Becoming a Bodhisattva is a huge step in helping not only
yourself, but also every other sentient being, both seen and unseen.
Most people are self-motivated and work primarily to solve their own
problems, keeping others a distant second. Should someone do an act
of kindness, repayment is generally expected whether in the form of
a thank you and/or further praise.
A Bodhisattva is motivated by pure compassion and love. Their goal
is to achieve the highest level of being: that of a Buddha.
Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit term which translates as: Bodhi
[enlightenment] and sattva [being]. And their reason for becoming a
Buddha is to help others. The Bodhisattva will undergo any type of
suffering to help another sentient being, whether a tiny insect or a
huge mammal. In Shakyamuni Buddha’s 'Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000
Lines' it states: “I will become a savior to all those beings, I
will release them from all their sufferings.” If this sounds
familiar to anyone not acquainted with Buddhism, then you only need
to think of the example of Jesus Christ, a true Bodhisattva.
When someone first enters the way of the Bodhisattva, they
develop Bodhicitta, or, mind of enlightenment. Even as a person
strives towards such an exalted goal, they feel as though they are
limited by the fact that they, too, are suffering. So that they can
be of aid to others, they decide to become Buddhas for a Buddha is
capable of unlimited compassion and wisdom. Also, Buddhas are able
to relate to all others at whatever level is needed. To those of
lesser intelligence, a Buddha will use simpler words; and to those
of great intelligence, a Buddha can explain answers in a more
By entering the Bodhisattva way, the mind must become
enlightened. And so the training begins by generating the 6
The 6 Perfections:
The 6 Perfections are: 1] generosity, 2] ethics, 3] patience, 4]
effort, 5] concentration, and 6] wisdom.
Generosity – How does one become more generous? Is it possible to
rid oneself of materialistic tendencies, selfishness and a desire to
want to be kind to others and give to those who lack? Being able to
provide for people by starting a business and then hiring those who
need jobs would be profitable not only for yourself but for those
who were previously unemployed. Volunteering your time and talents
to those who need them is also a way of cultivating generosity. To
share Buddhist teachings so people are able to help themselves and
in turn, others, is the finest gift you can offer. You have created
a positive ripple effect. The ripples of the teachings will travel
far and wide to allow many to be assisted.
The attitude behind your generosity is of the utmost importance;
giving with anger or the desire for payment isn’t a good motivation.
But if you have a humble motivation to help, then you’re on your way
to become a Bodhisattva.
Ethics – Knowing the basic difference between right and wrong is
imperative to generating the 6 Perfections. To practice the
perfection of ethics means to refrain from doing harm to yourself
and all those around you. Killing, sexual misconduct, consuming
harmful substances such as alcohol or drugs, being deceitful, and
using abusive language must be avoided. All harmful actions are
caused by a mind that harbors them, therefore it’s highly important
to be mindful of all your thoughts.
Patience – A lack of patience is prevalent in today’s society and
this will change if we want to evolve into a Bodhisattva. Patience
is the antidote to anger. In Chandrakirti’s 'Supplement to the
Middle Way' he writes: “It makes us ugly, leads to the unholy, and
robs us of discernment to know right from wrong.” When we become
angry, our body stiffens, our blood pressure rises, our breathing is
impaired, as is our reason. Far too many people languish in prisons
due to a few seconds when they went out of control and their anger
harmed someone. Anger directed at oneself can result in suicide.
Anger causes wars of all sizes.
Patience creates a joyousness within us. Our features become
relaxed and we can look many years younger. We are then tolerant and
happy and much further along the path of becoming a Bodhisattva.
Effort – Enthusiastic effort is necessary if you want to achieve
anything, but for something as noble and challenging as joining the
ranks of the Bodhisattvas, effort is definitely a requirement. Who
doesn’t want their efforts repaid instantly? However, the way of the
Bodhisattva is arduous and requires virtues that many of us
currently lack. Laziness is a huge fault that curtails effort.
Tomorrow never comes so your effort is needed NOW!
Concentration – Developing a calm mind through meditation will
sharpen our concentration. Being able to focus single-pointedly on
one object with a non-wavering mind will be a great advantage. The
calm-abiding mind develops clairvoyance and abilities to heal
ourselves and others. When radiating inward and outward calm, you’ll
become like a lighthouse in a stormy night. You’ll inspire others
with your strong mental capabilities and they in turn will want the
inner peace that you have found for yourself. Concentration is a
form of mindfulness. This means that when you pay unwavering
attention to what you’re doing, you avoid many frustrations. Lack of
mindfulness in the kitchen might result in burning a casserole,
which not only wasting the ingredients, but twice as much time will
be spent cleaning up the mess. Not practicing mindfulness when
driving causes accidents. As Lama Tsong Khapa writes in his 'Summary
of the Stages of the Path': “Concentration is a king with dominion
over the mind, once placed, immovable like the king of mountains.”
Wisdom – Wisdom is the root of all great qualities we can
cultivate in this life. As the Sixth Perfection, it is the total of
the other five. Meditation on wisdom is essential for entering into
the stages of being a Bodhisattva. Buddhist texts emphasize two
vital subjects when it comes to knowledge—selflessness and
impermanence. Everything changes constantly. One day you leave work
at 5:30, the next day it’s 5:45. Nothing is fixed; it’s variable. As
for selflessness, we must first discover the location of the self.
Is it in the body? If so, where—the mind? The physical world and all
living beings are created by the mind. As we are the results of our
past actions, so is the world we live in. Since there are places on
earth that are like heaven, those areas where so much virtue has
settled that people travel great distances to see such wonderful
locations. Conversely, the hellish regions are dense accumulations
of non-virtue and evil thrives there, keeping people captive to the
negative states of consciousness.
To become a Bodhisattva is to be fearless. There is no aversion
for those who are hostile and there is no obsessive clinging to
those who are closest to us. There is no possessiveness, only love,
compassion and discernment into the nature of reality.
Santideva, the 8th century Bodhisattva wrote a book entitled
'Bodhisattvacharyavatara,' which is one of the most important texts
that students of Tibetan Buddhism study. The title has been
translated into 'A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life' and is
written in verse form. While there are only 10 chapters, dealing
with the 6 perfections as well as developing the spirit of
awakening, in chapter 10, verse 55 the entire essence of the meaning
of Bodhisattva is beautifully expressed:
“For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.”
Written by Lisa