Spiritual Maturity

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Bodhisattva Ideal”

When we first enter onto the Bodhisattva path, we are thinking that maybe we are doing this because we’ve always wanted to be a good person.  We have all kinds of mixed motivations.  Maybe we never got enough approval when we grew up.  Maybe mama was always telling us that we were never going to amount to very much, or something like that.  Maybe dad was always telling us that we have to live our lives in a certain way in order to meet with his approval.  Maybe our society has taught us that if we don’t attain certain things we are a “n’er do well.”

For whatever reason, when we first meet with the Bodhisattva path, we think that we are going to make something good of ourselves.  We are going to approve of ourselves, finally.  We are going to be good people.  We fall in love with the romance of being saintly. But ultimately, the life of a Bodhisattva has not one thing to do with that, nothing to do with that.  The purpose, the intention, the planning of a Bodhisattva is not according to that.  The planning of the Bodhisattva is based on logic and reason. Since we have met with the ideal of the Bodhisattva, this is the time for the beginning students, or the student who has been a practitioner for some while, to really determine for oneself what the true meaning of the Bodhisattva ideal actually is—to see the reasonableness of it, to see the logic of it. To understand that to do anything else is to walk through one’s life as a child, mindlessly, just grabbing and playing and having “la la” land in your head.  The life of a spiritually mature Bodhisattva is a life of understanding, a life of clarity, a life of reasonableness, a life in which that spiritual participant thinks in full equations, which ordinary people simply do not do.

Now, having learned these virtuous patterns, these virtuous habits, these virtuous actions, and understanding that this is what results in happiness, and not grabbing in an egocentric way, the spiritually mature Bodhisattva begins to plan, and begins to understand also, that according to the Buddha’s teaching, all sentient beings are in that same condition of revolving hopelessly in samsara. Not understanding what the components of happiness are and what brings relief from suffering.  Not understanding as well, what intensifies suffering and makes it much worse.  Sentient beings literally are revolving in samsara helplessly, like bees flying around in a jar, not understanding how to get out, just bumping, bumping, bumping on all the sides.

Having looked at that, having looked at the suffering of the world, having seen that in places all over the world there is hunger, there is war.  There is disease, old age, sickness and death constantly claiming even those on the seen realms where there is less suffering than in many of the other realms. And, according to the Buddha, we are taught that in the unseen realms, all sentient beings are suffering horribly. They have no understanding really of what makes the cessation of suffering.  Having met with the path and understood all these things, and then understanding as well the Buddha’s teachings, then we make an intelligent choice. “I and all sentient beings have been wandering helplessly and hopelessly in samsara, not understanding the cause of my suffering, not understanding the cause of the suffering of other, not understanding the causes of happiness for myself and others. Now I have come to this place of choice, intelligence, clarity and responsibility.  Therefore, having seen the truth and understanding that there is an end to suffering, I will practice for the sake of sentient beings.”  This is the choice that the spiritually mature Bodhisattva brings—to practice temporarily by bringing happiness and relief to those that they can in any way possible.  And then to practice ultimate or extraordinary Bodhicitta, which is to bring the ultimate happiness, the ultimate joy of the revelation of the path to others so that they too might attain ultimate happiness.  The spiritually mature Bodhisattva chooses to give others the method by which they can end their suffering and gain happiness, the method of clarity that teaches that virtuous seeds bring virtuous and joyful results, and nonvirtuous seeds bring nonvirtuous and negative results.  Understanding that, I myself will be a guide and a light to benefit others through their confusion. The prayer of the Bodhisattva is that we would live and exist as a Bodhisattva long enough to be the one to watch the very last of them cross over through the doors of liberation into freedom.  That is my prayer and that should be the prayer of each and every one of us, that we would be the last and would be able to see every single sentient being cross the ocean of suffering into freedom.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Path is Love

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Bodhisattva Ideal”

Is the Bodhisattva unafraid?   Heck no!  The Bodhisattva is afraid just like anyone else.  Why not?  Nobody wants to be challenged.  Nobody wants to have difficulty or obstacles.  Nobody wants to suffer.  The Bodhisattva is not less afraid than anyone else. But what is fear in the face of the needs of the many?  What is fear, knowing that what I might collect out of my fearfulness will ultimately lead to my unhappiness and disappointment?

I’ve been practicing the Bodhisattva Path for some time.  I am afraid of everything.  Everything frightens me.  I’m a jellyfish by nature.  But I don’t stop, because it doesn’t make any sense to stop.  Does the Bodhisattva no longer want anything or need anything?  No!  I want and need everything!  Anything you want to give me would be much appreciated!  But I do not concern myself with gathering such things.  I concern myself with the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.  That’s what I concern myself with.

I’m not a perfect Bodhisattva, but there have been perfect Bodhisattvas. And I can tell you that with the understanding that the Bodhisattva naturally obtains through this kind of conduct: There is a natural kind of internal ease or lightness of being, a kind of quiescence that is a natural byproduct of that lack of emphasis on self-concern and increased emphasis on the well-being of all sentient beings, and the reasonableness of accumulating only those virtuous characteristics which can benefit in all future times.  There is a reasonableness about that and, as we emphasize that reasonable method, and do not emphasize ego-cherishing and ego-clinging, there is a natural lightness of being that occurs that, even while if someone punches us we will be punched and we will roll over, it isn’t so heavy because, as a Bodhisattva, although you may experience phenomenal reality in the same way that others do, there is not the suffering of suffering, which only actually occurs when one is filled with desire, just like the Buddha taught—filled with self-cherishing and ego-clinging, filled with hatred, greed and ignorance. The deep neurosis of acting inappropriately according to what you actually are, the suffering of suffering, comes from that.  It comes from acting like something that is death-oriented, that is contracted, that is separate and limited as opposed to acting as though you understood that you are that primordial wisdom nature, that ground of being, that Buddha nature, that state of innate wakefulness, that quiescent light.  That is the great Bodhicitta that is your nature.

If we could act in accordance with that, that deep neurosis that is characteristic of samsara, that suffering of suffering, could not exist in such a life.  So then, for such a one who practices in that way, all efforts become a benefit to sentient beings, no matter what they appear like.  Ultimately they will result in benefit.  This is the life of the Bodhisattva and this is the practice of the Bodhisattva, and this is what each one of us must attain to because I will tell you, no matter how good you are at sitting in the lotus position or how good you are at looking like a meditator or how many of the rules of meditation you know or how many of the books on spiritual practice you have read and can memorize, if you do not have the Bodhicitta, if you are not alive in love, you have no path.  If you do not consider others before you, you have no path, because the path is love.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Disappointment

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Bodhisattva Ideal”

As children, we are only interested in taking care of ourselves.  We are only interested in getting what we want.  Well, we don’t actually understand taking care of ourselves, because really, if we understood taking care of ourselves, we would mature.  But as children, we just delight in everything and we want everything. It’s gimme this, gimme this, gimme this. I need this new piece of equipment. I need this new piece of clothing.  I need this new gizmo. I have to have this car. And I’m just gathering all of this, you see?  As spiritually mature people, we realize through experience (and it’s experience that teaches us), that after we’ve gathered a few of these things, we still aren’t happy.  We are still neurotic.  In fact, the more we gather to please ourselves without consideration for cause and effect relationships, or without considering whether or not this is of any true value within our lives, we find that we are disappointed and disappointed and disappointed. And it continues, and the level of disappointment never ends.  Every time we try to get something for ourselves that makes us feel better without any thoughts of cause and effect relationships… It’s just the oddest thing.  It’s like we have this little, I don’t know, kind of heartbreak, with this disappointment.  Every time we try to make ourselves happy and it doesn’t work, there’s this part of us, somewhere inside that sighs, “Wow, I really thought that was going to work!  How come that didn’t work?”  And we’re confused and lost.

But as spiritually mature people we begin to learn,, in the same way adults learn, that children’s toys aren’t much fun anymore.  And the spiritually mature people will begin to understand that what we have to do now is to live a life that has more meaning than that.  We have to live a life where we can plot out and plan and understand the results.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Non-dual: The Middle Way

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Bodhisattva Ideal”

So the Bodhisattva thinks and meditates constantly on which things are worth putting effort into, and which things are not.  Now the Buddha also taught about the Middle Way.  When the Buddha realized the suffering of sentient beings, he tried at first the life of the ascetic. And he even tried to sit with those who engaged in the kind of meditation that was based on self-mutilation, a kind of meditation that was very strict and very severe.  He meditated with yogis who would mutilate their bodies in order to overcome pain and renounce the attraction of comfort.  So the Buddha tried that. These yogis did not eat or sleep comfortably.  They meditated constantly.  They remained in this one little grove and they ate very little.  They might live on bits of plants and even bits of mushroom that grow in the ground. If someone gave them something to eat, they might eat on that, but they had no determination about wanting a certain kind of food.  Whatever they found that day, that’s what they ate.  There was no dependence on comfort for their happiness and well-being.  So Lord Buddha practiced with them for a while and eventually he gave up on that method.

He gave up on that method because he saw that there is a kind of limitation to that focus, that that particular focus was sort of a dead-end street.  It can result even in a kind of poison, or a kind of pridefulness, where the yogi is more concerned with their strict discipline than they are with the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings. It becomes something of an obsession, you know. It becomes something of a medal of honor that one wears. So Lord Buddha found that kind of rigidity, that kind of narrow view, somewhat distasteful. And so Lord Buddha went on to the Middle Way.

Therefore, as a Bodhisattva we are not being asked to never have a moment of comfort.  No one is asking you to pierce your tongue or do any of those things those funny yogis did.  No one is asking you to sit on a bed of nails and sleep on a bed of nails.  No one is asking you to hang out in a grove and not have a house, not keep warm in the wintertime.  No one is saying that you have to wear the same robes until they rot off your body.  Lord Buddha does not teach that as a method.  Lord Buddha teaches instead that all sentient beings are suffering, that we are suffering due to desire, that there is an end to suffering, and that end to suffering can be practiced as the eightfold path which we, in our tradition, condense into the practice of wisdom, or the realization of emptiness, and compassion, or the Bodhicitta.  These are the two legs of the path, and this is the moderate Middle Way that Lord Buddha taught.

So as a Bodhisattva you are not being asked to never be happy.  One’s own happiness, both temporary and ultimate, and the happiness of others, becomes instead inseparable, nondual.  One would not honor oneself and cling to ego because that would be a nonsensical thing to do.  There is no good result from that.  The Bodhisattva realizes that.  The Bodhisattva, however, would not make oneself suffer purposely, or hurt oneself in some way, because there is really no point to that.  The point of practicing the path is the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings, and you are one of them.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Bodhisattva’s Logic

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Bodhisattva Ideal”

The posture of a Bodhisattva is misunderstood in our culture.  When a parent raises a child, the parent does not say to the child, “What I’d really like you to do, darling, is to be a great, generous mystic.  I want you to be so generous that you give your life up for others.  I want you to be so generous that you pay no attention to your own welfare or comfort, but instead I would like you to live and die for the benefit of sentient beings.”  Nobody’s mother told them that!  Due to the culture that we are raised in, we are told by our parents, their parents before them, and everything around us that there are certain things that one must do in order to be successful.  One must gain recognition, power, money, ease of living.  These are the things that one must do. But when one enters onto the path and becomes a Bodhisattva, one is faced with an entirely new set of ethics and morals and responsibilities.

This entire process must be understood as an intelligent, logical and reasonable process, simply by virtue of the fact that no matter what we accomplish during the course of this lifetime, other than the impact it has on our own bouquet of habitual tendencies, there is not one piece of what we collect that we can take with us, not one thing.  So here is the Bodhisattva’s intelligence. And it is an intelligence.  It is based on truth.  It is based on fact.  It is something like the intelligence of a person who receives a great deal of money, let’s say, or something precious and, if they’ve never had that before, if they haven’t thought it through, they might say, “Oh now I’ve got, let’s see, I’ve got $10,000 here so I’m going to go out and I’m going to spend that money and have a really good time.  I’ve never had $10,000 before, so I’m just going to go spend it, and I’m going to get all the things that I wanted to get.  Get some of my bills paid up, and I’m going to get a, let’s see, a down payment on a car, and I’ve got some clothes that I have in mind and all these different things. Maybe I’m going to buy a new TV. I’ve got all this laid out.”  A sentient being’s normal reaction to having blessings in their life, or to life itself, is a little bit like that.  I’ve got this thing.  How am I going to spend it?

The Bodhisattva thinks very differently.  The Bodhisattva realizes that, according to the Buddha’s teaching, life is like a precious jewel.  When one meets with Dharma, meets with the teacher, and meets with the method by which we can accomplish realization, this life is understood as wealth for sure.  We understand that there is a tremendous gift here.  But how is the gift utilized?  There comes in a completely different kind of logic.

The Bodhisattva realizes that, in the end, all will come to nothing.  If our only gain is on the material realm, in the end all of the effort that we put into self-cherishing and beautifying ourselves, and the ease and comfort of our lives, and the accomplishments on the mental and physical levels of our lives, even those greatly cherished social institutions like vast education,  even that will come to nothing, other than perhaps the discipline of studying.  That habit may be brought into the next rebirth. .But everything that we have learned to love and cherish will come to nothing.

And so the Bodhisattva thinks, therefore, if in samsara, all efforts come to nothing, if all that survives is one’s virtue or lack of virtue, if all that matters in samsara eventually breaks down, then why should I put much effort into these things?  Why should these things be precious to me? Because ultimately they will be lost, they will come to nothing.

The Bodhisattva then thinks more like a smart investor.  You want to invest in that which brings ultimate returns:  kindness, generosity, spiritual habits, habits associated towards travelling on the path of Dharma and developing oneself spiritually.  Making offerings, living with generosity, meditating, praying, contemplating, teaching—these virtuous acts are the things that will bring a result that one can carry over into the next life.  So the Bodhisattva is not so much a martyr as someone who has been trained through logic and reason to understand not to put all of one’s emphasis and hope in that which will ultimately disappoint.  The Bodhisattva has been trained well enough to know that ultimately all things in samsara are disappointing.  And so the Bodhisattva then makes the choice, based on training, to put one’s emphasis and one’s effort only in those things which will produce the excellent result of enlightenment and benefit to others.  This is how the Bodhisattva thinks.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Benefits of the Awakening Mind

1000 Armed Chenrezig Mandala

Here is another excerpt from the first chapter of A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life called “The Benefits of the Awakening Mind.”  May these words written by Shantideva inspire all who encounter them.

#26

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?

#31

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?

#32

The world honors as virtuous

One who sometimes gives a little, plain food

Disrespectfully to a few beings,

Which satisfies them for only a half a day.

#33

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?

#34

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.

#35

However, if a virtuous attitude should arise (in that regard),

Its fruits will multiply far more than that.

When Bodhisattvas greatly suffer they generate no negativity,

Instead their virtues naturally increase.

#36

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 brings happiness even to those who bring harm.

Working with Anger and Ingratitude: Commentary by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

The following is respectfully quoted from “Enlightened Courage” a commentary by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche:

No evil is similar to anger,
No austerity to be compared to patience.

Never give way to anger, therefore. Be patient–and, moreover, be grateful to someone who humiliates you, as they give you a precious opportunity to strengthen your understanding and practice of bodhicitta. The great Jigme Lingpa said:

Ill treatment by opponents
Is a catalyst for meditation;
Insulting reproaches you don’t deserve
Spur your practice onward;
Those who do you harm are teachers
Challenging your attachment and aversion–
How could you ever repay their kindness?

Indeed, you are unlikely to make much spiritual progress if you lack the courage to face you own hidden faults. Any person or situation that helps you to see those faults, however uncomfortable and humiliating it may be, is doing you a great service. As Lord Atisha says,

The best spiritual friend is one who attacks your hidden faults.
The best instructions are the ones that hit your hidden faults.
The best incentives are enemies, obstacles, and sufferings of illness.

and the Kadampa master Shawopa used to warn his disciples as they came to see him, saying, “I only show people their hidden defects. If you can avoid getting annoyed, stay; but if not, go away!”

Of the eight ordinary concerns, therefore, even from the relative point of view there are many ways of eliminating the distinction between the good an bad, those you want to happen and those you do not. From the point of view of absolute truth, there is not the slightest difference between gain and loss, pleasure and pain, fame and disgrace, praise and disparagement. They are all equal, all empty by nature. As Shantideva says:

Thus, with things devoid of true existence,
What is there to gain, and what to lose?
Who is there to pay me court and honors,
And who is there to scorn and revile me?

Pain and pleasure–whence do they arise?
And what is there to give me joy and sorrow?

b. Using on the path the two things that are difficult to bear.
The two things that are difficult to bear are (i) being wronged in return for kindness and (ii) humiliation.

i. How to use on the path being wronged in return for kindness

16

Even if one I’ve lovingly cared for like my own child
Regards me as an enemy,
To love him even more,
As a mother loves a sick child, is the practice of a bodhisattva.

If you do something good for others, it is a mistake to expect anything in return, or to hope that people will admire you for being a bodhisattva. All such attitudes are a long way from the true motivation of bodhicitta. Not only should you expect nothing in return; you should not be disturbed in the slightest when people respond ungratefully. Someone for whom you have risked your very life may return your kindness with resentment, hatred, or harm. But just love him all the more. A mother with an only child is full of love for him no matter what he does. While she is suckling him, he may bite her nipple and badly wound it, but she will never get angry or love him any less. Whatever happens, she will continue to care for him as best she can.

Many people do not have the good fortune that you enjoy of having met a spiritual teacher, and thus cannot find their way out of delusion. They need your help and your compassion more than anyone else, no matter how badly they may behave. Always remember that people who harm you are simply the victims of their own emotions. Think how good it would be if they could be free of those emotions. When a thoughtless child wrongs a thoughtful adult, the adult will not feel resentment, but will try with great love to help the child improve.

To meet someone who really hurts you is to meet a rare and precious treasure. Hold that person in high esteem, and make full use of the opportunity to eradicate your defects and make progress on the path. If you cannot yet feel love and compassion for those who treat you badly, it is a sign that your mind has not been fully transformed and that you need to keep working on it with increased application.

A true bodhisattva never hopes for a reward. He responds to the needs of others spontaneously, out of his natural compassion. Cause and effect are unfailing, so his actions to benefit others are sure to bear fruit–but he never counts on it. He certainly never thinks that people are not showing enough gratitude, or that they ought to treat him better. But if someone who has done him harm later changes his behavior, is set on the path, and achieves liberation, that is something that will make a bodhisattva rejoice wholeheartedly and be totally satisfied.

 

The Excellence of Bodhichitta

The following is respectfully quoted from “The Way of the Bodhisattva” by Shantideva:

15.
Bodhichitta, the awakening mind,
In brief is said to have two aspects:
First, aspiring, bodhichitta in intention:
Then active bodhichitta, practical engagement.

16.
Wishing to depart and setting out upon the road,
This is how the difference is conceived.
The wise and learned thus should understand
This difference, which is ordered and progressive.

17.
Bodhichitta in intention bears rich fruit
For those still wandering in samsāra.
And yet a ceaseless stream of merit does not flow from it;
For this will rise alone from active bodhichitta.

18.
For when, with irreversible intent,
The mind embraces bodhichitta,
Willing to set free the endless multitude of beings,
At that instant, from that moment on,

19.
A great unremitting stream,
A strength of wholesome merit,
Even during sleep and inattention,
Rises equal to the vastness of the sky.

20.
This the Tathāgata,
In the sūtra Subāhu requested,
Said with reasoned demonstration,
Teaching those inclined to lesser paths.

21.
If with kindly generosity
One merely has the wish to soothe
The aching heads of other beings,
Such merit knows no bounds.

22.
No need to speak, then, of the wish
To drive away the endless pain
Of each and every living being,
Bringing them unbounded virtues.

23.
Could our fathers or our mothers
Every have so generous a wish?
Do the very gods, the rishis, even Brahma
Harbor such benevolence as this?

24.
For in the past they never,
Even in their dreams, conceived
Such profit even for themselves.
How could they have such aims for others’ sake?

25.
For beings do not wish their own true good,
So how could they intend such good for others’ sake?
This state of mind so precious and so rare
Arises truly wondrous, never seen before.

26.
The pain-dispelling draft,
This cause of joy for those who wander through the world–
This precious attitude, this jewel of mind,
How shall it be gauged or quantified?

27.
For if the simple thought to be of help to others
Exceeds in worth the worship of the buddhas,
What need is there to speak of actual deeds
That bring about the weal and benefit of beings?

28.
For beings long to free themselves from misery,
But misery itself they follow and pursue,
They long for joy, but in their ignorance
Destroy it, as they would a hated enemy.

29.
But those who fill with bliss
All beings destitute of joy,
Who cut all pain and suffering away
From those weighed down with misery,

30.
Who drive away the darkness of ignorance–
What virtue could be matched with theirs?
What friend could be compared to them?
What merit is there similar to this?

31.
If they who do some good, in thanks
For favors once received, are praised,
Why need we speak of bodhisattvas–
Those who freely benefit the world?

32.
Those who, scornfully with condescension,
Give just once, a single meal to others–
Feeding them for only half a day–
Are honored by the world as virtuous,

33.
What need is there to speak of those
Who constantly bestow on boundless multitudes
The peerless joy of blissful buddhahood,
The ultimate fulfillment of their hopes?

34.
And those who harbor evil in their minds
Against such lords of generosity, the Buddha’s heirs,
Will stay in hell, the Mighty One has said,
For ages equal to the moments of their malice.

35.
By contrast, good and virtuous thoughts
Will yield abundant fruits in greater measure.
Even in adversity, the bodhisattvas
Never bring forth evil–only an increasing stream of goodness.

36.
To them in whom this precious sacred mind
Is born–to them I bow!
I go for refuge in that source of happiness
That brings its very enemies to perfect bliss.

Relative Bodhicitta: HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse

The following is respectfully quoted from “Enlightened Courage” by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche:

If I do not give away
My happiness for others’ pain,
Buddhahood will never be attained.
And even in samsara, joy will fly from me.

Enlightenment will be ours when we are able to care for others as much as we now care for ourselves, and ignore ourselves to the same extent we now ignore others. Even if we had to remain in samsara, we should be free from sorrow. For as I have said, when the great Bodhisattvas gave away their heads and limbs, they felt no sadness at the loss of them.

Once, in one of his previous lifetimes, the Buddha was a universal monarch whose custom it was to give away his wealth without regret. He refused nothing to those who came to beg from him, and his fame spread far and wide. One day, a wicked brahmin beggar came before the king and addressed him, saying, “Great king, I am ugly to look upon, while you are very handsome; please give me your head.” And the king agreed. Now his queens and ministers had been afraid that he might do this, and making hundreds of heads out of gold, silver, and precious stones, they offered them to the beggar.

“Take these heads,” they pleaded. “Do not ask the king for his.”

“Heads made of jewels are of no use to me,” the beggar replied. “I want a human head.” And he refused to take them.

Eventually they could no longer deter him from seeing the king.

The king said to him, “I have sons and daughters, queens, and a kingdom, but no attachment do I have for any of them. I will give you my head at the foot of the tsambaka tree in the garden. If I can give you my head today, I shall have completed the Bodhisattva act of giving my head for the thousandth time.”

And so, at the foot of the tree, the king took off his clothes, tied his hair to a branch, and cut off his head. At that moment, darkness covered the earth, and from the sky came the sound of the gods weeping and lamenting so loudly that even human beings could hear them. The queens, princes, and ministers all fell speechless to the ground. Then Indra, the lord of the gods, appeared and said, “O king, you are a Bodhisattva and have even given away your head, but here I have the life restoring ambrosia of the gods. Let me anoint you with it and bring you back to life.”

Now, the king was indeed a Bodhisattva, and even though his head had been cut off and sent away, his mind was still present, and he replied that he had no need of Indra’s life-restoring ambrosia, for he could replace his head simply by the force of his own prayers.

Indra begged him to do so, and the king said: “If in all those thousand acts of giving my head away beneath the tsambaka tree there was nothing but the aim of benefiting others, unstained by any trace of self seeking–if I was without resentment or regret, then may my head be once again restored. But if regrets there were, or evil thoughts, or intentions not purely for the sake of others, then may my head remain cut off.” No sooner had the king said this than there appeared on his shoulders a new head identical to the first, which had been taken away by the brahmin. Then all the queens, princes, and ministers rejoiced and administered the kingdom in accordance with the Dharma.

For those who can practice generosity like this, there is no suffering at all. Enlightened teachers, Bodhisattvas, come into the world to accomplish the welfare of beings, and even when they are ignored by people in the grip of desire, anger, and ignorance, who stir up obstacles and difficulties, the thought of giving up never occurs to them and they are totally without anger or resentment. As it is said:

To free yourself from harm
And others from their sufferings,
Give away yourself for others;
Guard others as you would protect yourself.

The Benefits of the Awakening Mind

Here is another excerpt from the first chapter of A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life called “The Benefits of the Awakening Mind.”  May these words written by Shantideva inspire all who encounter them.

 #26

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?

 

#31

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?

 

#32

The world honors as virtuous

One who sometimes gives a little, plain food

Disrespectfully to a few beings,

Which satisfies them for only a half a day.

 

#33

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?

 

#34

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.

 

#35

However, if a virtuous attitude should arise (in that regard),

Its fruits will multiply far more than that.

When Bodhisattvas greatly suffer they generate no negativity,

Instead their virtues naturally increase.

 

#36

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 brings happiness even to those who bring harm.

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