At this point, I think it might be helpful to review everything Shantideva has explained so far, to see how it all fits together into one coherent story. This will enable us to better appreciate how we got to this point, and provide the proper context for understanding the remainder of Shantideva’s guide. We essentially have two main parts left – exchanging self with others as the engine of our bodhichitta and to overcome our self-cherishing; and the perfection of wisdom realizing emptiness, to overcome our self-grasping. These two – our self-cherishing and our self-grasping together – make up our self-centered mind. This self-centered mind is the very root of our samsara. All of our suffering comes from this self-centered mind, and all of our freedom will come from abandoning it. Everything Shantideva has explained so far is really just preparing the conditions in our mind for our main task – abandoning our self-centered mind, abandoning both our self-cherishing and our self-grasping. In this light, I will spend the next several posts summarizing the main points of all we have previously done.
Our responsibility as Bodhisattvas is essentially to guide all the beings of our karmic dream back to the source from which they come, the Dharmakaya of all the Buddhas, so that they can bathe eternally in an ocean of purity and bliss.
Why are beings trapped in samsara? The living beings we see around us are karmic appearances to our mind. They are trapped in contaminated aggregates because we have created the karma for them to be trapped in such aggregates. We create this karma every time we assent to them existing outside of our mind and we engage in contaminated actions towards them. Each one of us is the creator of everything we know. They are actual beings, our creation, suffering due to our ignorance and self-cherishing since time without beginning.
To free these beings, we need to create the karma necessary to guide each of these beings back to the source from which they came, the Dharmakaya. So how do we do this? By practicing the bodhisattva’s way of life as explained by Shantideva.
First, we need a mind of total acceptance for how things are. When we get angry at the appearances of our mind, we just make them more turbulant. By grasping at them as existing inherently, we reimprison others into their contaminated aggregates, and worse, we create the karma for them to be ‘enemies.’ They then act in harmful ways and create a new hell for themselves.
The mind of patient acceptance is a special wisdom that is able to accept everything that happens without any resistance. It is able to do this because it sees how it can use whatever arises to lead ourselves or others to enlightenment. Since everything can be used for our path, everything is perfect, so everything can be accepted and there is no basis for anger to arise. By accepting whatever arises, we gradually exhaust the negative karma giving rise to such appearances, and because we do not create new turbulent appearances, gradually this world filled with enemies disappears. Instead, everyone becomes our kind mother, and indeed our kind spiritual guide.
It is especially important to accept others as they are without any judgement. When you do not accept others, they feel judged and get defensive. When they are defensive, you block them from deciding from their own side to change. But when you accept others as they are, and have no personal need whatsoever that they change, then it creates the space for them to decide from their own side that they need to change. If they do not themselves engage in the actions that will lead them back to the source, they will never get there. Our impatience with them blocks them from deciding to change.
Then, we need a mind of joyful effort. The mind of joyful effort is a mind that is happy to just create causes. It does not seek results, it is simply happy to create causes. It is not that it is only happy when experiencing the effects of our practice, it is happy simply to create causes for a better future. What enables us to have this mind is faith in the law of karma. We know that if we create the causes, the results will eventually come. It is just an issue of joyfully building a new and better future, completely confident in the knowledge that nothing can stop us. The appearance of this world of suffering is just that, a karmic appearance. If we change our actions, we can change our karma, and in this way, we can change what world appears.
We commit to ourselves to happily go about our training, knowing that when we are finished, all the suffering of all these beings will never have been. When we attain enlightenment, all three times are completely purified, so it is as if everyone had been a Buddha from the very beginning. When we see others suffering terribly, we can know that soon their suffering will never have been.
We need to engage in the actions necessary to bring all of these beings back to the source from which they come. When we engage in our tantric practices or we engage in powa, we create the karma to completely free the living beings of our dream from their contaminated aggregates and for them to emerge in the Dharmakaya. Since there other living beings other than the ones projected by our mind, at a deep karmic level, our actions will actually free others. When we do powa for somebody, for example, we bring one of the beings of our dream to the Dharmakaya in such a way that they never return to this world of suffering. We need to do the same with each and every being, especially through our Tantric practice.
And we need to concentrate single-pointedly on creating good causes. It is not enough to create one cause, but we need to create many, many causes. It is not enough to create superficial causes, but we need to create high quality causes. Our concentration enables us to do this. The primary obstacle to developing concentration is our attachment to samsara, this contaminated dream, this world of suffering. Because we think there is something to be had or accomplished within this dream, we never develop the wish to get ourselves or others back to the source of the Dharmakaya. Out of attachment for what takes place in this contaminated dream, we engage in actions that keep ourselves and others trapped within it. The mind of renunciation and great compassion is a mind that realizes there is nothing that can be accomplished within this contaminated dream, so the only thing that remains is to wake up from it.
It is true that this is a big job to free all beings, but when we understand the bodhisattva’s way of life, everything becomes easy. When we understand patience, when we understand joyful effort, when we understand concentration, when we understand the relationship between self and others, and when we understand that our mind is the creator of all, we realize that we can change everything by changing our own mind. Everything becomes feasible. When things are seen to be feasible, effort becomes effortless, and we enter into a truly joyful path that we know with total certainty will lead to the freedom of all those we love and care for.
Our homework in life is simple: Various things will appear to our mind. We should view all of them as mere karmic appearances ripened by our spiritual guide to give us an opportunity to create good causes. Then, respond well – create good causes – to whatever appears. To do this, we just respond with as much love and wisdom as we can, joyfully creating causes knowing we are definitely emerging.
One thought on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: How the six perfections reinforce each other”
An excellent read of advice from Shantideva. This is what we are all aiming for but I sometimes get lost (again) in samsara’s web of worldly things (phenomena). I need to bring my mind back to these essential teachings and emerge from the fig of my mind. Thank you.