Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  How to have nothing to fear

(4.20) It is for these reasons that Buddha, the Blessed One, said
That it is extremely difficult to obtain a precious human life;
Just as it is rare for a turtle to insert its neck
Into a yoke adrift on a vast ocean.

It was discussed in an earlier post how we only attain a precious human life once every 637 quadrillion lifetimes.  But we can change these odds through the practice of moral discipline.

Moral discipline in general creates the cause for a fortunate rebirth.  Moral discipline engaged in with a spiritual motivation creates the causes for another precious human life.  The way it works is as follows:  first we contemplate the valid reasons for voluntarily adopting certain vows and commitments until we develop a wisdom desire to do so.  We actively choose to practice moral discipline because we want to and we see the value of doing so.  We then formally take the vows, making the decision to live our life in a way consistent with them.  Later, deluded tendencies that move in the opposite direction of our vows arises within our mind.  Our job at that time is to recall the disadvantages of following our delusions and the advantages of keeping our vows.  We try see through the lies of our delusions and reconnect with the wisdom that lead us to take the vows in the first place.  Once we have rediscovered that clarity of mind, we then voluntarily choose to not follow the deluded tendency, but instead we reaffirm our moral commitments.

This mental action is the moral discipline of restraint, and since it is motivated by spiritual concerns, it creates the causes not just for another upper rebirth, but a precious human life in which we re-find the Dharma.  If 50 deluded tendencies ripen in a single hour (which can sometimes happen when our delusions are really flaring up), and we engage in this process of reconnecting with our wisdom that lead us to take the vows until we no simply do not want to follow our deluded tendencies, then we created the causes for 50 precious human rebirths in that hour!  Not bad for an hour’s worth of spiritual work.

What distinguishes the mere practice of moral discipline from training in actual vows and commitments, such as the Pratimoksha or Bodhisattva vows, is when we train in vows we not only create the causes for another precious human life, but more importantly we create the causes to maintain the continuum of our spiritual practice until enlightenment is reached.  This is a qualitative difference in effect.  If we have countless trillion negative seeds on our mind, and we create a few dozen good ones, the odds of these good ones ripening is still microscopically low.  If, however, we train in our sets of vows, it creates a different karma altogether, one that maintains the continuum of our practice in life after life.  Geshe-la said when we die, we should try do so with fresh vows on our mind.

Why the different effect between individual moral discipline and keeping the sets of vows?  Because when we practice an individual act of moral discipline, we are throwing our future selves a spiritual life-line.  When we practice a set of vows, we are karmically weaving for ourself a spiritual safety net.  Each vow strengthens and reinforces all of the others in an interactive way that creates for us this minimum spiritual flooring.  Geshe-la explains in Essence of Vajrayana that practicing Tantra is like climbing a high mountain, but doing so on the foundation of our Tantric vows is like adding the necessary safety equipment so that even if we slip, we do not fall.

Different types of vows will create different types of precious human rebirths.  Keeping our refuge vows creates the causes to maintain the continuum of our Buddhist practice between now and our eventual enlightenment.  Keeping our Pratimoksha vows creates the causes for us to maintain the continuum of our practice of a path that leads to liberation from samsara.  Keeping bodhisattva vows maintains the continuum of our Mahayana trainings to enlightenment.  Keeping Tantric vows maintains the continuum of our Vajrayana trainings; and keeping our mother Tantra vows maintains the continuum of our Heruka and Vajrayogini practice.  We invest in insurance for all sorts of things in life; how much more important is it to invest effort in the spiritual insurance provided by our practice of the sets of vows?

The reality is this:  if we keep finding the path and have the wish to practice it, our samsara will slowly but surely come to an end.  If we lose the path, we lose everything and it might be countless aeons later before we can rebegin our practice.  While we have found the way out, we should do whatever is required to stay on the path.  In short, if we lose the path, we have everything to fear; if we fear only losing the path, we will have nothing to fear.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  We shall not even hear the words “fortunate rebirth.”

(4.17) If I engage in non-virtuous actions,
I shall not obtain a human body again;
And if I do not attain a human form,
There will be no virtue, only negativity.

(4.18) If I do not practise virtue now
While I have the good fortune to do so,
What virtue shall I be able to practise
When I am suffering and confused in the lower realms?

(4.19) For if I do not practise virtue
But accumulate only evil,
I shall not even hear the words “fortunate rebirth”
For a hundred million aeons.

At present, the vast majority of our actions are neutral, but if we are honest negativity comes easily and virtue comes only with great effort.  This clearly shows the natural tendencies on our mind.  As Gen-la Losang says, what is natural is simply what is familiar.  The fact that negativity comes naturally to us shows that it is what our mind is most familiar with.  When we do engage in virtuous actions, it is rare and our virtues are weak.  Often we simply show up to Dharma centers or festivals or place our bottoms on our meditation cushion, but fail to bring our mind along too.  During daily life, when difficulties arise, our first instinct is to lie, cheat, steal, avoid, retaliate, criticize, judge, and blame others.

If we do not engage in virtuous actions, we will not take another fortunate rebirth.  Moral discipline is the principal cause of upper rebirth, and upon that we have scantly relied.  If we fall into the lower realms, we will engage almost exclusively in non-virtue.  Look at a day in the life of an animal, a hungry spirit and a hell being.  How much virtue do they accumulate?  How much non-virtue?  What causes do they create for their future lives?

If we think about it, when we suffer there’s no space in our mind for any virtue to arise because we are completely preoccupied with the situation. We know when we don’t feel good, even some physical discomfort, our Dharma practice becomes worse, it becomes more difficult to generate and maintain virtue.  What will it be like when we return to the lower realms experiencing far more suffering than we are now?  Even an animal, where is the space for virtue?  We engage in only non-virtue.   In the upper realms, our experiences will be so pleasant that we will feel no real motivation to practice.  Instead, we will be consumed by jealousy, competitiveness and self-indulgence.  Once the merit creating the causes for such a rebirth is exhausted, we will have no choice but to fall once again in the lower realms.  From this perspective, an upper or lower rebirth are essentially equally dangerous.

But right now, as a human being, we can create space in our mind for virtue.  This is our chance.  We have just enough suffering to be motivated to do something about it, and just enough good fortune to have everything we need to be able to do so.  It is perfect.

I look at how hard it is for me to just try be a good person, much less an enlightened being.  I see how hard it is to not give into my deluded tendencies, much less eradicate them completely.  I see how easy it is to become despondent, discouraged or lazy with our practice.  Attaining enlightenment seems almost impossibly hard that if I am honest, I mostly don’t even believe it is possible.  But Buddha says it is easier to attain enlightenment once reborn as a human than it is to attain rebirth as a human once we have fallen into the lower realms.  It is, for all practical purposes, impossible.  Again the Christian view is an almost entirely accurate approximation of reality – what awaits us is eternal damnation.  Buddhists like to quibble with the eternal part, triumphantly thinking, “oh, those naïve Christians, don’t they understand there are countless lives and nothing is permanent about lower rebirth.”  But their naïve view grasping at an eternal fall is far closer to the truth than our wishful thinking that our time in the lower realms will be short-lived.

Once we fall, we will know only terror.  There will be no Dharma, no Dharma centers, no spiritual friends, no wisdom.  Every day will be a constant struggle, where our only chance at survival will be to engage in actions that condemn us to remain trapped in the lower realms.  Our minds will be dark, clouded, full of ignorance, miserliness and rage.  Even we who have heard of such things as liberation and enlightenment continue to neglect our spiritual trainings; what chance will we have when we live in a world that knows even not of fortune rebirth, but only torment.  Our time is coming.  This is no game.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  When will an opportunity like this arise again?

(4.15) Since the appearance of a Tathagata – a Buddha,
Faith in his teachings, a precious human body,
And a suitable basis for practising Dharma are so rare,
When will an opportunity like this arise again?

We know we have all the conditions necessary for the practice of Dharma—we have perfect conditions, but the question is are we using those conditions?   With these conditions we can discover and put an end to all the paths that lead to suffering in our mind. We probably never had such conditions before and we will probably never have them again.  Human life is rare enough, but one such as we have?

I did the math before and it comes out that we have a life like this only once every 637 quadrillion (thousand trillion) lifetimes.  Buddha likens the chances of us having a precious human life to odds of the blind turtle who lives in an ocean the size of this world and surfaces only once every 100,000 years.  There is a golden yoke (a yoke is what is put around an animal’s head when the pull a cart) floating on the surface, what is the likelihood of the blind turtle putting their head through the middle of the yoke?  The surface of the earth is 510 million square kilometers, or 510 trillion square meters.  If you assume the yoke is 1 square meter and an average lifespan of 80 years, the turtle will rise to the surface only once every 1,250 lifetimes.  Each time the turtle rises it has a one in 510 trillion chance of putting its head through the yoke, resulting in once every 637 quadrillion lifetimes!  Numbers this big are simply beyond our imagination, so for all practical purposes we can say this is our once in an eternity opportunity.  Again, the Christian model of saying we get this one life on earth to do it right is, more or less, correct.  It is as if this is our one chance.  The question we face is are we going to waste it.

Unless we do something with this opportunity, it is meaningless.  We need to choose to use this information to decide to not waste this opportunity.  Until we make this choice, all of our Dharma knowledge will remain intellectual.  It is only once we have decided to embark on the journey that we start to appreciate and understand the value of each instruction we are given.  Shantideva says we need to formally declare war on our delusions, because when we do and the battle is joined, we will then need the instructions.  They will no longer be viewed as optional, rather they will be necessary for our very survival.

(4.16) Today, for example, I might be free from sickness,
Well-nourished, and without afflictions;
But this life is fleeting and deceptive,
And my body is as if borrowed for a moment.

Why do we become so complacent?  I think the main reason is we forget that because we’re human we must die.  We may be healthy, wealthy, happy, all these things.  But the fact is all this will come to an end.  Inevitably I will become unhealthy, unwealthy, unhappy.  When things are good, we assume they will last forever, and then we are shocked when they come to an end.  We should not take for granted our present circumstances, but always recall that karma changes fast.  Our lives can be turned on their head in an instant, or worse we can lose our life altogether.

While we have it good, we should use our time wisely to store spiritual provisions for the long road ahead.  In George Martin’s A Game of Thrones they say, “winter is coming.”  The meaning is the current good times will not last and we must prepare for the hardship we know is coming.  Our spiritual winter is coming, whether we freeze to death or make it through the winter depends entirely upon how we use our time right now.

We do not want to be the person who arrives at the time of death empty-handed, with nothing to show for the spiritual opportunities we have had.  Venerable Tharchin says we should “live our life from the perspective of our deathbed.”  We should view each situation as we go through life through the lens of how we will think about it when we are on our deathbed.  If it is not going to be important to us on our deathbed, then it is not important now.  If it will be important to us on our deathbed, we should consider it important now.  If we live our life in this way, there is no danger of our wasting our precious human life nor dying full of regrets.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Using Lamrim to strengthen our conscientiousness

It is said that the Lamrim directly or indirectly opposes all delusions.  I personally find that there is not a single Lamrim meditation that cannot serve as the opponent to any delusion.  Of course, certain Lamrim minds are the most direct and obvious opponents, but it seems to me every Lamrim mind can serve as the opponent to every delusion.

It is not enough to just intellectually realize this is true, we need to make a point of gaining actual experience in using the different Lamrim minds as opponents to the different delusions that arise during the day.  Most Kadampa practitioners meditate on the Lamrim in the form of a 21 meditation, 21 day cycle.  To deepen our experience of this, each day we should make a point of only using the Lamrim meditation for the day as the opponent to each and every delusion that arises during that day.  Of course sometimes, when our delusions are particularly strong, we may need to bring in other meditations to help, but most of the time our delusions are mild and the Lamrim meditation of the day is more than sufficient.  By training in this way, we will come to see the Lamrim as a 21 tool toolbox, and we will become like a master craftsman who can use his tools to accomplish any spiritual goal, or like a skilled physician who knows precisely which medicines can be used to counter which diseases.

Shantideva now shows us how we can use the different Lamrim meditations to increase our conscientiousness.

(4.13) Even though there have been countless Buddhas in the past
Working to benefit all living beings,
Because I have so many karmic obstacles
I have not been a direct object of their care;

We have a precious human life.  In all of our past lives when delusions or negative tendencies arose, we were powerless to stop them.  But now, we have the extraordinary good fortune of having met the Buddhadharma.  We now have perfectly reliable methods for reducing and finally eliminating our deluded tendencies.

We are like somebody who has been bullied their entire life, and they finally meet a qualified martial arts master, who patiently trains them in the methods of combat so that they can defend themselves.  Since beginningless time we have been bullied by our delusions, but we have finally met a qualified master in the arts of combatting delusions.  If we train patiently and consistently in the methods we have been taught, we will not only be able to defend ourselves, we will eventually emerge victorious over all of our delusions.  The only thing required of us is the perseverance to see it through to the end.

(4.14) And, if I remain like this,
Again and again I shall have to experience
Sickness, incarceration, laceration,
And mutilation in the lower realms.

Most of our past lifetimes have been spent in the lower realms.  If we apply no effort to abandon non-virtue or harmful actions, then we will simply go back to where we have spend most of our time.  The lower realms are our real home in samsara, our time in the upper realms is like going on vacation to some fancy beach resort only to have to deplete our karmic savings to pay the bill and return to our regular home in hell.

Because we have a lot of merit ripening right now, we can generate the false impression that we have a mind filled with the kind of potentials that lead to fortunate rebirth and that we will continue to meet the teachings of Buddha.  But this is wrong.  We have a mind filled with negativity.  How can we know this? – we can look at suffering, dreams, tendencies similar to the cause, looking at other living beings, how close we are to madness and overall considering the structural parameters of samsara (lower realms only accumulate non-virtue, upper realms burn up all merit on externals, etc.).  The karmic gradient of samsara is steep, and it is all downward sloping.

For all practical purposes our choice is simple:  either we attain enlightenment or we fall back into lower realms.  There really isn’t much of a middle here.  In this sense, the Christian duality of Heaven or Hell is not far from the truth.  Yes, there are exceptions, but they are temporary.  We ultimately fall back into this choice.  So we first need to accept that this is our situation, and then actually make our choice to get out.

Living in denial of the situation we are in doesn’t change the fact that we are in it.  The sooner we accept that and make a decision, the sooner we get out.  We don’t know how much longer we will have the opportunity to choose before samsara chooses for us.  We have no idea the karma on our mind, and it can go off at anytime.  This is the reality of things.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Retaking our vows with no intention of keeping them

(4.11) Those who repeatedly renew their Bodhisattva vow
Only to go on to incur further downfalls
Will remain for a long time enmeshed in samsara,
Obstructed from attaining higher spiritual grounds.

(4.12) Therefore, I must practise sincerely,
In accordance with the promise I have made.
If, from now on, I make no effort,
I shall be reborn in lower and lower states.

Here, we need to make a clear distinction between the correct and incorrect way of approaching our vows.  The correct way is to “work gradually and skillfully with all the vows, while maintaining the intention to one day keep them all perfectly.”  The incorrect way is to “allow ourself to incur downfalls thinking it doesn’t matter because we can simply retake our vows.”  There is a world of difference between these two approaches.

Deluded tendencies arise in our mind all the time.  The training in moral discipline takes this as a given.  We would not need to train in moral discipline if deluded, negative tendencies did not arise.  Some people, falling on one extreme, relate to their vows as if the arising of a deluded tendency itself is a downfall, and so when it occurs, they immediately repress the tendency.  The result of this is as predictable as it is tragic:  the strength of the deluded tendencies grows and grows until one day the person “cracks” and then binges on their delusions and negative habits.  Spiritual bulimia is not the goal.

The other extreme is whenever a deluded tendency arises we simply give into it, knowing we will be defeated by it anyways.  Usually we rationalize this in one of two ways, either we say, “we are not there yet where we are ready to take on this particular deluded tendency” or we tell ourselves, “this action is not so bad, lighten up.”  If we take this approach, we never really get serious about our practice of moral discipline.

The worst, of course, is intentionally engaging in negativity thinking it doesn’t matter because we can just retake our vows and all will be good.  I call this the Don Corleone method of purification, we go to Confession while our hit men are out killing our enemies.  Purification practices and the restoration of our vows only works if we are sincere about it.  They are not get out of jail free cards. When we practice like this, our underlying intention is to continue to enjoy samsara.  Such a practice will bring no real change.   We will not move forward.  If we carry on like this, Shantideva says we’ll remain for a long time enmeshed in samsara.  We need to sincerely reconstruct the pathways and behavior patterns within our mind.  We need to cherish our vows as a way of doing that, and sincerely work with them all to retrain our mind.  Conclusion: we mustn’t let things slip, as we have done. More importantly, we must never give up.  Through considering the results of letting things slip or of giving up, conscientiousness will naturally arise.  Because we don’t want those results, for ourselves or others.

Geshe-la advises us to “work gradually and skillfully with all our vows, while maintaining the intention to one day keep them all perfectly.”  Our actual commitment – our actual vow – is to never abandon the intention to keep them all perfectly in the future.  This protects us against the extreme of just letting loose and indulging in our negativity whenever it arises.  Working gradually and skillfully with all our vows humbly accepts that the practice of moral discipline is a training, something that we work with over a long period of time gradually learning from our mistakes and doing a little bit better each day, each month, each year, each decade and indeed each lifetime.  This protects us from the extreme of repression, thinking that we are supposed to act perfectly from day one.  I usually do self-initiation three or four times a year.  At such times, I try reflect back on how I am doing with all of my vows.  I will mentally make new commitments where possible to do a little bit better with my vows than I did the last time I retook them.

The key to moral discipline is to move beyond “shouldn’t” to “I don’t want to.”  When we think, “I shouldn’t engage in a certain action” implicit is within us a desire thinking, “but I still want to do so.”  Shouldn’t-based moral discipline generally just leads to repression.  Instead, we need to contemplate the faults of delusions, karma, the benefits of moral discipline, our spiritual goals and the practicalities of what works and what doesn’t, and get to the point where we can “see through the lie” of our delusion.  Our delusion promises us that if we follow it, things will be better.  We instead shine the light of wisdom on this, realize that no, if I follow my delusion it will just make things worse.  Then, we refrain from engaging in the negative action because we simply don’t want to.  We know we will suffer more if we do.  Such moral discipline is sustainable.  Once we have realized this wisdom once, then, every time a deluded tendency arises, we recollect our wisdom that lead us to the decision to commit to certain practices of moral discipline.  We reaffirm that, “no, I don’t want to do that” and then we refrain.  Practicing in this way, our moral discipline and wisdom will improve in tandem, with each reinforcing the other.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Don’t interfere with a Bodhisattva

(4.9) And if someone else were to obstruct or hinder
A Bodhisattva’s virtuous actions, even for a moment,
Since he would be undermining the welfare of all living beings,
There would be no end to his lower rebirths.

(4.10) For if I would experience misfortune
As a result of destroying the happiness of just one being,
What can be said of the consequences of destroying
The happiness of all living beings as extensive as space?

These two verses indicate the significance of a Bodhisattva’s deeds.  If they are halted in any way, the welfare of others is affected. It is important to note that our practice can be obstructed by ourself or by others.  First we will discuss others.

We need to be careful to not let others obstruct our practice.  When others create obstacles to our practice and we allow them to do so, they incur very heavy negative karma of indirectly harming all living beings.  This is very important to understand.  Sometimes we think we are cherishing others to not do our practice because it upsets them when we do, but this comes at the expense of all other living beings and causes the other person to incur heavy negative karma.

There are some qualifiers to this.  First, we need to think about things in a long-term perspective.  Sometimes it is better to allow some minor interference in the short run to eliminate much greater interference in the long run.  If you push too hard too quickly you could wind up with less.  Second, we don’t always have to tell the obstructing person what we are doing.  Sometimes they just wouldn’t understand and would create obstacles for us.  If we can avoid saying anything and still do our own thing, that is often the best course of action.  But sometimes we might be forced into a situation where we are faced with a choice:  lie and do Dharma or tell the truth and not do Dharma.  In such a case, we need to not sacrifice a greater virtue on the altar of a lesser virtue.  Under what conditions is this a lie and under what conditions is it not a lie?  It all depends on whether we are driven by delusion or not.  As a general rule though, most of the obstacles we encounter are minor.  If we transform the obstructions the other person throws at us into the path, they will still accumulate negative karma for interfering with our practice, but less so.  And if we are able to transform their obstacles into the path, can we really say they are interfering in fact with our practice?

Even if others do not interfere with our practice, we can wind up interfering with our own practice.  In comparison with conscientiously engaging in the bodhisattva’s path, if we do nothing, then living beings remain in samsara for longer.  This is true for two reasons.  First, we don’t directly lead them out; and second, we don’t help others become bodhisattva’s themselves who would help others still.

Is this meant to make us feel bad?  It seems unfair: here I’ve made a promise, but if I don’t act on it then I am the cause of others having to experience suffering for a longer and longer period of time.  It seems like the Bodhisattva’s path is a high-stakes way of life.  The results are far, far greater in either direction.  Is it better to play it safe and not enter such a life?  The answer is an unequivocal no.  Will we make mistakes?  Of course, many.  But our intention is to learn and do better next time.  Since it is primarily our intention that determines the karma we create, if we maintain a good intention while remaining humbly aware we will make many mistakes along the way, we will accumulate far more virtue from our efforts than non-virtue from our mistakes.  In any case, what is the bigger error, trying and making mistakes or not trying at all and abandoning the bodhisattva’s path?

It is good to have fear of interfering with a bodhisattva.  Generating fear is a good way of identifying the self-cherishing mind.  In these verses Shantideva is helping us to generate fear.  At the same time we have to feel so happy.  Conscientiousness is a happy mind, cherishing virtue. Shantideva’s helping us to generate such conscientiousness through developing some fear.  We need to think about this quite carefully.

Geshe-la says in The Bodhisattva Vow we need to be very skillful in our practice of the Bodhisattva Vows.  If we feel so unhappy and give ourselves a hard time after incurring a downfall, we’re taking the wrong approach.  There is a danger when we contemplate the dangers we can become heavy with our practice, but as Kadam Bjorn said, “there is not a single mind in the Dharma that is heavy or tight.  They are all light and spacious.”  Conscientiousness is not a heavy mind for the simple reason that it is not fooled by the lies of our delusions.  It is confident in its choice of virtue and the inner struggle between wisdom and delusion has been resolved – at least intellectually.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Abandoning bodhichitta is the heaviest of downfalls

(4.7) How someone who abandons bodhichitta
Can then attain liberation
Is beyond ordinary comprehension –
Only the omniscient can know that.

(4.8) For a Bodhisattva, abandoning bodhichitta
Is the heaviest of all downfalls
For, should he or she incur it,
The whole basis of working for others will be lost.

Why is this the heaviest of downfalls?  When we promise to provide a single benefit and renege on that promise, it is a negative action.  Bodhichitta is the promise to provide every conceivable benefit, so it is infinitely worse.  And bodhichitta promises to do this for every living being, which multiplies how negative the action is by the number of living beings.  Seen in this way, if we understand why generating bodhichitta is the most beneficial mind of all, we can likewise understand why abandoning it is the heaviest of downfalls.

What does it mean to abandon our bodhichitta?  It means with respect to any single individual, we abandon the thought:  I need to become a Buddha for this person.  This needs to be our primary motivation with everybody we meet.  If instead, we actively decide, “I will no longer help this person, they are on their own,” then we have abandoned bodhichitta for that person.

We can also abandon bodhichitta if we make the decision that it is just too hard or unrealistic to help everybody, and instead we are going to just worry about ourself and our own liberation.  We essentially abandon the Mahayana paths and instead decide to focus on our individual freedom for the sake of ourself.

While it is not actively abandoning our bodhichitta if it just fades away, if at some point we become aware that our bodhichitta has faded and we make no effort to try restore it, then this choosing to not bother try is likewise an indirect abandoning of our bodhichitta.  Leaving somebody to die when you could otherwise save them is a form of killing.  In the same way, leaving our bodhichitta to die when we could otherwise save it is a form of abandoning bodhichitta.

If we abandon our bodhichitta we’re not just letting others down, we’re letting go of others.   Perhaps we feel it’s not quite true because we do all sorts of temporary things to help others.  But if we stop there with ordinary help, and we give up on trying to help them overcome their true sufferings and true origins, then we may still have ordinary compassion but we no longer have bodhichitta.  Temporary help may be able to provide conditions for others to experience temporary happiness before they head to the lower realms again.  If this is all we are doing, we need to ask ourselves, are we helping in every way we can?

Our neighbor once turned her back for just a few minutes, and five minutes later she found her 3 year old son dead in the pool when he went in after his ball.  Anybody who has been a parent knows it only takes a few moments of neglect for terrible things to happen.  This is why parents are always extremely vigilant, and the welfare of their kids is never far from their mind.  A bodhisattva should be the same way.  If we are negligent, our bodhichitta can quickly or slowly die, but one way or the other it dies all the same.  The welfare of living beings who we have promised to lead to freedom should never be far from our mind.

We should not be satisfied with simply not abandoning our bodhichitta, but we should treasure it as our most precious possession, constantly nurturing it, caring for it, guarding it and protecting it.  The most precious objects in the world are kept under constant surveillance against thieves or whose who might do them harm.  We should be the same with our bodhichitta, keeping it safe under constant surveillance of mindfulness and alertness.  We naturally treat our Buddha images with respect, placing them on our shrine, putting beautiful offerings before them etc.  In the same way, we should treat our precious mind of bodhichitta with the utmost respect and constantly tend to its welfare.