Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

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Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Thu Apr 08, 2010 6:04 am

BODHICITTA

'Bodhi' is Sanskrit for Enlightenment and 'Citta' means Mind. It refers to the wish to attain enlightenment (become a Buddha) for the benefit of all sentient beings. A 'Bodhisattva' is a being (sattva) with the bodhicitta motivation.

Even if I am genuinely concerned about the welfare of others, when I am hopelessly lost in my own problems, trying to deal with the world, how can I help others? I would be like jumping into a river where someone is drowning, when I cannot swim myself...
Therefore, I should first learn to swim myself, learn to deal with my problems, learn how to become liberated from my problems, or at best, become all-knowing or enlightened. The realisation comes: "change the world, start with myself".

This idea is called Bodhicitta: the wish to become an omniscient Buddha so I can be of perfect help for others.

But in order to collect enough positive momentum (Karma) to become a Buddha, I also need to help others as much as possible on my path. But I should realize that at this moment my help is limited, simply because I don't know all the results of my actions. Also while helping others, we should not forget the goal of becoming a Buddha to of much more help; therefore ideally, one should be mindful of dedicating any positive energy to this goal.

Some reflections by the Indian saint Shantideva:

"Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world,
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.

But what need is there to say much more?
The childish work for their own benefit,
The Buddhas work for the benefit of others.
Just look at the difference between them!"

Or, as Shantideva reflected the far-reaching thought of Bodhicitta:

"May I become food and drink in the aeons of famine for those poverty-stricken suffers.
May I be a doctor, medicine and nurse for all sick beings in the world until everyone is cured.
May I become never-ending wish-fulfilling treasures materialising in front of each of them as all the enjoyments they need.
May I be a guide for those who do not have a guide, a leader for those who journey, a boat for those who want to cross over, and all sorts of ships, bridges, beautiful parks for those who desire them, and light for those who need light.
And may I become beds for those who need a rest, and a servant to all who need servants.
May I also become the basic conditions for all sentient beings, such as earth or even the sky, which is indestructible.
May I always be the living conditions for all sentient beings until all sentient beings are enlightened."

The realisation of Bodhicitta is quite profound, as it is obviously not easy to (automatically) put the welfare of others above one's own welfare. Someone who lives with this realisation is called a Bodhisattva: in all respects a genuine saint.

METHODS TO GENERATE BODHICITTA

The 4-Point Mind Training is based on cultivating four realisations:

1. Equanimity: One can cultivate the realisation that all sentient beings are equal in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering. Beings cannot really be divided into friends, enemies or strangers because friends may turn into enemies, enemies may become friends, and strangers may become friends or enemies.
2. Faults of self-cherishing: a consequence of karma is that self-cherishing is the only cause of my problems.
3. Good qualities of cherishing others: a consequence of karma is that cherishing others is the cause of all happiness.
4. Exchanging self & others: being intelligently selfish, by continually trying to put oneself in the place of others, and then acting.

The 7-Point Mind Training is based on cultivation realisations in 7 steps:

1. Equanimity
2. Recognizing that all sentient beings have been (or at least could have been) my mother as I have lived innumerable lives.
3. Remember the kindness of your mother in this life, all she did for you, the problems she went through to take care of you.
4. Wishing to repay the kindness of her and all previous mothers.
5. Generate great love: may all mother sentient beings have happiness and the causes for happiness.
6. Generate great compassion: may all mother sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes for suffering
7. Generate bodhichitta: should give up all self-cherishing and egoism, and work to bring them happiness and release them from their suffering: therefore, may I become an omniscient Buddha, as he is the perfect doctor to cure the suffering of all mother sentient beings.


From: All You Ever Wanted to Know from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Happiness, Life, Living, and Much More:
The Seven-Point Cause-and-Effect Method (for the development of an altruistic mind):
(1) The first of the seven points is the cultivation of equanimity - that is, a state of mind that tries to equalize the strong attachment to friends, the strong hatred for enemies, and for an indifferent attitude toward neutral people.
(2) The second stage is remembering our own beginningless rebirths so that we can recognize that all sentient beings have been our mothers, friends, and relatives at one time or another.
(3) Third, having recognized them as such, we recollect and reflect on the kindnesses they extended to us. This attitude - the special recollection of kindnesses - does not discriminate between friends and enemies; even enemies are regarded as kind.
(4) The next step is to repay their kindnesses by reflecting how our mother of this lifetime extends her kindness to us and how parents extend their kindness to their children.
(5) Next comes the stage of loving-kindness. This is a state of mind that cherishes all sentient beings. Having developed this loving-kindness for all sentient beings, we wish that all sentient beings be free from suffering. That is compassion.
(6) This is followed by an unusual attitude in which we take upon ourselves the responsibility to free all sentient beings from suffering.
(7) And the final stage is actual Bodhicitta, the altruistic attitude to achieve enlightenment. This is experienced partly by the force of our strong compassion for the suffering of all sentient beings, the feeling of being able to see their suffering, and partly by the understanding that it is possible for the mind of a sentient being to be freed from its delusions. All sentient beings have the potential to achieve the omniscient state. Understanding this, combined with a strong force of compassion, brings about the experience of Bodhicitta.


In the Tibetan tradition, following verses are often recited to direct the mind towards generating Bodhicitta:

With a wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
To the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha,
Until I reach full enlightenment.

Enthused by wisdom and compassion,
today in the Buddhas' presence
I generate the Mind for Full Awakening
For the benefit of all sentient beings.

As long as space remains,
As long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
And dispel the miseries of the world.

http://www.viewonbuddhism.org/compassion.html
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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby plwk » Thu Apr 08, 2010 6:15 am

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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Thu Apr 08, 2010 7:41 am

plwk wrote:The Bodhi Mind


Fabulous read, thanks! :namaste:
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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby mudra » Sat Apr 10, 2010 3:16 am

Ngawang Drolma-la,

I'm a little curious. The 4 point mind training method you describe seems to fit more into what Shantideva followed, the system of "Exchanging Self and Others" which has five steps: The four you described then the actual "giving and taking" with the breath (Tonglen). What was your source?
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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sat Apr 10, 2010 6:34 am

mudra wrote:Ngawang Drolma-la,

I'm a little curious. The 4 point mind training method you describe seems to fit more into what Shantideva followed, the system of "Exchanging Self and Others" which has five steps: The four you described then the actual "giving and taking" with the breath (Tonglen). What was your source?


Hi Mudra :)

I took the information from this site: http://www.viewonbuddhism.org/compassion.html It's the website's section on compassion and if you scroll down a bit you'll find the part I quoted and more thorough (but general) information. Most everything there is primarily from a Tibetan Buddhism perspective.

I've always enjoyed Venerable Pema Chodron's talks and writings on compassion. Here's a few words from her about Tong Len: http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/tonglen1.php Her teaching style seems so down-to-earth to me, so I thought I'd share this other read :)

I definitely want to mention something because I put this in the new Exploring Buddhism forum. This isn't directed to you Mudra, but for people who are exploring Buddhism for the first time or interested in Buddhism. In my humble opinion, Tong Len is best undertaken under the guidance of an instructor or a spiritual friend. Sometimes people fall under the impression (or have the experience) that they really are taking on additional suffering, sometimes unmanageable suffering of others, and subsequently cause themselves undue pain. Tong Len is a wonderful practice! And I think it's a powerful practice, too. But it's best done with some instruction at least initially.

Kind wishes,
Laura
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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby mudra » Sat Apr 10, 2010 7:13 am

Hi Ngawang Droma-la

Actually I think all of the exchanging self and others is extremely difficult. "Simply" to understand the extent of how our self cherishing destroys our happiness is very difficult, it goes against the conditioning that has been happening throughout countless rebirths. As to actual Tong-len, we can fantasize that we are "doing it" but to really do it requires real ability to live by the first four stages!

But the reason I asked is because I thought it was presented a little differently than in the Gelug Lam Rim traditions, or for that matter in any of the Mind Training/Lojong presentations in which Tong-len is specifically discussed. I thought perhaps this was how it was presented in a non-Gelug tradition.

There is also of course, the oral tradition which merges the two systems together which is also mentioned in some Lam Rims.

BTW thank you for your ongoing enthusiasm in posting these topics!

m
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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby Will » Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:02 pm

Most of us are familiar with the best known bodhicitta motivation - helping all beings become buddhas. But there are other motives, as chapter 17 of the Avatamsaka Sutra says:

[Bodhicitta] is for the sake of causing the seed nature of the Thus Come Ones to never be cut off; It is for the sake of [the buddhadharma] pervading all world systems; It is for the sake of crossing over and liberating the living beings in all world systems; It is for the sake of totally knowing the coming into being and destruction of all world systems; It is for the sake of totally knowing the defilement and purity of living beings within all world systems; It is for the sake of totally knowing the purity of the self nature of all world systems; It is for the sake of totally knowing the likes, afflictions, and habits in the minds of all living beings; It is for the sake of totally knowing how all living beings die here are reborn elsewhere; It is for the sake of totally knowing all living beings’ roots and expedient methods.

It is for the sake of totally knowing the activities in the minds of all living beings; it is for the sake of totally knowing all living beings’ wisdom in the three periods of time; and it is for the sake of totally knowing all Buddhas’ state of equality, that they bring forth the Unsurpassed Bodhi mind.



There are more than these 12 listed in the chapter.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby ground » Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:47 pm

mudra wrote:Actually I think all of the exchanging self and others is extremely difficult. "Simply" to understand the extent of how our self cherishing destroys our happiness is very difficult, it goes against the conditioning that has been happening throughout countless rebirths.


That is very true. Difficult. I guess I could not manage the "dry" thought. I find it helpful to combine this thought of "exchanging self and others" with the Buddha's teaching on the first noble truth (eight, six and three kinds of sufferings), the Buddha's teaching on the 12 links of dependent origination and the Madhyamaka reasoning on emptiness of "I" and "mine". Thus it results in the seeming paradox of dissolving or at least weakening "I" while at the same time affirming "others".

Kind regards
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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby Will » Sun Nov 14, 2010 6:08 am

Vasubandhu bodhisattva give some basics needed for developing bodhicitta, from his Treatise on Bodhicitta:

II. Chapter 2: Generating the Resolve
How does the bodhisattva generate the bodhi resolve? Relying on
what sort of causes and conditions does one cultivate and accumulate
the bases for realizing bodhi?
A. Ten Factors Conducing to Generation of the Bodhi resolve
[Those causal bases are present] in a case where a bodhisattva:
1. Draws close to a good spiritual guide;
2. Makes offerings to the Buddhas;
3. Cultivates and accumulates roots of goodness;
4. Resolves to seek the supreme Dharma;
5. Maintains constant pliancy and harmoniousness of mind;
6. On encountering suffering, remains able to endure it;
7. Possesses pure and abundant kindness and compassion;
8. Maintains a profound mind dedicated to maintaining equal
regard for all;
9. Possesses faith and happiness in the Great Vehicle; and
10. Seeks to gain the wisdom of the Buddha.
If a person is able to embody ten dharmas such as these, he will then
become able to generate the mind resolved on realizing anuttarasamyak-
saṃbodhi.
B. Four Additional Bases for Generation of the Bodhi Resolve
There are four additional conditions which may be involved in generating
the resolve to cultivate and accumulate the bases for realization
of the unsurpassed bodhi. What are those four?
First, it may be based on contemplation of all buddhas that one
generates the bodhi resolve.
Second, it may be based on contemplation of the faults and perilous
aspects of the physical body that one generates the bodhi
resolve.
Third, it may be that it is based on seeking the most supreme of
all fruits [of the Path] that one generates the bodhi resolve.
Fourth, it may be that it is based on kindness and pity for beings
that one generates the bodhi resolve.



From chapter two of Kalavinka Press edition.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby muni » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:18 am

Love and compassion are like the weak spots in the walls of ego. They are like a naturally occuring opening. And they are the opening we take. If we connect with even one moment of good heart or compassion and cherish it, our ability to open will gradually expand. Beginning to tune into even the minutest feelings of compassion or appreciation or gratitude softens us. It allows us to touch in with the noble heart of bodhicitta on the spot.
http://www.pbs.org/thebuddha/blog/2010/ ... a-chodron/

No "solid separate owner" in naturally blossoming interpenetrating warmth.
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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby ground » Sat Nov 27, 2010 3:13 am

TMingyur wrote:I find it helpful to combine this thought of "exchanging self and others" with the Buddha's teaching on the first noble truth (eight, six and three kinds of sufferings), the Buddha's teaching on the 12 links of dependent origination and the Madhyamaka reasoning on emptiness of "I" and "mine". Thus it results in the seeming paradox of dissolving or at least weakening "I" while at the same time affirming "others".


In order to cultivate honesty and not to inspire others to practice something that might turn out to be "the wrong" at the end of the day I think I have to modify the statement "Madhyamaka reasoning on emptiness of "I" and "mine"".
Lately I am doing some in depth analysis of the "Madhyamaka reasoning" known as "sevenfold reasoning of Candrakirti" and there are moments when it appears to be a farce and totally inappropriate. I have not come to a final conclusion at this time but I would like to alert readers.
I think applying the Buddha's original teachings is less error prone.

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Re: Bodhicitta-Motivation in the Mahayana traditions

Postby Tilopa » Sat Nov 27, 2010 3:34 am

Ngawang Drolma wrote:BODHICITTA

The 4-Point Mind Training is based on cultivating four realisations:

1. Equanimity: One can cultivate the realisation that all sentient beings are equal in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering. Beings cannot really be divided into friends, enemies or strangers because friends may turn into enemies, enemies may become friends, and strangers may become friends or enemies.
2. Faults of self-cherishing: a consequence of karma is that self-cherishing is the only cause of my problems.
3. Good qualities of cherishing others: a consequence of karma is that cherishing others is the cause of all happiness.
4. Exchanging self & others: being intelligently selfish, by continually trying to put oneself in the place of others, and then acting.


This is a useful way of thinking and very helpful in developing empathy for the pain and suffering of others but what is usually meant by the 4th point is not what it literally says. In the traditional (Gelug) commentaries "exchange of self with others" means to exchange the thought which cherishes self with the thought that cherishes others. It's a very different interpretation.
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