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: Everything Depends on Your Attitude

When you rise in the morning think deeply from your heart,
“I am going to act in accordance with bodhicitta.”
When you go to sleep at night,
Check whether you acted in accordance with or against bodhicitta.

                  - Khunu Lama Rinpoche 99

The motivations in this section contain the key points extracted from Rinpoche’s teachings. They can be used as a basis to create your own motivations. There is a long version for most of the motivations, followed by a more concise version.

A Reflection

Think as follows:

MY LIFE HAS BEEN MOST FORTUNATE

My life has been most fortunate. First of all, I have heard the heart of the Buddhadharma, the very essence of the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha, the very precious teaching on the stages of the path to enlightenment many times. I have even heard them from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is the real living Chenrezig, the Compassion Buddha manifested in the human form of a monk—the aspect that can most perfectly guide me. Just that alone is most amazing and inexpressible. It is the most unbelievable, rare, fortunate and precious thing that could have happened to me this life.

Then I have met many other great teachers and unbelievably qualified virtuous friends who preserve the whole entire Buddhadharma—the Lesser Vehicle, Mahayana Paramitayana and Mahayana Tantrayana teachings—and who can reveal to me the complete path to enlightenment from their own experience.

So really, if I look at what has happened to me so far this life, it is most amazing.

I CAN'T REALLY TELL WHEN DEATH WILL COME

But of course, this incredible opportunity will not last long. It is just like lightning on a very dark night that for a short time reveals everything clearly and is then gone.

Life is not long and I can’t tell when death will come. There are many conditions for death, like the 400 different types of disease, 360 spirit possessions, 1,080 interferers and, these days, many new diseases that were never heard of before. Then there is cancer. I hear all the time about this and that friend or family member suddenly getting cancer, but how can I tell that sooner or later other people won’t hear my own name with the word “cancer” next to it and a “has” in between? This happens to many people in the world. Already many older students who had been studying Dharma for some time have passed away. I might be next.

I cannot always live my life with the concept of permanence. Life is very short in degenerate times and even things that are supposed to support life can become the condition for death, like medicines having side effects that lead to death or people dying when their house collapses or while eating food.

THE REAL MEDITATION IS LAM-RIM

Life is short and there is not much time left, therefore it is extremely important to meditate on the lam-rim. The real meditation is lam-rim, the stages of the path to enlightenment.

The great enlightened being Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo mentioned in his teachings that it is more meaningful to spend our lives meditating on lam-rim, the three principal aspects of the path, than to recite many hundreds of millions of OM MANI PADME HUM or other mantras. He also said that it is more meaning­ful to spend our lives meditating on the lam-rim than even seeing the Buddha. In order to be enlightened I need to achieve all the realizations of the path and that doesn’t happen in one second just by seeing Buddha. Of course, by seeing the Buddha I would receive many blessings, but no realizations.

EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON MY ATTITUDE

Lama Tsongkhapa mentioned in his Mind Training Poem:

If you don’t purify negative karma and defilements quicker and quicker,
Being totally under the control of very forceful karma,
Even though you know this is happiness, that is happiness, you are powerless to choose;
Even though you know this is suffering, that is suffering, you are powerless to free yourself.
Therefore, reflect that action and result are non-betraying,
Look now to choose between white and black karma:
From this day take care not to create negative karma;
From this night attend to virtue.
What better can you do with this life than take care
Not to create negative karma but instead create virtue all the time?
White and black actions depend on good and bad thoughts:
If you have good thoughts, even the paths and grounds are good;
If you have bad thoughts, even the paths and grounds are bad.
Everything depends on your attitude.

Because I am under the control of very hard, forceful, powerful karma, if I don’t purify all this as quickly as possible, even though I know what is happiness and what is suffering, I am not free to choose. Some­how I just have to go through sicknesses, relationship problems, business problems and so on, powerless to immediately free myself from them.

Once an action is done, karma is created. If the action is non-virtuous, the result will definitely be suf­fering. If the action is virtuous, the result will defi­nitely be happiness. These results will definitely come. Therefore, I need to reflect on this and then take care not to create negative karma but instead create virtue all the time.

Lama Tsongkhapa is saying that everything depends on the mind. Everything depends on my attitude. That is something great to learn—how everything depends on my mind.

For example, if I have a bodhicitta motivation, the good heart benefiting other sentient beings, I can actu­alize the realizations of the Mahayana path, the five paths and ten grounds.

If I don’t have a good heart, even if I have renunciation and a realization of emptiness, I can only enter the Lesser Vehicle path and the highest I can achieve is the lower nirvana. I cannot become a bodhisattva and collect skies of merit in every second with every single action of body, speech and mind, as well as purifying all the heavy negative karmas collected in this and past lives. Without bodhicitta, I cannot achieve enlighten­ment and do perfect work without the slightest mis­take for sentient beings, liberating every one of them from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bringing them to enlightenment.

The self-cherishing thought makes my attitude bad. That is why, so far, because of following self-cherish­ing from beginningless rebirths up to now instead of practicing bodhicitta and benefiting others, I have not been able to achieve the very first realization of imper­manence and death, which makes the mind become Dharma, or any other realizations.

My today’s self-cherishing thought doesn’t allow my actions right now to become a cause of enlight­enment, liberation from samsara or the happiness of future lives. It creates so many obstacles even for the happiness of this life and makes things very difficult. Self-cherishing gives rise to attachment to this life, anger and all the other delusions. All obstacles come from the self-cherishing thought.

Since everything comes from your attitude, make the decision to start each day and live your life with bodhicitta.


NOTES

99 op. cit., v. 205. [Return to text]