The Awakening Mind

     The word "Bodhicitta" is generally translated as " Compassion ", but this does not capture its whole meaning. It is not a case of sympathising with the sufferings of others, which seems more like a feeling of pity, but rather to commit oneself to the search for happiness for the sake of others.

     After meditating on Bodhicitta, the Awakening Mind, the practitioner feels a bit like his head is opening up and a light is coming out and seeking to reach to all beings. This Mind maintains equanimity towards all beings, no beings are preferred over others, there are no enemies, nor is there any sense in the practitioner of wanting nothing to do with certain people. He is aware of the state of suffering, of dis-ease in which all these people develop who, because of [countless previous - ? - translator] rebirths, have at some time or other probably been his brother, his sister, his son or daughter, father or mother. And he meditates on the love of a mother for her child, on the constant care and attention she gave him over a long period of time to enable him to grow, develop and live. And so the wish to return this love grows, to give thanks to the mother who has protected him. Who is she? She is everywhere, all around us, there even if neither person remembers.

     And out of this feeling within himself the Bodhisattva commits to giving everything he has to help as many beings as possible. In order to do this he realises that he needs to progress on the Spiritual Path, to reach a level from which the help he can give will be real. When I talk of help I don't just mean material help but rather help in the form of spiritual teaching. It is good to give food to someone who has nothing, but then the next day he'll be in the same position again. If, while feeding him, we also teach him how to work and feed himself, then he really will be saved.
The Bodhisattva therefore won't only help directly, on the ground, but will also seek to teach methods which enable others to end suffering, to leave the cycle of conditioned rebirth.

     The Awakening Mind is that profound wish to help others, to get personally involved in their development with a view to their Liberation. With such a mind the practitioner will take on a set of vows, of commitments, and these are known as the Bodhisattva Vows. In particular, the practitioner takes the commitment not to remain in a state of individual bliss, or repose, as long as all beings have not yet achieved Enlightenment.
This is why we speak of " conditioned rebirth, " because from a certain point the practitioner, having attained Liberation, is no longer subject to the Law of Cause and Effect and he is no longer forced to take rebirth, to take bodily form in the cycle of rebirth.

     For the practitioner of the Lesser Vehicle (Hinayana) this State is the end of his Path; he will remain in a State of non-duality known as Nirvana. But for the Bodhisattva in the Great Vehi-cle or Mahayana this State is just one stage - an important stage, to be sure, because he has a greater freedom of action, but his Path is not yet at an end. He still needs to purify comple-tely all his previously accumulated negative potential and develop his understanding and Wisdom. To do this he will continue to take Teachings from his Masters, from high Bodhisatt-vas or from Buddhas themselves. And he will continue to practice. While engaged in this he decides to return to the world, to take rebirth and help beings in any way he can. A Bodhi-sattva knows no rest, his conscience cannot be at ease until all beings are freed from suffe-ring.

     A practitioner can realise Bodhicitta before realising Emptiness, just as one can realise Emp-tiness before Bodhicitta. When a Bodhisattva realises Emptiness, having already completed the Paths of Accumulation and Preparation, his consciousness reaches what is called a Bod-hisattva Pure Land, or Bhumi. There are ten Bhumis, ten levels he goes through before rea-ching Buddhahood, ten levels during which the Son of the Enlightened Ones puts into prac-tice all the Perfections or Paramitas, and one by one eliminates all the gross and subtle emotional affliction obstacles and ignorance.

     The key word in the Teachings of the Great Vehicle is Bodhicitta, the Awakening Mind. At its heart is the wish to help others, not simply in material ways, which of itself is no bad thing, but also in spiritual ways. It is the commitment of oneself to the Enlightenment of others.