Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Bodhisattva vows of patience

We continue with our explanation of the downfalls of bodhisattva vows associated with the practice of patience.  In the previous post, we talked about the first one of not retaliating to harm or abuse.

Not apologizing when we have the opportunity.  If we have disturbed another person by acting unskillfully, and later the opportunity to apologize arises but, out of pride or laziness, we fail to do so we incur a secondary downfall.  Until we have deep experience of the practice of patience, we will get angry.  This is normal.  We should not expect that we won’t still get angry just because we know better or are taking a Dharma class.  But when we do get angry, after we have calmed down, make a point of saying sorry for having gotten angry.  Explain that getting angry only makes the situation worse, and you are sorry.

When we apologize it does several things:  First, it softens the heart of the other person.  When people are harmed by us, they wind up bearing a grudge against us.  Every moment anger is running through their mind, they are creating terrible karma for themselves and they feel terrible.  When we apologize it enables them to let go because we have admitted we made a mistake and said we are sorry.  A huge emphasis of Christianity is related to forgiveness.  By apologizing we give the other person a chance to forgive.  Second, it is a powerful form of purification.  Purification works primarily on the basis of the mind of regret.  Regret is a mind that accepts that we have made a mistake.  It is quite different from guilt, as we will discuss more as our explanation of this chapter goes on.  But accepting we have made a mistake and making a point of admitting that to the other person is a powerful purification of the negative karma we accumulated by getting angry.  Third, it creates a special patience in the other person.  When we get angry with somebody and don’t apologize, we infect them with our anger and pretty soon everybody is angry at everybody.  But when we apologize for getting angry, the person becomes more accepting of the mistakes of other people.  It also teaches that anger makes us uncontrolled and is an object to be abandoned.  It helps them accept themselves more when they make their own mistakes.  By us apologizing to them, we indirectly teach them to apologize when they make mistakes.  It also gives them a chance to forgive.  I know an abusive father who only once apologized to his family, admitting that he was out of control, and this was enough for the wife and family to forgive him for countless wrongs, before and after.  This has protected them against so much anger.  Fourth, it undoes the bad lesson taught.  When we get angry with somebody about something, what does it teach the other person?  It teaches them that it is justified to get angry about the given issue, so we set them up for a lifetime of getting angry and creating the cause to go to hell on that issue.  When we apologize for getting angry, we undo that damage by showing it is never justified to get angry.  We can apologize for getting angry while maintaining our position on the issue we got angry about (if we are right on the issue in question).

Sometimes we fear saying sorry and admitting our mistakes, because we fear if we do so the other person will lose respect for us.  This is completely wrong.  There are two possibilities:  First, the other person does not think we made a mistake, at which point if we do not apologize and admit our mistakes, we teach them that it is not a mistake to get angry and that this mistake was not a mistake, but the right thing to do.  Second, the other person realizes that it is a mistake, at which point if we do not admit to it, they lose respect for us because we cannot face up to our mistakes.

If we apologize, it cures all of these problems.  In the first possibility, by admitting our mistakes and apologizing, we teach what is a mistake, thereby protecting the person from making the same mistakes, and we show integrity of admitting our mistake even when the other person didn’t see it, so their respect for us grows.  In the second possibility, by admitting our mistakes and taking corrective action, their respect for us increases because we have the courage to learn and do not fear the consequences of owning up to our mistakes and faults.  We should really focus on this one.  Make a point of doing it.  Mentally make the decision to apologize every time you get angry, even if that means you are apologizing 6 times a day.

Not accepting others’ apologies.  If someone who has previously harmed us later apologies and, without a good reason but not out of resentment (which is a root downfall) we refuse to accept, we incur a secondary downfall.  When somebody apologizes to us, by accepting it we are able to let go of our anger and stop creating a mountain of negative karma.  We also give the other person a chance to let go of their anger.  If we don’t accept their apology, they will likely renew their anger and create a bunch of negative karma for themselves.  Again, take everything you know about Christianity and forgiveness and apply it here.  There is enormous healing power of forgiveness.

Making no effort to control our anger.  If we do not make a special effort to practice patience when we find ourselves getting angry we incur a secondary downfall.  We are not vowing to not get angry, that will be impossible for now.  Rather, we are making the vow to try our best.  Because the methods we have work, if we apply them persistently over a long period of time our anger will gradually subside.  All it takes is persistent effort.  When we try, we create the karma to have the effects of being able to be patient in the future.  Our interest is in creating causes, not in experiencing their effects.  Even if we are a raging inferno inside, if we try not to be then we are creating lots and lots of good causes.  With time, this will manifest in our being less and less angry.

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.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Roadmap of the next three perfections

The next three perfections we will explore are patience, effort and concentration.  Before we do so, I wanted to give a brief overview of their meaning and how they mutually support one another.

First we will examine at length training in patience, patient acceptance.  We currently feel as if our lives are filled with imperfect people and imperfect situations that are the causes of our problems and suffering.  The reality is we are mentally unhappy because we are poor in virtue, and then we mistakenly look for reasons for our unhappiness outside of ourselves and we blame others and our situation.  Because we are convinced that our happiness depends upon our external situations and others acting as we wish them to, when they don’t, we become frustrated and angry.  We become angry because things don’t go the way we want them to, not because things go the way they do.  So the real problem is thinking things are not perfect.  Whether things go the way we want them to or not depends upon what we are trying to accomplish or do.  If what we are trying to do is find a comfortable place in samsara, it is inevitable that some things will not go the way we want.  If instead what we want is to develop spiritually, then everything and everybody is exactly perfect for us because they provide us so many opportunities to practice.

The mind of patient acceptance is a mind that has the ability to see how everything, even the most adverse conditions, is extremely useful and indeed precious for the accomplishment of our spiritual goals.  So no matter how things go, for us it is perfect and we can happily accept the situation.  Therefore, there is no basis for anger to arise.  Just because we see things as perfect for our practice doesn’t mean we think things are perfect the way they are.  Suffering is perfect for our practice, but the point of our practice is to eventually transcend all suffering.   It does mean, however, that we no longer feel like our happiness is dependent upon things going in any particular way, so no matter how things go, it is not a problem for us.  We still try to make things better through all the external and internal means we have.  The main conclusion of the mind of patience is a wholehearted welcoming of whatever happens without the slightest resistance because we realize how it is completely perfect for our practice.

THEN on the basis of a mind patience we can develop effort.  Normally we think effort is working hard.  But according to Dharma, the mind of effort is one that takes delight in engaging in virtue, in other words takes delight in engaging in our practice.  Because we naturally and effortlessly do what we enjoy doing, if for us engaging in virtue is playtime, then we will naturally and effortlessly engage in our practice.  This will be what we want to do.  With the practice of patience we are able to see how every moment and every situation is absolutely perfect for our practice.  With the practice of effort we thoroughly enjoy being able to practice.  With these two, we can thoroughly enjoy every moment of our life.  We can enjoy a spiritual life.  If we enjoy our spiritual life, our enlightenment is just a matter of time.  We will truly enter the Joyful Path and go from joy to joy to the citadel of enlightenment and we will bring countless others with us both now and for the rest of eternity.

On the basis of joyful effort, we then train in concentration.  Concentration is the ability to single-pointedly place our mind on virtue.  At present we have enormous difficulty keeping our mind centered in virtue because it naturally goes out to contaminated objects of attachment, etc.  Why does our mind go out to contaminated objects?  Because we are convinced that happiness arises from mixing our mind with these objects.  Shantideva completely shatters this notion and shows us how going out to these objects of attachment just creates suffering and problems for us and deceives and betrays us.  We become no longer fooled by samsara’s deceptions and so are not drawn into its lies.  When thoughts of attachment arise within our mind, we see it as mental spam and don’t pay it any heed.  Because, on the basis of joyful effort, we are taking delight in the luxury of a virtuous mind, we cannot be bothered with contaminated objects which we know will only bring suffering. We become like a child who has outgrown their toys.  Samsara’s toys no longer interest us, we have found much more sublime enjoyments, the meditations on Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.  When we let go of this mind of attachment to the pleasures of samsara it means we no longer look to these things for our happiness, it doesn’t mean that we avoid them.  We just no longer look to them as causes of our happiness.

The mind of non-attachment gives rise to two very special minds:  First, the mind of contentment.  Shantideva says the greatest wealth is the mind of contentment because it lacks nothing.  Ordinary wealth leaves us wanting more, so the more we have the more we feel poor.  But with contentment, we can enjoy everything and never feel any lack.  Second, the mind of being in love with everyone.  One of our biggest attachments is to relationships.  The honey we chase after is the feeling of ‘being in love.’  This feeling is a mind that is delighted just to see and think about others.  When we have a mind of non-attachment we are able to have this feeling of being in love with everyone every moment of the day, like a sun that shines on all before it.  Our relationships will then become sources of infinite pleasure and happiness instead of the constant stream of problems they are now.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  A reminder of the main point

This series of blog posts is my own individual reflections on the meaning of Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.  I don’t pretend in any way that I know what I am talking about or that I have anything particularly useful to say.  Geshe-la defines meditation as familiarizing ourself with virtue.  For me, Shantideva’s Guide was my first book (in the form of Meaningful to Behold).  It is thanks to this book that I have any spiritual life at all.  Geshe-la has said the job of Modern Kadampas is to attain the union of Kadampa Buddhism and modern life.  Everything I do and everything I say is my understanding of what that means.  I write this blog because it gives me an opportunity to mix my mind with the virtue of Shantideva’s Guide.  If other people find some benefit in what I say, then all the better.

It is worth recalling how we become Bodhisattvas.  A Bodhisattva is somebody who is driven by a particular intention – namely the intention to become a Buddha for the sake of others, to help lead them to the same state.  How do we develop this mind?  By considering how things really are.  Globally, we see that natural disasters, like tsunamis, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and so forth seem to be increasing in frequency and deadliness.  Terrorist attacks occur regularly, airplanes are falling out of the sky like flies, killing hundreds in a go.  Genocides and famines are taking place and nobody is doing anything about it.  New diseases are arising very rapidly, like AIDS, SARS, Bird Flu, TB, Malaria, Ebola, Zika, etc.  The population is exploding in the most poor, turbulent and disease ridden areas in the world and declining rapidly where things are better.  The political leaders of the most powerful nations consistently make decisions which make the situation worse.  It is said the next age is the ‘age of arms’ where people see how everything can be used as a weapon to kill others.  We see this age emerging before our very eyes.

Individually people are becoming increasingly selfish, materialistic and angry.  Psychologists estimate that people are 9 times more likely to have negative minds than positive ones, and 9 out of 10 people die with a negative mind.  People’s minds are becoming increasingly uncontrolled.  Spiritually, there is a global collapse of the religious institutions of the last 2000 years.  The spiritual traditions of the West are in total decline, the Archbishop of Canterbury said Christian spirituality is dead, though it heartens to see how the new Pope is bringing about a revival.  In the East the spiritual traditions have been commercialized and politicized and are fading fast in the face of economic growth.  Now it is frequently little more than praying for good exam or business results.  Islam has been hijacked by radical terrorists who use it to justify mass murder.  Mainstream Judaism is now more of a political movement than a spiritual one, and the ‘religious side’ has likewise been hijacked by fundamentalists.  Pure spiritual teachings on Tantra, for example, are being co-opted to be able to extract more pleasure out of samsara or to succeed in business.

In reality, what is going on is this planet is rapidly sinking deeper into samsara.  Things that were hidden (relatively lower realms) are becoming increasingly manifest.  In reality, these sorts of things are happening all over samsara’s 6 realms all the time, it is just happening behind the curtain of our ignorance.  Because we have no control over our mind, we have no control over our death process and we get thrown from one samsaric rebirth to another.  If we take rebirth in the lower realms, we know only suffering; if we take rebirth in the upper realms we burn up all our merit and fall.  Virtually everyone is in the lower realms.  We are trapped in a cycle of uncontrolled rebirth into contaminated aggregates.  Remaining with our uncontrolled mind is like choosing to repeatedly play Russian Roulette where there is no chamber without a bullet.

The creator of this house of horrors is our own contaminated mind.  In reality, none of it is real – it is all a bad nightmare produced by our contaminated minds, but we suffer from it because we believe it is real.  If we purify our mind, we can purify the world it projects and in this way transform the world around us into a pure one.

The Dharma is the method for being able to purify our mind and take control over the death process so we can with choice take rebirth in a pure land, liberation or enlightenment.  Buddha explains to us how, and Sangha provide us with good examples and all the conditions necessary to do it.  Seeing how Dharma is the solution to all the problems of all beings, we then commit ourselves to bringing about this solution in our own mind so that we can help others do the same.  Then one by one we take everybody to freedom.  The intention to do this is bodhichitta.  A Bodhisattva is somebody who has this as their intention.  What does a bodhisattva do with this intention?  They practice the six perfections.  The six perfections are the actual pathway to enlightenment.

A shortcut for being able to quickly generate a qualified bodhichitta is to view others as your future students who you are spiritually responsible for.  If you don’t save the people around you, who will?  It is up to you.  You have the karma with them, so one day it will be up to you.  The longer you take to attain enlightenment, the longer they drown in samsara.  Seeing this, we become very motivated to quickly become a Buddha.  This view radically reorganizes our relationships with others and transforms them into bodhisattva relationships.  This creates the karma with them to one day have them as our students and for us to become a Buddha with the special ability to help them.  Of course we need to be skillful with this and realize that at present we are completely incapable of being their spiritual guide, but seeing this incapacity propels us to wish to become a Buddha who has no such limitations.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Pay attention and practice

(5.108) The defining characteristic of guarding alertness
Is to examine again and again
The state of our body, speech, and mind,
And to understand whether our actions are correct or not.

The only way we can change our behavior is if we are aware of what we are doing.  Most people really struggle with this.

Some people suffer from great pride that quite literally blinds them from being able to see their faults.  For the person full of pride, they rarely, if ever, do anything wrong in their eyes, and any mistakes they make are always somebody else’s fault.  When our mind is infected with pride, everything we do feels “justified” and any criticism feels “unfair.”  When pride rules our mind we feel like we have nothing to learn from others, and we often think if only everybody thought like us we wouldn’t have all of these problems.

Other people suffer from great guilt.  They feel like they can’t do anything right, and anytime they are forced to confront their mistakes it reinforces their feelings of helplessness and low self-worth.  Guilt is a form of anger directed at oneself.  It fools us into thinking if we beat ourselves up enough over our shortcomings we will somehow do better, but it never works out that way.  The more we beat ourselves up, the more we feel bad about ourselves.  It ultimately comes from grasping at a false belief that we should already be better than we actually are.  Every time we fall short of our expectations for ourselves, we then feel like a failure and the self-flagellation begins.  Anger seeks to harm the other person, guilt seeks to harm ourselves.  Harming ourselves doesn’t help us.  Since guilt is painful, people who suffer from it are unable to look at their faults and mistakes with an accepting mind.

The middle way between pride and guilt is “humble self-confidence.”  Humility, ultimately, is an acceptance of our own imperfection.  It is not simply an awareness that we are not perfect, but also we are at peace with this fact.  We are keenly aware of our faults, and this doesn’t disturb us at all because we don’t expect ourselves to be any different.  But this does not mean we are complacent about it.  There is no contradiction between accepting where we are at and wishing to get better.  At the same time, we have self-confidence.  People with pride usually confuse their inflated view of themselves with self-confidence.  Pride is thinking we have few, if any, faults; self-confidence knows with effort we can overcome any faults we have and obstacles we face.  Self-confidence is born from having acknowledged our short-comings in the past, having applied effort to overcome them and having had success at doing so.  Once we have some experience of this, we begin to know when confronted with our other mistakes or weaknesses, we can overcome those too.  With enough experience, we begin to realize that with sufficient time, effort and perseverance, there is no fault we cannot overcome – indeed we realize our eventual enlightenment is inevitable if we simply never give up trying.

(5.109) We need to put Buddha’s teachings, the Dharma, into practice
Because nothing can be accomplished just by reading words.
A sick man will never be cured of his illness
Through merely reading medical instructions!

Dharma practice, quite simply is applying effort to change our mental habits.  The process is always the same.  First, we identify how our present habits of mind are deluded and self-defeating.  We then consider what is correct behavior and how engaging in such behavior will make things better.  On the basis of this, we generate a wish to change our ways.  The stronger and more pure our wish, the more powerful our Dharma practices will be.  Motivated by this wish, we then try to think, speak and act differently.  As we do so, we will become aware of how hard it is to change, but it is possible.  With persistent effort, we then create new habits of mind until eventually correct behavior comes naturally.  We can even get to the point where we couldn’t engage in negative behavior even if we tried.

All those who have traveled the path have done so in the same way.  There is no other way to change than to decide to change ourselves.  We will only do this if we want to, and we will only want to if we have the wisdom that sees through the lies of our delusions and sees clearly the fruit of correct action.  In short, it all comes down to ignorance and wisdom.  We currently ignorantly believe our delusions.  Once we see they are wrong by realizing wisdom, our behavior will naturally begin to change for the simple reason of we want it to.  This is the essence of moral discipline.

 This concludes the fifth chapter of Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, entitled “Guarding Alertness”.


Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Being a good example without trying to be one

(5.107) In summary, since I generated engaging bodhichitta and took the Bodhisattva vow,
I should practise all the precepts mentioned above,
So that others’ pure view, mind of faith, and good intention
Will be increased by my example.

We often hear we need to show a good example for others.  Parents tell their older kids to do so for their younger ones, employers ask us to put on a good face in front of clients, countries try to do so during big international sporting events, such as the World Cup or the Olympics.  But usually those watching know better, and we know better.  It is all a show.  Don’t get me wrong, it is better to try put on a good show than to put on a bad one.  At least we know what is correct behavior and for a brief period of time try to embody it.  It is also true that all of the spiritual path is somewhat “artificial” in that deluded behavior is what comes naturally, and so we are all forcing ourselves a bit to act better than we otherwise would.

So what then distinguishes somebody trying to show a good example and somebody who is, quite simply, a good example.  The difference, as with most things, is in the why.  The person trying to show a good example is ultimately motivated by an attachment to what other people think.  They grasp at the false belief others thinking good things about them is a cause of happiness.  Actually, in modern times, concern about what others think of us is the source of a significant portion of our daily problems, anxiety, conflicts and so forth.  The person who is a good example has no concern for such things.  They seek to engage in pure behavior for internal reasons, non-deluded reasons.

Someone who is a good example doesn’t pretend to be better than they are, rather they accept that they are fundamentally deluded and make many mistakes.  They can be at peace with this fact because they know two things.  First, they know they are sincerely trying to become a better person for correct reasons; and second, they know they have methods which work when sincerely put into practice.

Kadam Morten says we need to “accept that we are deluded, but never accept the validity of the delusion.”  This is a crucial distinction.  To accept that we are deluded means to accept the fact that delusions will arise in our mind.  This is not a problem for us because when they do, they give us a chance to train our mind.  A beggar isn’t an obstacle to somebody who wants to practice generosity, an annoying person is not an obstacle to somebody who wants to practice patience, a delusion arising in our mind is not an obstacle to somebody who wants to train their mind.  We have almost an inexhaustible supply of negative karmic habits built up in our mind from previous lives, so we shouldn’t think just because we now know intellectually what the right way of viewing things is we will actually always be able to think that way.

But we never accept the validity of the delusion.  All delusions are deceptive.  They promise us one thing, but if we follow them they deliver the opposite of what was promised.  Attachment promises happiness, but delivers insatiable want.  Anger promises freedom from harm, but brings endless agitation and conflict.  Jealousy promises us possession of what we want, but it actually drives everyone away.  Pride promises us a lofty sense of self, but it makes us increasingly insecure.  In short, a Kadampa knows they will still be deluded, but they know their delusions are wrong.  When we know our delusions are wrong, even though they will still arise within our mind, they will have no more power over us.

Sometimes people come into the Dharma, learn what correct behavior and thought is, then wind up shoving all of their delusions and negative habits under the carpet as they attempt to externally “be a good Kadampa.”  Their doing so is not necessarily motivated by attachment to what others think, rather from a complete lack of experience of what it means to change oneself from the inside out.  All of society functions in the opposite way, namely from the outside in.  But once we learn how to be kind to ourself while being ruthless with our delusions, a certain inner softness emerges.  We don’t expect ourselves to be perfect, in fact we expect the opposite.  We know delusions and bad habits will arise, but that’s OK, it is just what we are working on.  We will make mistakes, but we will also make course corrections, and day by day, drop by drop, we will gradually transform ourselves into a better and better person.  We know inner victory goes to the one who never gives up.

Someone who is a good example never judges others because they know from their own experience how hard it is to do the right things.  Just as we have learned how to accept that we are deluded but not accept the validity of our delusions, so too we accept that others are still deluded.  We quite literally don’t need them to change.  Their being deluded suits our purposes just fine.  We can accept people as they are, without judgment without needing them to change in any way.  Of course if somebody from their own side wants to change, we are happy to help them do so; but we feel no need to go around fixing people.

As Shantideva says at the beginning of his guide, he is writing all of this primarily to clarify his own thoughts and as an opportunity to familiarize his own mind with virtue.  If others reading it also find it meaningful or useful, all the better, but that is not his main purpose.  This is a difficult balance to actually put into practice.  On the one hand, our entire purpose of attaining enlightenment is ultimately to help others do the same thing; yet on the other hand, we have no need whatsoever for others to change nor do we try change them in any way.  What Shantideva is telling us is if we give up trying to change others and simply go about the business of changing ourselves, we will naturally show an inspiring example and others will begin to want to change themselves too.  Since we will have personal experience of having done such inner work ourselves, we stand ready to help all those who wish to do the same.

This, in essence, is the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Rely upon the Guru’s mind alone

(5.102) Never, even at the cost of my life,
Should I abandon my Spiritual Guide,
Who is skilled in the meaning of the Mahayana
And a supreme practitioner of the Bodhisattva trainings.

Probably the most important moment in my spiritual life came in 1999 when I was doing a retreat and hit a brick wall – I realized I was incapable of doing anything.  I called up my teacher and she told me, “the problem is you are trying to do it on your own.”  I asked her what I should do.  She said, “don’t ask me, go sit down and in your heart ask Geshe-la what you should do, and then do that.  Rebuild your practice from there.”  At the end of this retreat, I was left with the inescapable conclusion, “the smartest thing I can do is rely upon my Guru’s mind alone.”

We normally grasp at the Guru’s mind as somehow being separate from our own, distinct, out there, with an unpassable chasm between us.  This view is the greatest deception of our ignorance.  In reality, our Spiritual Guide abides within us, within our mind, literally part of our mind.  Our job is to make this part of our mind increasingly manifest to the point where it becomes the source of all of our actions.  I have explained how to do this in detail in the series of postings on Activating the Inner Spiritual Guide.

But to keep it simple, there are essentially two things we need to do.  First, we need to strongly believe our Spiritual Guide is within our heart, and then with faith and a pure motivation, we request him to work through us to help others, to bless our mind with wisdom and compassion, and to guide us internally in all of our practices.  All that is required is a mind of faith, a pure motivation and some basic understanding of emptiness.  Second, we need to apply effort to cultivate within ourselves the good qualities of our spiritual guide.  We can do this by training in the Lamrim meditations.  I once had a dream where Geshe-la told me, “your love is [Heruka] in you.”  In other words, I shouldn’t see the love I generate in my Lamrim meditations as being somehow separate from the guru deity; rather the love I cultivate in my heart is actually my guru’s love becoming manifest within me.  The same is true for all other Dharma realizations.

(5.103) I should train in relying upon the Spiritual Guide
In the manner explained in the Biography of Shri Sambhava.
I can understand this and other advice given by Buddha
From studying the Mahayana Sutras.

(5.104) I should read these Sutras
Because they reveal the Bodhisattva trainings.
First, it is important to study
Akashagarbha Sutra.

(5.105) Also, it is important to read again and again
The Compendium of Trainings
Because it extensively reveals
What is to be practised all the time.

(5.106) Moreover, sometimes one should read|
The Condensed Compendium of Sutras;
And with great effort, one should also study
The same two titles by Superior Nagarjuna.

Perhaps we haven’t these texts, but we have Great Treasury of Merit, Universal Compassion, Bodhisattva Vow, and Eight Steps to Happiness written by our kind Spiritual Guide.  He has complete mastery of the essential meanings of all of the teachings of these great masters, and he has represented them to us in a way that is easy to understand and put into practice.  If we had to dig into these texts ourselves and try extract their essential meaning we would quickly become lost, confused, discouraged and we would likely give up.  Fortunately, Geshe-la has already done this work for us and he has extracted for us what we need.  By directly putting into practice the instructions in his books we are indirectly putting into practice all the instructions of these sutras.  We should read these books again and again, and by putting what we have learned into practice we will gradually improve our moral discipline and become a perfect Bodhisattva.