Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Become all you can be

(1.9) The moment bodhichitta is generated
Even in pitiful beings bound within the prison of samsara,
They become Bodhisattvas – a “Son or Daughter of Buddha” –
And are worthy of veneration by humans and worldly gods.

It is worthwhile considering why this would be true.  The reason why they merit being venerated by everyone in samsara is because part of them is outside of samsara.  What part?  Their aspiration.  This is equally true for only even a fraction of bodhichitta, because even a fraction of ourselves outside of samsara is extraordinary.

Samsara is, for all practical purposes, hermetically sealed with no escape.  Absent explanations of Dharma (or any other qualified spiritual path), there is literally nothing in samsara that even hints at an existence outside of samsara.  Even those who have been in the Dharma for many, many years scantly have a clue what samsara is and what lies outside of it.  For most people in the world today, “samsara” is the name of an exotic perfume.  If people have even heard the name, its connotation is something that is tantalizingly sinful – so good, it’s worth throwing personal discipline to the wind.  But most people so only know the prison that they don’t even realize they are in one.

Karma in general is of two types:  contaminated and non-contaminated.  Contaminated karma ripens inside of samsara, non-contaminated karma ripens outside of samsara.  The goal of the Buddhist path is to escape from samsara, so therefore we need as much non-contaminated karma as we can accumulate.  Non-contaminated karma is like a special type of spiritual rocket fuel without which we cannot generate sufficient escape velocity for escaping samsara’s gravitational pull.  Non-contaminated karma, quite simply, is created when its observed object is outside of samsara.  For example, when somebody regards an image of a Buddha, because the object is by nature outside of samsara we accumulate non-contaminated karma, even if we don’t see it as anything more than a pretty piece of art.  Venerable Tharchin explains that “the location of mind is at the object of cognition,” so if our observed object is outside of samsara, then the part of our mind that observes that object literally goes outside of samsara.  Cognizing the object is a mental action, creating karma.  This is why Geshe-la began the International Temple’s Project.  Busloads full of children and tourists come, each one leaves with non-contaminated karmic imprints on their mind.  These imprints later ripen in the form of these people finding a path out of samsara, or even being directly reborn outside of the prison of samsara.

The observed object of the mind of bodhichitta is outside of samsara.  It “sees” a future in which all living beings have been freed from the prison of their contaminated karmic hallucinations and it commits oneself to work towards realizing that vision.  All actions motivated by bodhichitta create non-contaminated karma, even brushing one’s teeth.  Having such a mind is like having within us a magic escape tunnel through which we can ferry all those we love out of samsara.  Even the most powerful person on earth, even a Chakravatin King, can at most make us a little more comfortable as we await our perpetual slaughter.  Only somebody with a mind of bodhichitta can free us from danger.  Only our own mind of bodhichitta can save our loved ones.

When we generate bodhichitta, our spiritual parents become the Buddhas, specifically the Spiritual Guide.  We become part of their family, and therefore come under their care and protection.  When you are a member of a royal family, you can count on their support and protection.  There is nothing a parent would not do for their child.  Ordinary parents, even royal ones, can only help us in very limited ways and the protection they can provide is partial at best.  But when you are a son or daughter of all the Buddhas, you enter an eternal, vajra family and you come under their care and protection.  They are always there for you, guiding you, protecting you, even when you don’t see them or even think of them.  They never stop caring for you.  We need but turn to them and ask for their help, guidance and protection.

(1.10) Just like the supreme elixir that transmutes into gold,
Bodhichitta can transform this impure body we have taken
Into the priceless jewel of a Buddha’s form.
Therefore, firmly maintain bodhichitta.

This does not mean that our ordinary body will transform into the body of a Buddha.  Our ordinary body needs to be completely left behind and is an object of abandonment.  Bodhichitta is the full acceptance of the limitations of our contaminated aggregates, both for ourself and for others, for this life and for all future lives. The limitations of our contaminated aggregates are realized in comparison with the responsibility we have taken on.  They just can’t get the job done.

But what aggregates of body and mind do have the ability?  The pure body and mind of a Buddha.  The pure body of a Buddha has the ability to emanate countless forms in countless worlds directly and simultaneously.  It is one nature with the Dharmakaya so it has the ability to bestow all the realizations of the stages of the path on all beings.  With this human life, we can train in the methods for changing the basis of imputation of our “I” from our ordinary body and mind into the “priceless jewels” of a Buddha’s form and mind.


2 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Become all you can be

  1. Your explanation of contaminated and uncontaminated karma is really helpful to me Ryan – thank you for your posts 😘

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