The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Antidoting the Mantra of Samsara”
As a part of Ngondro, we have to accomplish 100,000 repetitions of a short version of the Bodhisattva Vow, the Bodhicitta mantra. Do you think to yourself, “Well what’s the goal here? See, I’m trying to be compassionate. O.k. so from now on I’m just going to be nice.” Have you ever tried to make that decision? From now on you’re going to be nice? Have you ever tried to do that? How long did it last? Maybe five minutes if you’re lucky! I think the all-time world record for a woman is 28 days! And that goes for her husband also! So it really can’t be done. You can’t just decide you’re going to be compassionate. And why is that? Because you still have the weight of these ancient habitual tendencies and deluded perceptions.
The Buddha teaches us that what’s needed here is to recite the Bodhicitta mantra at least 100,000 times with the correct absorption, correct mental concentration, mental imaging, and mental visualization, just as you are taught by the Buddha. Don’t make up your own religion now. Don’t do that! Practice what the Buddha has taught you just like the Buddha says, and that will change that. Rather than thinking “Oh, let me see if I can rewrite this religion to make it a little easier,” which you guys have all tried to do, haven’t you? Yes, we know that. So, instead of rewriting the religion, we actually practice it the way that it was given. But we’re thinking, “Wouldn’t it be nice, instead of this 100,000 business, why don’t we sort of do it the new way? This is a new age isn’t it? We’ll just think positive all of the time.” Anybody ever tried to think positive all the time? That’s another fun one. The world record for that is also 28 days.
So we have to understand that what’s recommended here is not arbitrary. Some Buddhist person didn’t show up a long time ago and say “Let’s see, when it gets to be about 1996, how are we going to torture these people?” It wasn’t like that at all. These practices are meant to antidote your particular situation. You must understand that these were not given to us by ordinary sentient beings. These were not authored by someone who felt that they had an answer the way many of our New Age wisdoms are. You know, nowadays we hear people coming up with wisdom all the time, all kinds of wisdom.They came up with it two years ago, five years ago—how to dream, how to vision. Everybody’s got some wisdom.
But this stuff that comes from the Buddha is different. What actually occurred here is that the very mind of enlightenment appeared in the world as the perfected Buddha. This was not an ordinary sentient being. This is the Buddha nature appearing in the world in a form that we can see with our eyes. And from the mind of that nature, from the mind of that one, from that, directly from the Buddha nature itself, this antidotal process was given. It’s not the same as some mom and pop wisdom somebody cooked up nowadays. So it’s not going to sound like, “Let’s put a bandaid on an ulcer.” It’s not going to sound like “O.k. you’ve been alive since time out of mind creating lots of nonvirtue. Just think positive. Everything will be fine.” It’s not going to sound like that.
It’s going to sound like what it is. The necessary solution for what ails you according to what you actually are, not according to your over-simplified understanding of yourself. So the Buddha has given a very deep, very extensive, very profound method for a very deep, extensive and profound problem. And there are no shortcuts.
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