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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 19 THE SANSKRIT TERM bodhichitta means “mind of enlightenment,” “seed of enlightenment,” or “awak- ened heart.” Fundamentally, bodhichitta is the aspiration for others to be happy, to be free from suffering. Absolute bodhi- chitta is the realization of emptiness, which happens fully at the first bhumi, the path of seeing. Relative or conventional bodhi- chitta is more immediate. Relative bodhichitta has two aspects: aspiration and entering. Aspiration is positioning ourselves to do something. Before we do something, there’s a thought process involved: we contemplate it. In aspiration, we contemplate all sentient beings having been our mothers, we vow to repay their kindness, and so on. Such thoughts are the heart of contempla- tive meditation. We begin by doing sitting meditation until we experience some peace. Out of that we conjure up an intention: “Today I will try to be kind to others.” Then we actually enter, engage in the practice. Traditionally, we are offered six quintessential instructions on how to generate bodhichitta, all rooted in the ground of equa- nimity. The point of first cultivating an attitude of equanimity is to open up our view. We tend to have fixed ideas of friends and enemies, and based on that view, we see the world through the lens of good and bad: sharks are bad and bunny rabbits are good; democ- racy is great and communism is bad. Equanimity is a spacious, vast, and even state of mind; it does not take sides. It’s not about being untouched by the world, but letting go of fixed ideas. How else are we to develop com- passion and loving-kindness for every- one and everything? Equanimity levels the playing field—we are not excluding anyone from our practice. It’s like deal- ing with two fighting children. Since we’re more experienced with all kinds of trials and tribulations, we know that what they’re arguing about is not really important. We enter with an unbiased view, which is equanimity. Most of the time we’re trying to figure out a problem based on our at- tachment. We all believe that if it were not for that one particular person who really irritates us, we’d already be compassionate and under- standing. If only that one person weren’t in our way! But she has our number and calls it a lot. Generating bodhichitta helps us deal with problems involving helping others. There are six ways in which we can cultivate this attitude. The first way is to consider that all sentient beings have been our mothers. Basically, it is our mother who gives us uncondi- tional love. She nurtures and supports us and takes care of us when we are weak. Traditionally, it is said that genuine cour- age is like that of a mother protecting her child from danger. Regarding all sentient beings as having been our mothers means that at some point, everyone has shown us love and care. The Buddha said that we have all experienced endless lifetimes. If we take this to be true, then every being we encounter has been our mother, father, brother, sister, enemy, friend—everything. If we don’t believe in life after death or rebirth, we can understand this in the context of our present life. From the moment we were born, we’ve had friends who have become our enemies. We’ve been in good situations that have turned bad. We’ve been in bad ones that have turned good. The point of this first instruction is to help support our equanimity by reducing our attachment to relative notions of good and bad. The second way to generate bod- hichitta is to think of the kindness of others. We can contemplate what oth- ers have done for us in great and small ways. If all sentient beings have been our mothers, they have, of course, all been kind to us at some point. Even that person who’s got our number has done something good for us—maybe just by passing the salt. Contemplating the kindness of others helps us see the positive aspects of any situation. These are often hard to see—sometimes we just want to stick with our negativity— but this instruction begins to loosen us up. With the budding view of bodhi- chitta, we begin to look at life and see what is good, even in a bad or chaotic situation. Trying to see things in a more positive light by thinking of the kind- ness of others churns up our mind and lets the bodhichitta come out. From Seed to Bloom Bodhichitta, the seed of enlightenment, grows where it’s cultivated. SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE explains six traditional contemplations for developing awakened heart. PAINTINGSBYEMILYCROW ➢