All Mahayana Buddhists begin a practice by engendering
Bodhicitta, a term that means enlightened, or awakened mind;
that is, the Enlightening Attitude. This means that they call to
mind the circumstances of all beings without exception. This is not necessarily the same as
feeling loving-kindness or compassion for everyone. "Love" (Pali:
metta) means to wish others to be happy; "Compassion" means
wishing others not to suffer.
Bokar Rinpoche, in Chenrezig: Lord of Love used an
"Bodhicitta is the electricity of spiritual practice. If it is cut,
works anymore. On the other hand, with bodhicitta, the phases of creation and
completion of deities become a true path to awakening; meditation on emptiness
becomes a path to awakening; and concentrating on the subtle winds and
channels becomes a path to awakening. Animated [by] bodhicitta, all
ordinary activity, all works in the world become a path to awakening."
Karma Khenchen Rinpoche on the Spirit of Enlightenment:
"Bodhicitta is the ground for the cultivation of good karma, the fertilizer
by which the Dharma is nourished, and the seed which will ultimately lead to
enlightenment ... ."
"The Bodhicitta aspiration that is shepherd-like
. . . and indeed admirable and
romantic. But let us not forget the other two types: that which is oarsman-like
(bringing everyone along to arrive at Enlightenment simultaneously) and that
which is king-like (leading). It is not necessary for everyone to
be a shepherd -- we do what is practical and suitable for one's propensity and
A contributor to the Kagyu email list, BB, wrote:
"According to many teachers, one of the pre-requisites for practicing
Vajrayana -- the so-called swift path -- is to want to attain Enlightenment
quickly and badly enough so that one can then help others. [An overly
generous approach such as] "Me last" can become a problem if one
does not get far advanced enough with siddhis, wisdom, or other skillful means,
to be able to benefit others. We need always to remember that one
of the Six Paramitas (Perfections or Virtues) is Exertion /Diligence.
Some might point to Bodhisattvas such as Arya Avalokitesvara as
examples of "always be the last in line." That might not
be all that appropriate, however: Avalokitesvara made His way quickly -- He
was Enlightened aeons ago -- to Buddhahood and then willingly fell back to the
Tenth Bhumi so that He could stay around as long as necessary to bring all
others to Buddhahood. He is at a stage when He has all the power to help
others and, if He wanted, He could get into Buddhahood with the snap of
fingers. That is hardly the same as those of us who are not even on the Bhumis,
with no siddhi [special ability] or realization and lifetimes away from
Enlightenment, saying, "I want to stay behind."
Dedicating our merits to all sentient beings is, by the way, not exactly an
act of trying to be benefited last. The dedication is soundly based on
Emptiness (no self who has gained the merits, nor merits to be gained, nor
others to receive the dedication) and it is in and of itself a way to gain
infinitely more merits. It is important to be clear on both the Emptiness and
Merit / Compassion aspects of the act for it to be more than a mere
lip-service or another opportunity for the ego to work out (i.e., "Wow, I
am good and heroic. Look -- I place others before myself!").
In Chasing Buddha, Ven.
Robina Courtin was shown in one scene marching down the street at a quick
pace, with her voice-over saying something like, "When we talk about
patience (another one of the Six Paramitas), we really are talking about
long-term patience and perseverance. But right here and now, we must get
things done!" It's a rather wonderful movie.
See, the road to Enlightenment is about the "Middle Way" and
being flexible. Sometimes you want to be, and even have to be, first; other
times, you want to let others be first. By removing the biases of one's ego,
and appreciating properly the emptiness of others, then one can make decisions
such as "to be first or to be last" perfectly - - THAT's Buddhahood."
~ BB Kagyu
HH the Dalai Lama, Imagine All the People:
"Altruism has two aspects. Loving others does not mean that we should
forget ourselves. When I say we should be compassionate, this does not mean
helping others at the expense of ourselves. Not at all. Sometimes I say
the buddhas and bodhisattvas are the most selfish of all. Why?
Because by cultivating altruism they they achieve ultimate happiness. We,
in our selfishness, are very foolish and narrow minded. All we do is create more
suffering for ourselves. The selfishness of the buddhas and bodhisattvas is
functional and efficient. It allows them to achieve not only awakening, but also
the capacity to help others. That is really worthwhile. For me, this proves that
to create maximum happiness for oneself, one needs to develop compassion. This
is Buddhist logic. If compassion induced misery, then it would be questionable.
Why practice something that brings us more trouble? Just imagine if we all lived
with no compassion, thinking only of ourselves. We would suffer greatly. The
more you think of others, the happier you are. Altruism is intelligent
When we realize that our own happiness is tied in with the happiness of all
beings, then we have taken the step from the Hinayana -- the narrow or personal
view -- to the Mahayana or larger view. At that stage in development,
Buddhists take the Bodhisattva Vow -- to put off individual nirvana until all
beings can share in it. That vow is considered to have 46
engendering: To engender
means not only to give rise to, but also to make productive.
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