Benefits of Bodhichitta

Venerable Karten Rinpoche! Yesterday you gave extensive explanation regarding Bodhichitta. That was very beneficial to my mind! Please explain more about Bodhichitta today, its benefits and so forth!

Okay, in this morning’s session we’ll again begin with some discussion of Bodhichitta. I have no practice of Bodhichitta myself, but I am extremely awed and delighted by the teachings on Bodhichitta. The benefit of developing Bodhichitta for even one single instant is described in Sutra:

If all the merit of Bodhichitta
Were to take a physical form,
The whole expanse of space would be filled
And there would still be even more!

What this means is that, if Bodhichitta were to have physical form its size would be like that of space; but it’s cause, the good heart of altruism, and resultant Bodhichitta are both a matter of mental development. Not only that, Buddha is also enlightened on the basis of mind; it’s impossible to attain enlightenment by amassing only physical and verbal roots of virtue! Likewise, whether acts are virtuous or non-virtuous is primarily determined by the mental attitude motivating them. The mind is very powerful. [In the Jataka tales] there are accounts of the future Buddha being motivated by a good heart of altruism and then committing what are usually considered to be the seven negative acts of body and speech even though he was a monk. There are many stories such as the time he was the Brahmin youth named Star who slept with the merchant’s daughter, and the time he was Captain Compassionate who killed the criminal named Short Spear. And in the case of virtues of body and speech, if they are not motivated by sincere kindness, because the person enacting them is, themselves, a compounded phenomena [constantly changing from various causes and conditions], the act might not be virtuous in actuality; it could become non-virtuous. Whatever virtues are motivated by Bodhichitta and compassion, because those virtues exist on the basis of the mind, as distinct from virtues of body and speech, they always give positive results both temporarily and ultimately. Not only that, even when one is not being conscientious, asleep or dreaming, one continues to create roots of virtue that are certain to bear fruit. Bodhisattva Shantideva says this in the first chapter of his Bodhicharyavatara, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Conduct.

To tell one story illustrating how mental virtue surpasses physical and verbal virtue, in a golden age long ago, in one region of India there was a mother who had a son and a daughter. The three would usually harm and torment each other. Still, one day the three of them had to cross a large river. Due to unfortunate circumstances there was no bridge or ferry there. The mother and her two children had no choice but to try to make their way across. They were wading across hand in hand when a large wave threatened to carry them all away. The mother thought to herself,‘ I’m already old, but how wonderful it would be if only my son and daughter could survive!’ The son and daughter each thought to themselves,‘If I’m going to die, so be it, but how wonderful it would be if only my kind mother could survive!’ Thus, at that moment they developed very strong love and compassion towards each other, and before bad karma or any other thought could intervene, all three of them drowned. Because of the power of their love and compassion, the powerfully virtuous states of mind they had manifested toward each other, there suddenly appeared a rainbow that shone into the river, a rain of flowers fell from the sky, and they immediately took rebirth in the deva realm of Indra, Heaven of the Thirty-Three. Thus love and compassion, what we call the good heart or the wish to benefit others, is really like a king of all virtues! Among jewels it is like the wish-fulfilling one! Jewels found in the world, no matter how valuable, can be bought if one has sufficient wealth. But the precious jewel of Bodhichitta, Awakening Mind, cannot be bought with even zillions of dollars! As the great spiritual master Kunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen has said,

The valuable jewels of the world
Can sometimes be procured with wealth,
But the precious jewel of Bodhichitta,
Can never be bought at any price!

Thus he spoke. So Bodhichitta is something that must be generated in the mind through skillful means, perfectly training the mind in such teachings as are contained in the Bodhisattva scriptural collection. As explained in such scriptures as the Bodhisattva Stages, Sutralamkara and Bodhicharyavatara, one must take the Bodhisattva vows from a qualified Virtuous Spiritual Guide and train ones mind in bodhichitta. Although there are many different methods for training the mind, the most skillful means were taught by Jowo Je glorious Atisha and the great Bodhisattva Shantideva.

First, according to Atisha’s system one must train the mind in reliance upon the five or seven Cause and Effect Instructions. The Seven-fold Cause and Effect Instructions are 1. Recognizing sentient beings as ones mother, 2. Remembering their kindness, 3. Returning their kindness, 4. Loving kindness, 5. Affectionate compassion, 6. Extraordinary intention, 7. Bodhichitta. These are said to have a successive cause-effect relationship, each one giving rise to the next. First, if one hopes for resultant enlightenment one needs its cause, Bodhichitta. If one wants Bodhichitta, one needs its cause, great compassion for all sentient beings. If one wants great compassion one needs its cause, loving kindness for all sentient beings. If one wants to develop loving kindness for all sentient beings, one needs its cause, which is an understanding of the kindness of sentient beings. If one wishes to experience the feeling that all beings are kind, the cause for that is recognizing all sentient beings as ones mother. Counting the steps that way is called the Five-fold Cause and Effect Instructions, because Extraordinary Intention and Returning kindness are not counted separately.

One might think, ‘It is said to think of all sentient beings as my mother! Not only are they not my mother, they have different bodies, homelands, languages and customs and are all from their own separate and sometimes opposing countries!’ As for this, once we consider ourselves Buddhist we accept the existence of reincarnation based on karma. That means taking birth in dependence upon delusions and karma in the six realms of sentient beings. Types of birth are classified in four: womb-birth, miraculous birth, birth from egg, and birth in heat and moisture. Miraculous birth is not common in the human realm which is propelled by karma and delusion, miraculous birth occurs quite rarely, but the bodies of hell beings and other mental bodies are born in a miraculous manner. Most beings are born in dependence upon the procreative elements of their parents, many from womb, somewhat fewer from egg, both depending upon the elements from their parents. Birth in heat and moisture, which relies on heat as the predominant condition, also does not occur in large numbers. There are therefore few cases in which consciousness takes birth without relying upon the condition of the parents’ procreative elements, egg and sperm, etc. For these reasons there is no being who has not been our mother in our lives throughout the six upper and lower realms of cyclic existence. It follows that we have grown up with the help of all of our aged mothers’ kind care; no one survives without nurturing, like a plant just growing in the wild. And we are not talking about only one or two times or a specific number of hundreds or even thousands of years that we have been wandering beginninglessly throughout the three realms of samsara. Even Buddha could not express how many years ago it was that samsara originated, so how could we? Nagarjuna said,

If we counted all our mothers with juniper berry-sized pellets
Even using the entire earth, it would not be enough!

When we think about it, this is a metaphor for infinity. Thus, when we identify sentient beings as our mothers, we are just reminding ourselves that they have actually been our mothers. We are not unreasonably identifying beings that have never been our mother as our mothers!

Once we are certain that, because samsara is beginningless, there is no sentient being that has not been our mother, then without viewing them as terrible enemies because of a temporary grudge or facial expression, nor excessively clinging to them as friends because they are pleasant and beneficial to us for a little while, we must continually view everyone as tremendously kind to ourselves, just as if they were our own mother. Up to this point has been an explanation of how to train the mind in bodhichitta in the method of the Seven-Fold Cause and Effect Instructions in accordance with the system of Jowo Je Atisha.

Secondly, according to the system of great Bodhisattva Shantideva, he said,

Whoever wants to swiftly
Protect themselves and others,
Should exchange themselves with others,
Should employ this holy secret!

Accordingly, all six types of sentient beings are similar in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering. No matter how much happiness, fame or knowledge we have, we are never satisfied. And, even without great suffering, if we get bit by a fly, for instance, our sudden anger may cause us to kill it. In short, leave aside actual suffering, we are uncomfortable even hearing about suffering! And as long as we are possessed by the wild demon of uncontrolled self-grasping entering our heart we may even feel glad about others suffering or their being sick. And leave aside great happiness, even when someone has slight good fortune, we immediately get jealous or try to interrupt it; such tendencies are truly regrettable. If we want happiness we must benefit others and if we don’t want suffering we must not harm others. Regarding this, Shantideva said,

Whatever happiness exists in the world,
It all comes from wanting others’ happiness.
Whatever suffering exists in the world,
It all comes from wanting our own happiness

What need is there to say much?
Childish being act for their own sake
While Buddhas act for the sake of others;
Look at the difference between the two!

Thus, in short, however you look at it, self-cherishing is faulty both temporarily and ultimately. Perceiving this, we must train in the four immeasurables such as love for others. And seeing that cherishing others leads to positive qualities both temporarily and ultimately, we must strive to apply measures to control.our self-infatuation. Among all the teachings of sutra and tantra that Buddha gave, there is none more precious as a method of subduing ones own mind than bodhichitta and the kind wish to benefit others.

Furthermore, as Kyabje Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche said,

Root of the Mahayana path is Bodhichitta!
The Bodhisattvas’ supreme gateway to liberation!
Quintessence of 84,000 collections of Dharma,
That is generation of Bodhichitta, O meditators!

Leave aside Bodhichitta, if we’ve never developed altruism or even a kind wish towards others, it will be difficult for us to suddenly develop Bodhichitta. Still, as said in Bodhicharyavatara,

First, drawn to giving things
Like food, apply oneself to that!

Thus, we must train in the Bodhisattva conduct gradually in accordance with the increase of our mental ability. We must begin by training our mind in relation to someone it is easy to think about because of their proximity to us, and examine our mind each day. For instance if you work in an office, before you go to work make a commitment thinking, Since I’ve taken Bodhisattva vows, today I will not get upset and angry with my colleagues and people in the office and I’ll give up harming others together with its foundation; and I’ll engage in helping others along with its foundation. In the evening when you return home, as you do things like watch meaningless films, without being completely distracted, check whether your activities of the day transgressed your vow or not. If you find that you have transgressed them, recite the Bodhisattva’s Confession of Downfalls, the Hundred-syllable Mantra, and so forth. If transgressions did not occur, meditate rejoicing in that and make prayers dedicating the roots of virtue for the sake of all sentient beings. We must be sure each day not to forget the good heart of altruism, love and compassion. First meditate on equality of self and others; then gradually, once your mind has gotten used to that, the exchange of self and other that is induced by great compassion can develop. Once you have actually realized exchange of self and others, you become thoroughly convinced that all sentient beings are your mother and you do not become discouraged even if you must give your own body, life and enjoyments for the sake of your mothers. When this attitude arises it is said by the previous master-siddhas to be the sign of having fully trained the mind in the exchange of self and other. After having familiarized the mind with exchange of self and other, we train in ‘cherishing others by oneself’ that is induced by actual Bodhichitta. At that moment we receive the title ‘Bodhisattva’ or ‘Lineage Holder of the Buddhas!’ This has been a brief explanation of mind training and the benefits of Bodhichitta.