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Lions Roar : July 2013
THE MAHAYANA BUDDHIST TRADITION is defined by the supreme thought of bodhichitta, the intention to bring all sen- tient beings to enlightenment. Those who vow to achieve enlight- enment for the benefit of others are known as bodhisattvas. Their path is based on the six transcendent perfections, the paramitas. Paramita is a Sanskrit word meaning “arriving at the other shore.” On the bodhisattva path, one’s view, practice, and action are based on simultaneously benefitting self and other. The bodhisattva is likened to a ferry operator whose sole purpose is to take passengers across the water. Yet while taking others to the other shore, the ferry operator is crossing, too. The paramitas are generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and prajna—wisdom or “best knowledge.” They are the supreme way to attain merit, giving one the fuel and strength to take all beings across the waters. Only with prajna are the other paramitas transcendent. Without prajna they are simply ordinary generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, and meditation. The paramita of prajna is like the ferry operator keeping an eye on the other shore, which we could equate with great emptiness and great wisdom. Prajna always sees the purpose of the journey. Therefore, prajna keeps the boat from going adrift. Generosity, discipline, patience, exer- tion, and meditation are like the oars of the boat. In practicing the paramitas, bodhisattvas progress along the bhumis, the stages of realization. Through generosity, they create favorable conditions. Through discipline, they become excellent at knowing what to accept and what to reject. Through patience, they retain all the previous merit. Through exertion, they progress joyfully. Through meditation, they exchange self for other and create equanimity. Through prajna, they understand reality. Thus, the paramitas become the bodhisattva’s view, action, and meditation—all fueled by bodhichitta, the supreme thought. We should not confuse bodhichitta with buddhanature, the inherent possibility of becoming a buddha. Everyone has this seed and is fully capable of attaining enlightenment. Since bodhichitta leads to full enlightenment, it too could be regarded as a seed. However, while all beings have buddhanature, we do not all have bodhichitta. The Great Reversal Putting others first—it’s the great switch that changes everything. It cuts samsara at the root and plants the seed of enlightenment. SAKYONG MIPHAM on how to be a bodhisattva. SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE’s new book is The Shambhala Prin- ciple: Discovering Humanity’s Hidden Treasure, published by Harmony. ILLUSTRATIONBYMEGUMIYOSHIDA SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2013 13