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Lions Roar : July 2016
BEGINNER’S MIND As I understand it, a bodhisattva is someone who dedicates themselves completely to the welfare of others. I’ve been thinking about taking the bodhisattva vow but it seems like an impossible ideal. Saving infinite sentient beings from suffering—yes, it’s a tall order. The bodhisattva vow is the foundation of Mahayana Buddhism, and the bodhisattva its ideal practitioner. Where does that leave us, as confused, unskillful, and self-centered as we are much of the time? The good news is that you can take the bodhsattva vow as a form of aspiration: you hope— even intend—that someday you will truly put others’ happiness before your own. The practice of tonglen is a great way to take your first baby steps on the bodhisattva path: you can at least imagine what it’s like to take in suf- fering and give away happiness, which is what bodhisattvas do. As for sav- ing all sentient beings, Matthieu Ricard said in a recent issue of Lion’s Roar that you could think of it as a vow to help everyone you come in contact with, which seems both manageable and tremendously beneficial. One last point: don’t rush out to help others until you’ve dealt with some of your own issues. You don’t have to be perfect to start being a bodhisattva, but you don’t want to make things worse. DHARMA FAQS We answer your questions about Buddhism & meditation. BUDDHISM BY THE NUMBERS BUDDHISTS TAKE REFUGE in three different expressions of awakened mind: buddha, dharma, and sangha. Each of these is a precious and necessary ele- ment of the Buddhist path, and so they are called the three jewels. 1. BUDDHA: The Teacher. This refers, first, to the his- torical Buddha, the original teacher. He was not a god but a human being like us, and his example shows us that we too can follow the path to enlightenment. More broadly, the buddha principle refers to all teach- ers and enlightened beings who inspire and guide us. 2. DHARMA: The Teachings. The Buddhist dharma starts with the fundamental truths that the Buddha himself taught—the four noble truths, the three marks of existence, the eightfold path, etc.—a nd includes the vast body of Buddhist teachings that have been developed in the 2,600 years since then. It’s worth noting that the Sanskrit word dharma also means a thing or object in the conventional sense. In either case, the word denotes a basic law or truth of reality. 3. SANGHA: The Community. The term sangha has traditionally referred to monastics and arhats in whom lay practitioners take refuge. This has changed in the West, where sangha has come to mean the community of Buddhist practitioners generally, both monastic and lay. Buddhists here also use the word to describe a specific community or group, and you will often hear people talk about “my sangha,” meaning the Buddhist community to which they belong. RAYFENWICKILLUSTRATIONSBYNOLANPELLETIER LION’S ROAR | JULY 2016 34