Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  A reminder of our Bodhisattva vows

In an earlier post, we talked about generating the mind of bodhichitta, the wish to become a Buddha for the benefit of all.  Essentially we become aware of our samsaric situation, and that of others; and how if we gained control of our mind we would be able to escape from it.  We see how all living beings are in the same situation, and if they are going to be saved it is up to us to do it.  This leads to the superior intention to take responsibility for the spiritual welfare of others.  We see how we are currently incapable of doing so, but if we were a Buddha we would be able to.  Understanding this, we generate the wish to become a Buddha for all living beings.

The question now is how do we act on this wish?  We do so by practicing the six perfections.  The six perfections are the actual pathway to enlightenment.  By training in them we travel the internal path to enlightenment.  The six perfections are:  giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom.

We can synthesize our practice of the six perfections into the keeping of the Bodhisattva vows.  A few years ago, I did an extensive series of posts going over all of the different Kadampa vows and commitments, which you can find in the special series in the link at the top.  The bodhisattva vows are a practical means of practicing the six perfections.  One of the main reasons why we take vows is it is a special way to continuously accumulate virtuous causes, even when we are not thinking about it.  For as long as we have not un-done our vows, we continue to accumulate merit.  For example, once a trench or a valley has been dug, any subsequent water poured into it will effortlessly follow the path previously forged.  In particular, the karma keeping our Bodhisattva vows functions to create the causes to maintain the continuum of our Mahayana Buddhist practice between now and our eventual enlightenment.  The biggest fear of the wise is losing the path.  If we fear losing the path, we won’t, and therefore we will have nothing to fear.  If we don’t fear losing the path, we very well could and then we would have all of samsara to fear.

If you have not yet taken the Bodhisattva vows, I strongly encourage you to do so.  You can make the request at any Kadampa center around the world, and they are almost invariably given at every empowerment.  Once we have taken them once with a preceptor, we can then take them again any time we wish on our own, and most Kadampas renew their vows every day.  Nonetheless, it is good to retake them in a more formal way from time to time as the impact this has on our mind is often deeper than just taking them every morning in the context of our daily practice.

In this and the next post, I will review the transgressions of the bodhisattva vows associated with the practice of patience.

Retaliating to harm or abuse.  If out of impatience we retaliate to harm or abuse we incur a secondary downfall.  When somebody harms us in some way, our natural instinct is to harm them back.  This just perpetuates the cycle of harm and sows the seeds for future suffering for everyone.  Wishing to break the cycle, we should not retaliate when we are harmed, but instead we should accept it as purification of a long-standing debt.  We should be happy that we are finally bringing an end part of the harmful dance we have with living beings.

Very often we get angry with people when they do not show us the respect that we think we deserve and when they do not listen to us.  But when we get angry at them, we send the message that we are not worthy of respect or listening to – how can we respect somebody who is out of control and cannot admit their faults?  If they show us respect in response to our anger, it is not real respect but rather fear of us, or mafia-respect.  This never works because as soon as the threat of fear is gone, the feigned respect will disappear and they will rebel and retaliate for all the anger we sent at them over a long period of time.  When this happens, they lose all of the benefit that we have given them.  Parents experience this all the time.  If we are patient regardless of the provocations against us, people naturally gain respect for us because this takes enormous strength.  If we are able to go further and respond constructively and positively while everybody else is out of control, then we really stand out and their respect for us grows abundantly.

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