The Enlightenment Attitude

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Chenrezig Institute, Austalia (Archive #072)

This teaching about the importance of bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment, was given by Lama Yeshe when he was bestowing bodhisattva vows at Chenrezig Institute, Australia, on September 14, 1979. Edited by Nicholas Ribush. This discourse is now published in the LYWA book Knowledge-Wisdom: The Peaceful Path the Liberation.

Lama Yeshe teaching at Chenrezig Institute, Australia, 1979.

The bodhisattva vows were requested when I was at Chenrezig Institute two years ago, but I was unable to give them at that time. Now you have asked again, and I’m very fortunate to be able to give them to you. And you people are also very fortunate in having come to the conclusion that you would like to take them. These vows can be taken in either of two ways. One is the wishing way, where you think that you would like to actualize bodhicitta as much as possible, understanding that this is the best way to live. The other way is by taking the vows—the eighteen root vows and the forty-six branch vows—in a serious way. I am sure you understand this; I am not going to go into detail.

The thing is, from the Buddhist point of view, it is very important for one to have the enlightenment attitude. It is an important thing. The reason is, I think I can say, that without some kind of attitude or thought with which to transform the actions of our daily life, life seems to be a disaster. If you are living in a couple relationship, or even if you are just a single person, you still have to relate with human beings. Even if you go into the Himalaya Mountains, you still have to relate with sentient beings, human beings. There is no place that you can go where you don’t have to relate with human beings, so it is very important to have this attitude, because all actions, both good and bad, depend on it. You know—I’m not going to tell you that; you know already. So in order to transform our lives, to live in the best way, we desperately need to constantly have the divine quality enlightenment attitude, bodhicitta.

Otherwise, you can see how, in the West, people dedicate their entire lives, or most of their lives, totally to sense pleasure. Can you imagine? It is obvious why human beings in the West are easily depressed and kill themselves—it is because their purpose, goal or destination in life is so narrow: “If this man or lady cannot give me satisfaction, there is nothing worthwhile in this earth.” Can you imagine that? This is their life; this is their life. It is a completely cold, narrow mind. They particularly mention, “This lady, this man does not give me satisfaction, therefore I’m not worthwhile.” It just isn’t true. There are so many millions of ladies and gentlemen who have such a neurotic attitude, such a wrong view, so fanatical, such a self-cherishing thought, not seeing beyond the limitation. You can see. Their lives are so empty, so empty.

So you see, in the West, it’s unbelievable. They try so hard to make themselves happy by arranging their material possessions into different perspectives. “Maybe if I put it this way, something interesting; maybe I put this way, something interesting; maybe I put this way, something interesting; maybe I put this way, something interesting; maybe if I put this way, something interesting.” [Lama turns his body in all different directions.] All those things are not true—can you imagine? This way, this way or that way—what difference does it make? I mean, of course, relatively there is some difference, but that doesn’t make you satisfied, does it? Yet they try so hard; unbelievable.

It is very good to see the reality of Western life, or the Western way of living life, to check up historically. If you do, you will really get a bit of a hard shock, I tell you. It is not happy, Western life is definitely not a happy life, I can say. I’m sorry. Even though you think your life is happy, it’s not true. I’m not saying that I have investigated each individual and discovered that each one is unhappy. I am not saying that. But I am just looking at it sort of generally. It is a very difficult life. And also, people in Western samsara have some kind of instinctive attitude. I don’t know, perhaps I can say instinctive—there is no checking, no observation. They just do things, just spinning, just doing things instinctively, instinctively, spinning themselves. This makes me so afraid. No observation, no checking what’s going on. That’s dangerous.

I can see when Western people start to meditate, when they begin to observe their attitude, then they can see, “What has been happening to me?” At some point they really become crazy. Why? Because before they were just going round and round like this, then suddenly [Lama circles his finger round and round in the air and suddenly brings it up to his eyes indicating that people first circle around until they suddenly see themselves for the first time], pam! So their nervous system is shocked. Then, instead of meditation making them better, they get worse. But it is much better to question for a minute and then rest, rather than just spinning around. That way you do not become worse.

Therefore, it is good to learn how to change one’s instinctive behavior in order to transform the Western life. It is the instinctive attitude that leads to certain actions; any movements of the body and speech result from attitudes of the mind. And in order to transform that, you need quite a lot of effort, observation and penetration on the motivation.

What I’m saying is, my point is, that it is important that each of us has the attitude or aim of looking beyond sense pleasures. Even philosophically, we can think, “Well, yeah, today I’m not getting any chocolate. Yeah, OK. I’m not getting chocolate. Well, I’m not going to die. I can have other pleasures. I can eat muesli!” Or you can think, “My boyfriend has disappeared. Well, he is one man. OK. He has disappeared, but there are so many of them. So, if I wait, maybe another one will appear.” Instead of being so concrete, which makes you kill yourself, which is so dangerous, relax. But that doesn’t mean, I’m not saying that you should not be concerned with this life’s pleasures at all. You can have pleasure, but you should know that this pleasure is not the only one and that you should not grasp at it in such a neurotic way. It is not worth it. This pleasure is temporal: it comes, it goes, it comes, it goes.

Let me give you an example. I was a Tibetan refugee. I had a samsaric nest, my parents, my siblings—I had four or five sisters and three or four brothers. My pleasure did not depend on my sisters or brothers; it did not depend on the Tibetan environment. I still have pleasure in Australia, don’t I? However, many refugees were very sad and sometimes they even killed themselves, thinking, “Now I have lost my country. I have lost my wife, my husband, my children. I have lost everything. There is no more point in living.” So they killed themselves. Attitude is so extremely important. The only thing that makes me happy is that I think, “Hmm, not too bad.” That is profound; from the Buddhist point of view, that is profound. With this, you are almost Buddha. You can see that another condition can make you just as happy as the previous one. And understand that relative conditions change from time to time; they cannot last permanently. That gives you room; you have room.

So actually, attitude is the essence of life. Just like a pillar keeps a house from falling down, attitude is the source of life. A good life and good relationships come from a good attitude. A bad attitude causes human beings to fight each other and have disastrous relationships. A good attitude is, “We have the same potential, we live together, we help each other and we can grow and be helpful for each other.” If we humans have that kind of attitude, human relationships can be good and worthwhile. But if we have a low attitude, our lives become very shaky. Western life in particular is so shaky, unbelievably shaky.

The greatest suffering in the West is the incredible changing of life; the fickle mind changing, changing, changing. This creates most of the suffering of the Western life. This is my observation. Because fundamentally, there is no stability in our relationships. We human beings live with each other. Whatever you do affects me, whatever I do affects you. So if you are shaking, if you are spinning, it makes me go like that as well. I cannot cope. In fact, I cannot cope with Western students’ attitude and life—it would be much better if I went back to Nepal! [Lama pretends to get off the throne.] I’m joking!

Well, you understand what I mean. I’m sure you people think I’m crazy: “He’s been here for such a short time, just a couple of days, and he’s immediately judging our way of life. This man is making incredible presumptions!” Well, perhaps I am presumptuous, but perhaps I am looking at you like this: you are there, and I’m looking from the outside, like this. [Lama shows looking at students from a distance, in perspective.] Sometimes tourists can see better than the people who are inside, rolling each other. Rolling each other? They themselves don’t understand what is happening.

I’m not criticizing Western life, saying that it is the worst life in the world. Western life could be perfect, really profound. It depends. It is up to the individual transformation, the individual attitude. What I’m talking about is the majority of people who do not have a philosophy of the reality of life, the right life; who do not live in the right livelihood. That is the problem.

I want you to understand that Western relationships are always shaking, shaking, shaking. Why Westerners’ interpersonal relationships are like a tornado is because they have a fickle attitude. Their attitude is so limited; their expectations are a fantasy; their aim is so small and narrow. As I say, if the only reason someone is in a relationship with you is that they are expecting chocolate, how can it last? From the beginning, their thinking is limited. The basis of the relationship is already narrow, a fantasy. I’m not sure if my language is expressing this clearly enough for you. My language is not so good. I would really like to make this clean clear. It is important to know. It is true that when two human beings come together in a relationship, if their attitude in dealing with each other has such a narrow destination, then what happens is [Lama snaps his fingers], you crash. That is the result.

Of course, the West also has its good side. The Christian religion has a great deal to offer. Really, I see many Christian people coming together in a relationship and they stick to each other very sincerely. Many of them are very happy, through their belief that “God created us, we are coming together, our aim is to work toward God, salvation.” There are many good things in Western religions; you can see. But many people reject religion. They believe themselves to be like fish or chickens; they have chicken religions, chicken thinking, fish religions, fish thinking. They reject Christianity—they create a fish religion, a chicken religion.

Anyway, attitude is so important. In the West, we always talk about the “profound life,” don’t we? Everybody uses the term “profound life.” Profound life means profound meaning, profound destination or profound aim. The reason that we human beings are bored with each other is that we don’t have a profound destination. We shake hands with each other and that is it, that is the aim, our aim is finished. Then we are bored. We can’t see that besides shaking hands there is some profound meaning and reality. That is what’s wrong. Really, the point is that we Westerners should live as much as we can by taking what life and society offer. You should have a comfortable life. You can do that, you can take that advantage, you can use that. But at the same time, you should know that sense pleasures and the comfort of this life are not the only things to live for. We can do better, better. Each day we can live a better life. It doesn’t matter whether at the moment I’m young, stupid or old. Still my potential for a joyful life can grow infinitely.

Also, you understand that the characteristic nature of the bodhicitta attitude is that you are not only concerned with the comfort of your own life. Moreover, you are not only concerned with your own liberation. You see, or recognize, that the potential for everlasting peace and the blissful state of enlightenment exists within the minds all of the universal sentient beings and you therefore take personal responsibility for leading all these sentient beings to the realization of their own potential. You take this responsibility completely upon yourself. This attitude is very important.

For example, we all have friends. One day, one of them might say something like, “I need somebody to do this.” He expresses a need for help. He doesn’t ask in a heavy way, but our self--cherishing thought doesn’t have the room or the sensitive awareness or understanding to take that vibration into our mind. We are already blocked. Human psychology is such that really, if you have not prepared yourself, even when your friend expresses his need to you in this indirect way, you just ignore it. You can see, your friend is not stupid. He knows, “I tried to express myself in such a way but look, he never heard, it never went into his mind.” Unbelievable, that’s the way it goes. I think we all do this. It’s not so good, is it?

Or say you have a relationship with a person who has really given their life, their energy, everything to you for a long time. Then perhaps that person finds himself in difficulty for some reason and expresses his need for help in a very gentle way. But your concrete mind is so strong that it never occurs to you that he needs something and you ignore him. Can you imagine? I mean the other person is going to be hurt, isn’t he? That means you have no preparation; you have no foundation to receive; you have already rejected, closed yourself off; you have already built a wall. The door is already closed, so there’s no room. That’s the way that human problems and conflict arise.

Then the next day perhaps intellectually you say to your friend, “Can I do something for you?” And he thinks, “Forget it. Yesterday I told you so many times that I needed help and you didn’t pay any attention and now today you are just saying, ‘Hello, can I help you?’ Do you want something from me now?”

It’s true, completely true. You see, this is the way human conflict comes. Some reason, incredible. I tell you, it takes tremendous energy just to hear, let alone share. I don’t understand human beings. Just to hear, just to be receptive is difficult, let alone saying, “Oh, you have this problem; I’m sorry, I have compassion.” Even though these things are not new, still, to be kind of sympathetic also takes time. It takes time. We are just like stone, so much like stone; with no response to the needs of any humans or other sentient beings. That is the problem. In human relationships it is very important to be open to each other, sort of willing, determined, wanting to help each other. If you prepare yourself in that way, there is room for the gross information to come in through here to here. [Lama points at his ear, then his heart.]

The Tibetan yogi Lama Je Tsongkhapa said that the enlightenment attitude, bodhicitta, is the essence of the Mahayana vehicle and the foundation for the development of the six perfections (Skt: paramita) and the ten bodhisattva levels (Skt: bhumi). It is also like alchemy, the energy that has the ability to transform iron into gold: with the enlightenment attitude we can transform our mundane Western life into the transcendental path to enlightenment. It is possible.

From the Mahayana point of view, if we are concerned with getting only ourselves healthy and liberated, it is still the self-cherishing thought—concern for only oneself and not for other sentient beings. Actually, it is quite profound to comprehend that the source of human problems is ego conflict and to want to reach beyond that and attain the cessation of suffering—liberation, or nirvana.

I mean, sometimes we have difficulty understanding the concept of complete freedom from suffering even intellectually let alone attaining it, which is very difficult. But from the bodhisattva’s point of view, aspiring to that is still a baby attitude—self-cherishing and not at all profound.

All human problems come from a lack of wisdom. To gain wisdom, tremendous wisdom, we need to be open. To discover profound total openness, the totality of the enlightenment, or buddhahood, the state of totally conscious, omniscient wisdom, we need to have the totally open attitude of bodhicitta.

Let me give you an example. When I was learning English, if I had not opened myself to my teachers, if I’d have thought that I cannot learn anything from Western people, if I’d had that kind of attitude, that wrong conception, I could not have learned anything. The path to learning would have been blocked.

My point is that when you are open, when you are searching, then there is the possibility to discover, for example, uranium, which is the energy to produce the nuclear things. Because you are seeking it, looking for that, you discover it. Those examples are good. Then they discover how to make things from it, how to use it; they discover nuclear energy. It is similar when human beings are striving to become totally perfect, which is possible. When we say “buddha,” we mean totality and perfection, not something partial. We do need sort of concentrated totality wisdom. If we are not open, gaining it is not possible. When you are open, even when you look at how children are acting, what dogs and monkeys are doing, how the weather changes, you can learn from all these things, you can learn something. All the movement of things in the world is showing you reality. For me, perhaps I have learnt words, maybe I talk a few words to you, blah, blah, blah, but perhaps the real teaching is what I am taking from you. I feel I learn a great deal from Western people. Perhaps the attitude in the West is that the students know nothing and only the teacher is knowledgeable. Do you have that attitude in schools? [Yes.] You do? My goodness, that’s dangerous, that’s dangerous. It is not true. You can see how those teachers waste their energy.

Even higher bodhisattvas can learn from children, sure. Amazing. Do you know Gudrun, the daughter of Tom and Kathy? When I was here two years ago I invited them all to come for lunch and we ate together. I was eating like this and saying to Gudrun, “How are you?” She was young, so young two years ago, and said to me, “Lama, don’t talk.” She was my guest, and I said, “Why?” Incredible, she was so precise, so serious: “When you talk with food in your mouth, your words are not clear.” Fantastic! Such a young girl but so precise. How could I reject that? For me it was perfectly logical.

I am giving you simple examples but they relate to such a profound thing, the enlightenment attitude bodhicitta. This is because I want you to see clean clear how beneficial it is; I want you to understand that it is really worthwhile. Human beings just existing without having a profound attitude or a profound destination, just living for temporal chocolate, are so dry.

To give a more tangible example, we have come here, we talk some kind of intellectual teaching to you and you sort of understand, “Maybe what this monk says is half true, not too bad; hmm, maybe he is a little bit kind.” Sort of, we have some feeling for each other. Even Lama Zopa spends maybe twelve days, always pumping, pumping, pumping, but still you don’t feel tremendously upset with Lama Zopa, do you? The reason is that we are not involved at such low levels; we are trying to relate to each other in a higher way. We are not fighting with you as you fight with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

I want you to understand. How many times do you fight with your girlfriend or boyfriend in one day? I’m joking! But the important thing is this, that in our relationship with each other we do have some kind of lower attitude, and that is why we fight. There are two kinds of relationship we can have with other people: we can relate at the mundane level or we can relate beyond that by having some kind of higher destination. I’m not sure what I’m talking about!

Remember, many times Buddhist scriptures mention “beyond” something. Well, we have the attitude that we like to eat chocolate, we like chocolate, but at the same time, inside, we can see beyond chocolate. I think it is better to put it that way, so then you can understand clean clear. So this we have to learn. Men can deal with ladies, ladies can deal with men, but at the same time they can reach beyond that. It is important. Check out how to reach beyond normality while at the same time you are living in normality. It needs a profound attitude, profound nuclear wisdom to go through those obstacles.

Anyway, I’m not going to talk too much more now, but I do feel that it is so important that when we do things, we do them correctly and that the things we do do not bring problems. You see, when I talk about bodhicitta philosophy I expect you to understand, but if you don’t see how it relates with your own life then you don’t know how to hold it: “Bodhicitta, yeah, there is bodhicitta, but I can’t put it together with my life. My life is involved with chocolate, so how can I integrate it with bodhicitta?” This is not so good.

You see, the Buddhist teaching is so down to earth, I tell you; actually, so down to earth. It’s so simple, so logical. I myself don’t have much wisdom or method, but I’m not afraid to give Buddhist teachings, even in the Western intellectual world. Those teachings are so logical, so simple. If you don’t understand these two things—that you are dealing with the world and at the same time you are reaching beyond that—then you cannot practice Dharma, you can’t put it together. There are always problems and conflict.

Take, for example, the many young hippies living in the Australian bush. They are extreme, living without a house. That’s what I hear but I’m not sure. However, houses are not the problem, muesli is not the problem. The problem is the grasping, narrow mind that cannot see that you can go beyond all that.

I have to say that many times hippies misunderstand renunciation. Their renunciation is fickle; they can only stay in the bush for a few months. They cannot hold their reality—they are just joking, playing games, sort of reacting against their parents and society. This is unrealistic; it does not help themselves and the result is that they become sick. They get hepatitis, cancer, bitten by insects . . . anyway, you know what I mean: an unhealthy body. What are you gaining? Your attachment is still there. I can immediately recognize anybody who lives in the bush criticizing society people as terrible, bad and impure as one who himself has the impure, sick mind. I don’t care who it is, I am going to say that.

Renunciation means having no problem, but there you are, living in the bush, thinking that society people are bad: “Society people are bad, they do this, they do that, this, that,” completely obsessed with society people. “Society people, grr.” How can you be free? How are you renouncing society? You are more involved in society instead of renouncing it, aren’t you?

There is a story that once there were two Buddhist monks about to cross a river when they saw a lady with leprosy standing near them on the bank. Out of compassion, one of the monks went over, put this lady on his back and carried her across the river. As he was doing this, the other monk was thinking, “Wow, he just broke his vow, he broke his vow, he broke his vow, he touched a woman, he touched a woman.” His mind was going like that. Once across, they argued about who was right and who was wrong all the way to the monastery. Eventually they asked their teacher, who told the one who was criticizing, “This is your problem; your mind is caught up with that. Your brother monk didn’t even think about it. He just carried her across the river, that’s all.”

I think you understand the psychology. Buddhist philosophy and meditation teaches you to follow the middle path to enlightenment; to live in the middle way. It does not say that you have to lead a miserable life in order to become enlightened, in order to work toward enlightenment. It never mentions that you have to be miserable in this life to discover enlightenment. Where is the Buddhist scripture that says that? Anyway, the Dharma scriptures say that anyone who practices Dharma goes from happiness to happiness; from the happy path, the path to enlightenment, to the happy goal, the destination. If your understanding is that first you have to renounce, give up society and a comfortable life, go into the jungle and be miserable, that is a misconception.

But of course, when you think about it the other way, it is better to be simple than to have tremendous, outrageous grasping onto one, two or more and more things. That is also painful, isn’t it? But Australian life also allows you to be simple and comfortable at the same time, doesn’t it? You can definitely live a comfortable life without tremendous effort. That is the beauty of what your life offers—your karma to be born in Australia and the kindness of the people in this society. You have something to really be thankful for. This is your karma, so take advantage. Use those energies but also go beyond them, seeing that the comfort of this life is not your only destination, that there is something beyond it. So slow down. You are not craving; you know that these are not the only things, not the most important things.

Anyway, I’m sure you have already understood all this from the lamrim, but I want you to be clean clear. Really, for some reason, human beings are really unbelievably kind to each other. It’s true. There is a bodhisattva vow that states if somebody accidentally hits you and you get so angry that when the person apologizes you don’t forgive them, that is a transgression. If somebody apologizes to you, you have to accept. And there is also a vow against praising yourself and putting other people down. It is no good to put other people down. Actually, if you put others down it means that there’s something going on within you yourself. If I put you down it means that there is some psychological reasoning going on within my mind, some resistance, some weak mind, some insecure feeling with myself. That is why I put you down. People are always involved with each other, so it’s easy to get angry and accidentally hurt someone else. Therefore it is important that we create the space to accept when somebody says, “Please forgive me.” In Buddhism, acceptance is very important.

Perhaps this is not the Western mentality. If I have cancer, the Buddhist attitude is that I have to accept and not reject. How can I think, “Oh, I am Thubten Yeshe, how can I have cancer? How can I have cancer in my nose?” If I think like that you can see that I am stupid—I want to demonstrate to you the stupid way of thinking. The cancer is already here on my nose or somewhere; it is already here. It is a continued existence from the past, whenever it began, so as that is the reality, it is best that you accept.

Of course, at the same time you can do something about it. If it helps, you can go to the doctor, you can do so many things. But those whose minds are narrow and ignorant—not only people in the West—cannot accept cancer, so psychologically they add to that; they have double cancer. Each time you psychologically add more cancer, the symptoms get bigger and bigger and bigger.

From the Buddhist point of view, you can have cancer but be completely blissful at the same time. It is possible. It depends upon your mental attitude; complete control. Physical pain can be controlled by the mind, I tell you. A Western example is boxing. I mean, can you imagine that? For me it is too much. When I watch boxing, it is too much. I find it difficult to watch boxing on television; I get pain. They beat each other incredibly, unbelievable. To some extent the boxers control the pain, but in a negative way. It is not through the positive mind. Do you think they control it with a positive mind? Doubtful. Unbelievable. My goodness.

So, can you imagine, all these things. Like the motorcycle stunt man—how many times did he become unconscious? Do you know this man or not? [Students suggest Evel Knievel.] It is unbelievable. He knocked himself out so many times yet still his ego is completely blissful. He is intoxicated; his ego says completely, “Yeah, yeah, I want to do it again because. . . .” Actually, it is rubbish. Who thinks he is wise? I think people who are really interested in this kind of thing, who think that it is worthwhile, are completely foolish; definitely, absolutely foolish. It is a complete waste of life. I’m sorry. I could not believe what an unbelievable waste of life it is. It is unbelievable the way mother sentient beings’ minds work.

Anyway, I think I’m going too extreme, excuse me. It is really fortunate that all of you have somehow come to the conclusion that in this life it is worthwhile to develop the enlightenment attitude, bodhicitta, “From now and forever, as much as possible I am going to actualize being more concerned for other sentient beings.” You know, that is not telling a lie. The way to take the bodhisattva vow is to think as much as possible, “I understand my limitations. I look at my own life—so many times, with this narrow mind, with this self-cherishing thought, I have given incredible harm to the friends who surround me. I have harmed my parents so many times; even though they have been kind, I have rejected them. Not only that, as I have grown up with my friends and they have tried in their way to make me happy, with my self-cherishing mind I have made so many problems for them. But now I understand that all these self-cherishing thoughts are the source of confusion and dissatisfaction, and that I and all universal living beings have equal potential to reach beyond the egotistic, self-cherishing thought and discover the enlightenment realization, by actualizing the six perfections.”

The first perfection is that of generosity, giving. Don’t think that giving is not possible, that you are totally miserly. When you meet a friend, who says, “Hello, how are you?” and you reply, “Oh, I’m OK,” this is also giving. Giving does not necessarily mean handing over some kind of material object. Listening to other people, being patient and sympathetic, is also giving. For example, here in meditation, just being a good example and well-controlled is giving. As a matter of fact, you are giving. Remember, I talked about this before. By being a good example, we are showing each other our potentiality. The best gift is to be a good example. That is true giving. And being sensitive and aware is the real gift.

The second perfection is purity, or morality. At least we should not cheat our parents and friends, who are very kind. Nor should we cheat those who give us education, our teachers and so forth. We should have a good feeling toward all of them and not tell lies; generally, there is no good reason to lie. If there is a good reason to lie, you can do so, but if there is not, you should not. I’m not going to go into all the details, but there is this perfection of morality.

Actually, all this is wisdom. I want you to understand that this is wisdom. The way of explaining the Buddhist point of view is that morality comes from wisdom. Without wisdom it is not possible. There are six perfections. Perfection means beyond: beyond, or transcendent, giving, beyond morality, beyond patience, beyond enthusiastic perseverance, beyond single-pointed concentration and beyond wisdom. All these things are a bodhisattva’s actions. When you become a bodhisattva, this way of thinking is your equipment, and your duty is to actualize these six wisdoms as much as you possibly can.

Think about the profound beings who really have the highest attitude, which leads to the highest destination, which they have already reached. If you have a Christian background, you can think about the Christian saints. Or, as we say, “All the past bodhisattvas, by actualizing the bodhicitta attitude and open universal thought have reached the highest destination, the highest consciousness, and become buddhas. They have reached beyond limited thought. So, as they have acted, I myself am also going to actualize bodhicitta as much as possible. Each day from now on I shall develop the understanding of the totally open attitude toward the reality of all universal beings. From now and forever.”


So now, at this time, you are taking the bodhisattva vows from the supreme beings of the ten directions: the higher beings who have reached beyond the self-cherishing thought are in your presence. Kneel on your right knee, like you do when you take the eight precepts in the morning. This symbolizes having the single-minded thought; not having the dualistic thought. Then, with the understanding that you are developing the enlightened attitude to lead all universal sentient beings to the highest destination, the eternally blissful state of consciousness, think that from now you are going to actualize bodhicitta and the six perfections as much as possible. Think that you are making this determination in front of the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions. Feel that it is extremely worthwhile and that you are doing amazing things. You’re kind of surprised yourself!

It is not an easy thing, but really worthwhile, to transform and attain the transcendental experience, understanding that buddha potential lies equally within all universal sentient beings. Then generate the strong motivation, “From now until I discover enlightenment I shall actualize the enlightenment attitude, bodhicitta, in order to benefit all universal sentient beings as much as I can, and day by day I shall also actualize the six perfections, as all the higher supreme beings—the buddhas and bodhisattvas—did.”

[Lama performs the bodhisattva vows ceremony.]

The merit of having taken these bodhisattva vows is infinite. This energy becomes universal because your attitude, the way you have opened, is toward the reality of all universal living beings. For this reason, the energy of taking these vows is infinite, so powerful. Therefore, traditionally, we dedicate the merit immediately. Dedication means directing that energy to the highest destination before it can be destroyed by the circumstances of anger or hatred, so it is very important that at this time you dedicate very strongly. But when you dedicate, it is not necessarily only the merit you have created at this time. Of course, at present you do have the infinite powerful attitude nuclear energy, but besides that there are the merits of the six perfections of countless previous lives—you have practiced the perfections from time to time before. And not only that, there is also the merit of all other beings. So we offer all this energy right now. This offering is like investing the energy or directing it for the future—enlightenment.

Also, traditionally, we offer this energy to Maitreya Buddha. Maitreya means universal love, compassionate love. Maitreya Buddha is the relative buddha who will come after Shakyamuni’s teachings have finished on this earth. We deposit these merits in the divine wisdom bank of universal love. This becomes auspicious for the energy to become exhaustless, so we transform the energy, or merit, we have created into whatever you think is beautiful. Those offerings fill the whole of universal space and we offer them. So now, all the bodhisattvas of the ten directions are paying attention to you, saying that at such and such a place in Queensland there is Lama Thubten Yeshe, and these students have taken the enlightenment attitude bodhicitta, and they are praying for the success of this newborn attitude to become firmly established and increase without interruption. They are praying for it to increase infinitely and you should also pray for that.

So, we are offering all the merits of the past countless lives’ good energy. Also, during this meditation course you have meditated so much, and throughout your life you have had the thought of loving kindness toward other beings, so we dedicate all this nuclear energy, putting it into the one direction. Thus, we offer it to the divine universal love. This is a very good way for you to direct your energy so that it becomes exhaustless. Contemplate that your energy spreads throughout all universal space and, as well as giving it to the buddhas and bodhisattvas, give it to all universal sentient beings.

[Lama recites the dedication prayers.]

Actually, you have already had some experience of a totally opened mind. It’s there, it’s there. So, instead of always thinking garbage thoughts, remember it every day. Sometimes, in order to relax, remember that. We call that meditation on bodhicitta. Right now, you do have some experience of bodhicitta; to some extent you have experienced being beyond the self-cherishing thought. That itself is clarity, so contemplate on it every day. Remembering it every day is the method for increasing that energy.

Traditionally, we should remember bodhicitta three times a day. You don’t have to, but it’s good. In the West, you can remember bodhicitta when you eat: once at breakfast, a second time at lunch and a third time at dinner. In that way, remember bodhicitta three times a day. You don’t need some kind of formal meditation; you can just be talking with your friends, but inside you are remembering bodhicitta. You can do it; the human being is unbelievable.

Don’t think, “How can I talk, communicate with my friends, but at the same time remember bodhicitta?” You can. Simultaneously, superficially you can be talking to your friends but inside be remembering bodhicitta. There are many different ways to practice, to keep the bodhicitta energy going by remembering it every day as much as you can. Just remember it, that’s all.

Also, you can reap the benefits of bodhicitta. That is very important. Some people misunderstand the enlightenment thought, bodhicitta. They say, “Oh, thought—thought is no good, thoughts are my problem. Bodhicitta is thought; thought is my problem. I want all thoughts to vanish.” That’s wrong. As long as you exist, you are thought. Consciousness is thought. Don’t try to contradict this in a rubbish philosophy kind of way. There are two divisions of thought: negative and positive. When you open yourself to other sentient beings, when you open your heart to the highest destination of enlightenment, it is incredible. That has nothing to do with mundane, irritated, dissatisfied thoughts. You can see there is a distinction.

Anyway, I think you people understand. Thank you so much. I think it is worthwhile. Myself, I am very happy. We are too arrogant in a “good meditator” sort of way. Instead of that, we should actualize bodhicitta, loving kindness, the understanding of the enlightenment attitude every day. That way it gets better and better every day and that keeps your life meaningful. Therefore, it is so worthwhile.

Especially in Western life, we have to deal with people, we have to act, so if we don’t have that kind of attitude, it is very difficult. First of all, you have to have a job in order to sustain your life, your Western life, don’t you? When you have a job, you have to deal with your boss. So if you have the enlightenment attitude of bodhicitta during the day, there is space. Even if your boss gives you a hard time, there is space, there is some exception coming in your mind. So it is really worthwhile. I’m very happy that I’m so fortunate to have contact with so many bodhisattvas! It’s true, you know.

Remember, the history of Atisha, the great Indian Mahayana pandit, in the lamrim? Atisha had more than one hundred teachers. But these were not like the academic Western teachers. In the West we have mathematics teachers, geography teachers, who only talk garbage. Excuse me, you know what I mean, I think you understand. He had more than one hundred Dharma teachers and he respected them all, but none could compare with the one who taught him bodhicitta.

I’m not saying that I am giving this to you. I want you to understand that I’m talking about a way of thinking. Atisha was not stupid; he understood who really gave him the method of actualizing bodhicitta, the enlightenment attitude. Whenever he heard the name of this Lama Dharmakirti [Serlingpa], he would come out in goosebumps and tears would fill his eyes. This kind of expression was beyond the intellectual.

My point is that Western Dharma practitioners should not be arrogant, intellectually sort of, “I am practicing higher, higher, higher.” There’s no higher—you have to go from where you are now; you have to be led from here. So the most profound way is the universal practice that does not contradict any other religions in being concerned with other sentient beings. Western religions also do not contradict the bodhisattva path. I can see that all religious, and even nonreligious, people in the world are beautiful. They say, “I don’t have any religion but as I live, I try to help other people.” That is their religion, I tell you. Their attitude is their religion. So the bodhisattva’s way of life does not contradict Buddhism and does not contradict non-Buddhism. It is the universal way, so we are very fortunate. It is really worthwhile.