Bodhisattva Commitment

By Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche

This afternoon we are going to have instructions on taking the Bodhisattva Vow and the benefits of taking it. Generally speaking, having desire, anger, pride and many conflicting emotions in our mind is the cause of all the suffering that we experience. Suffering is caused by conflicting emotions and also we have a mind which has great grasping.

If we have great grasping and a mind which is under the power of conflicting emotions, then our mind becomes smaller and smaller. Normally what is the thought that occupies our mind? It is the thought that I am the most important, I should succeed, I should have victory and the other person should fail. If we have a mind state where we think only about ourselves, and try to put ourselves at the top or be the best, then generally speaking, whatever we try to accomplish, we will fail. So then we lose both the benefit which we could have obtained for ourselves, and also benefit for anyone else. It is like what was taught yesterday: if you wear a pair of glasses with blue tinted lenses then everything will be perceived as blue. Or if one wore yellow tinted lenses everything would be perceived as yellow.

We are going to use an example of somebody who habitually steals. Wherever he goes, as he passes by people's homes he looks in wondering how he could break in and steal their belongings. If he is in town he looks at the shop doorways and windows thinking how he could get inside and steal things. Imagine that thief is in his own house with his own belongings, there is jewellery and other precious things that he owns. Somebody comes to his house and happens to look at some of the things on the table. The thief automatically thinks, "This person comes to my house and after one second he is looking to see how to steal my stuff!" If you went into a house where you have never been before, it's quite natural that you might look around at the windows, doors and the contents of the house. Someone does this and the thief is thinking, "Oh, he really is thinking of stealing my stuff and not only that, he is working out how to escape!" So if one is a confirmed habitual thief, you will perceive other people as having that kind of mind state and intention. And if you are a person who has a lot of anger, then you will perceive other people to have anger and ill intent towards you.

What beneficial method could be used at this point? At this point we need wisdom. We need to think, "What appears to me to be somebody else's anger or whatever emotion is arising, is an appearance, just an illusion. It's not real. One needs to understand the illusory nature of appearances. So it's like before in the thief's house - the man comes in and just generally looks around. He is not thinking of stealing things but your perception is such that you think he intends to steal your belongings. The person who has an habitual tendency to steal, to be a thief, will perceive other people to have that intention towards him, and without reason he will shout at this person, abuse them and accuse them of trying to steal his things.

But if the thief realizes that "Oh, the person just entered my house, and it's just my own illusion that I think he is a thief - if he understands that, if he has that wisdom, he won't have any problem. The first stage of wisdom is to recognize that you have, for example, anger in your mind. One needs to recognize, "I have anger in my mind and this is how it manifests, this is how it makes me think and react." It is the same for jealousy.

With anger, a person always has an object for their anger. Having that object gives rise to anger in his mind: seeing the object makes him unhappy. Then jealousy comes, thinking that he and other beings are exactly the same. But it seems that other people like others better than him. "That's not very good. We are equal, same type of person and we have the same amount of belongings. In the future this person may get more wealth than me and that's not going to be good at all." With that fault in his mind, he starts to think badly about that person, he has thoughts of harming him. Then come harmful thoughts and harmful actions. Meaning and benefit are lost. Both people end up accomplishing nothing.

Now if we look at pride, this is based on wanting someone to be inferior to you. "This person has no good qualities at all, he is nothing. I'm the best, I've got so many possessions and so much wealth. I'm really famous. He has got nothing. I can meditate really well. He doesn't understand anything. The sort of realization and experience that I've got - nobody has that." That's what we call pride. If we have pride in our mind we rule out the possibility of having much opportunity to obtain any more qualities. The fault we have is thinking that nobody else has any qualities at all.

Desire comes from an object which causes desire to arise in the mind. We are completely out of control, our mind thinks solely about obtaining this object. Any other thoughts are totally obstructed. One has only one idea, to obtain this object.

Ignorance is really not knowing what is good and what is bad. One's mind becomes smaller and smaller and one can only think about small things.

That's what we call the classification of the five emotions, the mind poisons. But all of these various emotions really are, if you bring them down to one point, thinking that one is superior, and one needs certain things, and that others are worse than you. So, if a person has these five emotions in his mind and also the attitude of selfishness and thinking solely about themselves and maybe putting other people down, then this will result in not being able to obtain a mind which has any happiness or peace in it. We will have an example.

If a person has a very strong grasp of the idea that they are the most important, what kind of emotions would come up in the mind of that person? The sort of thing that would come up is "that person is intending to harm me. So then anger will arise and he thinks: "That person wants to get higher than me, wants to be better than me." Then jealousy will arise. Thinking that that person has nothing, no qualities whatsoever, and "I've got everything, I'm very clever" or "I'm very famous", this is giving rise to pride. Thinking that "I need to get this object and I don't want anybody else to get it, I'm the only one who can have it", that's giving rise to desire. So ignorance is that one's mind becomes very small and one doesn't have a light body or a vast open mind and one has thoughts only about very small topics.

The arising of these five mind poisons depend really, if you look at it, on the feeling that I myself, I am the most important, and having a very great grasping at that idea. The main point is that one thinks only about oneself. "That person doesn't want to do anything nice to me, he wants to hurt me." Me, me, me. "That person wants to go higher than me, again me, that person and me, we are not equal. That thing I need to obtain." If we have this kind of mind state, which is pervaded by the five emotions, and grasping at the thought that we are the most important, then one will never be able to say: that's enough now, I'm satisfied. You would never to be able to say that, because you would never feel it. So you will have a very small and very touchy mind. You think, "He is not good, that person is not nice…" For example, if you look at somebody who is not doing anything, just neutrally sitting there. You are looking at this person and he just sits. "Hmm, I don't think he likes me." You look at him out of the corner of your eye. The man, who is just sitting there, minding his own business, thinks, "That's a bit strange, that guy is giving me a really strange look. I haven't done anything to him, what's wrong? Maybe he is a bit crazy; he might be thinking of harming me." Then he looks back at you and thinks, "Maybe you are not very nice." So then you think: "He did look at me very strangely. Now he is looking me strangely again! That's twice now." Then the two of you end up arguing and it will grow and grow. That's what we call misunderstanding. The reason for the misunderstanding, arguing and fighting, is that one's mind has become very small, very sensitive.

We'll have another example. If we have an argument, it's normally based on something very small. For example one person puts his watch down. The other person says, "Don't put it there, put it here." The first one disagrees. They change it backwards and forwards, "I'm right, you are wrong." There is no point to it. Starting with a very small idea, we make it bigger. That's a sign of having a very sensitive mind. It's also a sign that one has a very strong sense of feeling that one is important and just thinking about oneself. If we have this very strong grasping, that we are the most important, we will never be able to accomplish our wishes. If we have love for another person they will generate love for us, return love. So, if we give love to another person, that love is the best. Then we can give rise to the best type of love.

Generally speaking, all our problems and suffering start with a very small beginning. In the beginning, at the point when anger arises, we need to recognise it. Then think, "Oh, I'm beginning to become angry." That's called wisdom or mindfulness. If one doesn't have any other method, if one just has that method, that's wisdom. So, one will be able to control one's mind. Normally one will be able to have this awareness arising, mindfulness.

I'm going to give you a story. This story is related to love and compassion. This story happened in China. There was a husband and wife. Traditionally the wife and her mother-in-law don't get along very well, they are constantly arguing. One day it happened that they had quite an argument in someone's home. The wife was thinking that her mother-in-law is very cruel and often says very bad things. She felt very angry towards her. Later she was even angrier. She thought, "I'm going to kill my mother-in-law. How am I going to do it?" She went to a doctor and asked for poison. "I need the poison, because my mother-in-law is always nagging me and shouting and putting me down. So I shall give her poison and then she will die. I'll be happy." The doctor agreed and gave her some medicine. He gave advice with it, "Now you give this medicine to your mother-in-law, but she won't die immediately, she will die very slowly. So you need to give this medicine a little bit every day with the food. If she dies immediately, then everybody will know that you gave her the poison. They will know that I gave the poison to you, and they will take me to jail. So it's better she doesn't die straight away. "Give the medicine a little bit every day and after you have given it, you have to be really nice to her, say nice things to your mother-in-law." She thought, "This is great." Every day she put little bit of poison in the food and gave it to her, saying nice things. In her mind she thought - she is going to die soon. A few days later she looked at her mother-in-law and thought, "She doesn't seem so bad after all." After a month she thought, "She actually is a decent person, a very good person. Oh dear, I have been giving her poison for a month!" What to do? Although she had given poison to her mother-in-law, now she liked her. Also the mother-in-law's attitude had changed and she liked her daughter in law more than her own son.

So the daughter-in-law ran off to the doctor again, worrying. She said, "Look I came to you a month ago and asked for poison to kill my old mother-in-law, but actually I really like her now, she is very good. When I thought she was bad before I was mistaken. If you have any antidote for this poison, please give it to me." The doctor said, "Is it really true? Do you really believe that?" She said, "Yes, I really believe this." The doctor said, "Sorry, there is no antidote." She was very sad. The doctor said, "If you don't give poison to somebody, there is no need of an antidote. If you do give poison to somebody, then you need an antidote. In this case you didn't give her poison and I haven't got any antidote to a poison which hasn't been given." Both the doctor and the daughter-in-law were happy. Then the doctor gave her a technique. What the doctor told to the daughter-in-law I'm going to tell you. I'm going to give you this method.

In the first instance the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law had a misunderstanding, and they both saw each other in a very negative way, so they had many arguments. At the time the daughter-in-law was speaking nicely to the mother-in-law, they both changed somewhat, and they both saw each other in a different light. If we have very small and shrivelled up minds, we will cause problems for ourselves and others. But if we have a light, open mind we are going to give happiness and peace to others and we will also experience happiness and peace in our own mind. That's the end of the story.

So, if we don't have a mind which is intent on benefiting others, we will see other people as enemies and cause harm to them, and we will never obtain peace and happiness. As many enemies as we try to subdue, we will never be able to do it, there will always be another one. If we really want to defeat an enemy, the best way is to kill them. If you kill an enemy, behind him are two further enemies. Kill two - four come. If you kill four, eight come. In the end the whole world becomes transformed into enemies. Then you will not be able to subdue the enemies. They increase. If you look at it, the real enemy is anger etc. If we have peace in our mind, a peaceful mind, everybody will perceive us as a friend and we will have no enemies at all. Whatever we say, people will listen. Our friends will become more and more. They will become stronger friends. As an example, if the leaders of Britain (whoever they are) look after the people in a good way, the people will vote for them, support them and their power will grow. If they don't look after the people, we won't vote for them and they will become less powerful. This is the nature of things, interdependence.

If you take as an example Hitler in Germany, he subdued and killed lots of his enemies. But even at the time he was killing his enemies he didn't have any peace in his mind and in the final instant he committed suicide. He didn't achieve his purpose at all.

If we really do have this desire in our minds to be of benefit to other beings, then our mind becomes open and vast, we have courage and self-confidence and our view will be spacious. We will see other sentient beings as our friends. All beings will naturally give rise to a feeling of love in us. Then we will see everybody as good. If we wear a pair of glasses with lenses extremely clear and clean, we'll see everything as being clear and clean. We'll have no enemies. You will have self-confidence, peace and happiness.

Here is another example. At the end of this example there will be a question. The question is not difficult. It's about a man in a forest. The man in the forest walks around, up and down the hills. Long time ago people were like that. While walking, the man was getting stones and thorns in his feet. He thought, "How can I stop my feet being hurt by the gravel and thorns? I know what to do, I'll cover all the roads with leather." So he covered the roads, but he only managed to cover about three miles before the leather run out. After those three miles he had to walk on gravel and thorns again. At that point, what method could he use?

Answers: Use shoes. Walk on his hands. Jump from a tree to another. Learn to levitate.

Rinpoche: If it is possible to do all these it's very good. Now I'm going to tell you. The best method would be to have a small piece of leather, just the size of his feet. That will be enough. Long time ago people did not have shoes. And they weren't able to meditate very well. If one had just enough leather to cover the shape of one's feet, then one could go all over the world and it would be the same as covering the whole world with leather. Likewise with us, if we have peace in our mind, if we pacify the conflicting emotions, then it is the same as conquering all the enemies in the world.

Having the motivation to benefit others is a benefit for us in the present life. It's said that if one has even a small particle of compassion, at that moment it purifies countless aeons of negative karma. If we have a mind which benefits others, then demons and ghosts and so on cannot harm us. Also the black magicians cannot harm us, if we have the wish to bring benefit. If we have a mind which causes harm to other people by generating anger, we are also harmed. But if we have a mind which wishes to benefit others and our actions are motivated by that, we will receive the best of benefits and others are benefited too. So, naturally, benefit arises both for us and others.

Following this bodhisattva path to the level of complete enlightenment, buddhahood, this is the way the previous Buddhas and Bodhisattvas followed, and when you reach complete enlightenment, then you will have total omniscience and you will have complete and vast love. One has complete power.

What's the reason for these three qualities arising? The cause is having generated the bodhicitta mind previously and the wish to benefit others. The cause for us to be travelling around in samsara lifetime after lifetime is the selfish idea that we are the best and we should be victorious and others are inferior and they should lose.

There are three types of mind which wish to benefit others: there is loving-kindness and compassion, there is limitless loving-kindness and limitless compassion, and there is the bodhicitta mind. With these three, one's mind will become vaster and greater, open. What is the most vast, open and strong of minds? The most vast of minds would be to think that based on the realisation of my natural mind state, my bodhicitta mind, I have the desire to bring all sentient beings, totally freed from suffering, to the level of complete and perfect enlightenment. For that reason I am going to practise and I will bring all beings out of suffering to the level of perfect enlightenment. Then one's mind becomes very vast. There is no other way to get a mind so vast, that's the only way. The bigger one's mind, the bigger the benefit will be.

For example, if you plant the seed of a medicinal plant, the root of that plant will be medicinal and beneficial. If you plant a poisonous plant, then the result will be poisonous. That's the completion of the explanation of the benefits of the bodhicitta mind.

If you take the commitments of the bodhisattva vow, what are the commitments we have to stick to, what do we have to think about? There are several kinds, but if you want to put them into one there is one main point of teaching which contains all types of commitments.

One has the intention to bring all sentient beings out of suffering to the level of complete enlightenment. To have that in mind is the basis of one's commitment. So even if there is one sentient being with whom from time to time you have arguments, and who maybe causes harm to you, you don't abandon them, you don't leave them out. You think, "At the moment you are causing harm to me, but in the end, even you I'm going to take to enlightenment." But at certain times you might have arguments and unpleasantness between you. If you haven't completely purified your mind stream of the five mental poisons, then of course it is easy to have arguments with people and unpleasantness from time to time without you being in control of that.

You can't think: ""I'm going to take all sentient beings except that one, to the level of enlightenment, that's not correct. But it does happen from time to time that we might give rise to some small doubts and think that we are not able to bring all beings to enlightenment. That's okay, it is possible something like that may arise, but in your deep mind you still hold onto the idea that to bring all sentient beings out of suffering to complete enlightenment would be a very good thing. It is very good to have that.

It is said that even if you broke your bodhisattva vow, there is great benefit in taking it in the first place. There are two situations: one is when you have not taken the bodhisattva vow and you are not generating either too much good or negative karma and the second situation is when you take the bodhisattva vow and you keep it a certain period of time, and you again don't generate too much negative or positive karma, and you actually come to a point that you break your vow. Out of these two situations, having taken the vow up to the point of breaking it is more beneficial, it is said. But if you can take the bodhisattva vow and not break it, then it is said you swiftly reach the level of enlightenment. That is the completion of the advice about the bodhisattva vow.
The Buddhist principle is to be everybody's friend, not to have any enemy.
Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche
Meditation means simple acceptance.
Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche
Only the impossible is worth doing.
Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche
Whenever we see something which could be done to bring benefit to others, no matter how small, we should do it.
Chamgon Khentin Tai Situ Rinpoche
Freedom is not something you look for outside of yourself. Freedom is within you.
Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche
Hasten slowly, you will soon arrive.
Jetsun Milarepa
It doesn’t matter whatever comes, stop judging and it won’t bother you.
Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche
Whatever obstacles arise, if you deal with them through kindness without trying to escape then you have real freedom.
Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche
To tame ourselves is the only way we can change and improve the world.
Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche
I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Strive always to be as kind, gentle and caring as possible towards all forms of sentient life.
Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche
Every sentient being is equal to the Buddha.
Chamgon Kentin Tai Situ Rinpoche
Wherever and whenever we can, we should develop compassion at once.
Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche
Reminding ourselves of how others suffer and mentally putting ourselves in their place, will help awaken our compassion.
Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche