A Step-by-Step Guide to Meditating on the Bodhicharyavatara
(Engaging in the Conduct of a Bodhisattva)[i]
by Patrul Rinpoche
With devotion I pay homage to the buddhas gone to bliss,
To their Dharma body, noble heirs and all worthy of respect.
In accordance with the scriptures, I shall now in brief describe
How to engage in proper conduct, the way of buddhas’ heirs.[ii]
In this there are four sections:
(1) the one who engages, the person who is the support;
(2) the attitude with which one engages;
(3) the practices, i.e., how one engages; and
(4) the result of engaging in that way.[iii]
1. THE ONE WHO ENGAGES
Firstly, the person who is the support for the practice is someone endowed with all the freedoms and advantages, and who has faith and compassion.
2. THE ATTITUDE WITH WHICH ONE ENGAGES
Secondly, the intention of bodhichitta has two aspects: aspiration and application.
Regarding the first of these, it is said:
Arousing bodhichitta is: for the sake of others,
Longing to attain complete enlightenment.[iv]
In other words, it is the intention of wishing to attain complete enlightenment for the sake of others.
The second aspect of application is the commitment to train in the practices of the bodhisattvas.
Taking the Bodhisattva Vow
In order to adopt this kind of bodhichitta within your own mind stream, you can receive the vows from a teacher—in which case you should follow the procedure of the ritual, whether of the Mind Only or the
Here it will be shown how to practise this by oneself. There are three stages: preparation, main part and conclusion.
This has three parts: (i) generating enthusiasm, (ii) seven branch practice and (iii) mind training.
i. Generating Enthusiasm
Generate a sense of enthusiasm for the benefits of bodhichitta, as explained in the first chapter of the Bodhicharyavatara.
ii. Seven Branch Practice
Before practising the seven branches for gathering the accumulations, consider that you and all other sentient beings are gathered together in the actual presence of the field of merit, which includes the victorious buddhas and their bodhisattva heirs, and bring to mind all their wonderful qualities.
The branch of offering
Arrange offerings of flowers, scented incense, lamps, pure water and food and drink, as plentiful as you can afford. Then bring to mind jewel-filled mountains, attractive woodlands, and all the uninhabited places of great natural beauty throughout the world. These are known as “offerings you do not own”. Offer both kinds of gift—those that you own and those you do not—with the following verses:[v]
In order that I might adopt this precious jewel of mind,
I now make the most excellent of offerings to the buddhas,
To the sacred Dharma—that most rare and flawless jewel—
And to the buddhas’ heirs, whose qualities are limitless. (II, 1)
I offer every variety of fruit and flower,
And every kind of healing medicine,
Each and every jewel this world affords,
And all its pure and freshest waters, (II, 2)
Every mountain filled with precious gems,
And forest groves, isolated and inspiring,
Trees of paradise garlanded with blossom,
And trees whose branches are laden with fine fruit, (II, 3)
Perfumed fragrances from the gods and other realms,
Incense, trees that grant wishes and produce magic gems,
Spontaneous harvests grown without the tiller’s care,
And every thing of beauty worthy to be offered, (II, 4)
Lakes and ponds adorned with lotus flowers,
Where the pleasant calls of geese are heard,
Every thing and place of beauty unclaimed by any owner,
Extending to the boundless limits of space itself. (II, 5)
I picture them all in my mind, and to the supreme buddhas
And their bodhisattva heirs, I make a perfect gift of them.
Think of me with love, O sublime and compassionate lords,
And accept all these offerings that I now present. (II, 6)
Lacking stores of merit, I am destitute
And have nothing more to offer.
O protectors, who consider only others’ benefit,
In your great power, accept this for my sake. (II, 7)
With the following verses offer your own body, speech and mind in servitude:
To the buddhas and their bodhisattva heirs,
I offer my body now and in all my lives to come.
Supreme courageous ones, accept me totally,
For with devotion I will be your servant. (II, 8)
If you accept me and take me fully in your care,
I will not fear samsara as I offer other beings help.
The harmful acts I did before are entirely in the past,
And from now on, I vow to do no further deeds of harm. (II, 9)
With the next verses offer gifts created in your imagination:
To a bath house filled with soothing scents,
With brightly sparkling floors of crystal,
And fine pillars all shimmering with gems,
Where hang gleaming canopies of pearls, (II, 10)
I invite the buddhas and their bodhisattva heirs.
I request you: Come to bathe yourselves in scented water,
Poured from overflowing jugs made of exquisite jewels,
All the while accompanied by melody and song. (II, 11)
Then let me dry you in cloths beyond compare,
Immaculate and anointed well with perfumed scent,
And dress you finely in the most excellent of garments,
Lightly scented and dyed in vivid colours. (II, 12)
I offer clothing made of the finest gentle fabrics,
And hundreds of the most beautiful adornments,
To grace the bodies of noble Samantabhadra,
Manjughosha, Lokeshvara and the rest. (II, 13)
With the most sublime of fragrant perfumes,
That gently permeates throughout a billion worlds,
I will anoint the bodies of all the buddhas,
Gleaming brightly, like pure and burnished gold. (II, 14)
To the mighty sages, perfect recipients of my offering,
I will present red lotus and heavenly mandarava,
Blue utpala flower and other scented blossoms,
Beautifully arranged in brightly coloured garlands. (II, 15)
I also offer billowing clouds of incense,
Whose sweet aroma captivates the mind,
And a rich feast of plentiful food and drink,
Fit to grace the tables of the gods. (II, 16)
I offer row upon row of precious lamps,
All perfectly contrived as golden lotuses,
And I scatter the petals of attractive flowers
Upon level, incense-sprinkled ground. (II, 17)
I offer divine palaces resonant with songs of praise,
Gleaming with precious pearls and pendant gems,
The most beautiful of structures in the whole of space—
All this I offer to those whose nature is compassion. (II, 18)
Jewel-encrusted parasols with handles made of gold,
Whose fringes are all embellished in ornate designs,
Turned upright, well proportioned and pleasing to the eye.
Now and forever, I offer this to all the buddhas. (II, 19)
Then make offerings through the power of aspiration with the following verses:
May a multitude of other offerings,
Accompanied by music sweet to hear,
Be made in great successive clouds,
To soothe the pains of living beings. (II, 20)
May rains of precious gems and flowers
Shower down in never-ending streams,
Upon all the jewels of noble Dharma,
And sacred monuments and images. (II, 21)
Make unsurpassable offerings with the next verse:
Just as Manjughosha and the rest
Made offerings to all the buddhas,
Likewise I too will offer to those thus gone
And all their bodhisattva heirs. (II, 22)
With the following verse offer melodious praise:
With vast oceans of melodious praise,
I honour these oceans of good qualities.
May clouds of sweet and gentle praise
Ascend unceasingly before them. (II, 23)
And with these verses offer your respect and homage:
Multiplying my body as many times as there are atoms
In the universe, I prostrate and bow before
The buddhas of the past, present and future,
The Dharma and the supreme assembly. (II, 24)
To all supports of bodhichitta
And all stupas, I bow down,
And to preceptors and teachers,
And those who practise discipline. (II, 25)
For all these eight types of offering, bring to mind the meaning of the words and offer from the very depths of your heart.
All these offerings are made in the presence of the Three Jewels, who are the pure field. The substances themselves are pure, since they are not polluted by unwholesome actions or stinginess. And the motivation is also pure, because there is no expectation of gaining something in return or some karmic reward.
Consider that you take refuge in exceptional objects—the three rare and supreme jewels of the uncommon greater vehicle—and you do so with an exceptional motivation— for the benefit of all sentient beings—until you attain complete enlightenment. Recite verse 26 three times:
Until I realize the essence of enlightenment,
I take refuge in the buddhas.
And likewise in the Dharma,
And the assembly of bodhisattvas. (II, 26)
Confession of negative actions
To the perfect buddhas and bodhisattvas,
Who reside in every direction of space,
And who embody great compassion,
I press my palms together and pray: (II, 27)
With this verse pray to those who receive your confession and request their understanding. Consider that:
--your past misdeeds are like poison within your body;
--the Three Jewels, who are your support, are like physicians who can heal the sickness brought on by the poison;
--the antidote, which is the sacred Dharma, is like medicine;
--and the firm resolve not to repeat such actions in the future is like ambrosia that restores the body to full strength.
Having generated these four ideas, with verses 28 to 46 cultivate the power of regret:
In this and all my other countless lifetimes
Spent wandering in beginningless samsara,
In my ignorance I have committed wrongs
And encouraged others to do the same. (II, 28)
Overwhelmed by ignorant delusion,
I celebrated the harm that was done.
But now I see it all was done in error,
And before the buddhas, sincerely I confess. (II, 29)
Whatever I have done against the Three Jewels,
My parents, my teachers or anyone else,
Through the force of my afflictions,
With my body, speech or mind, (II, 30)
All the misdeeds that I, the wicked one, have done,
Faults that cling to me from my many mistakes,
And all the unbearable crimes I have committed,
I openly declare to you, the guides of all the world. (II, 31)
Before my negativity has been purified,
My life may well come to an end,
So I pray now: grant me your protection,
Swiftly, to ensure that I am freed! (II, 32)
The Lord of Death is fickle, unworthy of our trust,
Whether life’s tasks are done or not, he will not wait.
For the sick and for the healthy alike,
This fleeting life is not something on which we can rely. (II, 33)
When we go, we must leave everything behind,
But I have failed to understand this, and so
For the sake of friends and enemies alike,
I engaged in all manner of harmful deeds. (II, 34)
My enemies will become no more,
And my friends will cease to be,
I myself will pass from this existence,
And everything in turn will disappear. (II, 35)
Like experiences in a dream,
Everything I make use of and enjoy,
Will later turn to faded memory,
And having passed will not be seen again. (II, 36)
In this lifetime, which lasts but for a while,
Some friends and enemies are now gone.
But not the harmful acts I did for them—
Those unbearable effects are still to come. (II, 37)
Never thinking that I too
Might quickly pass away,
In my delusion, lust and hatred,
I have done so much to harm. (II, 38)
Never halting, day or night,
My life is always slipping by.
Having gone, life can not be extended,
So how could the likes of me not die? (II, 39)
While I lie there in my final bed,
Friends and family may be by my side,
But I alone will be the one
To feel the severing of all ties to life. (II, 40)
When I am seized by the emissaries of Death,
What help will be my family or my friends?
At that time it is merit alone that can protect me,
But upon that, alas, I have failed to depend. (II, 41)
O protectors! I was heedless,
Unaware of horrors such as this,
And all for this transient existence,
Amassed so many harmful deeds. (II, 42)
When led towards the place of torture,
Where his body will soon be ripped apart,
A man is transfigured by his terror;
His mouth turns dry, his pained eyes dart. (II, 43)
If that is so, then how desperate will I be,
When stricken down and gravely ill with fear,
I am seized by the messengers of Death,
And their gruesome, terrifying forms appear? (II, 44)
Is there anyone who can really save me
From the horrors of this appalling fate?
Staring in terror with my eyes opened wide,
I’ll search all around me for a refuge place. (II, 45)
When nowhere do I see such a place of safety,
My heart will sink; depressed, I’ll give up hope.
For if there is no haven to which I might retreat,
What options am I left with? What is there to do? (II, 46)
And with verses 47 to 53 bring to mind the power of support:
Thus, from this day onwards I take refuge
In the buddhas, the guardians of the world,
Who labour to protect and benefit us all,
And whose great strength can banish every fear. (II, 47)
Likewise, I genuinely take refuge
In the Dharma they have realized,
Which eliminates samsara’s terror,
And also in the hosts of bodhisattvas. (II, 48)
Utterly terrified and gripped with fear,
I give myself to Samantabhadra;
And to Manjughosha too,
I offer this body in service. (II, 49)
To the protector Avalokiteshvara,
Whose compassion is in all his actions,
I cry out in the depths of desperation,
“Grant me your protection, evil as I am!” (II, 50)
To the noble bodhisattvas
Akashagarbha and Kshitigarbha,
And all the lords of great compassion,
From my heart, I call for your protection. (II, 51)
And I take refuge in Vajrapani,
Before whom Death’s messengers
And all who threaten us will flee
In terror, dispersed in all directions. (II, 52)
In the past I ignored your words,
But now I have seen this horror,
And so I take you as my refuge:
Swiftly banish all my fears, I pray! (II, 53)
With verses 54 to 65 enact the power of action as an antidote:
For if, alarmed by common ailments,
I must follow the doctor’s sage advice,
How much more so when perpetually
Afflicted by desire and other faults. (II, 54)
If one of these alone brings ruin
To all who dwell within the world,
And no other cure to heal them
Is found anywhere at all, (II, 55)
Then the intention not to follow
The advice of the omniscient physician,
Whose words banish ills of every kind,
Is utter madness, worthy of contempt. (II, 56)
If I need to take special care when poised
Above a common drop of some small height,
Then how much more so to avoid the one
Of deep duration that falls a thousand miles? (II, 57)
It makes no sense to relax and think:
“Today, at least, I shall not die,”
For it is certain that a time will come
When my life will cease to be. (II, 58)
Who can offer me reassurance?
How can I be sure I need not fear?
If there is no doubt that I will die,
Then how can I remain at ease? (II, 59)
Of my experiences from the past,
What’s left for me, what now remains?
Yet by clinging to them obsessively,
I have disobeyed my teacher’s words. (II, 60)
Just as I must eventually forsake this life,
So too must I take leave of relatives and friends.
When I must go alone on death’s uncertain journey,
What concern to me are all these enemies and allies? (II, 61)
How can I free myself from non-virtue,
The source from which sufferings arise?
At all times of the day and night,
This should be my one concern. (II, 62)
Whatever wrongs I have committed,
In my ignorance and blindness—
Whether actions plainly negative
Or deeds proscribed by vows, (II, 63)
Before the buddhas, I join my palms together,
And, terrified by the awful sufferings to come,
Prostrate myself upon the ground over and again,
Confessing all my harmful deeds, each and every one. (II, 64)
I call upon you, the guides of all the world,
To accept me, and the harms that I have done. (II, 65a)
And with the final two lines of verse 65 commit yourself to the power of resolve from the depth of your heart:
And these actions, since they are unwholesome,
I promise, from now on, I shall never do again. (II, 65b)
Cultivate a genuine sense of joy and celebrate all the mundane and supermundane sources of virtue and their fruits, while reciting these verses:
Joyfully I celebrate all the acts of virtue
That ease the pains of the lower realms,
And rejoice as well when those who suffer
Find themselves in states of happiness. (III, 1)
I rejoice in the gathering of virtue
That is the cause of awakening,
And celebrate the definite liberation
Of beings from samsara’s pain. (III, 2)
I rejoice in the awakening of the buddhas,
And the bhumis gained by bodhisattvas. (III, 3)
Gladly I rejoice in the infinite sea of virtue,
Which is the noble intention of bodhichitta,
Wishing to secure the happiness of beings,
And acting in ways that bring benefit to all. (III, 4)
For the fifth branch of requesting the turning of the Dharma-wheel, the sixth branch of requesting not to pass into nirvana and the seventh of dedication, bring to mind the meaning of the following words:
Now I join my hands and pray
To you, the buddhas of all quarters,
Shine the lamp of Dharma upon us,
As we suffer in confusion’s darkness! (III, 5)
With my palms clasped at my heart,
I urge all buddhas longing for nirvana:
Do not leave us blind and all alone,
But remain with us for countless ages! (III, 6)
Through whatever virtue I have gained
By all these actions now performed,
May the pain of every living being
Be cleared away entirely, never to return. (III, 7)
For all the beings ailing in the world,
Until their sickness has been healed,
May I become the doctor and the cure,
And may I nurse them back to health. (III, 8)
Bringing down a shower of food and drink,
May I dispel the pains of thirst and hunger,
And in those times of scarcity and famine,
May I myself appear as food and drink. (III, 9)
For all beings who are destitute and poor,
May I be a treasure, unending in supply.
A source of all that they might call for,
Accessible always and close by. (III, 10)
iii. Mind Training
Then with the verses of mind training, beginning with verse 11, train your mind by dedicating—without any hesitation—your own body, possessions and all your past, present and future virtues towards the benefit of sentient beings. Develop the heartfelt aspiration that this may become a cause for the unsurpassable wellbeing of beings everywhere, on both a temporary and ultimate level.
My own body and all that I possess,
My past, present and future virtues—
I dedicate them all withholding nothing,
To bring about the benefit of beings. (III, 11)
By letting go of all I shall attain nirvana,
The transcendence of misery I seek,
Since everything must therefore be abandoned,
It would be best if I gave it all away. (III, 12)
This body of mine I have now given up,
Entirely for the pleasure of all who live.
Let them kill it, beat it and abuse it,
Forever doing with it what they please. (III, 13)
And if they treat it like a toy,
Or an object of ridicule and jest,
When I have given it away,
Why should I then become upset? (III, 14)
Let them do to me as they please,
Whatever does not harm them,
And when anyone should see me,
May that only serve them well. (III, 15)
If the sight of me inspires in others
Thoughts of anger or devotion,
May such states of mind be causes
For eternally fulfilling their desires. (III, 16)
May those who insult me to my face,
Or cause me harm in any other way,
Even those who disparage me in secret,
Have the good fortune to awaken. (III, 17)
May I be a guard for those without one,
A guide for all who journey on the road,
May I become a boat, a raft or bridge,
For all who wish to cross the water. (III, 18)
May I be an isle for those desiring landfall,
And a lamp for those who wish for light,
May I be a bed for those who need to rest,
And a servant for all who live in need. (III, 19)
May I become a wishing jewel, a magic vase,
A powerful mantra and a medicine of wonder,
May I be a tree of miracles granting every wish,
And a cow of plenty sustaining all the world. (III, 20)
Like the earth and other great elements,
And like space itself, may I remain forever,
To support the lives of boundless beings,
By providing all that they might need. (III, 21)
Just so, in all the realms of beings,
As far as space itself pervades,
May I be a source of all that life requires,
Until beings pass beyond samsara’s pain. (II, 22)
Secondly, for the main part, begin by reciting “Turn your mind towards me”[vi] and so on, and then take the vows of aspiration and application simultaneously, by reciting the following verses three times:
Just as the sugatas of former ages,
Aroused bodhichitta and then in stages,
Trained themselves in skilful practice,
On the genuine path of the bodhisattvas, (III, 23)
Like them, I take this sacred vow:
To arouse bodhichitta here and now,
And train myself for others’ good,
Gradually, as a bodhisattva should. (III, 24)
Cultivate joy for oneself with the verses from 26 to 33 and joy for others with verse 34.
Now my life has great significance,
At birth I found this human existence,
And now I’m born in the buddhas’ line,
As a son or daughter of the noble kind. (III, 26)
From this day on, come what may,
I’ll act only in an appropriate way,
And never by my thought or deed,
Bring a stain upon this noble creed. (III, 27)
For like a beggar, poor and blind,
Who, by chance, a jewel might find,
In heaps of filthy dirt and litter,
In my mind is now born bodhichitta. (III, 28)
Now with buddhas as my witness,
I invite all beings to lasting bliss,
And, before that, to ordinary joys:
May gods, asuras and others rejoice! (III, 34)
After this you can also recite the following aspiration prayer in a single verse:
O sublime and precious bodhichitta,
May it arise in those in whom it has not arisen;
May it never decline where it has arisen,
But go on increasing, further and further!
That concludes the section on adopting the bodhichitta attitude in one’s mindstream.
3. THE PRACTICES: HOW TO ENGAGE IN THE TRAINING OF A BODHISATTVA
The practices by means of which one engages in the training of a bodhisattva are all included within the six paramitas, and in essence they are defined as follows:
An attitude of giving that is endowed with four special features.
An attitude of restraint that is endowed with four special features.
An attitude of imperturbability that is endowed with four special features.
An enthusiastic attitude that is endowed with four special features.
An undistracted state of attention that is endowed with four special features.
Precise discernment of phenomena that is endowed with four special features.
What are these four special features? As it is said:
Generosity in which adverse factors have disappeared,
Endowed with wisdom that is non-conceptual,
Completely fulfills all wishes,
And brings all beings to maturity at the three levels.
The adverse factors for the paramitas are stinginess, wayward discipline, anger, laziness, distraction and misguided intelligence[vii] respectively.
The various ways in which they fulfil the wishes of beings are as follows:
—generosity leads to the giving away of possessions and so on;
—discipline is an inspiration to others;
—patience allows you to face harmful situations;
—diligence helps you do what is necessary;
—concentration produces miraculous abilities and supernatural perceptions which inspire others;
—and wisdom allows you to point out what must be adopted and abandoned.
These [paramitas] bring all that could be wished for, and bring beings to maturation directly or indirectly by establishing them in the enlightenment of a shravaka, pratyekabuddha or fully enlightened buddha.
How These Paramitas are Brought into the Practice of Training the Mind
1. The Paramita of Generosity
Firstly, there is the training in generosity according to which you reflect on the faults of not giving away your own body, possessions and virtues from the past, present and future, and then on the benefits of actually giving them away, and also on the reasons why they must be given away, and so on.
2. The Paramita of Discipline
Secondly, in terms of discipline, there is an explanation of (1) the means of keeping discipline and then (2) how to keep discipline through these means.
1. The means of keeping discipline
The means of keeping discipline are:
Conscientiousness, which is a meticulous concern for what is to be engaged in and what is to be avoided;
Mindfulness, which means not forgetting what should be adopted and abandoned;
And vigilance, which involves [continually] checking the status of your body, speech and mind.
2. How to keep discipline through these means
Firstly, through mindfulness, you do not lose sight of what should be adopted or abandoned. Then secondly, because you are checking the status of the body, speech and mind with vigilance, you recognize any occasions when you are tempted to avoid something virtuous or to engage in something negative. At that time, because of your conscientiousness, you recall the benefits of virtuous actions and undertake them, or remember the faults of negative conduct and unwholesome actions and avoid them.
Since the underlying cause for all of this is a confident trust in the effects of karma, you should follow the authoritative statements of the victorious ones and develop trust. Generate a heartfelt conviction about the sufferings of samsara by considering that if you act negatively that will certainly lead you to states of misery, and once you are reborn in these unfortunate states you will face such suffering that not only will you fail to accomplish the benefit of others, you will not even secure your own wellbeing!
There are many categories of discipline to be maintained, but the three principle things to avoid, which run contrary to the bodhichitta of aspiration, are:
--mentally forsaking sentient beings;
--developing the attitude of a shravaka or pratyekabuddha;
--and the four impure practices.
The four impure practices are mentioned in the following verse:
Deceiving those who merit veneration, regret that is misplaced,
Criticizing great beings and cheating ordinary folk—
Renounce these four impure practices and adopt their opposites,
Which are the four pure dharmas.
The favourable factors (for the bodhichitta of aspiration) are (i) heartfelt aspiration towards the result of perfect awakening and its cause which is enlightened conduct; (ii) sympathetic joy and heartfelt appreciation for all the good done by others; (iii) dedication of all these fundamental virtues towards complete enlightenment for the benefit of others. Take these three mahayana meditations to heart.
Of the factors that are incompatible with the bodhichitta of application, it is generally said that one must give up all harm to others, together with its basis. In particular, the greatest faults of all, such as stealing the property of the Three Jewels, slandering a bodhisattva, and committing the act of abandoning the Dharma must be guarded against, just as you would take every care to guard your own life.
As for the supportive factors, do not neglect even the slightest of positive deeds, and be sure to practise with the three noble principles.
3. The Paramita of Patience
There are various situations that require our patience, beginning with the following four:
When someone treats us with contempt,
Addresses us with harsh words,
Slanders us behind our back,
Or causes us pain.
And similarly, when these four are done to our teachers, or our friends and relatives.
When our enemies and those who oppose us find pleasure and wellbeing,
When they receive honours and rewards,
When they are offered praise,
Or when people speak well of them.
In addition, there are also situations in which their opposites, the twelve desirable circumstances, are prevented from occurring, making a total of twenty-four opportunities to practise patience.
When any of these occur, avoid becoming disheartened by the events themselves or the suffering they bring, and instead accept the suffering. Do not become angry with those involved, but disregard the harm they do to you. Settle your mind in meditation on the reality of profound emptiness. Thus, by multiplying each instance a further three times, we arrive at seventy-two types of patience in which to train.
There are three reasons for accepting suffering:
(i) Suffering can exhaust our negative actions, so we should accept it with the understanding that it is like a broom for sweeping away our misdeeds.
(ii) Through suffering we develop renunciation for samsara, compassion for other sentient beings, and a wish to adopt wholesome actions and avoid unwholesome ones. So we should accept it in the knowledge that it spurs us on to virtue.
(iii) Suffering subdues pride, takes away the sting of envy, overcomes the strength of desire and attachment, and leads us on towards accomplishment. So we should accept it with the view that it is an embellishment of the mind.
The patience of disregarding the harm done to us by others can be cultivated for the following three reasons:
(i) Cultivate patience by seeing those who harm you as objects for compassion. If you think how deluded sentient beings will inflict harm even on themselves through the influence of their mental afflictions, is it any wonder they do so to others?
(ii) Cultivate patience by putting all the blame on yourself. Consider how all the harm that is done to you now must come from your own past karma and how you conduct yourself in the immediate situation.
(iii) Cultivate patience by thinking that it is only with the help of your enemies that you can gain the merit of practising patience, which in turn becomes a support for bodhisattva activity. Consider your enemies as friends who actually bring you benefit.
Patience can be cultivated by contemplating the profound teachings with certain conviction in the following three ways:
(i) Considering the ultimate truth of emptiness, beyond any conceptual elaboration, cultivate patience by reflecting on how the harm that is done and the one who harms you are without any true reality.
(ii) Considering the relative truth of magical dependent origination, cultivate patience by realizing how neither the harm-doer nor the suffering itself is independent.
(iii) Considering the inseparable unity of the nature of mind, cultivate patience by recognizing anger to be pure and without any basis or origin.
4. The Paramita of Diligence
In this there are two sections: (i) overcoming factors incompatible with diligence, namely the three kinds of laziness, and (ii) cultivating conducive factors, i.e., the six forces.
i. Overcoming Incompatible Factors
Spurred on by the hook of impermanence, you can overcome the laziness of inactivity. The laziness of attachment to negative behaviour can be overcome by thinking about the joys of the sacred Dharma. The laziness of self-discouragement can be overcome by encouraging yourself and bolstering your self-confidence.
ii. Cultivating Conducive Factors
1. The preparation, which is the force of aspiration, is an aspiration to practice the Dharma that comes from reflecting on the benefits of virtue and the faults of harmful actions.
2. The main part, which is the force of self-confidence, is the stable commitment, born of strength of heart, ensuring that once a virtuous act is begun, it will reach completion. This has three aspects:
(a) The first is the self-confidence of action. Take the example of the sun rising over the earth: this indicates how you should avoid falling prey to obstacles or being affected by circumstances. Take the example of the sun moving alone: this indicates how you should defeat the forces of Mara by yourself, without relying on others, and in so doing, accomplish perfect enlightenment. Finally, as in the example of the sun shining its light on the whole world, having been blessed by the wisdom, compassion and aspirations of the bodhisattvas, you yourself sustain the lives of beings. In other words, you earnestly strive to bring about the welfare of living beings everywhere, as infinite as space.
(b) The self-confidence of capacity means considering yourself to be of superior capacity, and vowing not to be stained by any downfall, great or small.
(c) The self-confidence of the afflictions means regarding the mental afflictions as insignificant and disregarding adversity.
3. The force of special joy means engaging in virtue with joyful enthusiasm, but without any expectation of a positive result, celebrating all the good things that you do.
4. The force of moderation means to clear away hindrances by resting for a while whenever you are physically tired or disheartened, in order to continue with renewed vigour shortly afterwards.
5. The force of willingness means to overcome what is to be abandoned, devoting yourself to the vanquishing of the mental afflictions by employing mindfulness and vigilance.
6. The force of mastery means to train yourself in all disciplines, remembering the advice about conscientiousness, and maintaining control over your own body, speech and mind.
5. The Paramita of Meditative Concentration
This has two parts: (i) abandoning factors that are not conducive to concentration and (ii) working with the objects of shamatha meditation.
i. Abandoning Adverse Factors
In the first part of giving up adverse factors, there are two subsections: (a) giving up mundane concerns and (b) abandoning discursive thought.
(a) Giving up Mundane Concerns
As regards renouncing mundane concerns, your mind will not be able to settle into a state of one-pointed absorption as long as it is under the sway of attachment to parents, relatives and friends or attendants. So abandon all your habitual preoccupations and busyness, and remain alone in an isolated place suitable for meditation.
Becoming attached to rewards and honours, praise or good reputation, or trifling necessities and then pursuing them will only obstruct the authentic path, so cut through any expectations and anxieties about such things, and train in being content with whatever comes your way.
(b) Abandoning Discursive Thought
Even though you may be in an isolated place, not seeking possessions and so forth to any great extent, if your mind falls under the power of desire, a genuine state of meditative concentration will not arise in your being and your mind will be unable to rest in a state of absorption. Therefore thoughts of desire must be given up. To turn your thoughts away from attachment to desirable things is particularly important for gaining the special higher levels of concentration, so you should certainly turn the mind away from craving after members of the opposite sex[viii] by reflecting on the cause, the fact that they are not easy to get; their nature, which is impure; and the result, which involves a lot of harm, and so on.
Moreover, understand that the eight worldly concerns and all thoughts of the present life are our real enemies. Reflect at some length on the problems caused by negative thoughts of desire, and, generating a sense of inner dignity, make heartfelt efforts to abandon them, no matter how many arise.
ii. Focusing on the Objects of Practice
As regards the main practice of meditative concentration, there are many methods for meditation, but here the practice is to cultivate bodhichitta. This has two aspects: (a) the meditation of equalizing self and others, and (b) the meditation of exchanging self and others.
(a) Equalizing Self and Others
Recognize how unreasonable it is that you care only for yourself and not for others, since you are the same as others in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering. Meditate therefore on the equality of self and others.
As it is said:
The thought of the equality of self and others
Is to be cultivated in the beginning with exertion.
Since we are all equal in terms of happiness and suffering,
I should care for everyone as I do myself.
As this states, in the beginning meditate on the bodhichitta of equalizing self and others. This is done in the following way:
Sentient beings are as infinite as space itself, and yet there is not a single one who has not been our own father or mother or dear friend. As the master Nagarjuna said:
If each mother in the lineage of mothers
Were considered as a ball the size of a juniper seed,
The whole earth could not contain their number.[ix]
With such quotations and through reasoning, you can determine that all sentient beings have been your close relations.
Then whenever you experience happiness, cultivate this thought from the depths of your heart: “May all beings find such happiness and its causes!” And likewise, whenever you experience suffering, cultivate the following wish from the very core of your bones: “May I and all beings be free from suffering and its causes!”
At this stage it is possible that an obstacle might arise in your thoughts; you may develop a shravaka’s attitude, thinking: “I will clear away my own suffering, without expecting anything from others, but I will not work to clear away the suffering of others.” Yet as the Bodhicharyavatara says:
Why guard against future pain,
If it does not harm me now? (VIII, 97)
As it says, why exert yourself to acquire good health, food, clothing and so on for the future? You are ceasing every moment, so in the next moment you become an “other”. At this point, due to the habit of ignorance, you may think that the future one is also you, but that would simply be delusion. It is just as the Bodhicharyavatara says:
“But I will be the one who suffers,”
You say, but it’s wrong to think this way.
This “I” will presently cease to be,
And later, another will be born. (VIII, 98)
For instance, foolish people think, “These are the rapids in which I lost my coat last year,” or,” This is the river I crossed yesterday,” but the water of last year that swept away the coat is “other” than the water of the present, and the water forded yesterday is also different. In exactly the same way, the mind of the past is not “you” and the future mind is not you either, but something different.
At this point you might think: “Well, the future mind is not the present ‘me’ but it is a continuation of my mind, so I will work for my own welfare!” In that case, you should act for the welfare of others with the idea that although other sentient beings are not ‘you,’ they are your sentient beings.
If you think: “Everybody should work for their own welfare, just as they would shake the snow from their own heads,[x] but it is not possible for everyone to help each other,” then consider this from the Bodhicharyavatara:
The pain felt in the foot is not the hand’s,
So why, in fact, does one protect the other? (VIII, 99)
As it says, why does the hand remove the painful thorn from the foot? It is the same with the hand and dust that is in the eye, or parents helping their son, or the hand putting food into the mouth. It would follow that they would all have to be doing this for their own benefit.
In short, if there were no collaboration with everyone working for the sake of others, and instead everyone were only to operate in their own interest, then it would be extremely difficult for anything to be accomplished. Therefore, with this understanding, you should act for the benefit of sentient beings!
(b) Exchanging Self and Others
Secondly, there is the meditation on the bodhichitta of exchanging self and others.
The Bodhicharyavatara says:
If I do not give away my happiness,
In exchange for others’ suffering,
Buddhahood will never be attained,
And even in samsara, I’ll find no joy. (VIII, 131)
As it says, give away your own happiness to sentient beings and take their sufferings upon yourself. As for the visualization, it also says:
Put yourself in the position of an inferior and so on,
Then regard your self as if it were someone other,
And, with a mind devoid of any other thought,
Cultivate feelings of envy, rivalry and pride. (VIII, 140)
The meaning of this is as follows:
[In the first meditation] the ‘other’ is someone in a position lower than you, for whom you are someone of higher status. From the point of view of this less privileged other, you practise feeling envious of the superior you. When you have finished the meditation, the following feeling will arise:
“Look how even in a practice like this, if I am the superior one and others are inferior, to feel envious causes such distress! What is the point of envying others?” With this, your envy will subside.
Similarly, there is a meditation of rivalry focusing on those of equal standing to yourself. In this, you take the position of an ‘other’ of similar status to yourself, and from their point of view consider yourself as an opponent. Then, as the other, cultivate an attitude of rivalry towards yourself from every possible angle. When you let go of this meditation, the following feeling will arise:
“If considering myself as an enemy and imagining the malicious and competitive attitude of others causes such distress, then what is the point of wishing harm upon others and feeling rivalry?” With this, rivalry is naturally pacified.
Again, following the same principle, there is a practice of cultivating pride, in which you are in the position of an inferior, and the other is your superior. As the superior other, you cultivate feelings of pride based on your superior family, better education and so on. When you finish the meditation, you will think, “If considering the arrogance others feel towards me creates this much distress, then how can I feel arrogance towards others?” With this, arrogance will be naturally pacified.
Practise these according to the detailed descriptions given in the Bodhicharyavatara itself.
If you are unable to do these meditations, and you would like to do a brief form of the practice, consider this quotation from the Jewel Garland [verses 484-487]:
May their misdeeds ripen on me,
And all my virtues ripen on them.
As long as any sentient being
Anywhere has not been liberated,
May I remain for the sake of that being
Even if I have attained unsurpassed enlightenment.
If the merit of saying this
Had form, it could never be contained
In worlds as vast in number
As the sand grains of the Ganges.
This was stated by the Buddha,
And it is also apparent through reasoning.[xi]
And the Bodhicharyavatara says:
May the pains of living beings
All ripen wholly on myself.
And may the bodhisattva sangha
Bring about the happiness of all. (X, 56)
You can meditate on the meaning of these quotes, and even recite them aloud if you wish. This way of meditating on equalizing and exchanging self and others is similar to the methods found in the writings of Sakya Pandita. Although it is slightly different from most of the commentaries, you can practise in whichever way seems best suited to your mind.
6. The Paramita of Wisdom
Here wisdom is identified and then applied to the topic of selflessness.
i. Identifying Wisdom
Firstly, wisdom is identified as the recognition during the formal meditation session that all phenomena are empty, and the knowledge during the post-meditation phase that all phenomena are unreal, like a magical illusion or a dream.
ii. Applying Wisdom to Selflessness
Secondly, this wisdom is applied to the topic of selflessness. In this there are two meditations: one on the selflessness of the individual and one on the absence of ‘self’ in phenomena.
Selflessness of the Individual
In the first, consider how foolish people label the one who accumulates karmic actions and experiences results as a self, an individual, a person or a sentient being. Ask yourself whether such labels apply to the body, speech and mind or something different, to what is inanimate or animate, to what is permanent or impermanent, and so on.
By investigating along these lines, you will come to the conclusion that although we cling to a “self” where there is no self and an “other” where there is no other, this is due to the power of mind’s delusion, and in fact there is no such thing as a “self” or a “sentient being” that is established from the side of things themselves.
The Absence of ‘Self’ in Phenomena
Secondly, when it comes to the selflessness of phenomena, there are the four applications of mindfulness.
(i) Application of Mindfulness to the Body
All phenomena of appearance and existence—samsara and nirvana—are simply appearances arising in one’s own mind, and do not have the slightest existence apart from that which is imputed by the mind. This very mind also depends on the body, so we should investigate the physical body by asking questions, such as:
--Is what we call the “body” the same as or different from the assembly of its parts?
--Where does the body originate?
--Where does it remain?
--Where does it go in the end?
Finally, rest evenly in meditation on the theme of the body’s unreality.
Whenever you experience physical desire or attachment, meditate upon the impurity and ‘illusoriness’ of your own and others’ bodies, and you will overcome attachment towards the body.
(ii) Application of Mindfulness to Feelings
Feelings of pleasure and pain are the basis for negative states of mind such as craving and attachment, so investigate whether they are the same as or different from the mind and so on. Meditate on the unreality of feelings, and consider how all other [i.e., neutral] feelings[xii] are ultimately suffering, without essence and so on.
(iii) Application of Mindfulness to the Mind
Consider the mind that is made up of the ‘six collections of consciousness,’ and investigate whether this stream of consciousness, appearing in various aspects—earlier and later moments, positive and negative states and so on—is a single thing or several different things. Consider whether all these various states of mind that appear—like and dislike, faith and lack of faith, states in accord with the Dharma and not in accord with the Dharma, happiness and sadness, attachment and aversion, and so on—are the same or different. If you decide that they are one, consider what the cause could be for a single mind appearing in several modes, such as happy, sad, desirous, angry and so on. If you think that these states arise due to temporary circumstances, then consider what mind is like in its essence, when it is not even slightly affected by conditions and not in contact with any object. Is it existent? Or is it non-existent? Is it permanent? Or impermanent? Analyze the mind again and again with thoughts such as these, and arrive at the certain conviction that mind is without basis or origin.
(iv) Application of Mindfulness to Phenomena
Recognize with certainty how all other phenomena that are not part of the body, feelings and the mind—everything included in the three categories of perceptions, formations and the unconditioned— also arise based on the interdependent connection of causes and conditions and are therefore lacking in true reality, and are simply emptiness that is beyond every kind of conceptual elaboration.
By seeing the relative to be a mere display like a magical illusion or the experiences of a dream, you will train in vast enlightened activity in which the seven kinds of attachment[xiii] are abandoned. And with the understanding that on the ultimate level all phenomena lack even so much as an atom’s worth of true existence, you will take this practice to heart without being attached to anything whatsoever.
May the Dharma, suffering’s only cure,
And the source of all real happiness,
Always be valued and respected,
And remain long into the future![xiv]
This was spoken by Ragged Abu.
May all be virtuous and auspicious!
Translated by Adam Pearcey.
© Adam Pearcey, 2004. All rights reserved.
[i] byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa’i sgom rim rab gsal nyi ma. Collected Works, vol. kha, pp. 551-570.
[ii] Bodhicharyavatara, I, 1.
[iii] This fourth section seems to have been lost, or else Patrul Rinpoche may never have written it.
[iv] Abhisamayalankara, I, 18.
[v] Patrul Rinpoche expects his audience to be familiar with the Bodhicharyavatara, or to be reading it together with his text. When he quotes Shantideva’s work he gives only the first few syllables from a verse. For this translation however I have given the verses referred to in their entirety. The translation is my own, based on earlier English versions, especially the one by the Padmakara Translation Group. Like them, I based my interpretations on the commentary by Patrul Rinpoche’s student Khenpo Kunpal. (See www.kunpal.com).
[vi] There is a mistake in the Tibetan original. It should read dgongs gsol instead of dgongs gsal. This means reciting well known prayers of invocation to bring to mind the field of merit.
[vii] Zenkar Rinpoche gives the example of someone misusing their intelligence when reflecting on how all sentient beings have been our fathers and mothers in the past. By thinking about this in the wrong way you might decide all beings have harmed you in the past and so they are all your enemies! That is using your intelligence in the wrong way.
[viii] Literally ‘women.’
[ix] Suhrllekha, verse 68.
[x] Zenkar Rinpoche says a modern analogy would be clearing the snow from your own driveway but no-one else’s.
[xi] For an alternative translation, see Hopkins, J. Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation, Snow Lion publications, p.162
[xii] According to Zenkar Rinpoche, this means neutral feelings. They are still suffering in the broadest sense, because they come under the category of the all-pervasive suffering of conditioned existence.
[xiii] According to Arya Asanga’s commentary to the Mahayasutralankara, where they are explained in connection with the paramita of generosity, the seven kinds of attachment (chags pa rnam pa bdun) are: attachment to (1) possessions (longs spyod), (2) postponing the practice (bshol ba), (3) being satisfied with just a little practice (de tsam gyis chog par ‘dzin pa), (4) expectation of something in return (len la re ba), (5) karmic results (rnam par smin pa), (6) adverse circumstances (mi mthun pa’i phyogs), and (7) distractions (rnam par g.yeng ba).
[xiv] Bodhicharyavatara, X, 57
© Wu Tai Shan Clan 2004.