relevant verse.)

Giving

I shall give away fully with no sense of loss
My body, enjoyments and all merits of the three times (past, present and future)
To accomplish the work for all sentient beings.

As you recite this verse do the meditation on giving. Offer everything from your heart to others with a completely happy mind, just as you would give to the friend closest to your heart or to the person who has been kindest to you in your life. Don’t exclude those people you hate even to see or remember; give to “all” sentient beings in order to accomplish the “work” of bringing them the happiness of this life, future lives, liberation from samsara and enlightenment.

If you wish, you can begin the meditation by generating compassion and then taking from the numberless sentient beings:

  • All their sufferings.
  • All the causes of those sufferings, karma and defilements, including even the subtle defilements.
  • The suffering of the places where they live.

Think that all of this absorbs into your ego at your heart and destroys your self-cherishing thought. Also think that having taken this away from sentient beings, they achieve the state of dharmakaya, which is beyond suffering.

Then give:

  • All your numberless past, present and future merits and all the resultant happiness that comes from these merits up to enlightenment.
  • Your body visualized in the form of numberless wish-granting jewels filling the whole sky.
  • All your enjoyments, material possessions and even your family and friends.

Offer all of this to:

  • All the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, asuras, intermediate state beings.
  • Every arhat and every bodhisattva who is free from samsara.

Think that by receiving all this, they:

  • Achieve a pure land where there is no suffering and only beauty. It is filled with wish-granting trees and whatever they wish for happens.
  • Receive a perfect human body, meet the Mahayana Dharma and find a perfectly qualified guru who can reveal the path to enlightenment.
  • Actualize the complete path to enlightenment in their heart and are liberated from the oceans of samsaric suffering, along with all the causes, delusion and karma, including both the gross and subtle defilements.
  • Become enlightened in the form of the deity you are practicing.

Rejoice that you have brought them all to the state of enlightenment.

Death

By giving away all, I will be liberated from the oceans of samsaric suffering
And my mind will achieve the sorrowless state.
Since I have to leave everything (at death)
It is best to (now) give it away to every single sentient being.

Sooner or later you will die and at the time of death you will have to leave every­thing behind. No matter how wealthy or powerful you may be or how many loved ones surround you, even this body you cherish most will be left behind and only the bare consciousness will go to the next life. Therefore, it is best to give every­thing to every single sentient being right now.

Bodhicitta means wanting to be used by others

Having given this body to sentient beings
To use however they want that makes them happy,
Whether they always kill me, criticize, beat me or whatever,
It is totally up to them.

This is very, very important. You must have this thought to actualize or to prac­tice bodhicitta. Bodhisattvas want to be used by sentient beings. The worldly mind thinks that being used by others is bad, the worst thing, but bodhisattvas are most happy to accept this. If you want to achieve enlightenment, you have to practice bodhicitta and this is exactly what the bodhisattvas’ attitude is.

The bodhisattvas’ attitude is to always totally dedicate their lives day and night to be used by other sentient beings for their happiness. This is what the bodhisattva looks for and wishes for all the time. Our motivation should be the same. If you feel like this, if you are able to change your mind into an attitude wishing to be used by others for their happiness, there is the opportunity to gradually become closer and closer to bodhicitta and to have the realization.

It is very important to remember this incredible complete and total change of mind—especially when somebody slaps you! When we do the Guru Puja every tsog day there is the practice of taking and giving:

And thus, perfect pure compassionate gurus,
I seek your blessings that all negativities, obscurations and sufferings of mother migrators
May without exception ripen upon me right now,
And that by giving my happiness and virtue to others
All migrators may experience happiness.

If you do this meditation, you are giving your body, merits and everything to each sentient being. Therefore, how can you get upset when somebody gets angry at you or scolds you? It doesn’t make sense! If you remember this taking and giv­ing practice when somebody slaps you, there is no way to get angry back. If you remember all the benefits that you receive from sentient beings—all the number­less past, present and future lives’ happiness, liberation and enlightenment—you only want to respect them and give them happiness in return.

This is the reality, but if you listen to the advice of worldly people who don’t practice Dharma and if you listen to Western culture, which is based on anger and attachment, then of course it will be different. Worldly people think that if somebody harms you, you should immediately harm them back, even twice as much, or more. Their attitude and behavior is totally opposite to the Dharma and totally opposite to bodhicitta. This point is very important.

Always meaningful for others

Let this body only do actions that cause no harm to others,
And whoever looks at or thinks of me,
May it never be meaningless for them.

This prayer is very important. You are praying to be wish-fulfilling for anyone who looks at or thinks of you, not only other people but even animals, insects and spirits. You are praying that just by seeing or remembering you, all their men­tal and physical sicknesses be healed, that they find faith and devotion in Bud­dha, Dharma and Sangha, develop compassion, bodhicitta and the good heart, actualize the tantric path and achieve enlightenment.

Whoever focuses on me—
Whether with anger or devotion—
May that always be the cause for them
To achieve every success.

May all who say unpleasant things,
Harm, mock or make fun of me
Have the fortune to achieve enlightenment.

This is the bodhisattva’s attitude. Even if people get angry at you, criticize or beat you, in return pray for that to be the cause for them to achieve whatever happi­ness and success they seek. This is the best and deepest psychology. No matter how others behave toward you, whether they think badly of you or harm you, in return pray to become wish-fulfilling for them. Pray to become anything that they need.

May I become a guide for those who are guideless,
A leader for those who are entering the path,
A ship, a boat and a bridge
For all who wish to cross (over water).

May I become a beautiful garden for those who seek one,
A light for those who look for light,
Bedding for those who wish to rest
And a servant for all who want me as their servant.

Usually our ego wants others to become its servant; here we pray to become a servant for others. This is another total and complete change of our minds into the bodhisattva’s attitude.

The means of living and the cause of happiness for numberless sentient beings

Like a wish-granting jewel,
A wish-fulfilling vase, powerful mantra,
Great medicine and a wish-granting tree,
May I fulfill all the wishes of sentient beings.

Just like the sky and the great elements
Earth, (water, fire and wind),
May I always be the means of living and the cause of happiness
For sentient beings equaling the limitless sky.

As long as space exists,
As long as sentient beings exist,
May I too abide and eliminate the suffering of sentient beings.

Sentient beings use the earth, water, fire, wind and space in so many unimagina­ble ways for their happiness. Pray to be used by sentient beings exactly like those great elements in whatever way they want and whatever way is most beneficial for their happiness. That means not only when your mind is OK and you are in a good mood, but all the time, even when you are in a bad mood or depressed. Pray to be used like this always and forever.

The bodhisattva attitude

This bodhisattva attitude makes your life extremely beneficial and meaningful for sentient beings. It is totally against the ego and totally opposite to the self-cherishing thought. It diminishes and eliminates the selfish mind that harms you and harms all sentient beings from life to life.

Generate this motivation in the morning and then remember it throughout the day. If somebody gets angry, scolds, abuses or says nasty words to you, or if you ask somebody for help and they refuse, whatever happens, remember this motivation. Then instead of generating anger, delusions and all that junk and garbage, you will have great peace and happiness. You will be free from creating negative karma and in future the result will be enlightenment for you and for all sentient beings.

The Short Motivation

Like a wish-granting jewel,
A wish-fulfilling vase, powerful mantra,
Great medicine and a wish-granting tree,
May I fulfill all the wishes of sentient beings.

Just like the sky and the great elements
Earth, (water, fire and wind)
May I always be the means of living and the cause of happiness
For sentient beings equaling the limitless sky.

As long as space exists,
As long as sentient beings exist,
May I too abide and eliminate the suffering of sentient beings.