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A Great Commentary on
Guide to the Bodhisattva's
Way of Life
Vol. I
Based on Thogme Zangpo's
the Ocean of Good Explanation
By Khenpo Sodargye
Translated by the Wisdom and Compassion Translation Center
Bodhi Institute of Compassion and Wisdom USA
Table of Contents
A1. The title.......................................................................................................................41
B1. The actual title........................................................................................................41
B2. Translator’s prostration...........................................................................................47
A2. The body is explained in three parts:..........................................................................51
B1. Introducing the reason for composing this text is explained in two parts:.............51
C1. The actual explanation is explained in three parts:............................................51
D1. The praising stanza.......................................................................................52
D2. The vow stanza.............................................................................................65
D3. Showing modesty..........................................................................................71
C2. Elucidating the necessity of the explanation is explained in three parts:..........78
D1. Individual nature...........................................................................................78
D2. The necessity of elucidation..........................................................................79
D3. How to explain..............................................................................................79
B2. Explaining the features of the bodhisattva’s way of life is explained in three parts:
C1. The prthagjana (person) as the basis for entering the bodhisattva’s way of life is
explained in two parts:..............................................................................................81
D1. Explaining the rarity of the leisure and endowment of human body basis ..82
D2. Explaining the rarity of the fortunate mind for the intention basis...............92
C2. The attitude of the person who enters the bodhisattva’s way of life is explained
in two parts:..............................................................................................................97
D1. The benefits of generating bodhichitta are explained in three parts:............97
E1. The actual benefits are explained in two parts: ......................................97
E2. The rationality of having these benefits .................................................147
E3. Praising persons who have generated bodhichitta................................176
D2. The methods of adopting and practicing bodhichitta..................................200
Translators' Acknowledgments........................................................................................219
About the Author..............................................................................................................220
About the Publisher..........................................................................................................223
I pay homage to Buddha Shakyamuni:
Nying je chenpo tso den nyik mey shing
(Out of great compassion, he adopted the turbid world,)
Zung Nay monlam chenpo nga gya tob
(And made five hundred great aspirations.)
Pay kar tar ngak tsen to chir mi tok
(He was praised as the white lotus;
whoever hears his name will never decline in the path,)
Ton pa tuk je chen la chak tsal lo
(I prostrate respectfully to my Guru, Venerable Great Compassion.)
Guru Yoga -- quick bestowal of blessings
Nay chen riwo tsey nga-ay shing kam su
(From the holy site-Mount Wutai,)
Jampal tuk kyi jinlop yi la min
(The blessings of Manjushri are infused into your heart)
Jigme puntsok shabla sol wa dep
(I pray at the feet of my Guru Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche)
Gong ju tokpa po war jin gyi lop
(To attain your heart transmission and blessings.)
I pay homage to my Guru Buddha Shakyamuni!
I pay homage to the wisdom warrior Manjushri!
I pay homage to all the great lineage loving masters!
The unsurpassed profound subtle wonderful Dharma
Is difficult to meet for hundreds and thousands million eons.
Since I get the chance to see, hear, receive and practice it now,
May I understand the ultimate meaning of the Thus Coming One.
In order to liberate all sentient beings,
Please generate the unsurpassable supreme bodhichitta!
Lesson 1
We will now begin to study A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (the
Bodhisattvacharyavatara or the Bodhicaryavatara) together.
The reasons for teaching the Bodhisattvacharyavatara are as follows: About three
years ago, we aspired to study the Five Great Mahayana Texts. We learned “Precepts
(Vinaya)” in the first year, and “the Treasure of Knowledge (Abhidharmakosa)” in the
second year. Until now, we have almost finished the study of “the Middle Way
(Madhyamaka)”. This year, we are planning to study “the Buddhist Logic
(Pramanavada)” and the Ornament of Clear Realization (Abhisamaya-alankara). As we
know, in all schools and traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, each monastery and every
individual practitioner believes “the Five Great Texts” are extremely important.
As recently as three years ago, we made the aspiration that as long as there are no
obstacles, we will study the Five Great Texts together! At the same time as we are
studying the five texts, I also frequently emphasize some practical teachings. With any
kinds of knowledge, if we study in a pure theoretic and academic manner, it will not
necessarily be able to derive the greatest benefit in our continuum. Even if you are
proficient in hundreds and thousands of sutras and commentaries, your continuum
sometimes still easily contradicts the Dharma. Therefore, on one hand, we should study
the profound teachings such as the Madhyamaka, the Abhidharmakosa and the
Hetuvidya; worldly people in the modern time have very strong conceptual thoughts,
teachings on cause and effect and very simple practices alone cannot subdue those
conceptual thoughts, we must completely study the related Buddhist knowledge. On the
other hand, we also need to study some mind training teachings. Thus, I ask everyone to
study the Bodhicaryavatara while we are studying the Buddhist logic-Hetuvidya. This is
the first reason.
As mentioned earlier, the second reason is that, before entering paranirvana, our
precious Guru, Dharma Lord Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, was planning to teach us The
Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara - the Ocean of Good Explanation after we finished
studying the Jewel Nature Treatise (Mahayana-Uttaratantra-Shastra). When our Dharma
Lord announced this good news in the Great Sutra Hall, all the fourfold assemblies were
ecstatic. I was also very happy to hear it myself. I have received the transmission and
verses of the Bodhicaryavatara several times in front of our Dharma Lord Rinpoche, as
well as this specific teaching the Ocean of Good Explanation from other teachers. I
believe we are definitely able to generate bodhichitta in our continuum when a Great
Bodhisattva like our Guru Rinpoche teaches the supreme works of the Bodhisattvas
Thogme and Shantideva. This was what I felt at that time.
It was well known that, in Tibetan Buddhism the Bodhisattva Thogme is a wellrecognized Master who has fully developed bodhichitta. All his great works, such as
“The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva”, The Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara – the
Ocean of Good Explanation, are not very long; however, due to the great power of his
aspiration, anyone who hears these teachings will certainly be able to develop genuine
bodhichitta in his or her continuum. This was agreed upon by all the historical great
Masters and high Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism. Our Guru Rinpoche had previously
mentioned several times in class that if one can study the entire teaching of The
Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara – the Ocean of Good Explanation, the benefits and
merits are immeasurable. Even if you do not have enough time to finish the entire
teaching but can only chant on several verses at the beginning or end of this text,
bodhichitta will still arise within your continuum. Hereby, we were extremely happy to
receive this teaching from our Guru. This can only rarely occur after the accumulation of
merit in many life times and eons. Having kept this in mind, I translated The
Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatar – the Ocean of Good Explanation as quick as I can.
However, as we all know, due to our poor accumulation of merit, our Guru Rinpoche
taught us impermanence through manifesting entering paranirvana, leaving his aspiration
to teach The Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara – the Ocean of Good Explanation not
being fulfilled till now.
After thinking it over and over for a long time, I finally decided to teach The
Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara – the Ocean of Good Explanation. Obviously, I
know quite well that a person like me does not have even a thousandth or a ten
thousandth of the merits that our Dharma Lord Rinpoche has. However, since I have
received unbroken and pure transmission from Guru Rinpoche and hope to complete the
unfulfilled aspiration of our Guru, I aspired to give this teaching for the benefit of all
sentient beings. It is well understood by people with even little intelligence and judgment
of adopting and rejecting that an ordinary person cannot take the place of the enlightened
one. Even so, relying on different causes and conditions and dependent origination, I feel
ready to allow the fourfold assemblies to study The Commentary on the
Bodhicaryavatara – the Ocean of Good Explanation.
In contrast to previous studies, besides the traditional teaching methods, you are
allowed to use some modern scientific mass media. The major reason for using mass
media is as follows. These days many people in big cities have very strong faith in
Buddhism and are very pious, but they may not have a chance in their entire life to
receive a complete transmission in a Buddhist school or monastery. In order to help
people study Dharma more conveniently, I give everyone permission to study The
Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara – the Ocean of Good Explanation by means of
modern Internet, television, CDs, tapes and so on. At the same time, I pray that all the
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas bless us, and allow the transmission, blessings and Siddhi,
which we can receive here in present, to be also received by everybody who studies this
teaching through any medium. We should believe that our Guru Rinpoche, though
invisible to our naked eyes, is watching us from the pure land with his wisdom eyes.
Although my body is very weak, and I am fettered by different kinds of mental
afflictions in the complex state of samsara, I still hope from the depth of my heart that all
sentient beings may obtain the seeds of Mahayana bodhichitta. Even if some people
cannot completely understand or accept this teaching, the seeds of liberation will be
implanted in their Alaya-Consciousness. When the proper causes and conditions come
together, these seeds will allow one to obtain the complete unsurpassable enlightenment
of Buddha. This is the aspiration I have with my conceptual thoughts.
Therefore, I strongly hope that no matter how you are listening to this teaching
through modern mass media or listening here in this sutra hall, if all the necessary causes
and conditions are present and no obstacles arise, everybody should start well and finish
well. You would rather not give up half way. If you start study with great enthusiasm, but
give up deliberately in half way, you will have a very bad origination in all your future
life times. No matter which Dharma we listen to, completing the transmission is
extremely important.
I have no specific requirements for this teaching. However, I do hope everybody who
is listening to this teaching has a driving force for studying this teaching. Dharma friends
with proper wisdom should take exams; older practitioners, who cannot take exams,
should recite mantras and Buddha names as a substitution. If you can neither take exams
nor recite mantras, you should at least complete the transmission and read some
commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara in your spare time so that you may completely
understand its meaning.
There is no limit of who can benefit from the Bodhicaryavatara. It is wrong to think
that you cannot listen to my teachings because you are a disciple of another teacher, or
you belong to another Buddhist school. This is not the case. Since this teaching belongs
to the sutra tradition, no empowerment is needed. As long as you have enough faith in
Mahayana Buddhism and are interested in benefiting other sentient beings, you are
qualified to listen to this teaching. In fact, Dharma teachings are perfectly integrated and
embrace everything. Thereby, we should not be fettered by parochialism. No matter who
your teacher is, or where your monastery is, I believe you can listen to this teaching.
If this teaching to some degree helps your continuum, I have reached my goal.
Alternatively, it may not help you at all, but I can guarantee that no harm will come to
you, unlike some propaganda materials which may have very negative influences on your
physical and mental health.
Therefore, no matter whether you belong to the Pure Land School, Chan School,
Avatamsaka School, or any other traditions and schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and no
matter what kind of person you are, you are all allowed to listen to this teaching.
This is not because I am particularly generous, nor this had never happened in the
history, but because the range of sentient beings who can benefit from the
Bodhicaryavatara is actually very wide. Therefore, through this study, I hope everyone
will generate genuine bodhichitta in your mind, and not merely develop it orally. As early
as six or seven years ago, our Guru Rinpoche had mentioned that for all the fourfold
assemblies in our monastery, we should study the Precious Garland with respect to the
precepts of individual liberation (protimoksha) to achieve the mind of renunciation, the
Bodhicaryavatara with respect to the Mahayana bodhichitta and the teachings of
Venerable Longchenpa with respect to the Vajrayana teachings. This is the pith
instruction he gave us.
Obviously, we have perfect methods for listening to Dharma teachings in our
monastery. However, if you have to use some other methods such as Internet, Video
Compact Disk, DVD and so on, I hope you are aware that there are two sides of modern
science and technology. Although they can help us in various ways and facilitate our life,
there are also lots of unhealthy and distractive influences that accompany them.
Generally speaking, even the ordinary people with little education and wisdom are
unwilling to accept the negative influence of modern cultivation on their continuum, not
to mention ordained monks or nuns and devoted practitioners. As a result, we should
think it over carefully before we utilize any of these scientific facilities. It has been said
in the sutra by the Buddha,
“The so-called method can be the cause
Of liberation for people with wisdom,
And it can at the same time be the cause
Of being fettered for people without wisdom.”
Here is a simple analogy. Nowadays, many people enjoy watching TV. Through it
some people get information about Dharma teachings and listen to the teachings given by
various Dharma instructors. In this way, they derive benefits from it for current and future
lives. However, many people are so addicted to some unrealistic phenomena shown on
TV. This looks very miserable and sounds very pitiful. As Buddhist practitioners, we
should equip ourselves with mindfulness and awareness when we use modern facilities.
Otherwise, we may start to use those facilities to study and propagate the Dharma, but
end up being sunk into an abyss without any self-control. That is a real pity!
Today, I am going to introduce how popular the Bodhicaryavatara is in India, Tibet
and China, and what attitude the great Masters and high Lamas hold toward it.
According to The Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara written by Khenpo Genhor,
one hundred and eight commentaries on the Bodhicaryanvatara were extant in India.
From this great number we can see to what extent the Indian Masters placed the
importance on this text. It is well known that Han (Chinese) Buddhism emphasizes the
Diamond Sutra to a great degree, but how many commentaries on it exist? We can find
the answer on the Internet. (Here I am not referring to people in our monastery; because
except for some individual volunteers, nobody in our monastery is allowed to use
computers, no need to mention to surf online.)
Besides, the requirements for publishing a commentary are very strict. Ordinary
commentaries are not allowed to be presented to the public. After careful discussion,
check and review by the great masters, only the commentaries considered to have the real
capacity of benefiting sentient beings have the right to be published. Therefore, the
existence of one hundred and eight commentaries is enough to tell us how important the
Bodhicaryavatara is to the Indians.
Eight1of these commentaries were translated into Tibetan. Among these
commentaries several versions are better known than the others. The best known are the
commentaries wrote by the Commentator Hui Yuan, Venerable Na-bo-wa (also called
Black commentator), Commentator Sudeva and Commentator Ser-Ling-ba. In this
particular commentary which we are going to study, basically, the instructions of most
major Indian commentators, such as the Commentator Samantavidya and Shian-De-ba,
have all been cited2. In Tibetan Buddhism, regardless of whether it is Gelugpa, Kagyupa,
Sakyapa or Nyingmapa, it has been agreed that every monastery must learn one required
commentary. This commentary is the Bodhicaryavatara. It was said in the biography of
Paltrul Rinpoche that the Gelukpa basically uses Gyaltsab Je’s commentary on it; the
Kagyupa uses the comprehensive commentary made by Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa; the
Sakyapa uses the Sakya hierarch Sonam Tsemo’s3 commentary. The Nyingmapa used the
Bodhisattva Thogme’s Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara – the Ocean of Good
Explanation before the appearance of Patrul Rinpoche. Afterwards, Khenpo Genhor and
Kunsang Chodrok’s commentaries were widely used (around 20 plus commentaries were
Some commentators think there are ten versions instead.
Two volumes of commentaries in the Tibetan Kangyur were probably written by Indian commentators.
Only eight or nine of the 108 commentaries were translated into Tibetan.
3 Sakya Sonam Tsemo: one of the five great Sakya masters.
well known in Tibetan Buddhism). In particular in Kadampa, the Bodhicaryanvatara was
chosen as one of the required texts in “the Kadam Six Texts”.
We should be aware that in Tibetan Buddhism, there are 103 volumes of Kangyur4,
more than 250 volumes of Tengyur5, and countless commentaries made by the great
Masters in different traditions and schools. However, among all these hundreds and
thousands works, the Bodhicaryanvatara is the only text that all the different traditions
and schools agree should be learned. So, you should take this into full consideration:
what is the status of this book in Buddhism? How great is its influence? What is its
value? All the high Lamas and Masters in Tibet and India did not lack commentaries to
study, nor is there a shortage of sutras to learn. Yet among all these sutras and
commentaries, there is the only one that is required for all of us to study. What is the only
one? Please think it over.
In addition, almost every master in any traditions of Tibetan Buddhism cites the
Bodhicaryavatara when they write Mahayana commentaries. For example, about one
third of this work was cited in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to
Enlightenment. A large portion was cited in the Words of My Perfect Teacher and Finding
Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind on the Great Perfection - the Great Vehicle
Commentary. The stanzas of the Bodhicaryavatara can be also found here and there in
the commentaries of the Kagyupa, the Sakyapa and the Jonangpa. Apparently, these Great
Masters did not cite the Bodhicaryavatara because they had no other teachings to cite.
From this we should see how important this text is. If you take for granted that this
teaching is given accidentally, you are completely wrong!
Not a long time ago, a commentary of this text made by Vairotsana6 was found in the
Museum of Historic Article in Lhasa. Since it is too old, many pages were stuck together;
some professional technologists from Western and Southeast Asian countries were invited
to recover it through various methods. Many great masters pay much attention to this
project. I believe it is not an easy project. Obviously, people with wisdom are concerned
about wisdom, while people lack of wisdom are only concerned about food, clothes and
shelter, with which people with wisdom do not care at all.
Back to our study, I hope everybody will use all means to avoid missing this great
opportunity of studying the Bodhicaryavatara. I am not advertising how great I myself
can teach, or how great Tibetan Buddhism is … Apparently, I will not be harmed or
benefited if none of you listen to my teaching, but for people with wisdom, you should
distinguish the real wish-fulfilling jewel teachings from that only looks like a wishfulfilling jewel. This is crucially important.
Above-mentioned information showed us how the Bodhicaryavatara was propagated
in Tibet. Let us take a look of how the propagation of that in Han (Chinese) Buddhism is.
When Buddhism was very prosperous in the Tang dynasty, the Bodhicaryavatara had not
been translated into Chinese yet. Later in the second year of Yong-Xi Emperor of the
Song dynasty (A.D. 985), a translator, known as Tien-xi-zai7, finally translated it as The
Kangyur: the sutra section of the Tibetan Tripikata
Tengyur: the commentary section of the Tibetan Tripikata
Vairotsana: a disciple of Padmasambhava
Tien-his-tsai: a Kashmirian, along with Danapala and Dharmadeva are called “the three great
Bodhisattva’s Behavior Sutra. However, since the words used were too difficult to
understand, until now this text had not been carried forwards after approximately a
thousand years. Actually, Tien-his-tsai had translated this text very accurately at that time.
He had established a special translation institute, and also referred the Indian Sanskrit
text. When this work was translated, eight or nine people were involved, there was a
primary translator, who took responsibility for checking it against the Sanskrit text, an
inspector who took care of any mistakes made in the translation, other people tried to
polish the words, and some others that proofread the accuracy of the meaning. This
translation institute must have been pretty good, but due to the poor fortune of sentient
beings, this work had not been spread out in Chinese Buddhism until now.
In recently years, Master Longlian has translated Gyaltsab Je’s Commentary on the
Bodhicaryavatara into Chinese, and Master Rushi in Taiwan has spent a long time on
translating the Bodhicaryavatara after he received the transmission. At the same time, the
latter has written A Concise Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara and studied the
relationships among the Bodhicaryavatara, Compendium of All Practices and
Compendium of Sutras. From then on, the Bodhicaryavatara has been learned by
individual practitioners in Chinese Buddhist monasteries.
Current situation tells us that the study of the Bodhicaryavatara in Chinese
Buddhism is far from enough. I hope that all the different monasteries, Buddhist laity
organizations, Buddhist centers and Buddhist laity centers should be willing to study the
Bodhicaryanvatara. Why do we study it? You can think about it; so many Great Masters
in India pay great attention to it, and Great Masters as countless as stars in Tibet also
attach extreme importance to it. So, Great Masters and Devoted Buddhists in Chinese
Buddhism, why don’t you think it is worthy of consideration?
Some superficial and less-informed people may think, “The Bodhicaryavatara
belongs to Tibetan Buddhism. I won’t learn it!” This thought shows that their wisdom
eyes are completely veiled by strong biased clinging. We should understand that the
Bodhicaryavatara does not belong to Tibetan Buddhism alone. Furthermore, if you refuse
to accept the Dharma because it is from Tibet, are you willingly to accept any Dharma
from India? If your answer is no, you should not take any Dharma given by Shakyamuni
Buddha. If your answer is yes, why not study this great commentary?
Consequently, I am advising everybody in different monasteries and Buddhist
traditions to study the Bodhicaryavatara intently because this book has already included
all the contents of Mahayana sutras and commentaries with very straightforward
language. After study it, lots of people’s continuum will become docile. In Tibetan
Buddhism this saying is always heard,
“This person lacks altruistic mind and is not docile, so he should study the
People like me are nothing, so it is not realistic for me to request all the Sanghas in the
ten directions, but despite it, from the depth of my heart, I still place my hope on either
this or the next generations, and I pray with my palms and fingers together to request all
the Great Chinese Buddhist Masters of the ten directions and all the capable devoted
Buddhists to study the Bodhicaryavatara and make it your daily practice in your whole
life and recommend others coming to study this work together.
Previously when our Guru Rinpoche was with us, he said that we should study the
Bodhicaryavatara once every year. From this we know that only having previously
listened to it or read the lecture notes are not enough. If it is so simple, why would the
Pandita in India have made more than one hundred commentaries? A couple days ago,
somebody said, “I have read the lecture notes of the Bodhicaryavatara before, so I do not
need to listen to it.” His words completely revealed his ignorance. Why? Because so
many eminent monks and masters in Tibetan Buddhism are studying it, and have made so
many commentaries, if the Bodhicaryavatara is really extremely simple, haven’t these
great masters had anything else to do? As a result, I hope you will not completely expose
or “perform” your ignorance in front of sentient beings. That will not be a highlight.
From my point of view, the Bodhicaryavatara is not an ordinary commentary.
Although it belongs to exoteric Buddhism, without bodhichitta in the continuum but only
out of self interest and selfishness, even if you chant Buddha names until hoarse, meditate
single mindedly, teach Dharma, help other sentient beings, or take care of charities every
day, all these virtuous actions may have little help for accumulating merit but they cannot
become the cause of liberation. Accordingly, we should always examine the state of our
mind. If you can not guarantee that all your actions will become the cause of liberation,
why not study this wonderful work?
Before we start, I want to introduce the author – the Bodhisattva Shantideva first.
There are seven rare stories of his life. Now I am going to give you a concise
introduction; I will tell you the stories in detail when we have more time later on. By
knowing this, on one hand, we can gain genuine faith in the author; on the other hand,
based on the genuine faith toward the Noble One, bodhichitta can easily arise in our
The time of Shantideva’s birth is a historical argument. In Master Buton’s History of
Buddhism, Jonang Duoluonata’s History of Indian Buddhism and modern scholars’
Conspectus of Buddhism Thoughts, inconsistent birth years are found. A book called
Having Connections with Tibet said that he was born in A.D. 687 and died in A.D. 763.
Another Doctor of Philosophy wrote in his book that Shantideva was born in A.D. 650
and died in A.D. 750, and had lived for a hundred years. Regardless of the
inconsistencies, Shantideva lived from the middle of seventh century to the middle of
eighth century.
As practitioners, it does not matter too much if we are not clear about the history;
what really matters is whether we can implement the teachings into practice. If one
spends every day on these studies but thinks about the worldly things all the time, I don’t
think this is good, but on the contrary, if one practices day and night and totally ignores
any theories, I don’t think it’s very good, either. If we know nothing about the author and
his historic background, such as social status and accomplishment, from my point of
view, the faith in his work seems not able to arise. For this reason, I want to briefly
introduce some stories of Shantideva.
The first story of his seven rare stories is as follows: the Commentator Shantideva,
whose original name is Shantivarman, is the prince of King Suvarman. Since
Shantivarman had practiced Mahayana Dharma, such as emptiness, in his previous life
times, he was completely different from the other children when he was little. He was
very pious toward the Dharma and the Three Jewels, and often made offerings to the
Three Jewels, Brahmin and Bhikshu. He was born with virtues of liberation in his
continuum. He had not only the faith in the teachings of liberation from samsara, but also
the compassion toward all sentient beings. Although he was born royal, he treated all the
ministers, relatives, friends around him with great compassion. Especially when he saw
some sick people, poor people or very miserable beings, he had great compassion and
would save, help and protect them.
At age six or seven, according to the tradition in India, he started to study worldly
skills such as science of fine arts. When he completely mastered these skills, the King
was very joyful, and so were the Ministers. Later on, he was old enough to take the
Throne. However, on the verge of his coronation, Manjushri appeared to him in a dream
on the eve of a traditional initiation, and said to him, “Son of noble qualities, I am your
guru; you and I cannot sit in the same throne.” Besides, some other books (The History of
Indian Buddhism) said that Tara8 gave Shantivarman an initiation with hot water, which
was unbearably scalding for him. At that moment, Tara told him, “This is not intolerable
at all. If you ascend to the throne tomorrow and receive the throne initiation, the burning
iron liquid in the hell of your future life will be much harder to bear.” She also counseled
him to look through and give up the worldly concerns and the throne, and go to Beiga in
the east to visit the Bodhisattva Manjushri. With this prophecy, he though it over and
over. After awaking in the morning he finally decided to give up the throne, left the
palace and rode a swift horse to the east, just as the Shakya prince did in the past.
He had ridden toward Beiga in the east for twenty-one days without eating and
drinking. When he reached a forest, he was unbearably thirsty and starving. He happened
to see a beautiful lady and asked her to watch the horse for a moment while he could get
some spring water to drink. Upon his drinking, the lady said to him, “This is worldly
water. You should not drink it. If you really want some water, you can drink this nectar.”
As she said this she gave him some nectar, which completely dispelled his tiredness.
When his stamina was back, he asked, “Where are you from?” The lady said, “I am from
the forest in Beiga. There is a qualified guru with perfect merits, and he always abides in
the samadhi of Manjushri Vajra.” Having heard the guru’s name, Shantivarman was as
delighted as a poor person who got a wish-fulfilling gem; he asked the lady to take him to
visit the guru in any case. The lady promised him and took him to the guru. This Guru
was as majestic as the Mount Meru with one hundred suns shining on it; his three doors
of body, speech and mind were so peaceful and docile. Shantivarman immediately gained
great faith in him at the first sight and offered his horse and all the ornaments to the Guru
and requested to be his disciple. After acceptance, the Guru taught him the samadhi of
Manjushri Vajra. Having practiced it for twelve years under his guru’s guidance,
Shantivarman finally was able to constantly behold visions of Manjushri and obtained
great achievement.
I am going to end it here today. For tomorrow, I will introduce you the biography of
the commentator Shantideva and Bodhisattva Thogme. Also, I hope everybody will study
Vajrayogini in Sarang’s Commentary of the Bodhicaryavatara
the Bodhicaryavatara as intently as possible. According to my experience of twenty years
teaching, many people are very enthusiastic at the beginning, very faithful to Buddhism
and almost eat and drink nothing everyday. However, we should be aware that, so-called
zeal means being zealous in the three periods of time, at the beginning, middle and end,
and only by doing this can we become real practitioners!
1. Explain the term: the Five Great Texts
2. What are your plans for studying the Bodhicaryavtara?
3. From which aspects can we see the importance of the Bodhicaryavatara in India and
4. What are the advantages of knowing the merit of the author?
Lesson 2
Before we start I want to bring up two issues.
First, this study of the Bodhicaryavatara includes both ordained and lay people;
however, I want to make the same plan for everyone. What is the plan? The plan is that, if
no obstacle arises and my health allows it may take us about one year to finish this study.
A couple of days ago many Buddhist friends asked me several questions, “How soon,
after all, can we finish the Bodhicaryavatara?” “For us who do not take exams, should
we recite mantras and Buddha names ten thousand times every day our entire life, or just
for a short period of time?” As to the first question, my answer is around one year; for
those who have enrolled, I hope you all get some experience or taste in the course of this
study. This experience can be obtained through both your own efforts and others’ help.
Without the assistance of others, with only our own strength, it is very difficult for a
worldly person in these days to succeed in study of the Dharma. Even if you are a person
of great self-learning capability, you may benefit from listening and reading at home, but
it will be much better if you can study and discuss in a group settings once in a while.
I have some ideas for study methods. For example, you can take exams, or ten people
can hold a discussion once a week. I may give three or four lessons every week; it will be
hard to discuss everything in one day. However, for generally discussing questions and
part of the teachings on your own as a group is still very indispensable, especially for
laities not in present. For ordained people in other monasteries, you should also hold
discussion at your convenience; I think this is critically important.
For the Dharma friends here, I hope your Dharma instructors lead you to review what
we have learned once daily. As mentioned previously, there will be no organized tutoring,
but if you have not learned this teaching before and have a big problem understanding it,
you should make an appointment with your instructors. If you need special help, please
sign up and let the instructors know soon. Now we only ask the instructors to review the
teachings I give in the previous day; this is in the syllabus. With respect to the tutoring tutor or not, how many people attend and so forth - tutors can decide by yourselves. I
believe there must be some people who haven’t studied the Bodhicaryavatara before, so
listening to the instructors once daily will be very beneficial for them. For tutors, even if
there is only one person who wants to listen, you should teach, and you can choose the
place and time for yourselves. These are my requests for all of you. I hope you will begin
to honor them starting tomorrow. I will ask about it a couple of days later. So, that is the
first issue.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, it may take us one year to study the Bodhicaryavatara.
During this period of time, as long as you have interest in the Bodhicaryavatara, and no
matter you are Tantric, Chan, or Pure Land practitioners or practitioner of any other sects,
you are welcome to enroll. Some people may think, “I have already taken classes from
this Guru, so I cannot get teachings from that Guru.” or “I am a member of this Guru’s
study group, so I cannot attend any other study groups.” These thoughts are not correct.
Of course, you should first determine if you have faith and intention; if not, nobody
will force you to study it. If yes, you should consider this: students in the mundane
schools are able to listen to classes given by different teachers. Your physics teacher will
not turn away from you just because you have taken classes from your chemistry teacher;
likewise, any qualified teacher will not act that way. As far as students are concerned, it
will never happen in any standard schools that students are only allowed to take class
given by chemistry teachers but not from other teachers. In the same way, in Buddhism
any teachings given by a qualified Guru can be learned by us. Gurus are not concerned
about this. Thus, there is no exclusion for the audience of this teaching. As long as you
have faith in Mahayana Buddhadharma, you are well-qualified.
Obviously, I am not a qualified teacher, but after I sit here on the Dharma throne and
put on an act, it looks like I have become qualified. My practice on the Bodhicaryavatara
is in fact very poor, but when I teach this text, it sounds as though I have already
achieved enlightenment, and really mastered the meaning of it. Maybe I have to teach in
this way, and I believe it not only for myself, but also any Dharma teachers may have the
same feeling.
Once again, no matter who you are, as long as you have faith in Mahayana Dharma,
you can attend our study. During this study, you’d better start well and finish well, avoid
excessive mental afflictions, and do not think that as a member of the Bodhicaryavatara
study group you can compete with this person and have trouble with that person. I hope
nothing like that happens. We should be aware that we are studying Mahayana Buddhism,
the essential spirit of which is, like the earth, to embrace everything. Any religions in our
world are not as altruistic and selfless as Mahayana Buddhism. Why? It is because
Mahayana practitioners have a very open mind; without this vast open mind, you may not
benefit much from the study of the Bodhicaryavatara. I hope all of you will not get
involved in any conflict between individuals, organizations, or among the Tibetan
Buddhists, Chinese Buddhists or Southern Buddhists, especially within the Buddhist
world itself. Genuine Buddhism is integrated without any conflicts at all. You should
keep this in mind during your study.
Nowadays, people in big cities are extremely jealous. According to what they said,
some of them cannot be counted as even Hinayana Buddhists, let alone Mahayana
Buddhists. Why? It is because practitioners in Hinayana Buddhism cultivate at least the
mind of renouncing the three realms. However, if we look at some practitioners who
claim they are Mahayana Buddhists or Vajarana Buddhist practitioners, or have already
achieved some realization, we will find that they do not even know how to treat people in
a proper manner, but treat people poorly and have very bad relationships with others.
Ordinary people have various dispositions and some strong mental afflictions in their
mental continuum, but we should try to subdue and eliminate those poisons in our
continuum as best as we can. Hence, we should be in harmony during this study.
Within this year, if the causes and conditions come together, I want to offer you the
opportunity to study one of the Five Great Texts in Tibetan Buddhism - Buddhist Logic.
If there are no obstacles, we can learn another of the Five Great Texts – Ornament of
Clear Realization, which was transmitted by the Bodhisattva Maitreya, who revealed the
profound meaning of emptiness taught by Buddha Shakyamuni. Obviously, I cannot
guarantee it, because everything does not necessarily go as smoothly as one expects.
There are always some discrepancies between the plan and the actual situation. However,
as long as the causes and conditions are present, I will give you the teaching in this way.
No matter whether you are devoted ordained practitioners in monasteries or
household practitioners in cities, you all need some supports and help from your Gurus
and Dharma friends. No matter which traditions you follow, you’d better acquaint
yourself with some Dharma everyday; otherwise, from the Mahayana point of view, all
the people you contact, the circumstances you are in, and education and knowledge you
receive, are of very little significance. If you are going to exhaust the rest of your life like
that, don’t you think it is a pity? Consequently, worldly people should put some time
aside from their busy schedule to get some training in Dharma. Otherwise, do you think
you will have the opportunity to leave distracting and noisy cities for some quiet places
with beautiful mountains, clear water, lovely birds and fragrant flowers and practice
there? You may not have this opportunity in this life at all. People may hang a “refuge”
label around their neck and say they have taken refuge for many years. However, are their
mind-streams on track with the Dharma? To what extent do you understand the principles
of the Dharma? Everyone needs to examine it again and again. Now a lot of people have
no clue about Buddhism; they always act and behave against the rule of cause and effect.
Therefore, I want to teach the Bodhicaryavatara for the sake of sentient beings in order to
make more people know the real Dharma. This is my fervent hope!
Obviously, if there is no driving force, you will not be able to make any progress in
your study. You may want to read the teaching by yourself but it is very possible that you
may start well but finish poorly or just cannot complete it. As a result, it is better to study
together. Apparently, it is impossible to meet every single day, but to share feelings and
thoughts about your study for two hours every week is feasible. This mutual interaction
will be very helpful. After being trained for a long time, I have, to some extent, some
experiences in Buddhist study. I have a strong feeling that study necessitates not only of
one’s own efforts but also other’s effects. Without the supervision, encouragement and
advice of others, one may start with zeal for a couple of months, but after that one will
gradually give up due to deteriorating interest. If this is the case, it is a real pity. So, for
those not in present, I hope you meet once a week and discuss the teachings given in that
week after you hear and read the teachings by yourself. This is very necessary for this
If you cannot do this, you are still allowed to listen, but only listening does not
necessarily benefit your mental continuum. I should make this clear at the beginning;
otherwise, later on some people may say, “I have been studying this teaching for one
year, but why does my continuum still seem the same as before?” Don’t blame us and
don’t blame the Dharma if you cannot do what I told you. For any practitioner, you must
improve your continuum by various methods and means. It is not good if there is no
change. Why did the historical great masters establish Buddhist universities for people to
study together? Why were the worldly schools built up? Why are we all asked to study
together in elementary school, middle school, college or even graduate school? Based on
the effects of joint study, immense power can be generated. So some worldly phenomena
can also prove that joint study is extremely crucial for us.
Don’t think that after getting an empowerment and blessings today you will obtain
enlightenment or get awakened immediately. Although this is a fantastic idea, I think it is
just a fantastic dream. In history, practice has to be done on one’s own and it is not a task
for a couple days; it takes a long time for our continuum to have genuine change. For
example, in the case of college study, if we register for school today and go to class for
only one day, do you think it will make any difference? Think about it. Knowledge is
accumulated little by little. People who really want to be knowledgeable and wise must
study for years. Buddhadharma is beyond worldly knowledge in nature. Without the
accumulation of merit, you expect to be awakened the next day after obtaining a refuge
certificate, an empowerment and a blessing from a guru; do you think this is possible? If
yes, that would be extremely pleasant, but do people with this talent and potential exist
nowadays? If you feel difficult to learn some worldly knowledge, how can you think of
getting awakened through the profound Dharma by some effortless means? Does this
situation exist? Examine this carefully. You do not need to cheat yourself in the
circumstances of Dharma practice. As a result, I ask you meet regularly to study together.
The second issue is, for all the four-fold assemblies, I have decided on a time for
practice at the same time. I am busy with piles of various drafts of exoteric and esoteric
teachings, and trivial issues within and outside of our monastery. Besides, my weak body
always tortures me. However, I believe if I am not making good use of the current time to
practice bodhichitta, I will never make it. For this reason, we should spend half an hour
on Bodhichitta practice the day after tomorrow.
Since we have not gotten there in this text, you can refer to the Words of My Perfect
Teacher, the Finding Comfort and Ease in the nature of Mind and other related books for
how to practice bodhichitta. You can follow any methods you like. For the detailed
meditation steps, I will teach you The Practice of Bodhichitta by Patrul Rinpoche.
Without practicing bodhichitta, anything you do might not be on the right path for a
Mahayana Buddhist. So, no matter whether you are ordained people or lay people, I hope
you practice bodhichitta for half an hour every day after you hear this in my class. Some
people in this room may think, “We are extremely busy everyday with listening a long
time to classes, memorizing texts and doing this and that, so we will not have time to
practice Bodhichitta!” For you, I have already counted the time schedule. My teaching is
about two hours including the chanting and teaching. Khenpo’s class takes you one and
half hours, and the classes given by other Dharma instructors may take two and half
hours. Tutors may use one and half hours. So the total time is eight to nine hours.
However, we have twenty four hours a day. After subtracting seven to eight hours for
sleeping, you still have around eight hours left. Of course, we desire realm beings cannot
live without rest; so using one hour for rest and another three hours for eating and other
stuff, we still have four hours left. In these four hours, it is feasible for you to use one
half-hour to practice Bodhichitta and spend the remaining three hours on some other
I know some people get up at 4:30 in the morning to memorize some texts. If you
recite together in the great sutra hall, you do not need to go back at six o’clock; just stay
there and practice together. Like the Chan Hall in Han area, you can meditate in the sutra
hall. You can contemplate anything you want in this half hour. Remember, from 6:00 to
6:30! Tomorrow is not counted because you may need some preparation; we start the day
after tomorrow. If you are listening to me, please do this; it will not have any bad
influence on you. No matter how you listen and contemplate or how hard you study even
to the extent of forgetting eating and sleeping, if you only pay attention to what the words
mean, when you are dying you will never have tasted of bodhichitta in your continuum.
The so-called Buddhadharma is not for elegant talk, but must have some real taste in
one’s own mind. What is the cause of this taste? It must come from one’s own practice,
unless you are so sharp that you are able to get awakened immediately after being blessed
by a Guru. If you are not such a person, practice as hard as possible and try every means
to experience the real taste of Dharma.
Without hard practice, it’s impossible to get benefits. When we were studying the
Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind on the Great Perfection last year, there
was a citation from the Avatamsaka Sutra, which gave three metaphors for this. The first
is that teaching but not practicing Dharma is like a deaf person playing music for others;
although the music is very euphonic, the deaf person could not hear even a single note, let
alone enjoy it. So it is with people who are not practicing Dharma. The second metaphor
for those that teach but don’t practice is that they are like boatmen in the ocean, who help
others to go across the ocean but are very likely to die in the ocean. In the same way,
people who do not practice Dharma are like that. The last metaphor is that they are like
people who talk a lot about how sweet a candy is, but never try it. If you do not practice
Dharma, no matter how impressively you speak about it, you still can not feel the
sweetness of the Dharma and have no idea of its taste.
Many people think “it will be okay if I start to practice a little later.” However, our life is
as short as the existence of a white cloud in the sky, appearing and disappearing
instantaneously. The soldiers of Yama, the Lord of Death, are advancing on us without
pausing, so how can we face dying if we do not practice now? If we haven’t planted any
virtuous root of Mahayana Buddhadharma in our heart, we will have absolutely no
control when we are dying. Thus, we have to plant the virtuous root of Dharma in our
continuum. This is so called in Chan Buddhism tradition “to implant the seed of
Vajrabodhi”; otherwise, if one has not practiced mediation, no matter how well you can
teach and talk or what outstanding accomplishments you have achieved in academics,
you may completely forget to practice Dharma in your next life if you do not have an
excellent aspiration when you are dying. Therefore, you should study and practice
together, which bestows a very powerful blessing!
We need real action after tomorrow. Don’t merely stay on the level of discussion. At
six o’clock, people in this room have already started listening, reflecting and meditating
and people not residences in our monasteries might not start working or doing other stuff.
It may not be very convenient for some schools and monasteries. If this is the case, I hope
you can find some other time and practice for a half-hour every day. Otherwise, as said
before, without practice, we may only make some connections with the Dharma in this
life, but cannot taste the real benefits and obtain bodhichitta.
The merits of practice are enormous. In the Sutra of Explaining the Determined
Suchness the Buddha asked Shariputra, “Is the merit of listening to and receiving
Buddha’s teaching great or not?” Shariputra replied, “It is extremely great.” The Buddha
said, “If comparing it with the merit of practicing suchness, the merit of practicing
suchness in one finger snap is far beyond the merit of this.”
We may find it uncomfortable when we just start practice because our minds are so
out of control and haven’t been tamed so far. However, we must make efforts to practice.
If we don’t practice and still follow our bad habitual tendencies, our minds will never
change, and we will not benefit from the Mahayana Budhhadarma. So, you should
discipline yourself and I will not force you to do anything. If you really do not want to do
it, and oversleep in the morning, I am not able to see it because I do not have that
supernatural power. It does not matter if none of you get up at that time. It does no harm
or good to me at all. As long as I myself practice, it counts. In fact, among all of us, I may
be the one who is most difficult to meet this requirement. Recently, I am giving classes
late at night. After class, I am in charge of oral tests, quizzes, answering questions,
meeting different kinds of people, and dealing with a variety of situations. After I go back
home, I will read some books and do some daily chanting. Therefore, if people as weak
as I can promise to do it, don’t you think you should consider the value of this life if you
who are healthy and smart spend all your energy on eating, drinking and sleeping day and
Lots of people in big cities waste their time on meaningless stuff, such as playing
mah-jongg, drinking and smoking. Even worldly people with little knowledge know these
kinds of time killing actions can only waste time. As real practitioners, even if you cannot
get up very early in the morning, you should at least set your alarm at 5:55 a.m. After you
get up, wash your face with some cold water, sit on your bed and practice bodhichitta for
half an hour. If you do this analytic meditation, the merit will be considerably great. So
starting the day after tomorrow, before the meditation, we should pray to Buddhas and
bodhisattvas in ten directions, especially our Dharma Lord Rinpoche, to help us generate
bodhichitta in our mental continuum soon. For the detailed meditation methods, you can
follow the guidance given recently. For instance, you can practice the four
immeasurables. I will talk about this later. Remember, first and foremost, practice
All in all, we should make our aspirations and promises today. Visualize all the
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions, especially our Guru, in front of you and
promise to practice bodhichitta every morning. If you can promise to practice one year,
please raise your hand. (Khenpo raised his own hand while he was asking; then most
people in the sutra hall raised their hands.) Good! Let’s do it starting the day after
tomorrow! If you are terribly sick, you are allowed to take a rest, but if you only pretend
to be sick, you still need to fulfill your promise!
Practitioners in solitary places like us have enough causes and conditions to fulfill
promises; people in big cities may find it harder to do. However, you should consider this
promise the most important thing in your life. Some people think earning money is most
important, some people think getting high social status and a good reputation are
important, and some people think gaining award and honor are important. However, in
the long run, you will find these to be meaningless and possessing a human body capable
of practicing the Dharma and generating altruistic mind is most valuable. It is hard to
obtain such a mind in hundreds and thousands of eons. It cannot be bought by gold or
silver. Without your efforts, it will not come without any causes. So, once again, I hope
you all will practice bodhichitta attentively!
Before we start the Bodhicaryavatara, according to the traditions of the historic
eminent monks and great masters, we should first pay attention to how to listen to the
teachings properly. We have already learned this in the Great Commentary on the
Bodhicaryavatara and the Words of My Perfect Teacher. Some Dharma friends here are
very familiar with the proper attitude for listening to the Dharma, but for those not here,
some phenomena, like listening with a bad motivation or acting improperly, may occur,
so I am going to outline this briefly.
First of all, the motivation for listening to Dharma is extremely important. If your
motivation is not on the right track, you may put lots of efforts on your practice for a very
long time, but cannot get the expected results. No matter what you practice, what you
listen and what you do, the initial aspiration and motivation are particularly crucial. They
must be free from attachment, hatred and ignorance.
Motivation can be divided into three categories: virtuous motivation, nonvirtuous
motivation and neutral motivation. For example, a nonvirtuous motivation is to listen to
the teachings of the Bodhicaryavatara with a malicious attention or with the hope of
gaining wealth, status and reputation. Some Dharma centers make use of this teaching to
earn money and engage some inappropriate business; if you want commit these malicious
activities, use worldly ways. You’d better not use the Mahayana Dharma to dishonestly
gain money and property.
What is a neutral motivation? “I’m going to listen to this teaching because everybody
else is going,” not for the sake of sentient beings and not for the sake of oneself, either.
Having no idea at all! This is listening in a neutral condition - one kind of neutral
motivation. It is better to avoid this type of motivation when listening to the Dhamra.
What is the right motivation? A gracious and virtuous motivation can be classified
into three levels. The lowest one is, “If I listen to this teaching, I will get lots of worldly
benefits, such as happiness, longevity, health, wealth,” and so on. With this motivation,
relying on the blessings of the Three Jewels and the power of Mahayana Dharma, you
may really obtain these things, but this motivation will never become the cause of
liberation. Liberation relies on the mind of renunciation and bodhichitta; just as fruits can
only come from seeds, only when you have bodhichitta for benefiting others, can the fruit
of liberation mature. This motivation is called the worldly motivation, also called the
motivation of inferior people. To listen to Dharma with this kind of motivation can be
helpful for gaining some temporary happiness and fortune within the realms of humans
and heavenly beings, but it will be no use for the fruition of Buddhahood, or becoming a
Bodhisattva or Arhat.
The second level motivation is to become an Arhat or obtaining nirvana just for one’s
own sake. For instance, one wants to study the Bodhicaryavatara not for anyone else’s
but only for one’s own liberation and enlightenment. Since the Three Jewels and
Mahayana Buddhism have unfathomable powers of blessing, this kind of motivation can
also bring you benefits. However, this kind of motivation, which belongs to people of
middlescope, can lead to liberation, but this is the Hinayana liberation, not the highest
one. Why? Although the Hinayana practitioners have the right view of emptiness, which
is very extraordinary, they lack the mind of great compassion. Yesterday, a Dharma friend
asked me, “Why is the compassion of Hinayana Arhat not equivalent to that of a
Mahayana Bodhisattva at the stage of adhimukticarya (referring to combined stages of
ten faiths, ten abidings, ten practices and ten dedications of merit)?” I said it is because
their self-clinging is too strong, so when they obtain realization their compassion is very
weak, and thus this is not the ultimate liberation. This view is thoroughly elucidated in
many scriptures, especially the Lotus Sutra. So, I won’t go into detail here.
The highest motivation is the third one: the motivation possessed by the practitioners
with the highest capacity. These people listen to this teaching not for the happiness and
health of this life, nor for a good rebirth in the pure land of the Buddha Amitabha leading
an extremely happy life, but for the liberation of boundless sentient beings. These people
think, “From beginningless time sentient beings have all been my parents at some time,
but now they had sunken in the ocean of suffering, so unbearable! I must make all efforts
to help them. Through listening to the wonderful nectar of Buddha Shakyamuni’s
teaching, I will help all of them to obtain the peerless perfect complete Buddhahood. This
motivation is very precious; the merit of arousing it for one instant in an ordinary
person’s mental continuum is immeasurable and boundless.
Why are we studying the Bodhicaryavatara at this time? Because the blessing is
especially powerful. As I said yesterday, all the great masters throughout the history of
Tibetan Buddhism place great importance on this text. Why? Because through it, we can
generate bodhichitta in our mental continuum. For this reason, Patrul Rinpoche9 taught
this text as the most primary teaching in his whole life, which we can tell from his
biography. He had two textbooks with him all the time throughout his life, one of them
being the Bodhicaryavatara. He said in one of his teachings, “Without bodhichitta in
your mental continuum, even if you go for retreat for nine years to practice unsurpassable
tantric practices, you will not even plant a seed of liberation.” Therefore, I don’t think
appearances matter, but what is the key point? The key point is arousing at least relative
Bodhichitta in our mind streams. If you can generate ultimate Bodhichitta, the merit is
greater, but if you can’t, you need relative Bodhichitta at least. With it everything
becomes easier for you. Otherwise, being full of selfishness every day without even
relative Bodhichitta, no matter how busy you are with Dharma propagation, you can
never know how many Mahayana Bodhi seeds of liberation are in your mental
Gema Wangpo Tenzin Luoru, one of the four great disciples of Patrul Rinpoche, who
is well known for his wonderful way of teaching Dharma, had taught the
Bodhicaryavatara more than two hundred times in his life! Two hundred times! What
does this number mean? I am not exaggerating at all. If you don’t believe it, you can
check it out in his biography. From this many times he taught it, we can imagine how he
emphasized the Bodhicaryavatara.
In about 1998, our Guru Rinpoche said to the fourfold assembly that human life is
impermanent, so in his late years he would teach us some important commentaries. He
called it “The Four Year Plan.” The first year was for the Sutra of One Hundred Karma
Stories, which can help us to know how to act properly according to the laws of cause
and effect, and thereby generate the Hinayana supra-mundane mind. The second year was
Patrul Rinpoche (华智仁波切): being called Badzu Rinpoche (巴珠仁波切) in Taiwan.
for the Great Treatise on the Bodhicaryavatara, which can help us generate genuine
Bodhichitta; the third year he would teach on the Great Net of Illusory Transformation;
and the fourth year on the unsurpassable tantra. Upon the completion of his great career
of teaching the Dharma and benefiting sentient beings, this is the way that His Holiness
summarized his life’s activity. As lineage disciples of our Dharma Lord, you should
contemplate how Guru Rinpoche emphasized the Bodhicaryavatara’s importance. When
he gave us the teaching, he stated that he cannot remember clearly the transmissions of
other texts except the transmission of the Bodhicaryavatara. Our Guru had received this
teaching when he was only fourteen years old. The lineage of his transmission is as
follows: Patrul Rinpoche - Lala Chudzi Rinpoche10 - Khenpo Sonam Rinchen - Dharma
Lord Rinpoche. Since our Root Guru started to study the Bodhicaryavatara when he was
only fourteen years old and planed to teach it when he was close to paranirvana, we as his
followers should view receiving this teaching as one of the most important keystones in
our lives and adjust our mental continuum based on this teaching.
We have talked about the motivation. It is very necessary to have an intention to
benefit sentient beings when we listen to the Dharma. Whether you are listening to the
Dharma or performing any other practice, this motivation is indispensable. While
listening to the Dharma, we should avoid several faults: three defects, six stains and five
wrong ways of remembering. All of them should be abandoned.
Three defects:
1) The defect of distracted listening
When we listen to the Dharma, our ears should concentrate on the meaning of the
teaching at all the times instead of being diverted to other things. Otherwise, it will be
like putting a container upside down on the ground, no matter how much water you try to
pour in, not a single drop of water will go into the pot. In the same way, some people
listen to music through earphones while they are listening to the Dharma. Can this
attitude be used to receive Dharma? Absolutely not. We must focus on what the Guru is
saying and listen to him with full attention.
2) The defect of an unfocused mind
When listening to the Dharma, our mind must be concentrated. Otherwise, the
Dharma words of the Guru will never come into our mental continuum. Just like a pot
with a leaking bottom, however hard you try to pour water into it, it cannot hold the
water. In the same way, no matter what your environment is, you must listen intently and
engrave each word in your mind.
When some people watch other teacher’s teachings, they eat and talk at the same
time, as they would treat a worldly show. They cannot benefit from the Dharma with this
kind of attitude. I am not talking about people here in our monastery. When I mention
“Internet” and “TV” I only refer to people not residing here. The disciplines in our school
are very strict, people who use these facilities, will be dismissed immediately. If you
listen to the teaching while doing something else, the effect must be poor, because when
you get to the middle part without knowing what has been covered before that, it is very
10 Lala Chudzi Rinpoche: the author of The Great Commentary of the Aspiration for Dewachen.
likely that you will misunderstand the teaching, so there will not be a complete
understanding at all. So, for people who receive Dharma teachings through some modern
facilities, you should first take care of all the everyday chores in your work and house,
then reserve a half hour, lock your door, establish a small space for yourself or together
with other Dharma friends, and listen to an MP3 or watch a DVD, or VCD attentively.
You will gain the benefits of Dharma only in this way. I’ve noticed that some lay persons’
behavior is very inappropriate. They treat Dharma study as entertainment or an errand.
Whether they can the advantages of Dharma teaching is hard to say.
3) The defect of poisonous affliction
While listening to the Dharma, if you cultivate some type of jealousy, hatred or
clinging towards others, always have some deluded thoughts and discrimination, have an
intention to blather and drivel with others, or listen absentmindedly, you have come under
the influence of what are collectively called the defect of poisonous afflictions. When we
listen to and receive Dharma teachings, we should put away any trivial thoughts, and
listen appropriately as we are taught. Only by doing this can we benefit from Dharma
teachings. Therefore, everybody should generate the correct attitude and conduct for
listening to the Dharma.
The “six stains” are arrogance, lack of faith, lack of effort, outward distraction,
inward intension and discouragement.
1) Arrogance
We should not cultivate arrogance while listening to the Dharma. Don’t image that
you are able to give a teaching about what the Guru or Dharma instructors are saying and
then show this arrogance on your face during teaching.
The great masters, such as our Guru Rinpoche, Mipham Rinpoche (the embodiment
of Manjushri), Je Tsong-Kha-Pa and Sakya Pandita, etc. all showed great respect while
listening to Dharma teachings from others. This is because they knew what the teacher
spoke was the precious Dharma. So we should be respectful. Some people are very proud
of themselves because they have read or heard such–and–such a teaching before;
however, judging from their actions, I really doubt they truly understand it. I myself have
heard the commentaries on Bodhicaryavatara four times from our Guru Rinpoche,
received the transmission from Khenpo Karduo when I first came to our monastery, and
also heard the teaching from other Khenpos. Thus, I have heard this teaching seven or
eight times total. I have taught this teaching in Chinese three times and Tibetan four or
five times. However, if a teacher, in whom I have great faith, gives this teaching now, I
would still be willing to listen, because I haven’t completely understood a lot of the
principles in this teaching.
However, some people may not agree with me. Even though they are not smarter
than me, they think they are proficient in fully understanding the Bodhicaryavatara just
because they have already read the teaching notes once. Yesterday, somebody called and
asked me, “I’ve read your teaching notes. Is it OK if I do not attend your teaching this
time?” I said “yes” at the time, but I thought in my mind, “Just reading notes is not
sufficient.” I have read the majority of the existing twenty versions of notes in Tibetan
and the eight to ten versions of notes on the Tripitaka. If reading once were enough, why
do the great masters of history bother to teach them again and again? In fact, our
arrogance is not easy to recognize. We’d better put down our big backpack of arrogance
when we listen to the Dharma.
2) Lack of faith
We must have faith in the Dharma. As stated by the great Master Ying-Guang,
“Dharma is obtained by means of faith.”
3) Lack of effort
If one has no eager or interest for even mundane knowledge, he will never master it,
so there is no need to mention the Dharma. It is the enthusiasm for the Dharma that urged
the great masters of history to journey to places as fire oceans and knife-mountains to
seek it out and finally achieve enlightenment. Today, we are so spoiled that we can hear
the Dharma anywhere with great convenience. We must cherish this fortunate situation
because these conditions are not easy to come by.
4) Outward distraction
When we listen to the Dharma, our mind should not be diverted to outside
environment. The distractive seeds have not been removed from we ordinary people’s
continuum, so once some form, sound, smell and taste appear, our mind will follow them
immediately, which prevents us from benefiting from the Dharma. As a result, we should
fully concentrate on the teaching when we listen to the Dharma.
5) Inward intension
Some people always doze off or feel drowsy when they listen to the Dharma. They
also look dopey, can they benefit from Dharma? Absolutely not. Even in the worldly
schools, if a student dozes off in class, the teacher should smack him with a stick, let
alone listening to Dharma.
6) Discouragement
You should be tolerant with the hardship. If the teaching is relatively long, like today
I extend for extra five minutes, some people are impatient already and keep watching
their watch, “Why not stop here?” “Why still talking?” If you feel bored, you are not
generating merit. When a teacher is giving a teaching, no matter summer or winter, you
should avoid being bored. I really respect some people in our school, they go to instruct
very early in the morning and recite some texts outdoor in winter. I heard some lamas
recite texts under the road lamps before daybreak, so do the nuns. This hardship is really
needed when seeking for the Dharma, so I am very happy with it!
Five wrong ways of remembering are as follows,
Remembering the words but forgetting the meaning;
Or remembering the meaning but forgetting the words;
Or remembering them out of order;
Or remembering both but with no understanding;
Or remembering them incorrectly.
1) Remember the meaning but forgetting the words
It means only to be able to catch some meaning but do not know the words and
sentences at all. Some people say, “What’s the use of reciting; it is enough to just
understand the meaning.” However, the meaning is expressed through the words; without
the words the meaning cannot be described clearly. Some people here are capable of
memorizing several commentaries, so when they give teachings, the entire outline of the
text is clearly appeared in their mind. Without reciting, the general contents may be
reappeared, but it is not complete. Therefore, relying on the words is very important.
2) Remembering the words but forgetting the meaning
It means to be fond of the words and sentences, such as rhetoric, phonology, and
poetics. You only know some words and sentences but do not understand the meaning,
just like hearing the lyrics.
3) Remembering them out of order
The contents in sutras and commentaries are not out of order, but we shuffle the
contents by moving the former contents to the later part or do the reverse. This is called
to remember out of order.
4) Remembering without real understanding
There are four purposes, four secrets, and different levels of meaning - real meaning
and provisional meaning in sutras. If the real meaning is not mastered, it is called
remembering without real understanding.
5) Remembering them incorrectly
For instance, the Dharma plays a role in uprooting the root of mental affliction. If
you insist that it is the cause of worldly happiness, then this is called remembering them
Today, we have briefly talked about how to listen to teachings properly. When we
listen to the Bodhicaryavatara, we should follow these rules: avoiding the three faults,
the six stains and the five wrong ways of remembering. We should rely on four thoughts:
Think the Guru as the king of healing,
The Dharma as the precious remedy,
Oneself as a patient and
Diligent study and practice of the Dharma as healing the disease.
If we use these four thoughts described in the Avantamkasa Sutra, we will listen to the
Dharma perfectly.
I cannot emphasize how to properly listen to the Dharma every day, but no matter
what kind of situations you are in, you should listen to the Dharma following these rules.
This is extremely important!
5. Explain the term: four thoughts for listening to the Dharma
6. Please explain the importance of practice through the analogies in the Avantamkasa
7. What is the effect on you if you always delay your practice?
8. What are the different motivations of listening to the Dharma? Which motivation is
most meaningful for us to adopt?
9. What are the three faults, the six stains and the five wrong ways of remembering which
we should avoid when we listen to the Dharma?
10. What is your opinion on the statement that “Life is meaningful when reputation,
status and wealth are obtained”? Why?
Lesson 3
Before we start, I want to announce two things.
First, as was mentioned yesterday, every time we listen to a Dharma teaching, we
should have proper attitude and conduct. If we listen improperly, we will not get the merit
of listening to the Dharma. The Dharma and worldly training share some common
features and also have some differences. The biggest difference is that Dharma is
obtained through respect. Only when we have respect can we listen appropriately, and
avoid the three faults, the six stains and the five wrong ways of remembering. Therefore,
the motivation and conduct at the time of listening are extremely crucial, especially the
If your motivation is not correct or pure, anything you do will not become the cause
of liberation. During our practice, some of the virtuous roots will become the cause of
liberation, which is called “the virtuous root for liberation”; some roots of virtue will
become the cause of the fortune in the human and god realms, which is called “the
virtuous root for bliss”. Besides these roots of virtue, some “virtuous” actions cannot
become virtue but the cause of taking rebirth in the miserable realms instead. As said in
Opening the Door of Mind Training, if the purpose of current listening, reflection and
meditation and practicing virtuous Dharma is only for the benefits of your current life,
you may have your wish realized, but it is very likely that you might spend some of your
future life times in the miserable realms. Therefore, we practitioners should try our best
to avoid creating any malicious karma through the virtuous Dharma; we should keep this
in mind.
When we studied the Abhidharma - Differentiation of the Karma the year before last
year, we learned about generating bodhichitta. From the Hinayana point of view, the
motivation of generating bodhichitta is critically important, because the formation of the
cyclic existence of the three realms is caused by six kinds of defiled minds. From the
Mahayana point of view, there is an analogy in Asanga’s The Compendium of Mahayana
Abhidharma: when three people have dinner together, one person eats with the purpose
for conducting malicious deeds such as killing; another is for some neutral deeds, and the
last one is for doing some virtuous things. In this way, the nature of their eating becomes
three different kinds of karma. The eating action of the potential killer becomes bad
karma; that of the virtuous dharma practitioner’s becomes good karma, and the second
one’s eating becomes neutral karma. Therefore, if we have a correct intention for
listening to a Dharma teaching, the action of walking to where the Dharma will be taught
completely becomes virtuous karma. On the contrary, if your mind is just in a neutral
condition without any thinking, then your actions are merely some neutral karma.
People in big cities really need the guidance of Dharma. It’s impossible for them to
stay in a monastery and live in an atmosphere of listening, reflecting and meditating
every day. However, if you correct your improper motivation, and keep your attitude of
benefiting all sentient beings and guard your mind with bodhichitta all the time, no matter
if you are on your way to take your children to school, or on your way to work, although
it looks like you are driving, or sitting on a bus, in fact, the virtuous root in your mind is
totally different from that of others. We should listen to the Dharma in the correct way,
but when we have to, there are still some exceptions. For instance, if you are too busy, so
you can listen to the Dharma while on the bus to work; you may be distracted by the
outside to some extent, but since your mind and attitude are still led by the Dharma, and
you are basically in the Dharma atmosphere, this merit is still very great.
Consequently, as practitioners who have already taken refuge to Buddhism, we
should remind ourselves all the time. Otherwise, if we do not like listening to the Dharma
but like hanging out without the awareness of bodhichitta, our conduct cannot be
improved. In order to feed knowledge to the students, even the worldly schools make
some forceful regulations to restrain the students, let alone our Dharma training. In my
opinion, if a Buddhist is only motivated for his own happiness and enjoyment, it will be
better that he does not force himself to listen to the Dharma. However, if your purpose is
for liberating all sentient beings and fusing your continuum with the Dharma, you need
some driving force from the Dharma. Without habitualization of the Dharma, most people
are not able to live with loving kindness and compassion every day, except for some real
accomplished monks and great masters. As a result, we should create a nice condition for
practice. If you yourself refuse to do so, nobody can force you to practice.
Since the motivation is so essential, when we listen to the Bodhicaryavatara or some
other teachings, we should keep in our mind that, I am listening not for my wealth or
promotion, or reputation, but for the liberation of all sentient beings. This is our only
purpose, and we should never give it up! It was said in Patrul Rinpoche’s The Graduated
Practice of the Ornament of Clear Realization that, our intention to obtain Buddhahood is
not to enjoy the wisdom of a Buddha but to benefit all sentient beings.” So, no matter if
we practice the Ornament of Clear Realization, or practice the middle way or the great
perfection, our aim is to benefit all sentient beings. If we can concentrate our mind on this
aim every moment, even for one single class, the merit will never exhaust till one’s full
enlightenment as a Buddha. However, many people do not know this truth; they listen to
the Dharma only for the wealth of their current life or some other temporary benefits.
Admittedly, the power of Buddha’s blessings is unfathomable, so your wish will be
fulfilled in some way. However, we should have some vaster and longer goals; only in
this way can we be benefited in current and future life times.
The second issue that I want to emphasize is that tomorrow we will start to meditate
on taking refuge for a while before the main meditation. The detailed methods can be
found in The Practical Methods for the Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind
on the Great Perfection. if you do not have this book or cannot remember it, you can
visualize as follows:
Visualize in front of you a lion throne; upon it is a lotus disk. Then
a sun disk and moon disk, upon which visualize your root Guru is
sitting straight up. If you really regard your Guru as a Buddha and
have very strong faith in your Guru, you can visualize your root Guru
in the appearance as he is in this lifetime, while if your faith is not that
sufficient, you can visualize your root Guru in the appearance of
Buddha Shakyamuni, or Manjushri or Avalokiteshvara and so forth.
Then, contemplate that there is no difference at all between your Guru
and the Buddhas in the three times and ten directions. Around your
Guru are the holy ones such as sky walkers and Dharma protectors, as
vast as the oceans. In front of this refuge field, you take refuge singlemindedly.
What is the purpose of taking refuge? For the liberation of sentient beings! I have
already emphasized this for hundreds and thousands of times; maybe some senior
Dharma friends are already tired of it. However, I think I have said this previously; I am
talking about it now, and I will still stress it in the future. Why? If we do not have this in
mind, we are not Mahayana practitioners. The worldly men and women always say to
each other, “I live for you”, but who do we live for? Sentient beings! We should be very
clear about this goal.
Many people are not sure of their purpose for taking refuge. Some people take refuge
because of their bad health; some people are due to mental anguishes and frustrations and
some are for the reason of not doing well in their work… However, how many people are
taking refuge out of the intention of benefiting all beings? Undoubtedly, most ordained
people act out of this motivation, but what about most of the ordinary laities? I have
asked some of them before, and their answers usually fall into the following reasons: My
life was very frustrating before; if I take refuge, the blessing power of the Buddha is so
incredible that I will be blessed and my family will be safe and peaceful, and my job will
go well. This kind of purpose is temporarily acceptable for people with medium
capability, but what is the best reason for taking refuge? Benefit all sentient beings!
Taking refuge for the happiness and liberation of all sentient beings.
Then, in front of the refuge field, contemplate, “From now on and
through all my life times, I will never turn away from the Buddhas in the
three times and ten directions, and my precious root Guru”, pray in this
way and recite in Tibetan:
“Lama La Gab Su Chi O,
Sang Jay La Gab Su Chi O,
Cho Nyee Gab Su Chi O,
Gen Dun La Gab Su Chi O.”
If you do not feel comfortable to recite in Tibetan, you can recite like
“I take refuge in the Guru,
I take refuge in the Buddha,
I take refuge in the Dharma,
I take refuge in the Sangha.”
(“Gui Yi Shi, Gui Yi Fo, Gui Yi Fa, Gui Yi Shen” in Chinese)
Keep reciting this. At the end of the meditation, visualize all the sentient
beings including yourself dissolve into the Three Jewels, then the Three
Jewels dissolves into the root Guru who is no different from all the
Buddhas, and the root Guru dissolve into the independent Dharmadhatu
(Dharma realm). Then rest your mind in a condition without any grasping.
Finally, dedicate all the merits.
Many people may have taken refuge before, but did you take this kind of vow at that
time? If your intention at that time was not very clear or determined, don’t worry. When
Ananda renounced his household life, he had no mind of renunciation at all. His purpose
was merely for getting beautiful Devakanya, not to mention our purposes. The silver
lining is that, we have already met the genuine Mahayana teachers and the genuine
Mahayana instructions of the Mahayana lineage. Therefore, we should try our best to
arouse the quintessence of Buddhism in our continuum; if we do not make use of these
resources, it is a real pity!
From now on, I hope everyone meditates on taking refuge attentively, which can
establish a strong foundation in our mind. If you are very aware that you take refuge is
not for your own liberation, nor for happy life, but for the welfare of all sentient beings,
then your practice on bodhichitta is perfect. This is particularly crucial; no matter if you
are an ordained person or not.
In the course of our study of A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, we should
combine the theoretic study and applied practice. On one hand we need the theoretic
teaching; on the other hand we should put enough efforts on practice. Why? Because
Buddhism includes both the Dharma of teaching and the Dharma of realization. The
Dharma of teaching means the language, words, Dharma books, recitation, transmission
and so forth. The Dharma of realization means that the meaning of the Dharma of
teaching is realized in our continuum. For example, to listen to the Bodhicaryavatara is
called the Dharma of teaching, but only that is far from enough. In order to strengthen our
bodhichitta, we need to practice on it, which is called the Dharma of realization. How
long the Dharma of realization can remain in your continuum depends on how long you
practice. Patrul Rinpoche has said, “Even one moment arising of the virtuous root in
one’s continuum is a type of the Dharma of realization; hearing or understanding even
one sentence of the Dharma is one type of the Dharma of teaching.” This is a simple way
to explain the Dharma of teaching and realization. The detailed explanation has been
covered according to Vasubhandu when we studied the Arbhidarmasoka.
Nowadays, lots of people do not know what Buddhism is at all, they think that
having a meeting, or holding a ceremony is Buddhism. They simply conclude that
Buddhism is very prosperous because a ceremony is very ceremonious. However, can
sentient beings generate wisdom, compassion or faith in Buddhism during a ceremony?
Obviously, we cannot say that all the ceremonies are not good; lots of Buddhism
ceremonies can benefit sentient beings a lot. However, only when the Dharma of teaching
reappears in our continuum can it be called the genuine Dharma of realization. Some
people think that the brilliant and shining buildings in the monasteries are the sign of the
greatness of Dharma; printing many Dharma books can also represent the blooming of
Buddhism. In fact, the real Buddhism is that after the teaching given by a qualified
teacher, we practice what we learned in our continuum. For example, we practice half
hour every morning; if we dwell on the meaning of Dharma during this period of time,
the Dharma of teaching really exists.
Undoubtedly, although so many people meditate on this teaching at the same time,
some of you will definitely meditate efficiently; some will doze off during the meditation.
This is completely understandable; after all, to get rid of old habitual tendencies may
make you feel uncomfortable at the beginning, but I believe you will have no problem
after a while. In most Chinese Buddhism monasteries, they start chanting in the Sutra
Hall as early as three or four o’clock in the morning. Six o’clock is already their time for
breakfast. If you cannot get up for meditation at this time, it will be hard for you to obtain
You should not think this kind of meditation does not matter and nothing can be
accomplished in half an hour. Apparently, everybody’s ability of concentration for
meditation is different from others. Some people have very limited ability of
visualization. This is because we have never examined our mind, which is like a naughty
child, so it is unrealistic to get rid of all the habitual tendencies and faults right away.
However, if we keep meditating for one or two years, our mind will gradually become
different from now. This is the nature of our mind. We can understand this from our own
meditation experience and through some sutras and commentaries or biographies of
eminent monks and masters. As a result, we should understand the theory on one hand
and practice on the other hand. The merit of practice is great; you should pay enough
attention to it!
Now, I am going to start the text. First let me introduce the title --- The Commentary
on a Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of life – the Ocean of Good Explanation. “The
Ocean of Good Explanation” is the name for this commentary. “Good Explanation”
means it completely explains and teaches the profound meaning of A Guide to the
Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. “Ocean” means this text cites lots of various authorities of
teachings and logics. As the ocean is the source of all treasure and jewels, this text is the
source of lots of the Dharma of teaching and Dharma of realization. To combine the
analogy and the meaning, the name “Ocean of Good Explanation” was used.
This text was composed by the Bodhisattva Thogme. Obviously, this Thogme is not
the one in the Indian “six ornaments” (Asanga in Sanskrit has the same meaning as
Thogme in Tibetan), but the Tibetan Bodhisattva Thogme. He was born around 1259,
more than seven hundred years ago. His brief biography can be found in the book
“Ocean of Good Explanation”, so I will not cover a lot here. I hope you will read it by
yourself. If you know the biography of the Bodhisattva Shantideva and Thogme, you will
understand how extraordinary this text is, and its great blessing power. It is completely
different from the books written by people whose aim is chasing money and properties,
social status and reputation. The historic eminent monks and great masters have different
goals, different realization; the vajra speech extracted from their wisdom can benefit us
greatly in present and future lifetimes.
Especially for the Bodhisattva Thogme, our Guru Rinpoche has told us about him
repeatedly that, in and near the place where the Archya Thogme lived, all the untamed
fierce tigers, leopards and wolves never hurt any beings, but lived in harmony with the
sheep and goats. There are many phenomena showing many beings succumbed to his
bodhichitta. According to this, it was said in Tibetan Buddhism that only to recite the few
stanzas in the beginning or the end of the Ocean of Good Explanation, bodhichitta will
arise in one’s continuum spontaneously.
The Bodhisattva Thogme has immeasurable love and compassion toward sentient
beings. I remember a story happened when he was a little child. One day in a fall, when it
was frosty and the ground was frozen, Konchok Zangpo (the original name of
Bodhisattva Thogme) walked outside; when he came back home, his father found that his
coat was gone, so the father asked him unhappily, “Where is your coat?” He answered,
“There are so many miserable beings, so I gave my coat to them.” To find if this was true
or not, his father took him to the spot. When they reached a grave, his father found it was
covered completely by huge amount of spiders, and upon these freezing spiders was
Konchok Zangpo‘s coat. To prevent the coat being blown away by the wind, he had put
some rocks around the edge of the coat…
It seems just a very short story, but do we have this kind of love and compassion in
our childhood? When I was writing the Miserable World, I heard a lot of people’s
childhood experiences. When they were teenagers or even younger, they had eaten a great
deal of seafood or the like, or when they saw some little creatures, they intended to kill
them and eat them. How different was Bodhisattva Thogme from them! Wonderful stories
like this were collected in his biography made by Yongzin Yeshe Gyaltsen. I have
translated it already; you’d better read it. After you read it, you will understand how
extraordinary this author is and bodhichitta will arise spontaneously in your continuum. If
you cannot read through the whole book in one day, you can read just one story every day
as an encouragement and reminder.
(Before the actual teaching there are general prostration stanzas and vow
We should notice that the few stanzas in front of the commentary were not composed
by the commentator Shantideva but by the Bodhisattva Thogme. In Tibetan Buddhism, all
the eminent monks and great masters write the prostration stanzas and vow stanzas before
their commentary. This is a set of complete preparation for composing a commentary. If
you mix the verses of the main body with these stanzas, it is a sign of unfamiliarity of
commentaries. So we should differentiate them.
These stanzas can be divided into prostration and vow stanzas. First of all is
generally paying homage to Avalokiteshvara, then paying homage respectively to all the
related Buddhas and Bodhisattvas –Buddha Shakyamuni, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri,
and Commentator Shantideva.
[Homage to Avalokiteshvara!]
The great love and compassion of Bodhisattva Thogme is obtained completely
through the blessings of Avalokiteshvara. This can be found in his biography. He has
special faith in Avalokiteshvara; it was also said in Tibetan Buddhism that Bodhisattva
Thogme is the embodiment of Avalokiteshvara, so he first paid homage to
Arvalokiteshvara. This is the general prostration. Then he praised Shakyamuni Buddha’s
good qualities with poetics and rhetoric skills and prayed to Shakyamuni Buddha. This is
very necessary.
Generally speaking, in Tibetan Buddhism, if you are a Mahayana Buddhist you pay
homage to the Buddha and Mahayana great and eminent monks and masters. If you are a
Hinayana Buddhist, you pay homage to the Buddha and Hinayana great and eminent
monks and masters. Now in Han (Chinese) Buddhism, when great masters give the
Dharma teachings, they also first pay homage to Shakyamuni Buddha, Manjushri,
Ksitigarbha, Avalokiteshvara and so forth; then pay homage to the historic gurus in the
lineage. I think this is very good, why? Because it shows that we are Buddhists. This
tradition is also found in India. It makes us able to tell the tradition or lineage a person
belongs to according to the deity or Guru this person pray to. So, when we propagate the
Dharma to benefit sentient beings later in our lives, no matter composing commentaries,
teachings Dharmas or debating, we should first pay homage to Buddha Shakyamuni. On
one hand we can accumulate a great deal of merit; on the other hand, as Buddhists, we
are supposed to prostrate and pray to the Buddha.
[To love and to care all sentient beings, and stir the ocean of two accumulations
and arousing bodhichitta, which generate;
Gracious clouds of the independent three bodies without abiding in
paranirvana, spreading out in the space layers over layers,
And descend as the wonderful Dharma nectar rain universally, which are free
from the four extremes of conceptual intellectual frivolity (prapanca) of selflessness
and so forth.
Extinguish the ignorance fire in us, and allow the flower of benefit and
happiness to blossom, to you the prince of Suddhodhana, I pay homage.]
Here rhetoric was used to make prostration to Shakyamuni Buddha. The author
Bodhisattva Thogme is very erudite, which is shown in his biography. He not only reads
the Tripitaka extensively and is proficient in sutras and tantras, but also is good at
worldly knowledge, especially poetics.
[To love and to care all sentient beings] When he was in his causal stage,
Shakyamuni Buddha loved and protected every sentient being with great compassion. In
detail, he first aspired to obtain enlightenment in front of the old great Shakyamuni
Buddha, then accumulated merits for three Asamkhyeya eons, and finally obtained
Nirmankaya (physical body) and Dharmakaya (the Dharma body), and turned the wheel
of Dharma according to the capacity and predisposition of different sentient beings.
[and stir the ocean of two accumulations and aspiration bodhichitta, which
generate; Gracious clouds of the independent three bodies without abiding in
paranirvana, spreading out in the space layers over layers,] This analogy was
commonly used in historic classic texts; the meaning is that, through stirring the water in
the ocean, vapor will be generated, which then can form wonderful clouds layers over
layers spreading in the space. In the same way, through stirring the aspiration bodhichitta
and the accumulation of bliss and wisdom, the independent three bodies of the Buddha
that does not remain in paranirvana can be generated.
[The independent three bodies without abiding in paranirvana] means that
contrary to Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, the Buddha does not stay in the extreme of
paranirvana but is free from all kinds of intellectual frivolity (prapanca) and clinging,
and has obtained the Trikaya (Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmankaya).
[And descend as the wonderful Dharma nectar rain universally, which is free
from the four extremes of conceptual Intellectual frivolity (prapanca) of selflessness
and so forth.] Once a cloud forms, it will definitely descend as wonderful rains. In the
same way, after the Buddha obtains the cloud of the Trikaya, he will absolutely teach
infinite beings the Dharma nectar rain which is free from self-clinging and intellectual
frivolity of the four extremes11.
[Extinguish the ignorance fire in us, and allow the flower of benefit and happiness to
blossom] As rain can extinguish flaming fire, and cause beautiful flowers to blossom, in
the same way, the Dharma nectar from turning the wheel of Dharma three times by the
Buddha, can extinguish the flaming fire of affliction in the continuum of sentient beings
of the three realms, and make the flowers of the temporary benefit of the heaven and
human realms and the absolute happiness of perfect complete enlightenment to blossom.
[To you, the prince of Suddhodhana, I pay homage.] The peerless prince of
Suddhodhana, who has aroused Bodhichitta like a white lotus, our great guru Buddha
Shakyamuni, to you, I, your follower, pay homage respectfully.
When we get up in the morning, we should first prostrate three times in front of
Buddha’s statues, which are not different from our Guru. (This is a requirement; please
do not forget.) Then make offerings with some fresh and clean water or by burning a stick
of incense. Before you meditate on Bodhichitta, first meditate on Guru Yoga of our
Dharma Lord Rinpoche (If you do not have the text, you can use some other simple Guru
Yoga ritual.) Then meditate primarily on taking refuge. Meditate in this way for a couple
of days.
When I was mediating this morning, I did not mediate very well, but I still feel very
happy, because I knew that many people were concentrating on benefiting sentient beings
at that time (6:00 - 6:30 AM). This is very rare and precious in this modern time.
Previously, we were either sleeping or doing something for ourselves. Now, we are
concentrating on benefiting all sentient beings. If we meditate in this way for even just
one moment, the merit is unfathomable. This will be explained when we study the merit
of bodhichitta later on.
11 The four extremes: existent, nonexistent, both of them, and neither of them.
When we meditate on Bodhichitta, Buddha is the supreme refuge field. Even the
merit of one prostration or a little offering is enormous and boundless. For the fourfold
disciple not in our monastery, you should read the Great Biography of Buddha
Shakyamuni once this year. The Dharma friends here studied this work last year and knew
the aspirational vows of the Buddha in his causal stage. Patrul Rinpoche has said, “If you
want to cultivate genuine bodhichitta of benefiting other beings, you must learn the
stories of Shakyamuni Buddha in his causal stage.” The stories in his biography look like
some ordinary stories, but every plot is very true and touching. It should not be very
difficult for you to read the Great Biography of Buddha Shakyamuni once a year.
Many people say they have no spare time. In fact, you just waste your time on eating,
drinking and playing. It is not because you have no time, but you do not make good use
of your time. When some Dharma friends here say they do not have time, I believe it
because they are completely involved in listening, reflecting and meditating on the
Dharma with their full concentration except for sleeping and eating. So, they ARE
extremely busy! However, for people not living here, their life styles are different. It is
understandable that they cannot support their family if they do not spend time on
working. The key is to master one’s own time. One worldly scholar has said that one who
can make use of time, one cherishes life; one can not, one’s life is over.
To manage one’s time efficiently every day is an action of people with wisdom.
Some ordained people arrange their time very well; except for practice and sleeping, their
minds almost have no disturbed time; even when they are distracted, they can recognize it
immediately. On the contrary, some people do not have the concept of time, so their
practice will never have a good result. One year passes by like one instant, so does our
life. If we achieve nothing in our life, it is very unworthy.
Recently we have learned the Sutra of Constant Recollecting the Three Jewels. As
Buddhists, we should never forget the kindness and merit of the Buddha, and always
recollect him. This is extremely important!
Next is paying homage to Avalokiteshvara.
The light of the noble one’s name
Enters one’s ear; only through this,
The darkness in their mind can be dispelled completely.
To you, Guru Avalokiteshvara, I pay homage.
Whether it is a human, a nonhuman or an animal, whatever beings, only hearing the
name of Noble Avalokitshvara, their mental afflictions, pains and confusions can be
dispelled utterly. This is the blessing power of Avalokitshvara. It was said in the Lotus
Sutra – Chapter of Universal Door that, when millions and billions beings are suffering,
if one recites the name of Avalokiteshvara with one pointed mind, the Bodhisattva, after
hearing the sound, will come to help them out, and grant blessings to all these beings for
obtaining liberation.
Some people may think that “Avalokitshvara” (Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa) sounds no
different from our names, so it should not be that marvelous. In fact, this is not the case.
According to the KarunapunDarika-Sutra-ChapterProphecy (Vyakarana),
Avalokitshvara had already received the prophecy of his enlightenment from the
Tathagata Precious-Treasury as earliy as the number of the sands in the Ganges river
eons ago. Also, in the Shurangama Sutra, when Avalokiteshvara made his aspiration in
front of the Tathagata Avalokiteshvara, he also got the same prophecy. If you only look at
the word “Avalokiteshvara”, it looks like that we human beings can also be called
“Avalokiteshvara”. However, the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have very
profound causes and conditions. Their names were given through Buddhas’ vajra speech
thousands and millions eons ago and formed through the crystallization of wisdom during
the process of liberating sentient beings. Only people who have real fortune can hear the
names of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; people without bliss will never hear these names
or have a look of the Buddha or Budhisattva’s holy images. In Han (Chinese) Buddhism,
there are uncountable documented stories about how people got help and were saved by
Avalokiteshrava through reciting his name, so I do not need to talk too much.
The author has enormous faith in Avalokiteshvara, so after prostrating to the Buddha
Shakyamuni, he paid homage to Avalokitshvara immediately. Avalokitshvara is the
representative of the great compassion of all the Buddhas and Boddhisattva. If we pray
often to him, bodhichitta of great compassion and great love can arise. The blessing
power of Avalokiteshvara’s name is unfathomable; according to the Dharani Sutra, when
we see some miserable beings are going to die, we should recite “Namo
Avalokiteshvara”, or “Om Mani Padme Hum”. In this way, the noble name travels to their
ears and they will not take rebirth in the miserable realms. So, the merit is great!
Next is paying homage to Manjushri.
[Having elucidated the ultimate truth that extinguishes the intellectual frivolity
of selfness and selflessness,
And having dispelled the darkness of ignorance through explaining the relative
truth of how one experiences one’s own accumulated karma;
Having skillfully illuminated the teaching for the undefiled practice of giving up
one’s own happiness for the benefit of others;
And perfectly completed the two kinds of benefits of self and others; to you, the
Dharma Lord Manjushri, I prostrate.]
Elucidating the ultimate truth “that extinguishes the intellectual frivolity of selfness
and selflessness”, and explaining the relative truth of “one experiences one’s own
accumulated karma”, all these profound and vast Dharma teachings are determined by the
wisdom of Manjushri. These wonderful teachings are like the sunlight which is able to
dispel the darkness of ignorance in the continuum of sentient beings. In addition, he also
illuminated with skillful means the teachings of undefiled behavior of giving up one’s
own happiness but devoting oneself to the activity of benefiting others. To Manjushri,
who has perfectly fulfilled the two kinds of benefits of self and others, and helping
sentient being to achieve the Buddhahood of Dharma Lord, I (the author) prostrate
In Mipham Rinpoche’s Biography of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas, he has quoted a
scripture from the Sutra of Treasure Accumulation, which said, “The merit of chanting
the names of thousands and millions Buddhas is enormous, but the merit of chanting the
name of Manjushri is far beyond that.” In other words, the merit of praying to
Avalokiteshvara, Amitabha, Sharkyamuni is unfathomable, but it is not as supreme as the
merit of praying to Manjushri or chanting his mantra “Om, Ah Ra Pa Tsa Na Dhih.”
The Sutra Requested by the Undefiled Light Goddess said, Bodhisattva Manjushri’s
manifestation for liberating sentient beings is different from other supreme beings; his
manifestation is boundless and countless. If one can be liberated as a king, he will appear
as a king; if one can be saved as a princess, Brahmin, Bhikshu and so forth, he then
appears in these various forms. He even appears as a beauty in front of those who have
strong sexual desire, and a singer in front of people who are fond of singing…12
Sometimes, I think that people of the modern world especially love singing or listening to
music. When a genuine eminent monk or great master gives a teaching, usually only
several thousand people will go to listen, but if a pop star comes, hundreds and thousands
people will get together. I am hesitating to say that they are all the embodiments of
Manjushri; otherwise, maybe all the ordained people will go to a concert tomorrow
(laughing from the audience). However, I cannot deny that there are maybe some
Manjushris among them. According to the Buddhist scriptures, Manjushri also appears as
singing goddess, garland goddess and dancing goddess to liberate sentient beings, so the
manifestation of the Buddhas and Budhisattvas are unfathomable.
Then there comes the praising stanza for the Bodhisattva Shantideva. The
Bodhisattva Thogme pays homage to the Bodhisattva Shantideva.
You completely gave up the throne to teach and demonstrate with skillful means
The rare and precious principles of the practice of Bodhisattvas,
And spread out the Dharma of the Buddha;
The Bodhisattva Shantideva, to you I prostrate sincerely.
The Bodhisattva Shantideva gave up his throne and taught and demonstrated with
skillful means the rare13 and precious principles of the practice of Bodhisattvas, and
propagated the genuine Dharma of the Buddha - the altruistic bodhichitta. To such a great
Bodhisattva Shantideva, I (the author) prostrated sincerely.
One who propagates bodhichitta has already propagated the genuine Dharma of the
Thus Coming One (Tathagat). It is very crucial if we can gather some people and
propagate the genuine Dharma in different places at convenient times with no bias on
traditions and schools. If it is Chinese Buddhism, it is ok; if it is Tibetan Buddhism, it is
also good! During this process, none of the properties, offerings, reputations, and social
12 Although the manifestation of Avalokiteshvara is also countless and boundless, here the emphasis is
placed on the aspect of wisdom. Since the Bodhisattva Manjushri is the nature of all the Buddhas and
Bodhisattva’s wisdom, and all the Buddhas in the three times are born from wisdom, from this aspect,
the Bodhisattva Manjushri has relatively superior merit.
13 Most people in this world rush about for their own sake and do things for themselves; very few are
really benefiting others.
status is important to us; the only thing that matters is that we should pass on the Dharma
to sentient beings with a virtuous intention and good heart.
From some modern people’s behavior, many people do not know the principles of the
Dharma at all. As a result, we have the responsibility to propagate the Dharma to benefit
sentient beings. If we do not keep this attitude in our mind, we may not have the
opportunity to propagate the Dharma and benefit sentient being in this life. Even when
we have some opportunities, some people decline to do so, because they think that they
are already in their sixties or seventies so they are hopeless, and the youth should take the
In fact, senior bodhisattvas here have very vast aspirations and are very helpful.
They are very proficient in all the aspects of life, and there are no obscurations in their
emotional life, so they are very suitable for helping sentient beings. As far as young
people are concerned, you should stay here longer. If it is necessary in the future, we
should arrange some sixty or seventy year old people to propagate the Dharma in
different areas… (Audience laughing)
Last is the vow verse:
In the lotus garden of his Dharma teachings,
I have drunk the honey freely,
In order to benefit the many Dharma practitioners,
I decided to compose this commentary on this text.
The author Bodhisattva Thogme said here, I have obtained the honey of the good
explanation of A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life in the lotus garden of the
teachings from the Bodhisattva Shantideva. In order to benefit the Mahayana
practitioners, I designedly composed this commentary - A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way
of Life – the Ocean of Good Explanation.
11. Explain the following terms: The Dharma of teaching, the Dharma of realization,
Ocean of good explanation, the virtuous root for merit, the virtuous root for liberation
12. Why is bodhichitta so important for the Mahayana practitioners? Please explain the
detail with scriptural authorities, examples, analogies and reasoning?
13. Omit
14. What is the difference between learning the Buddhadharma and worldly knowledge?
Please describe it with your own experience.
15. “Who are we practitioners living for? We are living for sentient beings!” What’s your
feeling about this?
16. What is the genuine Buddhism? Can the following phenomena - monasteries are in
large scale, laities are in a large number and the Dharma events are ceremonious indicate Buddhism is prosperous?
17. The Buddha and our guru always ask us to put ourselves aside and benefit sentient
beings. Is this request reasonable? Why?
18. What is the difference between the Buddhas and bodhisattvas’ holy names and our
ordinary people’s names?
19. Why is it said that the quintessence of the Buddhadharma is the Mahayana
Lesson 4
We have already discussed some stories about Bodhisattva Shantideva, the author of
A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. Here I will tell you another story- the second
rare biography. After Shantivarman relied on the teacher who was an embodiment of
Manjushri in the forest, he received the teaching and achieved realization. Afterwards, he
was allowed to propagate the Dharma, so he went to Manjiada, a country in east India. At
that time, the king was recruiting some close ministers. Some people thought that
Shantivarman was very marvelous, so they recommended him to the king as a gate
custodian. Influenced by his prestige, great kindness and compassion, many people
nearby truly respected him. Therefore, he gave Dharma guidance to them, eradicated the
suffering of countless people and brought tremendous happiness to them. This bothered
some treacherous ministers, who told the king that Shantivarman is not qualified for a
gate guardian because the sword he was using was fake14. Being uncertain, the king
requested all the guardians show him their weapons for inspection. Shantivarman said to
the King, “You’d better not take a look at my sword. Otherwise, it will be very
dangerous!” The King didn’t take his advice and insisted on looking at it. Shantivarman
had to take the King to a quiet place, asked him to cover one eye and look by the other,
and then pulled out his precious sword. When the bright beam of the sword shined on the
King’s eye, it was so injured that the eye ball fell down to the ground. The King was very
scared. All the people immediately realized that Shantivarman had already accomplished
great realization. The king, along with his vassals and relatives, regretted in front of
Shantivarman and prayed to him for the recovery of his eye respectfully. Shantivarman
put his eyeball back into its socket with his fingers, and made the eye completely recover
through blessings.
From this story, we can see that the achievement of the commentator Shantideva is
totally different from that of other people. It is this great accomplished realizer who
composed A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life which we now turn to.
A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, which completely and inerrably elucidates
the Mahayana path, is divided into two parts:
A1. The title
A2. The body
A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life has completely and inerrably15 explained the
stages of Mahayana ground, path and fruition and covers almost all the Mahayana
principles, sutras and commentaries. In the Dharma degenerate age, it is unrealistic to
read and memorize all the Mahayana sutras and commentaries in one short life. However,
if we take some time to study this text intently, we can learn all the stages and teachings
14 The sword he carried was made of wood, bestowed and blessed by Manjushri.
15 Completely and inerrably: in the course of the study, we should contemplate on these words carefully,
and do not simply flash a glance at it.
of the entire Mahayana path to enlightenment. Thus it is a very significant text.
Nowadays, people, especially those in big cities, have little chance to orderly,
completely and systematically study the Dharma in a Buddhist school or monastery. In
order to understand the Dharma and train our mind, it is very necessary for us to treat A
Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life as the most important thing. However, many
people treat their daily life as the most important thing, and put learning, studying and
practicing the Dharma on the sidetrack. What is their attitude to the Dharma? They spend
most of their time on eating, drinking, playing, entertaining and working, leaving no time
to study the Dharma. Since the life style of city dwellers is so different from that of the
ordained people living in solitude, we understand their situation. However, if they never
manage some time for studying the Dharma, it will never be possible for them to achieve
success in their practice. Therefore, we should try our best to put studying the Dharma
first, arrange abundant time for it, and put into it as much effort as we can.
Some Dharma study groups meet for meals, drinking tea and senseless chatter. When
the meeting is over, they think their group study is over. This is not counted as group
study, but is called “to disobey the discipline” in our monastery. However, this is not the
case for everyone. Some individual practitioners are doing very well. When they get
together, they spend all the two hours on tutoring, discussing and thinking. In this way,
they have the means and antidotes for various kinds of issues after they get home.
Therefore, to get together is not to waste time. When we study A Guide to the
Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, either alone or in a group, we should never waste our precious
time. For a true practitioner, properties are not important; body is not important. What is
most important? Time. Time is not different from life. One, who has no concept of time,
has no responsibility for one’s practice.
Therefore, we should effectively manage our time. We get up at six o’clock these
days. Ninety percent of people manage very well; sleeping fans have already become
used to it. As we can see, it is not because we do not have time, instead the key is that we
are so unwise that we waste our precious time unknowingly. Since we have already come
across this wonderful teaching, we should grasp this chance firmly. I am very inferior and
do not meet the requirements of a qualified teacher, but we should study it attentively
because the teaching - A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life is perfect and supreme.
Otherwise, if we attach to the material desire and defiled objects of clinging, anger and
ignorance without any pure and meaningful thoughts, cyclic existence will never end but
trap us tighter and tighter without liberation. In one word, since we already have this
opportunity, we should make good use of our time.
A1. The title
B1. The actual title
B2. Translator’s prostration
B1. The actual title
Sanskrit: Bodhisattvacayavatara (Bodhicaryavatara)
Sanskrit is a language of ancient India. According to different resources, there were
four, five or six languages in ancient India. Here this title is in Sanskrit. [The title in
Sanskrit was translated into Chinese (English),] The title means A Guide to the
Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. When compared word-by-word, [“Bodhi” is complete
enlightenment] means peerless complete enlightenment, awakening, or realization. Its
broad meaning can be Buddhas and medium Buddha16. [“Sattva” is Bodhisattva] also
called the heroic beings, which refers to the Bodhisattva who is on one’s causal stage and
has not obtained Buddhahood yet. (For example, Manjushri is also called Manjushri
wisdom warrior.) They are heroic because they have benefited and liberated countless
sentient beings for eons and eons without any fear. So these great heroic ones are called
Bodhisattvas; [“Carya” is action,] which means behavior. [“Vatara” is entering,] which
means entering the way. Combined together, it becomes “entering the way of
bodhisattva’s behavior” or “entering the way of bodhisattva’s complete enlightenment
Why is it called entering the way of bodhisattva’s behavior? “Enter” means enter or
enter in. Through studying this work, we can enter the way of Mahayana Bodhisattva’s
supreme behavior - the aspiration and action of the six paramitas, so it is called A Guide
to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. We should not only understand the title from the words,
but also through its meaning when we study a commentary. It is very unreasonable to
only understand the superficial meaning but not the actual meaning.
We should have a common name – “Bodhi Institute17” - for all the Bodhicaryavatara
study groups. This name can be used by either esoteric or exoteric traditions and any
sects and traditions. This name can be used not only for our current study of the
Bodhicaryavatara, but also for our later study of other texts or tantric teachings. It is a
very good dependent origination if “Bodhi Institue group I,” “Bodhi Institute Group II,”
and so forth are used for our different study groups in different places. As members of the
“Bodhi Institute,” we should start with training our own mind if we really want to learn
[Then, what is the method used for giving this title to this commentary?]
There are plenty of ways to name sutras and commentaries, but four methods were
described in the Sutra of Elucidating the Profound Secret (Sandhinir-mochana): given
after the name of places, people, analogies and meanings. In this world, everything has its
own name; people have people’s names, places have places’ names, so do mountains,
rivers and the earth and so forth; everything has its unique name. Similarly, sutras and
commentaries have their names. Their names were given for some specific reasons.
[In general, names are given based on the content elucidated in the text, the
amount of the verses, functions, locations, vassals, time or metaphors.]
16 medium Buddha: Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas
17 Bodhi has a very vast meaning. It can be divided into bodhi of the path, bohi of the fruition, bodhi of
its nature, and bodhi of the meaning, etc.
“The content elucidated in the text” refers to giving a name based on the content,
such as, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, the Sutra on the Ten Levels (the
Dashabhumika Sutra), and the Great Treaties on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment
(Lam Rim Chen Mo). “The amount of the verses” refers to giving a name according to
the amount of the sentences or words or stanzas used to elucidate the meaning, for
example, Four Hundred Verses on the Middle Way, Three Hundred Verses on Vinaya,
Seventy Verses on Emptiness, Sixty Verses on Reasoning, and Fifty Verses on How to
Follow One’s Guru. Some sutras or commentaries were given names according to their
“functions,” such as, the Sutra of the Fool and the Wise, and the Great Liberation Sutra.
Some are given by the name of locations. For example, the Lankavatara Sutra was given
this name because Shakyamuni Buddha gave this teaching at the place called lankavatara.
Some are given names by the vassals’ name, for instance, the Sutra Requested by the
Naga Kings, the Sutra Requested by Maiytreya, the Chinese Buddhism texts: the
Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch and Four Lessons by Mr. Yuan-Liaofan. Some are
named after the questioners or the author. Some are named by “time.” For instance, the
Sutra of a Good Kalpa (the Bhadrakalpika Sutra) elucidates the names and merits of one
thousand Buddhas who appear in the good kalpa. Finally, some are named by
“metaphors,” such as the Rice Sapling Sutra, and the Diamond Sutra.
[This commentary is named by the first method.]
The Bodhicaryavatara is named by its content. Apparently, this work tells us how to
enter the bodhisattva’s way of life - literally this is the way we interpret it. To dig into the
connotation, we should really enter the Mahayana queue right now and make this vow
and aspiration in our heart. The goal of this teaching is to help everybody get the benefit
of the Dharma through studying the Bodhicaryavatara.
The key point of gaining benefit is to have faith. Without faith and concern for the
Bodhicaryavatara, no matter how great the blessing power of this text is and how
profound the principles of it are, it cannot make any difference to you. Since everybody
has different conditions, capacities and previous aspirations, if one hundred people start,
we may only have fifty or sixty people understand the meaning during the cause of this
study. Some people may neither understand the meaning nor know about the words, and
some people do not stick to their aspiration and give up after two days’ study. As a result,
due to the different capacities people have, the benefits different people get are very
different. From the surface, we are sitting in the same sutra hall at the same time listening
to the same teaching, and our clothes, language and culture are not very different, but
why is the final result so different? It is because our capacity and attitude are different.
People, who have the right attitude and can concentrate a single mindedly with resistance
to distractions, will get benefits every day.
I want to reaffirm that you should think in your heart that, “From now on I am one in
the Mahayana Buddhism community. What is the responsibility of that? Benefiting
sentient beings as best as I can!” This is the most basic principle, and also the
fundamental requirement and direction of the Mahayana bodhi. Without it, no matter how
we practice, it will never become the cause of Mahayana Bodhi. Our aim of studying the
Bodhicaryavatara is to enter the path of the Mahayana Bodhisattva’s six paramitas. It
sounds easy to understand; however, I emphasize it over and over again because I hope
the aspiration and resolve will really arise in some people’s continuum through these
words. If this happens, it is the most precious thing in our life.
[What is the necessity of assigning a name? Generally speaking, assigning a
name is needed to identify the meaning.]
Of the names in this world, some are given by metaphor or meaning, and some are given
without a specific reason. Tibetan names have various meanings, such as, auspicious
goddess, auspicious and wish-fulfilling. Most of them are explainable, but some people’s
names of some other nations are not explicable. Some worldly names are not explicable,
either. For example, why is a stone called “stone”? There is no reason. When we study
“Buddhist logic” later, we will focus on two ways of naming: one is naming with reason,
and the other is without reason. The naming of commentaries belongs to the former. Very
few commentaries are named without a reason.
[It is said in the Lankavatara Sutra, “Without names, the whole world is in a fog.
Therefore, through skillful methods, the Buddha names everything differently.”]
If everything in the world had no name, people would be very confused and have no
concepts and ways of adopting and rejecting. For this reason, through skillful methods
the great kind and passionate Buddha gave everything different names in order to help
sentient beings distinguish everything.
[Since this commentary was named by the meaning it elucidates, people with
sharp faculties can recognize the general idea of it through its name.]
There is a second reason for this commentary being named by its explained meaning.
That is for people with sharp faculties, they can understand the content once they see the
title. As the great Master Zhi-zhe (The Wise) saw the title of the Lotus Sutra, he grasped
the contents of this sutra and was able to explain this title for six months afterwards. For
people with medium faculties, they can basically understand the meaning of the text after
they see the title. For instance, after catching sight of Entering the Middle Way, the
Treasury of Cognition and Reasoning or the Diamond Sutra, the rough meaning of these
scriptures can be grasped by them. For people with dull faculties, they can find the
Dharma books through the titles. Then, it was said in the text,
[The title is explained first, so people with dull faculties can find the Dharma
book easily.]
If no name was given to the Bodhicaryavatara, we have no clue which book it is.
The name makes it very convenient for people with dull faculties to find the book. This is
the necessity and methods of assigning names to books.
[The purpose of using the Sanskrit title is to implant the seed of Sanskrit into
the continuum of sentient beings, which also indicates that the source of the
commentary is reliable. In addition, it also shows to recollect the kindness of the
translator and the learned.]
Why use the Sanskrit name “Bodhisattvacaryavatara”? There are three reasons: first,
to implant the seed of liberation-Sanskrit Language. According to the sutra, all the one
thousand Buddhas of the good kalpa achieve enlightenment as ordained Indian people
and after they obtain Buddhahood at Bodhi Gaya, they all use Sanskrit to turn the wheel
of Dharma, so this language has great blessing power and merits. If we read the Sanskrit
title every time before we read the commentary, the seed of liberation is planted in our
continuum. For this reason, a lot of Tibetan translators do not translate the Sanskrit in
sutras or commentaries. If you open the Tripitaka, you will find Sanskrit at the beginning
of every sutra and every commentary18. Not only the Indian eminent masters follow this
tradition, but also some commentators in Tibetan Buddhism start their commentaries with
Sanskrit, though the main body of the work is not written in Sanskrit. In this way, the
seeds of virtue and liberation are planted in the continuum of the followers.
The second reason is that the origination is pure. How pure is the origination? We
should notice that unlike in Tibet or Han area, composing commentary is a very rigorous
issue in India. In general, after the commentary is composed but not formally circulated,
many eminent monks, masters and scholars will study, discuss and debate on it in a
group. If the author defeats them during this process, this commentary can be circulated
in public, and the author will also win some reward and respect. However, if the
commentary is neither consistent with the Dharma nor with worldly principles, it will be
fastened on the tail of a dog, who will circle the town for several rounds. The
commentary will be burned and cannot be circulated. If the commentary is not merely
having poor content, but also will harm people both physically and psychologically, the
author will be punished by law such as chopping off arms, or sending to prison for life.
(Some countries advocate using this kind of methods to those who write reactionary
books or propagate malicious thoughts among people.)
Therefore, in those times a commentary was not composed casually in India because
of the possible risk, very different from the current situation: just for money or reputation,
some people scribble something neglectfully in a day and spend some money to publish it
to everywhere the next day. In fact, these kinds of books do not have any value or
significance, because they are not composed for the sake of sentient beings. Nowadays, it
is so easy to put out a book either in Buddhism or worldly subjects as long as you have
some money. This phenomenon is very unfortunate. Genuine Buddhist commentaries
should not be distributed without a rigorous inspection; only in this way can it benefit the
whole Buddhist community. Therefore, the two hundred plus commentaries imparted as
of today have peerless value, because they have been approved by thousands and
hundreds of Panditas, so the lineage is clean and pure.
As a result, if Sanskrit appears in front of the main body of a commentary, it is very
18 According to historic rules, five things cannot be translated, such as mantras. This is why Sanskrit was
not translated here. The details were explained when we studied the Heart Sutra.
likely that it is handed down from India, which means it is very reliable. The works, such
as the Bodhicaryavatara, Entering the Middle Way, the Madhyamakashastra and
Buddhist logic the Pramanavarttika, are accepted by all Buddhists without exception.
Only people with problems do not accept them, because any books composed by the
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, the commentator Chandrakirt, or the Bodhisattva Shantideva
must be absolutely correct without suspicious spots. Some people said to me, “Dharma
teachers and books come from your monastery must be very good.” Not exactly! Because
we are not that strict, so I cannot guarantee one hundred percent that all practitioners here
are very good or all the Dharma books from here are very good. Including mine, since my
drivel was written down sometimes, they may or may not benefit sentient beings.
Apparently, it does not necessarily do any harm either because my motivation was not to
deliberately harm sentient beings. However, it is difficult to say if the conceptual mind of
an ordinary person can help sentient beings. In our future study, it is very important for us
to choose reliable Buddhist sutras and commentaries, which are passed on from a pure
and clear source and composed by genuine accomplished masters. Usually I choose to
translate the articles written by genuine accomplished and marvelous masters. Books with
controversy or which do not make sense to myself, I put aside. It is very important to
have an authentic source when we study the Dharma.
The third reason is to recollect the kindness of the translators. As we all know, India
is the origination of Buddhism. Shakyamuni Buddha came to this world in the form of an
Indian, and he turned the wheel of Dharma in an Indian language -Sanskrit. Historically,
in order to help foreigners learn the Dharma, no matter in which dynasty or country, there
are many translators engaging in translating the sutras and commentaries19. It is very
difficult for sentient beings in current Dharma degenerate age to learn Sanskrit or another
language and become proficient in it. As a result, we should appreciate these translators
from the depth of our heart. If we do not appreciate them, feel that nothing matters or
indifferent, it will not be accepted by even the most basic mundane morality, not to
mention Buddhism.
As Buddhists, we should have strong faith in our guru, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,
and always appreciate them. If a disciple feels grateful for his guru, the blessing of his
guru will definitely infuse into his heart. In contrast, if a disciple does not appreciate his
worldly teacher and feels his Guru is the same as his worldly teacher, then his continuum
may not be able to take any genuine knowledge. An ancient saying says, “When drinking
water, we should think about its source.” The Chan Master Da-Jian in Song dynasty said,
“Drink the water of which you know the source,
If you examine your mind and contemplate all the time,
Is the Guru far away?”
It means that, when we drink water, we should know where its source is. Similarly, if we
19 In Tibetan Buddhism, when sutras and commentaries were translated, an Indian Pandita and a Tibetan
Lostawa (Great Translator) usually worked cooperatively. Their names always appeared at the end of
every sutra and commentary. Traditionally, Indian people call them Pandita; while Tibetan people use
Lostawa (Great Translator).
always examine and aware of our mind, can you say the Guru is far away? All the
Dharma comes from the Guru. If we do not forget the kindness of our Guru, our Guru
will not be distant from us.
As mentioned above, there are three reasons for using Sanskrit: 1) to plant the seed
of liberation, 2) to show that the source is pure and clean, and 3) to recollect the kindness
of the translators. When we study the Dharma, we should pray to the source of the
Dharma - the Guru, with great respect and pious faith. It is well known that ancient great
masters were so affectionate and respectful toward their Gurus. If you do not have a
respectful mind toward your guru, the Buddha or the lineage masters, the Dharma they
impart may not do any good to your continuum. From the worldly point of view, if you
do not care for your parents and teachers, their knowledge may not be of any significant
help to you; if you always feel that “my current progress and wisdom are all from my
parents and teachers” and encompass this gratitude, then the knowledge in your
continuum will definitely be applied in this world. Therefore, when studying the Dharma,
we can always tell how much a person appreciates his Guru and the Buddha. If one
always misses one’s Guru and the Buddha, then his words and his deeds will surely
benefit sentient beings. If one only praises the Buddha on the surface but in fact has no
feeling at all, then he cannot impress anybody. Therefore, it is very important for us to
examine our own mind.
B2. Translator’s prostration
Homage to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas!
This is the prostrating stanza, which is not in the original text of the
Bodhicaryavatara. The aim of paying homage is twofold: to pray for a perfect
completion of the translation, with a good start and good finish and no obstructions in the
middle, and to honor the tradition that translators should prostrate respectfully to their
most respected Yidam, the Buddha.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the Bodhicaryavatara has been translated three times. Initially,
in the period of the King Tri Ralpache20, Gawa Batsa21 translated it from a Kashmir text.
Tri Ralpache had made a great contribution to Buddhism22 by having established the huge
Sutra translating institute, inviting a great number of Pandita from India, and training
many Tibetan translators. They not only proofread the formerly translated text in the
period of the king Trisong Desten, but also translated some new texts. Gawa Batsa was
one of the great three translators at that time. He was the most famous translator in the
two kings’ periods of time. He translated the Bodhicaryavatara from Kashmir into
In the later propagation period, Lostowa (sutra translator) Rinchen Zangpo translated
20 Tri Ralpache: A manifestation of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani and the forty first King in Tibet also said to
be the fortieth King.
21 Gawa Batsa: one of the great three translators.
22 In Tibet, the King Songtsen Gampo,Trisong Desten and Tri Ralpache were known as “Three Kings
of the Three Generations” and the manifestation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and
Vajrapani respectively. They had made enormous contributions to Buddhism.
the edition from middle India. Finally, in the period of Venerable Atisha, the great Tibetan
translator Loden Sherepa retranslated and proofread it. As a result, there were three
translations of the Bodhicaryavatara in Tibet, which shows that this text is from a pure
and clean origination, and the content is supreme and the writing is elegant!
[Since this commentary belongs to the category of Sutra Pitaka (the collection of
sutras), the translators should prostrate to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
following the prostrating rules the King had set.]
Generally, prior to the period of the King Tri Ralpache, when translating, Tibetan
translators only prostrated to a specific Buddha or Bodhisattva in whom they had the
most faith. In order to distinguish the Tripitaka (sutra, vinaya, and Abhidharma), the King
Tri Ralpache set a rule intentionally:
At the beginning of a Vinaya Pitaka, there should be “Homage to the omniscient
Buddha”, because the cause and effect of Vinaya is very subtle and can only be
completely fathomed by Buddha’s wisdom of omniscience and wisdom of reality. Any
Bodhisattvas, Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas cannot thoroughly comprehend it.
At the beginning of a Sutra Pitaka or any scripture belonging to it, there should be
“Homage to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,” because most of the Sutra Pitaka is in the
form of question and answer between the Buddha and bodhisattvas, such as the Sutra
Requested by Manjushri, the Sutra Requested by Maitreya, and the Sutra Requested by
At the beginning of a Arbhidharma Pitaka, there should be “Homage to the
Bodhisattva Manjushri”, because only the sharp wisdom of Manjushri can distinguish the
concept, quantity and definition of all the Arbhidharma- the aggregates (Skandha),
elements (Dhatu), bases (ayatana) and dependent origination (Pratitya-samutpada) and so
After the period of Tri Ralpache, the prostrating rules were generally adopted in
Tibet. On one hand, it showed people’s respect to the King’s rule. On the other hand, it
distinguishes the three categories of Tripitaka, which allows people to tell, which
category, sutra, vinaya or Shastra, the text belongs to. In Chinese Buddhism, translators,
such as Kumarajiva, Tang Hsuan-tsang, had translated a great number of sutras and
commentaries. There seems to be no such tradition of prostrating stanzas, so it is hard to
tell which one belongs to Arbhidharma pitaka and which one belongs to Vinaya pitaka
when you leaf through the Tripitaka.
As mentioned earlier, the King Tri Ralpache made a great contribution to Buddhism.
Besides that, he was well known for respecting ordained people. The King had very long
hair, which he tied up into a knot and adorned with colorful silk stripes. When he saw
ordained people or an assembly of monks, he always untied his hair, draped it on the
ground and invited the ordained people to walk on his hair. Since the King was so
respectful to ordained people, Buddhism flourished in Tibet at that time. Tri Ralpache
also required that each ordained person should have seven families as his patrons. (Unlike
ordained people here, who are suffering because of having no patron, let alone seven
families. However, some ordained people are so rich that they may be supported by over
seven hundred families). Above all, he made a great contribution to translating sutras.
Like the Emperors Sun-Zhi, Kang-xi and Qian-long in Han Buddhism, in the history of
Tibetan Buddhism there were also cases of kings protecting and supporting Buddhism.
The Bodhisattva Thogme used the rules set by Tri Ralpache to write the homage verse
when he composed this commentary
[Regarding the content of the commentary, Archarya Sudeva wrote,]
Archarya Sudeva is a commentator in India. As mentioned previously, there were
eight or nine translated treaties on the Bodhicaryavatara from Indian. Among them, the
most famous three were written by Sudeva, Napowa and Hu-Yuan (The Source of
Wisdom). It appears that the Ocean of Good Explanation was not as vast as the other
treaties. Actually, when the Bodhisattva Thogme wrote this book, he had referred to all
these treaties to interpret all the most fundamental questions. The commentator Sudeva
[“The entire commentary includes three virtues: the beginning, middle and the
end. According to the order, the prostrating stanza is the beginning virtue; the
middle virtue starts right after it and ends just before the chapter of dedication. The
final virtue is the dedication chapter.”]
He divided the entire commentary into three parts, the beginning virtue, the middle
virtue and the final virtue. This is also the case for the applied practice of the Finding
Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind on the Great Perfection-Three Bases and Three
Virtues. First is the behavior of the Mahayana bodhisattva, second is the aspect of
Tantrism and finally the supreme great perfection. According to the commentator
Sudeva’s point of view, the Bodhicaryavatara was explained in terms of the virtues.
[The Acharya Napowa wrote that this commentary includes three parts: the
cause of composing this text, the teaching of six paramitas and the appreciation of
kindness. In other words, the cause of composing this text starts at “Leisure and
endowment are very hard to find” and lasts through the first three chapters.]
The first chapter starts with “leisure and endowment are very hard to find”, the first
three chapters elucidates the cause of composing this text.
[The dedication chapter teaches the paramita of generosity.]
The rest of the text deals with the detailed six paramitas; the dedication chapter is
about the paramita of generosity.
[The chapters on enthusiasm and on awareness and mindfulness deal with the
paramita of discipline.]
The paramitas of patience, vigor, meditative absorption and wisdom are very clearly
introduced in the text and each chapter gives detailed elucidation. The paramitas of
generosity and discipline are not as apparent as the rest, so the noble one summarized the
contents of these two paramitas.
Please pay attention; these are all included in your exams. When you are asked to fill
in the blanks, for example, what is the view of the commentator Sudeva, or what is that of
Napowa? If you don’t know anything about “Napowa” and feel having never heard or
seen it before, you may become very upset. Avoid that! You should study step by step and
understand all of them.
[(The other contents are very obviously shown in the verses.) This commentary
is divided as follows:]
Let’s end here for today.
20: How many ways for naming sutras and commentaries are there? Please explain with
21: What is the necessity of naming sutras and commentaries?
22: Why are Bodhisattvas called “heroic beings”? How do you feel about it?
23: What is the purpose of using the Sanskrit title of a commentary?
24: Why are the Buddhist scriptures from Indian pure and reliable?
25: In order to distinguish the three sections of the Tripitaka, what are the rules the King
Tri Ralpache set? What are the reasons these rules based on?
26: What are the different ways Archarya Sudeva and Napowa summarizing the entire
Lesson 5
Let’s continue the intact and inerrant Mahayana guide - the Bodhicaryavatara - the
Ocean of Good Explanation. This text is divided into two parts: the title and the body.
Yesterday, we covered the title (including the actual title and translator’s prostration
stanza). Today we are going to talk about the body.
A2. The body is explained in three parts:
B1. Introducing the reason for composing this text
B2. Explaining the features of the bodhisattva’s way of life
B3. The perfect completion of the text
B1. Introducing the reason for composing this text is explained in two
C1. The real explanation
C2. Elucidating the necessity of the explanation
C1. The actual explanation is explained in three parts:
D1. The praising stanza
D2. The vow stanza
D3. Showing modesty
I hope everyone who participates in this study not only grasps the meaning of the
verses but also reads the outlines and commentary made by the Bodhisattva Thogme.
Some people may think, “I have already read this book before, learned these verses and
memorized the outlines.” Don’t be satisfied with this! The attitude of learning a text is
very important! If your initial attitude is not appropriate, your study may not succeed.
No matter what texts we study, we should first memorize the verses, which is the
most basic requirement according to the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. For example,
when you study the Five Great Texts, the first condition is to memorize the verses of each
text. The second condition is to understand how the outline of the text is organized and
memorize clearly the different levels of the outline. The third condition is to make
yourself able to explain the literal meaning without using notes. The fourth condition is to
discuss and study the contents or the main ideas of the verses in each chapter, not only to
be literally acquainted, but also to summarize the gist and investigate all the important
points. If you do not follow these steps, but only glide lightly on the letters, this is not
called studying a text, but merely listening to the transmission.
Last time, when we studied the Bodhicaryavatara five or six years ago, we used the
outline - “The Meaning of Bright Mirror” made by Patrul Rinpoche. That outline is
divided very well. Afterwards, when we studied The Great Treaties of the
Bodhicaryavatara, we used this outline again. This time, we are not going to use this
outline but the one made by the Bodhisattva Thogme. Hopefully, everybody understands
what should be memorized. Especially for the Dharma friends being present, most of you
memorized the verses of the Bodhicaryavatara before, so I hope you can refresh your
memory in the course of listening to the teaching. No matter whether you are monastic or
lay people, if you cannot memorize the verses, you may not be able to explain the text
We should keep in mind that the Bodhicaryavatara is relatively not as profound as
the Five Great Texts23, which are hard to memorize. The young monks in their teens in
my monastery can recite it adeptly like chanting the six-syllable mantra of
Avalokiteshvara. Some of you are relatively old; if you are in your sixties or seventies,
you are not required to memorize it. For the rest, whether you are teenagers or in you
fifties, you should have no problem remembering it. Do not sheepishly say, “Oh, I am
already in my forties or fifties. I can never make it.” Last year when we were taking
exams, many sixty-year-old senior bodhisattvas came to recite lot of texts. They
performed so impressively. The only thing missing is their teeth. (Audience laughing)
D1. The praising stanza
The Bodhisattva Shantideva first made prostration to the Three Jewels and all those
worthy of veneration prior to his composition. The verses are as follows:
(1) a
Respectfully I prostrate myself to the Sugatas
Who are endowed with the Dharmakaya,
As well as to their Noble Children
And to all who are worthy of veneration.
Literally, here “Sugatas” refers to the Buddha, “Dharmakaya” refers to the Dharma,
and “their Noble Children” indicates the Sangha. People who have learned Mahayana
texts know that real Sangha only refers to the Bodhisattvas above the first bhumi, which
is also written in the Gateway to Knowledge and the Recalling the Qualities of the Three
Jewels Sutra. Here “Dharmakaya” appears to be the Dharmakaya in the Trikayas.
However, here is another explanation: in Sanskrit, “Dharma” is the Buddhadharma;
“body” is called Kaya, which was explained as “aggregation” in the Great Treatise of the
Bodhicaryavatara by the great Master Buton. Aggregation means to combine lots of
teachings. What teachings? The teaching of scripture (Trangdon) and the teaching of
experience (Ngedon). These are the Dharma Jewel.
“All” means all of the rest. Before he started composing, the Bodhisattva
Shantideva made prostrations to all the Sugatas – the Buddhas, the teaching of scripture
(Trangdon) and the teaching of experience (Ngedon), the great Bodhisattvas, such as
Manjushri, Meitriya and the like, and Arhats, the Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, to all
the worldly stupas and qualified Dharma teachers and so on. In front of all the objects
that are worthy of veneration, I (the author) made prostrations with utter sincerity. Who
prostrated? I - the Bodhisattva Shantideva. Here the prostration was made by the author.
What is the method of prostration? People with great capability prostrate through the
view24. People with medium capability can prostrate through practice and
23 The Five Great Texts are the Vinaya, Abidharma, Madhyamaka, Hetuvidya and Ornament of Clear
24 Realize the view; realize the reality as it is.
habitualization25. People with low capability can prostrate by showing respect through the
three doors (body, speech and mind) and touching the ground by the five body parts (two
hands, two knees and a head).
Let’s take a look at the elucidation of the Bodhisattva Thogme. (The Bodhisattva
Thogme explained very comprehensively at the beginning. We will see a very long
explanation for several days without sight of the text verses. Some commentators in the
Sakya School also have this style; they start to explain in depth, and gradually elucidate
less and less.)
[With regard to “Sugata”]
First is the Buddha Jewel. We introduced the explanation in the Commentary on the
Compendium of Valid Cognition (Pramanavarttika) when we studied the
Bodhicaryavatara previously. You can also use The Great Treatise on the
Bodhicaryavatara as a reference. Generally it is agreed in Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism
that the Buddha has ten titles: the Thus-Coming One (Tathagata), Worthy of Offering
(Arhat), Truly Omniscient (Samyak-Sambhudha), Perfect in Illumination and Conduct
(Vidya-carana-sampanna), Well departed (Sugata), Understanding the World (Lokavit),
Supreme Tamer (Anuttara Purusa-damya-sarathi), Teacher of Gods and Men (Sasta devamanusyanam), the Enlightened One (Buddha), the World Honored One (Bhagavan).
Sugata is one of them.
[The commentator Samantavidya remarks]
The commentator Samantavidya was one of the eight great commentators in India.
Here he remarks that,
[Since the Buddha left graciously and virtuously, it is called Well Departed
“Su-” means well; “gata” means gone; “sugata” means gone well. Some people
think that “gone” means died or entered paranirvana. Here it does not mean this, but
means reaching the other side of enlightenment from this side of samsara by a very good
way. Therefore, “su-” means very good, wonderful or very successful; “gata” means
gone. Gone where? Go to the side of nirvana, from our side to the other side (These were
mentioned when we studied the Heart Sutra.) So “sugata” means left well. Of course,
“gone” is not necessarily by walking, because “su-” can be used in several ways:
[For example, the form of the body appears wonderful]
So very good body form can be described by “su-”.
25 Visualize one’s body as immeasurable bodies prostrating in front of immeasurable Buddhas.
[To completely dispel the plague]
All the diseases are dispelled; bird flu disappeared completely. Here “Su-” is used to
describe the complete eradication.
[To perfectly fill the wonderful vase]
The wonderful vase is full of nectar and milk. Here “su-” is used to indicate the
condition of full. So although “su-” is an adjective, it can be used in various
circumstances. Therefore, the Thus-Coming One can also be called the “su-” departed.
Why is the Sugata called well departed?
[Having left sublimely after completely eliminating all the mental afflictions and
other obscurations]
Both inborn and pervasive mental afflictive obscurations from the first to seventh
bhumis are eliminated, so it is called “sublimely” left.
[Having left without retrogression after eliminating the ignorance of not
knowing the reality]
The hindrance of the known in the bhumis from the eighth to tenth26 - the ignorance
of not knowing the reality is completely eliminated, so it is called well departed “without
[Having ultimately well departed after purifying all the predisposition]
Through Vajrasamadhi, one eliminates all subtlest predisposition, the hindrances of
mental affliction and the hindrance of the known, and obtains Buddhahood. So it is called
“ultimately” well departed.
[This is the explanation from the aspect of the quality of elimination.]
The commentator Samantavidya explained the situations of eliminating hindrances
from the first to the tenth bhumis till Buddhahood in terms of the quality of elimination.
It was said in the Ornament of Clear Realization that, the goal of a Mahayana
Buddhist is “the three greatnesses”. One is the greatness of elimination; one is the
greatness of realization and one is the greatness of mind. “The greatness of elimination”
refers to the perfection of elimination; all hindrances are eliminated completely. “The
greatness of realization”27 refers to the perfection of realization, completely realizing the
wisdom of omniscience and the wisdom of suchness. “The greatness of mind” is the
perfection of the mind of compassion. Therefore, the aim for a bodhisattva who wishes to
26 The bhumis from eighth to tenth are also called “the three pure bhumins”.
27 The greatness of realization is also called the greatness of wisdom
liberate sentient beings is to manifest the three greatnesses. Here, Sugata was elucidated
in the aspect of “elimination”.
[The venerable Sudeva mentioned that it is called Sugata because of having
realized everything needs to be realized.]
The venerable Sudeva described from the “realization” point of view, “Since the
Buddha has realized the truth of everything, he is called Sugata.”
[In summary, it is because of the virtuous and skillful perfection of the merits of
elimination and realization, or having reached the unsurpassable happiness, the title
Sugata is used.]
If we explain it in great details, the titles of the Thus-Coming One have very
profound meaning. Why is the title Sugata used? In short, it is because all the merits are
perfected and all the defilements are eliminated; from this aspect, “Sugata” is used.
Patrul Rinpoche explained, “Through the safe and happy path of enlightenment, he
achieved the happy result of great enlightenment of Buddhahood. Therefore, the title
“Sugata” is used.” The path of enlightenment is very pleasant and safe, but many people
do not follow the Buddha. However, if you really start to study the Dharma, it will
definitely benefit your life and no matter it is your mental health or daily actions – living,
walking, sitting and sleeping, whatever you do will be very substantial and significant.
Although it appears that the path of practice needs hardship, and the accumulation of
merit and wisdom takes extremely long time to collect, this kind of hardship is not as
painful as worldly sufferings. Since the power of our mind is very strong, from the real
practitioner’s point of view, it is actually a kind of happiness to experience some hardship
in the course of seeking for the Dharma. Therefore, Patrul Rinpoche interpreted it as “to
gain safe and happy results through a safe and happy path.”
Once the commentator Indrabhadra had said, “Having eliminated all sufferings and
obtained all merits, he is called Sugata.”
[The Bodhisattva Bhumi Sutra said, “Having left for a supreme level, without
retrogression, he is called Sugata.” This is the Buddha Jewel.]
Essentially, whether it is the Bodhisattva Shantideva or us, taking refuge or making
prostrations to the Buddha is very necessary. After all, we are Buddhists, so we should
recall the Buddha in our heart from moment to moment. If you have sharp faculties or
correct awareness and mindfulness, you should be able to keep the Buddha in your mind
from moment to moment and from thought to thought. Whether you are working in the
day time or sleeping at night, this is the most basic and bottom line for a Buddhist. If we
have not appreciated the kindness of the Buddha for more than a couple days, we are not
counted as genuine Buddhists. We chant The Ritual of Shakyamuni Buddha every day
before class starts. On one hand, many people have promised to do so in front of our
Guru; without doing it, they break the vow. On the other hand, as Buddhists, we should at
least chant these verses every day if we cannot follow the visualization. Thereby, we must
chant together The Ritual of Shakyamuni Buddha before the class. Meanwhile, I hope
people, who haven’t studied The Great Biography of Shakyamuni Buddha, read it during
the period of the study of the Bodhicaryavatara. (I have mentioned this a couple days
ago, but since it is very important I will emphasize it again and again; hopefully, you will
not ignore it. This is good for your own benefit, not for mine.) To read this book, you will
understand what kind of attitude our Guru Shakyamuni Buddha had when he was at his
causal stage to benefit sentient beings. This is totally different from the imagination of
some of the Buddhists in these days. You should have deep experience. This is one issue.
The second issue is that I hope no matter which school or tradition or organization
you belong to, as a Buddhist, you should do your best to chant The Ritual of Shakyamuni
Buddha. Admittedly, different schools have different rituals. However, after I have spent
five months translating The Great Biography of Shakyamuni Buddha - the White Lotus
Commentary, which is more than five hundred pages, I had so strong experience in my
heart that I gained unprecedented faith in Shakyamuni Buddha, so I hope everybody
chant Mipham Rinpoche’s The Ritual of Shakyamuni Buddha once every day. No matter
if you can concentrate on it or not, the merit of chanting it is incredibly great!
Here, the commentator Shantideva prostrated respectfully in front of the Buddha.
Obviously, people with wisdom not only prostrate in front of the real Buddha, but also, as
said in the Letter to a Friend, prostrate respectfully in front of the wooden Buddha. This
is the choice and action made by people with wisdom. The above mentioned is making
prostration to the Buddha.
Next is prostration to the Dharma. How is the Dharma explained?
[Regard of the term “Dharmakaya”, as said in the Jewel Nature, “We should
know that there are two kinds of Dharmakaya - the extremely pure nature of the
Dharma realm and the same tendency derived from it - which explain various
profound teachings.]
As said in the Jewel Nature, there are two categories of Dharmakaya. One is the pure
nature of the Dharma realm, in other words, the objects of the self-realizing wisdom of
the Buddha - the nature of all phenomena, which is called the inherently pure
Dharmakaya (The teaching of experience). The other is “the same tendency derived from
it”, i.e. to teach the sutra and tantra Tripitaka and twelve sutras based on the realization of
the nature as the causally concordant causes. This is called the Dharmakaya of the
scriptural teaching. As a result, the meaning of Dharmakaya is twofold: one is the
Dharmakaya of experience, and the other is the Dharmakaya of the scriptural teaching.
What is “the Dharmakaya of experience”? That is the level of Buddhahood we can
achieve in our consciousness stream. From the worldly aspect, when we get up at six
o’clock every morning to practice, if bodhichitta or the mind of compassion or faith in the
Three Jewels arises in our mind, it is called the Dharmakaya of experience. What is its
most basic causally concordant cause? That is the Dharma taught by a qualified teacher,
or the scriptures passed on by the Buddha or eminent monks and great masters. All of
them belong to the Dharmakaya of scriptural teaching.
Here “Dharmakaya” seems to be the Dharmakaya among the three kayas of the
Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. If this is true, we first prostrate to
Sugata - the Thus-Coming One, and then we go to prostrate to his Dharmakaya, so the
Dharma Jewel is not mentioned in the verses. This is not so! According to the Mahayana
Jewel Nature, the genuine Dharma Jewel refers to the Truth of cessation of the suffering
and the Truth of its path. In other words, uprooting all afflictions and manifesting our
inherent pure nature are called “the Truth of cessation of suffering”. What is the method
used to eliminate the suffering? Through the thirty-seven paths of the five paths and ten
stages, or by skillful means to lead it to cease, this is called “the Truth of the Path”. As a
result, the Dharma Jewel is also called the Truth of cessation of suffering and the Truth of
the Path of cessation of suffering. We had dealt with the issue of the Three Jewels when
we were studying the Abhidarmakosa, and also learned that Hinayana has Hinayana’s
Three Jewels and Mahayana has Mahayana’s Three Jewels; their objects are different.
[According to this text, the Dharmakaya of experience is not different from the
Dharma realm and the undefiled wisdom possessing two kinds of purity.]
The Dharmakaya of experience is actually the nature of the Dharma realm realized
by the self-realization of the Thus-Coming Ones. So it is called the Inherent Kaya.
[The Dharmakaya of the scriptural teaching refers to all kinds of profound
Dharma texts and teachings of the two Truths, namely the Dharma Jewel.]
The Dharmakaya of scriptural teaching refers to all the commentaries and sutras
belonging to both conventional and ultimate Truths. For example, the wisdom of
emptiness in the aspect of ultimate truth, the cause and effect and dependent origination
in the aspect of conventional truth, such as the Sutra of One Hundred Karma Story, the
Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish and so forth. They are all included in the Dharmakaya
of scriptural teaching. Therefore, what is our object of prostration? It is the realization in
the continuum of sentient beings (i.e. the Dharmakaya of experience). We should
prostrate to whoever has bodhichitta, renouncing world mind, or the realization of
emptiness in his consciousness stream, because he is the real bodhisattva, the real Arhat.
In addition, the words, languages and texts of the teaching are the Dharmakaya of
scriptural teaching, so to them we should also prostrate.
Therefore, what does the worldly Buddha Jewel refer to? Historically, it is the
Shakyamuni Buddha who has the perfection of both elimination and realization. What
does it refer to at present? It refers to the statues of the Buddhas in all monasteries. As
Buddhists, no matter if we are in the places of Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism or
Theravada Buddhism, we should prostrate respectfully to any status of the Buddhas or
Bodhisattvas in ten directions and especially Shakyamuni Buddha. This is a basic action
of a Buddhist.
With regard to the Dharma Jewel, as mentioned earlier, it includes all the words and
languages explaining the two Truths. When some people see the Diamond Sutra they
think, “Yes, this is to what I should prostrate with respect and veneration”; while when
they see the texts belonging to Theravada Buddhism, they think, “Oh, forget it! This is
not what I am learning; I should not prostrate.” When they see the texts belonging to
Tibetan Buddhism, they also do not show their respect. This kind of discriminating
thoughts is very bad! As long as it is the undefiled teachings imparted from the Buddha,
we should not have bias on them, no matter whether it is Tibetan Buddhism or Theravada
Buddhism. Many people have very narrow minds, which is bound to harm their practice.
Since the great accomplished masters as marvelous as the Bodhisattva Shantideva have
manifested to prostrate to all the scriptural teachings and the teaching of experience in
front of sentient beings, and we are clear what our own achievement is, why don’t we
prostrate to the Dharma Jewel?
After studying these teachings, we should have this kind of resolve: no matter what
kind of Buddha statue I see in the future, I will absolutely prostrate. If we do this,
whatever monasteries we go, it will help us a lot. I heard a layperson says, “I belong to
Chinese Buddhism, so I always prostrate in our monastery. When I went to Potala, I only
treated it as a tour, so I didn’t prostrate even in front of the statue of Jowo Buddha.” He
must feel he is very great, but I don’t think so. Due to his strong conceptual mind and
ignorance, he didn’t even make prostration in front of the Jowo Buddha and all the other
blissful Buddha statues in Lasha. He feels so self-confident that he thinks his little
knowledge of Chinese Buddhism is enough. This is not necessarily true!
Some practitioners are very self-confident, but this is not necessarily right. On the
contrary, this kind of arrogance is very bad. A couple days ago, someone called me and
told me that she has already studied the Dharma for more than ten years, so she does not
need to learn the exoteric text28. I thought she must be very extraordinary and respect her
very much. However, she called me again the next day. I first did not want to answer it
after I saw it’s her number, but it kept ringing and seemed not possible to cease, so I had
to answer it in the end. After I picked up the phone, I didn’t hear any words, but only loud
crying, so I had to say, “What happened? Please say something.” After a long time, she
said slowly, “I feel so hurt today, but even though I am suffering a lot, I do not hate my
husband at all.” I asked her again what on earth had happened. After a long time crying,
she finally said this,
I told my husband “I have studied the Dharma for more than ten years,
so if you have anything I don’t know, you can tell me; my level is now not
low, you don’t need to worry at all!’ Then her husband said, “Initially I did
not want to let you know, but since you ask in this way, I hope you will not
be unhappy after I tell you. And you have already promised. …hum, I have
another woman!” After she heard this, she said to him, “I am not angry at
all. I understand you, but when we were in bad situations and poor in the
past we are so.., now, what can I do? I want to renounce the householder’s
Although she said she was not angry at all, from her voice and words, I can tell she
was rage.
Then when she said she wants to become a nun, I told her, “You’d better calm down
and not renounce right now. The so-called renunciation is not like this. Nobody else but
28 Here refers to the Bodhicaryavatara.
you said you have very high level yesterday and you do not need further study, but from
your talk just now, I think you maybe still need to study.”
Actually, many Buddhists like her sometimes think that they do not need to study any
more, and they seem to know everything. However, if you only study some teachings in
one school, it is hard to tell if you have mastered this teaching very well. If not, you
should study further; not only study, but also practice. Otherwise, it is very difficult to
dispel the mental afflictions in our continuum merely through a few Dharma principles.
Guru Buddha Shakyamuni has said in the King of Concentration Sutra:
I have taught you the method for liberation, but you must practice it on your
own. Otherwise, the Dharma will not be able to heal the afflictions in your
continuum; just like only obtaining lots of medicine, but not taking it, the
medicine cannot make any difference to the patience.
Most of you in this room have some understanding of the Dharma, but if you do not
practice, the Dharma is Dharma and your continuum is still your continuum. Just as is
said in Opening the Door to Mind Training, the gap between the practitioner and the
Dharma is big enough for a horse to run through. If this is the case, our continuum will go
in the opposite direction of the genuine Dharma, and cannot be infused with the Dharma.
Therefore, whatever Dharma you hear, always try to infuse and familiarize it in your
continuum; this is called meditation or practice. According to the teachings in Kadampa,
meditation can be divided into two categories: one is analytic meditation (Vipassana); the
other is calm abiding meditation (samatha). “Calm abiding meditation” means to abandon
noisy and distractive places and go to the solitude and sit down in the seven-featured
sitting posture of Vairochana to examine the mind. “Analytic meditation” refers to every
day thinking over and over about the Dharma teachings we have heard, and trying our
best to prolong the continuum of the contemplation. This process is also called
meditation. Some people think that if one meditates, then he is not supposed to listen or
contemplate in the same period of time. In fact, listening, reflecting and meditating can
reciprocally benefit each other.
Therefore, it looks extremely easy to prostrate to the Buddha and to say “I take
refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, and I take refuge in the Sangha.”
However, if you have no determined view, just chanting with your lips, once an affliction
comes out, you still may not be able to solve it. Quite a few Buddhists like to boast
themselves, but it is only when they come across the situation like this one, that they
finally start to regret.
As is said in the sutra:
“Can it be possible to dispel your thirst,
By merely watching and hearing the water?
In the same way, without meditation,
You cannot see the nature of phenomena. ”
This means that if we do not practice the Dharma, we can not see the original nature of
all existence; it is just like only watching and hearing but not drinking water cannot
dispel our thirst. For example, if I merely sit by a river listening to the water passing by
and looking at it, the water is still water, and my continuum is still my continuum. In the
same way, the Dharma can be spoken by us, and other people are also able to hear it
clearly. However, if we never contemplate it, but only talk about bodhichitta again and
again every day, without thinking “all sentient beings have been my parents” or “I will
benefit and save all sentient beings”, can all these spoken-bodhichitta make any
difference when we are dying or in our future lives? The root of virtue is absolutely
planted, but the merit of habituation is not accumulated in our continuum.
To teach the Bodhicaryavatara this time, I really hope that you can infuse the
Dharma into your mind. Of course, I myself have no merit, so it is a very ridiculous for
me to teach others. However, I really think that you’d better not only dwell on the words,
but apply what you learned to your daily practice. Only in this way, can our continuum be
benefited to some degree.
[Since the Sugata Thus-coming One is endowed with these Dharma Jewels, so
“endowed” is used.]
The Tibetan version has “endowed” in the verses; it is “the Sugatas who are endowed
with the Dharmakaya and their Noble children and all the rest” but it does not appear in
the Chinese translation.
Next is the Sangha. Mahayana Sangha means the Bodhisattvas above the first bhumi.
Most people think, the Buddha is the Buddha’s statues; the Dharma is the Dharma Jewel,
such as the Diamond Sutra and so forth; the Sangha refers to the old and young monks in
the monasteries plus some naughty novice monks (Sramaneras ) (Audience laughing).
This explanation is not wrong, and we admitted it when we studied The Mind in Ease and
Comfort of the Great Perfection. However, this explanation is relatively unilateral. As
mentioned earlier, the real Buddha is Sugata, the ultimate meaning of Buddha is the
essence of enlightenment (tathagatagarbha) that is inherently present within the minds of
all sentient beings.
The Dharma is the scriptural teaching and the teaching of experience; the Sangha is
the Mahayana Bodhisattvas. As far as the concept and merit of the Three Jewels are
concerned, they were introduced in the Gateway to the Knowledge. Great details of this
were also explained in the Mind in Ease and Comfort, Constant Recalling the Three
Jewels Sutra and the Jewel Nature. Hopefully, you will study on them attentively.
[Regard of “Children of the Buddha”, the Jewel Nature said,
“The faith seed of the supreme vehicle,
The wisdom mother of the Buddha and the Dharma,
The womb of the happiness of Samadhi and the wet nurse of compassion,
They are the causes for becoming a Bodhisattva following the Buddha.]
What are the children of the Buddha? They are the Mahayana Bodhisattvas.
According to the reference used in the Jewel Nature by Maitreya, its source has four
basic causes, which are elucidated by metaphors and comparisons.
Just as the birth, development and growth of the son of wheel-turning king need the
seed from the father, the mother who gives his birth, womb, and the wet nurse who takes
care of him, the birth and growth of a Mahayana Bodhisattva also needs four causes:
The first is faith in Mahayana Buddhism, which is like the seed, because without any
faith in the Mahayana Buddhism, it is like the seeds have already been destroyed by
fire and it is not possible to sprout any merit.
The second is the mother of the Buddha and Dharma – enlightenment of the wisdom
of emptiness, just as the son of the wheel-turning king is given to birth by his mother,
the Bodhisattva need to be born through the enlightenment of emptiness.
The third is the happiness of Samadhi. It means the ultimate happiness of abiding in
Samadhi without being distracted by anything. This is like the womb containing the
son of wheel-turning king29.
The fourth is the great compassion toward sentient beings. It means after becoming a
Bodhisattva, one still continuously benefits sentient beings, which is as after the birth
of the son of the wheel-turning king, he still needs the wet nurse to feed him.
It is also said in the Introduction to the Middle Way that the great compassion is
especially essential at the beginning; it is extremely important in the middle and it is
particularly indispensable at the end. For this reason, the merit of great compassion has
been praised in the initial, middle and final phases. Only when these four causes are met,
can one become a Mahayana bodhisattva.
[Since having been born in the clan of the Thus-coming one, or being able to
become the heritor of the Thus-coming one]
As said in the Bodhicaryavatara, “born in the tribe of the Thus-coming one” which
means that, after reaching the first stage of Bodhisattva, the ultimate bodhichitta is
aroused in the continuum. Only at this time can one be called the genuine son of the
Buddha, and possess the characteristics of the son of Buddha both nominally and
significantly. Of course, we can be called “the son of the Buddha” or “bodhisattva” when
we start to generate bodhichitta on the path of accumulation. However, from the aspect of
the ultimate level, this is just a similar title; only when we reach the bodhisattva level, can
we be the real children of the Buddha.
[Therefore, the Children of the Buddha - all noble Bodhisattvas are the Sangha
29 The son of wheel-turning king is born from a womb.
Therefore, the object to whom the Bodhisattva Shantideva prostrated should be the
noble ones who have actualized partial selflessness of beings and selflessness of
phenomena, and dispelled the hindrance of mental affliction and the hindrance of the
knowledge, such as the bodhisattvas, who have reached at least the first stage, like
Manjushri, Maitreya and Nagarjuna and so forth.
As a result, when we prostrate, the usual object of prostration is not only the Jewel of
Buddha and the Jewel of the Dharma, but also the Mahayana bodhisattvas like
Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Kshitigarbha and so forth. In addition, there are quite a few
bodhisattvas, who have already realized bodhichitta, among the people around us. As said
in the biographies and Mahayana sutras that Manjushri manifests as various forms of
beings to benefit and save sentient beings that we just cannot realize it. Therefore, there
are numerous bodhisattvas around us, who are also worthy of our prostration.
[In front of the three refuge objects including the Sangha and whoever has
supreme merit even though not a refuge object of Mahayana, such as Shravaka,
Pratyekabuddhas, Apadhyana, and Arkya and so forth, the author has prostrated in
front of all these objects which are worthy of it.]
“All the objects worthy of prostration” is explained in other texts, that we should
make prostration to all Shravakas, Pratyekabuddhas, the Arkyas who impart the precepts,
the Apadhyna and the stupas and Buddha images of the Mahayana and Hinayana
Buddhism, including the Sharira-stupa, the body of one’s guru, and the places where your
guru has turned the Wheel of Dharma before his passing away, the place of his birth and
the holy sites where he manifested in his career of propagating the Dharma and benefiting
sentient beings.
When our Guru Rinpoche taught the Bodhicaryavatara, he said, “We should not only
prostrate to the Three Jewels; there are so many objects that we can pay homage to,
especially our guru who helps us to cultivate bodhichitta and obtain supreme realization.
If the guru is not in this world any more, we should prostrate to his residence and other
places he has stayed or blessed. (When I was on my way to Chengdu, we passed the
hotels in Miyaluo, Wenchuan and so forth where our Guru Rinpoche has stayed in. I
really wanted to prostrate. However, I did not physically do it, because there are too
many people moving around, if I got out of the car to prostrate, I may be thought to have
some mental problems, but I really want to prostrate from the depth of my heart! The
other day, we were in Kunming, and we passed the hotel in Mountain Jizhu, where our
Guru Rinpoche had stayed. When I passed the front door, I really wanted to prostrate
there. Although our Guru is not in this world any more, the hotels he had blessed are
totally different from all the other buildings. This is the real feeling in my heart!
Our Guru also said, “There was a marvelous master in Tibetan Buddhism - Dzogchen
Rinpoche, whose guru is Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. During the period of relying on his
guru, Dzochen Pinpoche prostrated not only to his guru, his residence, but also his dog,
his yak…” It seems that he had some problems because he prostrated to human, and also
to dogs and yaks. However, as a matter of fact, if one has achieved the realization or
enlightenment in his continuum, he is willing to repay his guru’s kindness. If the guru
manifested impermanence30, he has no other choices, so he will prostrate to his residence,
his house, or even his livestock and so forth.
Recently, a Khenpo took his servants to build a room facing our Dharma Lord’s
house, and they prostrate there every day. One day I asked his servant, “What are you
doing there every day?” He said, “Khenpo asked us to come here, and prostrate to Guru’s
house.” From this we can see, for the Gurus, from whom we have received the kindness
of the Dharma, and from whom we have obtained benefits, when we see their residence
and the holy sites where they gave Dharma teachings and benefited sentient beings, a
strong respectful mind will arise naturally in our heart. An oversea Guru has said, “I
prostrate to my parents every night.” I agree with him. Although he is an ordained person,
he prostrates not only to the Guru but also to his parents because his parents have done
him the favor of having raised him up, so they are in his gratitude field. In order to
destroy the arrogance in our continuum we should always prostrate in front of these
My request is simple. I only hope that you prostrate three times in front of the
Buddha’s statues or Dharma books respectfully every morning after you get up and every
night before you go to bed, which should only take you one or two minutes, but the merit
of prostrating in front of these respectable objects is incredibly enormous. The Buddha
has said in the sutra, “After I enter paranirvana, making offerings and prostrating in front
of the four holy sites31, has no difference from prostrating in front of me.” Therefore, if
we get the chance we should make prostration to the four holy sites, including the place
where our Guru gave teaching, and the places where he was born and he entered
paranirvana, which are worthy of our prostration.
It is hard to say what kind of situation our school will have after twenty years.
However, no matter what happens, even if nothing is left, only some dilapidated walls, or
just an empty area devoid of anybody or anything, we should still pay homage to our
school. This is the place where our wisdom body was raised up, the source of our wisdom
body. My physical body was given by my parents, but my wisdom body was obtained
through the blessings and kindness of all the Gurus. Without the vast Dharma carried
forward by these teachers, most of us may still be bigoted until now. We are not some
great accomplished practitioners with great enlightenment and realization, but we have
already cultivated some right views and faith in Buddhism. It is very rare among so many
people, so many sentient beings!
As is said in the sutra,
“It is hard to hear the Dharma,
And it is hard to obtain the precious human body,
While it is much harder to renounce Samsara with strong faith.”
It is so difficult for us to obtain the human body; even if we get human body, it is
much harder to have the condition to meet the Dharma especially to renounce the world
30 It means entering paranirvana.
31 The four holy sites: The place where the Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma, the places where the
Buddha was born, where he obtained enlightenment and where he entered paranirvana.
genuinely through the pure faith in the Dharma. Therefore, when we meet any of our
Gurus, whether the guru in front of whom we took refuge or the guru from whom we
obtained the Dharma, we should always have a mind of reverence; this is very important!
[Regarding the necessity of this kind of courteousness and praising, it said the
Sutra of Praising the Buddha’s Merit, “Even making slight offerings in front of our
Guru Sugata, one can obtain the happiness of the god realm and the holy fruit of
When we make very small offerings to the Buddha, such as offering a butter lamp, a
stick of incense, it appears negligible. However, its merit is subtly enormous.
Temporarily, we can obtain the peace and happiness of the human and god realms, and
eventually, we will obtain the unsurpassable holy fruit.
[The aim of courteousness and praising is to achieve the temporary and ultimate
peace and happiness.]
27: Explain the term: Sugatas
28: In order to grasp its real meaning, how should one study a commentary according to
the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism?
29: Does “Dharmakaya” in “…the Sugatas, who are endowed with the Dharmakaya,
as well as to their Noble Children and to all who are worthy of veneration…” mean
one of the three kayas of the Buddha? Please explain Dharmakaya here in detail.
30: How many meditation methods are there according to the instructions of Kadampa?
What are they?
31: In accordance of The Jewel Nature, what are the four causes for the birth of the
Buddha’s children? Please explain it through the analogy of the son of wheel-turning
32: It is reasonable to prostrate to a guru, but is it inappropriate to prostrate to the house,
dog and yak of a guru? What do you think about it?
33: What are the four holy sites? What is the merit of prostrating these sites?
Lesson 6
According to the outline, the Bodhicaryavatara is divided into two parts - the title
and the body. The title was explained already. Here the body can be explained in three
A2. The body is explained in three parts:
B1. Introducing the reason for composing this text
B2. Explaining the features of the bodhisattva’s way of life
B3. The perfect completion of the text
B1. Introducing the reason for composing this text is explained in two parts:
C1. The actual explanation
C2. Elucidating the necessity of the explanation
C1. The actual explanation is explained in three parts:
D1. The praising stanza
D2. The vow stanza
D3. Showing modesty
We covered the praising stanza yesterday. Now we are going to study the vow stanza.
What is the vow stanza? It is the vow taken by the author at the beginning of
composing this text for avoiding any obstacles during the period of composition, starting
well and finishing well, and a perfect completion. In general, no matter in India or in
Tibet the historic eminent monks and great masters made this vow stanza according to
their traditions. There are two purposes of doing this. One is for the wise to avoid giving
up in the middle of composition; the other is to prevent appearance of obstacles through
their great resolve. These are the twofold necessity.
D2. The vow stanza
Here I shall explain how to engage in the vows of the Buddha’s Children,
The meaning of which I have condensed in accordance with the scriptures.
The commentator Shantideva had prostrated to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the
children of the Buddha-Bodhisattvas and all the objects worthy of veneration. What
would he do after paying homage? He started to teach by referring to the sutras made by
all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, primarily Buddha Shakyamuni, and the commentaries
made by Indian eminent monks and masters, such as Nagarjuna and so on.
What did he teach? He taught numerous sentient beings how to enter the way of
bodhisattva’s behavior. “The behavior of Bodhisattva” refers to avoiding non-virtuous
behavior, adopting virtuous behavior and benefiting sentient beings. These are the three
objects the Mahayana bodhisattvas should study, which include all the precepts of the
Mahayana Buddhism.
How did he teach? He taught it according to the sutras by Shakyamuni Buddha and
commentaries by eminent monks and masters.
It was said in the commentary,
[“What was taught? The methods of entering the way of Bodhisattva’s
What does the Bodhicaryavatara teach? It teaches the method of entering the way of
bodhisattva’s behavior. Many people want to study Mahayana Buddhism, but they do not
know where they should start. It is so hard for modern people in this Dharma
degenerating age to read a great number of sutras in the Tripitaka, because our energy is
limited, our time is limited and our wisdom is limited also. Are there any excellent texts
from other eminent monks and masters? You can say, “Very few”. So, to facilitate the
followers, the Bodhisattva Shantideva gathered and summarized all the teachings in the
Mahayana sutras and commentaries; then he composed this Bodhicaryavatara.
People with sharp faculties can understand what is in this commentary once they see
its title. People with medium faculties can acquire the main idea of the entire book once
they see the vow stanza. People with dull faculties only can understand its meaning after
completely studying it. So, if we are people with medium faculties, we should know from
the vow stanza what the main idea of this text is, when one enters the path of Mahayana,
how to study, how to behave, and what kind of fruition one can obtain eventually. The
issues dealing with the ground, path and fruition are completely and clearly elucidated.
[Here “Bodhisattva’s behavior” refers to avoiding non-virtuous behavior,
adopting virtuous behavior, and benefiting sentient beings.]
These three precepts include all the Mahayana training subjects.
“Avoiding non-virtuous behavior” means that bodhisattvas should never commit
malicious actions through their body, speech and mind.
“The precept of adopting virtuous behavior” means that how bodhisattvas
accumulate merits and virtues through their body, speech and mind.
“The precept of benefiting sentient beings” means how people who have aspired to
generate Bodhichitta can truly benefit sentient beings.
In summary, avoiding non-virtuous actions, only committing virtuous actions, and
how to commit virtuous actions? Benefiting sentient beings! That’s all this text is dealing
Of course, it is much easier to say than to do. If one can really avoid any bad karma,
perform only virtuous actions, and help sentient beings, he is a real marvelous
practitioner. On the contrary, if one does not have these three precepts, only claiming “I
am a Mahayana practitioner”, he does not actually have the character of Mahayana.
Please remember this!
[The methods of how to keep and practice these precepts are taught via these
ten chapters.]
From the first to the tenth chapters, this text has presented through quoting quiet a
few analogies and scriptural authorities.
[How was this text composed? By referring to the scriptures.]
It was neither composed by Bodhisattva Shantideva’s personal imagination, nor
made up from the words and sentences he picked up, but composed by him with
references from the scriptures.
[In other words, it was composed with the contents taught in sutras and
In this case, some people may think that the Bodhisattva Shantideva is such a
marvelous accomplished practitioner, who is named one of “the two rare”32 in India. Why
does he still need to refer to sutras and scriptures? This teaches us -the followers- that we
should never compose a commentary, give Dharma teachings or write books or debate
without using the Buddha’s teachings. Otherwise, if we write just through our own
imagination or raving, it will not be able to bring great benefit to sentient beings. If even
the Bodhisattva Shantideva and Candrakriti33 need refer to the noble teachings of the
Buddha and the commentaries by the Bodhisattva Nagarjuna to give teachings, there is no
reason to think we ordinary people don’t have a similar need.
There are plenty Dharma books throughout our society. Did they use the genuine
teachings of the Buddha as scriptural authority? Very few! So, when we are studying
commentaries, or composing texts, we must have some reference - Buddhist reference.
We are Buddhists after all. It wouldn’t fit to write a Buddhist book by quoting a lot of
teachings by Confucius, Christianity, or non-religions. Of course, it is not wrong for you
to quote some worldly classic stories or old sayings sometimes, but it is not reasonable
for you to prove your ultimate view, such as the view of middle way, based on the views
from other religions or worldly books. You should pay attention to this!
[Some people may think, “If everything in this book is covered in the sutras and
commentaries, what is the necessity of composing this book?”]
Some people think that since the Bodhicaryavatara was composed based on the
sutras and commentaries, why don’t we directly study the sutras by Sharkyamuni Buddha
and the commentaries by the Bodhisattva Nagarjuna and so forth? Why did he take
trouble to do something that is unnecessary? Is this necessary?
What is the answer?
[In fact, this commentary has ordered the incoherent contents in the sutras and
commentaries, and gathered the scattered contents together, and summarized a
32 There were the six great ornaments, the two great supreme and the two great rare in India. “The two
great rare” refers to the Commentator Ashvagosha and Shantideva. Nobody else was comparable to
them when Buddhism was very prosperous in India.
33 When the commentary Candrakirti composed Entering the Middle Way, he said modestly that this text
was composed relying on the sutras, reasoning and the Bodhisattva Nagarjuna’s commentaries.
number of texts to elucidate the topic.]
It is very necessary to compose the commentary, because different sutras were taught
to sentient beings with different predispositions. Some related principles may not appear
at the same place, the gist of one chapter may be different from another because they are
based on sentient beings at different levels. Consequently, the content in a sutra is not
necessarily in a regular order.
It is because of this disorder, commentaries can be divided into four categories. The
first is called “ordered commentary”, i.e. to elucidate the teachings by putting the gist
which is not in a distinguishable order in sutras into the order for the path, such as Mind
in Ease and Comfort of the Great Perfection - the Great Vehicle. The second is “decoding
commentary” i.e. based on these commentaries the secret meaning of some sutras can be
revealed including the notes used in the texts. The third is called “practice commentary”
referring to the commentaries guiding practical practice. The last is called “collective
commentary” which means to gather all Dharma gist into one commentary; for example,
Shantideva’s Compendium of All Practice is made through collecting and summarizing
more than one hundred scriptural authorities.
Among the four kinds of commentaries, to which does the Bodhicaryavatara belong
to? It is a “collective commentary,” an “ordered commentary”34, a “decoding
commentary” (For instance, The Commentary on Elucidating the Profound Secret
Meaning Sutra and the Six Commentaries on the Middle Way are the texts that explain
what the Buddha taught in The Sutra of Perfection of Wisdom.) and a “practice
commentary”(such as the Friendly Letter). So, is it necessary to compile this text? It is
very necessary. Why? Because the Buddhas have taught so vast in sutras, and we sentient
beings in the Dharma degenerating kalpa have very limited lifespan and wisdom. It is
impossible for us to read all the sutras in such a short life. Ancient people have very little
distractions, but very few of them were able to leaf through all the sutras, so there is no
need to mention we modern people who have abundant trivial things and complicated and
messy thoughts. Therefore, it is not likely that we have the chance to listen and
contemplate all the Mahayana Buddhist sutras and scriptures.
In order to facilitate the followers to understand the teachings of Mahayana
Buddhism through only one commentary, the Bodhisattva Shantideva had collected all
the Mahayana sutras and commentaries together and composed the Bodhicaryavatara.
[As we can see, the above-mentioned fault does not exist.]
Some people think if the contents can be found in sutras or commentaries, it is not
necessary at all to compose the Bodhicaryavatara. In fact, this fault does not exist.
Composing this text not only has no faults, but also is extremely necessary!
Why do all the monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism study the Bodhicaryavatara? It
is because this text has already summarized Mahayana Buddhism. Basically, all the
principles of the Mahayana Dharmas can be completely understood through studying and
34 Ordered commentary: it organizes the disordered gist in sutras to explain them in order, such as the
Samyuktagama Sutra and the Vinaya Sutra.
investigating this work.
[To explain the necessity of the vow stanza in this way, all the righteous people
will not break their vows. Therefore, taking vow is to make the process of composing
the text to start well and finish well.]
Why to make the vow stanza? Because in general anyone who has extraordinary
wisdom will not easily give up anything they promised. A person with wisdom promises
neither lightly, nor frequently. However, as long as he promises to do it, he will never
change his mind. When we studied The Words on the Mundane and Transmundane Rules,
we learned the very supreme teachings on the importance of sticking to our promises. It
was also said in Nagarjuna’s Wisdom Tree that generally the wise do not promise
frequently, but once they promise to do something, their promise is like the carving on a
rock. They’d rather die than to give up their promise. Therefore, no matter what kinds of
difficulties they meet, and what obstacles they come across, people with wisdom will
never break their vows or promises.
In the future, it is very important for us not to easily undertake anything!
Otherwise, when somebody asks you to do this today, you say yes; when another one
asks you to do that tomorrow; you say yes. You will not be able to have your own idea
when you need. On the contrary, you only promise to do something after much
observation and thought, and then your mind does not easily change. No matter what you
do, it is very important to stick to your promise, especially for this study. Of course, if
some obstacles appear, including my health and longevity, we can do nothing. However,
if no obstacles appear, we’d better not easily give up our vows. No matter if you are in a
monastery or not, it is very hard to obtain this teaching. Since we have already met it, we
should take an extremely firm vow.
A couple days ago, I heard some lay persons in Beijing say, “Although we are
busy and also have some difficulties and obstacles, nevertheless, we still swear that no
matter how many years it will take, we will finish this teaching. We will start well, finish
well and perfect listening to this teaching.” As we can see, they really have the proper
desire for the Dharma. Today, through various ways, I heard some Dharma friends say
that they will never give up in the middle and will definitely listen to this teaching
completely! I am very glad that you have this kind of vow.
As said in Nagarjuna’s Friendly Letter, there are three kinds of human mind
conditions: One is very easy to change, just like the ripple on the top of water. One is
relatively firm, just like the words drew on soil particles. The last is very firm, like carved
words on rocks. Our vow of studying Dharma should be very firm, like the words carved
on rocks. In the course of this study, no matter what obstacles appear, we should never
give up our vows.
As long as you have not given up your vow, it will play a primary role and you will
never give up your practice in the future. Otherwise, if you decide to listen to this
teaching only because someone told you it is very good, then you will soon lose passion
and end up in a very bad situation if you have no feeling about it after you start to listen.
We should be aware that studying Dharma is not like getting an injection that you
can feel immediately. For example, if we go to worldly schools to get a Bachelor’s
degree, but we only attend one or two classes, it cannot improve our knowledge, so there
is no need to speak that study the profound Dharma also needs time. It is a real pity that
lots people do not understand this at all.
As is said in the Treaties of Eight Thousand Verses of the Prajnaparamit,
“Even when their lives are endangered, people with wisdom will never give up
their career of benefiting all sentient beings.”
As a result, when we study the Bodhicaryavatara, we should have an intention to
benefit sentient beings. Apparently, most of you are listening for your own sake. No
matter if you registered for distant training or are studying here, you should examine this:
What is my purpose of studying the Bodhicaryavatara?
Is it for getting more wisdom or understanding more Dharmas, or for health and
wealth in this life, or for taking rebirth as a wheel-turning king, or in the god realm, or
never falling down in the miserable realms? If you come to receive and listen to this
teaching with these purposes, it is not good. Some people do not have their own thoughts;
they go to listen only because others say the Bodhicryavatara is supreme. This is not a
very good attitude. If your aim of listening to this teaching is to help and benefit all
sentient beings after you understand the Mahayana Buddhism, you are one of the best
members among all that are studying the Bodhicaryavatara. For this issue, no matter
what kinds of circumstances you are in, I hope you examine yourself: What is my aim to
listen to this teaching? And what is my motivation?
Today is the day we make the vow. Before we start the first chapter, please think it
over in this way: If you will make all efforts to complete this study no matter what
happens to you, then you should continue to listen to this teaching. However, if you feel
you are not able to finish it, you think this teaching does not have what you like, such as
how to obtain celestial eyes, wealth and promotion, but only teaches how to cultivate
bodhichitta for the sake of sentient beings, and it is boring, then it is okay that you quit
We will start the first chapter in next class. If you are not able to make the promise
now, you still have time to give it up. However, in general, I hope you never give up your
promises for any virtuous actions. This is the most important thing in our life. If you have
promised to do some non-virtuous actions in the past, now it is the time for you to
gradually put it down. For instance, you have promised to do some malicious actions, but
now you realize that it would neither benefit sentient beings nor yourself. You may think,
“I have already promised; so I have to do it;” this is not necessary! From Nagarjuna’s
point of view, we should not easily give up our promise for virtuous actions, but try to
give up the promises on malicious actions. We should clearly distinguish the difference!
As mentioned earlier, the purpose of making this vow verse is to pray for a good start
and good ending for the composing process. However, some commentators such as
Napowa thought, “This is not the author’s purpose, because Shantideva is a great
accomplished master, so he should not worry about any obstacles. Therefore, praying for
a good start and good ending is unnecessary. On the other hand, Shantideva is very wise.
There is no doubt that the wise can certainly start and complete a commentary perfectly.
His manifestation of taking a vow is simply to teach the followers not to easily change
their minds afterwards. In fact, from his own aspect, it is not necessary for him to make
this vow to urge himself.” Some Indian commentators argued in this way, which you may
take into consideration.
D3. Showing modesty
There is nothing here that has not been explained before
And I have no skill in the art of rhetoric;
Therefore, lacking any intention to benefit others,
I write this in order to acquaint it to my mind.
Have the principles taught in the Bodhicaryavatara been freshly composed or existed
before? The bodhisattva Shantideva addressed modestly, “In the aspect of the contents,
none of them are newly composed; from the point of the literature, I am not proficient in
poetics or metrics. Due to these two reasons, I hesitate to say that my motivation of
composing this text is to benefit sentient beings.” This is very modest addressing! It is
impossible that a great accomplished or genuine Bodhisattva as great as him has no
intention to benefit sentient beings. He said he had no intention to benefit sentient beings
simply to manifest his modesty in front sentient beings.
“If he does not have intention to benefit sentient beings, and his wiring it not
skillful or the content is not new, then why does he still want to compose this
commentary?” In order to season his mind and acquaint bodhichitta to his mind, he
composed the Bodhicaryavatara.
Some commentators thought, “There is nothing here that has not been explained
before” may have something to do with the third rare biography of the bodhisattva
Shantideva: Shantivarman arrived Nalanda - the biggest Buddhist university in the world,
where there were five hundred Panditas and their crown jewel is the commentator Aryadeva, in front of whom Shantivarman had heard lots of Dharma and became a
Buddhist monk, when he got his Dharma name - Shantideva. (Some biographies said that
he heard lots of sutra and tantra teachings from Manjushri at that time). He practiced by
himself, and composed the Compendium of All Practices and Compendium of All Sutras
based on a great number of sutras and commentaries. But in front of others, he did
nothing except eating, sleeping and walking every day, so he was called “the three-thing
thinker” - wanting to eat, to walk and to sleep. Many high stewards thought that he was
not qualified to use the properties belonging to the Sangha. They tried to dismiss him
because they thought that he did not do any listening, reflecting and meditating, but only
ate and slept in his room every day. However, since Shantideva had never broken
precepts, they had no reason to do so. Later they thought out a solution: Asking
everybody to recite sutras, Shantideva must not be able to do it, and then he can be
expelled due to this reason.
When people were asked to recite sutra in turn, Shantideva refused to participate it.
The stewards asked the guru commentator Aryadeva to request him to attend. After
Aryadeva requested, Shantideva accepted. At that time, some people thought that
Shantideva had very rare actions in different aspects; maybe he is very marvelous, so we
should not humiliate him. Some thought they should embarrass him in front of the
Sangha; otherwise, how can they manage the Sangha if everybody acts like him. So after
talking over, they decided to set up a very high Dharma throne in front of the sutra hall
without stairway, and expect he will be embarrassed in front of the public.
On the day for reciting sutra (maybe in Miraculous month), all the people gathered
around the Dharma throne. The bodhisattva Shantideva manifested miracle by sitting on
the Dharma throne unknowingly. He asked the community, “Do you want to listen to an
existing text or an original composition?” Lots people wanted to humiliate him, so they
asked him to recite something new. (This is why he pointed out “there is nothing here that
has not been explained before,” which is a way to show his modesty.)
Then, he started chanting the Bodhicaryavatara,
“Respectfully I prostrate myself to the Sugatas
Who are endowed with the Dharmakaya,
As well as to their Noble Children
And to all who are worthy of veneration.”
When he was chanting, very auspicious phenomena appeared in the sky and around
the throne. The Bodhisattva Manjushri also appeared in the sky, which was seen by all the
people. When he came to the verse,
“When neither an entity nor a non-entity
Remains before the mind,
Then since there is no other possibility,
Having no objects, it becomes calm.”
in the wisdom chapter, he rose up into the sky, and only his voice can be heard by people.
After he finished the dedication chapter, his body disappeared. After seeing this, many
people regretted deeply. (We should not look down people who do nothing, even do not
attend classes or do not participate anything. They may be those who have very high
inner realization.) Some people had faith arise in their mind and prayed all the time; some
thought this is very rare.
After he recited the Bodhicaryavatara, many Panditas and the wise with superb
memory Dharani memorized the text in their mind. The Kashmir Pandita had
remembered more than one thousand verses; the Pandita from Central India remembered
one thousand verses (different records can be found in history). They cannot come to a
consensus due to these differences. Later after they learned that the commentator
Shantideva is near the Auspicious-merit stupa (Dhanyakataka)35 in south India, they sent
35 When our Dharma Lord went to Nepal, he read a history book. It said, “The present location of Stupa
Swayambhunath was the place that the bodhisattva Shantideva was living. It is one of the three great
stupas in Nepal.” However, some people do not agree. They believe it refers to another Stupa
some Panditas and stewards to invite the bodhisattva Shantideva to come back to Nalanda
to be… a steward. I am joking! They didn’t ask him to come back as a steward, only
invited him to come back to Nalanda, but were declined by Shantideva. So they asked
him which memory of the Bodhicaryavatara is accurate. The commentator Shantideva
said that one thousand verses recorded by the Pandita from central India were correct.
They kept asking him, “We do not understand many contents in the Bodhicaryavatara. If
you do not go back to Nalanda, what can we do?” Shantideva answered, “If you cannot
understand, you can find the Compendium of All Practices and Compendium of All Sutra
in the wall crack of my room. If you want to know in detail, refer to the Compendium of
All Practice. If you only want to know it briefly, refer to the Compendium of All Sutra,
which gives you the main idea of the Bodhicaryavatara.”
So, this Bodhicaryavatara we are studying now is from the records by the Panditas
from central India through their unforgetting Dharani. Apparent, this Dharani is much
more reliable than some tape recorders, which easily break or out of order after once or
twice use and cannot help the user to arouse Mahayana bodhichitta, but only hatred
toward them (Audience laughing). Indian Pandita’s memory is excellent. The three-time
compilings of the Buddha’s teaching were all put into words via their Dharani.
For due to acquaintance with what is wholesome,
The force of my faith may for a short while increase because of these (words)
If, however, these (words) are seen by others
Equal in fortune to myself, it may be meaningful (for them).
If I practice based on this text, my faith in the Three Jewels will be strengthened for a
while. People who have similar fortune as I do may benefit from it when they get the
chance upon my words.
[Any contents not existing in previous sutras are not presented here in this text.]
This text only collected together the teachings in existing sutras.
[I, Shantideva, am not good at rhetoric or poetic metrics, either.]
This is a very modest statement. As we know, there are so many wonderful analogies
in the Bodhicaryavatara and the principles are also very clear. It is impossible for him to
be unskillful in rhetoric. His purpose was telling us that, “The genuine Dharma does not
necessarily need the decoration of euphuism.”
In history, lots of great masters were so proficient in poetics and metrics that there
were many texts in this area, such as in Tibetan Buddhism, The Thirty-Four Stories of
Jataka by Indian commentator Ashvaghosha, Wish Fulfilling Vine (Avadana-shataka) by
the king Suishvara, and Singing and Dancing in Lotus Garden by Patrul Rinpoche; the
Auspiciousness in South India but the specific location is not clear. It is unknown if it is the Stupa
Auspiciousness where Buddha Shakyamuni taught the Kalachakra.
elegant verses by the great Chinese Buddhism masters such as Han-san and Lian-chi.
However, when we study the Dharma, especially in the aspect of teaching words, it is
better to teach in simple and understandable expressions as said in the Kalachakra. The
poet Bai Juyi in Tang dynasty always read his newly composed poems to the senior
people to see if they can understand it or not. This criterion made his poems so popular in
the public. Therefore, composing commentaries does not necessarily need excellent
writing skill. Though it is very important, for genuine teachings, it is not very critical. We
should be aware of this.
[Due to these two reasons, I am not composing this text for the benefit of
sentient beings.]
The bodhisattva Shantideva said modestly, “this text is not good enough to benefit
sentient beings, because it has no original ideas and the words and sentences are not
[Then why compose this text? In order to habituate bodhichitta in my
It is for my own practice and habituation. Master Buton said, “In Indian Sanskrit,
practice and habituation have the same meaning. The term practice means to constantly
habituate in one’s continuum the teachings obtained through listening and reflecting.”
The Indian master Dharmanamitraalso said, “Continuously harmonizing and
familiarizing our continuum with Dharma is called practice.”
Therefore, whether we meditate on bodhichitta or cultivate faith or visualize
Shakyamuni Buddha, we should not be distracted by other thoughts but concentrate on
the idea of “I will benefit all sentient beings” or “all sentient beings have been my
parents; no matter what kind of harm others do to me, I will practice patience.” This
continuous awareness is called practice.
Is it also a kind of practice for the bodhisattva Shantideva to compose this text? Yes,
it is a practice! As I said yesterday, there are two kinds of meditation. One is analytic
meditation; another is calm abiding meditation. Some people said, “Currently, I don’t
want to listen to teachings but only want to meditate with one-pointed mind.” This
indicates their poor knowledge because they even do not know the basic meaning of
meditation. We should know that meditation does not necessarily mean sit in the sevenfeatured sitting position of Vairochana with closed eyes. From the aspect of calm abiding
meditation, this position is ok. From the aspect of analytic meditation, if we can have our
mind consistent with the Dharma we learned, it IS a kind of meditation!
We can meditate in any circumstance. We can even listen to teachings through
earphones when we are sitting in a bus. It appears that you are among the busy flow of
lots of people, but in fact, you are meditating. On the contrary, if your mind can not
focus, even if you retreat everyday in a dark cave or a room with your mind jumping here
and there, is it meditation? Absolutely not. For instance, if one has very strong faith in the
Dharma, even if he is very busy he still listens to the Dharma while he is walking; this is
a kind of meditation. However, another one sits in his home in a full Vajra lotus posture
with all the doors and windows closed tightly, but with his mind full of the thoughts like,
“He owns me money,” “That guy is my enemy; I should find a chance to beat him…” If
he meditates while thinks this, is this meditation? Definitely not. Therefore, meditation
cannot be distinguished from the appearance, only you yourself know if you are really
Therefore, when the commentator Shantideva was composing this Bodhicaryavatara,
the process itself actually is a sort of meditation. We should understand this.
[If this is the case, then it is enough for him to understand it, but why does he
compose this text? To practice bodhichitta and virtuous Dharma, to elaborate what
he understood through his practice. By doing so, he can enhance his own faith for a
Some people think, “Then you can practice by yourself; you do not need to compose
a text.”
Answer: No, it is very necessary! Because practicing with the guidance of the
Bodhicaryavatara, temporarily, I can enhance my own faith; ultimately, this text must
benefit sentient beings in the long run.
[Venerable Sudeva and Samantavidya said, “Here ‘temporary’ also has
something to do with benefiting other sentient beings.”]
If I practice according to the Bodhicaryavatara, “my” mind can be temperately
associated with the virtuous Dharma, and my faith will grow stronger and stronger, and
what is the ultimate goal in doing so? It is absolutely to benefit sentient beings. In this
way, the commentator Shantideva showed his modesty on one hand, and naturally
expressed his intention to benefit sentient beings on the other hand, which also depicted
his self-confidence.
[Why speak in this way? Because he said in case people, who have the same
aspiration of seeking tirelessly for the bodhisattva’s way and have the same
righteous personality as he does, saw this text, their bodhichitta may be enhanced.]
Our Guru Rinpoche said, if somebody is really at the same level as Shantideva, what
kind of level should this person achieve? It is said in the wisdom chapter “to gather and
teach sentient beings with the view like the space.” Therefore, it is considerably difficult
to be the same as him.
This is a modesty tone, which means if there are some people who are the same as
“me”, having great faith in bodhichitta and are very righteous, they may benefit after they
read this text. This is not like some writers in modern times, “I guarantee you will get one
hundred percent benefits and no any side effects after you read my book. My speech is
the best; my writing is the best…” advertising in such a way. However, the Bodhisattva
Shantideva is not like them. He only said “maybe” it can help cultivate bodhichitta.
[These modest words showed us that the author has no arrogance.]
In order to destroy the arrogance of worldly people, the author was very modest.
Although he is marvelous in the aspects of wisdom and realization, he never exposed it to
sentient beings. We have two great obstacles in Dharma path. One of them is arrogance.
On the hillside of arrogance, no water of merit can remain. Likewise, if your continuum
has been occupied by arrogance, you are not be able to see other’s merit but only satisfied
with your own knowledge.
Some people think there is nothing they cannot understand in the Bodhicaryavatara;
they do not want to discuss with others or attend tutoring, because they are very proud of
their worldly degrees, Ph.D or Master. If they study in this manner, it won’t help them
Yesterday, I took a look at the roster and found a considerable portion of you have
high education degrees. However, I am not surprised by it, why? Because, you may have
outstanding achievements in some areas, some majors and some subjects, but in
Mahayana Buddhism, you may just a beginner. If you think of yourself as something and
refuse to communicate with others, you cannot get what you expect.
On the contrary, some of you underestimate yourself. As I said there are two
obstacles in Dharma practice. One is arrogance; the other is being frailty - devaluing
yourself, or looking down upon yourself. This is called the laziness of devaluing oneself,
such as “I can not study it, because I will never understand it.” This is an inappropriate
If you are very arrogant, then please look at your level of reciting the
Bodhicaryavatara? If you have already memorized all the verses in the
Bodhicaryavatara and you can recite very fluently and accurately, then try to memorize
the verses in the five great texts. Then memorize the commentaries on the
Bodhicayavatara. If you can recite all of them, then you deserve your arrogance and you
are really marvelous. Otherwise, if you cannot make it, and can only recognize the words,
I don’t think you really understand the text because all the literates can do it.
Some Dharma friends here have already received the teaching of the
Bodhicaryavatara in front of me and other Dharma teachers several times, maybe six or
seven times in total, but they are still very willing to study it again in front of other
Dharma friends. So, please do not pretend you have already understood it, or think you
are very marvelous, when in fact you even cannot explain the most fundamental
principles. One of the biggest obstacles is to use one’s worldly knowledge as the basis
for one’s arrogance.
For instance, if a person only has an elementary school education, he can admit his
limited capability, so he studies very hard to understand the contents and memorize the
verses arduously. While a person with a Ph.D degree takes for granted that he is more
than competent in comprehending the Bodhicayavatara, so he muddles along and only
leafs through the book and never thinks about it anymore. After one hundred days, whose
level will be higher? Believe it or not, I believe the nonarrogant person who has
elementary school education will have a higher level.
Not only is arrogance inappropriate, over modesty is not suitable, either. Some
people are too modest. It is very obvious that they are very capable, but when asked to
tutor others, they say, “I am not qualified to tutor others. I am not capable enough.” They
have no courage at all, which is another kind of obstacle in the path of Dharma practice.
Not only in Buddhism, it is not acceptable even being too modest in worldly society,
especially in western countries. They never get used to the modesty of Chinese people.
Previously, when we were in western countries, our guru always asked us to try our best
to adjust to their attitude, but I still found it was so different. For instance, when people
helped me, I said, “Thank you so much, I brought you too much trouble.” I always expect
them say, “It’s not worthy of mention.” or “I didn’t do anything.” But they didn’t. So, no
matter when we treat people a meal, or talk with people, we should be aware that
diffident places have different customs. If we act too modesty sometimes, it may have
negative influence. Whether propagating the Dharma or interacting with worldly people,
we should not feel too inferior nor too arrogant, but somewhere in between.
Take a worldly example to show the negative influence of being too modest. More
than two hundred years ago in a foreign country, the Chinese militarist Li-Hongzhang
once invited some diplomats for dinner in a hotel. In the middle of the dinner, he said
politely, “Due to time limit for preparation, the food and service are not that pleasant.
Only simple food and plain drinks are provided. Hope you all accept my apology.” Since
he was sort of well known, his speech was on the newspaper the next day. After read it,
the manager of the hotel found him and wanted to sue him. He said, “It is fine for you
Chinese people to blame yourself, but why do you say the food we served is simple and
plain?” (Audience Laughing)
Funny stories do not happen alone. Several years ago, Professor King from Beijing
went to Russia with several stars and some important people. One of the stars was good
looking and dressed elegantly, so a Russian said to her, “Ma’am, you are very pretty and
have good taste.” Then the star said modestly, “Oh, thank you for your praise. I am
neither pretty nor tasteful.” The Russian was so unhappy about what he heard, so he told
Professor King, “She is weird. Don’t I have the ability to distinguish or taste?”
Therefore, when you go to western countries, if people commend your dress, you
should say, “Thank you, it is very nice of you to say so.” Otherwise, if you say, “No, I
just throw it on.” People may feel upset. Why? Because they believe they have the
wisdom and ability to value your dress and do not judge arbitrarily. If you deny their
comments, they will think, “Don’t I have the ability to appreciate the clothes?”
Remember, different places have different customs and traditions.
The commentator Shantideva said, “I have no attention to benefit sentient beings.”
This is probably a tradition in India. According to the tradition in Tibet, if a Guru says he
has no consideration to benefit sentient beings, and he is not good at teaching, then
everybody will think it is not true, and why he says this is only because he is very
Guru Rinpoche always said in a modest manner in class that, “I am not a
reincarnation of Lekrab Langpa. I have no ability to propagate Dharma and benefit
sentient beings…” In western countries, if you say that you have no ability to teach the
Dharma or benefit sentient beings, some people may say, “If you are not qualified, you
don’t have to teach.” When we propagate the Dharma and benefit sentient beings, we
should not only observe the new environment, but also people’s attitude in that area,
because different places have different customs. People have different feelings due to
different cultural backgrounds. Our words should not only move ourselves, but also
influence others.
Therefore, when propagating the Dharma and benefiting sentient beings, we should
act well, neither too modest nor too arrogant, but somewhere in between. When you tutor
or take oral test, don’t be too weak or too arrogant. If you feel you are proficient in all the
Tripitaka and twelve divisions of the Mahayana canon, then it is not good to be unable to
answer when asked.
[Also implies if there are mistakes, please forgive me.]
C2. Elucidating the necessity of the explanation is explained in three
D1. Individual nature
D2. The necessity of elucidation
D3. How to explain
D1. Individual nature
[The content of this text can be summarized in the verse “Here I shall explain
how to engage in the vows of the Buddha’s Children,” which represents the complete
and intact Mahayana seed.]
Here “seed” indicates the ground in the ground, path and fruition.
[Obviously, path and fruition are the subjects bodhisattvas need to learn, which
can be mastered through studying this commentary.]
What is composed in this text? The contents are the three precepts mentioned earlier.
What is the necessity of composing this text? One is able to master the precepts of a
bodhisattva via studying this text.
[Mastering the bodhisattva’s way is associated with relying on this text.]
In order to master this text, one must rely on the literature, contents of this text and
one’s habituation, listening and reflecting, which are all associated with each other.
[Meditating on what has been mastered to obtain the fruition is the most
necessary among all the necessities.]
“Necessity” means “goal”. “The necessity of the necessities” indicates the ultimate
goal. What is the ultimate goal? Through studying the Bodhicaryavatara, to completely
understand its secret meaning and finally obtain the Mahayana supreme fruition.
D2. The necessity of elucidation
[The wise will not study and practice deeply on a text until they recognize the
necessity of studying it.]
The wise will not study a text until they have recognized its “necessity”. Like this
time, some people actively registered to study the Bodhicaryavatara because they have
read some portion of this text. This is a choice that only the wise are able to make.
D3. How to explain
[Venerable Napowa said in his Explanation of the Difficult Points of the
Bodicaryavatara that, “The necessity of this text has already been pointed out in its
The necessity of composing this text can be acquainted from its title a guide to the
bodhisattva’s way of life.
[Archya Sudeva said, “How to engage in the vow of the Buddha’s Children” is
the content that will be elucidated, to benefit self and others is the necessity, the text
content and the necessity are the methods and what can be generated from the
methods, i.e. the association.]
34. Why did the author write the vow stanza?
35. What does the verse -“Here I shall explain how to engage in the vows of the
Buddha’s Children, the meaning of which I have condensed in accordance with the
scriptures.”- inspire in you?
36. Since the contents in the Bodhicaryavatara are in the sutras and commentaries, we
can study them directly from the sutras and commentaries. Isn’t it redundant for the
bodhisattva Shantideva to compose this commentary? Why?
37. What are the three precepts of a Mahayana Buddha’s Child? What are the different
emphases on each of them?
38. The bodhisattva Shantideva said, “The contents in this commentary already exist in
the sutras and commentaries and I have no skill in the art of rhetoric, so I dare not to say
the intention of composing this commentary is to benefit sentient beings.” Does he really
not have the mind of benefiting others or have other connotation? How do you feel about
39. What is practice? How can you implement practice in your daily life?
40. Why are over-arrogant and over-modesty both the obstacles in our path of practice?
41. Please write out the four necessities of this commentary.
Lesson 7
Now let us start to discuss the main body of this text. Based on the outline made by
Dza Patrul Rinpoche, the first three chapters aim for inspiring bodhichitta to be born
anew if not born; the middle three chapters (chapter four to chapter six) aim to keep
existing bodhichitta from declining but stable; and the last three chapters (chapter seven
to Chapter nine) are to make existing bodhichitta not to be lost or ruined, but to grow ever
stronger; the last chapter (chapter ten) dedicates the merit of composing this text to all
sentient beings. So this text is explained in these four aspects.
In this case, the first chapter is to inspire “bodhichitta not born to be born anew.”
Why is it stated in this way? Because first is to elucidate the merit and benefits of
bodhichitta, which inspires people to seek for it and have bodhichitta finally arise in their
continuum. In this world, no matter what status you have, as long as you have altruistic
bodhichitta, you are a good person from the worldly point of view, and also a peerless
practitioner among the Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhist organizations. The benefits of
bodhichitta are unfathomable. We are now really starting to study this bodhichitta
inspiration text.
The body of this text is divided into ten chapters. First is the chapter of the benefits
of bodhichitta.
B2. Explaining the features of the bodhisattva’s way of life is explained in
three parts:
C1. The prthagjana (person) as the basis for entering the bodhisattva’s way of life
C2. The attitude of the person who enters the bodhisattva’s way of life
C3. The methods of entering the bodhisattva’s way of life
This outline means that, if we want our study, meditation, listening, and reflection
all enter the path of Mahayana enlightenment, we must meet three conditions, which are
the status of the person who enters this path, the attitude of entering the path and the
methods of entering it.
C1. The prthagjana (person) as the basis for entering the bodhisattva’s
way of life is explained in two parts:
D1. Explaining the rarity of the leisure and endowment of human body basis
D2. Explaining the rarity of the fortunate mind of the intention basis
What is the status we need to obtain the merit of bodhichitta? It can be analyzed in
two aspects: The first is whether our body can be the basis of bodhichitta; the second is
whether our mind can be the basis of bodhichitta. These two criteria are very critical;
otherwise without these bases, bodhichitta can not exist. Just as when the ground does not
exist, the skyscraper can just be a castle in the air. Similarly, bodhichitta also needs its
In The General Explanation of Ornament of Clear Realization, Patrul Rinpoche had
analyzed bodhichitta and the basis of arousing bodhichitta in detail, and quoted the
different views from various schools and traditions. If we can study the Ornament of
Clear Realization, in “the ten Dharmas of omniscience” in the first chapter, the first thing
is arousing bodhichitta, where bodhichitta and the basis of bodhichitta are elucidated in
particular, especially the mind basis. It also mentions the debate and disagreement related
to this issue among the Archya Nagarjuna, Asanga and other commentators in India and
Of course, we are not going to talk theories, because the Bodhicaryavatara is
primarily a collective commentary, and also a practical commentary, the theoretic
analysis will only be in chapter nine; here it is not suitable to explore it too much.
Then, based on what kind of body can bodhichitta arise? Human body. If human
body is obtained, then bodhichitta will be very easy to arise; if no human body, some
scriptures said that the gods and nagas can also be the basis of bodhichitta, but their
bodies are not supreme. From the aspects of “can arise”, their bodicitta will not be perfect
in the three times.
Some Buddhist beginners do not have enough knowledge of Mahayana Buddhism,
so they can not distinguish between the root texts and the commentary. A couple days
ago, many people were trying to memorize the verses but they memorized the prostration
stanza of the bodhisattva Thogme, which does not belong to the root texts made by the
bodhisattva Shantideva. I am not requesting you to recite the Ocean of Good
Explanation, but only the root texts of Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara. This phenomenon
occurs very often, but I think it is still forgivable. Because when I just came here, I may
be not as good as you; at least you know the few sentences which have same number of
syllables are called verses; I, at that time, even was not sure about that.
If you can remember all the verses of Shantideva’s root text that will be great, but if
you really can not make it, you can memorize only the first four chapters. More than
thirty young Lamas in my monastery have recited the first four chapters last year. Some
of you have very tight schedule, working very busy; however, if you do not put effort in
your study, you may not gain a lot of knowledge. Please take a look at how the historic
eminent monks and masters memorized the Five Great Texts. Now some Dharma friends
are memorizing the Treasure of Cognition and Logic, the Bodhicaryavatara, Beacon of
Certainty, Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind on the Great Perfection at the
same time; this task is really not easy. If you really have problem with memorize this text,
you should at least remember the first four chapters, unless you are very senior.
D1. Explaining the rarity of the leisure and endowment of human body basis
Leisure and endowment are very hard to find;
And, since they accomplish what is meaningful for humanity,
If I do not take advantage of them now,
How will such a perfect opportunity come about again?
It is so hard to obtain the leisure and endowment of human life. Since we have
already obtained the human body which is able to fulfill the ultimate benefit of human
life, if I do not make effort to carry on this activity, nor practice the Dharma arduously,
how can it be possible for me to gain this wonderful human body in my future life? This
is the literal explanation; the detailed elucidation is as follows:
“Leisure and endowment are very hard to find” aims to introduce the leisure and
endowment; “And, since they accomplish what is meaningful for humanity” shows the
difficulty of obtaining it. After knowing what leisure and endowment are and what is
difficult to obtain, we should know what we should do to make full use of our human
body? If we do not make good use of it, it is a great pity! This is what the latter two lines
are to elucidate.
So, we should contemplate hard on it, on what?
In this world, Bodhichitta is more precious than any wish fulfilling jewel, and it is
generated based on human body. Without human body, the unsurpassable precious
bodhichitta cannot exist. Since we have already gained human body, we should arouse
super joy mind.
“The leisure” means freedom from the eight states of lack of opportunity to
practice the Dharma, which including four in nonhuman life and four in human life.
First are the four states of taking rebirth as nonhuman:
1) Hell beings: experience the perpetual suffering of intent cold and hot, and have no
opportunity to practice the Dharma at all.
2) Hungry ghosts: experience the suffering of hunger and thirst all day and all night,
and have no opportunity to practice at all.
3) Animals: experience the suffering of stupidity, ignorance and slave toil, and have
no opportunity to practice the Dharma at all.
4) Long-lived gods: live near the broad fruit heaven of the fourth Samadhi heaven;
their minds remain in the state of blank concentration for kalpas without any
thoughts, and have no opportunity to practice the Dharma at all.
If one takes rebirth in these four nonhuman states, he will never have the opportunity
to practice the Dharma at all. So, dear Dharma friends, it will not hurt for you to think
about it: Have I taken rebirth in these places? If I have, do I have the opportunity to
practice the Dharma? Because we are free from these conditions, we have the leisure to
practice the Dharma.
Next are the four states of taking rebirth as human:
1) Border country: taking rebirth in a remote place, where Dharma is rarely heard,
people think Buddhism as theology or something odd, or where even the name of the
Triple Gem cannot be heard. Some people may be born in a Buddhism central
country, but due to their family, they know nothing about Buddhism. So, they have
no opportunity to practice the Dharma.
2) No Buddha coming to the world: though not taking rebirth in a remote place, yet
because no Buddha comes to the world, like a black kalpa. So they have no
opportunity to practice the Dharma.
3) Holding wrong views: born in a place where the Buddha appears, but due to the
wrong view in the continuum, they do not believe anything about Buddhism. So they
have no opportunity to practice the Dharma.
4) Mute and mentally deficient: no wrong views arise, but due to the stupidity and
ignorant, however arduously listening to the Dharma, they still lack the ability to
contemplate on it. So they have no opportunity to practice the Dharma.
If be free from the above eight states of lacking the opportunity to practice the
Dharma, one possesses “the leisure” in the leisure and endowment. “The leisure” can also
be understood as freedom.
I will use some worldly phenomena to explain this text. For you, I hope you will be
familiar with the basic Buddhist terms and Buddhist common sense such as “the leisure
and endowment”, “Bodhicaryavatara”. Otherwise, it is very hard for your later
communication with other Buddhists. After all, worldly language cannot completely
convey Buddhist principles.
To please worldly people, some Dharma teachers gradually transform the Dharma to
worldly Dharma. However, some Dharma principles cannot be expressed in this way. I
don’t think it is realistic to substitute the Buddhist terms with authoritative terms in the
areas such as modern science, psychology, chemistry or physics.
Admittedly, it is very important to use very straightforward and understandable
language to teach Dharma according to the specific circumstances. Although some lay
people have already taken refuge for a few years, when being asked a question or
communicating with them, it is very frustrating. Why? Because they only know worldly
terms and do not know nor remember any Buddhist principles. So they only ask very
childish questions. During this study, I hope everybody will really learn some knowledge.
Since we are Buddhists, it is very necessary to take efforts to make clear the fundamental
The following verses are a reference quoted by the Bodhisattva Nagarjuna in his
Friendly Letter, to further explain the leisure.
[As is said,
“Being born in the hells, in the preta realm, as an animal,
A barbarian or a long-lived god; holding wrong views,
Being born when there is no Buddha or being born deaf and mute;
These are the eight states of lacking freedom.”
To be free from these eight states of lacking freedom is called the leisure.]
This is what I have already explained to you. Patrul Rinpoche had also said in his
The Words of My Perfect Teacher, “even cooking tea on our way needs to meet various
causes and proper conditions, let alone practicing the Dharma. If we are not free from
these eight states of lacking freedom, we have no opportunity to practice the Dharma at
all.” We should examine thoroughly on our own body according to these.
We meditate on bodhichitta every morning, but some of you do not know how to
meditate at all; only closing your eyes without thinking is not correct. We should
contemplate some principles when we meditate on bodhichitta. You should reflect all the
teachings you heard every day, examine if you are free from these eight states of lacking
freedom, four in human, four in nonhuman, contemplate on it at your own pace; this is
called meditation. If you keep meditating in this way everyday, your meditation level will
gradually increase after a while.
Next is “the endowment”, which refers to the ten kinds of advantages - five
advantages that pertain to oneself and five advantages that pertain to others.
First are the five advantages that pertain to oneself.
Born as a human, in a central place with prosperous Dharma, with all faculties, with
faith in the Dharma and without conflicting lifestyles. These are the five advantages that
pertain to oneself.
1) Born as a human: the best support of generating bodhichitta is human body.
Without the human body, it is not possible to obtain the opportunity to practice the
Dharma. No matter how advanced or smart a mundane animal is, if asked to chant
once the six syllables mantra, it is not able to.
2) Born in a Buddhist central place with prosperous Dharma: one must take birth in a
Buddhist central place where there are the Tripitaka, twelve sections and four fold
disciples. Otherwise, if one had born in a remote border place, even the most
fundamental principle of what to adopt and what to reject cannot be acquired.
3) With all the sense faculties: all the faculties include eye element, nose element, ear
element and so on. Without ear element, one can not hear the Dharma; without the
eye element, one can not see the picture on the TV screen and the words in Dharma
books; without nose element…is there any hindrance of hearing the Dharma? Haw
haw! You can analyze it for a while.
4) Without a conflicting lifestyle: many commentaries explain this as not committing
the five inexpiable wrongs; because if one committed the five inexpiable wrongs, he
will fall down to the unintermitted hell right after he dies. Therefore, he has no
opportunity of liberation. Another explanation is that being a good monastic
practitioner in the past, but resuming worldly life due to wrong views afterwards, or
just not practicing the Dharma assiduously any more. This is called having a
conflicting lifestyle; the opposite of which is called without conflicting lifestyle.
5) Having faith in the Dharma: Buddha’s teaching is profound and unfathomable. If
you have no faith in Buddhism, it is impossible to taste its wonderful flavors.
These are the five advantages that pertain to oneself, which can be possessed by
one’s own conditions.
What are the five advantages that pertain to others?
1) The Buddha coming to the world: if the Buddha does not appear in the world,
sentient beings coming to the world still are not able to learn the Dharma.
2) The Buddha has given teachings: it is not enough for the Buddha just appears in
the world. Without the teaching of the Buddha, sentient beings will not be able to get
the genuine benefit. Some eminent monks and masters stay in caves for years, not
receiving others’ visiting, or as said in The Words of My Perfect Teacher, when
Venerable Atisha’s guru came to Tibet, he was not able to widely propagate the
Dharma due to the death of his translator. Therefore, if the teacher does not teach the
Dharma, sentient beings cannot benefit in a great way.
3) The Buddha abiding in the world: if the Buddha’s abiding period is expired - for
an instance, the teaching period of Shakyamuni Buddha is five thousand years; after
that, the teaching will die out, no teachers will give Dharma teachings and all the
Dharma textbooks or recorded video media will disappear - then, although the
Buddha has taught previously, sentient beings can not benefit from it any more.
4) Entering the noble path: although the Buddha has appeared and taught Dharma,
which is still existing in the world, if one does not enter the noble path of studying
and practicing the ocean vast Dharma, he is not able to taste one drop of it.
5) Having been accepted by a teacher (another way to explain it is to have a
sponsor): after starting to practice, one must be compassionately accepted by a
qualified teacher. Otherwise, he will not be able to know what to adopt and what to
These are the five advantages pertain to others, which is met by the conditions of
Freedom from eight states of lacking the opportunity of practicing the Dharma, and
possessing the ten kinds of advantages, a human body with “the leisure and endowment”
can only be called when these total eighteen conditions meet.
In fact, “leisure” and “endowment” are not inconsistent. For example, not taking
rebirth in a border country in “the leisure” IS the same as born in the central area in
“endowment”. Born without mute or mental deficiency IS the same as born with full
faculty. Holding no wrong views IS having faith in the Dharma. The Indian commentator
Bubudha said, “Free from eight states of lacking freedom is described in the negative
aspect; having ten advantages is elaborated in the positive aspect. For instance, not born
in border country is the negative description; born in central area is a positive elaboration.
So they are not inconsistent.”
Using the scriptural authority to explain “endowment”:
[As is said,
“Born as a human with all faculties in a central place with active Dharma,
With no conflicting lifestyles but faith in the Dharma.
A Buddha has appeared and taught the Dharma,
Which still exist, following the teaching and not lacking sponsors.”]
This verse includes the ten advantages, i.e. the five advantages that pertain to oneself
and the five advantages that pertain to others. First are the advantages pertaining to
1) [Born as a human with the male or female organ]
One must possess the feature of a human being. If born as a hermaphrodite, one does
not have the capability to be the basis of the path, merit and precepts. So, one must
have a human body with full sense spheres.
2) [Born in the central area,]
Central area includes geographic central area36 and Dharma central area37. Here it
refers primarily the geographic central area.
3) [Having all the faculties such as eye element and so forth.]
4) [Free from all the five unintermittent wrongdoings in order to avoid
conflicting lifestyles.]
For no conflicting lifestyle here, the Bodhisattva Thogme explained it as no five
inexpiable wrongs.
5) [Having faith in the Buddha’s precepts so it is called having faith in the
Here the faith in the Dharma specifically refers to the faith in Tathagata’s precept
pitaka (Vinaya), because the precepts are the root of all the Dharma. Some people
think that Pratimoksha and Vinaya are not important for sutra or Mahayana Buddhist
practitioners. In this way, one of the ten advantages is already absent.
The above mentioned are the five advantages that pertain to oneself. The following
are the five advantages that pertain to others:
1) [A Buddha appears in the world;
2) And teaches the Dharma];
3) [The Dharma is preserved in the world by the pudgala (person) who have
realized the truth of view.]
Without people who have realized the truth of view, the Dharma can not remain in
the world.
4) [The teaching based on the realization of the noble ones can introduce the
fortunate people into the path of Dharma;
5) [Having sponsors offering the living necessities]
Without a sponsor, monastic practitioners cannot live. Then it is hard for them to
36 Geographic central area: refers to all the cities around Bodhi Gaya in the holy site-India.
37 Dharma central area: means the place where the genuine Buddhadharmas exist.
practice the Dharma.
This explanation is different from that in The Words of My Perfect Teacher and
Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind. Different, but not contradictory. Don’t
take something for granted that they are contradictory because they appear different to
you. There are so many different views in sutras. It is this difference that the diverse
phenomena in the world can be elucidated clearly. If everything is fixed without any
change as in materialism, then it is very hard to explain anything. For instance, for the
same substance - water, we, human beings see water, but hungry ghosts see it as pus. If
only water is the correct answer, then the hungry ghosts cannot see pus; otherwise, what
human beings can see - water is not correct any more. So, which one is indeed correct?
When we come across this kind of situation, it is wrong to think difference is
The Buddha has given different teachings according to the difference of diverse
sentient beings. Not all of the teachings are the same. Otherwise, the shape, color and size
of the earth were described totally different in the Kalachakra, the Arbhidharma and
other scriptures; which one is correct indeed? Actually, the difference is caused by the
different karmas of different sentient beings. It is like evaluating a person. It is impossible
to assert absolutely one is a good person or a bad person. Because if I think he is a good
person, then others can not think he is a bad person, which is definitely not right.
[These are the five compassions of altruism, which are the advantages that
pertain to others. Since having these ten features, it is said that it is particularly
difficult to perfectly have these eighteen good qualities.]
Hope you will contemplate on this attentively. The difficulty of obtaining such a
human body is also explained from different aspects such as causes, analogies and
quantities in other Dharma instruction books.
On the aspect of causes:
Human body is obtained through pure vinaya; especially the human body with the
leisure and endowment must be obtained through the pure vinaya in previous life as the
primary cause, the six paramitas, such as generosity, guarding vinaya and patience and so
on, to establish the conditions, and the supreme aspirations made in the past. Only when
all of these factors are met can it be obtained.
On the aspect of analogies:
When the Buddha explained in Mahayana sutras how hard it is to gain a human body,
sometimes he used the analogy of blind turtle meeting the yoke adrift on the ocean,
sometimes he used the analogy of the rarity of the blossom of udumbara tree, some time
the analogy of the very small possibility of very few peas remaining on wall after being
thrown on wall, and sometime he use the analogy of the smell of the Agaru (Agalloch
On the aspect of amount:
Beings in the miserable realms are as many as stars at night, while beings in the
higher realms are as few as stars in the day. Or, the beings in the miserable realms are as
many as soil particles on the earth, while beings in the upper realms are as few as the dust
on one nail.
If we contemplate attentively on these principles, which are taught by the Buddha
through his wisdom of advaya (identity of all things), we will find it IS truly difficult for
us to possess the human body which is capable of practicing the Dharma. It is far from
enough to just talk about this. We should assiduously contemplate, industriously visualize
and wholeheartedly feel the difficulty of it. Some people think it is so easy to get a human
body because there are so many people in this world; especially in this half century, the
population of human beings on the earth has enlarged swiftly. This is true on the surface.
However, just as said in the sutras and commentaries, ignorant and ordinary people make
up the majority of the population, but real practitioners are very rare. For a city with a
population of one million, how many people have taken refuge in Buddhism? If one
hundred people have taken refuge, then how many of them are trying to be free from
birth and death, arouse bodhichitta and arouse the mind of renunciation? From this
aspect, it is not easy to have the eight conditions of freedom and ten kinds of advantages.
I hope every one of you will not just talk about the leisure and endowment, but
contemplate on them, obtain some profound feeling about it, and finally really realize that
to gain this human body is as hard as the blind man catching the tail of his lost elephant38.
We must grasp this opportunity and cherish it.
According to Master Buton’s view, this line is to help us recognize the leisure and
endowment. In worldly language, it is to enhance the alertness. Without the alertness, our
precious human body will be wasted on messy worldly trivial things.
[It is said in the Avatamsaka Sutra – the Biography of Buddha’s Warm Spot,
“It is hard to dispel the eight states of lacking freedom;
It is hard to obtain the pure and perfect leisure.”]
It is said in the Avatamasaka Sutra that it is very hard to dispel the eight states of lacking
freedom; it is also very difficult to possess the five advantages pertaining to oneself and
the five pertaining to others. This scriptural authority has been quoted in the
Compendium of All Practices. There are other difficulties: to have the Buddha appear in
the world, to have full faculties, to listen to the Dharma and to rely on qualified Dharma
teachers. The bodhisattva Shantideva composed the Compendium of All Practices to
explain the Bodhicaryavatara comprehensively. You should refer to it at your
38 It is extremely hard for a blind person to find his or her lost elephant. Once the elephant is found, the
blind person will hold its tail very tightly because he or she is afraid of not being able to find it if they
lose it again.
convenience. Lots of principles in the Bodhicaryavatara are explained very clearly in the
Compendium of All Practices.
[Humans with such leisure and endowment have the potential to gain better
rebirth and ultimate enlightenment.]
Owning the human body with such leisure and endowment, temporarily, we can gain
peace and happiness in the human and heaven realms (better rebirth); ultimately, we can
get the fruit of Shravakas, Pratyekabuddas, Arhats, or the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (the
ultimate attainment).
Therefore, to get the fortune of human and god in the small path we need a human
body; to obtain Shravaka, Pratyekabuddha and Arhat’s fruit of eternal liberation from
cyclic existence we need a human body; to liberate boundless sentient beings we still
need a human body.
From the aspect of value, a human body is indeed far more precious than any wishfulfilling jewel. I am afraid lots of people do not understand “wish-fulfilling jewel”. So,
let’s say your favorite Benz, BMW. Anyway, anything in this world is not as precious as
human body.
Our Guru Rinpoche had said in his Drops of Advice from My Heart,
“A human body is very hard to get, but having it is very significant, which
surpasses the wish-fulfilling jewel. No matter it is the path for people with small,
medium or great capacities, a human body is needed for all the paths. There is no
doubt of this.”
When our Guru taught the Bodhicaryavatara, he said, even a lay person who just
took refuge can obtain the fruition of Buddhahood, not to mention the ordained people in
present. How? For example, listening, reflecting and meditating diligently, receiving and
guarding at least refuge vows, chanting Amitabha Buddha with one pointed mind, you are
bound to reach pure land. This can only be realized through human body. Without human
body, do we have the opportunity to practice the Dharma if we take rebirth as other
beings? Absolutely not. As a result, we should reflect on this and try not to waste our
precious human body.
[Since we have already possessed human body with leisure and endowment, we
should perform virtuous Dharma industriously and responsibly. If we do not
perform the Dharma, which can benefit both ourselves and others, then how can we
obtain again the pure and perfect human body with leisure and endowment?]
After we obtain human body, if we spend all the time on eating, drinking, playing
and entertaining, do we still have such human body in our next life?
[Absolutely not.]
If we do not practice correctly, make aspiration appropriately and lay the foundation
firmly, it is extremely difficult to get such a human body in next life. As we all know, our
human realm is just as said in The Four Hundred Verses of Middle Way, most people who
commit negative karmas will take rebirth in the three miserable realms. If taking rebirth
in other realms, when will we have the chance to liberate? This is worth contemplating.
Some scriptures said, besides human beings there are some other beings who are also
able to arouse bodhichitta. However, what is the most perfect basis of bodhichitta? It is
the human body. Due to their strong discursive mind, even the best god body in the happy
realm is not able to be the basis of precepts and unable to practice the virtuous Dharma.
Thereby, since we have already possessed such wonderful human body, we should
think over and over that: One lifetime passes as fast as one stroke. It is a great pity to
spend the whole life on the eight worldly concerns. Since I have the human body, I’d
better not waste it!
[Therefore, the author taught and warned us that we should never ever waste
our time and human body. As the sutra said, “Don’t have the leisure and
endowment to be wasted without significant utilization.”]
As said the sutras, never wasting the wish-fulfilling jewel - human body. An analogy
from the Bodhisattva Nagarjuna is that: when we get a gold jewel pot, if we use it to hold
feces, it will be a great pity! In the same way, if we use this precious human body to
commit negative karma, it will be a greater pity!
[A Letter to the Students said,
“Who has obtained the precious human body,
Has already passed the ocean of samsara and reached the shore,
Has already planted the ultimate bodhi seed,
Has the good qualities surpassing the wish-fulfilling jewel,
So, who will waste such a wonderful human body without any fruition?”]
It means that, relying on the human body, we can surpass the ocean of cyclic birth
and death, implant the bodhichitta seeds which exceed the wish fulfilling gems. Since this
wonderful human body has already been possessed, who will be willing to waste it on
Also, as is said in the sutra, “Once losing your human body, you can not get it again
until hundreds and thousands eons.” As a result, the author warned and reminded us again
and again that since we have already met the precious Guru, obtained the opportunity to
practice the Dharma and the supreme knack, we should never squander this life.
Otherwise, we will never have this opportunity again.
The Sutra Requested by the Kingdom Upholding King said, “Don’t waste your
human body on any distractive stuff; you should put efforts toward the most meaningful,
most valuable directions.”
The Treasure of Middle Way also said,
“Relying on the illumination of genuine Dharma,
We acquire the eighteen leisure and endowment,
And practice the Dharma attentively,
Only in this way, can our human body have its meaning.”
However, worldly people do not think in this way. Some people said, the most
important three things in life are house, cars, and some other stuff. However, from my
point of view, what is the value and significance of life? It all depends on if you have
respectful faith in the Buddha. Otherwise, it is meaningless to just saying repeatedly that
“I will take refuge,” “I am a Buddhist,” and “I will study the Bodhicaryavatara”. Only
when you have the spirit of Buddhism infuse into your heart and your actions and mental
states transformed, then the Dharma is meaningful. If through studying these scriptures, a
bad person, who has committed lots of bad karmas in all the aspects, can divert his
mental state to some good direction, though he may not be transformed completely
different from before, this is a manifestation of the value of a human body!
The above described is the working basis of Bodhichitta. First of all is that the body
has to have leisure and endowment. This kind of human body is very difficult to find. If it
is wasted, it will not be obtained again.
D2. Explaining the rarity of the fortunate mind for the intention basis
Just as a flash of lightening on a dark, cloudy night
For an instant brightly illuminates all,
Likewise in this world, through the mighty of Buddha,
A wholesome thought rarely and briefly appears.
Here a profound analogy was used to explain the mind basis of bodhichitta is very
difficult to get. At a night when there is no moon and no stars, black clouds spread out
throughout the sky; it is as dark as a twenty-ninth lunar day night. Even when somebody
cut off your nose you will not be able to see it. Then, even if a lightening appears just for
one instance, it will look so bright that everything is lighted up. Similarly, the worldly
people’s thoughts of studying the Dharma or generating bodhichitta to benefit sentient
beings are as fleeting as the lightening in the dark sky, so when a virtuous thought arises,
grasp on it and don’t let it go!
Some people may think, “This is too exaggerated! I am always cultivating
bodhichitta, practicing virtuous Dharma. It is not as quick as a flash of lightening. I have
been practiced the virtuous Dharma for a long time.” Of course, this IS the case for
people who have very high realization. They benefit sentient beings, generate bodhichitta,
and practice virtuous Dharma everyday without any malicious thoughts. However, most
ordinary people, like me, have various mental afflictions such as competitive mind,
jealousy mind, desire mind and angry mind and so forth in their continuum almost twenty
four hours a day. For example, when I am teaching the Dharma, sometimes I point out
others’ faults, sometimes I praise myself… A lot of afflictions mixed there and the pure
and virtuous thought of bodhichitta rarely arises.
Some of you are already in your thirties or forties. How many thoughts of practicing
virtuous Dharma have ever come to you in this life? We are meditating in the morning
together recently; this is a time when we can see our mental state.
Sometimes I am very disappointed with myself, it appears that I am meditating on
bodhichitta, but inappropriate thoughts always arise “Why quarrel with others? Why
blame that one?” Sometimes I feel I have already lost my heart on myself. All the present
Dharma friends are better than me, because you attend tutoring and classes everyday.
Sometimes you have some bad thoughts but you also have more opportunity to generate
virtuous thoughts.
Many people use very little time to study the Dharma. A member of Bodhi Institute
called me today, she said her practice is very good, but from the beginning of studying
the Bodhicaryavatara till now, she has never read the book but only listened to the MP3
everyday when she is driving, and turned in the homework. If she acts like this from the
very beginning, what will she do when we reach the wisdom chapter and dedication
chapter? Although she cannot spent half hour to study the Dharma, she can stay for five
hours for a meal on her sister-in-law’s wedding, and then after she got back, have dinner
with her guru for … I don’t know how long it is then?
As we can see, worldly people in the cities always study the Dharma superficially.
They may not be happy to hear this, but this is the fact. Spending five hours for a
wedding lunch, having dinner with guru for another three or four hours, in total she spent
eight hours a day to accompany others for eating, but she does not have even half hour
for reading the Bodhicaryavatara. This kind of people, they say superficially, “I will
study the Bodhicaryavatara”, “I will enroll”, but it is hard to say if they can really learn
something. On the contrary, if one spends eight hours on the study of the
Bodhicaryavatara and half hour to accompany the guests then it is acceptable. After all,
as an ordinary person, it will not be feasible not to spend any time on social activities.
The virtuous mind of worldly people is very weak. One may be very anxious at studying
one day, but on the next day, he may either do not feel well, or have some afflictions, or
some obstacles, and the opportunity of practicing the virtuous Dharma will disappear
immediately just as the sun light is veiled by the black cloud. People who really want to
practice the Dharma should have full self-confidence, strong courage and the will to
change the lifestyle. Especially, when you have time, try to manage time for Dharma
studying. I myself see time as the most important thing. If one does not manage time
effectively, the practice will never succeed.
Then there follows the explanation in the text:
[In a dark, cloudy night, a flash of lightening can illuminate everything for an
instant. Everything will be very obvious. In the same way, through the mighty of the
Buddha, the worldly people who are undergoing the great suffering caused by their
bad karma, sometimes, are able to generate the wisdom of practicing the virtuous
Dharma and accumulating merit.]
The continuum of sentient beings in the Dharma degenerating kalpa is like the black
night lacking the sunshine of wisdom, the black clouds of various non-virtuous karma
and mental afflictions spread in the space layers over layers. The virtuous thought of
cultivating bodhichitta to benefit sentient beings and the faith in the Dharma is as a
lightening flash that only appears for one moment. If we miss this opportunity, we will
never have it again forever. As a result, I hope all the Dharma friends will achieve some
accomplishments this time. Apparently, it is impossible for you to obtain a lot of
achievements from one-day study, or immediately be completely transformed. Studying
the Dharma is not that simple, but if you have perseverance, your action will definitely
help. This is because this text is teaching us the method of seasoning our mind and action.
If you contemplate on it over and over after you hear the teaching, through the blessings
from the lineage Gurus, your continuum will absolutely be transformed. Especially the
method for enhancing bodhichitta, I believe it is absolutely helpful. Everyone should
study diligently and not waste time!
Many people in big cities are very miserable. They spent most of their time on
eating, drinking, playing and entertaining; the time spent on work is actually not that
much. I have calculated, if we sleep eight hours, and work eight hours everyday, we
should have eight hours to be used very flexibly. Besides four hours for eating and
housework and so on, the remaining four hours can be completely used for studying the
Dharma. If this is the case, even if you spend twenty hours on eating, drinking, playing
and entertaining, I think it is still acceptable. On the contrary, it is not realistic to spend
twenty hours on the Dharma, only four hours for one’s own satisfactions, two hours on
sleeping and two hours on eating. It is not enough at all. If one can spend twelve hours on
studying the Dharma and leave oneself another twelve hours. One who can do this is a
really marvelous practitioner.
Lots people always say “I am busy; I have no time.” Then what makes you busy?
They think it is okay to spend several hours on the worldly concerns, but once being told
to study the Dharma, they will say “I have on time.” Ignorant people always use “busy”
as an excuse to counteract and cheat themselves. In fact they are just lack of power in
their heart. As I said earlier, the virtuous thought of studying the Dharma does not arise
frequently. Some people are already in their forties or fifties; they have already wasted
most of their life without any virtuous deeds. If we still do not grasp the opportunity of
studying the Dharma now, when will we have this opportunity again?
Occasionally, some people have the thought of renunciation or taking lay people’s
precepts. This does not occur without reasons. One reason is due to the strength of
blessing and mighty of the Buddha; another is the maturation of the causes and conditions
of them. As is said in the Ornament of Clear Realization, without these causes and
conditions, no matter how the Buddha blesses, it will not help.
Therefore, because of one’s power of aspiration in previous life and the power of
Buddha’s blessing, we have the thought of practicing the virtuous Dharma in this life. We
should grasp this good thought. Don’t take for granted that it is very easy to have faith in
the Buddha today.
What is the thought of virtuous Dharma? One is faith, another one is compassion,
and these two are required. The Ten Bhumi Sutra said, without faith, it is as the scorched
seed can not generate the sprout of virtuous Dharma. While regarding the objects of faith,
as said in the Jewel Chest Sutra, they are the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the action of
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the fruition of full enlightenment - these four aspects. We
must have genuine faith; otherwise, no merit of virtuous Dharma can generate. We also
must have great compassion for sentient beings. Without great compassion, it is
impossible to practice bodhichitta.
The Moon Treasure Sutra said, “As the wheel turning king must have the gold wheel
gem in front of him, bodhichitta must have great compassion as its foundation. Without
great compassion, the practice of bodhichitta will never succeed.” As a result, whether we
are Mahayana practitioners or not depends on two things: One is if we have faith in the
Three Jewels and Gurus; another is if we have great compassion toward sentient beings.
If we meet these two criteria, the thought of virtuous Dharmas will arise in our
continuum. Then, we should try to strengthen it; don’t let it disappear immediately.
[This mental state will not arise continuously or very frequently. Therefore, we
should put forth effort to generate and enhance the thought of practicing virtuous
We must try all means, such as listening, reflecting and mediating, to enhance
virtuous thought.
[As is said,
“Possessing the pair of wings of leisure and endowment,
Owning the eyes of being able to distinguish good from bad, merit from fault,
But trapped in the net of chasing reputation and wealth,
Isn’t it already in the cage of negative karma?”]
If we have already possessed the two wings of leisure and endowment of the human
body, owned the two eyes of being able to see the virtuous actions causing pleasant result
and malicious actions causing unpleasant result, and yet if we attach to reputation, status
and wealth, then we will be trapped in the prison of bad karma without liberation. For
example, there is a strong eagle that has very powerful wings and sharp eyes; it should
have been able to fly in the sky freely. However, if it is trapped in a net, can it fly? Not at
all. In the same way, we have already possessed the human body, learned some Dharma,
if we attach to reputation, wealth and properties, we are very easily trapped by bad
As a result, we should watch over our future and our directions. Since we have met
such supreme Mahayana Dharma, no matter studying for one year or a half year, we must
try our best to generate the genuine altruistic mind in our continuum. We must put efforts
in this aspect!
42. Explain the following terms: The leisure and endowment, Better rebirth, Ultimate
43. Why is human body with leisure and endowment the supreme basis for bodhichitta?
44. Please list the eight kinds of lacking freedom. Why are they called the eight states of
lacking the opportunity to practice the Dharma? Please explain respectively.
45. What are the five advantages pertaining to oneself? If one of them is missing, will our
practice be influenced?
46. What are the five advantages pertaining to others? Why the amount is determined as
five; is four or six okay? Please explain it.
47. Please explain the difficulty of obtaining a human body with leisure and endowment
from the aspects of reasons, analogies and quantities respectively.
48. Some people think: “Although it was said in the sutra that a human body is very
difficult to obtain, this must only be a kind of saying. Now there are so many people in
the world; how can a human body difficult to obtain?” Do you think this statement is
correct? Please explain it through reasoning and share your experience about the
difficulty of obtaining a human body?
49. “How will such a perfect opportunity come about again?” What is the foundation to
support that a perfect human body cannot be obtained in the next life? How should we
treat our present human body after we understand this principle?
50. What are the four objects, mentioned in the Jewel Chest Sutra, that we should have
faith in?
51. Please explain the verse: “Possessing the pair of wings of leisure and endowment,
owning the eyes of being able to distinguish good from bad and merit from fault, but
trapped in the net of chasing reputation and wealth, isn’t it already in the cage of
negative karma?”
52. Please explain through analogies the difficulty of obtaining the basis of mind for
53. Why is it said that the value of a human body far surpasses all the wish fulfilling
Lesson 8
Now we are still in chapter one - the benefit of bodhichitta. Through this chapter we
will be able to know how to learn this text. It was explained in three aspects: the
prthagjana (person in Sanskrit) who enters the way, the intention of the person who
enters the way and the methods of entering the way.
The first is the person who is entering the way. Yesterday, we have covered two
methods of entering the way; they are through the basis of the body and through the basis
of the mind. Today, we will cover the intention of those who are entering the way. In
other words, how should they generate bodhichitta, which can be divided into two
aspects: “the benefits of arousing bodhichitta” and “the way to adopt and keep it.” This
chapter focuses primarily on the merit, and the next chapter the way to adopt and keep it.
That is to say, since the bodhichitta is of great benefits, how should we take and keep it in
our continuum.
C2. The attitude of the person who enters the bodhisattva’s way of life is
explained in two parts:
D1. The benefits of arousing bodhichitta
D2. The methods of adopting and keeping bodhichitta.
D1. The benefits of generating bodhichitta are explained in three parts:
E1. The actual benefits
E2. The rationality of having these benefits
E3. Praising persons who have aroused bodhichitta
E1. The actual benefits are explained in two parts:
F1. The common benefits
F2. The unique benefits
F1. The common benefits are explained in five parts:
G1. Purifying bad karma
G2. Accomplishing benefits and happiness
G3. Fulfilling wishes
G4. Converting name and meaning
G5. Praising the benefits metaphorically
G1. Purifying bad karma
Arousing bodhichitta is one of the best ways to eliminate one’s bad karma. Why? It
is explained in the text:
Hence virtue is perpetually feeble,
The great strength of immorality being extremely intense,
And except for a fully awakening mind
By what other virtue will it be overcome?
The strength for the ordinary people committing virtuous karma is very feeble, but
the strength of committing nonvirtuous karma is extremely powerful. Besides
bodhichitta, are there any other ways in the world or in what we learned which can be
used to eliminate those bad karmas?
As mentioned yesterday, the time for ordinary people to commit virtuous karma is as
fleeting as the flash of lightning at night. Most ordinary people in the world do not
believe in Buddhism. Even if we believe it, we treat it as a kind of entertainment, not the
most important thing. We believe our business, family and work are the key point and the
primary goal of our life. Nowadays, the world population is greater and greater, but
among them how many people are really studying the Dharma? Among these how many
people are practicing Dharma logically and correctly? Among these how many people
really spend twenty-four hours every day on practicing with calm and one-pointed mind,
and act consistent with the Dharma too? Through these observations and examination, we
can realize how limited the time that ordinary people commit virtuous karma is.
There are maybe not many people who are listening to this teaching, and among
people who are listening to it, how many are listening in a correct manner? Although I am
not very highly qualified, the content is basically not altered from the teachings of the
historical eminent monks and masters and lineage gurus in India and Tibet. Generally
speaking, our ordinary memories are very limited, so during the period of listening to the
Dharma, it will be very helpful to take some notes. If we only record the Dharma on the
tapes or discs, it does not necessarily help our continuum. We should try to put what we
heard into our brain; since we cannot memorize everything, we should write it done in a
note book. This is counted as a correct manner for listening to the Dharma.
However, to my knowledge, most people are not doing so. They listen to the teaching
once casually every day. Then they think their task is done. In the aspect of what is
taught, many people barely know? This is a very strange way to listen to the Dharma.
Genuine listening and reflecting is not like this! After my teaching, the Dharma friends in
our monastery will attend tutoring given by the Dharma instructors. Afterwards, they will
attend the tutoring given by the tutors and take tests the next day. Only through so many
methods, can we really understand the principles of bodhichitta. If we listen to the
Dharma absent-mindedly, can we infuse Mahayana Buddhist principles into our heart? I
believe it will be very difficult. Obviously, I understand that many people are currently
very busy. Sometimes they wish to study more than they can really do, but the key point
is that they do not give enough emphasis on listening to the Dharma, and have inadequate
knowledge of the way to listen to the Dharma. Only when you treat it as a very important
thing, can your continuum obtain accomplishments; otherwise, it is hard to say if it is
meaningful to only receive a transmission.
However, during the process of practicing the virtuous Dharma by the ordinary
people, it lasts a very short time and the strength is very weak. A lot of obstacles often
come. For example, when you are listening to the Dharma, you doze off, some conceptual
thoughts arise, you are not in a good condition or a good mood, people in the family
hinder, and some other afflictions also come. Even during such a short class, your
virtuous action may be hindered by lots of obstacles. On the other hand, the strength of
immorality is very powerful, some commentaries compare it to the darkness of a cloudy
night, it is very powerful and it lasts a very long time.
When they commit bad karma, modern ordinary people never care about the time,
but when being asked to listen to the Dharma for one class, they think, “What, one entire
hour?! How exhausting!” However, when they listen to some crazy pop music, they never
feel it last long enough; they never feel tired over senseless idle talk, staying up in the
dancing party hall, gambling, playing mah-jongg in distracting places such as a tea room,
watching TV and movie or reading some unhealthy information online… They enjoy
these kinds of things and never feel tired. These behaviors cannot benefit people at all,
whether ordained people or not.
Since our mind is already very discursive, and the lure of the outside objects is so
powerful and the mind’s strength is so weak, if agitated by the outside complex world,
the practice will be destroyed completely from its root. It is your own choice of being a
Buddhist or not. From the aspect of the worldly rules, it does not matter to believe in
Buddhism or not. There is no force on it at all.
However, if you really believe in Buddhism, and want to study the Dharma, it is best
to abandon all those meaningless things. However, as sentient beings in the desire realm,
we do not reject eating, clothing and other basic survival necessities.
The meaning of the above verse is that the strength of our virtuous mind is very
feeble, while the power of committing bad karma is very intense. Since we have
accumulated so many powerful bad karmas from beginningless time, we are
overwhelmed by various sufferings in the cyclic existence, and the time for experiencing
these sufferings is extremely long. Can we destroy or control the great strength of
immorality by our own strength? It is very difficult. Then what virtue should we use to
destroy it? Except the bodhichitta of the Thus Coming’s correct peerless enlightenment
with perfect compassion and wisdom of emptiness, no virtues can overcome it.
Some people may think: there must be some other virtue which is capable of
destroying it, such as practicing the great perfection (Dzogchen), mahamudra, meditation,
or chanting Buddha’s name. All of these are supreme practices, so why do they not
destroy immorality? Apparently, it is said in the sutras that these virtues can also destroy
immoralities. However, if you meditate without bodhichitta, can you benefit from doing
it? It Can benefit you, but it can NOT destroy all the immoralities. Not long ago when we
were studying some oral teachings of Dza Patrul Rinpoche, it was said that, “Without
bodhichitta, even if you practice the great perfection, it will automatically become a
Hinayana practice or something undistinguishable (similar as some nonbuddhism
Since the unsurpassed great perfection can not be counted as a Mahayana Dharma if
not imbued with bodhichitta, not to mention other practices. Our Guru Rinpoche has said
before, “We should have a wish, which is to practice bodhichitta single-mindedly. We
should consider the unique most important thing in our life is to practice bodhichitta.”
Admittedly, it is okay to practice other tantric practices or to chant mantras, but the most
basic and fundamental practice is to practice bodhichitta. Otherwise, it is very hard to
dispel the immoralities we have accumulated since beginningless time.
Some people may think: Chanting the mantra of Vajrasattva or abiding in the state of
emptiness should also be able to dispel immoralities. Of course these are very supreme
practices. However, the premise is what kind of motivation you have when you chant the
mantra of Vajrasattva or meditate on emptiness? Without bodhichitta, meditating on
emptiness can also be a cause of taking rebirth in samsara, and chanting the mantra of
Vajrasattva may also not be able to dispel the bad karma of oneself and others.
We should really understand the connotations of this verse. The bad karmas we
accumulate in the past, present and future are considerably heavy. Even in this life, we
have already committed a lot, which will increase in the future. If we want to uproot all
the bad karmas, we must practice bodhichitta. Otherwise, all the other virtues can not
destroy the continuum of bad karma.
The bodhisattva Thogme has said in the text,
[The basis of human body and intention is hard to obtain but lasts a very short
As mentioned earlier, the human body is very difficult to obtain for ordinary people;
the intention of practice the virtuous Dharma lasts and occurs as quickly and rarely as a
flash of lightning at dark night.
[Therefore, the antidote of virtue appears very feeble. In other words, the
antidote of virtue exists in a very feeble and light manner all the time.]
As ordinary people, we have very limited time for practice. During this short period
of time, only you yourself know very clearly how the effect is: Sometimes dozing off,
sometimes getting distracted. I heard some of you already cannot get up at six o’clock in
the morning. If you give up now, how do you practice real bodhichitta? Six o’clock is not
early at all! From this we can see, some people can not have a half-hour for practice, let
alone twenty-four hours or more every day. Sometimes they may spend half hour, but
most of the time they wonder something else or stop in the middle. Therefore, we
ordinary people are indeed very miserable!
[On the contrary,]
When creating bad karma,
[The causes and conditions of all the nonvirtuous karmas can come together so
For example, when hatred arises toward others, the object of it, one’s intention, and
the mental state at that time, all the factors for completing this karma come up so quickly.
However, when we practice virtuous Dharma, it is very difficult to have all the merit
factors meet.
[Which make the strength of immoralities extremely powerful, overwhelming,
unimaginable, and perpetual.]
After careful examination, we will find that everyday, we have so many nonvirtuous
thoughts, but very few virtuous thoughts such as bodhichitta, faith and great compassion,
so are in our dream. We may only dream of listening to the Dharma in front of our root
guru or guru once a month or even a year, but we have a lot of crazy dreams at one night.
That is why we are so ecstatic when we occasionally have a virtuous dream. Therefore,
we ordinary people are in the dream of attachment, hatred and ignorance all the time
without awakening. Since we are so habitual with this situation, we think it is normal, and
stay in a state of confusion no matter whether we are doing things during day time or
dreaming at night.
[As we can see that, we should possess the virtuous Dharma which is immorality
destroyer. Regarding the bad karma, except bodhichitta with the nature of perfect
wisdom and compassion, what virtue can dispel them away? There are absolutely no
other ways to dispel them.]
Our Guru Rinpoche had said, “All the virtuous actions we commit, such as
prostration, chanting mantras or paying homage, can not compare to cultivating
bodhichitta. Without bodhichitta, even if you chant the mantras for ten thousands or one
hundred millions times, or practice the preliminary practice multiple times, achieve very
high realization during meditation, all these merits are actually not great. They may only
become the cause of a fortunate rebirth in the human or god realms.” Since the difference
between doing virtuous action with and without bodhichitta is so significant, the merit of
bodhichitta is the greatest, and its power to purify the bad karma is also the most
powerful in this world.
[Therefore, we should all generate bodhichitta.]
[As said in the Avatamsaka Sutra,
“The eyes of a cat can frighten all the mice,
And make them intolerant.
Similarly, the bright eyes of the omniscient mind (here refers to bodhichitta)
Can conquer all the mice of karma and affliction and make them intolerant.”]
When mice see cat’s eyes, they are frightened. So cat’s eyes are able to overcome all
the mice and make them intolerant and flee away or freeze. In the same way, once the
unsurpassed bodhichitta arises, all the afflictions such as attachment, hatred and
ignorance in our continuum and the bad karma in our alaya-consciousness can be
dispelled immediately; just like mice not being able stay in front of a cat for a moment,
none of the bad karma can remain with the presence of bodhichitta.
Therefore, the merit of generating bodhichitta is great; bodhichitta is the premise for
purification or any other virtuous actions. From beginningless time, we have committed
lots of bad karmas due to our selfishness. Now, what is the antidote of these bad karmas?
It is the altruistic mind.
We ordinary people have almost no altruistic mind in the past. However, after we met
Mahayana teachers and the Dharma, we will not create lots of bad karmas in the future if
the mind of benefiting others arises in our continuum. Why? Because it is completely for
ourselves that we create bad karma. You can reflect on it. Among all the bad karmas we
created before, which one was done for others? Almost none, all are done for ourselves or
our relatives and friends. If the genuine bodhichitta arises, the continuum of creating bad
karma will be stopped. As said in the Ornament of Mahayana Sutras, “If the wise have
bodhichitta arise, the nonvirtuous action of enormous immorality will be blocked.”
Therefore, bodhichitta can only arise in the wise; the dull do not like to hear it, not to
mention to develop it. However, if one has genuine bodicitta, enormous bad karmas will
not exist any more. The Jataka Stories (The Stories of Buddha Shakyamuni’s Previous
Lives) said, “If bodhichitta is generated, one treats all sentient beings as dear as their
family. Then all nonvirtuous actions will be blocked, not to mention creating bad
We should examine whether we can generate bodhichitta. If yes, all the bad karma
we have created through body, speech and mind in the continuum will disappear
gradually. All the bad karma of breaking pratimoksha (precept for individual liberation),
bodhisattva vows, and tantric vows will be eradicated gradually; great bad karmas can be
oppressed, and small bad karmas can be eliminated completely. This is the merit and
power of bodhichitta.
G2. Accomplishing benefits and happiness
All the Buddhas who have contemplated for many eons
Have seen it to be beneficial;
For by it the limitless masses of beings
Will quickly attain the supreme state of bliss.
All the Buddhas with great loving-kindness and compassion have contemplated and
observed for many eons and found that only bodhichitta is the most beneficial to all
sentient beings. Relying on it, countless and boundless sentient beings can easily obtain
the peerless perfect correct enlightenment.
As we all know, the Buddha is very compassionate to all sentient beings. No matter
whether at his causal stage or fruition stage, what he thought all the time is to benefit
sentient beings. This was well known to us when we were studying The Comprehensive
Biography of the Buddha Shakyamuni last year. In every story, no matter offering his
body or doing other things, his only aim is to bring benefits to sentient beings. This is his
ultimate goal, his ultimate aspiration. For eons and eons39, in order to benefit sentient
beings, he was contemplating: What is the best way to benefit sentient beings? Finally he
found out, bodhichitta has great benefits to sentient beings. No other virtue has such great
benefits except bodhichitta.
From the conventional level, who is the contemplator? The Buddha who has
39 Eons and eons: it means three great Asankyeyakalpa, or it can be called three great countless eons.
According to the Abhidharma, eighty medium eons are counted as one great eon.
perfectly realized the true nature of the world and who never tells lies, not an ordinary
person of whom we think, “He is very nice, very reliable; so what he said must be right.”
Because no matter how nice and marvelous ordinary people are, they still tell lies
sometimes. However, the Buddha never tells lies, as said in the Pramanavarttika, the
Buddha is the only Master who understands the world as it is.
How long has he contemplated? Eons and eons, not one or two days, one lifetime or
two lifetimes. Some scientists feel themselves are very marvelous because they have
spent several years or decades on some research; while Buddhas are not only using
several years or decades or several centuries or millennia, but eons and eons to
What have they found? Due to ignorance, sentient beings are trapped miserably in
the cyclic existence; only bodhichitta can help them out of the various sufferings in
samsara, like the suffering of suffering, suffering of changing and suffering of conditional
existence, and obtain the ultimate happiness of Buddhahood.
Historical eminent monks and masters have said, “If you want to repay the Buddha,
you should first know how he treats us.” How does he treat us? He benefits sentient
beings on the basis of bodhichitta.
When our Guru Rinpoche saw Miphan Rinpoche in his radiant dream, he said, “The
only way I will repay you is to aspire to benefit sentient beings.” It also said in the
Ornament of Middle Way that except benefiting sentient beings, there is no other work for
the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. What do they use to benefit sentient beings? It is
bodhichitta. After contemplating and observing for many eons, the Buddha found that
only bodhichitta is the most beneficial for sentient beings. Through it all sentient beings
are able to obtain Buddhahood smoothly.
In history, from the beginning of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching till now in these
two thousand and five hundred years, how many practitioners in exoteric or esoteric
tradition, Han, Tibetan, or Therevada Buddhism have obtained the unsurpassable
complete enlightenment based on bodhichitta? The answer is countless. Then, how many
practitioners have obtained this achievement without bodhichitta? The answer is
absolutely none.
Some people may argue, “Isn’t bodhichitta unnecessary for people taking rebirth
in a pure land?” (Reply:) It is impossible. Nobody can take rebirth in the pure land
without bodhichitta in their continuum. As said in The Teaching on Pure Land, people
with fortune will have all the accumulation of enlightenment (including bodhichitta)
perfected at the moment when they are going to take rebirth in the pure land.
With bodhichitta, it is very easy to obtain Buddhahood. Not as heretics endure
various kinds of hardship, such as pulling hair, jumping into fire, bathing in the Ganges
River, burning their body with five kinds of fire and so on.
Some people may ask, “Aren’t there many stories of obtaining Buddhahood through
hardship in Buddhist scriptures? Shakyamuni Buddha also had a six-year hardship; many
eminent monks and masters endured hardship in their practices; aren’t those hardship?”
Surely, these are all hardships. However, it is very different from that of the heretics. It is
true that hardships cause unbearable suffering both physically and psychologically.
However, the austerities of Buddhism do not. For instance, bodhisattvas who have
obtained at least the first bhumi are able to give their head, eyes, hands and feet to others.
Because the bodhisattvas have great intention to benefit others, they have reached
unsurpassed realization. Even when they cut off their flesh, it is as cutting off a handful
of grass. They experience no suffering at all.
The hardship of studying Dharma is the same. Some people think that ordained
people suffer a lot and they are enduring hardship somewhere. As a matter of fact, for
people who have faith in the Dharma and for people who have very strong intention to
benefit others, their hardship is nothing at all compared with the suffering and pains of
lay people’s life. Although the historical eminent monks and masters live in mountains
without clothes or food, which appeared very painful, in fact their hearts were
experiencing incomparable happiness. Compared with worldly people who live in a
luxury house and have an extravagant life, who on earth feels painful?!
Bodhichitta is the genuine, sole magic remedy. Now, some physicians and
nutritionists claim that “I’ve developed this product, which is very helpful for your
physical and mental health”, but as a matter of fact, it may have giant side effects. Even if
it helps, can it guarantee health for the whole lifetime? In addition, these medicines
expire very quickly, but does bodhichitta ever expire? Absolutely never. Some health care
medicine may work for some people. After they take it, the effect is very good, and so
they help to advertise on TV to propagate how amazing it is. Others think this is true, but
after they buy and consume it, they find it does not help them as they expected, but
instead they become worse. However, bodhichitta is totally a different story. As long as
the causes and conditions meet, bodhichitta is bound to benefit people in the Mahayana
family. As a result, we should remember that bodhichitta is the essence of the Dharma,
the crystallization of Buddha’s wisdom.
[All the Buddhas have contemplated deeply and observed repeatedly on the
methods for benefiting sentient beings in three great countless eons
(Asankyeyakalpa). They found that bodhichitta is the most beneficial to sentient
beings, because through bodhichitta, limitless masses of beings are able to easily
obtain the peerless fruition of enlightenment or ultimate peace and happiness.]
G3. Fulfilling wishes
Those who wish to destroy the many sorrows of (their) conditioned existence,
Those who wish (all beings) to experience a multitude of joys,
And those who wish to experience much happiness
Should never forsake the Awakening mind.
If one wants to destroy the hundreds and thousands types of sufferings in the cyclic
existence, dispel various kinds of unhappiness of sentient beings, and enjoy diverse
happiness, he should never ever abandon bodhichitta.
In the commentaries made by Gyaltsab Je, Master Buton and Kunsang Chodrak, this
verse is explained to be consistent with the three paths of people with different capacities.
The first line is about the medium path; in other words, Shravaks and Pratyekabuddas
hope to destroy their sufferings in cyclic existence of the three realms and obtain the
peace of perfect elimination of selflessness of human beings (the fruition of Arhat or
Pratyekabudda). The second line is about the great path; bodhisattvas in the Mahayana
family wish to obtain Buddhahood in order to benefit sentient beings and dispel the
sufferings in their continuum. The third line is about the lesser path, i.e. seeking
happiness of the human and god realms in present and future lifetimes; it is a selfish
aspiration in order to enjoy the reward by oneself.
No matter it is the lesser, medium or great path, all sentient beings have their own
wishes. The great path is to liberate all sentient beings. The medium path is to seek one’s
own peace and happiness. The lesser path is to obtain happiness for oneself. No matter
who you are, you should not abandon bodhichitta. Otherwise, you will never fulfill your
wish. Since we have already made the commitment of cultivating bodhichitta, with
whomever we interact, whatever education we had received, we should demonstrate the
kindness of Mahayana practitioners through our behavior in our daily life. This is
extremely important!
People with any one of the three capacities should never turn away from bodhichitta.
The Buddha has said in the sutra, “Bhikshus, even if we have to give up our lives we
should not give up bodhichitta.” Our Guru Rinpoche had also said before, “We should
make the aspiration of never abandoning or slandering the Triple Gem in all our lifetimes;
we should practice firmly and resolvedly when encountering any obstacles or difficulties;
even when we encounter dangers threatening our lives, we should not give up
bodhichitta.” He emphasized this precept again and again. As a result, in this world, no
matter whether we seek happiness for ourselves, or for others, or seek the ultimate
liberation, we should never give up bodhichitta. Without bodhichitta, we can not obtain
the happiness of this life, not to speak of the fruition of Buddhahood or Arhat. Why? If
one is too selfish, he cannot get along well with anybody, but only commits lots of bad
karma. Therefore, even the worldly social interaction needs bodhichitta, the altruistic
mind. With this mind, everything will be easy to do.
As Buddhists, we should start with ourselves to show an apparent manifestation of
our practice and realization. What does it look like? We should consider ourselves as a
lamp, which has two functions. One is to generate the next continuum: the first moment
generates the second moment, and the second moment generates the third moment….
Give out lights continuously without pausing to illuminate oneself. The other function is
to dispel the surrounding darkness. As a result, after we made the aspiration of arousing
bodhichitta, we should, on one hand, act as a lamp and keep the illumination of ourselves;
on the other hand, we should try to help people around us, whether at work, in a family
and country, or even the whole world. We should, on the basis of the light and heat of
bodhichitta, radiate the light of bodhichitta as far as we can to benefit sentient beings.
Some Dharma friends think in this way: I’d better now practice intensively and not
interact with any people. After I achieve the first bhumi of bodhisattva, then I will start to
generate bodhichitta, and start “my career” of benefiting sentient beings. This thought is
not correct! We are now ordinary people but we can still help people around us. As
Mahayana Buddhists, we should take as much responsibility as possible for our family
and job, and get along well with the monastery and Buddhist organizations. Otherwise, if
you think you are a Buddhist, but you do not interact with anybody, and cannot get along
well with anybody, it is very hard to say if you have bodhichitta in your continuum.
People who have made the aspiration of generating bodhichitta should first have some
positive influences or effects on others. Only in this way, can you be convincing and able
to benefit and liberate sentient beings.
Therefore, I really hope all the Buddhists can make a difference toward harmonious
family and society and even the world’s peace. We should put efforts toward it.
Otherwise, if everybody is only selfishly concerned with one’s own accomplishment and
practice, or even has very bad relationship with families, colleagues, relatives and friends,
then how can we propagate the Dharma? Ordained people have no real family, but in fact,
the monastery is your home. Fellow Dharma friends are your family. When you interact
with Dharma friends, make sure you have a good personality. Only in this way, can the
radiance of your bodhichitta give off. Otherwise, if you do not put efforts into this aspect,
it is very difficult to propagate Dharma.
We should keep in mind that Buddhism is not for elegant talking, but must make
others feel our concern, loving-kindness and compassion through our speech and action.
As a lay person, if you make the aspiration of generating bodhichitta, you should not
quarrel or fight with your family. Some Buddhist families are so unhappy, and sometimes
even not as good as non-Buddhist families. This is unreasonable. Since we have the
causes and conditions to become one family, we should cherish each other. When our
Guru Rinpoche went to America, we found that some Christian families invite the
preacher to their home once every month to give the whole family some teachings
according to their religious scriptures. Through this kind of training, their families are
very harmonious. This is the role that religion can play in a family.
In China and some other countries, many Dharma teachers did not emphasize the
teaching of how to apply the Dharma into our daily life, our work. This does not mean
that Buddhism does not have this capability. In fact, Buddhism can infuse into any area,
any nationality and any cultures. Once infusing, the effects must be very positive.
Buddhism is like an omnipotent remedy. It can mix with milk, it can mix with water, and
it can also mix with nectar. Although Buddhism is a native religion of India, after it was
introduced to Tibet, according to Tibetan traditions, customs and culture, it had already
rooted, sprouted, bloomed and fruited here. After it was introduced to Han area, it went
well with the Chinese traditions and customs. Therefore, Buddhism has benefited lots of
people and saved countless and boundless sentient beings. As a result, in the course of
propagating the Dharma, I really believe that bodhichitta can not be separated from
When bodhichitta is mentioned, many people do not know what it connotes. As a
matter of fact, the so-called bodhichitta is a kind of love, a kind of care. If this love is
used at work, in family, monastery, organization and the whole world, or even the
countless worlds are imbued with its radiance, all sentient beings will obtain the warmth.
Since we are responsible for propagating the Dharma, we should demonstrate the
characteristics of Buddhism in front of different sentient beings. Otherwise, if we claim
that “I will generate bodhichitta,” but when we interact with people we never use it, then
it is not acceptable. If we really have bodicitta, no matter in what kind of circumstances,
even shopping in a store, taking a bus, we can give off the radiance of love to humans or
nonhumans, including the miserable sentient beings on the lawn. Apparently, if one can
apply it or not really depends on the level of one’s practice.
The so-called advanced practice does not necessarily mean to sit down with eyes
closed for a long time, but to apply the principles of the Dharma in practice, in our
actions. This is what a genuine practitioner should do. We should illustrate the Dharma
principles in our speech and action, and try to keep our behavior consistent with the
essence of the Dharma. Only in this way, can we make people feel the greatness of the
In general, worldly people seek for happiness, promotion and wealth; practitioners
want to obtain enlightenment. No matter what you want, you cannot succeed without the
altruistic bodhichitta.
[If you want to destroy the endless sufferings in the three realms, if you want to
dispel all the unfortunate of all sentient beings, and if you want you and others to
enjoy all kinds of happiness, you should never abandon bodhichitta. Because
through it, all these goals can be accomplished.]
G4. Converting name and meaning
If bodhichitta arises in us, our name and our meaning in cyclic existence will be
completely enhanced.
The moment an awakening mind arises,
In those fettered and weak in the jail of cyclic existence,
They will be named a child of the Sugatas,
And will be revered by both humans and gods of the world.
Suffering sentient beings are fettered in the jail of cyclic existence, but at the moment
bodhichitta arises in their continuum, their original name “ordinary people” will be
converted to “bodhisattva”. Apparently, this is not only the change of the literal name, not
in the way as the honorary chairman and honorary president only have titles but do not
function. With respect to the actual meaning, they also have the real merits, and they will
become worthy of offering by countless sentient beings: humans, gods, Indra, Brahma,
Nagas and so forth. Countless sentient beings will offer to them, prostrate to them and
serve for them, and they are qualified to accept these.
Many people may think what kind of bodhichitta does this bodhichitta belong? Here,
we are talking about relative bodhichitta. As long as they have faith in Mahayana
Buddhism, even ordinary people can develop it. It is not like ultimate bodhichitta which
can only arise in the noble ones’ continuum. Only bodhisattvas higher than the first
bhumi can obtain it; as said in Entering the Middle Way: Only bodhisattvas higher than
the first bhumi can have the name “the Buddha’s children of absolute bodhichitta”. So,
here it refers to relative bodhichitta. Some commentators think that here it talks about
action bodhichitta (one of the relative bodhichittas), and it is described from the aspect of
We are capable to generate this kind of bodhichitta. If this bodhichitta arises in you,
then you can be called a bodhisattva. Some people may think, “Isn’t it contradictory if I
am both an ordinary person and a bodhisattva?” The answer is “Not contradictory”
because the term “ordinary people” indicates that we have affliction and karma in our
continuum; while the term “bodhisattva” refers that we have the altruistic mind and
behavior, so they are not contradictory.
Can this kind of bodhisattvas accept others’ offerings, prostrations and serving?
Absolutely yes and there will be no downside to accepting them. Ordinary people cannot
accept others’ offerings and prostrations. If they accept, they create four kinds of faults or
some faults in the protimoksa precepts. However, if one has bodhichitta in one’s
continuum, there will be no such faults.
Why compare cyclic existence of birth and death to prison? As we all know,
prisoners can only act in a very restricted space in jail. Aside from that, they have no
freedom at all. Even when Saddam was in jail, there were only around three meters on
both his sides, not to speak of common people. In the same way, cyclic existence is also
like a jail. If you seek upward, you can at best reach the top of the three realms
(Akanistha). If you go down, you can only reach unintermitted hell, which is the bottom
of the three realms. We are like a honeybee that is trapped in a bottle and cannot go
beyond a limited space.
Sentient beings are fettered in the jail of cyclic existence by the chain of afflictions
and karma. However, at the moment when bodhichitta, the attitude that “in order to help
all sentient beings obtain Buddhahood, I will give up all my own interest to benefit all
sentient beings from now on” arises, even such miserable ordinary people can have their
names and meanings completely transformed. Even thus, it does not mean that the selfish
mind will never come to our mind. As ordinary people, although we have made the
aspiration to benefiting sentient beings, selfish mind will still exist. We still need to do
something for ourselves. However, our goal has already been set. Just as you decided “I
will go to Lasha”, in the same way, now your destination is “benefiting sentient beings”.
From then, all your actions will change completely; you are not an ordinary person any
more. At the moment you have bodhichitta, your name is changed to bodhisattva.
Sometimes when some Dharma friends say, “You are a senior bodhisattva; you are a
senior bodhisattva”. As long as you have bodhichitta, senior bodhisattva, young
bodhisattva, middle age bodhisattva, whatever they call you is fine. In addition, now all
the humans, gods, nagas, nonhumans can make offerings to you.
Bodhichitta here was also explained as ultimate bodhichitta by the commentator
Bubhuda. Afterwards, lots of commentators refuted his view in this way: If it refers to
ultimate bodhichitta, it should not be compared to Vajra diamond40 in so many scriptures,
such as the Avatamsaka Sutra. The reason is that relative bodhichitta has the possibility to
withdraw and regain, but it is impossible for the ultimate bodhichitta to withdraw. The
reasons, supporting it as relative bodhichitta, can also be found in the Compendium of All
Practices, which provides quite a few scriptural authority and reasoning for it, as well as
40 Vajra diamond is destroyable; therefore, it cannot be the same as ultimate bodhichitta.
the explanation that bodhichitta is able to arise in the continuum of ordinary people.
There must be some bodhisattvas among us here in this room. However, common
ordinary people’s eyes cannot tell who bodhisattvas are. Regardless of these, even an
ordinary person should put efforts to generate bodhichitta in his continuum.
We have focused on “bodhichitta” from the beginning till now in this teaching. This
is very suitable for people who are enthusiastic, have faith in Mahayana Buddhism, and
have their Buddha nature already awakened. Some people have not had their Buddha
nature awakened at all; they always grasp tightly to the worldly concerns. They are so
attached to cyclic existence and this world that no matter how many times they listen to
an unsurpassed scripture, they still are not able to generate bodhichitta, not to speak of
the Bodhicaryavatara. At the moment, there is no way to save them.
However, if one has faith in Mahayana Buddhism, and mature spiritual seeds,
bodhichitta will arise very soon. This is as planting the seeds and watering them in
spring, they will sprout soon. Obviously, without listening to the Dharma, one’s seed may
not be able to wake, but as long as the condition of “watering” is available, his seed will
maturate right away. Therefore, teaching the Bodhicaryavatara in front of them will
certainly make bodhichitta arise in their continuum. Once relative bodhichitta arises, all
the virtues are easy to accomplish because the goal is clarified, everything will be easy
from then.
Now, is there any systematic study of bodhichitta in Chinese Buddhism? You can
easily see that many traditions and sects hardly have it. Now we are studying the
Bodhisattva Shantideva’s text systematically and orderly. I believe through it bodhichitta
will arise in many people’ continuum. This teaching is the real wish-fulfilling gem for us.
Why are even ordinary people worthy of prostration when they possess bodhichitta?
The Auto-Commentary of Entering the Middle Way said, the Indian non-Buddhists who
see the moon as their deity do not prostrate to the fifteenth lunar day moon, but to the
first lunar day moon. Similarly, the Buddha said, it is not necessary to prostrate to
Buddhas and bodhisattvas; however, it is very necessary to prostrate to those who just
generate bodhichitta, because they are very marvelous. As a result, if bodhichitta arises in
our continuum, we are new bodhisattvas. Then when people prostrate to us, don’t say,
“No, no, no, don’t prostrate, don’t prostrate!” but say, “Take your time to prostrate; I am
now a bodhisattva, the bodhichitta I just generated today is very fresh; your prostration
will generate great merit…” (Audience laughing).
The Buddha also said in The Sutra Requested by Kashyapa and the Maharatnakuta
Sutra, “When the son of the wheel turning king was born, he was not capable to take the
position of the king, but all the nearby kingdom’s ministers prostrated to him as they did
to the king.” Why? Because he was born royal so he was bound to inherit the king’s
position in the future. In the same way, after bodhichitta arises in one’s continuum, one
may not be able to benefit sentient beings directly right now, not as the first stage
bodhisattvas manifest one hundred bodies and benefit one hundred sentient beings at the
same time in one instance, but he has already born in the Thus-Coming clan. He is bound
to be able to do it, so it is very sound to prostrate to him.
This bodhichitta arises in whose continuum, who are worthy of prostration. The
Buddha said in the Vanayapitaka, “We should prostrate to bodhisattvas who just generate
bodhichitta.” It is worth to prostrate to bodhisattvas, or even animals, that just have
bodhichitta arouse in their continuum. For instance, if people who have the Prachitta
jnana (the supernatural ability to read other’s mind) see bodhichitta in the continuum of a
yak, or the yak is an embodiment of a bodhisattva, they will prostrate to it immediately,
because it is a real bodhisattva. The instructions in Kadampa also said if bodhichitta is
generated in the continuum, then wherever this sentient being is, this place will be an
auspicious offering field, and whichever country this sentient being lives in, this country
will be a sublime country.
Sometimes I think that the great masters, who are well recognized in the world
without any questions, like our Dharma Lord Rinpoche, no matter observed in whatever
aspects, His Holiness must be a Bodhisattva who has generated bodhichitta. Although His
Holiness always said modestly that he was an ordinary person, even if he stays in this
world for one day, it is of great benefit for all sentient beings who have seen, heard,
touched or thought of him. A Bodhisattva is totally different from ordinary people. If
ordinary people touch your head, you may not have some special feeling, but if it is a
Bodhisattva, it is completely different. Whoever has the fortune to see or hear the
bodhisattvas will gain enormous benefit from them.
Since we’ve generated bodhichitta, we should try our best to help sentient beings
around us. If there is no relative bodhichitta in our continuum, let alone ultimate
bodhichitta; only by talking about it we can not help anybody. Everybody knows how to
say pleasant words, but only saying them cannot make any difference. Only when
bodhichitta arises in your heart, and you have done your best to help others to generate
bodhichitta, and do not care about others blaming, slander, and you have no complains or
regrets, then can you benefit sentient beings directly and indirectly.
Our primary goal is to benefit sentient beings. We should reflect on it deeply. Every
one should understand the importance of bodhichitta!
[If bodhichitta arises in suffering sentient beings who are fettered by karma and
afflictions in the jail of cyclic existence, then from that moment, from the aspect of
name, they can be called the children of all the Thus-Coming ones; from the aspect
of meaning, they become the offering field of humans and gods.]
54. From which aspects can you tell that we ordinary people’s strength of creating
virtuous karma is very feeble, while the power of immorality is too intense to resist?
What are your personal experiences about this?
55. Why will one never take rebirth in miserable realms after one has generated
bodhichitta? Please explain this through scriptural authority and reasoning.
56. Please explain, through the analogies in the Avatamsaka Sutra, that as long as one has
generated bodhichitta in one’s continuum, even the greatest wrongs can be eliminated.
57. Isn’t it unrealistic to say “For by it (bodhichitta) the limitless masses of beings will
quickly attain the supreme state of bliss (Buddhahood).”? Because people who generated
bodhichitta need to give sentient beings everything they have; they have to experience
immense intolerant hardships during their practice. Can this be called quickly? How do
you think about it? Please describe your opinion.
58. What did the Buddha found to be most beneficial to sentient beings after he had
contemplated for eons and eons? Why?
59. Why do the three level paths all require bodhichitta? If this is the case, do the
Hinayana Ahats become the Mahayana Bodhisattvas? Please provide your reasons.
60. Why is the cyclic existence of birth and death compared to jail?
61. After generating bodhichitta, one’s name is changed to a bodhisattva. How come one
is an ordinary person and also bodhisattva? Isn’t it contradictory?
62. “The moment an awakening mind arises…They will be named a child of the
Sugatas”; does the awakening mind here refer to ultimate bodhichitta or relative
bodhichitta? Why?
63. As said in the text: “our impure body will become the form of Buddha after
bodhichitta arises.” If this is the case, why do not people just generated bodhichitta
possess the thirty-two marks and eighty minor marks of the Buddha? Please explain this
through reasoning.
Lesson 9
Now we are in the first chapter “the Benefit of Bodhichitta” of the first three chapters
of inspiring bodhichitta to be born anew if not born. Yesterday, the common benefits of
bodhichitta were introduced, in which we covered four aspects: bodhichitta can eliminate
bad karma, realize the welfare and happiness of self and others, fulfill the wishes of
sentient beings, and change the name and meaning of ordinary people.
Today, we will cover praising the benefit of bodhichitta through analogies. It is
divided into six aspects:
First: it is like a gold-making elixir, which indicates that our humble body can be
transformed into the supreme Buddha-form through the benefit of bodhichitta.
Second: it is like a wish fulfilling gem, which shows the preciousness of bodhichitta.
Third: it is like a perennial tree which suggests that our root of virtue can be
enhanced unceasingly through bodhichitta.
Forth: it is like one can flee from danger through escort by the brave; one can
conquer all the wrongdoing through bodhichitta;
Fifth: it is like the fire at the end of an age, which means that bodhichitta is the root
cause of eliminating all great wrongdoing.
Sixth: the description of bodicitta in other scriptures.
G5. Praising the benefits metaphorically
H1. Showing from humble to venerate by the analogy of gold-making elixir
H2. Showing rare and preciousness by the analogy of the wish fulfilling gem
H3. Showing fruition increases unceasingly by the analogy of the perennial tree.
H4. Showing the result of freedom from wrongdoing by the analogy of escort
H5. Showing thorough elimination of wrongdoing by the analogy of fire
H6. Showing other benefits in scriptures
H1. Showing from humble to venerate by the analogy of gold-making elixir
It is like the supreme gold-making elixir,
For it transforms the unclean body we have taken
Into the priceless jewel of a Buddha-Form.
Therefore firmly seize this Awakening Mind.
There is a kind of gold-making elixir in India. Only a little amount of it can
transform a giant block of iron or other metal into gold, just as a little bit of chemical can
make a chemical change of other substances, or as a drop of yogurt can turn a whole
bottle of milk into yogurt. This kind of elixir existed in ancient India. However, it is not
available any more due to the less and less fortune of sentient beings. This elixir can
transform ordinary metal into precious gems or priceless gold. In the same way, once
bodicitta arises in our continuum, our body, which is formed through the unclean seeds of
our parents, will be transformed immediately into clean and pure Buddha-form.
As we all know, our body is made up of thirty-six unclean elements. No matter
whether it is blood, flesh, bone, skin, snot, or tear, the body is dirty from inside to
outside. No matter whether it is a good-looking person or a bad-looking person, the
nature of body is unclean (This will be explained in details in chapter eight.) However,
although this is true, our dirty body can be converted to very clean and pure Buddha-form
through the benefits of bodhichitta, just as the elixir can turn iron into gold.
Before bodhichitta arises, our bones and flesh have no value at all. Whether it is from
the aspect of short-term or long-term, they are not different from that of the yaks or other
animals. However, once bodhichitta arises, the body is like a stupa, an offering object of
all sentient beings, not different from Buddha-form, as said in the Diamond Sutra. Why?
Because if genuine bodhichitta arises, it indicates that this sentient being has already
entered the early path of accumulation. According to the view in Finding Comfort and
Ease in the Nature of Mind on the Great Perfection by Venerate Longchenpa, the early
path of accumulation is already in the Mahayana path. As mentioned yesterday, our
wisdom does not yet exceed that of Shravakas and Prateakabuddhas, but after entering
the beginning of the path of accumulation, our potential has already surpassed them and
common ordinary people. In this way, this body is not different from the perfect-looking
Buddha-form; in other words, our body becomes very precious and rare.
Therefore, people in this room should think in this way: Without altruistic
bodhichitta in our continuum, no matter what people praise on you or what you think of
yourself, you are nothing. However, with genuine bodhichitta, however you act on the
surface, no matter how shabby you wear or how ugly you are, you are the object for
offering, venerating and serving by all sentient beings, such as humans, nonhumans and
gods and so forth.
As a result, we can not tell who is a Mahayana practitioner merely from the
appearance. The so-called Mahayana practitioner must be someone who has bodhichitta
in his continuum. Without it, even if you wear monastic clothes, propagate Dharma to lay
people and construct monasteries or stupas, Buddha statues, you are not necessarily a
Mahayana practitioner.
Only one knows if he himself is a Mahayana practitioner or not. If he has aspired to
generate bodhichitta and never withdraw it, then he is a Mahayana practitioner. He may
appear as a butcher, a prostitute or a beggar, belonging to the lowest and humblest caste.
As a matter of fact, with bodhichitta, they can benefit and liberate countless and
boundless sentient beings. Therefore, we are not aware where bodhisattvas are in the
As said in the Aspiration to the Pure Land, are the eminent monks and masters, who
are respected by hundreds and thousands people, bodhisattvas? It’s hard to say. Are
eminent monks in Chinese Buddhism and famous great Tulkus in Tibetan Buddhism
bodhisattvas? It is also hard to say. If bodhichitta really exists in their continuum, then
they must be our offering field. If it is not in their continuum, but in the continuum of the
beggars, we should prostrate to the beggars. Of course, this may not be agreed by some
people, but this is the truth anyway. Therefore, whether ordained people or lay people, we
should go all out to practice bodhichitta. This is very important.
Nowadays, worldly people also have some altruistic behavior. Many people are
touched by their stories and praise through various ways. However, in my opinion,
bodhichitta has not involved in worldly good people and good deeds. Why? Because the
object of the range of bodhichitta is very vast, while the range of worldly people’s
altruistic deeds is very narrow. The latter only have compassion to some people, such as
relatives, friends, children and parents. This compassion also exists in wild animals such
as tigers, wolves and so forth. This is not real bodhichitta.
A famous psychological professor in America has done an experiment. Although
it has nothing to do with Buddhism, I still think it may inspire you. Once just before the
end of class, this professor asked the students, “I want to play a game with you today.
Who wants to be a volunteer?” A lady came up to him. The professor asked the lady to
list on the board the names of twenty people who are closest to her. She wrote down the
names of her family and relatives, but it wasn’t enough, so she added the names of her
neighbors and friends. After she wrote twenty names, the professor asked her to erase the
names of people who she most dislikes, so she erased her neighbor’s name. Then
following the direction of the professor, she erased until only four names were left - her
parents, husband and child. The professor asked her to erase another two names; at that
time, she was hesitating. After careful thinking, she erased her parents’ names, but the
professor asked her to erase one more. After long time consideration, she erased her
child’s name. Then the professor asked her, “Why did you make this choice? Your parents
have raised you up; your child is your own flesh and blood. Why did you erase their
names?” The lady said, “Parents will die before me; child will be left alone after I die;
only my husband can live with me for this life, so I am more attached to him.” The
professor said, “In this way, the range of your attachment is very narrow, and in this small
range, you are so attached to your husband that you think he belongs to you. He feels
controlled by you and has lost his freedom like being incarcerated, so it is very possible
that he will leave you first.”
Although this is a worldly experiment, it also rings true to those so-called Mahayana
practitioners. They always say “bodhichitta”, but what is the range of their bodhichitta?
Only to their own relatives and friends and never for the benefit of other sentient beings.
This is not real Mahayana behavior.
When Khenpo Chuchya taught “the wisdom of the path” in the Ornament of Clear
Realization in Horshi, he blamed Khenpo Jinwang in Loro monastery. (Both of these two
Khenpos have already passed into nirvana.) He said, “One of his relatives was taken to
the police office, so he went to town to see him several times. He went to see him so
selfishly, which indicated he has not grasped the Mahayana bodhichitta; why did he only
see his relative; why didn’t he see others in jail?” Apparently, Khenpo Jinwang was very
wise; Khenpo Chuchya often praised him on his wisdom. However, since he went to see
only his relative, it shows he hasn’t mastered bodhichitta, so Khenpo Chuchya manifested
blaming Khenpo Jinwang. In fact, he was actually warning the followers.
Sometimes in retrospect, we may find that we do not have enough worldly altruism,
let alone bodhichitta. Not long ago, Fei Cong, a singer in Shenzhen, donated his more
than ten-year savings to 183 orphans and the handicapped that had no chance to go to
school. The total amount was around three million Yuan and gave him a debt of 170,000
Yuan. Later, when he got stomach cancer, he was unwilling to see doctors because he
thought that there are so many people who are more needy, so it is not worth spending
money on his own body. After he died, many orphans and the old sent him wreath and
cried sorrowfully.
On one hand, it appears that this story is very touching; many Mahayana
practitioners may not be able to do so. On the other hand, bodhichitta involves many
more areas than this. When we practice, we must examine the range of our altruism. This
is extremely important.
It is said in Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind on the Great Perfection,
when practicing bodhichitta, we should start with our mother, then people who have a
very close relationship with us, then extend it broader and broader. Why do we need to do
this? Because ordinary people usually only care very small range of “mine”. When
practicing bodhichitta, we must start with this small range and then can we gradually see
all sentient beings as our parents. Only in this way, can the range of bodhichitta be
extended wider and wider and the practice becomes hopeful.
In many small cases, we are able to see many people, including some Dharma
instructors and Dharma friends, who have a very strong attachment to “I” (atma-graha)
and “mine”. As said in the old saying, “Until reaching the field, a warrior’s courage can’t
be shown. Until handling a situation, the wise man’s heart can not be known.” In the
same way, when we sit in our rooms, nobody knows who has a vast mind, but through
interactions, it will be very apparent especially when we do something together. I have
always disappointed myself, not only for having a very quick temper, but also having
very strong attachment to myself and mine, and also only concern for a very small
portion of sentient beings.
So, I hope we can make the aspiration together to infuse real bodhichitta into our
heart. This is not a theoretical slogan, but a real practice in the action after knowing the
real meaning of bodhichitta. Once real bodhichitta arises, our dirty body will be no
different from Buddha-form. Therefore, as Mahayana Buddhist practitioners, we should
practice bodhichitta firmly, perseveringly, diligently and incessantly.
Come back to the text,
[Just like through the best elixir (common metal can become gold), through
obtaining bodhichitta, a dirty body can become the priceless Buddha-form.]
Before bodhichitta arises, I am just a common ordinary person. Now if bodhichitta
arises, even without Samadhi, special spiritual abilities and so forth, everything you do
will become easier with the presence of bodhichitta.
[Therefore, we must adopt and keep this powerful bodhichitta firmly,
[The Avatamsaka sutra said, “Like the analogy that one ounce metal, such as
mercury, can transform one thousand ounces iron into gold; similarly, when imbued
with the omniscient wisdom of universal dedication, the mercury realm of the virtue
of cultivating bodhichitta is able to eliminate the iron block of all hindrances of
karma and confliction, all phenomena are also changed to the wonderful color of
pervasive wisdom. However, the iron of all karma and confliction can not eliminate
the gold of aspiration bodhichitta for developing omniscience (Sarvajna).]
“One ounce metal such as mercury” refers to the elixir mentioned above. The elixirlike bodhichitta is imbued with the omniscient wisdom of benefiting sentient beings. It
can eliminate the impure iron of karma and affliction. On the contrary, just like iron
cannot destroy the elixir, karmas and afflictions in our continuum, such as attachment,
hatred, jealousy, arrogance, cannot destroy bodhichitta at all.
Just like mentioned yesterday, even an ordinary person with heavy bad karma can
also generate conventional bodhichitta. Of course, this person must be very open-minded.
Otherwise, if he has no self-confidence, feels unable to help anybody, and feels upset and
discursive everyday, it is very hard for this kind of person to generate bodhichitta. After
you generate bodhichitta, aspirate seriously to liberate sentient beings, and never think “I
will never liberate sentient beings any more”, then bodhichitta always abides in your
As I emphasized again and again, it is not necessary to keep bodhichitta on your lips
or in your heart all the time, such as thinking or saying “I want bodhichitta; I want
bodhichitta” even when you are walking or using restroom. In fact, this is not necessary
because any kind of precept in the heart of the recipient will always remain in the
continuum until it is destroyed by unfavorable conditions. Some people think they
aspired to generate bodhichitta six or seven years ago. It is hard to tell if bodhichitta still
exist in them after such a long time. Many people do not know these fundamental
principles due to having not studied the Dharma and have lots of confusion in their
continuum. If we study more Dharma to further our understanding, then the confusion
and ignorance in our continuum and our stupid behaviors will gradually disappear.
H2. Showing rarity and preciousness by the analogy of wish-fulfilling gem
Although the word “wish-fulfilling gem” does not appear in the text, it is shown by
the word “preciousness”. All the commentaries in India and Tibet showed that this verse
uses the analogy of wish-fulfilling gem.
Since the limitless mind of the Sole Guide of the World
Has upon thorough investigation seen its preciousness,
All beings wishing to be free from worldly abodes
Should firmly take hold of this precious Awakening Mind.
The Guide of the World (all the Buddhas primarily Shakyamuni Buddha) has
investigated through limitless wisdom, and found that bodhichitta is as precious as the
wish-fulfilling gem. Anybody who wants to escape cyclic existence of the three realms
must hold firmly this Awakening Mind.
So-called the Guide of the World can be explained with the analogy of a jeweler
leader. In ancient India, jeweler leaders always lead a number of jewelers to search for
jewels in the ocean. Jeweler leaders with wisdom eyes can distinguish a genuine jewel
from a fake jewel. Relying on this ability they are able to pick up genuine wish-fulfilling
gems. The wish-fulfilling gem can dispel disease, disasters, difficulties and obstacles of
sentient beings. It can also grant all the worldly siddhi (benefit) such as reputation,
wealth, and status. This kind of wish-fulfilling gem can only be found by jeweler leaders
with wisdom. Similarly, through arousing bodhichitta and gathering the accumulation of
wisdom and merit, the Buddha, who is the Guide of the Three Realms, has obtained the
wisdom of perceiving the reality of all phenomena. It is unsurpassablly vast and
unfathomable. Through it the Buddha has observed thoroughly. Finally he found in order
to dispel various diseases of sentient beings directly and indirectly, we must use the wishfulfilling gem like a remedy. This is the eighty four thousand exoteric and esoteric
Dharma teachings given by the Buddha based on the different capacities of sentient
beings. Among all these teachings, bodhichitta is the quintessential butter like essence.
This bodicitta is not different from the wish-fulfilling gem that can grant all worldly
needs. In the same way, bodhichitta is able to help sentient beings with fortune obtain
perfect Buddhahood.
The awakening mind is very precious; it is very fortunate for us to come to the
human realm and meet the supreme teaching of bodhichitta. The great masters in
Kadampa emphasized bodhichitta. Among all the Gurus, they showed the most respect to
the Gurus who transmitted them bodhichitta. Even Venerable Atisha did the same. Just as
if someone sends you the most precious thing in the world, you will think this person has
done you the biggest favor. Similarly, among all the Dharmas, the altruistic bodhichitta is
the most precious and rare. Anybody and anything makes bodhichitta arise in you is most
worthy of your respect.
According to the tradition of Partrul Rinpoche, the Bodhicaryavatara and the Great
Delusory Net should be taught once every year in all Nyingma monasteries. When Partrul
Rinpoche was still in the world, this rule was fulfilled by many monasteries. Nowadays,
this tradition is not strictly followed, but in our monastery, all classes study the
Bodhicaryavatara every year. This is a tradition and requirement in our monastery. As I
mentioned earlier, among all the Indian and Tibetan commentaries and sutras as vast as
oceans, why is only the Bodhicaryavatara weighted so heavily? The reason is included in
the above mentioned various dependent conditions and principles, so I hope you will
reflect on it. Of course, you may not know the preciousness of bodhichitta or the
importance of the Bodhicaryavatara. However, when you reflect on your life after you
reach a higher level of meditation, for instance, after twenty years, you will surely find
that having studied the Bodhicaryavatara is really the most worthy thing in your worldly
and spiritual life.
The Guide of the World Shakyamuni Buddha found that bodhichitta is the most
precious through investigation with wisdom, and anybody who wants to escape this
cyclic existence should practice bodhichitta. In regard to the sufferings in samsara, as said
in the Lotus Sutra, “There is no peace or safety in the three realms, which is like a house
on fire.” There is no happiness in the three realms and we are tortured everyday by the
suffering of change, suffering of conditional existence and suffering of suffering and so
forth. We can put the suffering described in Buddhism aside here. Worldly wars,
disasters, terrorist attacks, plagues and epidemics are also very unbearable.
For a Mahayana practitioner, if one wishes to be free from this fire pit like cyclic
existence, the best way is to practice bodhichitta. Without bodhichitta, it is very difficult
to escape cyclic existence by any other method.
Very few laypersons ask, “Will I become rich through listening to the
Bodhicaryavatara? Some people say “yes;” some say “no.” I think we cannot say “no.” If
you study the Bodhicaryavatara diligently and arouse bodhichitta attentively, relying on
the blessings of the Triple Jewel, your wish for riches will be realized, because
bodhichitta is able to meet all the needs of the three paths. Therefore, bodhichitta can
make people rich and can cure physical and psychological diseases.
Of course, it is better to see a doctor when you have some physical disease, but for
psychological diseases, I believe the Bodhicaryavatara is the best remedy. Especially for
lay people, who are always heavily loaded with unbearable stress and sufferings. They
will definitely benefit from listening to the teaching of the Bodhicaryavatara.
After you finished this teaching, you may feel that relatives or enemies, work or
living, are all no different from dreaming, your attachment to the world will decrease a
lot, and happiness will increase naturally. This is very helpful for curing psychological
disease. We don’t have many psychologists in China, so it is very necessary for us to rely
on the remedy of the Bodhicaryavatara.
[The unsurpassed Buddha is the only jeweler leader, who is able to lead us to
enjoy the merit jewels in the liberation city. Buddha’s wisdom is pervasive in all
phenomena, which all sentient beings cannot fathom.]
The Buddha has perfected all good qualities and is free from all kinds of faults, and
has perceived the reality of all phenomena through the great wisdom. He knows
everything as they are without any obstacles, which exceed all sentient beings. For
worldly people, no matter how famous, how marvelous they are, or scientists with
whatever titles, or even Nobel Prize recipient, when their wisdom is compared with that
of the Buddha, the difference is indescribable.
[When he investigated all phenomena thoroughly with limitless wisdom, the
Buddha had found bodhichitta is most rare, precious and has great merit. As said in
the Avatamsaka Sutra, “Among all the jewels, the wish-fulfilling jewel is the lord. In
the same way, in the three realms, when all the Dharmakaya objects were
investigated through omniscient wisdom, all the pure or impure virtues of humans,
gods, sharavakas and pratyekabuddhas are incomparable to the wish fulfilling jewel
lord - bodhichitta.”]
Among all the jewels, the wish-fulfilling jewel is the peerless lord; in the same say,
among all the pure and impure virtues of sharavakas, pratyekabuddhas, humans, gods and
so forth, bodhichitta has the greatest merit. Although it appears that meditation, reciting
Buddha names, circling and prostration all have various merits, these merits cannot
compare to the merit of even one moment of bodhichitta. Last year, when many people
wanted to go to Lasha or circle the divine mountains, I said, “However many times you
go to Lasha or however many times you circle the divine mountains, the merit generated
through them can not compare to that of even practicing bodhichitta for one moment.”
Bodhichitta is a practice method which has considerable merit according to the Buddha’s
teaching. Hope you all will remember this forever.
[Therefore, any sentient beings who want to be free from suffering should
surely hold and practice bodhichitta firmly.]
H3. Showing fruition increases unceasingly by the analogy of the perennial tree
All other virtues are like plantain trees;
For after bearing fruit, they simply perish.
Yet the perennial tree of the Awakening mind
Unceasingly bears fruit and thereby flourishes without end.
The virtue for worldly benefit and virtue for Hinayana liberation are like plantain
trees. After bearing fruit once, they perish immediate and have no chance to bear fruit
again. However, the virtue of Mahayana bodhichitta is like the perennial tree in the god
realm or at the beginning of this kalpa. It bears fruit unceasingly and the fruits are
inexhaustible - the more it is consumed the more it will grow.
Nowadays, many people practice just for the benefit and fortune in the human and
god realms, such as practicing for taking rebirth in the four meditation heavens and the
four-formless realms. In order to be healthy they practice medicine Buddha. In order to
take rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitabha they chant Amitaba’s name. In order to adjust
body and mind, they sit for meditation… When I went to the Southern area, a lay person
said to me with great concern, “You should spend more time on meditation; this is good
for your health. Meditation can adjust the four elements; don’t think anything when
meditating. In this way, the four elements of your body are also meditating, so they are
able to have a rest and your disease will be healed naturally.” He gave me lots of
wonderful instructions. This intention to meditate for health belongs to the virtue of
merit, which can only give you fortune in the human and god realms. It is like in the
monasteries in the Han area, many people burn incense and prostrate in front of the
Buddhas on every Buddhist holiday, but if you get a chance to listen to what they wish,
you will find very few people make aspirations for future lifetimes or for the benefit of
sentient beings; most people wish “please make my career successful”, “I want to find
my soul mate” and so on. All these actions are for the virtue of merit, which will
disappear once consumed. However, the blessing strength of the Three Jewels is reliable.
As long as the causes and conditions come together and you are very pious, your wishes
will be realized.
Another kind of virtue is the shravaka and pratyekabudda’s wish to be free from
samsara and obtain peace forever, which is called the Virtue of Liberation. This kind of
virtue also can be completely consumed. Once the Arhat fruition is obtained, it is
exhausted. If they want to enter the path of the Bodhisattva, they have to start over to
collect the accumulation again.
These two kinds of virtues are analogized as plantain trees. There are different views
about plantain trees. Some commentaries said it perishes after one time fruition.
However, based on my observation, the current plantain trees are different. They fruit
every year until they are too old to bear fruit. Especially in the area of Guangdong and
Hainan, some plantain trees bear edible fruits, not different from banana trees; only the
species are slightly different.
When our Guru Rinpoche went to India, he said with a banana in his hand, “this is a
fruit of plantain tree,” and also asked a number of Indian people “Does a plantain tree
only bear fruit once?” They answered “maybe not”. Although the feature of this tree is
different from what was described in many commentaries, I think the real meaning may
be that they will perish after they bear all the fruits they can; then they will never again
bear fruit. For instance, plantain trees can live at most several hundred years. After this
period of time, they will never again bear fruit. Maybe it was described from this aspect.
However, the virtue of bodhichitta is different from plantain trees. It is like a
perennial tree which is able to provide limitless fruit. Before we obtain Buddhahood, the
virtue will never exhaust.
The Sutra Requested by Maitrya said,
“Maitrya, just as all the water running into the ocean will not exhaust for
several kalpas,
Maitrya, in the same way, the virtue accumulated through bodicitta will not
exhaust until obtaining the peerless complete enlightenment;
Maitrya, as the fertile soil can make seeds sprout vigorously, the virtue
accumulated with bodhichitta will sturdily enhance.”
As a result, when we are imbued with bodicitta, we should create as much virtues as
we can and they will never perish. Otherwise, it will be too hard to perfect the
accumulation because we need to start over and over again to cultivate virtues. We should
keep bodhichitta in our mind no matter what virtue is accumulated, even when reciting
the great six syllable mantra once. In this way, this virtue will never exhaust until
obtaining Buddhahood. Therefore, the benefit of bodhichitta is incredible, which is also
the reason why so many eminent monks and masters emphasize it.
[Any virtue without bodhichitta is as the plantain trees that perish
spontaneously after fruition. While the perennial tree of bodhichitta will bear fruit
endlessly, and never perish but grow every stronger.]
[The Treasure Chest Sutra said, “Manjushri, all the trees grow based on the
support of four elements. Manjushri, in the same way, if the virtue is supported by
bodhichitta and is dedicated to Buddhahood, it will increase greater and greater.]
No matter what kind of trees they are, only if they are supported by the four
contributory factors of earth, water, fire and wind, can they grow stronger and stronger. In
the same way, no matter what kind of virtue it is, if it is supported by bodhichitta at the
beginning, done non-objectifiedly in the middle, and dedicated at the end, it will never
exhaust. This is critically important, and also the reason that all the eminent monks and
masters emphasize these Three Supreme again and again.
Whether we are giving the Dharma teaching or practicing some other virtue, we
should try our best to adjust our intention at the beginning. Think in this way, “I am doing
this not for myself, but for sentient beings.” In the middle when we are doing it, we
should do our best to have awareness and mindfulness; finally we should dedicate all the
merit including this practice to all sentient beings. In this way, all the actions and
behavior will become the cause of bodhichitta.
As I said in the past, there was a Lama called Garcho in Tibet, who was persecuted
by the red guards in the nineteen fifty or sixties. Every time he was sent to the stage to
accept the diatribe, he was aspiring calmly, “Today, I am practicing the patience paramita
for the sake of all sentient beings”. During the persecution, when the red guards were
striking or scolding him, he was cultivating great compassion to them all the time. After
being tortured, he dedicated quietly, “By the virtue of this practice of patience, may all
sentient beings make a connection with me obtain the perfect complete peerless
Buddhahood.” This marvelous behavior is really worthy our rejoicing. Most of us cannot
remember to aspire for the sake of sentient beings even when practice virtuous Dharma,
let alone when being struck by others. We also can not concentrate in the middle, and
finally always dedicate aimlessly. However, even in an extremely harsh circumstance, the
genuine masters can practice virtuous Dharma appropriately and dedicate that virtue to all
sentient beings.
As a result, no matter whether it is when a lay person works or an ordained person
practices, when we encounter various unpleasant objects, we must think, “For the sake of
sentient beings, today, I must…” For example, if you are going to tell something to a bad
tempered Dharma friend, you should first arouse bodhichitta at home. Then during the
talk, you should do your best to guard awareness and mindfulness, and finally you should
dedicate this virtue to all sentient beings.” It is good to do so.
H4. Showing the result of freedom from wrongdoing by the analogy of escort
Like entrusting myself to a brave man when greatly afraid
By entrusting myself to this (Awakening Mind) I shall be swiftly liberated
Even if I have committed extremely unbearable wrongs.
Why then do the conscientious not devote themselves to this?
People who have committed very serious crimes can have their fears dispelled from
their continuum when being protected by a brave man. If awakening mind can liberate us
swiftly, why don’t people who have committed extremely unbearable wrongs devote
themselves to this?
Some commentaries said, this verse emphasizes that fixed wrongs can be diminished,
and the next verse emphasizes unfixed wrongs can be uprooted.
As said in the text,
[“Even when one committed unimaginable crimes, such as impairing the Three
Jewels, however, just as being escorted by a brave man can dispel one’s fear of
threat from an enemy, awakening mind can instantly liberate one from the
maturation (vipaka-phala) of extreme wrongs. Why do the conscientious not entrust
themselves to it? They should rely on it.]
Some people may have committed very horrible wrongs, such as slandering the
Three Jewels, killing parents, killing Arhats, or breaking the precept of individual
liberation (pratimokasha) or tantric vows and so forth. In this situation, if they practice
bodhichitta, the wrongs will be eliminated and the fear will be dispelled. This is like
when a felon is protected by a brave man he will not have any fear. For example, if I have
an enemy in Serthar, I am afraid of going there; however, if a more fearful man said to
me, “Take it easy! Follow me; I have power over him, so you needn’t worry.” Then I can
go to Serthar with him smoothly. In the same way, we have done enormous wrongs in the
past, but if we practice the awakening mind, through its power, these wrongdoings will
escape when we are dying and not hinder our liberation. As a result, bodhichitta is the
best among all the purification practices.
When our Guru Rinpoche taught the Bodhicaryavatara, he said, “If we have broken
the precepts, such as committing five inexpiable wrongs or slandering the Three Jewels,
no one will fall into the miserable realms through the strength of bodhichitta. Even if one
temporarily reaches it, one will leave there as swiftly as a bouncing basketball and
liberate right away.”
In this regard, he also talked about some of his radiant dreams, which was described
in The Comprehensive Explanation of the Bodicaryavatara. I hope you will read it.
When the historical eminent monks and masters study a scripture, they always refer
to several reference books. For example, when they studied the Bodhicaryavatara, they
referred to the commentaries made by Gyaltsab Je and some other commentators. It is not
possible to acquaint the connotation if we study superficially, so it is necessary to read
more reference books and commentaries.
With bodhichitta, one will never fall into the miserable realms. Even if one does, he
does not need to worry, because he will be liberated instantly. Historically, Ajauashatru
had committed three of the five inexpiable wrongs. However, through the power of
bodhichitta, he only suffered very shortly in the hell. In addition, in The Explanation of
Treasure of Motto, Bhikshu Mahadeva had committed three of the five inexpiable wrongs
also, but he also had given Dharma teachings to people and helped many disciples obtain
the fruit of Arhats. After he passed away, one of his disciples went to accept offerings in a
patron’s house. When he was washing his hands, he was wondering, “In which pure land
is our guru now?” So he observed with his uncontaminated special ability of Arhat, and
found Bhikshu Mahadeva was in the cold hell. He didn’t realize he was in it and was
mumbling “Why is my house so cold…” After he saw this, this disciple felt so sad for his
Guru. Then after he washed off his hands, he couldn’t help thinking, “Where is guru
now?” Then after his observation, he found his Guru had already taken rebirth in the
thirty-three heaven. From this example we can see, when imbued with bodhichitta, even
people who have extremely unbearable wrongs, which will impel them to hell, only stay
in hell for a short time and obtain liberation quickly.
So, if we want to liberate, we must practice bodhichitta. Most of us seldom practice
virtuous Dharmas in our entire life. There are very few positive karmas on our Alaya
consciousness but massive negative karmas, especially lay people. No matter if they are
eating or working, they have committed countless wrongdoings of killing. Without the
purification through practicing bodhichitta in this life, it is very unlikely to purify by
other means. We should reflect on it carefully.
[As said in The Sutra Requested by Aksayamati, “Noble son, as relying on a brave
man one will not fear the enemy, bodhisattvas who rely on the brave man of
bodhichitta do not fear the enemy of wrongs.”]
This scriptural authority can also be found in the Avatamsaka Sutra. It means that
with the protection of a brave man, one does not need to worry about the enemies at all.
In the same way, if real bodhichitta arises in one’s continuum, no matter what wrongs one
has done, one does not need to worry.
Among us all, no one can say, “I have never done any wrongs in my whole life.” All
these wrongs must be dispelled by bodhichitta. I hope everyone will practice bodhichitta
64. Why is the root of virtue we accumulated through reciting Buddha’s name, releasing
captive animals, and so forth not exhaust if we are imbued with bodhichitta? Please
explain this with analogies.
65. As a Buddhist practitioner, what is your understanding of compassion from a
Buddhist point of view? What is your personal experience?
Lesson 10
We are now studying “the benefits of bodhichitta” in Chapter one. Yesterday, we
discussed the supreme benefits of bodhichitta41 through the four analogies of gold-make
elixir, the wish-fulfilling gem, the perennial tree and escort. Today we are continuing on
When we studied the benefits, the plantain tree was mentioned yesterday. In regard to
this tree, I have asked some people in south. They said that it will perish after only one
time fruition. You can investigate this by yourself.
We should be aware that teaching the Dharma orally is very different from
composing a commentary. When composing a commentary, any literal mistakes are not
allowed. Otherwise, it will be very hard to correct after they are in press. However,
historical eminent monks and masters didn’t set strict requirements for oral teachings.
The Indian commentator Dzantsagume thought slight contradictions are allowed in words
and analogies when teaching the Dharma and debating. Therefore, it is possible that some
Dharma teachers or instructors use some inappropriate logics, analogies and words. Our
Guru Rinpoche said when we teach the Dharma and debate, our purpose is to explain the
principles through different methods. Thereby, it is not necessary to put too much weight
on grammars and analogies. In this way, we can use different methods to explain the
principles in some special circumstances. Consequently, there are big differences between
teaching the Dharma and composing a commentary. I have not paid much attention to my
words when I teach Dharmas. However, I never use any scriptural authorities or
reasoning without reliable sources. When I explain to you, my words are not as formal as
in the articles; I believe this is good because, in this way, you will feel more relaxed. In
summary, whether in India or Tibet, the differences do exist when the eminent monks and
masters teach the Dharmas and compose a commentary.
In regard to the fruition of plantain trees, I believe both explanations are acceptable.
In fact, people also do not agree on “whether there is a core in the plantain trees or not”.
Even people who live in the tropics around plantain trees do not know it. Although they
feel they do, they actually do not know it very well, so others’ words are not necessarily
reliable. Seeing it by oneself may be more reliable; otherwise, there may be some
Next, I am going to talk about how to meditate in the morning. Now we have a
thirty-minute practice time every morning, but some Dharma friends are not able to
visualize when they meditate. I got a call from a Dharma friend a couple days ago. She
told me that her mind was so discursive. Whenever she starts to visualize, lots of
conceptual thoughts arise, so her mind cannot calm down at all. She cried out, “My
practice is so hopeless. Too many conceptual thoughts! What can I do?” I told her not to
think negatively, because this is a very common experience among the beginners. It was
said in Mipham Rinpoche’s Luminous Treasure of Great Net of Illusion and The Great
Biography of Shakyamuni Buddha that during visualization, we will undergo five levels
of experience. As practitioners, we must understand these principles. Otherwise, we will
feel we are never making progress and get so discouraged that we will give up our
41 Here bodhichitta includes aspiration bodhichitta and action bodhichitta
practice easily.
What will we encounter during our practice then? No matter whether we are
practicing bodhichitta, mediating or reciting Buddha names, our mind is bound to have
lots and lots discursive thoughts at the beginning due to never being trained before. This
is a very normal phenomenon. Don’t worry too much! Our mind is like a wild horse.
When it is just caught, it will resist fiercely and is hard to tame.
The first level is called the shaking feeling, like the falling water from a cliff. The
mind is like the waterfall running down from a cliff. Since it has never been tamed, once
it is stopped all kinds of thoughts arise. Sometimes even the thoughts you never want to
think come to you at this moment. In the Sutra Requested by Subahu the Buddha made an
analogy that the mind is like lightening, wind, clouds and ocean waves. It never stops for
even one instant, and is easily distracted by outside objects. Therefore, it is very normal
to have a disturbed mind and many busy thoughts at the beginning.
The second level is the gaining feeling, like the valley water. The valley water flows
rapidly, powerfully and turbulently, but when compared with the falling water from a
cliff, it is much slower. At this level, the mind can basically calm down, but this state
won’t last very long.
The third level is the practice feeling, like the rivers on a plain. The rivers run very
slowly, and their movement is not able to be detected from distance. Only when one
reaches the riverside, can one notice its movement. In the same way, the mind at this
stage is relatively stable, but some conceptual thoughts can still be observed.
The fourth level is the stable feeling, like a waveless ocean. When seeing the ocean
in a distance, it looks windless and waveless, much calmer than the rivers on a plain;
however, when getting closer, the subtle movement will be detected.
The fifth level is called the ultimate feeling, like the steady mountain king. The
mountain king Meru has never been moved by the fierce wind. In the same way, the mind
in this stage can focus on anything at one’s pleasure. It is never distracted by any
conceptual thoughts.
As far as ordinary people are concerned, we have to practice for a very long time in
each stage. Some people are able to have their mind slightly calmed after several months;
some may spend several years to reach the second stage. If we have never examined our
mind, and never meditated before, we will find the conceptual thoughts are much more
than usual when we just start to meditate. We even end up not being able to visualize
what we should, but everything we should not. This is because we usually do not
examine our mind. Therefore, we don’t know that the delusory thoughts actually
unremittingly arise in our mind until we start to meditate.
The mind is like a naughty child. When you do not care about this child, however
disobedient he or she is it won’t bother you. Once you are responsible of taking care of
this child, your attention is drawn to him or her; then you will find this child is so
naughty, so ill-disciplined!
Since many people do not know how to practice bodhichitta at the beginning, I won’t
limit the objects for visualization. You can decide it according to your own situation. No
matter what you visualize during the practice, you should think at the beginning and in
the middle that I am doing this for generating bodhichitta. If your mind is too discursive
and cannot even think about bodhichitta at all, you can put a picture of a Buddha or a
bodhisattva in front of you. Take a look first, then when the appearance can reappear in
your mind, close your eyes and start to visualize until the appearance becomes blur. Then
open your eyes and look at it for a while; then visualize again… After doing this
repeatedly for several months, your mind will gradually be able to focus better. If you are
really unable to visualize, you can recite the mantra of Shakyamuni Buddha: “Tayata, om
muni muni maha muniye svaha” in this half hour. Try to visualize at the same time. In
this way, your mind will become docile. Remember, keep in your mind that for
generating bodhichitta in my continuum, I pray for Shakyamuni. This purpose should be
very determined.
So far, we have practiced for less than one month, but some people have probably
already lost their confidence. If you want to give up so soon, how can you get through the
future study, which is very long? Practice needs a long time; to give up after one or two
times of failure is the choice of the dim-witted, definitely not the behavior of the wise. In
order to seek for the Dharma, the historic eminent monks and masters had endured
enormous hardship. They spent incredible years and years on this process and in retreat.
Only in this way can the genuine feeling arises in our continuum. If this achievement can
be obtained easily or one can obtain enlightenment in a couple days, everybody will be
very glad to seek for it. However, as a matter of fact, this is not the case for practice. We
should master the rule of practice. It is very normal to have lots and lots of conceptual
thoughts at the beginning, and this is not a wicked thing. You must keep this in mind.
Today, I just want to remind you this and hope you will not lose confidence.
Otherwise, I am afraid that you will lose the driving force for practice. We can see that
many Dharma friends are continuously making progress and everybody will gain some
level of realization and achievement. If you give up half way, then you miss the precious
teaching in this life, which is very heart-struck. Therefore, we should not give up our
practice. One or half year later, we will summarize our practice, and find out what
achievement everybody has. If you are extremely busy or sick during these days, you can
make up your practice later. Since you have the freedom to choose to practice or not, I
will not force anybody who simply gives up completely... However, I do feel
disappointed because we have already made the aspiration in front of all the Buddhas and
During the practice, some of you may have very good effects, some may have fair
results, and some may have no benefits at all. However, regardless of this, the current
situation is bound to improve as long as you keep practicing. Mipham Rinpoche said that
our mind is a conditioned object; it is very bad at first, but through practice it can be
changed gradually. At the beginning, it will not be able to calm down, but it will
gradually be able to abide calmly. So, we should treat this carefully.
H5. Showing thorough elimination of wrongdoing by the analogy of fire
Just like the fire at the end of an age,
It instantly consumes all great wrongdoing.
There is a special scorching fire at the end of every eon. It can destroy the entire
material world. In the same way, bodhichitta is like the end age fire; once it is aroused,
the wrongs from beginningless time can be destroyed utterly. So the benefit of
bodhichitta is really immense.
The last verse explains that fixed karma can be diminished by bodhichitta. This verse
explains that the unfixed karma can be thoroughly destroyed by bodhichitta.
[The fire at the end of an age can burn out the entire material world below the
first meditative heaven.]
According to the Arbhidharma, the material world undergoes four phases - forming,
lasting, decaying and destructing. When it was destructed at the end, the end-age fire
appears. It is as hot as the total heat of seven suns, and completely destroys everything
under the first meditative heaven instantly.
[In the same way, through bodhichitta, all the extremely unbearable wrongs,
including the five inexpiable wrongs, can definitely be burned up instantly from
their roots.]
Even if bodhichitta42 arises for only one moment, our wrongs in the continuum can
be destroyed at that very moment. What kind of wrongs? The wrongs can lead beings
directly to the miserable realms, such as the five inexpiable wrongs: killing parents,
killing Arhat and so forth. According to the view of sutra tradition, inexpiable wrongs are
fixed karma, which is bound to make the actor to experience the corresponding results.
Otherwise, it will be out of reason. The scriptures in Han Buddhism also said, three
things are not changeable; one of them is “fixed karma can not be changed”. As a matter
of fact, the so-called “fixed karma can not be changed” refers to the situation when
proper antidotes are absent, such as sincere regretting and purification; once the antidotes
are met, fixed karma is still subject to change.
What is the difference between fixed karma and unfixed karma? Some scriptures said
the so-called fixed karma refers to the karma committed deliberately, and the unfixed
karma is the karma created unintentionally. In other words, no matter if it is virtuous
karma or non-virtuous karma, as long as you deliberately create it, you are bound to
receive the fruit of it in your future life. For instance, if one deliberately commits killing,
breaking precepts, five inexpiable wrongs, destroying the Three Jewels, all of these are
the fixed karma. Without antidote, the fruits are bound to be experienced in the future
life. On the other hand, if bodhichitta arises, the actors will not fall into the miserable
Of course, eliminating wrongs here is different from that in the Ornament of the
Middle Way: When the Buddha-wisdom arises, all the hindrance of afflictions and
hindrance of the known will completely be eliminated. It indicates that through the
strength of bodhichitta, all the wrongs leading beings to miserable realms will be cut off
completely. Hence, people with bodhichitta in their continuum will not fall into the
42 Here bodhichitta refers to relative bodhichitta. The power of ultimate bodhichitta is not described yet.
miserable realms.
This point was also often emphasized by our Guru Rinpoche. Once when our
monastery had held a big debating, Guru Rinpoche had pointed out some vital points.
One of them was that if bodhichitta arises in one’s continuum, one will not fall into the
miserable realms. At that time, all the lamas used various incisive logics to refute it, but
our Dharma Lord defeated them relying on many esoteric and exoteric scriptural
Therefore, as long as bodhichitta in our continuum is not destroyed, we will not fall
into the miserable realms when we die. One obvious analogy used in the Avatamsaka
Sutra is that once the bright lamp is obtained, the thousand year old darkness can be
dispelled instantly; once the wish-fulfilling gem on the gana’s crown is obtained, all the
obstacles, hindrances and impairments will be expelled completely. In the same way,
once bodhichitta arises in one’s continuum, which is like the bright lamp and wish
fulfilling gem, it is able to thoroughly eliminate all the wrongs and obstacles that will
lead one to the miserable realms.
Apparently, the benefit of bodhichitta is enormous. Its strength is very powerful. As
said in the Indian Great Explanation of Bodhicaryavatara, “the merit of arising
bodhichitta for one moment is countless and boundless. No matter how serious your
wrongs are, once bodhichitta arises, it is just as when a little amount of salt dissolves in
the ocean, the taste of salt will be masked immediately by the ocean, all the wrongs, such
as killing, stealing and so on, we have committed in the past, can be thoroughly destroyed
based on the incredible strength of bodhichitta.
The Sutra of Nirvana said,
“The merit of practicing bodhichitta for one moment cannot even be fathomed by
So please do not think that there may be no use of spending half hour on practicing
bodhichitta. Remember, the merit of bodhichitta is clearly described by the Buddha in the
Sutra of Nirvana. Similar description can also be found in the chapter of “the merit of
aspiration bodhichitta” in the Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind on the
Great Perfection - the Great Vehicle Commentary.
Both monastic and lay people have committed so many wrongs in this life and from
the beginningless time. Some are still remembered and some are not. Some people kill
beings, some create bad speech karma when losing temper, some arouses aversion,
clinging… It is very difficult to eliminate all these wrongs completely through other
methods. However, if genuine bodhichitta arises, the wrongs that are supposed to be
oppressed will be oppressed, and the wrongs supposed to be destroyed will be destroyed.
Let’s put aside all the other wrongs, and only look at the wrongs we have done on
eating. Some people have eaten great amount of meat. They even order live animals for
meals. In this way, if you have been in this world for twenty years, how many living
beings have you consumed? If you do not regret and purify through the power of
bodhichitta, what will be the method for you to compensate their lives in your future life?
Obviously, to pay back the life is not as easy as regular compensation. If it can be
substituted by properties, we can give them all our belongings. However, the rule of
cause and effect never lapses; life must be paid with life. It is really scary.
Normally, every being in this world has its right to live, but we human beings are so
terrible, so cruel and barbarian that we have killed so many lives simply to satisfy our
own desire of taste for just a while! Without practicing bodhichitta, without regret and
purification and dedication, do we have the chance to liberate? If you retrospect on what
you have done in this life, you will know the answer.
In the text:
[The Avatamsaka Sutra said, “(bodhichitta) can burn up all wrongs just like the
fire at the end of an age.”]
It was described very clear in the sutra that bodhichitta is like the fire at the end of an age,
which can burn up all wrongs. This is the Vajra words in the sutra; we must pay attention.
For most verses, the Bodhisattva Thogme has quoted the scriptural authorities in
sutras instead of the teachings from Tibetan eminent monks and masters. It is very
appropriate to do so in our case because most of the Dharma friends who are listening to
the Bodhicaryavatara this time have not necessarily studied Tibetan Buddhism. If most
scriptural evidences are from Tibetan Buddhism, probably many people will have the
conceptual thought - “this teaching belongs to Tibetan Buddhism; I won’t study it. If it
belongs to Indian Buddhism, then I will study it. Since India is the home country of
Shakyamuni Buddha, I only have the faith in Indian Buddhism.”
It is normal for people with diverse personalities to have various thoughts. However,
regardless of this, I believe, it does not matter whether it belongs to Tibetan Buddhism,
Indian Buddhism or Chinese Buddhism. What really matters is to really understand
bodhichitta. In the past, many people did not know bodhichitta at all. They thought
meditation is bodhichitta, or reciting Buddha names is bodhichitta, or conducting a good
deed is bodhichitta. In fact, all of them are not bodhichitta. What is bodhichitta? Lots of
people still do not know; however, we should find out what the real bodhichitta is and
what the bodhichitta-like virtuous merit is through our current study. We should make
sure we understand it.
Now people in big cities are very eager to study the Dharma. Every time when I go
to some cities I see there are so many young and educated people who want to know
some Buddhist truth. However, it was a pity that they cannot even answer the most basic
questions in regard to Buddhist principles. This is understandable. They don’t know it
because after all they have no systematic Buddhist education. It is the same as without
systematic mundane education, it is also hard to be adept in the worldly knowledge. So, I
think besides the Dharma friends in our monastery, people in cities should also be very
glad to study the Bodhicayavatara this time. Why? That is because seeking the Dharma is
initially not an easy thing, but through the methods of modern science and technology,
people do not have to experience the hardship in Tibet any more. They do not need to
combat the high attitude effects and to suffer by looking for food and shelter, instead they
can comfortably sit in their cozy houses, listening to and reflecting on the supreme
Dharma, and receiving the transmission. For people really longing for the Dharma, this is
the most precious and supreme opportunity.
When I go to some cities sometimes, I see some monastic and lay people have very
strong faith in Buddhism. However, just through a meeting or conversation when we met
somewhere in the cities, I can not help them understand lots of Buddhist principles
immediately. Therefore, you should cherish this great opportunity to study the Dharma;
only in this way, can your study succeed. Otherwise, if you do not care about this
opportunity, and think the Bodhicaryavatara is as easy to hear as pop music, then I think
the Dharma may not have any value for people who have this attitude.
The decision of teaching to the public was made after my repeated contemplating
on whether it will benefit sentient beings or not. Finally, I thought most of the dharma
friends may not have the opportunity in their whole life to study the Dharma in Tibetan
area or Buddhist school. Through teaching to the public and through the blessings of all
the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the Buddhist principles can be understood. If you really
get benefits, my aim of giving the teaching is already actualized. From then on, you will
not be a Buddhist merely from the appearance any more. I really hope everybody can
understand all the principles of bodhichitta, and master all the verses and commentaries
of the Bodhicaryavatara in particular, and study on it attentively.
[Venerable Sudeva said, “One moment of great patience, which does not take
any objectives, is the reason of being able to destroy the (wrongs).”]
“One moment of great patience which does not take any objectives,” can be explained
as either ultimate bodhichitta, or relative bodhichitta. The moment when bodhichitta
arises in the continuum, selfish thought is not able to coexist; this is called great patience,
which does not take the objective of any self-interest. This kind of bodhichitta can burn
up all wrongs.
[This explanation does not overlap the principles mentioned earlier, which
refers to oppressing the wrongs; here it means destroying wrongs from their roots.]
The analogy of brave man was talked about yesterday. Today we are using the
analogy of end age fire. These two analogies are not contradictory. The former is used in
the respect of oppressing the wrongs; to clarify that bodhichitta is able to oppress the
wrongs, including the five inexpiable wrongs, but not to eliminate them. The latter
emphasizes that bodhichitta is capable of uprooting all wrongs due to the difference of
the fixed or unfixed karma. This view is also agreed by Patrul Rinpoche.
Generally speaking, people with bodhichitta will not fall into the miserable realms.
Even if they do so, they will then liberate as swiftly as the bouncing of a basketball, and
take rebirth in pure land. However, some commentators think that if the born bodhichitta
is withdrawn and destroyed, then the wrongs in the continuum will ripen anyway. So
those people may fall into the miserable realms, but they will liberate very soon.
Therefore, from the aspect of broken bodhichitta, the analogy of brave man is used to
show the merit of bodhichitta. From the aspect of intact bodhichitta, the analogy of end
age fire is used to explain that bodhichitta is able to eliminate all the wrongs, even the
wrongs which can lead one to the miserable realms.
The Bodhisattva Thogme’s explanation is different from that of the other
commentators. He thought, although the five inexpiable wrongs are mentioned in both
this and previous verses, the former indicates that bodhichitta is able to oppress the five
inexpiable wrongs, and the latter is to show that bodhichitta can uproot the five
inexpiable wrongs. Why does this difference exist? It is because the power of antidotes to
the wrongs is much stronger than the previous one. According to his point of view, if the
power of the antidotes is especially strong, the five inexpiable wrongs can be uprooted; if
the power of the antidotes is not that powerful. In other words, when the mind of
benefiting others is not that strong, it can only oppress the wrongs.
[If some people ask, “Isn’t it contradictory for one bodhichitta to have two
different merits?]
One merit is oppressing the wrongs; one merit is to eliminate the wrongs. If one
awakening mind has these two merits, isn’t it inconsistent?
[The answer is not at all. If the more supreme bodhichitta is obtained then the
more unsurpassable the merit is. So this is described on the basis of gradual
improvement of bodhichitta.]
This is not paradoxical at all. When bodhichitta is not very powerful, it can only
function to oppress the wrongs, such as the five inexpiable wrongs, or temporarily
prevent it from maturing. Nevertheless, even falling into the miserable realms, one can
obtain liberation promptly. While when bodhichitta has grown strong enough, even five
inexpiable wrongs can be destroyed from the roots. Therefore, it is not paradoxical for
one bodhisattva to have two merits, just as fire can oppress the water but also dry it
H6. Showing other benefits in scriptures
Its unfathomable advantages were taught
To the disciple Sudhana by the wise Lord Maitreya.
The merit of bodhichitta is countless and boundless. It is hard to explain one by one.
In order to supplement the other merits, the text quotes the scriptural authorities in the
Avatamsaka Sutra, “The wise - Bodhisattva Maitrya has said to the youth Sudhana that:
‘the merit of bodhichitta is immeasurable!’
The Bodhisattva Maitrya realized the empty nature of all phenomena, and became
the heritor of Shakyamuni Buddha. At his causal stage, his name is Maitrya (means the
benevolent one); when he obtains Buddhahood, his name will still be Maitrya, i.e. the
“Maitrya Buddha”.
[In addition, the Guru Maitrya who has the unsurpassed wisdom has said to the
youth Sudhana, “The merit of bodhichitta is out of measure.”]
The detailed description of the merit of bodhichitta is recorded in the Avatamsaka
Sutra. In Chinese Buddhism, the Avatamsaka Sutra has different versions, such as forty
Avatamsaka, sixty Avatamsaka and eighty Avatamsaka. Here according to the
Avatamsaka Sutra in Tibetan Buddhism, one hundred thirty merits of bodhichitta were
[As said in the Avatamsaka Sutra, “After Sudhana - the son of the jeweler
Dhruvadhana (Stable, enduring rich) - had aroused bodhichitta in front of
Manjushri in the city of source of happiness, he moved southward in order to seek
the trainings of a bodhisattva.”]
When Manjushri was in the source of happiness city, the jeweler Dhruvadhana and
his son Sudhana, and another five hundred children went to Manjushri and aspired to
develop bodhichitta. In order to learn the precepts of a bodhisattva, the child Sudhana
went to the south, according to Manjushri’s prophesy, to look for qualified teachers.
During that period of time, according to the Avatamsaka Sutra in Chinese Buddhism,
he had visited fifty three teachers. According to the Avatamsaka Sutra in Tibetan
Buddhism, he relied on one hundred and eleven teachers. From the Indian commentator
Bubhuda’s point of view, he had visited one thousand and one hundred ten teachers.
[At that time, Venerable Maitreya was giving teachings to the ocean of
bodhisattvas outside of a palace - Ornamented by the Vairocana Buddha in a south
beach city.]
Outside of a palace ornamented by the Vairocana Buddha in a south beach city,
Venerable Maitreya was giving Dharma teachings to countless disciples, such as Indra
and Brahma. When he saw the child Sudhana was coming, he entered the palace to give
teachings. This story can also be found in the Avatamsaka Sutra in Chinese Buddhism,
from chapter 63 to chapter 80; you can look it over.
[After seeing this, the child Sudhana prostrated immediately.]
Some scriptures said that the child Sudhana saw Maitreya five hundred yojanas
away, then he prostrated to him in distance. Maitreya then pointed to him with his right
hand and praised him in front of all the followers on his endeavors of relying on teachers
and seeking for the Dharma. He said the following verse.
[Maitrya praised him in front of all the followers that,
“Look, the one with pure intention,
The son of Dhruvadhana - Sudhana,
For seeking the teaching of the way of bodhisattva’s behavior,
He is coming here, in front of me - the wise.”
The bodhisattva Maitreya said,
“This is the son of Dhruvadhana;
His name is the Child Sudhana.
His intention is pure and clean,
And he came to me for obtaining enlightenment.”
[Then he said to Sudhana,
“Welcome, Welcome, the kind and compassionate one,
Welcome to the mandala of Maitreya,
Welcome, the peaceful and docile one.
Are you tired of the hardship on the way?”]
Then, Venerable Maitreya said to the child Sudhana, “you have relied on so many
qualified teachers. Today, you come to me; actually you are coming to see my mandala.”
Through Venerable Maitreya’s blessings, all the situations in which Maitreya aroused
bodhichitta from causal stage to the tenth bhumi were displayed in front of Sudhana like
a magic show. Based on this mandala, the child Sudhana aroused genuine bodhichitta.
Before this, the child Sudhana had already relied on many qualified teachers. During
this process, some teachers taught him the teaching of ultimate bodhichitta and some
taught him relative bodhichitta. The complete teaching was not given, but only one
portion from each teacher. Of course, it was also said in the Avatamsaka Sutra in Chinese
Buddhism that some teachers’ manifestation is not very appropriate in the circumstance
of the Dharma. This is well known to people who have read this sutra before.
[The child Sudhana asked respectfully, “Noble one, I want to enter the path of
unsurpassable enlightenment, but I don’t know how to study and practice the way
of a bodhisattva. Please guide me.”]
The child Sudhana said to Maitreya, “I have aroused bodhichitta and entered the way
of bodhisattva. Manjushri has asked me to seek for qualified teachers, so I have relied on
more than fifty teachers, but I still do not know what I really should practice. Noble one,
please demonstrate it for me.”
[Maitreya replied, “Noble son, you have been accepted by so many qualified
teachers. Why did this happen?]
The bodhisattva Maitreya replied, “Noble son, you have been accepted by so many
qualified teachers; you are a qualified Dharma vessel, so I will teach you the merit of
bodhichitta.” Then, the bodhisattva Maitreya explained the merit43 of bodhichitta through
[Noble son, bodhichitta is the root of all the Dharma, like the seed.]
Without seeds, no blooming or fruition is possible. Bodhichitta is like the seeds,
which is the root of all the Dharma.
[It helps all sentient beings to enhance their virtue, like a fertile field.]
Bodhichitta is like a fertile field which is able to increase the virtue of sentient
[All sentient beings rely on it for living, so it is like the earth.]
Bodhichitta is like the earth. Through it, everything can survive to live. Without
altruistic mind, all the merits lose their chance for lasting.
[Being capable of completely preventing all kinds of poverty, therefore, it is
like the god of wealth;
Being able to protect and support perfectly all the bodhisattvas, therefore, it
is like a father;
Being able to fulfill everything successfully, so it is like lord of Mani jewel;
Being able to realize all the wishes, it is like a jewel vase;
bodhichitta pertains these and hundreds and thousands merits
detailed description is in it.]
In Tibetan Buddhism, lots of eminent masters and monks are interested in studying the
Avatamsaka Sutra. In Han Buddhism, many eminent masters in the Avatamasaka
tradition also like it particularly. For example, from the biography of the teacher of the
empire - Qing Liang in Tang dynasty, we can see that he spent his whole life studying the
Avatamsaka Sutra, and taught it more than fifty times to people, almost once every year.
For us, to read it through once is already very hard. He was so zealous that he taught sutra
eight hours every day. However, some of us start to look at the clock even just after one
hour; we are so eager to know if it is time to finish. When some lay people watch DCD or
listen to MP3, they start to complain that it is too long just after half hour. As a matter of
fact, this is not long at all. If you were disciples of the teacher of the empire - Qing Liang,
you had to sit for eight hours to listen to the Avatamsaka Sutra! The teacher of the empire
- Qing Liang is the advisor for seven emperors. He lived for one hundred and one years.
43 In general, the merit described here has two comments; some commentaries said there are 230 kinds,
and some said 130 kinds.
From the historic stories, we can see the emperors at that time have very strong faith in
In the course of seeking for the Dharma, we should not complain of suffering of
tiredness or a long time listening. Our attitude towards seeking and studying the Dharma
is very harrowing when compared with that of the historic eminent masters and monks.
The first Precept Master Dao Xuan in the Viyana tradition had listened to the Viyana of
the Four Categories twenty times when he was studying on the mountain Zhongnan. The
teacher of Bhutan’s emperor - Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche - had listened to the
transmission of more than seven hundred sutras and commentaries. Compared with these
eminent masters, how many teachings have we heard?! If you think you have already
taken refuge, you have already studied the Dharma, then how many Dharma teachings
you really learned? If you have learned less than twenty Dharma texts, then you are not
informed enough. You may not be happy to hear this, but this is the fact.
The historic eminent monks and great masters put practicing Dharma at the first
important place. They do not think worldly things can be the primary goal of human life;
the vital aim is to obtain bodhichitta and to study the Dharma. However, many worldly
people in this time put Dharma studying at the less important position; they spend all day
and all night on some upside-down stuff endlessly. Their heads are full of the worldly
concerns and barely have any space for the Dharma. In this way, our precious and rare
human bodies are worn out by all the endless trivial stuff. This is really a great pity!
I feel it is very necessary to study either the Avatamsaka Sutra or some other
scriptures. The great master Han Shan said that if one has not read the Avatamsaka Sutra,
one is not a real Buddhist yet. In addition, the Avatamsaka Sutra has analyzed the truth of
the universe and the human life in great details. This is the reason why the elder Buddhist
lay teacher Nianzu Huang44 always taught the ten secrets of the secret. Therefore, in order
to integrate the Dharma into the world, we must understand the incredible profound
meaning of the Avatamsaka world. If we can understand it, we will also be able to reveal
some of the so-called profound mystery. Einstein has said, “All the space, time and
substances known to human beings are just a sort of delusion.” In this world, when an old
scientific system was refuted by some new theories, the latter was always found to have
some consistency with the Dharma. The physicist Yang, Zhengning has said in a
ceremony held at the Jade Buddha temple in America, “I am a scientist with faith in
Buddhism. I believe there are lots and lots of incredible profound principles in Buddhism,
which has great benefit to our life. In the past two thousand years, the introduction of
Buddhism has had far-reaching influence on the entire Chinese culture.” Then he
mentioned how Dongpo Su studied the Dharma, and analyzed how consistent the modern
scientific theories are with the Dharma and how the Dharma is superior to modern
science in some respects.
Some people are so proud of their worldly education degrees, such as Doctorate or
Master, but they never look at the Dharma at all. In fact, this indicates that they only have
very limited acquaintance of the worldly knowledge. Real scientists never consider
Buddhism as supernatural, and never think studying the Dharma is passive. However,
44 The elder laity Nianzu Huang: a professor in of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, a
scientist in physics.
people who do not really know Buddhism always claim, through their superficial
acquaintance of Buddhism, that “Buddhism is a kind of doctrinarism,” “Buddhism has no
good to life,” and “people who are studying the Dharma are those who have no hope or
choice in their life and use Buddhism as their spiritual comfort.”… People who have the
above thoughts are those who do not know about Buddhism. If one investigates
Buddhism thoroughly, and examines the idea of loving-kindness and compassion, the
concept of dependent origination, and the view of cyclic existence, and even if one
spends one hundred years with full efforts, one will still be unable to find a mistake in
“the existence of past and future lives”, not to mention to refute all the theories in
Buddhism. In regard to this issue, we Buddhists should not just know how to say it, but
really have a steadfast right view in our heart. This is very necessary. Especially you
should study the Avatamsaka Sutra at your convenience, which will have great help and
benefits to us.
F2. The unique benefits
G1. The classification of bodhichitta
G2. The differences of their nature
G3. The differences of their merits
G1. The classification of bodhichitta
There are so many kinds of classification of bodhichitta based on different views.
According to the Sutra of Nirvana, it can be divided into ultimate bodhichitta and relative
bodhichitta; in the Avatamsaka Sutra, it falls into aspiration bodhichitta and action
bodhichitta; in the Ornament of Clear Realization, bodhichitta is classified into twenty
two kinds through twenty two analogies, such as the earth, fire, moon, water and so forth.
In the Ornament of the Mahayana Sutra, it was split into four categories - the aspiration
of action with faith and right view, the aspiration with pure intention, the fruitional
aspiration and the aspiration free from any obstacles.
Ultimate and relative bodhichitta are classified on the basis of the gradient phases of
generating them. That is to say, only after relative bodhichitta arises in our continuum
then can ultimate bodhichitta be generated. What is called ultimate bodhichitta then? Any
realization above the first bodhisattva stage can be called ultimate bodhichitta. What is
relative bodhichitta? Aspiration bodhichitta and action bodhichitta are conventional
bodhichitta, which can arise in ordinary people’s mind.
Today we will talk about the classification of bodhichitta on the basis of its nature,
which includes ultimate bodhichitta and relative bodhichitta. How is it divided?
In brief, the Awakening Mind
Should be understood to be of two types;
The mind that aspires to awaken
And the mind that ventures to do so.
In summary, bodhichitta can be divided into aspiration bodhichitta and action
[What we must be clear about is that bodhichitta can be summarized into two
categories, which are aspiration bodhichitta and action bodhichitta. As said in the
Avatamsaka Sutra, “It is rare to have any sentient beings to aspire to the awakening
mind; compared with it, it is even rarer to have any sentient beings to start action
for the awakening mind.”]
Here, most of the scriptural evidences quoted by the Bodhisattva Thogme are from
the Avatamsaka Sutra. Otherwise, those who have bias views on different schools or
traditions may not accept them. Since the Avatamsaka Sutra was used, no matter what
lineage you belong to, you have no reason to refuse it.
As said in the Avatamsaka Sutra, “No matter which kind of sentient being, if he
arouses the aspiration bodhichitta - “in order to liberate all sentient beings, I will obtain
the peerless perfect complete enlightenment”, people like this in the world are as rare as
the dawn stars. While compared with them, based on this aspiration, people who
generated action bodhichitta and actively and zealously practice it are even fewer than the
Statistic documents have shown that, around one hundred million people in China are
studying the Buddhadharma. Among them, how many have really generated the
aspiration bodhichitta? We can always see oceans of people around big temples and
monasteries on every holiday for celebrating the birthday of Avalokiteshvara and
Shakyamuni Buddha. They come to the temple, prostrating to the Buddha and offering
incense. Most of them are praying for the fortune and happiness of family or good health.
Very few are cultivating bodhichitta for the sake of sentient beings. Apparently, the
Avatamsaka Sutra is correct that among all the practitioners, very few have generated
bodhichitta. Therefore, we must arouse bodhichitta this time. The so-called bodhichitta is
defined in the Ornament of Clear Realization that “in order to develop bodhichitta for the
sake of others, one seeks the complete peerless enlightenment.” In order to benefit others,
one seeks for Buddhahood of the complete peerless enlightenment.
We practitioners should never give up this aspiration. Although some people are also
talking about the merit of bodhichitta, lots of them have not explained the connotation of
it. I have heard many Dharma teachers’ audio teachings, read many of them too, and
heard many lay people’s comments. Some of them always say “arousing bodhichitta,
arousing bodhichitta”. However, do they understand what bodhichitta is? What is the
definition of bodhichitta? The so-called bodhichitta is not donating money, starting a
hope school, helping the poverty and so on. Though these are the altruistic behavior, they
are not the real bodhichitta. So what is bodhichitta? It is to benefit sentient beings through
the Dharma and help them obtain Buddhahood. Aspire in your mind in this way, and
fulfill your action in this way. This will be called the real action of Mahayana bodhichitta.
Therefore, we should not mistake the mind of loving-kindness and compassion for
66: Explain the following terms: Bodhichitta, relative bodhichitta, ultimate bodhichitta,
fire at the end of an age, fixed karma, and unfixed karma
67: What are the five phases we will experience during our practice of meditation? Please
explain them through analogies.
68: Here it says “bodhichitta is capable of uprooting all wrongs,” and the sutras says
“fixed karma is unchangeable”; aren’t they contradictory? Please analyze it through
scriptural authorities and reasoning.
69: Generating bodhichitta, building monasteries, holding Dharma events and relieving
victims in disasters, which one of these do you think has greater merit than the others?
70: How is bodhichitta praised in the Avatamsaka Sutra? Please briefly describe it with
some examples.
Lesson 11
Now we are studying the unique benefits of bodhichitta in the first chapter. It is
explained in three parts: the classification of bodhichitta, the distinction of the nature of
different types of bodhichitta, the difference of the merits of different types of
bodhichitta. Today we are going to talk about the difference of the nature.
Yesterday, we learned what aspiration bodhichitta is and what action bodhichitta is.
They are very important, so we must make it clear.
What is aspiration bodhichitta? The first condition is to be concerned about sentient
beings with great compassion. The second condition is to wish them to obtain
Buddhahood through wisdom and with sentient beings as the objective. When these two
conditions meet, we can aspire, “From now on, I will liberate countless and boundless
sentient beings.” This is what is called aspiration bodhichitta. Then, what is action
bodhichitta? To fulfill our aspiration on the basis of our commitment, we practice the six
paramitas and ten thousand kinds of performance. This is called action bodhichitta. The
difference between them is described in the following text:
G2. The differences of their nature
As is understood by the distinction
Between aspiring to go and (actually) going,
So the wise understand in turn
The distinction between these two.
The distinction between them is like that of “to go” and “actually going”. For
example, I will go to the Bodhi Gaya in India. Before I set out, my aspiration is “I want to
go”. This wish is like aspiration bodhichitta, because aspiration bodhichitta is to make a
determined vow in one’s mind that “I will help and liberate sentient beings” and no action
is performed yet. Then, after I get enough transportation funds and clothes in my luggage
and really set out to India, this actual action corresponds to action bodhichitta. In other
words, I not only aspire to help and liberate countless and boundless sentient beings, but
also perform proper actions in reality. During this process, my mind is called action
bodhichitta. In regard to this, some commentators also think that the action of helping and
liberating sentient beings is called action bodhichitta. For example, I want to give
Dharma teachings. First this thought arises in my mind; then there is the action of
offering the Dharma; this is called action bodhichitta.
In fact, bodhichitta must be defined on the basis of one’s mind. If it is only some
actions, will it be counted as bodhichitta? No, because it may not be supported by
aspiration bodhichitta. For the instance of going to India again, in the middle of the way
to India, we should not give up the aspiration made at the beginning. If we do, it is very
likely that we will give up our action in the middle of the way. The great Sakyapa master
Koringpa has said, “During the process of performing the way of bodhisattva, we should
never give up aspiration bodhichitta. Otherwise, action bodhichitta may not succeed.”
Therefore, action bodhichitta must be performed on the basis of aspiration bodhichitta.
The above mentioned analogy has showed the distinction of “want to go” and “actual
going”. Through this comparison, the wise must be able to completely understand the
purpose, nature and category of bodhichitta; what aspiration bodhichitta is and what
action bodhichitta is, and also the order of them. First is aspiration bodhichitta and then
action bodhichitta can be build up based on it. These two bodhichitta must exist in one
mental attitude.
In regard to the issue that bodhichitta is after all the “mind-king” or “mindbelongings”, the eminent monks and masters in India and Tibet have different views. The
Indian commentators Vimuktisena and Simbabhadra thought bodhichitta is mind-king;
the Indian commentator Vasubandhu said in the Bodhisattva Bumhi that bodhichitta is a
kind of “wanting”, so it is actually a kind of mind-belongings. The Indian Bodhisattva
Asanga said in his Explanation of Bodhicaryavatara that bodhichitta is a kind of
thinking, which is included in mind-belongings. The Tibetan Venerable Longchenpa
thought that bodhichitta is mind-king, from which mind-belongings naturally arises. It is
like there is first a sun; then from it the sunlight will naturally come out.
No matter whether it is mind-king or mind-belongings, we should be clear that we
must arouse bodhichitta today. We will receive the bodhisattva vow after a while. Before
that, we should mentally be well prepared, and understand what aspiration bodhichitta is
and what action bodhichitta is. Of course, it appears that these two concepts are easy to
understand. One is “want to benefit and liberate sentient beings”; one is “the mental state
during the process of benefiting and liberating sentient beings”. In fact, the classification
of their functions, merits, rituals and essence of the precepts is relatively complicated.
All the members studying the Bodhicaryavatara this time can be called the Buddha’s
Mahayana children. Accordingly, we must have the bodhisattva vow in our continuum.
To obtain it, we have to first understand the precepts of the bodhisattva vow. To those
with sharp faculties, the Buddha has said eighteen or twenty of the precepts in Treasury
Accumulation Sutra (Maharatnakuta Sutra). To those with medium faculties, four were
explained in the Compendium of All Practices. To those with dull faculties, only one was
told in the Advices to the King Sutra - never to abandon aspiration bodhichitta. Therefore,
we should at least take one fundamental vow, which is no matter what obstacles we
encounter, we should not give up bodhichitta. If we give it up the fault is extremely
serious, which will be told in the following text. Although we are studying the incredible
merit of bodhichitta recently, if we give up bodhichitta generated previously and do not
want to benefit and liberate sentient beings any more, the fault is correspondingly serious.
About that, the Verses Summary of Prajnaparamita has a detailed explanation. Therefore,
we must guard this precept carefully.
Of course, it may be a little bit hard for lay people without authentic Dharma
education to understand the classification and nature of bodhichitta. Maybe they are not
interested in it. Nowadays many people like superficial and easy topics such as telling
stories, talking about families and job, marriage and divorce. Everybody likes it.
However, I think, we are studying the Bodhicaryavatara. This is not a worldly dharma.
Lay people, especially those in big cities, are so proficient in the worldly concepts, terms
and different behaviors. This does not need to be explained by an ordained person. What
do you need to study? It is the teaching, practice, visualization and merit of Mahayana
Buddhism. People are so unfamiliar with this. Therefore, when you come across some
difficult Buddhist terms and principles at the beginning do not give up but try your best to
study them.
It is said in the text,
[Like wanting to go somewhere, the intention of wanting to obtain
enlightenment for the sake of others is aspiration bodhichitta.]
What is aspiration bodhichitta? Just as the mental state of “I want to go to India.”
The aspiration of “I want to benefit and liberate sentient beings” is aspiration bodhichitta.
I have emphasized this over and over again and I hope everyone can take it into your
[Just like actual going to the destination, entering the path of Buddhahood and
wishing to practice on this way is action bodhichitta.]
Just like actual going to India, the mental state of benefiting and liberating sentient
beings with the Mahayana skillful means, such as six paramitas45 and four methods of
gathering living beings, is action bodhichitta.
[The wise, who want to undertake the benefit of self and others, can understand
the difference through these two analogies, and at the same time, acquaint
themselves with the arising order of these two types of bodhichitta.]
Only people with real wisdom can understand this principle. Without wisdom, only
talking about aspiration bodhichitta and action bodhichitta does not necessarily make
people understand it.
The Great Master Tsong Khapa and Gyaltsab Je et al think that aspiration bodhichitta
and action bodhichitta have the same intrinsic entity, but belong to different aspects of it.
It is as, sometimes we say “the bodhisattva vow”, sometimes we say “bodhichitta”, and
sometimes we say “adopting virtuous actions, avoiding nonvirtuous actions, and
benefiting sentient beings”. These three expressions actually refer to one entity, but are
described from different aspects. It is like a wish fulfilling gem. It can dispel the
darkness. It can heal the diseases and it can grant people everything they need. It has only
one entity but different functions in three aspects. In the same way, when we adopt and
practice bodhichitta, to do all the virtues is called the precept of adopting virtuous
actions; to help countless and boundless sentient beings is called the precept of benefiting
sentient beings; to avoid any nonvirtues through body, speech and mind is called the
precept of avoiding nonvirtuous actions. We should know these three precepts are the
three different aspects of one entity; we should understand bodhichitta in this way.
There are different views in India and Tibet on whether aspiration and action
bodhichitta are at the stage of ordinary people or the noble ones. The Indian commentator
Jnanapada thinks that aspiration bodhichitta is on the path of accumulation and
45 Six paramitas: generosity, discipline, patience, concentration, efforts and wisdom
preparation, while action bodhichitta is after the first stage of bodhisattva. The
commentators Abhaya and Zhi Cheng believe that aspiration bodhichitta exists in the path
of accumulation, while action bodhichitta exists from the path of preparation to the
Buddhahood. The commentator Bubhuda said in his Treaties on Bodhicaryavatara,
“Aspiration bodhichitta is the precept obtained without a ritual, while action bodhichitta
is the precept obtained with a ritual. This view is also agreed by the commentators Bao
Yuan (the Source of Jewel) and Hai Yun (the Clouds of Ocean). The well known Indian
commentator Hui Yuan (the Source of Wisdom) said in his Comprehensive Commentary
of the Bodhicaryavatara46 that without the support of bodhisattva’s behavior it is called
aspiration bodhichitta; with the support of bodhisattva’s behavior it is called action
bodhichitta. The Tibetan Sakyapa Master Rungdhun also agreed on this. Venerable Atisha
thought the aspiration which concerns the result is called aspiration bodhichitta; for
example “I want to obtain Buddhahood”; the aspiration concerning the cause is called
action bodhichitta. Venerable Longchenpa basically showed the same view. These are the
different views of the eminent monks and masters in Tibet and India. I hope you will
think about it and examine if your view on aspiration and action bodhichitta is the same
as what they explained.
According to the view of the Tibetan eminent masters such as Venerable
Longchenpa, Jigme Lingpa and Tsong Kha-pa, ultimate bodhichitta can only be achieved
after the first stage of bodhisattva is achieved. Relative bodhichitta includes aspiration
bodhichitta and action bodhichitta, and action bodhichitta can exist in the behavior of
ordinary people. For example, if I take the vow in the morning that I will do my best to
help sentient beings that day, this is action bodhichitta. Therefore, we can have not only
the aspiration bodhichitta, but also the action bodhichitta when we are at the stage of
ordinary people.
G3. The differences of their merits
The common merits of aspiration bodhichitta and action bodhichitta were mentioned
earlier. Now let us talk about the unique merits of them, first is the merit of aspiration
Although great fruits occur in cyclic existence,
From the mind that aspires to awaken
An uninterrupted flow of merit does not ensue
As it does with the venturing mind.
It was said in the text,
[Aspiration bodhichitta can develop vast fruits when we are in cyclic existence.]
46 Comprehensive Commentary of the Bodhicaryavatara: during the study of the Bodhicaryavatara, the
commentator Hui Yuan’s commentary is most widely used among all the eight composed by Indian
Aspiration bodhichitta is the intention to seek the perfect peerless enlightenment. It is
the sole cause of obtaining Buddhahood. Therefore, the merit of it is countless and
boundless. Put aside the fact that it is the basis for us to achieve Buddhahood. In short
term, we also get great fruits based on it when we are in cyclic existence. What kind of
fruit then? When taking rebirth in heaven, one becomes powerful and prestigious heaven
lords, such as Brahma and Indra. When taking rebirth in human world, one can become a
wheel-turning king, a great patron, a venerable one, or a rich and famous entrepreneur,
celebrity and so on. People with aspiration bodhichitta will be totally different from
common people. Although they haven’t been liberated and still exist in cyclic existence,
they possess very unusual great fortune and merit in the aspects of their wealth, power
and appearances and so forth. This is the fruit of aspiration bodhichitta or the merit of
aspiration bodhichitta.
Then, what is the distinction between the merit of aspiration bodhichitta and action
bodhichitta? As it will be explained, after action bodhichitta is developed, its merit grows
every stronger from moment to moment. Although aspiration bodhichitta has boundless
merit, it is not comparable to action bodhichitta, because the merit of aspiration
bodhichitta cannot enhance to such a great extent as that of action bodhichitta.
Some people may ask that since the merit of aspiration bodhichitta is not as much as
action bodhichitta does it, just as the plantain trees, exhaust immediately once the fruits
ripen? No, it does not. Aspiration bodhichitta is like the perennial tree. Its merit can grow
endlessly, and never be exhausted until the achievement of Buddhahood, and last forever.
Just as the fixed deposit in the bank remains in the account until the maturity date.
However, when compared with action bodhichitta, the dividend rate of aspiration
bodhichitta is not as high as that of action bodhichitta. This is because even when you are
sleeping, dozing, straggling, action bodhichitta can still have the merit to grow
continuously, which is not the case for aspiration bodhichitta. In regard to this issue,
some commentaries didn’t analyze it clearly. Hopefully, you will reflect on it well.
About the merit of aspiration bodhichitta, the Buddha gave a very clear explanation
in the Advice to the King Sutra (pajavavadaka-sutra). The Buddha advised the king,
“Your Majesty, you attend to numerous affairs every day. It is impossible for you to
continuously practice six paramitas day and night as bodhisattvas do. However, if you
arouse the wish ‘may all beings obtain perfect complete peerless enlightenment’, the
merit will definitely become greater and greater.” Therefore, aspiration bodhichitta
absolutely has the merits of a perennial tree or wonderful vase. This is doubtless.
In regard to this,
[The Avatamsaka Sutra said, “Noble son, as when the vajra gem is destroyed, it
is still superior to all the other gold ornaments and does not lose its name,]
Among all precious jewels, the vajra gem is the most costly (some commentators
think it is the vajra diamond). Even if it is broken by other conditions, the value of the
debris is still superior to the earrings and other ornaments made of gold and do not lose
its name. Some kinds of coral in Tibet are also very expensive. People sometimes use it to
make mala. When it is broken, it can still be inlaid in other ornaments.
[Noble son, in the same way, even when it is separated from diligence47 the vajra
jewel of arousing bodhichitta still exceeds all gold ornaments of the merit of
shravakas and preteykabuddhas.]
Aspiration bodhichitta is like the vajra jewel. Although it is not supported by action
bodhichitta yet, it has already exceeded the merit of sharavakas and prateykabuddhas.
Sharavakas and prateykabuddhas have completely realized the selflessness of person and
partially realized the selflessness of phenomena, which means they have very great merit.
However, in terms of liberating sentient beings, they still need some improvement. In
contrary, the altruistic mind of aspiration bodhichitta completely surpasses their merit.
Here, the merit of sharavakas and prateykabuddhas is analogized as “gold ornament”.
Please do not explain in this way “bodhichitta is superior to the gold ornaments on
sharavakas and prateykabuddhas.” Here, gold ornament and vajra jewel correspond to
the merit of sharvaka and prateykabuddhas and the merit of aspiration bodhichitta
[It is also still qualified for the name of bodhisattva and dispels all kinds of
poverty in cyclic existence.”]
Aspiration bodhichitta can dispel all kinds of poverty in the cyclic existence. Not
only materially, even the spiritual poverty - ignorance, can be dispelled utterly. Here is
the explanation of aspiration bodhichitta alone.
The merit of action bodhichitta is as follows.
And for those who have perfectly seized this mind,
With the thought never to turn away
From totally liberating
The infinite forms of life,
From that time hence,
Even while asleep or unconcerned,
A force of merit equal to the sky
Will perpetually ensue.
After you make the aspiration in your continuum that, “I will liberate and help all
borderless sentient beings at the edge of the sky and never turn away from this thought
even when I encounter the danger of life;” then practice sincerely, this is called action
There are two kinds of explanations regarding action bodhichitta. One is the action
supported by aspiration bodhichitta and the other is the resolve to never turn away but
practice continuously after bodhichitta arises. Aspiration bodhichitta is merely developing
47 Separated from diligence: here means not being imbued with action bodhichitta.
the wish that “I will liberate and help sentient beings.” When reaching action bodhichitta
through careful thinking, one makes up one’s mind that whatever difficulties are
encountered, even if our bones and bodies are smashed to pieces, the vow of bodhichitta
will never change. It is just as the worldly saying that “a word of a gentleman, (is like) a
spur on a flying horse”. (It means once saying something, a gentleman never takes it back
but sticks to it firmly; just as the flying horse will run too fast to be caught once being
spurred). It is not like swearing something one day and taking it back the next day,
instead one takes the vow from the depth of one’s heart and never change it.
When the resolve arises, from then on, even when one is sleeping at night or
unconcerned with one’s behavior or singing, dancing, dozing, or any kinds of action such
as sitting, walking, lying, and standing, the merit and fortune will never exhaust in one’s
continuum, but grow stronger from moment to moment, as vast and great as the
borderless and boundless sky.
Therefore, we should have action bodhichitta in our continuum. This is very
important. Without it, you only get the merit of the exact virtue you create, and it will
disappear once you use it. With action bodhichitta, the merit of this virtue is
immeasurable. Our Guru Rinpoche had said previously that with the action bodhichitta of
“I’d rather die than turn away from bodhichitta”, even reciting the mantra of
Avaloketeshvara “OM MANI PEME HUNG” once, the merit will increase continuously
until you obtain Buddhahood. Whereas without bodhichitta, no matter how many mantras
you recite, how many virtues you conduct, or whatever generosities you practice, the
merit created is very limited and will exhaust anyhow.
So, we should examine what kind of intention do we really have when we are doing
something in our daily life? Has action bodhichitta really arisen in our continuum?
As said in the text,
[However, it will not continuously generate merit as action bodhichitta does.
From the moment when you decide that in order to liberate all borderless and
boundless sentient beings from the fetter of karma and affliction as well as the jail of
cyclic existence with an unshakable altruistic mind, you will practice action
bodhichitta till the end of samsara.]
If bodhichitta really arises, it is like having gotten the berth on a train, you will
naturally get to Beijing from Chengdu while sleeping without walking at all. In contrast,
without taking the train of bodhichitta, however many strides you cover will just be that
exact many strides. It will take you very long time to reach Beijing. Therefore, we must
understand the importance of bodhichitta and do our best to use it to support our virtuous
actions during our practice.
In Tibetan Buddhism, some people are so tolerant of hardship that their spirits are
always commended and admired by people. They make full-length prostrations from
Kham area to Lhasa. The journey is several thousand miles. They prostrate once every
three strides, taking them about one year to reach Lhasa. From their behavior, it looks
very marvelous. However, without bodhichitta the merit of this deed is not necessarily
very great. In contrast, if one has bodhichitta and prostrate for a day here, comparing the
merits of these two situations in the long run, which one do you think is greater? Of
course the merit created with bodhichitta is greater. Therefore, practice needs wisdom.
Without wisdom, it is very difficult to achieve enlightenment. Now, some practitioners in
Han Buddhism practice very diligently. They get up to recite the Buddha’s names from
four o’clock in the morning till eight or nine o’clock at night. Although they recite
without pausing, if there is no bodhichitta in their continuum, will the merit be great? The
answer is obvious. We should be imbued with bodhichitta when we conduct virtuous
actions and even when we sit, walk, lie, and stand. As long as you do not have the
nonvirtuous thought that “I will never liberate and help sentient beings any more,” your
merit will increase endlessly. So, what merit is the greatest? We must clearly know it.
[From then on, if action bodhichitta is not destroyed, the fortune as high as the
sky will continuously grow up even when one is in indolent conditions, such as
sleeping, swoon and so on.]
If bodhichitta is not weakened, boundless merit will grow in one’s continuum endlessly.
Even if it appears as some nonvirtuous deeds, as a matter of fact, it will be the cause of
collecting the accumulation. As is recorded in the Sutra of Great Secret Skillful Means,
due to his very pure attention, the jeweler Great Compassion had perfected the
accumulation of forty thousand eons through killing the pirate - Short Spear with great
compassion. Out of virtuous intention, Brahman - Xing Xiu had perfected the
accumulations of twenty thousand eons through sex activity with the jeweler’s daughter.
From these two stories - one story is about murdering and the other is sexual conduction,
both of them seemingly having faults - we can see that when genuine bodhichitta exists,
these immoral behaviors become merits. Of course, this is not a case for common
ordinary people. If one conducts immoral deeds with the excuse of benefiting others, it is
totally wrong.
Here, I am not trying to say that after we aspire to develope bodhichitta, we are
allowed to sleep all day long and the merit will increase continuously or just live on the
interest of bodhichitta and then we will obtain Buddhahood soon. Once, a business man
boasted in front of me, “Now, if I deposit all my money in the bank, I can live on the
interest for the rest of my life.” Likewise, some Dharma friends may think, “Now, I have
already aroused bodhichitta and it is not weakened, so from now on, I do not need to
practice any virtuous Dharma, do not need to memorize or read books, instead I just need
sleep everyday.” It is unreasonable to think in this way.
If you really have bodhichitta, it will be ok if you act like this. However, except for
some genuine accomplished practitioners, it is extremely difficult for ordinary people to
possess this merit. When our Guru Rinpoche traveled outside, sometimes he took a nap at
noon. At that time, we really can have this kind of faith “Our guru is totally different
from us. Though he is sleeping now, bodhichitta in His Holiness’s continuum is
increasing constantly.” As far as such a great accomplished master as our Guru Rinpoche
is concerned, we never doubt, “Is he a Bodhisattva?” or “Does our Guru have
bodhichitta?” Real bodhisattvas are not necessarily meditating, chanting and reading all
the time. Even if they manifest traveling around mountains and playing with water,
seemingly not doing any virtuous deeds, their merit is increasing incessantly.
We ourselves know best how our practice is. It is said, “When people drink water,
only the drinker knows if it is cold or hot”. Therefore, we should carefully examine these
questions: How is the bodhichitta in your continuum? Have you aspired to benefit
sentient beings? If yes, will you give up when you encounter some obstacles? If your
mind will not turn away at all, from hence then, your merit will indeed perpetually ensue.
In contrast, without bodhichitta, whatever virtues you do on the surface, the merit of it
will not be very great.
Therefore, I request you again that you must be imbued with bodhichitta when you
practice. At the same time, since you are studying the Dharma, would you please
introduce such wonderful Dharma to other Buddhists and nonbuddhists? Now, there are
so many Buddhists, but very few of them have bodhichitta in their continuums. Most
people just seek the bliss in human and god realms. Would you help them transform their
intention? Besides, would you please try your best to help those who do not believe in the
Buddha to take refuge? They are indeed miserable. Put aside the ultimate truth of
emptiness, they do not even understand relative truth, such as the basic principles of
cyclic existence, cause and effect, the merit of bodhichitta, but are heavily loaded with
the burden of seeking money, living, job, drifting here and there and wasting their
precious human body. In the course of studying the Bodhicaryavatara, would you please
guide one person to start studying the Dharma? Obviously, it is not because Bodhi
Institute needs lots of people. Without bodhichitta, it is still useless even if several
hundred million people come to study. In contrast, with bodhichitta, even a little bit more
than ten people will be good enough. Everybody needs to be involved in propagating the
Dharma and benefiting sentient beings. In our daily life, even if you impart the spirit of
the Dharma to one person and help this person to understand some principles of the
Dharma, that is called liberating and benefiting sentient beings.
Since we’ve already aroused bodhichitta, we should not always think “I will liberate
all sentient beings later.” It is true that we have not yet possessed the ability of liberating
and benefiting all sentient beings now, but there are so many relatives and friends around
us; if we explain to them the merit of the Dharma, the merit of Mahayana bodhichitta,
they will very likely generate bodhichitta. Even if they temporarily do not cultivate
bodhichitta, you can try again. It does not matter to fail once or twice. Ordinary people
have very strong confusion and attachment, so it is very normal for them not to admit it
or even resisting it fiercely. Knowing this, we do not need to be disappointed that much.
Therefore, we should try our best to influence people around us, help them start to
study the Dharma, and generate altruistic mind. This is very important to a family, a
society and a country. If more and more people have altruistic mind, starving, wars and
disasters in the whole world will gradually disappear. This is because everybody’s heart is
imbued with the mind of loving, kindness, compassion and selfless contribution. The
strength of this kind of mind is incredible. We know very well the mental state of modern
people. If they can generate real bodhichitta, I believe it will be a tremendous
contribution to the society as well as a great contribution to the spread of Dharma.
E2. The rationality of having these benefits
F1. The rationality supported by scriptural authority
F2. The rationality supported by reasoning
F1. The rationality supported by scriptural authority
Above covered is the merit of bodhichitta. Is it reasonable to have these merits?
Followed are the explanations of this through scriptural authority and reasoning.
First, it is from scriptural authority.
For the sake of those inclined towards the lesser (vehicle),
This was logically asserted
By the Tathagata himself
In The Sutra Requested by Subahu.
Some people suspect “Is it logical that bodhichitta is said to have such supreme
merit? Does it really have countless and boundless merit?”
There are two kinds of people who have this suspicion. One is nonbuddhists, who do
not know Buddhism; another is the Hinayana practitioners, who can not accept or stand
the Buddha’s spirit of doing what is hard to do, such as enduring long term hardship,
giving away his wife, children, even his head, eyes, brain, marrow and so on. As a result,
they can’t help doubting that bodhichitta has such great merit.
To dispel the confusion of the latter, the Buddha with great loving-kindness and
compassion explained the countless merits of bodhichitta in The Sutra Requested by
Subahu, “Sentient beings are borderless and boundless. Since the aspiration is made with
the concern of them, the merit of the aspiration is also borderless and boundless.
Therefore, it is very reasonable that bodhichitta has immeasurable merit.” Khenpo
Genhor also explained the logic of the merit of bodhichitta through four incredible merits
in his Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara that sentient beings who are concerned is
borderless and boundless; the sufferings that are dispelled is borderless and boundless;
the merit of Buddhahood that is to be obtained is borderless and boundless, the time that
will last is borderless and boundless. Through these four borderless and boundless, it is
completely established that the merit of bodhichitta is also borderless and boundless.”
[It is logical that action bodhichitta can generate enormous fortune. The Sutra
Requested by Subahu is a sound and reliable evidence.]
It is very suitable to use the Bodhisattva Thogme’s commentary to explain the
Bodhicaryavtara this time, because all the scriptural evidences he used are Mahayana
scriptures. So, any schools, traditions or lineages can accept and admit. Otherwise, many
people will think that Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara is very beneficial but can the
evidences be found in sutras? Is it made up by him with ease? From the explanation of
Bodhisattva Thogme, he quoted Mahayana scriptures to explain most of the important
issues, which directly eliminate the above-mentioned problems.
Followed in the text is The Sutra Requested by Subahu, which is slightly different
from other texts. This is probably due to the different versions of the text.
[In order to introduce all48 those inclined towards the Hinayana into
In order to introduce some of those inclined towards the lesser vehicles. Here, I want
to remind you that you should not think, “I am a Mahayana Buddha’s child, so I am
marvelous” and then belittle the Hinayana practitioners. Why? Because the Hinayana
practitioners have already realized the emptiness of the selfless nature of person; the
realization of Arhat is very high, which absolutely exceeds that of ours, so they also have
some levels of compassion toward sentient beings. Once they hear the word “Hinayana”,
many people feel it is inferior. However, whether in terms of compassion or wisdom, we
ordinary people are not comparable to Arhats at all. Some people even do not have the
mind of renouncing the world. Today, I met a Lama on my way, he said, “Our school is so
nice! Now it is warm spring time and flowers are blossoming, how comfortable it is!” I
said, “Don’t say in this way; otherwise, the mind of renouncing the world is not easy to
arise.” He asked me why; I said, “If you feel cyclic existence is very happy, very
comfortable, how are you willing to leave it?” Although this is just a joke, it is actually
also the truth.
We think the Hinayana practitioners are very miserable, but sometimes we are also
very miserable. We claim that we are Mahayana Buddha’s children. However, we always
can not cultivate faith in the genuine principles of Buddhism, but have very strong
attachment to self and things. Therefore, the Buddha not only refers to the Hinayana
practitioners, but also wants to guide those, who are not familiar with the Buddhism into
the Mahayana path.
[The Buddha has said in this sutra, “If I wear the armature for the benefit and
happiness of boundless sentient beings, then the concern of bringing benefit and
happiness to all sentient beings is boundless and the virtue is boundless. Even if I am
indolent or sleeping, the virtue is increasing, strengthening, and perfecting from
moment to moment, day and night.]
This scriptural evidence explained the merit of bodhichitta thoroughly. It means that
the object of bodhichitta is boundless sentient beings. In order to bring benefit and
happiness to them one wears the armature of aspiration, through which the merit is
boundless, the dedicated virtue is boundless, the happiness that sentient beings can
obtained is boundless. Combining these “boundless” together, it is easy to conclude that
the merit of bodhichitta is also boundless. In this way, even if one is in the condition of
sleeping and indolent, as long as action bodhichitta never turns away after being
generated, the merit will ensue perpetually.
We should examine our continuum frequently, check if we have bodhichitta. Of
course, it is not necessary to think, “I did this, so do I have bodhichitta? I did that, so do I
have bodhichitta?” The key point is to check if any unfavarable factor appears after
bodhichitta is aroused; this is what we should pay attention to in our daily life. When
48 Here “all” means the majority.
practicing in the morning, we should think that I have already aroused bodhichitta, so I
will benefit sentient beings from now on till Buddhahood. For the sake of this aim, I
should move forward step by step, just like the saying, “A one-thousand mile long
journey is accomplished foot by foot”. Therefore, I will not do any harm to sentient
beings today! If we can think in this way every morning, then no matter who we meet,
whatever obstacles we encounter, we can recall that I have already aspired in the
morning, so today I will try my best to practice patience and be imbued with virtuous
Dharmas. If we control ourselves and counter our afflictions in this way every day,
bodhichitta will naturally grow stronger and stronger in our continuum.
As ordinary people, no matter if we are walking, eating or doing any other things, we
should remind ourselves that I am now different from others, because I have already
aroused bodhichitta in front of all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and gurus. It is like some
monastics always think, “I am an ordained person; I should not conduct nonvirtuous
karmas, such as killing and so forth.” Likewise, after generating the Mahayana
bodhichitta, no matter a lay person or ordained person, we all should be able to control
ourselves. This self reminding is very necessary. We should never forget this.
If you are a lay person with genuine bodhichitta in your continuum and there is an
ordained person in a monastery without bodhichitta, and if you two practice virtues at the
same time, whose merit will be greater? I believe the former’s merit will be greater. The
ordained person is cut off from the five sensory desires and recites the Buddha’s name
day and night, but due to his lack of bodhichitta, his behavior is just for self liberation or
muddling alone. This kind of reciting the Buddhas’ name will not increase his merit.
While the lay person has no time to recite the Buddha’s name to accumulate merit.
However, because of his virtuous bodhichitta, with which even one time reciting “OHM
MANI PEME HUNG” or “Namo Amitabha”, the merit of it will increase perpetually till
the Buddhahood.
Of course, I am not saying that the merit of renouncing house holder’s life is not
great. Actually, the merit of renunciation is very great and well known. However, the
level of practice is not distinguished by the appearance, but the mental state. We should
remind and urge ourselves to generate bodhichitta and do our best to restrain ourselves
through bodhichitta when we interact with other people and deal with problems. We are
not yaks but human beings. Our behavior will gradually be transformed, and that change
is the behavior of bodhisattva.
71: What is aspiration bodhichitta? What is action bodhichitta? What is their difference?
72: What are the temporary and ultimate merits of aspiring to benefit and liberate sentient
73: What are the two ways to explain action bodhichitta?
74: After the arousing of stable action bodhichitta, the merit increases endlessly even
when one is sleeping and indolent. Do you think this statement is reasonable? Please
prove the merit of bodhichitta is boundless and borderless through scriptural authority
and reasoning.
75: Have you aroused bodhichitta? What is the difference of your thoughts and action
before and after you arouse bodhichitta?
76: One person aspires to help all sentient beings obtain Buddhahood; another person
donates blood to help patients with compassion. Whose merit do you think is greater?
Lesson 12
Now we are still discussing the benefits of bodhichitta, which are explained in two
parts – the common benefits and unique benefits. The rationality of bodhichitta’s unique
benefits is explained through reasoning and scriptural authority respectively.
Some people may not know what scriptural authority and reasoning here mean.
Scriptural authority refers to that we must judge profound principles of the Dharma
through the noble teachings of the Buddha - sutras - or from the great accomplished
maters and the wise - commentaries - when we are not able to perceive them through our
own wisdom and six sense powers. This is called scriptural authority. What does
reasoning mean? For issues not profound, we can draw reasonable conclusions by
analyzing through our own wisdom without referring to sutras. This is reasoning.
Without knowing these Buddhist terms, we will stay on the level of not knowing the
Dharma for ever, so we should do our best to grasp some basic terms and discuss our
confusions with others in our daily study. There are so many terms like this in the sutras
and commentaries. Without grasping them, I am afraid you are not able to perceive the
real connotations but only feel lost even if you often listen to the Dharma teachings. For
example, there are so many terms in the Vinaya Pitaka, the Hetuvidya and the
Arbhidharma. There are also different special terms in individual fields of worldly
knowledge, such as physics, chemistry, electronics, algebra and geometry. Thereby, we
need make great efforts to grasp the spelling and meaning of each term we come across
from the beginning. Otherwise, it is impossible for me to make you understand every
term we encounter during the teaching. Of course, I will try my best to explain these
terms. People who have learned Dharma for a long time may not need this, but some of
them may not have mastered the connotation of all the terms. So, for today, we should
remember what scriptural authority and reasoning are.
F2. The rationality supported by reasoning is explained in two parts:
G1. The intention is supreme49
G2. The action is supreme50
G1. The intention is supreme
H1. The object of the intention is vast and great
H2. Explaining the intention exceed worldly existence51
H1. The object of the intention is vast and great
If even the thought to relieve
Living creatures of merely a headache
Intention here refers to motivation or aspiration. “The intention is supreme” is that the intention of
bodhichitta is very supreme.
50 Action means behavior. “The action is supreme” means that the words and behavior of bodhichitta are
very supreme.
51 The intention of bodhichitta is broad and vast; it surpasses the level of the worldly human and devas.
Is a beneficial intention
Endowed with infinite goodness,
(22) Then what need is there to mention
The wish to dispel their inconceivable misery,
Wishing every single one of them
To realize boundless good qualities?
[If someone is imbued with loving kindness and compassion and only wants to
heal a few beings’ headaches with medicine, this indicates that he has a beneficial
intention, which can bring him infinite goodness.]
Someone, with loving kindness and compassion, merely wants to heal a small
number of peoples’ headaches and fever with medicine. Through this virtuous beneficial
intention, he can obtain countless, boundless and inexhaustible merits.
When we performed according to the biography of Shakyamuni Buddha in our
monastery, there was a scene that the Bangavan went to the four city gates, where he first
saw the old, the sick and the dead. The sick person, who was played by a lay person,
rolled back and forth on the ground with his head tightly wrapped with a towel, which
showed he had a really unbearable headache. After the Bangavan saw these phenomena
of aging, dying and sickness, he understood the suffering nature of cyclic existence and
decided to renounce the life of a householder.
When we see some sentient beings that have headaches, we arouse a beneficial and
compassionate intention and help them with medicine immediately. If this intention is
free from self-interest and the hope of reward, we will obtain countless merits. Why? It is
because the merits of the intention to benefit sentient beings are enormous. The Buddha
achieved Buddhahood for two reasons - to perfect his own merits and to benefit sentient
beings. Which one has greater merits? According to the instructions of Patrul Rinpoche,
“The merit of benefiting sentient beings is greater!” Since the merit of the beneficial
intention to merely eliminate headaches of some sentient beings is immense, there is no
need to mention that the merit of the intention to dispel unhappiness and agitation from
all sentient beings and help them to obtain liberation is far more countless and boundless.
Every sentient being has some physical diseases and mental sufferings. The greatness
of the merit is obvious if we aspire that “may all the physical and mental sufferings of
sentient beings on the earth disappear completely; temporarily, may they obtain the peace
and happiness in the human and god realms; ultimately, may they perfect the
unsurpassable Buddhahood.” Why? Because the intention of only wanting to dispel
several sentient beings’ headaches has inconceivable merits; now the object of our
intention is not only several sentient beings, but countless and boundless sentient beings;
the time is not only one or two days, but from now through all lifetimes until obtaining
Buddhahood; additionally, what we wish sentient beings to obtain is not just some
common worldly happiness, but the Buddhahood of unsurpassable perfect enlightenment;
besides, the suffering we wish to dispel is not only some headaches, but all kinds of
sufferings of sentient beings. Therefore, this kind of merit must be countless and
boundless! There is no doubt on it.
This verse is explained through reasoning. No scriptural authority is needed. In fact,
many people have faith in scriptural authority of the Buddha’s words in sutras and think,
“If the Buddha has said it, the merit of bodhichitta must be so great.” However, some
people may think, “The Buddha did say it, but is it the ultimate meaning? May it be the
provisional meaning?” Here in this text, the merit of bodhichitta is not described at the
relative level, but the ultimate level. What is an ultimate meaning? It means the
explanation is not only fit for sentient beings with a specific capacity, but to reveal the
ultimate truth.
Therefore, we should understand that sentient beings have two kinds of capacities.
Some people gain faith immediately after they meet the vajra words of the Buddha; some
will not admit it until they analyze it through their wisdom. In the instance of the merit of
bodhichitta, they contemplate on the object of bodhichitta, the methods of arousing
bodhichitta and so on; then finally they will admit that its merit is indeed countless and
boundless. Of course, sometimes, we may not completely perceive the truth through
various analyses with our ordinary people’s naked eyes and conceptual thoughts. In this
situation, we should believe in Buddhas’ vajra words that are able to prove the truth.
However, sometimes, we can judge it through our own wisdom, like this example.
Some people may also think that I have not directly seen the merit of bodhichitta, so
it is not necessarily true. If you do not admit something because you have not seen it,
then the black holes in space, the electronic waves in the air and the bacteria on our
bodies are all not visible to our naked eyes. Are they also not true?
Therefore, bodhichitta has boundless merit. On one hand, it is concluded through
reasoning. On the other hand, it is explained in the sutras. The Buddha said to Subhuti in
the Sutra Requested by Subahu,
If the intention that “May they be free from this suffering” arises
through the concern of the suffering of aging of sentient beings, the merit
is countless and boundless. Likewise, if you take all sentient beings as the
object, wish them not only to be free from the suffering of aging, but also
all the primary and branched suffering of human life - the suffering of
birth, the suffering of death, the suffering of sickness, the suffering of
being separated from the beloved, the suffering of meeting the enemies,
and so on - or the suffering of stupidity of an animal, the suffering of
extreme hot and cold of the hell beings, the suffering of extreme thirsty
and starving of hungry ghosts, and so forth. May all sentient beings be free
from all kinds of sufferings but obtain happiness. If this intention arises,
the merit will increase from moment to moment and the power is
The Buddha continued,
Is the merit of bringing happiness to all sentient beings for an instant
great? Definitely great! Then, there is no need to say the merit for one to
make the aspiration, “May all sentient beings in all their live times not just
have one instant happiness, but never to part from the temporary happiness
of human and god realms, and finally obtain the perfect unsurpassable
If one wishes all sentient beings to obtain the fruit of Shravakas,
Prateyekabuddhas and Arhat, is the merit great? Absolutely great, and it
will increase every moment. Furthermore, if one wishes all sentient beings
to not only temporarily obtain the fruit of Shravakas, Prateyekabuddhas
and Arhat, but also finally obtain the countless and boundless qualities of
the Buddha, such as the ten intelligent powers (Dashabala), four kinds of
fearlessness and eighteen unshared qualities (Avenikadharma), the
greatness of this merit is indescribable.
The Sutra Requested by Subahu described the greatness of the merit of bodhichitta
from these aspects. We should cultivate this kind of bodhichitta during our practice. Since
the object of the concern is very vast and our mind will become extremely vast, so the
merit of practicing aspiration bodhichitta in this way is immeasurable.
[Given this verse, some commentators explained it by referring to the story of
the “daughter” of Vallabha.]
Some Indian commentators explained the verse “If even the thought to relieve
living creatures of merely a headache” by referring to the story of the “daughter” of
Vallabha. You can find this story in the Words of My Perfect Teacher. The “daughter” of
Vallabha was born in a family of jewel hunters52. His mother was afraid that he would
lose his life when seeking jewels in the ocean, so she didn’t tell her son his real caste
occupation. After he finally found out that he belonged to the jewel hunter caste through
other ways, he decided to search for jewels in the ocean. Upon his leaving, his mother
cried out to him not to leave with tears in her eyes. He said with anger, “Why do you say
inauspicious words on my leaving?” and kicked his mother in the head. Later in the
ocean, his team encountered storms and the ship was wrecked; he fell down into hell and
experienced the suffering of steel wheel stirring his head, and his brain spilled out. At that
moment, he thought, “In samsara, there must be many inobedient sons who are suffering
or will suffer like this because of kicking their mothers’ heads. May all their sufferings
ripen in me and may I alone bear it for them all. May they obtain happiness.”
Immediately, the wheel flew up to the air. He took rebirth in the Tushita Heaven (Some
books said the Thirty-Three Heaven).
From this story we can see, merely aspiring to take in the suffering of steel wheel
stirring the head for those who are not obedient to their mothers, the merit is as great as
taking rebirth immediately to the Tushita Heaven from hell. (People have learned the
Abhidharma know that to take rebirth in the heaven realms requires some level of
meditative concentration. However, the “daughter” of Vallabha took rebirth in the heaven
merely through generating aspiration bodhichitta; this indicates that the power of
52 Jewel hunter: people whose career is to hunt jewel in the ocean.
bodhichitta is indeed unfathomable.) Hence, if one wishes all sentient beings to obtain the
unsurpassable Buddhahood, how can the merits of this kind of bodhichitta be counted?
In the Great Vehicle Commentary on Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of
Mind, Venerable Longchepa quoted the following story:
Once in his causal stage, our Guru Buddha Shakyamuni was born as a
hell being - Kyawashida, when he was forced to pull wagons, he saw his
partner Kamarupa was too weak to move the wagon, and the hell guard
got angry and beat him with a red-hot hammer. At that moment, great
compassion arose in him, so he said to the hell guard, “Please free him. I
will pull the wagon for him.” The hell guard got so mad that he stroke him
with a steel hammer and said, “Every being has to experience the effects
of their own karma. Who is able to substitute?!” Immediately, Kyawashida
left that life and took rebirth in the Thirty-Three Heaven. This is the first
time our Guru Buddha Shakyamuni made his aspiration bodhichitta.
When our Guru Rinpoche taught the Bodhicaryavatara, he quoted another story:
Once at a cross in The Ganges River in India, a mother and a daughter
unfortunately fell into the water. When they aroused compassion for each
other (The mother wished the daughter to be free from the danger; the
daughter wished the mother to be free from the danger), through the power
of these two virtuous thought, both of them took rebirth in the celestial
realm right after they died.
From this we can see, even very short and small virtuous thoughts can help one to be
reborn in the celestial realm. Then there is no need to mention our freshly generated
bodhichitta - “May all countless and boundless sentient beings be free from the suffering
of cyclic existence.”
Besides the stories in Buddhism, some worldly stories can also explain this issue. For
example, nowadays, some people donate their organs and marrow. People think this
virtuous action is very marvelous and report it in mass media and news immediately.
Different kinds of honors come to them soon. If we look closer into this phenomenon, we
can see that the virtuous action of these people will at most last for several decades. Some
may be even shorter, such as saving or rescuing people and properties in a danger or
disaster with a virtuous mind for several days. If this is worth the praise and support of
the public, there is no need to speak of the aspiration of taking all sentient beings on the
earth as the object.
Nowadays, some charities in our society, for example, the Buddhist Compassion
Relief Tzu Chi Foundation in Taiwan, have very good impact in many countries. No
matter what kind of difficulties - tsunami, flooding, earthquake, terrorist attack, war
disorder, and so forth, they are always the people who arrive first at the spot. No matter
whether it is an earthquake in Taiwan, or 9.11 in U.S., or the war disorder in Afghanistan,
or tsunami in Southeast Asia, the Tzu Chi people arrived there before any other
international rescue organizations. They gave all the victims not only great material help,
but also enormous psychological comfort and great kindness. As a result, the Tzu Chi is
commended and agreed by the whole world.
The Tzu Chi was founded only about thirty years ago. People involved are only eight
million or eighty million (according to different reports), so their time and people are
limited. Their saving and helping objects are also restrained to the victims in human
disasters. After they help the victims, do they have the plan to help them continuously?
Not necessarily. However, aspiration bodhichitta is different; its objects are boundless
sentient beings, not only human beings, but also other beings in the six realms. The Tzu
Chi arrives first to help disasters in the world without the discrimination of religion or
race. It is indeed an action worthy of praising and rejoicing because common people
could not fulfill this at all. However, when compared with a person who has genuine
aspiration bodhichitta, the difference is still very significant. You should reflect on it.
Another example is the head of The Microsoft Corporation - Bill Gates. He also
makes great contributions to charity. His assets are reported to be around 4.8 trillion US
dollars, but he lives a modest life and he continues to help the poorest and most suffering
people in the world. Now, Bill Gates is the model for many children. They hope to be
someone like him some day in the future. However, we should think over the difference
between the marvelous merits appreciated by worldly people and of aspiration
Patrul Rinpoche said, “On one hand, we have very narrowed knowledge; on the other
hand, we do not have enough faith in cause and effect. As a result, we cannot help
admiring people who have a little fortune, wealth or good qualities, and think they are
very marvelous.” However, what is the measurement of the benefit and happiness of
aspiration bodhichitta? This is worthy of careful examination.
[Taking all sentient beings as the object of visualization and hoping to dispel the
enormous sufferings from them]
Here, every word has very profound meaning. The object of bodhichitta is borderless
and boundless sentient beings. The suffering to be dispelled is also borderless and
boundless. It is not only to comfort those who encounter a disaster one day, but also to
uproot all sufferings of all sentient beings, from past to present, from present to the time
of obtaining Buddhahood.
The present charities only offer help to people when they are in difficulties. Will they
still help them afterwards? How about twenty years later? It is hard to tell. However, as
people who have generated bodhichitta, we should aspire to help every sentient being
whenever they have difficulties or sufferings in all their life times until they obtain
Buddhahood. As a result, the strengths of these two kinds of intentions are very different.
Some people may doubt, “Is this true? The charities have already provided practical
help and dispelled sufferings to some extent, but we only aspire to do so in our heart.
Does our aspiration have the power to dispel any suffering?” For this question, we should
first keep in mind that philanthropists only dispel the temporary sufferings of human
beings; while aspiration bodhichitta can eliminate the primordial sufferings. If we make
the aspiration - “May all sentient beings obtain Buddhahood” and then guide them into
the path of Mahayana Dharma, they will obtain liberation one day. If they reach
liberation, not only the suffering of this lifetime but also the suffering of all lifetimes will
be uprooted utterly. Therefore, which one is better, to give a shot of painkiller, or to
completely eliminate the root of disease? We have the choice. It is the more worthy of
commending if we can solve the problem at the primordial level.
On one hand, it is very necessary to offer help to sentient beings and participate in
activities for public welfare. This is the spirit of Buddhism and what our society needs.
We must help suffering sentient binges by building hospitals, schools, charities, and
establishing poverty alleviation organizations, and eliminate their current difficulties
through these social public welfare activities. On the other hand, we should remember
this is not the ultimate solution. We should lead sentient beings to study the Dharma and
learn from the Buddha. We should not only dispel their temporary suffering but also bring
them ultimate everlasting happiness.
As a result, when we have the ability, we should build schools, not only helping
students learn some culture and knowledge, but also, above all, planting the seed of
enlightenment in their mental continuum. We can also build nursing homes or other
charities to help sentient beings with clothes and food and gain faith in the Dharma. Then
through the teaching of the Dharma, lead them to generate bodhichitta. I believe this is
extremely important.
When we release captured living creatures, they are saved by us at that time, but it is
very possible that the fishers will catch them again. Even if they are not caught, they can
only live for several decades. So, we should remember chanting sutras and mantras, and
taking refuge for them, which help them implant the Bodhi seeds. This is the most
important thing we should do when we set them free.
In short, two things must be remembered when we use the Mahayana Dharma to help
and liberate sentient beings. The first is to dispel their temporary sufferings; the second is
to solve their ultimate issue of living and death. With these two purposes, whatever you
do to help sentient beings will be beneficial. Even if you have no capability to build a
new school, you are carrying on the most important activities as long as you help people
around you with these two aims in your mind - temporarily, to help them solve mental
and material difficulties and ultimately, to help them take refuge in the Buddha and
generate the wonderful medicine of bodhichitta in their continuum. You should exame if
you need engage in this kind of activities.
Turn back to the text,
[Taking all sentient beings as the object of visualization, aspiring to dispel their
enormous sufferings, wishing them possess immeasurable peace and happiness and
countless merits, it is self-evident that the merit is enormous.]
When we study the Bodhicaryavatara, what we should understand is the unshared
feature of the Mahayana Dharma. If you think that Mahayana spirit is just worldly
charity, you are wrong. You should further your understanding of the Mahayana Dharma.
H2. Explaining the intention exceed worldly existence (All the intentions of worldly sentient beings are not
comparable to the Mahayana bodhichitta)
Do even fathers and mothers
Have such a benevolent intention as this?
Do the gods and sages?
Does even Brahma have it?
Who has this supreme bodhichitta in this world? Do our parents, who kindly raise us
up and whose kindness is as heavy as the mountain, have it? Do the gods, sages and
Brahmas who possess merits have it? They do not.
Why? Very few parents hate their children and most are very kind to their offspring.
They do not care for their own basic living necessities, like food and clothes, but place
their full attention on their children’s development, study, job, marriage, and even their
children’s family and offspring. They always keep thinking about their children. Very few
parents will think, “I will help my child generate bodhichitta; I wish him (or her) obtain
Buddhahood.” Almost nobody does this. We can see that most parents are very
lamentable. They do not believe in Buddhism but act counteractively. Even if they do not
argue against it, they never think about helping their children to generate bodhichitta. In
their eyes, the most important thing is to have their offspring go to college and then get
married. Someone told me, “My mom pushes me every day to get a girlfriend. She is so
worried. I am not ready to renounce householders’ life yet, but I want to be a good
Buddhist lay people. However, this confounded one urges me every day. I am really
irritated!” Indeed, this is very common in the present society. People think that marriage
is the most important thing in their lives. They have no idea what kind of stress is
involved in family life. Only after they start a family, they realize that they are trapped in
the real suffering.
In summary, about what are our parents really concerned? They are concerned with
living, housing and job for their offspring. Our Guru Rinpoche said, there are so many
sentient beings in this world, but how many of them really try to solve their children’s
real biggest issue of living and death? In all ages, parents are only concerned about their
children’s food, clothes, house, cars and so forth. Besides this, I am afraid none of them
care if their children can generate bodhichitta. Aside from the parents disbelieving in
Buddhism, even Buddhist parents greet their children in this way, “How is your health?
Don’t forget taking medicine…” They never ask, “Have you generated bodhichitta? Have
you benefited sentient beings?”
In this world, people are most loved by their parents, then their relatives, friends and
other close people. However, this kind of affection is a sort of fascinated grasping. People
who most care about you should be those who help you to develop bodhichitta, but they
are very few. Many people think, “This person is kind to me; that person is kind to me” or
“My family is kind to me; my friend is kind to me.” However, they are all obstacles for
you to generate bodhichitta, which can be proved through direct experience?
Some people may think, “My parents are muddled and have no wisdom, so they
don’t understand generating bodhichitta. If they have wisdom, they will ask us to do so.”
However, in this world, the sages have special spiritual powers. They are proficient in all
kinds of worldly knowledge and have actualized the ability of the true words, so they
should be counted as the wise. However, did they ask sentient beings to generate
bodhichitta? From many stories we can see - No, they didn’t. Then, how about the gods
who have the five special powers? They should be acquainted with these principles, but
did they ask beings in the god and human realms to generate bodhichitta? Not, either.
You may think that gods and sages have enough wisdom but not adequate
compassion, so they didn’t ask us to generate bodhichitta. In fact, even if they do have
compassion, they may not ask us to generate bodhichitta. For the example of Brahma, the
first meditative heaven formed during the gradual formation of our material world after
its last destruction. The first god - the Mahabrahma - was not able to see the world above
Brahma heaven where he resides and saw the world under it is empty. When other gods
and sentient beings gradually appeared in the desire realm, he thought, “I am the first
being here; the followers must be generated through my thinking, so they are all my
offsprings.” Therefore, he has great compassion to all sentient beings (including us).
However, did Brahma who has such great compassion53 ask us to generate bodhichitta?
No, he didn’t. Therefore, even if they have great compassion they still may not help us to
generate bodhichitta.
Some people may think that Brahma has not learned the Dharma; if he did, he would
ask us to generate bodhichitta. However, even if he has learned the Dharma he may not
ask us to generate bodhichitta. Some Buddhist friends have relied on many teachers.
During those periods of time, some teachers do not emphasize bodhichitta, but only ask
them to recite the mantras of Amitabha or Avalokiteshvara or conduct some virtuous
actions. From the surface, it is very good to accumulate merits through doing virtuous
deeds. However, the real qualified Mahayana gurus must ask disciples to generate
bodhichitta. If gurus do not emphasize it, how can we know that generating bodhichitta is
the unsurpassable goal in this disordered world? If gurus do not emphasize it, parents and
teachers in this world will be even more unlikely to ask us to generate bodhichitta. When
you are in school, which teacher asked you to generate bodhichitta? All of them ask you
to study hard so you can get promotion or become President. Besides this, it seems that
there are no other dreams.
Admittedly, there are some impressive teachers in society. For example, there is a
teacher whose name is Wang, Wenfu. The highest education he had was in middle school.
However, when he found that some poor children in a leper village of the Yi minority
area have no opportunity to go to school because their parents have leprosy, he decided to
go to that village to teach them, even though he was especially afraid of leprosy himself.
He only got twenty-four YUAN every month, which barely covered his basic living
necessities. Some people attempted to persuade him to leave for a better place to make a
living, where he can make about seven hundred YUAN every month; he refused. People
look down these lepers and their families and children, so nobody wants to teach there.
Only Mr. Wang stayed there for eighteen years after his first arrival. During his stay, he
taught more than four hundred students. Later, he became a good example for many
people. He has the altruistic spirit of self-sacrifice, but he didn’t ask those children to
53 The fruit of Brahma can be obtained through the practice of the Four Immeasurables of love,
compassion, sympathetic joy and impartiality.
generate bodhichitta either. In best, he asked them to do some good deeds and treat
people nice. Obviously, from the past to the present, very few people in this world
emphasize generating bodhichitta. We should think why Venerable Atisha and the great
master Kan-long-pa emphasized practicing bodhichitta? The related stories are well
known to us, so I should not tell too much here.
In summary, have our parents, Brahma, sages or any other sentient beings asked us to
generate bodhichitta? Not at all.
If those beings have never before
Even dreamt of such an attitude
For their own sake,
How would it ever arise for the sake of others?
Even for the sake of themselves, they have never generated bodhichitta, let alone
develop genuine beneficial attitude for the sake of others.
Admittedly, some individual Buddhists are different. On one hand, they are good
parents and good teachers; on the other hand, they advise their children and other people
to generate bodhichitta. However, in general, even for their own sake, the majority never
think of obtaining Buddhahood for all sentient beings in a dream, not to mention during
the day. How can people like this to generate bodhichitta for the sake of others? It is
There is a saying - “What we dream at night is what we think during the day.” If we
never think something during the day, we will never have it in a dream at night. If our
thoughts are unruly during the day, it is sure our dreams at night will be related to desire,
hatred, arrogance and so forth and we will never wish for Buddhahood in our dreams. We
are most attached to ourselves in this world. If we do not even have the wish to become a
Buddha for the sake of “myself”, how can we wish for Buddhahood for the sake of
“others”? If we never think about it during the day, how can we dream it at night? It is
impossible. In conclusion, the above-mentioned beings will never emphasize bodhichitta
in front of you. Since they have not even dreamed it, how can they ask you to practice
Practice is not simply elegant talk, but a call to action in daily life. Although some
people emphasize the bodhisattva vow and generating bodhichitta, the real important
point is to examine if bodhichitta has arisen in your heart. Many monasteries are able to
make very sophisticated elaborate precept booklets. On one hand, this form is very
necessary. On the other hand, I do not believe the precept booklet is important. If no
altruistic component exists in one’s continuum, no matter how delicate and shinning the
precept booklet is, it is useless. Some monasteries have the precept booklets made very
big. However, if the holders’ bodhichitta is not great, no matter how big the precept
booklet is, it has no use at all. I am not arguing against the precept booklet because it is
very important for indication. However, the key point is to examine if we have an
altruistic mind. If not, it is very hard to become a Mahayana practitioner.
Our Guru Rinpoche had said, “I have taught so many Dharmas theses years.
However, if our mind is not yet tamed, simply repeating the Dharma orally is like battling
on a sheet of paper. As a result, I first taught the Sutra of One Hundred Karma Stories,
which should make everyone cultivate the right view on cause and effect. In the second
year, I taught some instructions of bodhichitta; you really need generate bodhichitta in
your heart.” After that, our Guru Rinpoche taught the Bodhicaryavatara. During this
period of time, bodhichitta arose in many people, which is very pleasing!
Yesterday, I asked a Dharma friend if bodhichitta arose in him; he replied, “I think
so, because I have already aspired and no obstacles appear, so bodhichitta should still
remain.” Then I asked another Dharma friend, “Does bodhichitta arise in you?” He
replied straightforward, “Yes, it arises.” I was very glad to hear that. We should be selfconfident. If you have no feeling when we are studying the Bodhicaryavatara and feel
bodhichitta cannot arise in you, both you and others will be disappointed. If you reply
readily, “It has arisen.” I will be very happy, feeling very auspicious, and willing to finish
the class for today immediately!
This intention to benefit all beings,
Which does not arise in others even for their own sake,
Is an extraordinary jewel of the mind,
And its birth is an unprecedented wonder.
These people have not yet generated bodhichitta even for their own sake. However,
relying on the blessings from the Gurus and the Dharma we have already generated the
wish-fulfilling jewel bodhichitta of benefiting all sentient beings in such a short period of
time. We should hold this rare and precious!
In the vast ocean of cyclic existence, it is so difficult for us to encounter the profound and
wonderful Dharmas. Since we have already met the Dharma, it would be a great pity if
we do not generate bodhichitta. In the ninth chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra the Buddha
said, “Among all the merits, bodhichitta is the greatest”. Since bodhichitta has the
greatest merit among all of them, to develop it is indeed very rare and precious.
[Whether father or mother, relatives or friends, who has this beneficial mind?
None of them. Do the gods, sages or Brahma have this mind? They don’t either. As
said in the Ornament of the Mahayana Sutra (Abhisamayalamkara), “The Buddha’s
children have the beneficial mind, which can ripen all sentient beings, which
parents, relatives, friends, children and most closed ones do not possess.”]
The Mahayana Buddha’s children have the bodhichitta of benefiting all sentient
beings, which does not exist in beings like parents, relatives, good friends, gods, sages,
Brahma and so forth.
[These beings have never dreamed of generating bodhichitta even for their own
sake. How can it be possible for them to generate it for the sake of others?]
Bodhichitta is so precious. I really hope everybody practices it diligently this time;
otherwise, it will not arise without a cause.
[Consequently, other sentient beings, even for their own sake, have never had
the jewel like bodhichitta of benefiting sentient beings wholeheartedly. It is indeed
precious and rare when we have this unprecedented mind arise.]
Our Guru Rinpoche had said that, since we have never habituated it before, it is very
difficult to take all sentient beings as the object when we just start to practice bodhichitta.
However, mind is conditioned. If we habituate it frequently, our mind will gradually
become docile, capable and corrected sooner or later. As long as you practice with
perseverance, the relative bodhichitta will surely arise in your mind.
In this process, we must be zealous. Yesterday, a lay person called me from
Singapore and said, “I practice bodhichitta everyday. Although I am not as zealous as my
mother, I do feel it is indeed difficult to come across the Mahayana Dharma. Even the
historic eminent monks and masters with great realization and wisdom endure lots of
hardship, why not we, sentient beings in the Dharma degenerating age with strong
afflictions, need zeal? So, although I feel a little sleepy at six o’clock in the morning, I
get up anyway and keep practicing everyday.” I was so glad to hear that and I believe
many people have the same feeling.
It is true that the historic eminent monks and masters have much less affliction and
far more accumulations of merits than modern people. According to their biography, they
are so zealous, why don’t we to be as well? If we are zealous enough, through the
blessings of Gurus and all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas we will definitely obtain the
wish-fulfilling jewel bodhichitta in this very life.
In fact, it is not so difficult to generate relative bodhichitta. As long as the vow is not
broken after aspiration, bodhichitta will remain in our mind. Patrul Rinpoche has said,
“We should never slander others, because it is very likely that they are bodhisattvas who
have already generated bodhichitta.” Some people think, “This vajra friend is very bad,
he …” On one hand, this person may have some shortcomings, but if he has bodhichitta
in his mental continuum, he is a bodhisattva. To malign or hate a bodhisattva has great
fault (This will be covered later).
As a result, we should not slander others, but try our best to practice pure and clean
mind. The Mahayana Buddhist practitioners should be completely different from other
practitioners. Whoever we see, if it is an old person, is an old bodhisattva, if a young one,
then a young bodhisattva; we should think and see people in this way!
77. Explain the terms: scriptural authority and reasoning
78: Which one is more important, benefiting sentient beings or obtaining Buddhahood?
79: As Mahayana practitioners, how should we treat our relationship with other people
and how should we treat every being around us?
80: When we help and liberate sentient beings through Mahayana Dharma, what are the
two things we should not forget? Why?
81: What is the ultimate love? Is it the love of parents, the concern of relatives and
friends or something else? Why?
82: If someone gives you 100 million dollars and another person teach you to generate
bodhichitta, who do you think is more kind to you? Why?
83: The sutra said, “Among all the merits, bodhichitta is the greatest”. Do you really
believe in it? Why?
Lesson 13
Today, we will continue to study The Commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara - Ocean
of Good Explanation. Now we are study “the benefit of bodhichitta.” Yesterday, the
benefit of bodhichitta was described through the scriptural authority. Today, we are going
to show it through reasoning, which falls into two parts - the excellent intention and the
excellent action. The benefit of bodhichitta in the aspect of intention was covered
already; the benefit of bodhichitta in the aspect of action will be explained today.
G2. The action is supreme
H1. The object of the action is vast
H2. This action is not shared by others
H1. The object of the action is vast
How can I fathom the depths
Of the goodness of this jewel of the mind,
The panacea that relieves the world of pain
And is the source of all its joy?
Through the precious, supreme wish-fulfilling jewel like bodhichitta, all sentient
beings can temporarily obtain the peerless peace and happiness in the human and god
realms, and ultimately obtain the three fruits of enlightenment54. Therefore, bodhichitta is
the root cause of all the peace and happiness.
The Knack Book said that the presence of a thread of warm sunshine when it is very
cold and a thread of cool wind when it is very hot are the blessings from the Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas. Besides, as said in The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva, all happiness comes
from the intention to benefit others and all sufferings come from yearning for one’s own
happiness. We should know, bodhichitta is the ultimate cause of temporary and ultimate
peace and happiness for all sentient beings and the supreme nectar to dispel all sufferings.
There are different kinds of diseases in the world. If there is a panacea like the god’s
nectar which can heal all diseases, all diseases can be cured. Likewise, there are eighty
four thousand kinds of afflictions and eighty four thousand kinds of sufferings, countless
difficulties and disasters, psychological problems in the world. All of them can be
completely dispelled through the unique power of bodhichitta; so it is not different from
the panacea.
Besides, the fortune and merits of bodhichitta are countless and boundless, which is
not even measurable through the wisdom of the Buddha. The Buddha’s wisdom is
limitless. If it cannot measure the merit of bodhichitta, does that mean the Buddha is not
omniscient? No, it does not mean that. Here it emphasizes that the merit of bodhichitta is
countless and boundless; even through the limitless wisdom of the Buddha, it cannot be
quantified as a finite state or a finite merit. Therefore, we praise the merit of bodhichitta
is not because we have nothing else to praise, but because it indeed has the unique merit.
54 The three fruits of enlightenment: Shravaka, Pretyekabuddha and the Buddha.
The great kind and compassionate Buddha with the wisdom of omniscience and the
wisdom of suchness have completely visualized the true nature of it and he explained the
merit of bodhichitta in some sutras.
Besides in the sutras, the intention and action of unconditional benefiting sentient
beings are praised in any nationalities, countries or families in the world. Whoever has
this attitude is worthy of our respect. Up to presidents, chairmen, down to the beggars in
the street, whoever has an altruistic mind is worthy of our admiration; because for him,
the altruistic mind is not only limited to “my” parents, “my” relatives and friends, but
toward all sentient beings who have some connections with him through all kinds of
means. In his lengthy future existence, he will treat sentient beings with the spirit of
altruism and selflessness. Now, many people are busy for “me”, fight for “me” and
compete for “me”. Besides that, how many people want to sacrifice themselves to do
everything for the sake of other? Not many. Therefore, we should know that the merit of
altruism is considerably great!
[The precious bodhichitta is the cause of the peace and happiness of all sentient
beings and the panacea to dispel all sufferings and diseases of all sentient beings. So
how can the fortune and merit of it be measured? As said in The Sutra Requested by
the Householder Viradatta, “If the fortune and merit of bodhichitta has physical
form, then it even could not fit into the space of the universes at all.”]
If the fortune and merit of the Mahayana bodhichitta has its form, then no matter it is
rectangle or square, the whole space of the sky can not hold it. Many ordinary people can
not accept it: How can it exceed the volume of the space? What does it look like if it is
that big? As a matter of fact, the wisdom of ordinary people is very limited; within that
range, the phenomena manifested is also extremely limited. Therefore, what we cannot
perceive does not necessarily non-exist.
Since the merit of bodhichitta is so vast, to practice it even in a very short period of
time has great merit? The bodhisattva Nagarjuna said in his Commentary on Bodhichitta,
“If someone practices bodhichitta for even one moment, the fortune and merit arise
through it is immeasurable by the Buddha.” It means that if one person practices
bodhichitta properly for only one moment, the merit generated through it is so vast that
even the omniscient Buddha has difficulty to perceive. However, this merit can be
obtained by ordinary people like us - sentient beings fettered by the karma and afflictions.
Therefore, we must use skills in our practices; otherwise, if we practice with a stubborn
attitude and ignorant view, it will not make big difference. If we can make good use of
the Mahayana skill (being imbued with bodhichitta), hardship is not necessary and
extremely long time is not required. We can accumulate great merit in the process of
doing everything.
For some of the modern lay people, if they are asked to chant, meditate, listen and
reflect everyday like the practitioners in mountains and ordained people in monasteries,
do they have that time to do so? Most of them don’t. They have endless distractive stuffs
to deal with everyday. In this kind of situation, their short life passes by in a moment;
without good practice, it is a great pity. However, if they want to practice, it is not
realistic to practice all the eighty four thousand teachings of the Shakyamuni Buddha in
this short lifetime. Therefore, what is the best way? That is to summarize all the teachings
to one most important practice. We will get great merit by briefly practice it for even one
moment or five minutes everyday. This is what we practitioners really need. Without
these skillful means, you may have no chance in your whole life to perfectly practice the
Dharma. As a result, all the Dharma friends and Buddhist friends listening the teaching in
different situations, you should make some supreme aspiration. Afterwards, never give it
up. You should grasp this opportunity and manage more or less time out of your busy
schedule and practice bodhichitta assiduously!
Just now, I have emphasized again the scriptural authority in The Commentary on
Bodhichitta. You should remember firmly, “If someone practices bodhichitta for even one
moment, the fortune and merit arise through it cannot be measured even by the Buddha.”
One moment practice of bodhichitta is not a difficult task. Some Dharma friends said,
“Now my mind can not abide.” Don’t worry! You can practice for just one moment, two
moments, and three moments… several moments. If you think, when you get up in the
morning, “I will carefully practice bodhichitta today.” “I will practice the mind of loving
kindness and compassion with all sentient beings as the object.” You should be able to
calm down for at least several minutes anyhow. If you make it, “the fortune and merit
arise through it can not be measured even by the Buddha.”
These words were not told by ordinary people. If this was said by ordinary people
like me, you may doubt, “Is it true? He himself is not sure about his own future; how can
he tell us these merits? Do these merits really exist?” Some suspicion may arise.
However, these words were told by the Buddha Shakyamuni and explained by “the
second Buddha” Nagarjuna in his Commentary on Bodhichitta, so we can’t distrust it. As
real Buddhists, we cannot ignore the words of the Bodhisattva Nagarjuna. This has never
happened in the history of the Mahayana Buddhists. Now, even people with very strong
conceptual thoughts have no reason to say that the Bodhisattva Nagarjuna is wrong. Since
there is no doubt that bodhichitta has such great merit, why not people, who have such
heavy karmas as we do, seek for it and practice it? It is for this reason that the historic
eminent monks and masters emphasized it repeatedly!
For the current situation, there is no doubt that it is supreme to practice the profound
generation and completion stages. However, it is safer to practice them on the basis of
bodhichitta. Otherwise, our practice may not be able to succeed. No matter whether we
are reciting the Buddha’s name, studying, investigating or meditating, whatever schools
or traditions we belong to, we’d better do it on the basis of bodhichitta. It is for this
reason that the Venerable Atisha said, “The distinction between Buddhists and
nonbuddhists is taking refuge; the boundary between Mahayana and Hinayana is
The benefit of action bodhichitta is continued as follows,
If merely a benevolent intention
Excels veneration of the Buddhas,
Then what need to mention striving to make
All sentient beings, without exception, happy?
If one makes countless and boundless offerings to countless Buddhas for as long as
hundreds and thousands eons or as many eons as the number of the sands in the Ganges
River, is this merit great? Of course, it is great! The merit of offering the Buddha is
incomparable to other merits. There are so many historic stories about the excellent fruits
of offering the Buddhas in the Vinaya Sutra, The Sutra of the Wise and the Fool, and
some other related scriptures. The Lotus Sutra also described the great merit of offering
the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and even Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas (when we studied the
vinaya, we learned that the wealth of some of the rich patrons in India resulted from their
plain offering to Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas). Nevertheless, the merit of thinking of
benefiting sentient beings is far greater than that of making such offerings.
In general, worldly people think, “Today I have offered this huge amount of money
or that priceless stuff; I must have gathered great merits.” Others also feel, “Oh, he has
donated so much money to the monastery and the monastics; he made great offerings in
front of the Buddha’s figures; he is so marvelous and worthy of our praise.” However,
when compared with the merit of practicing bodhichitta, that merit is not able to compare
with the latter at all. No matter how many offerings he provides, how long he offers, how
supreme his way of offering is, compared with practicing bodhichitta, the merit of latter
still surpasses it.
The first two lines were described from the aspect of aspiration bodhichitta. If I only
think about benefiting sentient beings and generate this aspiration bodhichitta, the merit
of that will exceed the merit of making offerings to all the Buddhas. The last two lines
were described with respect to action bodhichitta. I not only make the aspiration of “may
all sentient beings obtain Buddhahood,” but also act in daily life to give with generosity,
to keep the precepts, to practice patience, to interact with sentient beings, to practice
according to the Mahayana Dharma; the merit is even much more. Because only to think
about benefiting sentient beings can have the merit surpassing the merit of offering
countless Buddhas; now, I not only “think” about it, but also “act” in the reality, so the
merit should be much greater; this is out of question.
Whether we have bodhichitta or not, it can be told from our behavior when we
interact with other people or other sentient beings. Some people have very bad
relationship with others; they don’t want to talk to this one or to be around that one. To
my surprise, not long ago, when we sent out the studying materials to some areas,
somebody said, “I don’t want to stay in the same group with this person. If we are in the
same group, I’d rather not study the Dharma!” After I heard this, I feel heartbroken and I
feel they really need study the Bodhicayavatara more than anyone else need. Otherwise,
they are over! Why? They claim they are Mahayana Buddhists. However, if they cannot
get along well with people even in that short period of time when they meet once or twice
a week, they learned the Mahayana Dharma in vain. They assume, “Oh, I have already
taken refuge for many years, and I am such and such.” As a matter of fact, it is just the
type of taking refuge on the surface!
Now, there are lots of superficial phenomena. We encounter lots of fake and inferior
goods in the street; many practitioners also take refuge superficially. In fact they even
have no altruistic mind. Especially in big cities, when I get closer to people, I only found
they have very inharmonious relationship. For example, when a guru comes, if he
chooses to use my car, then I feel very happy. However, the other group of people will
refuse to come to see the guru. If the guru attends one group’s activity of releasing
captive creatures, then another group will simply do not show up. What is the reason?
Because the guru is at “that” side (reason), inferring through the Buddhist logic, the result
should be - then, I will not go (result).
In addition, when some great masters are giving teachings in one’s house, then
another group of people report it immediately to the Department of Religion… We may
not have the ability to propagate the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism yet, but as Mahayana
Buddhists, it is not logic for us to deliberately slander, malign others’ action of benefiting
sentient beings! Even people who have not yet started to study the Dharma will not
behave so badly. Although their conditions of studying the Dharma are not yet ripened,
they are capable of getting along well with other people and dealing with various
situations perfectly and safely. Not like some Buddhists whose jealousy is so strong that
they treat their guru as their belongings, treat Buddhism as their family’s private property,
and think this is MY Buddhism. Besides my family, nobody else is accepted. As a
Mahayana Buddhist, if this kind of complicated situation shows, you really need to pay
attention now! So, when I send a package to you, if you refuse to come to pick it up, what
kind of Mahayana Dharma are you learning?! We will get to The Chapter of Patience
after a while. I am afraid many people will not be able to tolerate to listen to that
teaching. If that is the case, you’d better quit now. Comparing the attitude of people who
have long-time training in Buddhism in our school with that of those who are busy with
the eight kinds of worldly concerns, the latter is really far different from the former. They
have some kind of relationship which should not exist among Buddhists. I should put it in
this way: This is even very hard to see among nonbuddhists. Therefore, during the
process of studying the Dharma, we should subsume everything with a latitudinarian,
soft-hearted and open mind. Otherwise, if you tether yourself in a very small world, you
will feel very painful, and you will feel all the others are bad except yourself. You feel
evils are everywhere; only you are a god. If you feel in this way, the world cannot be
sublime in front of you.
During our study of Mahayana Buddhism, we should learn what aspiration
bodhichitta is and what action bodhichitta is. Of course, it is not easy to perfectly have
these two kinds of bodhichitta arise for a very beginner. However, we are Mahayana
Dharma learners after all. We should transform our behavior to some extent. This is
worthy of our efforts!
It is said in the text,
[Merely thinking of benefiting sentient beings already excels making offerings to
all the Buddhas, what need to mention the more supreme excellence of striving to
bring peace and happiness to all sentient beings.]
Here are two ways of explanation. Some people think that “merely thinking” refers
to aspiration bodhichitta; some people explain it as the merit of merely thinking about
benefiting and helping others excels that of offering all the Buddhas.
[The King of Concentration Sutra said, “The merit of constant offering the Noble
Ones everything in countless (Kotinayuta) worlds is not comparable to that of a
small portion of practicing love.”]
The Indian Sanskrit, “Kotinayuta” is one of the measurement units, which means
“countless”. The Buddha said in a sutra, “Is the merit great to constantly make offerings
to all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, great monks and masters in countless worlds endlessly?
Absolutely great! However, when compared with practicing the love that wishes sentient
beings to have happiness, the merit of making offerings is not comparable to even one
percent of the latter. Therefore, the Buddha has explained the three kinds of incredible
merits in The Ratna-kuta Collection Sutra; the first is the merit of practicing bodhichitta.
The Sutra Requested by Pradhanashura also said,
“In front of as many Buddhas and Noble Ones
As the number of the sands in the Ganges River,
Making countless and boundless offerings with hands in prayer
When compared with practicing bodhichitta for one moment,
The merit of the latter is far greater than the former.”
Therefore, people should not consider practicing bodhichitta as a temporary task for as
short as only several days or think it unimportant. In the past, bodhichitta is the most
important practice in the whole life of Patrul Rinpoche and many great monks and
masters. As a result, we should think from moment to moment “May I never be parted
from bodhichitta,” no matter what kind of situation we are in, wherever we go, even at
the moment of dying. This is a virtuous aspiration that we should make!
We should know that the altruistic power of bodhichitta is very strong. As I
mentioned when I was translating The Great Biography of Buddha Shakyamuni, why is
the merit of bodhichitta so vast. It is because in this world nothing is more precious than
benefiting other. What is the best characteristic and best quality of a person? That is an
altruistic mind; nothing matters more than it. As said by Patrul Rinpoche in his Words of
My Perfect Teacher, “It is so hard to find a qualified teacher with all the required good
qualities. However, as long as there is a bodhichitta in his mental continuum, you can rely
on him properly.” Therefore, no matter in a giant or a tiny organization, as long as one
can help with a single-minded attitude with an altruistic mind he is the best person in the
world and can be called a bodhisattva or even a Buddha.
This spirit does not belong to Buddhism alone; nobody in this world denies altruism.
For any country, any nationality, any region or clan, where there is the altruistic mind,
where there is the hope. Therefore, we should put efforts on the altruistic bodhichitta.
When we accumulate merit, conduct virtuous deeds, listen to the Dharma, go to work or
back from work, go out, or anything we do, if we can think at the beginning, “Now I am
doing this not for myself but for the benefit of all sentient beings.” If we can arouse this
attitude then the merit is actually countless and boundless. Therefore, we should believe
in the instructions of the Buddha. As Buddhists if we do not believe in Buddha’s
teaching, then what else we believe.
After you hear the merit of bodhichitta, I am not sure whether you will think, “I will
practice bodhichitta arduously from now on because the merit of bodhichitta is indeed
enormous.” If you can cultivate this kind of resolve, the content of the first chapter works
for you. However, the mental state of ordinary people is not stable. As said in The Great
Biography of Buddha Shakyamuni, (it is) as the ripple on the surface of water disappears
immediately and as the water bubble breaks when touches obstacles. Due to this unstable
attitude, we should remind ourselves from moment to moment on one hand and on the
other hand, continuously listen to the teachings of our Gurus. Only in this way, can
bodhichitta be stabilized and become naturally in our heart.
When our Guru Rinpoche taught us the Bodhicayavtara a few years ago, he said
when we just start to practice bodhichitta, we should first try to transform our mind;
always remind ourselves “I will practice bodhichitta, I will practice bodhichitta.” Because
ordinary people only think of “I” not “him or her,” this kind of predisposition is not easy
to convert. Therefore, at the beginning, we must use the mind of transforming to force it.
Let it think, “I will practice bodhichitta, I will practice the altruistic mind …” After some
time it will become very natural. Even if you do not think “I am a Mahayana Buddhist. I
must benefit sentient beings”, these thoughts will arise spontaneously.
“The object of this action is vast” is discussed already. The next question is as
H2. This action is uncommon (No other altruistic action in this world is more supreme than bodhichitta.)
Although wishing to be rid of misery,
They run towards misery itself.
Although wishing to have happiness,
Like an enemy they ignorantly destroy it.
No matter what kind of sentient beings we are, we all want to avoid any kind of
physical or mental sufferings. As we can see, sentient beings - hell beings, animals,
hungry ghosts, and human beings - all do not want to endure misery. Everybody makes
great efforts to get away from disease, plague, war, and disasters. However, although this
is their intention, they always create many causes of suffering through their behavior due
to their ignorance of the cause and effect of rejecting and adopting, so the result turns to
constantly seek for misery.
For example, some people want to become rich, so they go to rob and steal. Then,
what they can get is not wealth but being caught and put into jail, suffering in this and
future life times. Some people want to get rid of their poverty, so they make money
through illegal ways, but only find the result is not their expectation. Some people want
to satisfy their taste desire, so they kill countless creatures just for one meal, but only find
to become sick and die from incurable disease. Even if the bad effects does not mature
before they die, they will have to repay their lives in the future existences by
experiencing different kinds of misery… As said by Patrul Rinpoche in his Words of My
Perfect Teacher, people want happiness, but they always act in the opposite direction and
cause all kinds of sufferings; although they want to destroy all sufferings, they never do
the right thing to dispel them. In order to be happy, some people commit suicide, some
people drug, some people satisfy themselves through sensuous touch, this superficial
happiness can only trap them into the marsh where they can never get out and suffer
Modern people appear living freely. However, some of our behaviors are very stupid
and foolish. The current wars, disasters, flooding and sandstorm are actually closely
associated with us. Regarding China, the continuous increase of the area of desert is due
to disafforesting and killing wild animals. If we destroy the balance of the ecosystem, the
counteraction will naturally have impact on our body and mind. Many wise people in the
world agreed that the African war is basically caused by their own behavior. In addition,
the war disorders in some countries, destroying the Buddhas’s statue in Afghan and so
forth are all because people are not skillful of the relationship of the cause and effect
during the process of seeking happiness and dispelling misery. Therefore, they destroy
their happiness utterly and experience unexpected sufferings.
This is why sentient beings in this world are so miserable. They want to dispel their
suffering through the methods which actually cannot fulfill their wish but various
sufferings. They seek for peace and happiness, but due to the obscuration of ignorance,
they completely destroy the causes and results of happiness just as exterminating their
Nowadays, this kind of people is immeasurable. If you observe people in big cities,
no matter what they eat or how they act or talk, they are totally ignorant of the meaning
of current and future life, but only look down the virtuous Dharmas – the cause of real
happiness. They actively follow meaningless things and regard them very rare and very
supreme. Therefore, sometimes you may feel human beings have already reached the
summit of ignorance. Of course, some people may not necessarily accept this, just as no
crazy people among a great number of crazy people will admit they are crazy. We have
learned this metaphor when we were learning the Four Hundred Verses on the Middle
This verse sharply pointed out that modern people are very ignorant and stupid with
respect to the cause and effect. Before obtaining the wisdom of knowing the cause and
effect of rejecting and adopting, human beings always stay in this suffering state without
any freedom. Although we human beings are claiming lots of pleasant slogans, such as to
create our own environment and build our sensational community, our behavior conceals
lots of unhealthy factors. Regarding this, we must observe with a clear mind - what is the
cause of peace and happiness? What is the cause of misery? What can bring sentient
beings real happiness? What brings us sufferings? These questions are worthy of careful
For those who are deprived of happiness
And burdened with many sorrows,
It satisfies them with all joys,
Dispels all suffering.
And clears away confusion
Where is there a comparable virtue?
Where is there even such a friend?
Where is there merit similar to this?
Bodhichitta can bring happiness to countless sentient beings, which is explained in
three aspects - bodhichitta includes the mind of great love, the mind of great compassion,
and great wisdom.
The so-called “the mind of great love” is the mental state of wishing all sentient
beings to have happiness. That is to satisfy sentient beings and help them obtain
temporary and ultimate happiness through the perfections of generosity, discipline and so
forth. As mentioned earlier, if the spirit of Buddhism really infuses into every corner of
the society, lots and lots people will be very happy. Why? Because the altruism of
Buddhism is not out of any other purposes, but purely to help others, which is different
from worldly behavior. For example, when worldly employers show their concern for
their employees, they often not really care about their employees but only care them on
the surface. In their heart, this is completely for their status and gaining respect from
others. However, the selfless spirit of Buddhism is widely acknowledged by the entire
world and every normal person willingly accepts this pure and clean spirit because the
genuine mind of great love can meet the request of countless and boundless sentient
beings and make them happy.
The so-called “the mind of great compassion” is the mental attitude to wish all
sentient beings to be free from misery. Sentient beings are not aware of the cause and
effect of rejecting and adopting, which cause them various kinds of sufferings, such as
the suffering of suffering, the suffering of conditional existence, the suffering of changing
and so forth. Through the strength of the great compassion all these sufferings can be
completely dispelled and uprooted from their mental continuum.
In regard to great wisdom, we should understand that when we find many sentient
beings are so miserable because they do not know the conventional concepts like
previous and future life and the cause and effect of rejecting and adopting, let alone the
profound teaching of emptiness, we should use great wisdom to help them to dispel the
darkness of ignorance in their mental continuum.
It not only can bring happiness to sentient beings, but also eradicate all their misery
and destroy the ignorance in their mental continuum. Isn’t such mental state the best in
our world? “Where is there a comparable virtue!” Where is such a good virtue! It can
bestow us all happiness, dispel all our sufferings, and eradicate all the ignorance in our
mental continuum. Isn’t it worthy of pursuing? Isn’t it the greatest virtue? It is indeed the
greatest! Because it eliminates all the obstacles and builds up favorable conditions, so it
is the favorite thing of the worldly people.
“Where is there even such a friend?” For everybody, bodhichitta is our best
friend and relative. What is the use of friend and relatives? They help you when you are
in trouble; they enhance your happiness when you are happy. However, worldly friends
and relatives do this conditionally, which is not reliable. When you are very prosperous
and very prestigious, they are willing to help you and take care of you; while when you
fall down to a condition nobody cares, they are afraid of not being quick enough to avoid
you. Not long ago, I mentioned a singer Fei Cong in Shenzhen. When he got lung cancer
later, many people who he helped refused to see him or take care of him. The mass media
also expressed anger and criticized them in this way: When he was flourishing, you all
did this and that. Your current happiness is basically from him. However, now when he is
in trouble, you don’t care him at all! Do you have hearts at all?! Therefore, worldly
friends and relatives come to you usually with some purposes and want something from
you, which is impossible to bring real welfare to you. On the contrary, bodhichitta is
totally different. Somebody told me a period of time ago that although he is now far away
from his hometown, his motherland, and feel lonely in western country, however, after he
understands the spirit of Mahayana Dharma, the loneliness and suffering disappeared
completely. He feels so fortunate that he can meet the supreme essence of the Dharma…
This person has really had the Dharma infused in his mind! With bodhichitta as your
company, you already have a best friend, no matter you are a lay person or monastic and
even if nobody helps you or cares you!
“Where is there merit similar to this?” This fortune and merit possess all
happiness and can dispel all suffering; the merit can even increase when one is sleeping,
so what other virtue has the same merit? It is true that the merits of reciting Buddhda’s
name, turning the prayer wheel and offering the Buddha are incredible. However, are they
greater than the merit of bodhichitta? According to scriptures, they are not as great as the
merit of bodhichitta. Accordingly, the merit of altruism is greatest and the fault of killing
sentient beings is greatest. No matter whatever obstacles and difficulties we encounter,
we should never and ever abandon the altruistic bodhichitta!
We must take this vow in front of all the Buddhas and our Guru. When we get up in
the morning and go to bed at night, we should also think, “No matter how great the
difficulty I meet is, I will never give up the altruistic bodhichitta. I will never kill any
sentient beings!” When some Buddhists find cockroaches or ants at home, they do not kill
them even if it is annoying. This indicates they already have a genuine bodhichitta in
their continuum. Some lay people assume they are very extraordinary. However, once
they see a cockroach, they smash on it promptly; once they see an ant they swiftly step on
it. In this way, I am not sure where their bodhichitta flee to! Apparently, their behaviors
may be just the bodhisattvas’ manifestation and we ordinary people are not able to tell. In
short, the altruistic mind is extremely important!
As said in the text:
[As sentient beings, although we have the intention of abandoning suffering, we
repeatedly involve ourselves in wrongdoings because we are completely unaware
that nonvirtuous deeds are the causes of misery.]
Contemporary people, even some Buddhist laities do not know that the causes of
misery are the intrinsic wrongs and the wrongs designated by the Buddha. Some people
even think, “Some people eat sea food every day and they get healthier and healthier;
how come there are faults of doing so? Definitely no faults, you see his job also goes very
well; his body gets stronger and stronger…” We should keep in mind that the Buddha
didn’t say, “A deed conducted now will immediately mature its result.” The Buddha
didn’t say this; even worldly people do not completely accept this. For example, it looks
that some gangsters live very happy and stay in some five start hotels day and night; their
food and clothes are all superior; everything goes very well. However, after a period of
time, when they are sentenced to death, people then realized, “Alas, people who were so
happy still have today.” So, any karma fruits need some period of time to mature. The
karma fruit of eating sentient beings’ flesh or doing wrongs today does not necessarily
mature on the same day. However, finally on one day, maybe this life, maybe next life,
the suffering is bound to be experienced. The present worldly people even have no
awareness of the basic concept of cause and effect, let alone adopting and rejecting of
virtue and nonvirtue. We should know the seed planted in spring will not immediately
sprout, blossom and fruit. Otherwise, the farmers do not need wait for the coming fall for
harvesting. Many people do not know these principles at all. This is a great pity!
[Although they want to obtain happiness, they completely have no idea of the
method of obtaining happiness.]
Human beings do not know the way of gaining happiness at all. Just as said earlier, in
order to get happiness they go to robbery, cheat others and protect themselves through all
kinds of crafty means. However, what is the result?
[They abandon virtuous deeds due to ignorance and stupidity, and finally
destroy their happiness like enemies.]
[For sentient beings who are lack of peace and happiness, but full of suffering]
Since they do not conduct good deeds, their happiness is very limited; since they do
lots of nonvirtuous deeds, immeasurable sufferings will wait for them in present and
future life times.
For these sentient beings,
[Satisfy them with all the happiness through the mind of great love, free them
from all the misery through the mind of great compassion, eradicate their ignorance
of the causes of happiness and suffering through great wisdom. Where is there a
comparable virtue?]
No matter what kind of practice you practice, it is not comparable to the practice of
bodhichitta. This is the reason that Patrul Rinpoche said, “No matter it is esoteric or
exoteric practice, if not supported by bodhichitta, the merit is not great and very
[Where is there such a helpful friend? Where is there something that could
generate the similar fortune and merit?]
The Bodhicaryavatara is actually a practical teaching. Some people think, “The
Bodhicaryavatara is a theoretic teaching. I don’t need to study it now because I am in
retreat every day. I want to focus on practice!” I think no matter how superior your
practice is, without practice the Bodhicayavatara, it is hard to say whether your practice
will finally fall into a non-Buddhist practice. We ordinary people are familiar with
ordinary people. From your behavior, I can see very strong afflictions in your continuum.
If people who have this attitude do not practice the altruistic mind, it is very hard to tell if
they will succeed in other high practices, such as Mahamudra, Great Middle Way, Great
Perfection (Dzogchen), Vajrabhairava (the destroyer of death), the enlightened mind, the
true nature realization practice in the Chan Buddhism, the one-pointed mind without
distraction practice in the Pure Land school and so forth. All of these practices need
mastering basic principles as the foundation to generate merit. If you do not have the
most basic renouncing world mind or bodhichitta, will you accomplish enlightenment
with no reason? This is a huge question mark for our practitioners.
Therefore, we should choose the most significant practice (bodhichitta) in our whole
life. We should not learn few practice from one guru one day and follow a Qigong teacher
for another practice the next day, and feel the latter is very superior only because your
disease is cured (Nowadays, many people are very short-sighted. They have no interest in
knowing some basic principles, let alone to seek for the long-term benefits. They only
pay attention to current health, wealth, and good mood.) As practitioners, we should be
responsible for our future existence and have some plans for our future. Otherwise, our
practice may not succeed. Therefore, we should study hard on the genuine ideas of the
sutras. If we do not understand them, we are not real Buddhists!
The above described merit of bodhichitta is extremely hard to hear for hundreds and
thousands kalpas. Therefore, we should put our most energy on practicing bodhichitta in
our daily life.
E3. Praising persons who have generated bodhichitta
F1. To benefit without being asked
F2. The supreme patron
F3.The supreme merit field
F4. Not to be harmed in front of sufferings
F5. Being called the offering field and refuge field
The merit of bodhichitta was talked above; here is the explanation of the great merit
of people with bodhichitta. The Ornament of Clear Realization said, “After obtained
bodhichitta, no matter where they are, their body is the same as a stupa. No matter he or
she is a beggar, a prostitute, a butcher, or even in the lowest and humblest social status,
once the Mahayana bodhichitta arises in his(or her) continuum, this person is worthy of
prostration, veneration and offering by all laities and monastics. Therefore, the strength of
bodhichitta is indeed powerful!
F1. To benefit without being asked
If whoever repays a kind deed
Is worthy of some praise
Then what need to mention the bodhisattvas
Who do good without it being asked of them?
When some people encounter difficulties, disasters or poverties in this world, they are
helped through by others. After they become wealthier and powerful afterwards, they will
think, “When I had the most difficult and suffering time, that person helped me. The wise
in old time said, ‘A drop of kindness should be repaid with a forceful spring’. I should not
be an ungrateful person. I should help and repay him (or her) as possible as I can.” When
he dose so, others may praise him, “This person is very good. He remembers the person
who helped him when he was in trouble and repaid his benefactor.”
This is a most basic rule for people in the world, which is also described in Mipham
Rinpoche’s Teaching of the Kings’s Behavior, “People who repay kindness and know the
cause and effect will not only be respected by other people, but also be protected by the
gods.” Therefore, what is the most important thing for worldly people? One is not to be
an ungrateful person; we should remember the good deeds others done for us and repay
them. The other is to understand the cause and effect. If these two conditions meet,
humans and nonhumans will come to help you.
However, when the bodhisattvas help sentient beings, it is totally different. How?
[“Then what need to mention the bodhisattvas who do good without being
Bodhisattvas are not requested by anyone - for the sake of sentient beings, you
should do this and that. However, when they see immeasurable sentient beings suffering
in cyclic existence, great compassion spontaneously arises in their mental continuum
because their Mahayana virtuous root in previous existence ripens. Then they throw on
the armature of benefiting sentient beings and make the unshakable vow: I will benefit
boundless and borderless sentient beings! This behavior has nothing to do with the
thoughts like “This person was nice to me in the past, so I should help him now.” or “I
help him today, so he will help me when he accomplishes some success.” or “I help him
this life, then I can take rebirth in the pure land to obtain happiness.” Bodhisattvas help
sentient beings unconditionally. Is this behavior worthy of praising? Of course, yes.
When some people had financial difficulties, someone offered help. Later, if the
beneficiary repays the patron, people will say, “He is not bad. He appreciates and rewards
his benefactor. He has a good personality…” However, the spirit of bodhisattva is
different. No matter you are nice or mean to them, bodhisattvas will help you ignoring
your attitude toward them even if you harm them deliberately. When Shakyamuni
Buddha was at his causal stage, Devadatta always maligned his virtuous deeds. The
Bhagavan didn’t get angry, instead he tried to help and benefit him as possible as he
could. These kinds of stories are extensively collected in The Great Biography of Buddha
As a result, when we study the Mahayana Dharma, we, either lay people or
monastics, should first deal well the most basic relationships with others. If you cannot
get along well with others but fight for “me” day and night, it is too difficult to say
bodhichitta is in your continuum. If you take the vow - “I will benefit immeasurable
sentient beings” in front of all the Buddha and Bodhisattvas every day, but in fact you
have an awful relationship with the Dharma friends on the same path55; then there is no
need to mention that you will unconditionally liberate and help sentient beings who you
do not know or are doing harm to you, because your logic is like this - “If you help me,
then I can help you. If you do not harm me, then I will not harm you. If you harm me, I
will also harm you.” This attitude is not even accepted in Hinayana Buddhism or any
reasonable worldly people.
We should eradicate selfishness in our mental continuum, learn from the historic
great monks and master - try to find out how they used the altruistic bodhichitta to help
countless sentient beings and finally accomplished enlightenment and liberated sentient
beings. We are currently not qualified in many aspects, but we must try to learn from
them, pray to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas for ripening bodhichitta in our continuum as
soon as possible and being imbued with altruistic mind every moment.
[Any people with grateful mind are worthy of praising like “This person
appreciates and repays kind deeds,” so there is no need to mention bodhisattvas who
are so ready and willing, even without being asked, to bring benefit and happiness to
sentient beings.]
Without being asked by anyone, bodhisattvas volunteer to help all sentient beings.
The greatness of this merit is not need to mention!
84. Please explain the verse (28) - “Although wishing to be rid of misery, they run
towards misery itself. Although wishing to have happiness, like an enemy they
ignorantly destroy it.”
85. Some people think, “The Buddha has the omniscient wisdom of perceiving all
phenomina. If he cannot measure the merit of bodhichitta, isn’t it not the wisdom of
omniscience?” What do you think about it?
86. Why is that said, as long as they have bodhichitta, even beggars and prostitutes are
worthy of our prostration?
87. What is the skillful means we can rely on to gather the accumulation of merits soon in
our short life? Can other methods help us obtain the ultimate liberation? Why?
88. As a lay person, what should you do appropriately when some eminent masters and
monks come to propagate the Dharma in the city where you live?
89. How do sentient beings behave against their wishes? Please explain with examples.
90. Some people create lots of bad karma through corrupting, defalcating, killing and
55 The Dharma friends on the same path: Dharma friends who are listening to the Dharma in front of the
same Guru.
eating animals, but their life are still free, ease and very happy. Does this mean the law of
cause and effect not exist? Please explain in details.
91. Why is bodhichitta the greatest virtue and the best friend?
92. Can one succeed in the practice on Great Perfection and Mahamudra without
bodhichitta? Why?
93. What is the original cause of current wars, disasters, flooding and sandstorms?
94. Please prove that Bodhisattvas are more worthy of praising through the comparison
with people who remember other’s kindness and repay it.
Lesson 14
Yesterday, we studied “to benefit sentient beings without being asked” under the
outline of “praising the pudgala56 who has generated bodhichitta” which was described in
five aspects. To benefit sentient beings automatically57 was discussed first. Now we are
going to discuss the second aspect-“the supreme patron”.
F2. The supreme patron
What does this mean? All benefactors in the three realms are not comparable to the
person who has developed bodhichitta. Some ordained people and practitioners think that
this lay person always makes offerings to me so he is my great patron. In fact, the real
benefactors of all sentient beings are those who have bodhichitta. The worldly patrons
only offer to those they have faith in and ignore others. However, bodhisattvas who have
generated bodhichitta are the Gurus for ALL sentient beings. As said in the text:
The world honors as virtuous
One who sometimes gives a little, plain food
Despitefully to a few beings,
Which satisfies them for only half a day.
What need be said then of one
Who eternally bestows the peerless bliss of the Sugatas
Upon limitless numbers of beings,
Thereby fulfilling all their hopes?
Several comparisons were made here, which indicate that the Supreme Beings with
bodhichitta are the refuge of all sentient beings. First is a simple example. For instance, if
someone gives a little plain food disrespectfully to a few beings, which satisfies them for
only a half day, people will think this person is extraordinary and praise his generosities
through many years and speak highly of him. Then, a person, with Mahayana Buddhist
bodhichitta, eternally bestows the peerless bliss upon numerous beings and fulfill all their
wishes, this spirit and action are more rare, precious, and worthy of praise.
The comparisons are as follows.
For the worldly virtuous benefactor:
The time: Only sometimes such as around twenty years or several months. It is
not eternal or life after life.
The offering: Money, properties, food and other common material stuff, not the
causes of happiness.
The attitude: Disrespectfully - like that when some rich employers or patrons
56 The pudgala: people or sentient beings in Sanskrit.
57 To benefit sentient beings automatically: being ready to benefit sentient beings without being asked by
give people something. They give things with a disdainful attitude - “If you want,
come here. I can give you a little bit!” It is also like some people who blame the
beggar while give them some pennies. (Bodhisattvas never use this attitude. As said
in the Introduction of the Middle Way, when they hear the beggars’ request from
outside, bodhisattvas are as happy as Arhats obtain worldly meditative absorption.
They cherish it.)
The object of beneficiaries: Only very few sentient beings, not all the countless
sentient beings on the earth.
For example, when some employers provide free lunch for their employees,
people think they are very kind - “You see, several hundred people can get free lunch
everyday. He is so nice to his employees…” In fact, if analyzing with wisdom, the
object is not all sentient beings but only several hundred or thousand people; the time
is not all life times, but only several decades in this life; the offerings are common
food; the satisfaction and duration is only to dispel the hunger for a half day. If this is
already worthy of acknowledgement and praise from the world, there is no need to
mention the behavior of a bodhisattva.
Why? Because from the time aspect, the altruism of a bodhisattva is eternal. As said
in The Great Biography of Buddha Shakyamuni, even when he became an animal, his
altruistic mind from previous lifetimes would not be abandoned. In one life, he benefits
sentient beings and in the next life, he still benefits sentient beings. Even from all life
times till Buddhahood he benefits sentient beings eternally. The attitude is not very
obvious in the text, but we can feel it indirectly. As we all know, worldly people always
make offerings with a contemptuous attitude. While when bodhisattvas were giving their
head, eyes, arms and feet to sentient beings, they use a very respectful attitude. Even if
their head is cut off, they still use their right hand58 to make offerings. As long as it can
satisfy sentient beings’ wishes, they do whatever sentient beings like. From the aspect of
the recipients, worldly people only offer to very few people. For people with bodhichitta,
their recipients are countless and boundless sentient beings, not only a country or all
human beings on the earth, but also other sentient beings in the three realm. From the
aspect of what is offered, bodhisattvas are not offering the conditioned properties (such as
clothes, food, which can satisfy one or two days living), but temporary peace and
happiness of the human and gods and permanent Buddhahood of immeasurable supreme
good qualities.
As we all know, the worldly offering is very limited. For example, if you want some
food, people can offer you everyday, but if you ask further for clothes, they probably
refuse you. It is natural for worldly people to say “I have already satisfied what you
deserve - free lunch every day. How come you still ask for clothes? You get too far! Don’t
stay in my place; get out of here!” However, bodhisattvas will never do this. Whatever
sentient beings need, bodhisattvas satisfy them as they wish. This is intensively shown in
The Great Biography of Buddha Shakyamuni.
I hope that everyone who is studying the Bodhicaryavatara this time can follow the
tradition descended by Patrul Rinpoche, which is to read The Great Biography of Buddha
Shakyamuni while studying the Bodhicaryavatara. Last year we spent a half year
58 According to the tradition in India, it is considered respectful to use right hand.
studying this book; many people have already memorized every story in it. However, for
people who are not familiar with this book, I hope you read one story every day, which
can lead you finish it in one year. If we get to know the intention and action of how
Shakyamuni Buddha generated bodhichitta in his every life, we will feel shame about our
own intention, and we will also have the driving force: I am a Buddhist. I have already
generated the Mahayana bodhichitta; I should not treat people inattentively. I must learn
from Shakyamuni Buddha!
Bodhisattvas can fulfill all the wishes of sentient beings, which is indeed superior to
worldly phenomena. Although the Buddhadharma cannot be completely free from
mundane knowledge. This does not necessarily mean that the Buddhadharma supports all
the mundane knowledge. Otherwise, these two things should be exactly the same and
Buddhadharma is not a transmundane Dharma any more. We should keep in mind that
some principles of the mundane knowledge are very different from that of the
Buddhadharma. For example, many people in the world think that it is very tough to
satisfy all the wishes of all sentient beings. However, as long as it can bring happiness to
sentient beings, the Mahayana bodhisattvas are willing to do anything with full efforts
because of their extremely vast mind. Not only aspire in heart, but also apply real actions
to the practice. From this life to all the lifetimes, no matter what situation is encountered,
their only wish and aim is to satisfy sentient beings and to liberate sentient beings.
Since we are now studying bodhichitta, we must generate bodhichitta. When our
Guru Rinpoche was still in this world, he requested us to take the vow of bodhisattva and
generate bodhichitta in Tibetan June every year. I think we should do it this year too.
Obviously, we should theoretically understand its benefits before we generate it.
Now, there are some very famous pioneers and philanthropists in the world. They
look very extraordinary in worldly people’s eyes and worthy of admiration. However,
comparing their intention with bodhichitta of the Mahayana Buddhism, the distance
between them is like that of the earth and heaven. We should know that it is not by
clothes or make up but the mental state that we judge if a person is good or bad and
superior or inferior. If one has a vast mind and also makes the aspiration to generate
bodhichitta in front of the Triple Gem, this person must be a good person. For example, if
one says, “I will never kill people in my whole life,” then people around him will feel
safe and think that this person has already promised never killing people and his words
are reliable, so at least he will not kill me. In the same way, if somebody takes vow in
front of the Triple Gem - “From now on, I will help sentient beings as much as I can.”
Then people will trust him anyway. If more and more people generate bodhichitta, then
the diseases, disasters and confusions in this world will gradually disappear. Bodhichitta
has an inestimable influence on the whole society of human beings.
This is a brief explanation of this verse. Now let us look at the text.
[For example, when some people give out alms, their object of giving is very few
sentient beings, the time is only once every month or year, the substances given out
are just common food, the attitude is disdainful and disrespectful, the benefits are
also just to dispel the hunger for a half day. If this kind of behavior is called virtuous
deed and respected by people,]
The giving of ordinary people can only solve very small problems. Even though,
people say “This person is so extraordinary. He has given out so much stuff.” Just like the
King Prasenajit and Anathapindada in Buddha Shakyamuni’s period, they always offered
great amount of food to the Buddha and his followers, so they are very famous in
Buddhist history59. There are also some rich enterprisers. They invite one thousand monks
to receive offerings for one hundred days every year60, so some people think, “This great
patron is really the Bodhisattva Mahasattva; he is so marvelous that he offered to so many
monastic…” Also, when a rich person gives alms to beggars on the fifteenth or thirtieth
of each month perseveringly and constantly for a very long time, people will praise, “This
person is so nice; he gives beggars so much stuff every month”. (This phenomenon can
still be seen in Nepal),
The merit of these virtuous actions is not at all comparable to that of Mahayana
bodhichitta. Therefore, if this merit is worthy of praising, [there is no need to mention]
the Mahayana Bodhisattvas. Why? Because from the aspect of object, their [giving object
is countless and immeasurable sentient beings]. From the aspect of [time], [it is perpetual
and lasts extremely long,] from now to Buddhahood. From the aspect of [offering
substances] as mentioned earlier, [it is the peerless peace and happiness of Sugata]; it is
not only a meal to refill one’s stomach. Some beggars usually do not have good food, so
they may get diarrhea after they had a good meal. Once when I was eating outside with a
Dharma instructor, I saw a very miserable beggar. I asked him to join us, but he spited
everything out in the end. Obviously, people without fortune can not even digest one
meal. What we can offer is just very temporary peace and happiness. On the contrary,
what can the people with bodhichitta bring to sentient beings? It is the unsurpassed
Buddhahood - the supreme perfect Buddhahood, which is desiderated by all sentient
beings in the world and away from the miserable ocean of cyclic existence.
For [the benefits], [it can fulfill all the wishes], instead of only satisfying very few
people of their wishes in one or two days. We can see from The Great Biography of
Buddha Shakyamuni. At his causal stage, when the Buddha was asked for money and
properties, he offered them! When he was asked for houses, he offered them! Being asked
for his head, eyes, brain, arms and legs, no matter what, he offered them all! When we
held “the Vajra Entertainment Dharma Event” in 1998, a story about the Prince
Sarvartha-siddha (Shakymuni Buddha in his causal stage) was performed, which
demonstrated the spirit that “bodhisattvas absolutely offer whatever sentient beings
need.” Some people may not believe in Buddhism or have some suspicion at that time,
but after watching those shows they were so touched and even those who have no sense
of sympathy in usual gained faith in Buddha’s unsurpassed spirit, took refuge in the
Three Jewels one after another, and became real Buddhists.
In these days, whether domestic or oversea, most people believe in “being nice to the
nice and being mean to the mean”. When I was in school, we learned the Story of Mr.
Dong-Guo and the Wolf, and the Peasant and the Snake. These stories deals with good
personality and mercy mind, but what does they really taught us is that if people are nice
59 There are many similar stories in the Vinaya Sutra.
60 These phenomena are very common in Thailand and Singapore.
to us, we should be nice to them but if some people are very malicious, abominable, then
we should avoid them, and not approach to them as possible as we can. Otherwise, once
we approach to them, we will be harmed. The final conclusion is that we should treat part
of sentient beings well and the other part bad.
Nonetheless, Mahayana Buddhism is different - as long as it is a sentient being with
life, if he treats me well, I will treat him kindly; if he treats me badly, I will still treat him
kindly. Never take avenge on people who treat me badly but treat them with the mind of
loving kindness and compassion. This spirit can not be found in mundane world or any
other religions. Sometimes, when we say somebody is very kind, this kindness is very
limited. He may be kind only to people close to him, or only to people in the same
country, or only to people being the same nationality, or only to human beings. However,
besides human beings, will he be kind to animals? For people without bodhichitta, it is
very hard to answer.
If we have bodhichitta, we will be very kind to not only human beings but also all
other sentient beings, not only one or two days but from now till Buddhahood. Worldly
people always say, “It is not hard to do one good deed, but it is extremely hard to be a
good person for an entire life.” For a Mahayana bodhisattva, it is not to be a good person
for only one single life, but also every life time. Even if a bodhisattva takes rebirth as a
yak, when the seed of bodhichitta matures, it will become a good yak, which will do no
harm to any other yaks. This can be found in The Great Biography of Buddha
Though it is very hard for ordinary people to remove all the strong predisposition and
bad habits and to become brand new, however, after we hear this teaching, we must take a
firm vow: From now on in all my lifetimes, even if I become an animal, I will not
abandon bodhichitta! Some animals also have the mind of great compassion; some ducks
never hurt other beings, which make them no different from bodhisattvas. Likewise,
among we human beings, some people are always nice and smiling all the time, which
make people around them feel very comfortable. So, what is our primary task after
studying the Bodhicaryavatara? It is to generate bodhichitta in our continuum!
From the aspect of [action], [they give with a very respectful attitude.] Usually, we
can respect sentient beings when the situation is good. However, even when we meet
people who are not nice to us or have some bad feeling to us, as practitioners committing
to generate bodhichitta, we should still treat them with the mind of loving-kindness and
compassion. This is very important!
The above comparisons were made between the worldly good people and the people
committing to generate bodhichitta on the aspects of objects, time, attitude and the peace
and happiness been generated through these actions. There are many good people in the
world. In big cities some enterprisers have very successful business, which is always due
to two reasons: one is they are very clever and the other is they are very nice to their
employees. However, when compared to them, people with bodhichitta have many
unshared characteristics, which are observable with the aspect of rationality. So it is not
because we are studying the Mahayana Dharma that we praise them.
[The word “eternally” is explained in some commentaries as “even if the space
and sentient beings reach their end, this action will still continue.”]
The word “eternally” in this verse means that even when the boundless and
borderless space and sentient being realms reach their ends, the peace and happiness that
bodhisattvas continuously granting to sentient beings are not ending. Related it to the
action of giving, it means, even if the border of the space is discovered, the action of
bodhisattva giving respectfully to sentient beings will never end.
[Noble Hui Yuan explained this according to the difference of the time of
The time for worldly good people to give is very limited and they do it only once in a
while; bodhisattvas do it eternally. This is explained from the difference of time.
[The venerable Sudeva explained this according to the difference of the
What the worldly people give is just some simple and plain food like tea or rice.
Bodhisattvas continuously give the unsurpassed peace and bliss, which has the eternal
property. This is the difference of the offerings. Of course, if no time concept can be
introduced to the action of bodhisattvas’ offerings, it is not easy to explain the word
“external”. Therefore, “eternal” means that the offerings of bodhisattvas can make all
sentient beings have eternal happiness. This explanation is based on the difference of the
offerings. The explanation of Venerable Sudeva is not very obvious.
F3. The supreme merit field
The bodhisattvas who have generated bodhichitta are the real supreme merit field.
Our merit will be considerably great if we make offering to, respect, and have faith in
them. On the contrary, the fault is also very great if we hate, slander, blame, or beat them.
Therefore, they are very supreme field and also very stringent field. This is what
explained in the outlines.
The Buddha has said that whoever bears a harmful thought
Against a benefactor such as a Bodhisattva
Will remain in hell for as many aeons
As there were harmful thoughts.
However, if a virtuous attitude should arise (in that regard),
Its fruits will multiply far more than that.
61 There are also explanations based on the aspect of time length in the venerable Sudeva’s commentary.
A bodhisattva who commits to generate bodhichitta has completely become a great
benefactor of all sentient beings. Some overseas people always say, “I am the benefactor
of this and that Rinpoche.” Even some gray-haired old lady, who called herself Miss
Yang, claimed she is the BIG benefactor, though she is in extra small size. Of course,
there is no such a Miss Yang; I just make it up. Otherwise, she will be unhappy to hear
this. In fact, after having aroused bodhichitta, one becomes a genuine benefactor even
without one penny. Why? Because his aspiration can grant the borderless sentient beings
unsurpassed peace and bliss; due to the strong strength of generosity in his mind, his
aspiration will gradually fulfill.
People with very heavy karma or who are unable to counteract afflictive emotions
may have malicious thoughts against these bodhisattvas. Then they will, as described in
the sutras, fall into the hell after they die and stay there for extremely long time.
What are the malicious thoughts? For example, when someone has already generated
bodhichitta, I have a wicked thought against him - “I will beat him,” slander him without
reasons, hurt him with my body, speech or mind, or think of hurting him, killing him
without saying anything or doing anything. If these bad thoughts arise for even only very
short Kshana62, one will fall into the hell for as long as one great kalpa. If the malicious
thought lasts for only as short as one finger clap, which is sixty-four moment, I will stay
in hell for sixty-four great kalpas. Of course, due to different extents of wrongs, the hells
one falls into will be different.
Some people may murmur in their mind, “is this true?” (The answer is) absolutely
yes! Why? Because the bodhisattva is a very stringent object! In our mundane world this
is also true. For instance, a country’s chairman or president is the guru of all people in
that country. If somebody wants to hurt him or beat him, will he be punished by law?
Absolutely yes. If somebody beats me, he may not be punished by law, but if whom he
beats is a president, he will surely be punished. In the same way, bodhisattvas having
generated bodhichitta are also very stringent object. If a malicious thought arises against
him, one will certainly stay in the hell for very long time. The great kalpas, medium
kalpas and small kalpas were described in the Arbhidarmakosha. Here the time unit refers
to “great kalpas”.
After understanding this principle, some Dharma friends may have some fear: there
are so many people around us are bodhisattvas who have generated bodhichitta. (Seventy
or eighty percent Dharma friends here or in the Bodhi Institute will generate bodhichitta63
after they understand the merit of bodhichitta.) In this way, what can I do in the future
because I always have bad thoughts and wrong views against them? I may have to stay in
the hell for ever without liberation……
It is true that the law of cause and effect is too profound to foresee. We worldly
people cannot judge it; none of us can say “you will not fall into the hell.” Through this
verse, on one hand after we understand the weight of this wrongdoing, we will be
cautious, just as people having some wisdom know that stealing gold will result in
suffering in jail for years, so they will not steal it. After we understand the severe
62 According to the view in the Abidharmasoka, one finger clap equals to sixty four or sixty five Kshana.
63 Here it refers to relative bodhichitta. The Compendium of All Practice has clearly explained this
through a lot of scriptural authorities.
relationship, we will pay attention to our behavior. On the other hand, as the Buddha said
in the Sutra of Non-Arising of All Phenomena, the term karmic obscuration
(Karmavarana) refers to the slander against a bodhisattva. Some Buddhists often say,
“Guru, I have too heavy karmic obscurations.” If you always slander people who have
cultivated bodhichitta, you do have too heavy karmic obscuration. Obviously, we are not
able to tell from the appearance if one has cultivated bodhichitta or not, no matter how
bad one wears, how ugly one looks, how abnormal one behaves, it is still possible that he
has cultivated relative bodhichitta, which will continually stay in his continuum until he
abandons it due to some unfavorable conditions. Therefore, we should not let any evil
thoughts arise against him. Even if it does arise, we should do our best to regret and talk
with him before the end of that very day. If this is not possible, we should at least recite
twenty one times the one hundred syllabus mantra, which is able to eradicate most of the
wrongdoings, such as breaking the tantric and bodhisattva vows.
It is better if we recite at least twenty one times the one hundred syllabus mantra
after we get up in the morning. Previously, I said that you should get up at 5:55, but I
found it is impossible to get ready in as short as five minutes. Now we have advanced it
to 5:30. In this way, I have enough time to recite some one hundred syllabus mantra,
prostrate, wash up, and drink some water and some other things after I get up and before
practice bodhichitta. From beginningless time we have committed a great deal of
negative actions, especially lacking of faith in other Buddhist friends and too many nonvirtuous thoughts arising without any reasons. Even if others did not do any wrong to
you, you just cannot tolerant this person due to the power of the karmic force. Recently, I
also met a person who was so mad at me once he saw me. I do not know the reason,
because I have never blamed him or talked about him, but it is true that he get mad once
he catches the sight of me. If this is the case, we should regret attentively, especially
when we have some evil thoughts or wrong views against our Vajra Guru. As said in the
Kalachakra Tantra, “How many moments does a tantric disciple arouse a non-virtuous
thought against his Vajra Guru, commensurate to it, the same number of great kalpas he
will suffer in the unintermintted hell.” The Commentary of Fifty Verses on the Guru
(Guru-pancasika) also quoted the scripture, if one has nonvirtuous thoughts against his
guru, how many moments it last, how many eons he will suffer in the miserable realms. If
non-virtuous thoughts arise in front of the stringent objects, the effects will be like this; as
a result, when non-virtuous thoughts arise in us inattentively, we should immediately
purify meticulously.
Some people may think, “It is very difficult to avoid nonvirtuous thoughts no matter
how hard we purify. I always have non-virtuous thoughts lasting very long time in front
of people who have already cultivated bodhichitta, so I am hopeless!” The Bodhisattva
Shantideva explained regarding this view as follows: we will have very severe results if
we have non-virtuous thoughts against very stringent objects; however, if we have clear
faith in him and pure joyfulness to him, this merit will far exceed the result of the former.
We may be comforted through knowing this.
What is called “clear faith”? It is to feel he is very kind or to have faith in his
behavior and action and think, “Sometimes he is bad, but that time does not last long.
Most of the time I have faith in him, like him and feel he is very extraordinary!” If you
can think in this way, then the power of this merit is far beyond that of the results from
non-virtuous thoughts. For example, if I have a nonvirtuous thought toward a bodhisattva
for one moment, I have committed a cause of being trapped in the hell for one great kalpa
without liberation; however, after a while, I thought, oh, I should not have gotten angry
just now. I should have better impression on him and more clear faith in him. In this way,
I have non-virtuous thoughts against him for one minute but then I have one minute faith
in him; so the merit of the faith completely surpasses the fault of the non-virtuous
thoughts by as many as hundreds and thousands times.
If we understand the rule - “the virtue brings virtuous results; the non-virtue leads
non-virtuous effects,” then we will be very careful in adopting and rejecting according to
the law of cause and effect. Before we adopt or reject an action, we should first
understand the faults and merits of conducting it; otherwise, if we do not know the faults
of an action, we will frequently repeat the same faults; if we do not know the merits of an
action, we will never feel joyful, happy and peaceful to do it. Therefore, we should
behave properly when we are in front of severe objects especially people who have
generated bodhichitta; this is extremely important!
As is said in the text:
[If any sentient being has non-virtuous thoughts against a benefactor - a
bodhisattva who widely gives with generosity, how many moments his non-virtuous
thoughts last, how many kalpas he will be mired in the hell.]
It is very bad to have hatred or jealousy, especially malevolent thoughts toward other
people. We should purify and stop our non-virtuous thoughts as much as we can. Here the
object refers mainly to bodhisattvas who have cultivated bodhichitta. As said in the
Compendium of All Practices, “Not only bodhisattvas who have cultivated relative
bodhichitta, but even sentient beings who have not cultivated bodhichitta but belong to
the Mahayana family and even they take rebirth as animals, they are worthy of our
protection.” We do not have the deva-vision, so obviously we do not know which yak has
the seed of Mahayana or which human being has it. In this world, people who have not
yet taken refuge are as many as nets and nets ants and as vast as oceans and mountains.
They all seem busy with pursuing money and status. However, we cannot conclude that
they do not belong to the Mahayana family only based on their appearance. So, we
should not have non-virtuous thoughts toward them. Otherwise, the fault is also very big.
Although they have not yet become Mahayana bodhisattvas, they are worthy of our
respect and veneration because of their Mahayana nature.
[The Tranquil Meditative Concentration Illusion Sutra said, “Manjushri, if one
bodhisattva has the thoughts of hating or slight insulting another bodhisattva, the
former will abide in hell for as many eons as the moments that thought lasts. Then,
he has to put on the armor of practice again.]64
64 The order of paragraphs, from here to “This is contradictory to the spirit of Mahayana bodhisattva”, is
adjusted from the original oral teaching.
If a person who has cultivated relative bodhichitta has a thought of hatred toward
another person who also has cultivated relative bodhichitta, then he will abide in hell for
as many eons as the moments his hatred lasts. Afterwards, he has to put on the armor of
zeal again to develop bodhichitta.
Later in this sutra, this principle was further explained through the analogy of Vajra
jewel. Vajra jewel is unsurpassed hard, which is not able to be damaged by any kinds of
metals but only by its own. Likewise, a person who has cultivated relative bodhichitta
will not fall into the miserable realms due to any causes and conditions except that he has
hatred to or slanders another person who also has developed bodhichitta. Hence, as long
as bodhichitta exists in our continuum, even if we have committed the five inexpiable
wrongs or any other non-virtuous actions, we will not necessarily degenerate. However, if
we have hatred toward another bodhisattva and not purified industriously, then we will
possibly fall into the miserable realms even with bodhichitta. This is what this sutra
means, so we should be careful.
[On the contrary, if any sentient beings have clear faith in the bodhisattvas who
has cultivated bodhichitta, this merit has already far surpassed the effects of nonvirtuous thoughts.]
In usual, Vajra Dharma friends may quarrel or have hatred toward each other once or
twice every month. However, if they arouse faith in each other more frequently, the
effects are far beyond the faults of quarreling. However, due to their different temper,
some people are not easy to become angry but once they do they will be unhappy for a
long time and cannot get it over; some people are very mad when they are angry but they
will forget it and become happy again very soon, so others will not think it is a big deal
when they get angry. Take my parents as the example. My father gets angry very easily,
but it goes away very soon. My mother is on the contrary; she is not easy to get angry, but
once she is angry, she will not talk to anyone for two or three days. So, we are all afraid
of making her angry. It does not matter to make our father angry because it will be okay
soon; his mood is like the weather of spring changing back and forth. We are afraid
Mother gets angry, because once she is angry, the whole family will be very depressed for
several days without a good mood!
As a result, if we have hatred toward people having cultivated bodhichitta, we should
shorten the time it may last. Even if others are really wrong and we cannot adjust to it
right away, we should still try our best not to prolong the anger, but to talk and greet to
each other; this is very necessary. Nonetheless, the current situation in the world is very
different. Once becoming unhappy about something, the hatred will last forever. This is
contradictory to the spirit of Mahayana bodhisattva.
[The Sutra of Entering Certain and Uncertain Mudra (Niyataniyana-mudravatarasutra) says, “Manjushri, if the eyes of all sentient beings in all the worlds of ten
directions have been dug out] this is a hypothetical sentence, because it is not possible
to have all the eyes of worldly sentient beings dug out.
[If some Noble sons and daughters recover the vision of all sentient beings with
benevolent mind.]
If this is a real case and somebody helps to completely recover their visions, is the
merit great? Absolutely great. Even if one asks some doctors to do the surgery on
cataract, people will feel that is a lot of merit and praise this person as a bodhisattva
because he or she has help people get back their visions. So, there is no need to mention
bodhisattvas who cure all sentient beings. However,
[Manjushri, if some Noble sons and daughters look with faith at the
bodhisattvas who understand and have faith in Mahayana path, the merit generated
by this action is immeasurable times greater than the former.”]
If we look with faith or clear and pure mind at one who has cultivated bodhichitta,
the merit is far beyond the merit of recovery the vision of all sentient beings.
Therefore, if we take the Mahayana practitioners as the object to gather the
accumulations and cultivate faith, the merit is considerably great. In his Mind Ease and
Comfort of the Great Perfection, the Noble Longchenpa also quoted the story which
indicates that even if one has a desire toward a bodhisattva, this person will take rebirth
in the thirty-three heaven. Among all the people around us, we do not know who is a
bodhisattva and who is not. As is said in the Avatamsaka Sutra, among the great masters
relied by Sudhana, some of them are butchers who conduct non-virtuous actions, we
should not take for granted that these people are not bodhisattvas just because you catch
the sight of them doing non-virtuous actions, and then insult or blame them. It is very
unreasonable to do this.
It is also said in the Lotus Sutra that when Avalokitesvara manifests himself in thirty
two different forms, sometimes he manifests as a ghost king or a general and so on.
Therefore, all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas manifest in different forms in the world.
Some are in the form of animals, some are in the form of the poor, and some are in the
form of disabilities. If we see some people without arms and legs in the street, we should
treat them as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, just as is said in the Sutra Requested by
Kasyapa, we should regard all sentient beings as Buddhas and gurus. If we can do this,
we will not commit any non-virtuous actions as being emphasized in the
Bodhicaryavatara. When we interact with sentient beings, we should look at them with
kind and benevolent eyes. If we do not have any secret purposes, we should always look
at any sentient being with a benevolent mood and a benevolent expression, which also
avoid us committing non-virtuous actions.
However, some people respect and prostrate to their gurus or tulkus as treating
Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, but when they treat other sentient beings, they use a very
ignorant attitude. Some other people are very respectful to people with high social status
and material wealth; even their attitude of answering phones is different according to who
is calling - to people superior to them, they use a polite attitude; to peers, they use a
medium way; when answering a call from people inferior to them, they answer in a very
perfunctory manner, “Oh! Ok, yes, bye-bye.” Sometimes they even do not squeeze out a
“bye” or “ok” at the end but just hang up immediately. As a result, we should examine
our own actions and treat all sentient beings as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; this is
extremely important.
This quotation in the Sutra of Entering Certain and Uncertain Mudra is followed by
another assumption: If one releases all sentient beings from a jail and helps them obtain
the fruit of a wheel-turning king, the merit is especially great. However, if one has faith in
bodhisattvas and looks with loving kindness and compassion at bodhisattvas, the merit of
the latter will far exceed that of the former.
Sometimes, we may lose temper; arouse wrong views and nonvirtuous thoughts in
front of Dharma friends who have already cultivated bodhichitta. However, even if they
are not Dharma friends, when we see some other sentient beings, we can not tell if they
have aroused bodhichitta or not. Some people think, “This person must not be a
bodhisattva; he never generates bodhichitta because he has not yet taken refuge.” This
may not be true. He may have taken refuge and cultivated bodhichitta in his previous life
times. Even if it is not yet ripened in this life, he has already been a Mahayana
Bodhisattva. Why? According to the Hinayana point view, when people die, their
pratimoksha entities are destroyed but the Mahayna bodhisattva vow is different: As long
as you committed to generate bodhichitta and you have not met its destructive cause, then
the bodhisattva vow will still exist in your continuum even if you are not a Buddhist in
your next lifetime. Even if you take rebirth as a yak in your next lifetime, the bodhisattva
vow will not change. Therefore, we should consider all animals, all sentient beings as
Some of you had eaten large amount seafood and other animals before. We don’t
know if they have generated bodhichitta in the past. If yes, it means you have swallowed
live bodhisattvas; what a huge mistake you made! Really! If it is already a serious fault
for having a non-virtuous thought against a bodhisattva, then how serious is the fault of
swallowing so many bodhisattvas so many times? I am not joking! You can reflect on it
by yourself!
How many lives had you eaten before? Among them are there any bodhisattvas? Are
you one hundred percent sure that none of them are bodhisattvas? I can not be certain that
there is no bodhisattva among them through the Buddhist logic reasoning. If a waiter
dishes up a huge plate of snails, I have no evidence from the scripture or reasoning to
exclude that there is no bodhisattva who has generated aspiration bodhisattva or action
bodhisattva among them. From this aspect, the wrong deeds we committed are really
scary! So, from now on, we should start over as a new person. How? When we see
whatever sentient beings, the first though is not to kill them; the second thought is to try
our best not to arouse non-virtuous thought against them. If we are imbued with this vow,
our actions will be consistent with the rules and Dharma from now throughout all life
F4. Not to be harmed in front of sufferings
When bodhisattvas greatly suffer they generate no negativity,
Instead their virtues naturally increase.
People who have cultivated bodhichitta also meet with some disasters, diseases,
sufferings and frustrations but not like ordinary people who give up their virtuous heart
once they encounter some obstacles; instead their virtues increase day after day
irreversibly. What is the reason? It is because their great compassion and their strong
intention to the virtuous Dharma. Even if the greatest difficulties and obstacles appear,
they will not give up. This is well shown in the Great Biography of Shakyamuni Buddha:
bodhisattvas never abandon their bodhichitta even when their lives are endangered. The
Venerable Milarepa and the Great Elder Monk Xu-Yun also could not avoid the visit of
obstacles during their practice. However, when they were suffering, they were able to
transform them into favorable conditions on the path, just as our Guru Rinpoche never
altered his virtuous mind even in the most horrible historic circumstance. So, as far as
these bodhisattvas are concerned, even if they encounter the greatest suffering, the virtue
in their continuum will become greater and greater.
[Even if they encounter the greatest sufferings and torments, all bodhisattvas
will never arouse non-virtuous mind such as hatred; on the contrary, relying on
these exterior factors, their virtue will increase naturally.]
People with genuine wisdom will not conduct any unreasonable deeds even if they
fall into the worst situation; instead they constantly perform noble actions.
[As is said in the Verse Summary of the Prajnaparamita,
“Although they have experienced lots of unbearable harms,
The mind of the conquerors have never been shaken,
The strength of their patience is extremely firm,
Their faith, interest and resolve of practicing the supreme bodhichitta
This means bodhisattvas will not change their bodhichitta even if they encounter the
greatest difficulties and obstacles. Instead, their strength of patience will become more
and more firm, and their interest and faith in the supreme path of enlightenment become
stronger and stronger, which will not be changed by the interferences.
The so-called faith and interpretation was specially explained in the Ornament of
Clear Realization when “the contaminated practice path” was explained. It means the
happy heart of being interested in and seeking virtuous Dharma. The contaminated
practice path includes the faith, interpretation, dedication and rejoices. If explained more
specifically, it means that:
When the virtue is not born, faith and interpretation are needed to make it arise;
When the virtue has already arisen, dedication is required to keep it from degenerating;
Rejoice is indispensable to strengthen the intact root of virtue.
These are the three fundamental issues in the Ornament of Clear Realization.
It was said earlier that even if they encounter the greatest difficulties, bodhisattvas
who have generated bodhichitta will never lose their faith; instead their virtue will
increase naturally. Recently, a Qing Hai doctor - Guru Jamyang visited our monastery. He
is now around seventy-eight years old. In the year when he was thirty years old, he was
sent into jail due to the “Great Culture Revolution,” which lasted for ten years. It was
very difficult to seek Dharma in jail in that period of time. However, since he had great
faith in the Great Perfection (Dzogchen), he started to request Dharma from Khenpo
Menser (having already passed away now), who are also knocked in the same jail, and
wished to receive the oral instruction of the Great Perfection imparted by Khenpo
Achung. During a private talk with Khenpo Menser, he expressed his wish and prayed so
faithfully to ask Khenpo to compassionately give him this teaching that his tears rolled
down. After seeing this, Khenpo Menser said, “If you really want to obtain this teaching,
you should recite some one hundred syllabus mantra. Then, I will teach you when the
situation allows.” Since there was no mala in jail, he asked, “I have problem for counting.
What do you think I should do?” Khenpo said: “you keep reciting. Let’s see when you
will finish.” So, he recited quietly for two month when he was working during the day65.
After two months, Khenpo Menser thought it was time to give him this teaching.
When he went to Khenpo (Khenpo had some problems on his feet, so he did not have to
work every day; while he is only thirty years old, so he is young enough to work outside
everyday), Khenpo said, “If you really want to get the teaching, you may not be able to
eat. You must pretend being sick.” He said, “No problem.” One morning, when
everybody was setting out to work, he was lying there and said, “I am so sick today; I can
not get up at all.” The supervisors get him a doctor. When the doctor tried to measure his
body temperature, he put the thermometer in a cup of boiled water when the doctor was
not present and put it back under his arm before the doctor came back. When seeing the
thermometer, the doctor said, “Oh, you got a very high temperature; I must give you a
shot.” He said, “No, I cannot take any shot. Could you please give me some medicines?”
After the doctor gave him some medicines, he threw them all into the oven and slipped to
Kenpo Menser without other’s notice.
At that time, they do not have the book, so Khenpo Menser gave him the oral
teaching. (When he was young, he studied so arduously that he remembered all the
instruction.) When he was listening to the teaching, he felt every single word was
wonderful. However, it is a pity that he had no pens and paper and his memory is not
good, so it was very hard for him to memorize all the teaching. He thought, “Alas, how
wonderful if I had a pen and a piece of paper!” However, his need cannot be met in jail.
He had listened to this teaching for fifteen days and only had a little meal every night.
The diet in jail is not good, but he even cannot eat anything during the day for half
month. This is his first experience of listening to the Dharma.
The second time, he listened the teaching along with several gurus in front of
Khenpo Menser. At that time, one of the gurus found some pencils and paper through
great efforts. Master Jamyang can write very quickly. Finally, he wrote down all the
teachings Khenpo taught them. Afterwards, Master Jamyang also found a small piece of
paper and he copied out all the teachings on it. He felt the teaching he got in jail is very
precious and put this piece of paper in a gawu box (a small container in Tibet for holding
65 I have asked him some detailed conditions when he was in jail. At that time, some old practitioners in
jail are completely different from us. It is so marvelous of them to perfect their practice in such a bad
the most precious items). Then he carries it with him all the time.
When I saw this piece of paper I felt it very rare because I have never seen such a
Dharma jewel before - a very small piece of paper, about forty two lines of words with
very slim font, which I think that even a computer cannot manage this reduction effect.
Guru Jamyang wrote it down without missing one word. This may because of the force of
the circumstance at that time or his talent of writing. He has this Dharma jewel with him
all the time. Although more than ten years has passed with lots of hard experiences, such
as being persecuted in public and remolded, this Dharma jewel has never been damaged.
After our conversation, I counted quietly that from thirty years old till seventy-eight
years old, this piece of Dharma jewel has been with him for forty-eight years! He said he
would not be parted from it for even one moment because this was the teaching his guru
gave him!
Do we have this kind of faith and thought when we encounter this kind of situation?
From his story, we can see people who have generated bodhichitta are really different
from other people!
The following is the fifth benefit, i.e. if one has bodhichitta, he is worthy of our
respect, prostration and seeking refuge.
F5. Being called the offering field and refuge field
I bow down to the body of those
In whom the sacred precious mind is born.
I seek refuge in that source of joy
Who bring happiness even to those who bring harm.
No matter who has the precious bodhichitta in his continuum and no matter what his
caste is, what his social status is, either as high as the president, king, or chairman, or as
low as beggars without a penny, as long as he has a virtuous bodhichitta, the author
Shantideva thinks that his body is worthy of respect and prostration!
From history, the Bodhisattva Shantideva is indeed a bodhisattva who has achieved
bodhisattva bhumi. If he thinks this person is worthy of respect and prostration by
himself, there is no need to mention we ordinary people. Although from the Hinayana
point of view, only people who have Hinayana precept in their continuum can accept
other’s respect, according to the view of Mahayana Buddhism, as long as you have a
bodhichitta in your continuum, others should respect you, make offerings to you and
praise you. Why? Because people who are so selfless and altruistic are very rare in this
Usually, when we interact with sentient beings, we always get offering from others.
As an ordained person without bodhichitta in your continuum, it is hard to say if you
should accept their offerings or not. Worldly people always have to face various kinds of
environments; in those circumstances, it is very important to have bodhichitta, which
qualifies you to be worthy of being prostrated by even the Bodhisattva Shantideva.
As is said in the Ornament of Clear Realization-Prajnaparamita Sutra that even if
the bodhisattva is not there anymore, the residence where he used to live is worthy of
prostration. Just as some people come here and prostrate here though our Guru Rinpoche
manifested entering paranirvana because they think here is the place where our Dharma
Lord Rinpoche has propagated the Dharma and benefited sentient beings. Their action
can accumulate a great deal of merits. Sometimes, when I pass the places where our Guru
Rinpoche stayed, such as the 303 hospital in Chengdu, I thought, “This is the place where
the Bodhisattva Mahasattva had stayed. I should respect and prostrate in my heart.” When
he was teaching the Ornament of Clear Realization, Khenpo Chuchia said, “No matter
who go to the places where Patrul Rinpoche and Khenpo Genhor had lived, they should
respect and prostrate at these places!” Our Guru Rinpoche also said, “Whenever we see
the places where my root Guru had lived, it is worthy to prostrate!” Previously, when we
went to Sershul, we saw the places where Patrul Rinpoche, Tulku Ngarpa and Miphan
Rinpoche had lived. Although there was almost nothing left - only one rock left at where
Patrul Rinpoche was born, we still prostrated toward this empty places. Why? Because
after all, these places are where bodhisattvas had lived; they are imbued with supreme
blessings and totally different from the places where we ordinary people live. In addition,
these bodhisattvas are widely acknowledged by people. This is like pilgrims visiting the
four holy sites in India. Although the Buddha Shakyamuni is no longer there and some
places are almost deserts, when we know that is the place where the Buddha Shakyamuni
had lived, we all believe it is absolutely worthy of respect and prostration.
There is no doubt to prostrate and respect people with bodhichitta. However, it is also
worthy to prostrate to the places where they had lived. We should regard every place
where eminent Bodhisattva Mahasattvas had stayed differently, even if it is just a hotel.
Every time when I pass Barkam and Myaklo or see the places where our Dharma Lord
has stayed, respect always arises in my heart, “This is the place where the Bodhisattva
had stayed!” This kind of thoughts and ideas also has great merits because the Dharma is
flourishing and sentient beings obtain happiness and merits where the Bodhisattvas had
We have so many people studying the Bodhicaryavatara this time. Among all these
people, if some can really have bodhichitta generated, I believe this is the greatest harvest
in their life. You may not have very high realization or supernatural power or cannot fly
in the sky like a bird or swim back and forth in water like a fish. This does not matter
because supernatural power and magic are not important for Buddhists. What is the
important thing for us then? That is the altruistic attitude imbued with aspiration
bodhichitta and action bodhichitta. This is what we really need to yean.
It is said here that the Bodhisattva Shantideva will prostrate to whoever has
bodhichitta in his continuum because if you harm, slander, beat and burn this
Bodhisattva, the result will not be too bad, and instead you have made a supreme
connection with a bodhisattva who is the source of happiness of all sentient beings.
Therefore, we should respect, praise, prostrate, take refuge and make offerings to him.
When the practice path was explained in the Ornament of Clear Realization, it also
praises bodhisattvas through the aspects of praising, serving and commending them.
[As is said in the Treasure Accumulation Sutra, “Just as people in the kingdom
get together to celebrate it, when they know the birth of the baby prince who has
consummate looks,]
It means when a prince with consummate looks is born in a kingdom, all the people
in this kingdom will get together to celebrate it and people are pleased to say, “Our prince
is born. Our kingdom has inheritor now!” Either ministers or common people all prostrate
respectfully to the prince.
[If one generates bodhichitta, he becomes the prince who has consummate
looks. All the worldly beings including gods will respect and prostrate to him with
pure mind.”]
In the same way, when one generates bodhichitta, though he appears an ordinary
person, he is in fact an inheritor of the Dharma Lord like the prince with excellent looks.
Can the prince undertake the position of king or work as a king when he is just born?
Surely not. In the same way, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life has only been
taught for two weeks, bodhichitta we just cultivated is like a new born prince, who is not
able to do what the bodhisattva mahasattva can fulfill. However, since we have already
possessed the potential seed of Dharma Lord, we are worthy of prostrating by humans,
nonhumans and kings of the heavens.
Some people are so afraid of others prostrating to them. Once they encounter this
situation, they swipe their hands immediately and say, “Don’t prostrate; don’t
prostrate…” In the past, when he saw people prostrate to him, Tulku Detsa was especially
afraid and keep saying, “Don’t prostrate; don’t prostrate; please pass me a sutra
book…66” However, when the sutra book was handed in his hand, people had already
done their prostration. This situation often happens. However, you do not need the sutra
book if you have bodhichitta in your continuum! Nevertheless, Tulku Detsa is especially
modest. Although he is a very marvelous master who is able to give empowerment to
hundreds and thousands people in monastery, he still thinks he has no merit. When people
prostrate to him, he manifests to be so afraid that he stands up immediately with a sutra
book in his hand.
When we have bodhichitta in our continuum, it is okay however people prostrate to
us and it is worthy even if deities prostrate to us. It is said in the Introduction of the
Middle Way that the source of Shravaka and Protyekabuddha is the Buddha; the source of
Buddha is Bodhisattva and the source of Bodhisattva is bodhichitta, whose source is great
compassion. Therefore, at the beginning of composing this commentary, the Bodhisattva
Chandrakirti didn’t prostrate to anyone else but only to the mind of great compassion.
Many similar examples can be found in the Auto-Commentary of the Introduction of the
Middle Way. Why do we respect people who have bodhichitta? Because they are the
inheritors of the Buddha. Just as the whole country puts all hope on the prosperous
college students and people who have higher education, sentient beings in the three
realms also place their hopes of being free from cyclic existence and obtaining ultimate
peace and happiness on the Bodhisattvas who have cultivated bodhichitta. As a result, if
66 When people prostrate to you, if you put a sutra book in the front, it becomes to prostrate to the sutra
bodhichitta arises in our continuum, we are worthy of being prostrated by the Bodhisattva
Shantideva or any other people!
[Anybody who generated the jewel of bodhichitta, the author will prostrate
respectfully to his body.]
[Even if people harm him, he will let the malefactor associate with happiness
and peace.]
In usual, we have a sort of saying, “If you make a virtuous connection with people
who cultivate bodhichitta, you will achieve enlightenment in this very life. If you make a
non-virtuous relationship with him, you can also be benefited of eradicating all the seeds
of cyclic existence.” What does it mean? There is no need to explain that when you have
established a virtuous connection with a bodhisattva you are bound to obtain
enlightenment. However, even if it is a non-virtuous connection, you will still be
benefited. For example, if you torment a bodhisattva in public, you will get some bad
results - how many moments of non-virtuous thoughts you arouse, then commensurate
with it, that many great kalpas you will stay in hell. However, because of the power of his
aspiration, loving kindness and compassion, you will obtain Buddhahood very soon.
Therefore, when compared with never having met a bodhisattva, hating or slandering
a bodhisattva has greater benefit. Why? Without meeting this bodhisattva, I may sink in
the cyclic existence forever and have no chance to obtain liberation, but if I see or hurt
him I will obtain enlightenment in a short time due to his great compassion and
aspiration, though I will receive some bad results temporarily.
[Therefore, we go for refuge piously in front of bodhisattvas who are the source
of all happiness and peace of all sentient beings.]
[If some people ask, “Isn’t this contradictory to the verse –
‘The Buddha has said that whoever bears a harmful thought
Against a benefactor such as a Bodhisattva
Will remain in hell for as many aeons
As there were harmful thoughts.’ ?”]
It was said earlier that the fault of bearing a harmful thought against a bodhisattva is
enormous; here it says to have non-virtuous connection with him is the cause of
liberation. Aren’t they contradictory?
[Reply: Not contradictory. The previous verse is to explain the result of harmful
Not contradictory. The previous verse is explained from the aspect of different results
that if you have harmful thoughts against bodhichitta, the result is very severe, but if you
purify it or have pure faith in him, the result is already eliminated and will not last that
[However, here it emphasize that bodhisattvas accept and teach the malefactor
both temporarily and ultimately.]
The bodhisattvas accept him with great love and compassion so this unfavorable
condition is turned to favorable condition.
[Just as the king Maitrabala brought peace and happiness to the five Raksha
both temporarily and ultimately.]
When the Buddha Shakyamuni was the king Maitrabala, there were five Raksha ask
him for fresh blood; since they caused harm to the Bodhisattva, they fell into the
miserable realms. However, the five rakshas67 took rebirth as five bhikshu when Buddha
Shakyamuni obtained Buddhahood because of his aspiration - “May I temporarily satisfy
them with blood, and finally let them obtain happiness through the nectar of Dharma.”
Finally, after the Buddha taught the five bhikshu, they all obtained the fruit of Arhat.
Suppose these five Raksha had never seen the king Maitrabala; when the Buddha
Shakyamuni was turning the wheel of Dharma, they would not have the chance of
liberation at all. Therefore, even if hurting a bodhisattva is to make a connection with
peace and happiness.
Finally, the bodhisattva Thogme summarized,
Not seeing the sun of the bodhichitta jewel
Which can dispel the two kinds of darkness of obscuration.
Just as one cannot see the sun without eyes, worldly people cannot see the sun of
bodhichitta, capable of dispelling the two kinds of obscurations (the obscurations of
affliction and unknowing) because they have no wisdom eyes.
Sank in the darkness of ignorance,
It is so miserable to open the eyes of permanence and nihilism!
Sentient beings are in the darkness of ignorance too long and they can not open the
eyes of bodhichitta which they really need, instead they open widely the eyes of
permanence and nihilism. They are busy with worldly concerns. They do not study what
they need but learn what they should not. These sentient beings are so miserable!
[This is the end of the commentary on the first Chapter]
67 Some stories mentioned them as yakshas. Both are acceptable.
95. Why people who have generated bodhichitta are the supreme benefactors but worldly
rich enterprisers are not? Please answer this question through comparison from five
aspects. (Hint: the object of offering, the offering material, the attitude, the happiness
being offered, time length)
96. Please prove that people who have generated bodhichitta are supreme merit field
through scriptural authority and reasoning.
97. Why can the Buddha’s children have the virtue enhance and the wrongs not arise
when they encounter sufferings and unfavorable conditions? Please give an example.
98. Don’t you think that harming bodhisattvas who have generated bodhichitta can still
make a connection to peace and happiness is contradictory with “The Buddha has said
that whoever bears a harmful thought against a benefactor such as a Bodhisattva will
remain in hell for as many aeons as there were harmful thoughts.”? Why?
99. What is the difference to our country and society if more and more people in the
world generate bodhichitta? Please answer it through reasoning.
100. Are the virtuous actions of the worldly charities the same as the behavior of
Mahayana bodhisattvas? Please provide your reasons.
101. After he had aspired bodhichitta in his causal stage, how did the Buddha
Shakyamuni implement his aspiration bodhichitta in practice?
102. Is a kind person a person who generated bodhichitta? Please list your reasons or
examples to prove the rationality of your opinion.
103. One moment harmful thought against people who have generated bodhictta will
result in taking rebirth in hell for one great kalpa. So, what should we do to avoid falling
in hell?
104. What kind of attitude should we harbor toward every being in daily life? What is the
benefit of doing so?
105. When you eat seafood and kill animals, can you guarantee there are no bodhisattvas
who have generated bodhichitta among them? If there are some, what are the wrongs of
doing that? What is your plan on this issue for your future?
106. Please explain the following verse: “Not seeing the sun of the bodhichitta-jewel,
which can dispel the two kinds of darkness of obscuration. Sinking in the darkness
of ignorance, it is so miserable to open the eyes of permanence and nihilism!”
107. What is your most impressive experience during the study of the first chapter?
Lesson 15
There are ten chapters in A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. The first three
chapters explain how to generate bodhichitta if it is not born yet. The first chapter
demonstrates the benefits of bodhichitta, the second chapter deals with how to purify
one’s mental continuum, and the third chapter explains how to adopt bodhichitta. These
chapters are very important because we should first know what benefits bodhichitta really
has if we want to generate bodhichitta in our continuum. After knowing this, we must
purify our continuum until it is clean, because bodhichitta will not arise in a stained
Dharma vessel. Finally, this book explains how we practice bodhichitta after it is
generated according to the Mahayana scriptures.
Today we are going to study chapter two - Disclosure of Wrongdoings
D2. The methods of adopting and practicing bodhichitta68
E1. Overview
E2. Body
E1. Overview 69
F1. The decision to cultivate bodhichitta
F2. The practice after aspiration
The overview deals with the nature of bodhichitta, its classification and how to adopt
it. “How to adopt it” includes in front of whom (which guru) one receives bodhichitta, the
characteristics of the recipient70, the methods of adopting it, how to protect bodhichitta,
and how to restore a damaged bodhichitta. Therefore, we understand the importance of
the overview during today’s study.
From the outline, this overview seems to belong to the chapter of Disclosure of
Wrongdoings. In fact, it is the overview of the entire bodhichitta, which elaborates the
key points of bodhichitta through outlining the most important ideas. We need to
understand clearly the overview during our study. First, we should understand the benefit
of developing bodhichitta and its benefit for our current and future lives. Then, on the
basis of this, we should further our understanding of how to adopt bodhichitta.
Adopting bodhichitta can perhaps be better understood by comparing it to buying an
air conditioner. First, only if we appreciate that air conditioners are very useful in our
daily life, we will have the desire to purchase one; this is the step of knowing the
“benefit.” Before we buy it, we should first know its quality, which corresponds to
knowing the “nature” of bodhichitta. Next, there are many kinds of air conditioners domestic and imported, different styles and models - which all have different prices; we
should choose the suitable price according to our financial status. If one has financial
problems, then it is beyond his ability to buy a really expensive one; in the same way,
bodhichitta can be classified into ultimate bodicitta and relative bodhichitta. Ordinary
people can only “afford” relative bodhichitta because the accumulation of merit right now
68 The methods of adopting and practicing bodhichitta: how to adopt and practice bodhichitta in one’s
69 Overview: compendium
70 The characteristics of the recipient: in what kind of sentient beings’ continuum can bodhichitta arise
is not enough to “buy” an ultimate bodhichitta. After information about the price and
quality of the air conditioner is collected, the next step is to purchase one. When we are
buying it, there are some other issues we need to think about.
From the aspect of the object: What is the reputation of the manufacturer? Are
they financially well established? This corresponds to the guru in front of whom one
adopts bodhichitta.
Then think about whether it will be suitable for your house and your health if you
buy an air conditioner. This corresponds to the criteria for the recipient. However, does
the recipient need the basis of the seven-kind precept of individual liberation, or are any
sentient beings eligible to receive it? This is the consideration of one’s own situation.
Once the criteria of oneself and the provider are met, the methods of buying the air
conditioner should be taken into consideration - one can call the manufacturer for
delivery, pick it up in store, or buy it through some other way. Likewise, when we receive
bodhichitta, we can also get it from the ritual given by a qualified teacher, or through our
own visualization.
This is the way to adopt bodhichitta.
After we get an air conditioner, we should know its maintenance when we use it,
which corresponds to how we protect our bodhisattva vow in our daily life after we take
Finally, if the air conditioner is broken, we should think about whether to buy a new
one or to fix it. Similarly, if bodhichitta in our continuum is lost or damaged, should we
adopt it again or “fix” it through purification? It is very important to understand this.
This overview appears very concise. However, the wise can acquire all aspects of
bodicitta through it. After knowing the benefits of bodhichitta, everyone will want to take
the bodhisattva vow. Before that, we must make sure we understand what its nature is,
what its classification is, who is qualified to transmit it, what the criteria for the recipient
are, what the methods to get it are, how one protect it after getting it, and how one
restores it or purifies it after it is lost or damaged.
Some of these topics covered today have already been mentioned when we discussed
the benefit and classification of bodhichitta, but this is not mere repetition. The earlier
discussion only explained the meaning of the verse; while here the Bodhisattva Thogme
purposely summarized bodhichitta’s classification, nature and adoption methods.
We should be aware that today we are talking about the “overview,” which is not the
content of the verses in the Bodhiacaryavatara. If the meaning of the verses is explained,
then it is called “the explanation of the body.” Although most people know this, it is
necessary to explain the details during our study.
E1. Overview
F1. The decision to cultivate bodhichitta
F2. The practice after aspiration
F1. The decision to cultivate bodhichitta
G1. The nature
G2. The classification
G1. The nature
[In general, if we analyze thoroughly the commentaries composed by all the
great masters, we will understand that all the minds developed in Mahayana path
are to develop bodhichitta.]
If we study intensively the sutras and commentaries by eminent Tibetan and Chinese
masters and monks, we will find that all of the mind attitudes mentioned in the related
Mahayana scriptures are ultimately related to developing bodhichitta. For example, the
Mahayana practices, such as collecting accumulations and cultivating faith and
compassion as well as altruistic actions, are all included in bodhichitta.
This instruction adequately proved that no matter whether you practice in sutra or
tantra systems, without bodhichitta in your continuum, you are not a Mahayana Buddhist.
There is a legend in the Gelupa of a person who practiced Yamantaka finally becoming a
ghost because his initial aspiration was not correct. Another great master who practiced
Hevajra also got only a Hinayana instead of a tantric fruit due to his insufficient
aspiration. Obviously, all the aspirations in Mahayana practices are all included in
bodhichitta. In other words, bodhichitta pervades all the Mahayana actions and
aspirations. Without the altruistic mind, there is no Mahayana Dharma.
Bodhichitta can be explained in different ways: the Sutra of Great Bodhichitta said,
“Bodhichitta is like the space which has no shape. It is a mind whose nature is
luminosity.” This is elaborated from the aspect of knowing its emptiness nature and
intrinsic luminosity. From the aspect of relative bodhichitta, as long as it is bodhichitta, it
must include altruistic mind. Only the extent of benefiting others is different. In general,
the love and concern of a mother to the son belongs to altruism not to a genuine
bodhichitta, because bodhichitta has a very wide range of altruism. Only when the mental
attitude and behaviors are imbued with this kind of vast altruism can they be counted as
Mahayana aspiration bodhichitta.
[While the nature of generating bodhichitta under this circumstance is
described in the Ornament of Clear Realization,]
Although the Bodhisattva Maitreya has not yet come to the human world to turn the
wheel of Dharma, he has already granted us his instructions - The Five Treaties of the
Benevolent, or Maitreya’s Five Treaties. Among them, the Ornament of Clear Realization
[“Generating bodhichitta is to seek for the complete unsurpassable
enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings.”]
Its meaning has been discussed earlier. What is the nature of bodhichitta? It is the
proper desire to benefit all sentient beings, and to help them obtain the complete peerless
Buddhahood of the Thus-Coming One. This desire is the genuine bodhichitta. Whether
aspiration bodhichitta or action bodhichitta, they are inseparable from this altruistic mind.
We should examine our continuum to see if we have altruistic mind. Only when
altruistic mind is present, can bodhichitta arise. Admittedly, it is hard to eradicate all
selfish thoughts, but as long as we keep doing our best to diminish the interferences of
bodhichitta, and fight with self-attachment, our self-attachment will become weaker and
weaker and our altruistic mind will become stronger and stronger. (In the instructions for
bodhichitta, a lot of great eminent masters emphasize that self-attachment IS the
interference of bodhichitta, because the stronger the self-attachment, the weaker the
altruistic mind.)
When we generate bodhichitta, do we still have selfishness? Surely we do. In the
past, the eminent Kadampa masters always use this analogy: when many people were
sunk in a mud pit, someone was especially anxious to save people around him. However,
since he himself was also sunk in the mud pit, he had no ability to save others. Therefore,
he did his best to struggle for liberation, but what was his purpose? Not for his own
liberation, but to save people around him. Obviously, one certainly cannot save others if
he himself was still in danger, so he tried all means to get out of mud to be able to help
others. Otherwise, there is no way for him to save others. As a result, to get out is not for
one’s own happiness or liberation, but for saving others!
When ordinary people just start to generate bodhichitta, it is impossible to avoid the
desirability of bodhichitta for one own. Even if there is some “I,” this is not contradictory
to bodhichitta. For the sake of sentient beings, now “I” must obtain Buddhahood as soon
as I can. Then, how to obtain Buddhahood? Just as is said in the Medium
Prajnaparamita, “To obtain the perfect Thus-Coming One’s complete peerless
enlightenment, one must study the prajnaparamita; even to obtain the fruit of Arhat - the
Shravakas and Prateyekabuddhas, one still need to study the prajanparamita.”
Therefore, it is impossible for us to obtain Buddhahood for the benefit of sentient beings
without prajnaparamita and altruistic mind.
Some Dharma friends may doubt, “Selfishness of our ordinary people cannot be
completely eliminated. Due to that, will bodhichitta never arise?” As a matter of fact,
bodhichitta can exist in the presence of self-attachment. There is no requirement that
ordinary people must completely get rid of self-attachment first to generate bodhichitta. If
that is true, ordinary people are not ordinary any more. Instead they have already become
the Sages. We should think carefully about these questions.
Generally, bodhichitta is for the benefit of other sentient beings. Although there are
various ways to benefit beings, the ultimate way to do so is to help them obtain
Buddhahood and provide them help now. As a real Buddhist practitioner, altruistic mind
is required all the time. It is said in the instructions from many great masters: We should
recall “I want to help sentient beings” from moment to moment, no matter if we are
walking, standing, sitting or lying. This attitude should not only exist in the heart, but
also apply practically. No matter under whatever kind of circumstances, we should
implement our altruistic mind when we have a chance to help sentient beings. When we
see a big rock on the road, we should think, “This rock may get in the way of passengers
and cars,” and then move it aside. Admittedly, people without bodhichitta may
deliberately throw a rock in the middle of a way. This is because good people have good
personality and bad people have bad personality and always want to harm others. When
we generate bodhichitta, this kind of attitude and behavior must be eliminated!
Hence, no matter if it is a group or personal interaction, we must unconditionally
implement the altruistic mind that we promised in front of all the Buddhas and
bodhisattvas, with no hope of reward, and not think, “I have done a good deed. Will
people praise me? Will I get some rewards?” or “Will I get happiness in my next life
time?” These aspirations completely fall into Hinayana. As Mahayana practitioners, when
we help others, it is good if people know it and it is also fine if others do not know it; any
way is acceptable. As long as we can bring people a little happiness, a little welfare, we
are realizing the meaning of living in this world. If we have this attitude then the socalled bodhichitta is already used in our daily life.
Since we are now practicing bodhichitta, we should not only think about it every day,
but also check practically how many sentient beings we help every day of every year.
Everybody should summarize his or her practice of bodhichitta, and it is better to keep
diary at one’s convenience. For example, today when I saw an old man walking in a
difficult manner I ran to support him, or when I saw an ant almost drowning I rescued it
and put it on grass. These actions are all unconditional altruism. All sentient beings
around us always need our help. In our daily life, even if people tease us, we should
tolerate it as much as we can. This also shows the power of practicing and learning bodhi.
As a result, during our study of the Bodhicaryarvatara, we should cultivate a
completely different, unprecedented and strong altruistic mind and gradually transform it
into the longing to obtain the unsurpassable Buddhahood. In other words, for any sentient
beings who have established connections with us, such as by being saved or helped, we
should aspire, relying on these causes and conditions, that they will enter the path of
Buddha and obtain perfect Buddhahood.” This is our ultimate goal. Obviously, it is too
simple to be true that I help or give empowerment to him today and he becomes a
Buddha the next day. Even from people who have generated bodhichitta, this is not
expected. In the past some people said, “I have taught many Dharmas, but it is no use.
These people still have not changed after a decade!” This shows they lack the
understanding of the principles of Dharma. We should know that practicing the Dharma
is a gradual process. If you have too many expectations for yourself and hope to liberate
all sentient beings in one action, you may be badly disappointed. From my point of view,
even if I can only give very little help to some sentient beings, I feel comfort in my heart.
Apparently, I have studied very poorly in this aspect, so some people may laugh at me
behind my back. However, as is said in the Bodhicaryavatara, “My body and all my
belongings are offered to sentient beings,” so it is okay for you to laugh at me, blame me,
or beat me; anything is acceptable. It is very helpful to keep this in mind; otherwise, if
self-centered thought is too strong, you will always feel easily harmed by others and that
everybody is your enemy. In this way, bodhichitta will never mature. Thus, the solo
obstacle of bodhichitta is self-attachment. Only when self-attachment weakens will
bodhichitta become stronger and stronger.
This is about the nature of bodhichitta.
G2. Classification
[Generally speaking, according to the different bodhisattva levels, generating
bodicitta can be divided into four categories: 1) generating bodhichitta through
ordinary people’s believing, understanding and practicing; 2) generating
bodhichitta through supreme intention from the first to the seventh impure
bodhisattva levels; 3) fruitional generating bodhichitta, in the three pure levels; 4)
generating bodhichitta free from all defilements at the level of Buddhahood.]
These four kinds of generating bodhichittas were explained in the Ornament of
Mahayana Sutras.
1) The path of preparation and the path of accumulation belong to the stage of ordinary
people, which is called generating bodhichitta through ordinary people’s believing,
understanding and practicing. Why is it “believing, understanding and practicing?”
Because generating bodhichitta at this level needs sedulous mindfulness - “I want to
liberate sentient beings; I must help sentient beings,” to remind and supervise oneself
from moment to moment, and to be self-disciplined and think “benefiting sentient beings
is what I wish to do, and I need to do.” This kind of mental attitude is called generating
bodhichitta through believing, understanding and practicing.
2) Generating bodhichitta at the impure seven bhumis (from the first to seventh stages) is
accomplished through supreme intention. Why is it “supreme intention”? Because from
the first to the seventh stages, the self and other exchange and self and other equality are
realized, and the mind of selfishness is eliminated, so arousing bodhichitta at this level is
far more pure, not like that at the stage of ordinary people, when we always have some
self-attachment and defiled thoughts.
3) Generating bodhichitta at the three pure stages (from the eighth to tenth stages) is
fruitional arousing bodhichitta. Why is it “fruitional?” As we know when we study the
Abhidharmakosha that the so-called fruitional effects mean the effects will ripen anyway,
no matter if you want it or not. Likewise, after one reaches the eighth stage, he/she does
not need to purposely think about it. As the water in the river is running downward
naturally, the activities of benefiting sentient beings can be fulfilled effortlessly.
4) Upon the attainment of Buddhahood, all the hindrances of affliction and the hindrances
of known, including the most subtle predispositions are completely uprooted; the wisdom
is perfected in the continuum, so generating bodhichitta at this moment is called
generating bodhichitta free from defilements. Therefore,
[It is said in the Ornament of Mahayana Sutra,
“In the various stages, there is generating bodhichitta through:
Believing, understanding and practicing,
The enhanced pure intention,
The fruitional effects, which is different71,
71 “The fruitional effects, which is different” means fruitional generating bodhichitta is different from
And being free from defilements;
These are the four kinds of generating bodhichittas.”]
The above mentioned four kinds of generating bodhichitta were classified based on
the various bhumis.
[Classification according to the aspects of assistance and analogy]
Based on the aspects of assistance and analogy, generating bodhichitta can be divided
into twenty two kinds.
[As is said in the Ornament of Clear Realization,]
In the Ornament of Clear Realization, the eight issues and their seventy meanings72
were briefly explained first, and then based on that the details were elucidated. When “the
three wisdoms” were elaborated, generating bodhichitta is the first one of “the ten
omniscient dharmas,” the classification of generating bodhichitta was described in the
following two sentences.
[“(It is) like the earth, gold, moon, fire, treasure, jewel source, ocean, vajra,
mountain, medicine, friends, wish fulfilling jewel, the sun, songs, king, storehouse,
wide road, vehicle and spring, elegant sound, river and cloud, twenty two kinds in
These twenty-two analogies, according to Venerable Longchenpa’s teaching, are
corresponding to generating bodhichitta from the path of accumulation73 until the tenth
stage of bodhisattva. According to Indian Commentator Haribhadra’s point of view, they
are corresponding to generating bodhichitta from the path of accumulation to the
preparation, action and completion of Buddhahood.
A detailed explanation on the two aspects of analogy and assistance are as follows:
1) “The earth”: generating bodhichitta at the path of small accumulation (the
intention to obtain enlightenment) is the most initial aspiration. It is like the earth, which
is the source of all good qualities. Likewise, generating bodhichitta at the path of small
accumulation is actually the basis of generating all good qualities of the path and the
2) “Gold”: generating bodhichitta at the path of medium accumulation is like gold.
The nature of gold is unchangeable. Likewise, at the path of medium accumulation,
arousing bodhichitta in the seven impure stages.
72 The eight issues and their seventy meanings: In his Summary of the Ornament of Clear Realization,
Patrul Rinpoche explained this as, “In the Ornament of Clear Realization, prajna is explained through
the three wisdoms, four preparations, eight activities of Dhamarkaya fruit, and the specified seventy
meanings of the eight activities.”
73 The path of accumulation can be divided into small path of accumulation, medium path of
accumulation and great path of accumulation.
generating bodhichitta will not change.
3) “Moon”: generating bodhichitta at the path of great accumulation is like the
waxing moon, which is gradually increasing in size. Likewise, the good qualities of the
path of great accumulation are also increasing.
These are the three analogies and assistances of arousing bodhichitta in the path of
4) “Fire”: generating bodhichitta of the path of preparation is like fire, which can
destroy all the firewood. Likewise, generating bodhichitta at the path of preparation can
eliminate all the past interferences and conceptual thoughts.
In the following, the analogies from “treasure” to “song” are corresponding to
generating bodhichitta at each of the ten bhumis:
5) “Treasure”: generating bodhichitta at the first stage which is corresponding to the
paramita of generosity is like treasure, which can satisfy all sentient beings. Likewise,
generating bodhichitta of the first stage bodhisattva can also satisfy all sentient beings
through practicing generosity.
6) “Jewel source”: generating bodhichitta at the second stage corresponding to the
paramita of guarding discipline is like the jewel source, which is the spring of all the
treasure. Likewise, generating bodhichitta of the second bodhisattva stage is the source of
all kinds of good qualities (the ground, measurement, strength, and so forth).
7) “Ocean”: generating bodhichitta at the third stage corresponding to the paramita
of patience is like the ocean, which will not be shaken by the wild wind. Likewise,
generating bodhichitta of the third stage bodhisattva will not be shaken by the
interferences, such as hatred.
8) “Vajra”: generating bodhichitta at the fourth stage corresponding to the paramita
of endeavor is like vajra, which will not be damaged by any kind of metals. Likewise, the
motivation of the forth stage bodhisattva will not be destructed by the interferences, such
as laziness.
9) “Mountain”: generating bodhichitta at the fifth stage corresponding to the
paramita of meditative concentration is like the mountain king, which is not easily
moved by storms. Likewise, generating bodhichitta of the fifth stage bodhisattva will not
be shaken by the interference of meditation - the discursive conceptual thoughts.
10) “Medicine”: generating bodhichitta at the sixth stage corresponding to the
paramita of wisdom is like wonderful medicine, which can eradicate all kinds of disease.
Likewise, generating bodhichitta of the sixth stage bodhisattva can extinguish all kinds of
diseases caused by the hindrances of mental affliction and the known.
11) “Friends”: generating bodhichitta at the seventh stage corresponding to the
paramita of skillful methods is like close friends, who will never abandon you. Likewise,
generating bodhichitta of the seventh stage bodhisattva will never forsake any sentient
12) “Wish fulfilling jewel”: generating bodhichitta at the eighth stage corresponding
to the paramita of aspiration is like a wish fulfilling gem, which can satisfy the wishes of
all sentient beings. Likewise, generating bodhichitta of the eighth stage bodhisattva can
satisfy the wishes of all sentient beings through the nectar of Buddhadharma.
13) “The sun”: generating bodhichitta of the ninth stage corresponding to the
paramita of strength is like the wheel of sun, which is able to dispel all darkness and
ripen crops. Likewise, the ninth stage bodhisattva is able to dispel the darkness of
ignorance of sentient beings, and mature the merits of their virtuous actions.
14) “Songs”: generating bodhichitta of the tenth stage corresponding to the paramita
of primordial wisdom is like a song, which is able to bring happiness and joy to countless
people. Likewise, the tenth stage bodhisattvas can bring happiness to countless sentient
beings through wisdom.
The above analogies are corresponding to the ten paramitas respectively. What
follows are the five supreme generating bodhichitta (belonging to the three pure stages):
15) “King”: generating bodhichitta corresponding to special spiritual abilities and
miracles is like the king, who is able to control everything but not be controlled by others.
Likewise, the special abilities at the pure stages can conquer everything.
16) “Storehouse”: generating bodhichitta corresponding to the wisdom and merit is
like a storehouse of jewels, which is able to possess everything. Likewise, bodhisattvas
who possess this kind of generating bodhichitta have completed the accumulation of
virtuous dharma.
17) “Wide road”: generating bodhichitta corresponding to the thirty seven
prerequisites of the enlightenment (bodhipakshika-dharma) is like a wide road, which can
be used by everybody. Likewise, all noble ones are practicing through this kind of road.
18) “Vehicles”: generating bodichitta corresponding to the mind of compassion and
vapashiyan, is like vehicles, which can send people anywhere. Likewise, bodhisattvas do
not abide in the extremes of samsara or nirvana but perfectly reach whatever destination
they wish.
19) “Spring”: generating bodhichitta corresponding to Dharani and debating ability is
like spring, which is inexhaustible. Likewise, the good qualities of the pure stage
bodhisattva never perish.
These are the five supreme generating bodhichittas. The following three generating
bodhichittas belong to the tenth bodhisattva stage. (Some believe they belong to the stage
of Buddhahood. The debating of this was introduced when we studied the Mind in Ease
and Comfort of the Great Perfection. The classification of bodhichitta was also explained
in the Three Viyana, the Mind in Ease and Comfort of the Great Perfection - the Great
Vehicle; you should refer to them carefully.)
20) “Elegant sound”: upon the tenth stage, bodhisattvas benefit sentient beings
through four kinds of Dharma sounds, so this generating bodhichitta is like elegant
21) “River”: the mind of equality of bodhisattvas or the solo generating bodhichitta
of the path is like a river; the activities of benefiting sentient beings are endless.
22) “Cloud”: generating bodhichitta corresponding to the Dharmakaya is like a great
cloud. With this kind of generating bodhichitta, even bodhisattvas who abide in the
heavens such as Tushita heaven can let people in this world enjoy the Dharma nectar of
benefiting sentient beings.
The last three generating bodhichitta were thought to belong to the preparation,
action and completion of the level of Buddhahood by the commentators such as
Haribhadra. However, Venerable Longchenpa mentioned that there is no completion of
Budddahood because the activities of liberating sentient beings by the Buddha are
borderless and boundless; it is impossible to have a perfect finishing line. Hence, these
must be classified on the basis of ten bodhisattva levels.
In the history of Tibetan Buddhism, the debate of whether the twenty-two generating
bodhichitta belong to the path of training or beyond training continues. Obviously, most
learners at this time have no standard training in Buddhism. If I expound the debate
among the great masters in the Sakyapa, Gelukpa and Ningmapa, I am afraid many
people will not be interested in it. Therefore, if we have the chance to study the
Ornament of Clear Realization next year, these twenty-two generating bodhichittas will
be vastly elaborated. If I forget, please remind me then.
In general, generating bodhichitta can be classified into twenty-two kinds from the
level of ordinary people to the level of Buddhahood. The bodhisattva Maitreya explained
these twenty-two generating bodhichittas through the twenty-two analogies and
[From the classifications of the methods of adopting bodhichitta, there are two
kinds: obtaining through name and appearance and obtaining through dharma
“Obtaining through name and appearance” means to obtain through a ritual, the
instructions of the teacher and so on. Also as said at the end of the Great Biography of
Buddha Shakyamuni, there are many ways to obtain bodhichitta such as to obtain through
the power of others, through the power of one’s own previous causes or through the
power of demonstrations. Relative bodhichitta which is generated through obvious
phenomena is adopted through rituals. The second way is through dharma nature, which
means obtaining ultimate bodhichitta through realization of the nature of all phenomena.
These two kinds of generating bodhichittas are classified on the basis of obtaining
[Alternatively, according to the objects, there are two generating bodhichittas:
relative and ultimate bodhichitta.]
The Sutra of Nirvana classifies bodhichitta based on objects. Since the reality of all
phenomena is whether it is perceived at the conventional or ultimate level, and besides
them there is no other object, therefore, arousing bodhichitta can fall into ultimate truth
and conventional truth.
[On the basis of intention and action, bodhichitta can be categorized into
aspiration bodhichitta and action bodhichitta.]
This is the classification used in the Mahayana sutra - the Avatamsaka Sutra.
[The classification in this work fits in the last kind.]
The classification used in the Bodhicaryavatara is based on that in the Avatamsaka
Sutra. In other words, it is classified according to our intentions and actions. As
mentioned earlier, the intention of wishing to arrive there is called aspiration bodhichitta.
Based on the intention, applying it into practice is called action bodhichitta. This is the
classification that we are learning in the Avatamkasa sutra.
In addition, the Twenty Thousand Verses of Prajnaparamita has different
classifications: the five paths - the path of accumulation, the path of preparation, the path
of view, the path of practicing, and the path of beyond learning, are corresponding to five
generating bodhichittas, the ten paramitas are corresponding to ten generating
There are many types of classifications in the related scriptures. However, you only
need to roughly know how many categories of bodhichitta there are, and which one you
want to adopt and practice. If you are a first level bodhisattva, you should choose the
ultimate generating bodhichitta of the first level bodhisattva. If you are at the path of
accumulation, you should use the generating bodhichitta at the path of accumulation. If
you are at the path of preparation, then use that of the path of preparation. If you are
nothing, then the generating bodhichitta may not be a genuine bodhichitta.
Apparently, if you have not yet entered the path of accumulation, it is hard to benefit
sentient beings at present. However, in a broad sense, we have already entered the path of
accumulation, but it is the “smallest” in the path of small accumulation. Nowadays, many
people distinguish their gurus as smallest, greatest, medium, and do not mention their real
names, so, if using this classification system, maybe we have not yet even entered the
path of small accumulation, but only have a sort of “smallest” bodhichitta.
F2. The practice after aspiration is explained in three parts:
G1. The methods of taking the vow
G2. The methods of maintaining the vow
G3. The methods of restoring the vow
G1. The methods of taking the vow are explained in three parts:
H1.The object in front of whom we take the vow
H2.The person who takes the vow
H3. The ritual of taking the vow
H1.The object in front of whom we take the vow
After we understand the nature and classification of bodhichitta, we may want to take
the bodhisattva vow, so should we take it in front of our guru, the Buddha, Arhat, or some
other object? The following text addressed this issue.
[As said in the Bodhisattva Patimoksa Sutra, “The transmission and ritual of
bodhisattva vow should be received in front of those who follow the proper training
of bodhisattva and carefully protect and maintain their vows.”]
If one wants to obtain bodhichitta transmissions or the bodhisattva vow, in front of
whom should one receive them? In front of the gurus who have bodhichitta and
bodhisattva vow in their continuum and whose bodhisattva vows have never been
Before we take the bodhisattva vow, we should first examine whether the guru has
taken the bodhisattva vow him- or herself and generated bodhichitta. If yes, then see if
his bodhichitta is broken. If not, it means he has very a strong altruistic mind and must
have bodhichitta, so it is worthy to take the vow in front of him.
In the Bodhisattva Patimoksa Sutra, only one requirement was set for the guru,
which is that the guru must have the bodhisattva vow in his or her continuum. The issues
about whether the guru is good looking, dresses nicely, sings well, dances well and so on
are not required.
I have heard that nowadays when people choose a guru, some want to find one who
can sing well, famous, has power, or has the certificate of the bodhisattva vow… Indeed
this phenomenon happens in some places; they ask to take look at the guru’s certificate of
the bodhisattva vow. If the guru has it, then they will take bodhisattva vow in front of this
guru; if not, they won’t. From my point of view, this is not necessarily important. The key
is whether the guru has the bodhisattva vow or not. If the guru has never generated
bodhichitta, he has no idea of what bodhichitta is. Then if you take the bodhisattva vow
in front of this sort of person, it is very possible that you are finished.
If this guru has no idea of what bodhichitta is at all and never thinks about benefiting
other sentient beings, but only considers his or her own wealth, accomplishment, and
other self-interests, it is completely infeasible to take the bodhisattva vow or tantric
empowerment in front of them.
The requirement for tantric empowerment is very stringent. Before we receive it, we
should examine the guru from all aspects. Once I was told, “When a great master heard
that another great master was preparing to give an empowerment of the Great Terton
Ran-Na-Langpa, he wanted to get it. He asked this guru, ‘from whom did you receive the
transmission of this empowerment? What is the lineage of this Terton? …’ When he
found that this guru could not answer these questions, he became suspicious, and didn’t
attend that empowerment.” I think what he did is actually very necessary! Before we take
the bodhisattva vow, we should first examine the guru’s altruistic mind? Has he generated
bodhichitta himself? This is crucially important!
[The Twenty Verses of Bodhisattva Vow said:]
This book was made by the great Indian commentator Tsandra Gomay, and it has
twenty verses, which specifically explains the precept of bodhisattva, so it was named the
Twenty Verses of Bodhisattva Vow. As it says,
[“We should take the bodhisattva vow in front of the guru who has the
bodhisattva vow, wisdom and strength.”]
The guru who is able to transmit the bodhisattva vow should meet three
1) Possessing pure bodhisattva precept is the first requirement.
2) Being proficient in the Mahayana sutras and commentaries, and having supreme
wisdom is the second requirement.
3) Being able to collect and train disciples and tame sentient beings is the third
In front of a guru who is able to meet these three criteria, you can take bodhisattva
We should remember the three criteria elaborated in the Twenty Verses of
Bodhisattva Vow. First, examine whether the guru has precept and wisdom. If the guru
does not have wisdom after the arousing of bodhichitta, he is not qualified.
However, some great Kadamgpa Great Masters said, “It does not matter if he is able
to teach the Dharma, the key is if he has an altruistic mind. Geshe Putowa always told his
disciples, “Even if you are able to recite hundreds and thousands of sutras and
commentaries in reverse order, it does not necessarily benefit sentient beings. However,
as long as the genuine altruistic mind exists, it is bound to benefit sentient beings.”
Therefore, these Great Masters especially praised the authentic altruistic mind in
one’s continuum. However, the requirement here is different; the guru must have wisdom
and the ability of collecting and training disciples. We can receive the bodhisattva vow in
front of gurus like this. These are the three conditions the gurus need to meet.
[In this text]
This text refers to the Bodhicaryavatara. We will learn this verse,
Chapter 5 Verse 102
[Never, even at the cost of my life,
Should I forsake a spiritual friend
Who is wise in the meaning of the great vehicle,
And who is a great bodhisattva practitioner.]
The Bodhicaryavatara also has elucidated some requirements for the gurus who are
qualified to give the bodhisattva vows. What are them? Even at the cost of their life, they
do not abandon the Mahayana Dharma which is imbued with skillful methods. It means
that they will not turn away from Mahayana Dharma no matter what difficulty they
encounter, so they have unshakable faith. This is the first criterion. The second is that he
has the bodhisattva vow in his continuum. The gurus who meet these two criteria are very
precious, so they are called “precious gurus.” If a guru is like a wish fulfilling gem - who
does not abandon the Mahayana Dharma no matter what happens and has an altruistic
mind in his continuum, then in front of him you can receive the bodhisattva vow.
Here the criteria for those who give the bodhisattva vow were determined very clear.
Among people who are listening to this teaching, some of you have taken the bodhisattva
vow before, some have never even taken the lay people’s vow (Panca sila), and some
may want to receive it at this time. However, if you decide to receive the vow in front of
a guru, you should examine the guru using the criteria described here to check if this guru
possesses them or not. Only when these requirements are met, should you take the vow in
front of them.
[If you really cannot find gurus like this, you should take the vow in front of the
basis of the Three Jewels.]
If you do not feel comfortable with a guru who has precept, wisdom and capability,
or if you cannot find a guru who meets these criteria, it is feasible to take the bodhisattva
vow in front of the basis of the Three Jewels, such as the Buddha statues, sutras, stupas,
and so forth. How do you take the vow? You should first perform the seven limb practice,
then do prostrations, and then think in your heart: For the sake of all the boundless
sentient beings at the border of the space, I will never turn away from bodhichitta,
making a firm vow. This is taking the vow in front of the basis of the Three Jewels.
The Kadamgpa Geshe Dromtonpa asked Venerable Atisha, “Is it necessary to recite
the ritual when the taking bodhisattva vow?” Venerable Atisha replied, “If bodhichitta
and altruistic mind really arise in the continuum, it is okay if the ritual is not recited; if
bodhichitta is not very clear, then making the aspiration while reciting the ritual is very
Some people always say, “We really want to rely on a good guru, but with for all the
gurus who come here, we don’t know if they are good or not. We are afraid that we may
regret that we will not have this kind of opportunity again if we do not receive the
empowerment or teaching in front of them and they really are good gurus.” Many people
are afraid that they cannot find a qualified guru. From my point of view, it is hard to say
about other teachings, but for the bodhisattva vow, if you really cannot find a qualified
guru, then take the vow in front of the basis of the Three Jewels as allowed.
A disciple of Venerable Atisha asked, “Is it the same for entering sutra and tantric
Dharma practice? The Jowo replied, “Completely different! You can enter exoteric
Buddhism by yourself. For example, you can take refuge in front of the basis of the Three
Jewels; you can take the bodhisattva vow in front of a Buddha statue. (If you really
cannot cultivate faith in all the monks in your monastery, you can take the vow in front of
Shakyamuni Buddha statue in the Mahavira Hall, though the Buddha statue will not
immediately issue you a bodhisattva vow certificate. After you generate bodhichitta in
this way, you will not get a certificate, and the monks will not make up one for you.
However, I don’t think that this matters. You can give yourself a Dharma name then. I am
joking!) However, we must rely on the guru to enter esoteric Buddhism, because we must
get the empowerment from the guru to enter tantric mandala. Without it, we can’t make
Can we receive empowerment through visualization? There are two views about it:
Based on Venerable Atisha’s point of view, empowerment must be received from the
guru. In Buddhist history, the great accomplished masters Gara Dorje and Jnanasutra
were able to receive empowerment in the vision of their lineage gurus through
visualization. However, they still manifested relying on the guru for the sake of the
continuity of the transmission. There are many stories of King Tsa about this. As a result,
one must rely on the guru to receive tantric vow to enter esoteric/Vajrayana Buddhism but
one can enter exoteric/Mahayana Buddhism and become a Mahayana Buddhist through
one’s own strength for most of the cases.
[This is what is explained in the Bodhisattva Bhumis.]
[The Compendium of All Practices said, “If you cannot find a qualified guru,
then try your best to visualize Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the ten directions and
take the vow in front of them.”]
We can visualize taking the vow in front of all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. It is
your own decision to choose how many precepts, or to take the vow suitable for the sharp
or the dull. If you really cannot find a qualified guru, I think these are the safe solutions:
You can either visualize the Buddhas, bodhisattvas including your own lineage gurus in
the ten directions; then take the vow in front of them, as is said in the Compendium of All
Practices. Alternatively, you can take the vow in front of the basis of the Three Jewels as
is said in the Bodhisattva Bhumis. This is very important.
I hope everyone who is listening to the Bodhicaryavatara takes at least one
Bodhisattva vow. If you cannot keep any other vows, you should at least keep this vow –
“I will never abandon aspiration bodhichitta.” This vow alone has boundless and
countless merits. Our life is extremely short and we have no control of when we get this
wish fulfilling gem again. Therefore, I pray with my hands together here for you - please
grasp this rare opportunity! Worldly people feel they lose a chance when they are not able
to participate in a project or cannot get an award. I don’t think those things really matter,
but I do feel pitiful if you lose the opportunity to take the Mahayana Bodhisattva vow
because you worry about this and that! You’d better take at least one Bodhisattva vow.
H2.The person who takes the vow
[Although the Lamp for the Path of Enlightenment said, “Only those who always
have one of the seven precepts of individual liberation (pratimoksa) can have the
Bodhisattva vow; this virtue does not belong to others.”]
Venerable Atisha said, “What is the condition of taking the bodhisattva vow? First of
all, one must possess one of the seven kinds of pratimoksa74; one cannot take the
Bodhisattva vow without it.”
[However, if the basis of the bodhisattva vow must possess the pratimoksa for the
shravakas, there are all sorts of problems. For example, the Bodhisattvas in the pure
land will not have the bodhisattva vow, and the bodhisattva vow will not remain
when one dies.]
74 The seven kinds of pratimoksa means the precepts taken by bhiksu (monks), biksuni (nuns),
siksamana, sramanera (young monks), sramanerika (young nuns), upasaka (male lay practitioners),
upasika (female lay practitioners).
However, Bodhisattva Thogme does not agree with this view for two reasons: If
pratimoksa is a prerequisite for sentient beings taking the Bodhisattva vow, then the
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the pure land, such as sukhavati (the pure land of the
Buddha Amitabha; the Land of Great Bliss), must have no bodhisattva vow in their
continuum. Why? Because it is impossible for them to have the renunciation mind, since
they are not able to dislike and renounce sukhavati. In addition, according to the
Arbhidharmakosa, their basis is also not appropriate (such as Maitreya in the Tushita
Heaven). In this way, the Bodhisattvas in the pure land will have no Bodhisattva vow.
This is the first fault.
The second fault is that when people die their pratimoksha will also perish, if
pratimoksha is the basis, the bodhisattva vow will also destruct when the person dies. It is
like when a wall (pratimoksha) has already fallen down, the decorative pattern (the
bodhisattva vow) on the wall cannot exist any more. In addition, the Mahayana scriptures
such as the Great Gem-Heap Sutra say that sentient beings like gods, nagas, nonhumans,
garudas and the great reptiles can arouse bodhichitta in their continuum, but it is
impossible for them to obtain pratimoksha. So, it will contradict the scriptures to accept it
and it cannot be proved through reasoning either.
[This issue is described in the Great Commentary of Bodhicaryavatara.]
[Obviously, Venerable Atisha was proficient in the Mahayana pitaka, so he
should have never admitted that the basis of bodhisattva vow must possess
Venerable Atisha was proficient in all the Mahayana sutras and commentaries;
nobody else in east and west India was as eminent and intelligent as him. In addition, he
had taken rebirth as Pandita for five hundred life times. Once he was practicing
bodhichitta while revolving the Bodhi Gaya stupa (which has Buddha prasadas on all the
four sides). When he was at the west side, the rock Buddha statue said to him, “If you
want to obtain Buddhahood, you must practice bodhichitta.” When he revolved to the
north side, the tara statue at this side turned her head to him and gave him some
teachings. (This statue still exists. When our Guru Rinpoche went there in 1990, he
offered his mara to this “speaking tara.”)
There are two explanations. One is that the holy statue gave Venerable Atisha
teachings, and the other is that when Venerable Atisha came to the tara statue, two ladies
appeared chanting in the sky (they look better than human but not as good as goddess.)
The younger lady asked the older one, “What should be practiced if one wants to obtain
Buddhahood soon?” The older lady said, “To practice bodhichitta is the best way!”
“What is the essence of all phenomena?” “All phenomena belong to the mind, and mind
is like the space!” Relying on this instruction, Venerable Atisha has mastered the view of
the mind-only and the middle way. Afterwards, when Venerable Atisha asked if anyone
else heard the two ladies in conversation, they all said no. Therefore, the Venerable said
this must be the teaching given from tara.
Jowa Atisha practiced bodhichitta his whole life. After he arrived in Tibet, he
emphasized the teaching of bodhichitta, so such a marvelous Noble Being is impossible
to claim that the basis of bodhichitta must possess pratimoksha; he must not have
admitted this view.
[From my point of view, Venerable Atisha was actually pointing out that
nowadays, many people cannot even keep one precept of pratimoksha, but they
claim they have the bodhisattva vow, and some people believe that the meaning of
the bodhisattva vow is very insignificant, but the precepts are too many. To refute
these conceptual illusive thoughts, he said the basis must possess pratimoksha.]
The Commentator Thogme thought that Venerable Atisha said this because, in a
stringent way, many people in this world cannot even take one precept for the lay people
or individual liberation, so they are in no condition to receive the bodhisattva vow. On the
other hand, some people think that it is very easy to receive the bodhisattva vow;
everybody can receive it; any kind of sentient beings can receive it. In order to tell them
that receiving the bodhisattva vow is very difficult, then the Jowo said, “Without the
seven pratimoksha one cannot receive the bodhisattva vow”. However, this does not
mean that, one must receive the Hinayana precepts for laities, Bhiku, Bhikuni, and on the
basis of any of the seven pratimoksha then one can receive and keep the bodhisattva vow.
This is not what he means.
[The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment Auto-Commentary said, “It is only for
explaining the supreme basis,]
“The supreme basis” means that the basis for taking the bodhisattva vow is unique;
it is a very supreme status.
[However, other bases are also able to generate the precept entity.]
“Other basis” refers to all sentient beings who are not the basis for pratimoksha,
such as the eight classes of devas and nagas (Ashta gatyah), gods, and so forth. They can
also arouse bodhichitta. As said in the Prajanaparamita Sutra, when the Buddha was
turning the wheel of Dharma, many devas generated bodhichitta in their continuum,
which shows that other bases can also receive the entity of the bodhisattva vow.
[As a result, one is able to generate bodhichitta with or without pratimoksha.]
Both having and not having pratimoksha are okay, because the key point is to have
an altruistic mind.
[As long as one has the three conditions - the mind of compassion, faith and the
desire to receive the vow, one is able to generate bodhichitta.]
The first condition is to have the mind of compassion. Without compassion, the
Mahayana Dharma is very difficult to establish in our mind, so we should examine if we
have the mind of compassion or love from moment to moment. This is very important. As
a Buddhist, no matter whether a lay person or an ordained person, one must look at all
sentient beings from the view of Buddhism or compassion. Especially when we see some
miserable sentient beings, no matter what their status is we should help them as possible
as we can.
There are so many miserable people in this world, but we may not see them. It is our
fault to be unable to see them; some people can see them no matter wherever they are.
Today, I attended a forum of the opening ceremony of a Buddhism library. A person said,
“This meeting is for the clergy. I was actually not qualified to attend it because I was born
in a poor family and had a very poor education. I feel very happy I am now qualified to
come to this event. This precious opportunity is inseparable from the help of these kind
people and teachers. I really hope more kind people in this world will help more people
who are suffering as I was.” I was so touched though I am not sure who helped him. His
words made me think that as long as there is suffering and sentient beings in pain, we
should unconditionally do our best to help them. If a Buddhist can help them, I believe
his gratitude to the Dharma and the Buddha will never perish. When he grows up, he will
have deep unforgettable feelings towards Buddha’s compassion his entire life.
A Dharma practitioner should not only pursue one’s own liberation; this is not that
important. If we see some miserable people in our daily life, whether known by others,
we should do our best to help them. Even if we cannot benefit them through the Dharma,
we should help them materially or mentally; this is the behavior of a Bodhisattva. Some
people told me, “I really want to help others and I have enough money and properties to
do so; however, I can’t find people who need help.” If you were telling me the truth, then
you should go to the hospitals and the poorest villages, where you will definitely find
what you need.
There are diverse ways to benefit sentient beings through the Dharma. Recently, I
plan to arrange some Dharma instructors to teach the Dharma in the Ali area of Tibet. In
the past, when our Dharma Lord Rinpoche passed there on his way to India, he deeply
felt their poor living conditions. Although they have little faith in the Buddha, they do not
know how to study the Dharma, how to recall the Buddha, and how to visualize, so I
want to send some Dharma instructors there to try to propagate the Dharma in different
areas to help them. The living conditions there are very difficult, but we should not accept
any offering from local people; we will supply the food and accommodation. After all the
Dharma instructors trained in our monastery have reached relatively high levels, I believe
you will gradually be of benefit to some people there. In the past, our monastery also sent
some people to very remote places where even the name of the Buddha cannot be heard.
Gradually, some Dharma centers, and organizations were established there and people
started to chant the Buddha names, so this kind of behavior is very necessary.
For today’s forum, I also presented my own opinion. I said, “I really hope that the
Buddhist spirit of loving kindness and compassion I learned can be shared with society
and the many people in this world who have never tasted of the Dharma nectar. Since
they are already well educated, they will greatly benefit if they do so.”
In general, everybody here should think if you have the mind of compassion, faith,
and the desire to take the vow. If you have these three things, you are completely
qualified to take the bodhisattva vow. In other words, if you have compassion toward
miserable sentient beings, some sort of faith in the commentaries and vast behaviors of
the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and you yourself are willing to take and keep Bodhisatta
vow, then, people like you will definitely generate the bodhisattva vow in any cases.
[As long as possessing the three conditions of compassion, faith and a wish to
take the vow, any sentient beings will certainly generate the entity of the bodhisattva
108. What are the connections among the first three chapters of the Bodhicaryavatara?
109. Please explain, through analogies and meaning, how to generate, maintain and
restore bodhichitta after it is weakened.
110. What is the nature of bodhichitta?
111. The counter factor of bodhichitta is self-attachment; their relationship is like that of
light and dark. In this way, will bodhichitta exist in the continuum of ordinary people
who have self-attachment?
112. How can we implement bodhichitta in our daily life, such as walking, living, sitting
and lying?
113. Some people say, “It is said in many instructions that bodhichitta is the cause of
Buddhahood, so to liberate from cyclic existence and obtain the ultimate Buddhahood of
happiness, I must generate bodhichitta.” Do you think this statement is reasonable?
Please explain why?
114. Please explain 1) generating bodhichitta through ordinary people’s believing,
understanding and practicing; 2) generating bodhichitta through supreme intention from
the first to the seventh impure bodhisattva levels; 3) fruitional geneating bodhichitta, in
the three pure levels; 4) generating bodhichitta free from all defilements at the level of
Buddhahood. What is the basis of this classification?
115. Bodhichitta is classified into twenty-two kinds through analogies and assistances.
Please explain each of the similarity respectively.
116. What are the methods of obtaining bodhichitta? Please explain in detail.
117. In front of what kind of guru should we take the bodhisattva vow? Why?
118. Are there any differences between to enter esoteric/Vajrayana and
exoteric/Mahayana Dharma? Why?
119. Must one take one of pratimoksa prior to taking the bodhisattva vow? If not, will it
contradict what Venerable Atisha stated - “Only those who always have one of the seven
pratimoksa can have the bodhisattva vow.”?
120. What are the conditions for obtaining bodhisattva vow entity in one’s continuum?
Please explain your reason.
Translators' Acknowledgments
Most members of the Wisdom and Compassion Translation Center are disciples of
Khenpo Sodargye Rinpoche. We would like to thank our master Khenpo Sodargye
Rinpoche and all the teachers of the lineage for their teachings. Only with these
teachings, were we able to gain understanding in the profound meanings of Shantideva's
treatise which serves the ground of our translation task.
Our thanks also go to Library of Tibetan Works & Archives who kindly gave us the
permission to use the English edition of the root verses of Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way
of Life translated by Steven Bachelor. We truly appreciate Mr Steven Bachelor for the
precise and beautiful translation.
We are deeply grateful to the sangha members in Losel Shedrup Ling Tibetan Buddhist
Center at Knoxville, Tennessee, for their tremendous help of thorough editing, pertinent
advices and great encouragement.
About the Author
Khenpo Sodargye was born in Drakgo in Kham Tibet in 1962. Khenpo relied on His
Holiness Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche as his root guru. He resides in Larung Wuming
Buddhist Institute in Serthar County, Sichuan, taking lead responsibility for teaching the
Dharma to Han China's disciples. Between 1990 and 1999, he gave Dharma teachings in
many countries including the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, United
Kingdom, Japan, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia.
During the past 20 years, Khenpo translated a great amount of Tibetan sutras and sastras
into Chinese and then taught them. His works add up to over ten million words. This
allows the Buddhists in Han China area to learn Tibetan Buddhism much easier than
In 2006, Khenpo began to utilize modern media such as internet and video to teach
Dharma. He further advocates "Promoting a Loving Heart", asking Buddhist
practitioners to devote love to sentient beings and not to ignore the poor and needy
humans around them. Khenpo founded the Wisdom and Compassion Elementary
Schools, the Novice Monk Schools, senior homes and so on. He is also the honorary
chairman of Shanghai Kindness and Wisdom Foundation.
In recent years, Khenpo was invited to many prestigious universities, such as Tsinghua
University, Peking University, Renmin University of China, Fudan University, Nanjing
University, Zhejiang University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and so on, to hold
dialogues with scores of intellectuals and explore the truth of Buddhism with them which
enlightened the students immensely.
Cover Design: Chang Hui
A Great Commentary on Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life. Copyright
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