At the outset, develop the
proper motivation to listen to the Buddha's teachings, preferably, in
tune with Bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain Buddhahood so that one
could be of ultimate benefit to all sentient beings. So far, we have
covered the practices up to the Middle Scope level, slightly touched
on the path to the Greater Scope, touched a bit on how to develop a
broad-based concern for all sentient beings. On the basis of that, on
how we cultivate Universal Compassion, gradually leading up to the
level of Bodhicitta.
Nagarjuna: Universal Compassion,
Bodhicitta and Emptiness
In this regard, the great Indian
philosopher, Nagarjuna, has said that for those who want to cultivate
the highest aim for oneself and others, there is no other way but
through the cultivation of Universal Compassion, Bodhicitta and the
cultivation of the unmistaken view of Emptiness. He said that these
three are the indispensable causes for attaining Buddhahood for
oneself and others.
While describing these, Nagarjuna
characterizes these three indispensable causes by saying that amongst
them, Universal Compassion is the indispensable cause for advancement
to Bodhicitta. Universal Compassion does not know of any
discrimination towards sentient beings. On the basis of this kind of
compassion, one then moves ahead to develop Bodhicitta. This Bodhcitta
should be so strongly built that it cannot waver at all or be moved by
any kind of wayward thought. It should be firm like Mount Meru.
Along with Universal Compassion and Bodhicitta, one should
develop an unmistaken understanding of Reality – Emptiness. Emptiness
should be understood in its proper perspective relative to the 2
Cultivation of Universal Compassion as the root
cause for Buddhahood
Here, Nagarjuna very clearly
specifies that amongst the three, it is the cultivation of Universal
Compassion that is the root. It is from the root of Universal
Compassion that one can then develop Bodhicitta and the unmistaken
view of Emptiness.
In this regard, a quote has been cited from
the work of Acharya Dharmakirti that Buddhahood is to be developed
through familiarisation, or through development of the great Universal
Compassion and it is this compassion which is the root cause and the
route to advancement towards Buddhahood.
According to quotes
from the Scriptures, it stated that Buddhahood is neither granted by
someone else, nor is it held by someone to be requested to be given to
you. It is rather dependent upon one's own efforts. One's own efforts
are again referred back to the need to cultivate Universal Compassion,
eventually developing Bodhicitta and then along with them, conjoining
these two with the unmistaken understanding of Emptiness.
Through the combination of these three, one can advance
towards Buddhahood which is the Ultimate State where one can be of
ultimate benefit to oneself and others. Take the case of our own
historical Buddha. He wasn't a buddha from beginningless time. He was,
like us, confused at one time. But through His cultivation of
Universal Compassion, Bodhicitta and the unmistaken view of Emptiness,
through His efforts for so long a time, He eventually excelled all of
us and attain the state of Buddhahood, being of ultimate reliable
benefit to all sentient beings.
Again here, to remind
ourselves, the root, the beginning effort should be to develop
How to develop Universal
As we discussed earlier, Universal
Compassion, a genuine, spontaneous sense of concern towards all
sentient beings, wishing all sentient beings to be free from all
sufferings can only be generated, experienced once we have gone
through the sufferings on our own and have developed a strong urge to
be free from that and thus from initial concern that focuses on
oneself, one extends it to all sentient beings.
universal compassion, to be developed within us, then serves as the
stepping stone to develop Bodhicitta. Universal Compassion,
Bodhicitta, together with the understanding of Emptiness, these three,
can then be a viable cause for one's eventual attainment of Buddhahood
which is what great practitioners wish for the benefit of oneself and
How to develop Bodhicitta ??
of how to go about developing Bodhicitta, we all know that we have to
first begin by experiencing or understanding the suffering nature of
samsara on oneself. Through such exploration, we will have gained a
deep enough understanding of the suffering nature of samsara on
oneself. From this will arise a strong urge to be free from the
suffering for oneself.
Following, we can then extend such a
concern towards others since others are equally steeped in such
sufferings as oneself. Besides, others are more important then oneself
on many grounds even if only from the point of view of numbers, others
are more important than oneself. Also, from the point of view of how
they have been kind to us from beginningless time, we can also
generate a sense of closeness towards them.
Thus, through such
approaches, we can develop a natural sense of concern towards others
when we see that they are inflicted with suffering and a sense of
rejoicing towards others when we see that they are experiencing
happiness. This is the way to go about developing Bodhicitta.
First, reflect the suffering nature on oneself and then
exchange that to others. From seeing the suffering nature of others,
we develop a strong sense of concern in the form of compassion. With
this strong sense of compassion being familiarised again and again,
developing further and further, we can then eventually see how no
matter how strong our wish for others to be free from suffering, we
ourselves lack that ability to effect the wish to free others from
suffering. Through reflection on our own ability, we can see that we
lack the ability of even making oneself fully happy and fully joyful
and thus the question of making other sentient beings happy, adorned
with lasting sense of happiness is completely out of question.
So, through such an understanding of one's own inability at
the moment, no matter how strong our wish for others to free from
suffering, we will have to come to a definite conclusive understanding
of how we will be unable to do so unless we attain Buddhahood.
Buddhahood being defined where we will be completely free from the two
obscurations of Liberation and Omniscience. Through the complete
elimination of these two obstructions and full development of the
qualities of love, compassion, skilfulness and others, we can
eventually benefit all sentient beings in an ultimate sense, without
any shortage of ability or insight on our part.
So, in this
way, we will develop a conviction that it is by the attainment of
Buddhahood that we can fulfill the aspiration to free all other
sentient beings from their sufferings. Thus, we will wish to attain
Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. This is the
Bodhicitta: transcends all, the unparalleled
way to accumulate positivities and to overcome
In the Bodhisattva Charya Vatara by
Shantideva, it is said that once we have developed or once we have
exerted to the point of developing Bodhicitta, from that point
onwards, one has become a completely transformed being. One has become
a being worthy of respect, not just by humans but also by celestial
beings. All over samsara, one has excelled over all sentient beings in
terms of one's spiritual achievements, spiritual developments. From
that point onwards, all of our activities, all of the actions issuing
from our body, speech and mind will be conjoined and influenced by
Bodhicitta. Thus, even in our sleep and distractions, one will also be
influenced by Bodhicitta.
During these occasions also, we will
be accumulating nothing but positivities. We will gain such a strength
of positivities to the point where it will outshine all of our past
positivities. The positivities are likened to a big inferno or big
flame that is capable of burning or consuming all kinds of
negativities that we may have accumulated in the past. From the point
of developing Bodhicitta, we will have become a completely transformed
person as from thence, we will only be accumulating positivities and
purifying all our negativites that we have accumulated in the past.
Bodhicitta becomes a pure way by which we advance towards the
attainment of Buddhahood.
Again, Bodhicitta is rooted in
Universal Compassion or great compassion. In terms of the accumulation
of merit through the cultivation of great compassion and Bodhicitta,
it is said that the amount of merit accumulated from an instance of
developing genuine compassion and genuine Bodhicitta is incalculable
and as vast as space.
Asanga, Maitreya, a bitch and the
In this regard, we find accounts of how Acharya
Asanga spent twelve years in meditation to have a vision of Buddha
Maitreya. He exerted so much throughout those years but still he could
not have a vision. He lost heart and came out of his meditation cave.
He was walking towards town when all of a sudden, he came across a
female dog totally infected by maggots on the lower part of her body.
She was being eaten away by thousands and thousands of maggots. Asanga
felt so much compassion towards the maggots and towards the female
dog. He was wondering how to relieve both the maggots and the female
dog. The maggots themselves are so delicate that to pick them up with
the hand will kill them instantly. Asange was so strongly motivated by
compassion. To save both the maggots and the dog, Asanga cut a piece
of flesh from his own body so that the maggots can have a safe place
to stay after he licked the maggots off the dog with his tongue.
Under such strong compassion, he reached out his tongue with
the eyes closed. No matter how much closer he went, he could not touch
the dog. Asanga opened his eyes and saw Lord Maitreya there in all His
glory. In shock, he slipped into saying to Lord Maitreya, "You seemed
to lack compassion towards meditators. I have exerted so much effort
over the past twelve years but could not get close to having a vision
until now!" Lord Maitreya, however, has always been close to Asanga
even on the very first day of his entering retreat. It is due to the
strong and thick defilements that were obscuring Acharya Asanga that
he could not see Maitreya. Thus, he came to understand that the very
reason why he could not get a vision was because of the defilements
weighing down on his mental continuum.
It is due to the strong
genuine compassion towards the female dog, in actuality, the emanation
of Lord Maitreya Himself, through the development of genuine
compassion that he could clear out the obscurations. This speaks of
the great strength, great effectiveness and great power of genuine
compassion directed towards all sentient beings without exception.
Since it is developed towards all sentient beings without any
discrimination, without any differentiation, even if it is developed
only for a single moment, the merit accumulated is equal to the number
of sentient beings which in turn is equal to limitless space.
Butcher soars the skies
We also find an
account of a butcher who lives in Lhasa. The butcher used to kill so
many cows and sheeps all day in his house. He killed them one by one.
The demand was so great that he would kill several of them everyday.
Once, he took a short break and went out to refresh himself. When he
returned, he saw that his cleaver, used for killing the animals, was
not to be found anywhere. When he looked around, he found out that it
was hidden under the earth, dug and buried there by the animals
themselves. He looked at the animals. Tears were dripping from the
animals' eyes and their bodies were shivering with fear. He realised
how much suffering he has been bringing to the animals even before
they were subjected to the excruciating pain of getting hacked to
death. The butcher developed a strong sense of compassion towards the
animals and a strong sense of aversion towards his own deeds. He was
so moved with compassion that he felt he would rather end his own life
than to continue with what he was doing. He went up a hill and sought
to kill himself. But since that was born out of a strong sense of
compassion towards sentient beings, instead of falling down and
crashing to death, he actually flew to the other side of the hill.
At that time, there happened to be a meditator in the same
area and the meditator happened to know the person by his profession.
When the meditator saw the butcher capable of flying over from one
part of the hill to the other side, he thought that if even if such a
sinful person can do so, then he, who has spent so many years in
meditation can definitely do likewise. So he went up the same hill and
threw himself down . He fell and died instantly!
how powerful Universal Compassion is once it is generated purely
within us in its purest aspect and how effective it is in clearing
away the negativities no matter how strong the load of negativities we
have in our mental continuum. Developing genuine compassion and
Bodhicitta is definitely worthwhile.
For the complete set of Lam-Rim teachings, "The Jewel Ornament of
Liberation", by HH the 100th Ganden Tri Rinpoche, please contact the
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