The commitment to take care of one another is often described as a vow to invite all sentient beings to be our guest. The prospect can be daunting. It means that everyone will be coming to our house. It means opening our door to everyone, not just to the people we like or the ones who smell good or the ones we consider “proper” but also to the violent ones and the confused ones — to people of all shapes, sizes, and colors, to people speaking all different languages, to people with all different points of view. Making this commitment means holding a diversity party in our living room, all day every day, until the end of time.
It is necessary to distinguish between the mere aspiration to achieve enlightenment and the actual effort put forth toward fulfillment of your resolve. Whenever your actions are motivated and guided by your intent to win enlightenment for the sake of all beings, those actions constitute the Bodhichitta of application. It is like first making up your mind to make a journey it India and then taking the steps to get there: you buy the ticket, board the plane, undergo the experience of traveling, and finally arrive at your destination. In the same way, the Bodhisattva first makes up his mind to strive solely for Buddhahood and then undertakes to train in the six paramitas as and so forth.
What makes this resolve and this action a manifestation of your Bodhichitta is the presence in your mind of great love and great compassion, especially the latter. With a friend sense of the limitless sufferings with which beings are faced—a sense that you cannot bear to be indifferent to their sufferings, nor to have them remain in their sufferings—you feel impelled to make any effort in your power to remove them from those sufferings. When you have this sense of compassion, and when it is so intense that you feel it to be almost unbearable, then you can be said to be motivated by true great compassion, and whatever action you take to attain Buddhahood automatically becomes Bodhichitta because it is genuine.
The same is true of your aspiration: it is not merely a verbal promise or an intention to sooner or later get around to doing something for beings. It becomes true Bodhichitta of aspiration only when you feel it from the heart and follow it up with the right actions. As the Bodhisattva Maitreya said:
It doesn’t look good if an intelligent person who is carrying on his head the great burden of all living beings dallies along the way. One who has resolved to liberate himself and others from the bonds of worldly existence should exert himself in efforts that are a hundredfold greater than usual.
The spiritual master is like the earth, never giving way beneath our feet. The spiritual master leads us to enlightenment without disappointing us. Borne by the air, a plane can take us quickly to where we could never go on foot. Borne by our devotion, the blessings of the teacher bring us swiftly to realization.
One of the meanings of the word dharma is “that which holds.” It holds and guides those who give themselves to it with confidence. A person being swept away by the swift current of a river can be gripped by a firm hand and hauled on to the bank. In the same way, the teacher’s hook can pull us out of the round of deaths and rebirths, as long as we can hold out to him the ring of our faith.
No student at any level of teaching in Buddhism, from the Fundamental Vehicle up to the Great Perfection, can do without the guidance of an authentic spiritual master. To place our trust in such a teacher is the best way to progress and to avert all the potential hindrances and wrong turnings that we could encounter. So, on our journey toward enlightenment, devotion is the fare — it is what we have to contribute ourselves in order to reach our destination.
It can be very difficult to accept that the source of what we like or do not like arises in our mind. When we get our heads stuck in the clouds – pretty clouds, ugly clouds – we cannot see that they are impermanent, that they have a life of their own, and that they will pass on, if we let them.
There’s no end to the activity and delusions of saṃsāra:
The more you do, the more they go on increasing,
Animosity and attachment strengthen all the while,
Creating the causes for your own downfall.
Turn your mind, therefore, towards the Dharma.
If you can integrate the Dharma physically, verbally and mentally,
You have set out on the path to liberation and enlightenment,
And, at the moment of death, you will have no regrets.
In this and all your future lives,
You will go from one joy to the next.
The dharmakāya remains the same nature for all the buddhas.
The saṃbhogakāya remains the same meditative absorption for all the buddhas.
The nirmāṇakāya remains the same awakened activity for all the buddhas.
There are two approaches to the spiritual path: the intellectual and the intuitive. In the intellectual tradition, spiritual development is viewed as a sharpening of intellectual precision, primarily through the study of theology. Whereas in the intuitive or mystical tradition, spiritual development is viewed as a deepening of awareness through practices such as meditation. These two approaches are not in opposition. Rather, they are two channels that combine to form the spiritual path.
The only source of every kind of benefit for others is awareness of our own condition. When we know how to help ourselves and how to work with our situation we can really benefit others, and our feeling of compassion will arise spontaneously, without the need for us to hold ourselves to the rules of behaviour of any given religious doctrine.
What do we mean when we say, becoming aware of our own true condition? It means observing ourselves, discovering who we are, who we believe we are, and what our attitude is towards others and to life. If we just observe the Limits, the mental judgments, the passions, the pride, the jealousy, and the attachments with which we close ourselves up in the course of one single day, where do they arise from, what are they rooted in? Their source is our dualistic vision, and our conditioning. To be able to help both ourselves and others we need to overcome all the limits in which we are enclosed. This is the true function of the teachings.
Progress in the practice depends upon cultivating faculties of mindfulness and alertness, which are lucid and sharp. If we do not maintain them, or if they are not intense enough, we will not be able to cut through the undercurrent of our thoughts.
There is no greater inspiration, no greater courage, than the intention to lead all beings to the perfect freedom and complete well-being of recognizing their true nature.
Whether you accomplish this intention isn’t important. The intention alone has such power that as you work with it, your mind will become stronger; your mental afflictions will diminish; you’ll be more skillful in helping other beings; and in so doing, you’ll create the causes and conditions for your own well-being.