The Nectar of Bodhicitta

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

This book presents Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings on bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment, based on verses from two inspiring bodhicitta texts, The Jewel Lamp: A Praise of Bodhicitta, by Khunu Lama Rinpoche, and A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, by Shantideva. It has been compiled and edited by Gordon McDougall.

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Khunu Lama Rinpoche
1.3 The Supremacy of Bodhicitta
BODHICITTA IS THE BEST THOUGHT

In The Jewel Lamp, there are many verses that tell us how bodhicitta is the best, the supreme mind. Of course it is! It is the mind that wishes every single being be free from all suffering completely. What greater mind can there be than that? Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[21] The thought desiring to dispel
Every mistake from every sentient being
And to bring every being to full knowledge is bodhicitta.
Of all wonderful things, this is the most wonderful.

Among all the thoughts we can have, the very best, the most wonderful thought is bodhicitta. Why is that? Because it has incredible benefit for ourselves and for all others. It’s the thought wanting to free every sentient being from every mistaken mind. The mistakes that prevent us from attaining total freedom from suffering are our wrong conceptions, which produce all the delusions and prevent enlightenment. Bodhicitta is more than wanting all beings to be free from physical problems—it is wanting all beings to be free from all gross and subtle delusions that create those physical and mental problems.

Can there be anything superior to that? In his Guide, Shantideva says much the same thing when he says that even wishing to cure sentient beings from a headache is an amazing mind, let alone from all unhappiness completely.10 The wish to free somebody else from a headache is a very beneficial mind, so the wish to free all beings from all headaches is a mind of incredible virtue. But if we extend that not just to one kind of temporary problem experienced by all sentient beings but to all the possible sufferings all beings can experience, gross and subtle, physical and mental, then that mind is unimaginable, incredible, the supreme among the supreme.

Bodhicitta is considered the best mind in the same way that the lotus is considered the most beautiful flower. Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[10] As the pundarika [lotus] is the best flower among all the flowers,
Bodhicitta is the best mind among all the virtuous minds.
Therefore, since having it brings happiness in this life and all lives,
It is worthwhile to always make effort to develop it.

Because we think of a lotus as the most beautiful flower, we revere it over all other flowers in the same way that we consider the diamond as the most valuable of all gems. Likewise, bodhicitta is the most wonderful mind; it’s the most important thing in our life. An action that grows from bodhicitta is the most beneficial action there can be, hence nothing is more worthwhile than developing bodhicitta.

This is what we should hold in the depths of our heart. Without bodhicitta, no matter what advanced practice we do, it will not bring the desired result of enlightenment. Just as we always want the best—the best flowers, the best clothes, the best jewelry—we should demand the best mind, bodhicitta. All other practices, such as concentration, renunciation and so forth, are ways of bringing about this most amazing mind.

To be assured that we can continue to develop our bodhicitta we need to ensure we have another perfect human rebirth. That is a priority because we can’t realistically expect to fully realize bodhicitta in this life. Therefore, the teachings of the lower capable being on perfect human rebirth, impermanence and death, the three lower realms, refuge and karma are vital. We need to start now, this minute, because we never know how long we have left in this current human body.

Bodhicitta brings us every positive quality of mind, such as stability, courage and confidence. Khunu Lama Rinpoche asks,

[51] What is as dependable as bodhicitta?
What is as courageous as bodhicitta?
What is as confident as bodhicitta?
What is as peaceful as bodhicitta?

Bodhicitta is the mind that most benefits all sentient beings, without excluding one insect or one person, without discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, skin color, even eye color!

Furthermore, there is no courage like the courage bodhicitta gives us—the courage to practice the six perfections for however long it takes to attain enlightenment. For three countless great eons, the Buddha practiced each of the perfections, such as charity, giving his possessions and even his body away countless times. Even if it takes us three countless great eons, we must never lose heart. We need the courage that bodhicitta gives us.

For instance, there is the story in the Jataka Tales of the Buddha when he was a bodhisattva captain of a boat with five hundred traders on board. Through his clairvoyance, the Buddha knew there was somebody there who wanted to kill all those five hundred traders and he decided in order to stop this he would kill the man himself, saving him from committing the act of murder and saving all those traders, even though, because of his act, the Buddha himself would be born in the hell realm and suffer for an incredible number of eons. Because of his great compassion for the murderer he was willing to courageously give up his life. But what actually happened was that his incredible compassion brought him a hundred thousand eons closer to enlightenment.

Likewise, with bodhicitta, we naturally have great confidence in whatever we do. When we are a higher bodhisattva, having realized emptiness and therefore become free from samsara, we attain peerless peace and happiness, but even if we are still not free from samsara, we feel great peace. This is the power of bodhicitta.

BODHICITTA IS THE BEST PRACTICE

Bodhicitta brings meaning to any pursuit. Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[325] If you want to be learned, practice bodhicitta.
If you want to be noble, practice bodhicitta.
If you want to be strict, practice bodhicitta.
If you want to be of benefit, practice bodhicitta.

Once we generate bodhicitta, because of the strong wish to benefit others, all the methods we need come naturally. In our mind there is nothing but the wish to best benefit others and therefore we naturally must have knowledge. We become learned not for reputation or any other worldly gain but because this is the best way to serve others.

For a person like me there is only concern for the self, but with bodhicitta we are concerned only for others and consequently we seek whatever method is best to lead others from suffering and into peerless happiness. As Maitreya explains in Ornament of Clear Realization,11 those who wish to benefit others must understand the path. The individual liberation path, the bodhisattva’s path—whatever path there is—should be understood and followed in order to do the best work for others. A Mahayana practitioner cannot ignore the wonderful teachings of the Hinayana; they are the foundation. Astrology, hygiene, languages, handicraft, art or whatever subjects that can be of benefit to others need to be studied. Although we might have no inclination to follow other religions, if studying them benefits others it’s very important that we do so. A classic example of this is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who not only champions interfaith dialogue but also has yearly science seminars, where he has deep discussions with eminent scientists to make links between the ancient mind science of Buddhism and the new mind science of the modern world.

Bodhicitta inspires us to do whatever is beneficial. If we need to learn astrology to benefit others, we do; if we need to learn another language, we do. And, of course, we need the really vital subjects such as emptiness and the other realizations on the path. When we have bodhicitta, all these realizations pour down on us like cooling rain, without much effort at all. With bodhicitta, our understanding of emptiness develops until we realize it and we become an arya being. From that we develop further, destroying even the subtle delusions and completing all the realizations until we become a buddha. Without bodhicitta this is impossible; with bodhicitta it is definite.

Conversely, without bodhicitta nothing we do has much use. After all the years of education—primary school, high school, one degree at university after another—and all that money spent acquiring knowledge, we might end up as a top scientist or biologist, a famous psychiatrist or author, but still our mind is empty of anything worthwhile. There are still the same disturbing thoughts, the same dissatisfaction in the mind. Because all that education has just been dedicated to our own comfort, our own happiness, there is still no peace in the mind and our life is still filled with problems.

Not only that, even if somebody has studied all the sutras and tantras and can explain them very well—even if they can recite all 84,000 teachings revealed by the Buddha by heart—without bodhicitta it is very difficult for that person to offer extensive benefit to others. There are always mistakes. If they lecture about something, somehow it lacks flavor and people find it uninteresting. They might have a reputation for being learned but also for being boring. On the other hand, somebody with even very little education who has bodhicitta can be highly beneficial.

Khunu Lama Rinpoche says if we want to be a noble person we need to develop bodhicitta. “Noble” here means a moral person, somebody with a good heart. A good heart is wonderful but we need the ultimate good heart, with love and compassion for all sentient beings. To have some partiality means we have not yet attained bodhicitta. We might feel we have love for human beings and maybe some animals but not all. Perhaps we love kittens and puppies but have no thought of love toward repulsive creatures such as snakes and scorpions. Without bodhicitta, it is difficult to develop the causes of enlightenment, despite what we do. The good heart of bodhicitta covers all sentient beings.

Khunu Lama Rinpoche also says that with bodhicitta we naturally train to be “strict” or self-disciplined. It is very difficult to maintain self-discipline without bodhicitta because there is always a conflict between our external moral actions and what our self-cherishing wants.

Even if we live in a solitary place in silence, fasting every day, if our mind is devoid of bodhicitta there is not much advantage. Again, it becomes difficult to create the cause for enlightenment. Living in a cave without possessions, never seeing another sentient being, not even a bird, living without food, doing a strict retreat, still there will be little benefit.

If we have bodhicitta then such practices would have great benefit. We are very strict in avoiding the self-cherishing attitude. Nothing becomes an ego trip; nothing diverts us from developing our potential toward full enlightenment. We automatically become “strict” in this way; we automatically dedicate all the actions of our three doors of body, speech and mind to others. We are incapable of doing anything that harms others and therefore we don’t create any negative karma at all. We become strict with nonvirtuous actions. Bodhicitta is the most meaningful strictness.

As I have said, the very last time I met Khunu Lama Rinpoche he advised me that the people at Kopan Monastery should do their best to subdue their minds. Lama Yeshe had told me to teach the Kopan monks the three principal aspects of the path—renunciation, bodhicitta and the right view of emptiness—and here Rinpoche was advising me to balance scholarly learning with subduing their minds. That made me think that everything we did at Kopan should be firmly based on a bodhicitta motivation.

This is what Khunu Lama Rinpoche advised and this is the path the Buddha followed. To practice without bodhicitta is to go along another path, one not shown by the Buddha. This is the heart advice from all the learned Indian and Tibetan teachers. Like the fire at the end of the eon that burns up the entire universe totally, bodhicitta burns all negative karma, all downfalls. It is the hook that brings all sublime realizations.

Just as knowledge, morality and self-discipline need bodhicitta, so does everything we do when studying the path to enlightenment. As Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[36] Among existences to be known, the best existence is with bodhicitta.
Among advice to be learned, the best advice is bodhicitta.
Among practices to be done, the best practice is bodhicitta.
Among meditations, the best meditation is bodhicitta.

Achieving this perfect human rebirth with its eight freedoms and ten richnesses is such a rare thing. We have met the teachings of the Buddha, we have met the virtuous friend and we have all these other incredibly rare and precious conditions—this perfect human rebirth gives us a unique and wonderful opportunity. If we can’t make the most of this time by generating bodhicitta then our life is wasted. This is what Khunu Lama Rinpoche means when he says the best existence is with bodhicitta.

One day, one hour, even one minute that passes without having done this practice is a great loss. Whatever we do, wherever we are, we should always hold a bodhicitta motivation in our heart. The best advice we can listen to and learn is bodhicitta; the best practice we can do is bodhicitta.

In short, to progress quickly through the entire path, there is no way other than by relying on bodhicitta. Khunu Lama says,

[39] If you wish to proceed easily to the level
Of the knowledge of all modes of meditation,
What other method is there if you do not
Rely upon the bodhicitta of the Victor’s children?

There is no other method to immediately progress to the state of omniscience. For example, some people only want to practice tantra, seeing it as the quick path to enlightenment, and consider the Sutrayana as inferior, kind of a lower practice.

If we do that, leaving out bodhicitta, no matter how many eons we practice tantra, working with the winds and channels and all that, we will never attain enlightenment. We must understand that tantra relies on the foundation, the practices that clean the mind: first correctly relying on a virtuous friend, then attaining all the lamrim realizations incorporated in the three higher trainings of renunciation, wisdom and bodhicitta. For tantra we have to clean away the garbage otherwise we will be trying to practice it with the self-cherishing thought. If there is no renunciation of samsara, how can our practice become Dharma? It can only be worldly dharma. Similarly, without the wisdom realizing emptiness, we can never be free from samsara. It is only with bodhicitta that our practice takes us straight to enlightenment. Trying to practice tantra without developing the three higher trainings will only lead to the lower realms. There is great danger.

BODHICITTA IS THE BEST POSSESSION

Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[85] If you possess bodhicitta,
Whether you’re attractive or ugly doesn’t matter,
Whether you have respect or possessions doesn’t matter,
Whether you have any other virtue doesn’t matter.

When we have bodhicitta we have the best beauty, the most beautiful shape, the most beautiful complexion.

Having some external beauty can bring many problems, but the beauty of bodhicitta can never cause problems. Similarly, when we own possessions or when we have the respect of others it’s very easy to have problems such as greed, pride and so forth, but having bodhicitta can never cause problems. If we are in possession of bodhicitta, even if we don’t have any other virtues it doesn’t matter because with bodhicitta all our actions are virtuous. With bodhicitta, there is no selfish intention at all and so no way of harming others. With bodhicitta we create virtuous actions all the time, no matter what we are doing. Eating, sleeping, walking, anything at all, every action is completely selfless, therefore even if we don’t consciously create any other virtuous actions, we are continuously creating merit.

Nothing matters but bodhicitta, because with bodhicitta all other positive qualities naturally happen. Bodhicitta is the best beauty now but with bodhicitta we can be assured of a beautiful body in our next rebirth without purposely aiming for that. There are many external advantages that happen as a side effect when we have bodhicitta. We naturally receive the admiration and respect of others without seeking it, and we receive whatever possessions we need in order to be of benefit to others without our having to make any effort. Therefore, trying to develop bodhicitta is the best preparation we can do, no matter what we want.

In that way, we can say that bodhicitta is the best possession. Of this Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[16] The bodhicitta of the Sons of the Victors
Is the source of all happiness and benefit.
How can even a wish-granting jewel
Be compared to this?

A wish-granting jewel is the most valuable thing in the universe, even more valuable than the treasures of the god realms, because it has the power to grant any worldly wish. It cannot, however, fulfill that most basic desire for true happiness.

In previous times, on auspicious days such as the full moon days, these most precious jewels could be taken from under the ocean by bodhisattvas who had created great merit. When they were placed on a banner on top of a house on a full-moon night, whatever material wishes the people might desire—money, a long, healthy life and so forth—would be immediately obtained. And so, the wish-granting jewel can grant any worldly wishes, making us the richest person in the world, bringing great success, granting us health and beauty and countless friends, cooling us when we are hot and warming us when we are cold. It can’t, however, grant us the everlasting peace of enlightenment. Only the jewel of bodhicitta can do that.

Therefore we can easily see that it is far more worthwhile to try to attain bodhicitta than to possess even the most valuable of all possessions, the wish-granting jewel. Even though we don’t have such a jewel or all the wealth of all the kings and rich people of this world, we already have something far more valuable. We have met the Mahayana teachings and we have the wisdom to ascertain whether they are helpful or not. Whereas any material possession, no matter how valuable, can bring only limited benefit, the potential we have with this perfect human rebirth is limitless. With the methods shown to us through the teachings, including the more profound teachings of the Vajrayana, we can attain whatever goal we want quickly and easily. While we are in this situation, it’s vital that we develop this potential as much as we can and try to cultivate pure bodhicitta. Now that we are incredibly fortunate, we must make the most of every moment, because we don’t know when this opportunity might be snatched from us by death. Compared to most beings whose chances are unbelievably limited, compared to even the richest of the rich, we are incredibly fortunate.

BODHICITTA IS THE BEST MEDICINE

If samsara is a sickness we need to be cured of, bodhicitta is the best medicine. Of this, Khunu Lama Rinpoche says.

[286] By depending on the medicine of bodhicitta
All the diseases of the all-rising delusions will be cured.
Therefore, there is no question at all
That there is no better medicine in samsara than bodhicitta.

When Rinpoche refers to the diseases of delusions, he does not mean colds or cholera or physical ailments but the diseases that arise from self-cherishing, such as anger, jealousy, greed, miserliness and so forth. Until we can cure ourselves of self-cherishing, we will always be plagued by all the other mental and physical ailments that are its offspring.

Delusions or defilements are called “all-rising” because with the self-cherishing attitude, whatever occurs in the mind is tainted by that attitude. Everything arises from this fundamental delusion. Our mind is called “unsubdued” because we have no control over our self-cherishing and hence no control over the mind. We must subdue our own mind and yet at present it is unsubdued, running whichever way, to this object of attachment and that object of aversion. It seems uncontrollable and yet, by relying on the medicine of bodhicitta, we can subdue it. Because this is the one complete antidote to all of samsara, there is no greater cure to samsara than this.

Bodhicitta is the medicine, the nectar, that cures not just the gross suffering we experience but also the subtle levels of suffering. In the Four Noble Truths Sutra, the Buddha shows us there are three levels of suffering: the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering. The suffering of suffering is the suffering we all understand, the gross and subtle physical and mental sufferings that we all experience every day and that we all long to be free from.

The suffering of change is more subtle. It’s what we would call sense pleasure, or even happiness, the enjoyment we derive from experiencing some sense object due to our attachment to it. It’s the suffering of change because of its untrustworthy nature, being impermanent and momentarily changing. One day it will cease to exist; we either lose it or our relationship to it changes and it no longer gives us the enjoyment we first gained from it.

Pervasive compounding suffering is the suffering that underpins all of samsara and is the cause of the other two types of suffering. This association of body and mind—this entity we call “I”—is under the control of karma and delusion and is contaminated by the seed of delusion. Because of this, we generate delusions when we meet attractive, unpleasant or indifferent objects. These delusions then create mental, verbal or physical actions, karma, which leave imprints on our consciousness, and these imprints later become the causes that bring about our future-life samsara, our future-life association of body and mind, which again is never free from suffering.

Curing ourselves of the suffering of suffering is not enough. We need to transcend the attachment we have to sense pleasures and so, by renouncing samsara completely, free ourselves from the suffering of change. But only when we can eliminate the very subtle delusions will we be free from pervasive compounding suffering. This comes about by destroying self-cherishing, which is what bodhicitta does. Therefore, the only medicine that will completely cure the unbearable disease of samsara is bodhicitta.

When we overcome these three kinds of suffering with the nectar of bodhicitta, we turn our afflictive emotions into pure Dharma and this unclean body can become the body of a buddha. As Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[74] Just as the nectar called the philosopher’s stone
Turns iron into gold,
Bodhicitta turns this unclean body
Into the body of a buddha.

This corresponds to a similar verse in A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, where Shantideva compares bodhicitta to the “best alchemy” turning base metal to gold.12 And of course the reason we do this is not just for our own bliss, but principally to relieve the suffering of all others.

BODHICITTA BRINGS THE BEST BENEFIT

We rely on and have great reverence for those who wish for our wellbeing—our parents, our teachers and the gods—but none of these beings can bring us the benefit that bodhicitta can. Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[9] A mother, a father, a teacher, even Brahma himself,
May wish to help others,
But how can that extend to every living being
Like supreme bodhicitta?13

Brahma is the highest Hindu god and the Brahmins, the main priests in India, are very powerful because they follow the laws of their caste strictly, such as never telling even the slightest lie. Because of that, their prayers usually succeed very quickly. In previous times, Brahmins had psychic powers, such as being able to foretell the future. With such power they have the opportunity to benefit many people, but do they have the ability to benefit all equally?

The love of parents is immense. They naturally wish their children every happiness and would sacrifice themselves willingly to help them. Even teachers make great sacrifices to teach their students. But not even these great examples can compare to bodhicitta, which reaches every sentient being and can help all beings attain the supreme happiness of enlightenment.

In another verse Rinpoche mentions the other powerful Hindu gods. He says,

[317] Bodhicitta is the source of the benefit
And happiness of all sentient beings.
Not even the supreme among the gods,
Brahma, Vishnu and Indra, have such a supreme thought.

Brahma, Vishnu and Indra have the ability to bestow unbelievable wealth, power, health and psychic powers on those who worship them, but can they do that for all living beings equally and can they lead all beings to the complete state of freedom from all suffering? Vishnu has the power to control many other gods but he does not have this ability.

Generating bodhicitta is the best way to bring benefits to others. Of this Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[110] When those who desire to benefit
All sentient beings check to see what is best,
They discover it is bodhicitta.
How could anything else compare?

Those noble beings such as Guru Shakyamuni Buddha who, with their great compassion, investigated what is most beneficial for sentient beings, found that it is bodhicitta. Having attained this perfect human rebirth, having discovered not just the teachings of the Buddha but the precious Mahayana teachings, having met the perfect teachers, to do anything else is completely foolish.

Consider the trader who sets out to find profitable goods in other countries and comes across an island totally covered in precious gems. He sees them all and marvels at them, but then leaves the island with an empty ship because he is too lazy to pick them up. Even if that island contained all the jewels and other valuable things of this entire world, that example could still not compare to the waste of hearing about bodhicitta and not wanting to develop such a mind. That island full of precious jewels might have made the trader incredibly wealthy, but that wealth would diminish as he spent it. The wealth of bodhicitta can never diminish but can only increase. That is why it’s incredibly important to constantly remember bodhicitta and constantly develop this most precious mind.

Bodhicitta is the mind we need if we are to truly benefit others, helping them in any way that is appropriate for them. Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[22] If you wish to benefit all living beings, you need to have bodhicitta.
If you wish to be a friend of all living beings, you need to have bodhicitta.
If you wish to have the trust of all living beings, you need to have bodhicitta.
If you wish to be the teacher of all living beings, you need to have bodhicitta.

Among all the actions that benefit sentient beings, the most beneficial ones are those done with bodhicitta. Among all the thoughts, the most beneficial thoughts are those of bodhicitta. There are many stories in the texts that show how the actions of the holy beings, motivated by bodhicitta, have greatly benefited sentient beings.

This is because any action done with bodhicitta is completely free from the sense of self and consequently without the self-cherishing attitude, that action can never become nonvirtuous, locked in attachment to the happiness of this life. Motivated only by the wish to help others, any action done with bodhicitta will be powerful and effective. Even normal daily activities become very effective with bodhicitta. Talking to people, helping them in small ways and so forth becomes of great benefit for them. Giving medicines or treating the sick becomes much more powerful; it can cure others’ illnesses.

Because of our very limited mind and our partiality, wishing to help one person but not another, we are very limited in the help we can give to others. Even if we have the wish to benefit others, we don’t wish to benefit all sentient beings—certainly not those who have harmed us. When we want to give charity we choose who we give to, giving to the pitiful looking beggar and avoiding the ugly one. Whatever benefit we can give to others is weakened by our flawed motivation.

With bodhicitta, however, because of the purity of the thought, even giving a few cents to a beggar creates skies of merit. This simple, small action can have the power to benefit not just that beggar but all sentient beings, without discrimination, to help release them from all suffering and help them attain the sublime happiness of enlightenment. Therefore, for our actions to be of maximum benefit to all sentient beings, we need bodhicitta.

Similarly, we need bodhicitta so we can be a friend to all beings. At present we have friends, but again we are partial; we usually make friends because they can help us in some way. Our friendship comes with expectations. We want happiness and we expect that friend to make us happy, therefore we are not very concerned with helping that person, with showing them how to overcome their suffering and ignorance. When we do help them, there is always the self-cherishing attitude expecting something in return. Everything is done with a motivation of one of the eight worldly dharmas, therefore neither the help we give nor what we get in return will result in any real satisfaction to our friend or to us.

The friendships we now have are based on impure motives, thus when things change the relationships change. The friend of today can become the enemy of tomorrow depending on the external factors we judge that friendship by. If they make us feel happy they are our friend; if they upset us they are our enemy. This is not so with bodhicitta. When we have bodhicitta there is no discrimination—we don’t judge friendships based on external conditions, on how rich or how beautiful that person is, or how much help we can receive. Rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, helpful or harmful, if we have bodhicitta all beings are our friends. This means there are never any problems, there is never any confusion.

We also need bodhicitta if we want others to trust us because with this pure mind we can never think of cheating people. If we have a mind of self-interest, we will deceive people to get our own way and people will sense this, even if we don’t actively do it to them. Seeing we are untrustworthy, they are wary of what we say. Without any self-interest at all, everything we do will only be for the wellbeing of others and because of that people will naturally come to trust us.

Similarly, if we want to teach others we need bodhicitta. Whatever we teach will only be of benefit to others. Everything a bodhisattva says or does is a teaching, because a bodhisattva will only act in a way that helps lead sentient beings to enlightenment and hence whatever they say or do will be pure Dharma.

When we have bodhicitta, nothing makes us dispirited. Khunu Lama Rinpoche says,

[55] It seems to be one of the qualities of bodhicitta
That the hardships of heat and cold, hunger and thirst and so forth
That come when you do something to help others
Do not get you down but rather give your spirits a boost.

When we work for others, when we do actions that benefit others, we don’t get upset by heat and cold, hunger and thirst, being tired and so forth. In fact, we really enjoy it. This is just a small side effect of having bodhicitta.

At present, because of our self-cherishing thought, trying to help others is difficult, whereas for a bodhisattva it is effortless, and no matter what happens they are so happy. We want happiness and to avoid suffering but because of our self-cherishing it is hard to practice the Dharma. Even if we try it never becomes pure Dharma because we are always distracted by sense pleasures. Locked into seeking the happiness of this life, we can’t even think about attaining liberation.

However, for a bodhisattva, the thought of seeking the happiness of liberation for themselves alone is repulsive. The texts say it is like the stone used to clean your kaka but I usually compare it to used toilet paper. You don’t reuse used toilet paper, you immediately throw it away. This is how bodhisattvas see cyclic existence. On the other hand, the thought of being born in hell in order to protect even one sentient being brings them so much happiness.

I really admire those people who work for charities voluntarily, working from the heart to help others, not doing it for money. That is really the best Dharma practice. Although we can spend years alone in a cave, doing the yoga of the winds, chakras and drops, there is a great danger that it won’t even become Dharma but the cause for the lower realms instead. Whereas, with a good heart, to voluntarily work for the benefit of others is the best Dharma practice, one that will never get us down but will certainly make us extremely happy. If this happens without bodhicitta, just with a good heart, imagine actually enjoying being hungry or tired because we are so engaged in helping others.


NOTES

10 See “The Cure for the World’s Ills” in Part Two, Chapter 4. [Return to text]

11 Maitreya’s Ornament of Clear Realization (Skt: Abhisamayalamkara) is one of main philosophical texts studied in Tibetan monasteries. [Return to text]

12 See “Transforming Lead into Gold” in Part Two, Chapter 3. [Return to text]

13 See “The Cure for the World’s Ills” in Part Two, Chapter 4. [Return to text]