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Eight Verses for Training the Mind: the Bodhisattva Ideal and the Bodhicitta – Talk 4
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Eight Verses for Training the Mind: the Bodhisattva Ideal and the Bodhicitta – Talk 4


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Given by Sona at Manchester Buddhist Centre on 27th October 2006

Given by Sona at Manchester Buddhist Centre on 27th October 2006

Published in: Spiritual, Health & Medicine

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  • 1. Eight Verses for Training the Mind
    • by Kadampa Geshe Langritangpa
    • Talk Four
  • 2. Re-cap on last talk
    • Verse 4 when I see ill nature people - an opportunity to notice our reaction and let go of it - their ill nature may well have its origin in their own suffering. A more appropriate response would be one of metta, compassion and understanding.
    • Verse 5 working with people who insult you, harm, etc. Importance of an enemy – especially to practise patience Working with envy – your own & being a target for others
    • Verse 6 even more difficult working with disappointment, being let down, etc. by those who are close to you, etc. Experience of your world falling apart, etc. Seeing this as an initiation – new way of being. Forgiveness & accepting life is as it is
    • Life is King
    • The bodhisattva never gives up!
  • 3. Verse 7
    • In brief, directly or indirectly,
    • May I give all help and joy to my mothers,
    • And may I take all their harm and pain
    • Secretly upon myself.
  • 4. Verse 7
    • Firstly ‘mothers’ refers to all sentient beings
    • Could translate as cherish all sentient beings
    • This particular verse describes the practice of Tonglen - sending and receiving
    • Many Tonglen forms.
    • Usually the practice in which you cultivate a cherishing and loving attitude towards others
    • You reflect that everyone wants to be happy
    • All are striving for happiness and well-being
    • Because of their ignorance, they suffer in many ways
  • 5. Tonglen practice
    • “ Like prisoners unable to escape from a jail. They revolve in samsara. What a pity.” (Bodhicaryavatara)
    • In the Tonglen practice, you see their suffering as a thick black cloud of smoke rising of the world, rising from beings
    • You breathe in that black smoke with the in-breath right into your heart
    • The black smoke of suffering ignites in your heart your aspiration for the bodhicitta
    • You see this as a light in the heart - or possibly as a jewel
  • 6. Tonglen practice (cont.)
    • And then as you breathe out, and you breathe out light
    • Usually it is white light but it could be coloured light
    • The light is full of tenderness, love, happiness, merit and abundance
    • You see it falling on beings soothing their sorrows and granting peace, satisfaction, even a great bliss itself
    • You just keep doing this, breathing in the black smoke and breathing out the white light
  • 7. White light pours all over all beings
    • You can bring to mind specific people e.g. your parents, friends, and especially those people who you know to be ill, who are suffering
    • Can also bring to mind people we have grievances with
    • Or people you feel aversion for
    • You just keep the breathing in and out. Taking in the darkness and breathing out the white light of well-being
    • The white light pours all over the beings
    • You do this again and again
  • 8. Develop a profound empathy
    • Strangely, if you get into the practice, and really connect with bodhicitta, the more you take, the more you can give
    • The bodhicitta shines more brightly, the more you take in the black smoke
    • You can imagine not just light falling on beings but you are giving them gifts, giving them what they need, e.g. riches, wealth, food, clothing, and even Nirvana itself
    • In this way through the practice you develop a profound empathy for others
    • You are taking on their pain and giving them happiness
    • It is a very powerful practice as well is being very subtle
  • 9. Doing the Practice
    • Sometimes it seems that maybe not very much is happening in the meditation, but you may find there are effects at other times outside the meditation
    • You might just be walking down the street and you start noticing people in a deeper way
    • You might find yourself in a difficult situation, you connect with the practice, and this brings you into a deep empathy with those involved
  • 10. When to do this practice
    • In the ‘Seven-Point Mind Training’ Geshe Chekawa you actually use this to transform personal difficulties, physical, mental, spiritual difficulties
    • It is recommended you do this practice when you are ill or when you’re in pain
    • Helps you to stop focusing on your own difficulties by identifying with others in pain
  • 11. Everybody suffers
    • It suggested to do this by thinking of others who have the same difficulty as you
    • Breathing in all their difficulties and breathing out the white light
    • You can do this with almost anything: e.g. the klesas of craving, or hatred
    • You breathe in everybody’s craving, everybody’s hatred
    • You then breathed out white lights removing the craving or hatred of others
    • This helps you to realise that everybody suffers from these things
    • This helps to break down excessive self-cherishing
    • And of course you’re trying to bring this out in your daily life
  • 12. Directly & indirectly
    • The verse says “ In brief, directly or indirectly, ”
    • This suggests that we are not only working directly at indirectly to remove suffering and pain, in all beings
    • It is not possible to alleviate the suffering of all beings, in a sense the bodhisattva ideal is impossible
    • You can’t alleviate the suffering of all beings yourself
    • You can help a bit and you can help some directly, to some extent
    • So indirectly is very important
    • Need to see yourself, see a practice, your life, as a small but highly significant contribution to all the good being done in the world
    • Not just the good other Buddhists are doing, but all the good done by everyone
  • 13. Indirectly helping
    • This is what rejoicing in merit in the Puja is about
    • You are rejoicing in all the good done by all beings
    • Whether it is going to lead to ordinary happiness or to the ultimate happiness of Nirvana
    • Often it is recommended after the Tonglen practice that you do the rejoicing in merits to help you tune into all the good that is being done in the world
    • When you doing Tonglen it sometimes necessary to remember you are not the only person doing this practice
    • Aligning yourself with the good that has been done though out history
    • Bhante’s vision of history
  • 14. A Vision of History
    • Lecture at an Order Convention in 1978
    • He describes a kind of battle between the spiritual communities & the group
    • Mentioned all sorts of spiritual groups including Christian and even Manichaeism - little known about them but hugely influential in Central Asia, Persia and China
      • [A dualistic philosophy dividing the world between good and evil principles or regarding matter as intrinsically evil and mind as intrinsically good (Webster's)]
    • He said the group doesn’t play by the same rules as the spiritual community
    • The group is willing to use violence to destroy the sangha
  • 15. Part of something bigger
    • He also said that the Order, the Sangha that we are involved in is part of something bigger, part of a very big Movement
    • A movement of the desire to have spiritual community
    • You need to relate your practice to that, see it as something much bigger
    • Perhaps we need to identify ourselves with the great cultural heroes throughout time and space
    • Today we practice in many different ways but important not to forget the Dharma worker
    • Many things that benefit the world but need a kind of core – the Dharma
  • 16. Dr Ambedkar
    • He did much to help the poor & outcasts
    • He was concerned with all sorts of improvements
      • Material, social, political, educational, cultural
    • But form the beginning he understood for last change had to be a profound moral shift
    • He believed a society flounders without a deep spiritual, ethical foundation
    • He was highly critical of materialism
    • We have unprecedented wealth, leisure, etc. but when the bubble bursts what do we fall back on
    • As we have seen in recent times people do not always come together in a crisis e.g. the Balkans
    • As Buddhist we have our part to play
    • Need to practice deeply& profoundly
  • 17. Metaphysical meaning
    • Helping others indirectly has a a metaphysical meaning
    • Bodhicitta is something around us that we contact
    • Manifests wherever there is kindness and intelligence
    • We can contribute to this. We can help make it grow
    • Shantideva in his Bodhicaryavatara says that we can make the bodhicitta grow and thrive in many
    • Could also say grow and thrive in the world
    • We could dedicate and merits to the bodhicitta growing in thriving in the world
    • The point is the good we do is never wasted is never lost. It might be rejected by others
    • Externals might be destroyed. Your centre might be closed down; the WBO; TBMSG might disappear, but that all happens in time
    • But the good we do is not lost
  • 18. We are always affecting things
    • There are waves, currents, ripples passing through passing through life generated from our good acts and a good acts of others
    • Something we do not appreciate what understand about Buddhism's use of the word Dharma
    • There is in Buddhism this notion that Dharma is this cosmological principle, not just teachings and practices
    • The idea is that your good acts is seen some wide tuning in, contributing to the nature of things
    • It sometimes said that the metta Bhavana, which we often approach as an internal practice, even a psychological practice to prepare for life, which is important of course
  • 19. A Tantric practice
    • Traditionally metta bhavana is actually affecting the world as you sit
    • It is a magical act
    • This is how the Buddha taught the Karaniya metta sutta
    • It was so that the monks could have a positive effect on the deities that were disturbing their practices
    • Metta bhavana is a Tantric practice
    • If you really dwelling in loving kindness you are affecting and really touching people when you are liberating that emotion into the world
    • No good acts are wasted
    • All your good acts are always contributing to bodhicitta
  • 20. Verse 7 (cont)
    • And may I take all their harm and pain
    • Secretly upon myself.
    • Why secretly?
    • You do not make a big deal about practising bodhicitta
    • We need to be natural and unpretentious
    • A bodhisattva just silently, quietly gets on with it.
    • The bodhisattva probably doesn't know that he is even bodhisattva.
    • They probably don't even think like that
    • He has completely forgotten him and it is a big surprise when he finds the bodhicitta or when he sees that it is there.
    • This is a practice that is unpretentious
  • 21. Verse 8
    • May none of this ever be sullied
    • By thoughts of the eight worldly concerns.
    • May I see all things as illusions
    • And, without attachment, gain freedom from bondage.
  • 22. Verse 8
    • The 8 Worldly concern or winds
      • Praise & blame
      • Gain & loss
      • Fame & infamy
      • Pleasure & pain
    • To begin with it's going to be virtually impossible to keep the Eight Worldly Concerns out of our bodhisattva practice.
    • They will enter of course.
    • If we care deeply about the bodhisattva path they will enter in.
    • But we can be aware of them and cultivate the view that we will undermine.
  • 23. Vision that all things are illusion
    • You need to see everything an illusion.
    • This verse gives us very briefly the profound view behind this teaching.
      • The view of the emptiness of the own being, the self nature of all things, of all people, of ourselves.
      • Everything needs to be viewed as a magical illusion as maya. As maya's dance.
      • Everything appears, there is definitely appearance.
      • But that appearance dissolve a way.
      • That appearances like a dream or a memory.
      • So you need to reflect and meditate on this.
      • You need to meditate on the magical display of things.
  • 24. Absolute & relative bodhicitta
    • Verse 8 gives us the view of the ultimate, the absolute bodhicitta.
    • Verse 7 is about the relative bodhicitta.
      • The relative bodhicitta is the compassionate response and the ultimate or absolute bodhicitta being the wisdom response.
    • In these eight verses we are given a vision of a being completely involved in the activity of contributing, of liberating, self and others.
    • He is passionate about that.
    • But who knows at the same time that it will all pass away.
    • That everything is insubstantial like a dream.
    • Everything is like a magical illusion.
  • 25. Hard to imagine such a being
    • What we are asked of in the bodhisattva tradition is to be such a being.
    • We don't have to be incredibly metaphysical about this.
    • Quite simply we need to live a life devoted to the Dharma, for the benefit of others, but at the same time, in the midst of it always keeping impermanence in mind. Always.
  • 26. Things rise & fall
    • In Bhante's talk the vision of history it was a vision of the rise and fall of spiritual communities.
    • He deliberately mentioned Manichaeism, because it was a thriving spiritual community.
      • They were all vegetarians, artists, very cultured, non-violent people, a very rich tradition but it was all destroyed.
      • All we have left his fragments of Manichaeism.
      • It was completely decimated by a combination of Zoroastrianism and Islam.
    • Buddhist history, the great Buddhist civilisations, China, Korea, Tibet, Central Asia, Indonesia, India all had incredible amazing cultures that they all came to an end.
    • But they rise and they fall.
    • And it will be the same with us.
  • 27. early days of the Dharma in West
    • We have to remember that we are in the very, very, very early days of the transmission of the Dharma in the West, in the modern world.
    • Things will come and go.
    • They will arise and they will pass away. We need to become fully aware of this.
    • That without becoming cynical, or being hopeless, or passive because you know whatever the ravages of time will do your skilful action, your contribution to bodhicitta never loses its effect.
    • It is never lost. It is never wasted. It will a rise again.
    • Maybe not immediately but we can see that we are doing all this now for our spiritual children and a spiritual grandchildren in the future.
    • We really need to have this new of things.
  • 28. Locked into the present
    • So often we are just locked into the present moment. So locked into the people around us.
    • Locked into this time this place.
    • But we need to think of who comes after us; after we have long gone.
    • What will be their legacy?
    • What will we pass on to them?
    • Will the bodhicitta is a teaching, as the practice be alive for people in the future?
    • We need to practice like that.
  • 29. Develop both bodhicittas
    • Need to sit loosely to what we do whilst caring very deeply about what we do.
    • We need to generate both bodhicittas.
    • The verses are an aspiration to develop bodhicitta
    • They refer to both bodhicittas "may I develop both bodhicittas";
    • the bodhicitta of compassion
    • And the bodhicitta of the realisation of emptiness.
    • Sunyata, karuna, garbha - remember.
      • The essence of emptiness-compassion.
  • 30. 8 Verses are precepts
    • And as such are to be memorised and said over, & over again
    • Brought to bear in all sorts of situations
    • Originally not framed as a aspiration but and injunction – I will cherish all beings
    • They are also mind training
    • There is a lot in them
    • May find them hard – a bit much
    • But good to enter the mind of the Bodhisattva – if only briefly
  • 31. The essence of the 8 verses
    • You could strip them down to get the essence of them:
      • May I cherish all beings
      • May I cherish others as supreme
      • May I watch my mind
      • When I see ill-natured people may I treasure them as a treasure trove
      • May I accept defeat and offer victory
      • When I'm done great harm by someone I had trusted may I see them as an excellent spiritual friend
      • May I give all help and joy and may I take all harm and pain
      • May I see all things as illusions