Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Reliably creating infinite virtue, even while brushing our teeth

(1.11) Since the limitless wisdom of Buddha, the Sole Navigator of living beings,
Upon thorough investigation has seen its preciousness,
Those who wish to be free from samsara’s suffering
Should firmly maintain this precious mind of bodhichitta.

Turn on any TV or click on any webpage, and we will find no end of things promising us happiness and freedom from suffering.  The total size of the world economy is about $65 trillion a year.  Virtually all of this money is spent in pursuit of finding happiness and freedom from suffering.  Yet none of it works.  All of these sales people are false prophets for false gods.  They are not reliable, and their message is deceptive.

It is incredibly rare to find people in this world whose wisdom is reliable.  We don’t know who we can trust and nobody seems to have a clue what to do.  We need somebody with omniscient wisdom who knows directly all paths.  But it is not enough to have somebody with omniscient wisdom, we need somebody who is selflessly looking out for our interests, without any ulterior motive trying to sell us some pack of lies.  Such a being we could trust.  Their word and advice we could rely upon.

And what do these enlightened ones tell us is the most precious, non-deceptive, beneficial thing in the universe?  The mind of bodhichitta.  There is nothing more valuable, nothing more beneficial, nothing more powerful.  And its free!  Geshe-la says in Eight Steps to Happiness all we need to do is cherish others more than ourself, and everything else will flow naturally from that.  When we cherish them, their happiness will matter to us.  When they suffer, we will want to do something about it.  When we know there is something we can do, we will do it.  What do we need to do?  Become a Buddha ourselves.  The methods are there, they are not complicated, and all those who have sincerely put these methods into practice for sufficiently long time have come to possess the mind of bodhichitta themselves and know directly its value.

If we found a treasure map we knew to be authentic, we would waste no time following it.  But such treasure, in the end, is of limited value.  But we have been given a perfectly reliable treasure map which leads to the greatest treasure there is – the precious mind of bodhichitta.  Yet, we squander our opportunity to seek out this treasure by wasting our time on meaningless pursuits.  I think there are two main reasons for this.  First, we don’t really believe the map is legitimate; and second, we don’t believe we are actually capable of following it.  If we believed these two things, we would quite naturally seize the opportunity we have before us.  We should focus our efforts on these two things, and the rest will come quite naturally.

(1.12) Whereas all other virtues are like plantain trees,
In that they are exhausted once they bear fruit,
The enduring celestial tree of bodhichitta
Is not exhausted but increases by bearing fruit.

Karmically speaking, the power of our virtue is multiplied by the number of beings upon whose behalf we engage in the virtue.  If we engage in a virtuous action just for ourself, the power of that action is multiplied by 1; if we engage in the action for ourself and one other, it is multiplied by 2.  If the action is engaged in for the benefit of countless beings, the power of the virtue is multiplied by countless.  What does this mean?  It means engaging in one virtuous action, such as making somebody dinner, with a motivation of bodhichitta is karmically equivalent to engaging in that same action countless times.

Sometimes people doubt, how it is possible to attain enlightenment in one or a few short lifetimes if we have been cultivating bad habits and engaging in negativity since beginningless time.  The answer is bodhichitta.  With a mind of bodhichitta, in just one moment we can create more merit than it would take us aeons to do with other virtues.  Bodhichitta makes any virtue, even the smallest virtue of letting somebody go first as you walk through a door, into a virtuous act of cosmic proportions.  There is literally no way to exaggerate the multiplying power of bodhichitta.

One of the most amazing things about bodhichitta is the merit we accumulate in dependence upon it continues to work until the object to which it was dedicated is accomplished.  If you dedicate towards a temporary goal, the merit will be exhausted once that goal is accomplished.  Since the final goal of bodhichitta is the enlightenment of all living beings, it will continue to work until that goal is accomplished.

A good way to understand this is through the example of working for the center.  The merit we accumulate by working for the center continues to increase for as long as the center exists and the beings who are touched by this center engage in virtue.  Even if we have long ago left the center and moved on somewhere else, like some spiritual annuity, we continue to accumulate merit from our initial investment without any additional effort on our part.  Our actions motivated by bodhichitta work in exactly the same way.  Any action engaged in with a bodhichitta motivation will continue to operate as a beneficial force in this world until its final goal is realized.


3 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Reliably creating infinite virtue, even while brushing our teeth

  1. Thank you for your post, I am enjoying this series 🙂
    I am working on generating a mind of bodhichitta before meditations, and the effects have been positive. In terms of normal everyday actions, what is the mind set and mental thought when generating bodhichitta? Is it simply “I hope this action benefits all living beings”?
    Help on this would be great, and perhaps you could explain with the example of washing up?

    • The main point of bodhichitta is helping others, and the main way we do this is by improving ourselves. So with every daily activity, ask yourself two questions: “how am I helping somebody else?” and “how can I use this action to improve myself?” Your answers to these two questions will explain to you how you can transform any daily activity into one motivated by bodhichitta. If you are unclear on how to answer these two questions, you can request blessings, “please reveal to me how I am helping others…” etc. Taking the example of doing the dishes you are helping others by setting a good example and providing them with a clean environment, you are improving yourself by overcoming your aversion, overcoming your attachment to your selfish desires or even just imagining you are purifying your negative karma while cleaning.

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