The second study group for the Way of the Bodhisattva was facilitated by Bob Penny. We covered chapter 3.
Category Archives: Dharma Talks
This talk by translator and author Stephen Batchelor (who was part of one of the first efforts to translate Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara into English) is highly recommended. Great overview of who Shantideva was and how the text is constructed.
Unfortunately the beginning wasn’t recorded so in case you can make sense of them I’ll include my notes below.
Compassion and Fears of Compassion
Last week we talked a little about pathways of training, how do we open our hearts at Bodhisattvas – how do we practice compassion and how can we make the compassion more possible. Let’s touch briefly on a few pathways and then let’s think a little about fears of compassion. Continue reading
Our first meeting on Shantideva’s text. We discussed background info on who Shantideva was and read verses from chapters 1-3. Copy of the text is linked in below.
These are the verses of Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatra (“Way of the Bodhisattva”) that are cited and commented on by HH Dalai Lama in his wonderful book All Beings: A Commentary on the Way of the Bodhisattva (Shambhala 2009). These are the verses being studied in the 2015 Practice Period’s Way of the Bodhisattva Study Group.
Chapter 1 – The Benefits of Bodhichitta
To the Blissful Ones, who have the dharmakaya, and to all their Heirs,
And to all who merit veneration, I bow down.
According to tradition, I shall now in brief set forth
An entrance to the Bodhisattva discipline.
What I have to say has all been said before,
And I am destitute of learning and of skill with words.
I therefore have no thought that this might be of benefit to others
I wrote it only to sustain my understanding
Difficult indeed to find this state of ease and richness,
Whereby the true significance of being human
May be reaped! If I neglect to turn it to my profit,
How could such a chance be mine again?
As when a flash of lightning cleave the night,
And in its glare shows all the dark, black clouds had hid,
Likewise rarely, through the Buddhas’ power,
Virtuous thoughts rise, brief and transient, in the world.
See the utter frailty of virtue!
Except the mind of perfect bodhichitta,
There is nothing able to withstand
The great and overwhelming strength of evil.
Chapter 2 – Offering and Purification
To all the Buddhas, those Thus Gone,
To the Sacred Law, immaculate, supreme and rare
And to the Buddha’s heirs, an ocean of good qualities –
That I might seize this precious attitude, I will make a perfect offering.
I offer every fruit and flower,
Every kind of healing salve,
All the precious things the world affords,
And all pure waters of refreshment;
Every mountain rich and filled with jewels,
All sweet and lonely forest groves;
The trees of heaven, garlanded with blossom,
And branches heavy, laden with fruit;
The perfumed fragrance of the realms of gods and humans,
All incense, wish-fulfilling trees, and trees of gems,
All grow that grow without the tiller’s work,
And every sumptuous object worthy to be offered.
Lakes and tarns adorned with lotuses,
And plaintive with sweet-voices cries of water birds
And lovely to the eyes, and all things wild and free,
Stretching to the boundless limits of the sky
I will hold them in my mind, and to the supreme Buddhas
And their heirs will make a perfect offering.
O think of me with love, Compassionate Lords,
Sacred objects my girts, accept these offerings.
To the Buddhas of the past, the present, and all future time
To the Doctrine and sublime Assembly,
With bodies many as the grains of dust
Throughout the universe, I prostrate and bow.
Until the essence of enlightenment is reached,
I will go for refuge to the Buddhas;
Likewise, I take refuge in the Doctrine
And the host of Bodhisattvas
Treacherous is the Lord of Death!
Whether what we have to do is done or not,
We cannot stay. In sickness or in health,
We cannot true our fleeting, flickering lives.
We must go from life forsaking everything,
But I devoid of sense and prudence
For the sake of friend and foe alike,
Have brought about so many evils.
My enemies at length will cease to be,
My friends and I myself
Will cease to be,
And all is likewise destined for destruction.
“I myself might suddenly depart,”
Such thoughts are always far from me,
And so, through hatred, lust and ignorance,
I have been the cause of many wrongs.
Thus from this day forth I go for refuge
In the Buddhas, guardians of wandering beings,
Who labor for the good of all that lives,
Those mighty ones who scatter every fear.
Chapter 3 – Embracing Bodhichitta
Happiness and joy I have
In virtue, which relieves all beings
From the sorrows of the states of grief
And places those who languish in the realms of bliss.
And in that wealth of virtue I rejoice,
Which is the cause of the enlightened state;
Exalting in the freedom, never to be lost,
Of living beings from the round of pain.
And in the Buddhahood of the Protectors I delight,
And in the stages of Buddhas’ offspring.
The attitude of heart, that virtue ocean-vast,
That brings the happiness and benefit
Of all that lives:
Such is my delight and all my joy.
I join my hands, therefore, and pray
The Buddhas who reside in every quarter and direction,
To kindle now the light of Dharma
For those who grope bewildered in the gloom of sorrow.
I join my hands likewise and pray
To those who have the victory and long to pass
Beyond the reach of sorrow: do not leave us now in ignorance,
Remain among us for unnumbered ages!
All those actions I have now performed,
And virtue I have thus amassed –
May all the pain of every living being
Be thereby scattered and destroyed!
Just like those, who in the past have gone to bliss
Conceived the awakened attitude of mind
And in the precepts of the Bodhisattvas
Step by step adobe and trained
Likewise, for the benefit of beings,
I will generate this attitude of mind,
And in those self-same precepts
Step by step I will abide and train.
[Seven Branch Prayer]
May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road;
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.
May I be an isle for those who yearn for landfall,
And a lamp for those who long for light;
For those who need a resting place, a bed;
For all who need a servant, may I be a slave.
May I be the wishing jewel, the vase of plenty,
A word of power, and the supreme remedy.
May I be the trees of miracles,
And for every being, the abundant cow.
Like the great earth and the other elements,
Enduring as the sky itself endures,
For the boundless multitude of living beings,
May I be the ground and vessel of their life.
Thus, for every single thing that lives,
In number like the boundless reaches of the sky,
May I be their sustenance and nourishment
Until they pass beyond the bounds of suffering.
Chapter 4 – Carefulness
The children of the Conqueror, who thus
Have firmly grasped this attitude of bodhichitta,
Must never turn aside from it,
Striving never to transgress its disciplines.
For if I bind myself with pledges
But fail to carry out my words in deed,
Then, each and every being thus betrayed,
What destiny must lie in store for me?
Anger, lust – those enemies of mind –
Are handless, footless, lacking other faculties;
They have no courage, no intelligence;
How then have they made of me their slave?
It is I who let them lurk with my heart,
Allowing them to harm me at their pleasure.
And I suffer all without resentment;
Thus my misplaced and unworthy patience!
If my other foes I serve and cosset,
They, in turn, will give me all their aid and favor,
But should I serve my dark, defiled emotions,
They will only harm and draw me back to grief.
This shall be my all-consuming passion;
Filled with rancor, I will wage my war.
Such emotions, though indeed defilement,
Will destroy defilement, and I will not spurn it.
And yet defilements are not found with the object,
Not yet within the faculties, nor somewhere in between.
And if not elsewhere, where is their abode,
Whence to wreak their havoc on the world?
They are mirages, and so take heart:
Banish fear from your mind and strive to know them.
Why endure the needless pains of hell?
Chapter 5 – Attentiveness
All anxiety and fear,
Pain and suffering immeasurable,
Each from the mind itself proceeds:
Thus the Truthful One has said.
This is so, and therefore I will seize
This mind of mine and guard it well.
What use to me so many harsh austerities?
Let me only place a guard upon my mind.
Oh you who wish to place a guard upon your minds,
I pray with palms pressed earnestly together,
At cost of life itself, preserve
Your mindfulness and mental scrutiny.
Therefore, form the gateway of awareness
Mindfulness shall not have leave to stray.
If it wanders, it will be recalled
By thoughts of anguish in the lower worlds.
In those endowed with fortune and devotion
Mindfulness is cultivated easily
Through fear and by the counsels of their abbots
And staying ever in their teacher’s company
The Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas both
Possess unclouded vision, seeing everything:
All thing lie before their gaze,
And likewise, I am always in their presence.
One who has such thoughts as there,
Will gain devotion and a sense of fear and shame
To such a one, the memory of Buddha
Comes ever frequently to mind.
When mindfulness is stations as a guard,
A sentinel upon the threshold of the mind,
Mental scrutiny is likewise present,
Returning when forgotten or dispersed.
We should not be downcast by the warring wants
Of children, to and fro. Their thoughts are bred
From conflict and emotion.
Let us understand and treat them lovingly.
In doing virtuous things, beyond reproach,
To help ourselves, or for the sake of others,
We should always bear in mind the thought
That we are self-less, like an apparition.
Why not cling, oh foolish mind, to something clear,
A figure carved in wood perhaps?
Why do you protect and guard
An unclean engine for the making of impurity?
First, with mind’s imagination,
Shed the covering skin,
And with the blade of wisdom, strip away
The flesh and meat from off the bones.
Then divide the bones,
And scrutinize the marrow;
Examine it and ask the question,
Where is “thingness” to be found?
If, persisting in the search,
You find no underlying object,
Why still cherish, and with such desire,
This fleshly form of yours?
Regard your body as a vessel,
A mere boat for going here and there;
Make of it a wish-fulfilling gem
To bring about the benefit of beings.
Thus with free, untrammeled mind,
Have an ever-smiling countenance,
Rid yourself of scowling, wrathful frowns;
And be a true, sincere friend to beings.
Understand this well
And always labor for the benefit of beings,
Those who are far-sighted and are Masters of Compassion
Permit, to this end, that which is proscribed.
Eating only what is needful, sharing
With religious persons and those who are
Defenseless or have fallen into lower states –
Give all except the three robes of religion.
Those should not give up their body
Whose compassion is not pure and perfect;
Instead, in this world and the next,
They should put it to the service of the supreme goal.
The Bodhisattva’s acts
Are boundless, as the teachings say.
The greatest of them all is this:
To cleanse and purify the mind.
Reciting thrice by day, by night,
The Sutra in Three Sections,
Relying on the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas,
I shall purify the downfalls that remain.
There is no virtue
That the Buddha’s offspring should not learn.
To one with skill in such pursuits,
Nothing that he does is destitute of merit.
Directly, then, or indirectly,
All I do will be for others’ benefit.
And solely for their sake, I dedicate
My actions for the gaining of enlightenment.
To keep a guard again and yet again
Upon the state and actions of our minds and bodies –
This alone and only this defines the sense of mental watchfulness.
All this I must express in action;
What is to be gained by mouthing syllables?
What invalid was ever helped
By mere reading of the doctor’s treatises?
Chapter 6 – Patience
Good works gathered in a thousand ages,
Such as deeds of generosity
Or offerings to the Blissful Ones –
A single flash of anger shatters them.
No evil is there similar to hatred,
Nor austerity to be compared with patience.
Steep yourself, therefore, in patience
In all ways, urgently, with zeal.
Those tormented by the pain of anger
Will never know tranquility of mind –
Strangers to every joy and pleasure,
Sleep deserts them; they will never rest.
Getting what I do not want
And that which hinders my desire-
There my mind finds fuel for misery,
Anger springs from it and beats me down.
Therefore I will utterly destroy
The sustenance of this my enemy,
My foe, whose sole intention is
To bring me sorrow.
Come what may, then, I will never harm
My cheerful happiness of mind.
Depression never brings me what I want;
My virtue will be warped and marred by it.
If there is a cure when trouble comes,
What need is there for being sad?
And if no cure is to be found,
What use is there in sorrow?
The cause of happiness comes rarely,
And many are the seeds of suffering!
Yet if I have no pain, I’ll never long for freedom
Therefore, Oh my mind, be firm!
There is nothing that does not
Grow easier through habit.
Putting up with little troubles
Will prepare me to endure much sorrow.
Heat and cold, the wind and rain,
Sickness, prison, beatings –
I will not fret about such things,
For doing so will aggravate my trouble.
Where there see their own blood flowing,
There are some whose bravery increases,
While some grow weak and faint
Merely at the sight of others bleeding!
Suffering also has its value:
Through sorrow, pride is driven out
And pity felt for those who wander in samsara,
Evil is drawn back from, goodness seems delightful.
Never thinking, “Now I will be angry,”
People are impulsively caught up in anger,
Irritation, likewise, comes –
Though never plans to be experienced!
Every injury whatever,
The whole variety of evil deeds,
Arise induced by circumstances.
None are independent and autonomous.
Yet these causes have no thought
Of bringing something into being.
And that which is produced thereby
Is mindless, with no thought of being so.
Likewise so-called primal substance
And the Self, whatever it may be,
Do not come to being thinking
As it does so, “I shall come to be.”
Nonexistent, being not yet born,
What could therefore want existence?
Changeless, therefore resting always in its object,
It could never cases from being so.
All things, then, depend on something else.
On this depends the fact that none are independent.
Knowing this, we will not be annoyed at objects
That resemble magical appearances.
Thus, when enemies of pleasant friends
Are seen to act improperly
Be serene and tell yourself,
“this comes from such and such conditions.”
If things happened solely for our pleasure,
How could sorrow ever come
To any of the host of living beings?
For there is no one who desires suffering.
In the grip of their defiled emotions
Some there are who even kill themselves:
Though we may be destitute of pity,
At least we can abstain from anger.
If those whoa re like wanton children
Are by nature prone to injure others,
No use in being angry with them,
Like resenting fire for its heat!
And if such faults are fleeting and contingent,
If living beings are by nature wholesome,
It is likewise senseless to be angry with them –
As well be angry at the sky for having clouds!
Their weapons and my body:
Both are causes of my suffering!
They their weapons drew, while I my body brandished.
Who then is more worthy of my anger?
Those who harm me come against me
Summoned by my evil karma.
They will be the ones who go to hell,
Therefore, am I not the one to injure them?
The mind is bodiless:
By no one could it be destroyed,
Yet it grasps the body fiercely,
And falls victim to the body’s pain.
If when others slander you, you claim
Your anger is because they harm themselves,
How is that you do not resent
The slander of which others are the victim?
Even those who vilify and undermine
The sacred Doctrine, stupas, images of holy beings
Are not the proper objects of my anger:
The Buddhas are not harmed thereby.
For the sake of my desired aims,
A thousand times I have endured the fires
And other pains of hell
Achieving nothing for myself and others.
The present pains are nothing to compare with those,
And yet great benefits accrue from them,
These afflictions, which dispel the troubles of all wandering beings –
I should only take delight in them.
When compliments are heaped upon my merits,
I want others to rejoice in them;
When, however, someone else is praised,
My happiness is slow and grudging.
Since I want the happiness of beings,
I have wished to be enlightened for their sake.
Why then should others irk me
When they find some pleasure for themselves?
If even this I do not want for beings,
How could I want Buddhahood for them?
How can anyone have bodhichitta
Who is irritated by the good that others have?
The rigmarole of praise and reputation
Serves not to increase merit or the span of life;
Bestowing neither health nor strength of body,
It contributes nothing to the body’s ease.
Children can’t help crying
When their sand castles come crumbling down.
Our minds are so like them
When praise and reputation start to fail.
Short-lived sound, devoid of intellect,
Can never in itself intend to praise us.
“but it’s the joy that others take in me,” you say,
Are those the poor causes of your pleasure?
What is it to me if others should delight
In someone else or even in myself?
Their joy is theirs alone;
What part of it could be for my enjoyment?
Praise and compliments disturb me.
They soften my revulsion with samsara.
I being to covet others’ qualities, and
Every excellence is thereby spoiled.
Those who stay close by me, then,
To ruin my good name and cut me down to size –
Are they not the guardians who protect me
From perdition in the realms of sorrow?
They, like Buddha’s very blessing,
Bar my way, determined as I am
To plunge myself in suffering.
How could I be angry with them?
We should not be angry, saying,
“They are obstacles to virtue.”
Patience is the peerless austerity,
And is this not my chosen path?
Like a treasure found at home,
Enriching me without fatigue,
Enemies are helpers in Bodhisattva life,
They should be a pleasure and a joy to me.
Thanks to attitudes of bitter hatred,
I engender patience in myself.
They are thus the very cause of patience,
Fit for veneration like the Doctrine.
Beings and the Buddhas are thus equal
Fields of merit, said the Blessed Lord,
Many who have sought the happiness of others,
Have transcended all perfection.
Their aims are not, of course, alike,
But it is by their fruit that they must be compared.
This, then, is the excellence of living beings’ qualities.
Being and the Buddhas are indeed the same!
As the Buddhas are my constant friends,
Boundless in the benefits they bring me,
How else may I repay their goodness,
But by making living beings happy?
Buddhas are made happy by the joy of beings;
They sorrow and lament when being suffer.
Making beings happy, I please the Buddhas also;
Offending them, the Buddhas also I offend.
Reverence for beings will rejoice the Buddhas,
Excellently bringing welfare for myself;
It will likewise drive away the sorrows of the world,
And will therefore be my constant practice.
Chapter 7 – Endeavor
Thus with patience I will practice diligence,
For it is through zeal that I will reach enlightenment.
If there is no wind, then nothing stirs;
Neither is there merit where there is no diligence.
Snared by the trapper of defiled emotion,
Enmeshed and take in the toils of birth,
How could I not know that
I have fallen thus into the mouth of Death?
Death will be so quick to come upon me,
And till that moment I must gather merits.
To wait till then to banish laziness-
What time will there be left, what shall I do?
“This I have not done. And this I’m only starting.
And this I’m only halfway through…”
Then is the sudden coming of the Lord of Death,
And oh, the thought will come, “Alas, I’m finished!”
Your face will now be wet with tears.
From red eyes swollen in your bitter sorrow,
You’ll gaze into the faces of your hopeless friends
And look upon the servants of the Lord of Death.
Take advantage of this human boat,
Free yourselves from sorrow’s might stream!
This vessel will be later hard to find;
Now is not the time for sleep, you fool!
You turn your back upon the sacred Doctrine,
The supreme joy and boundless source of happiness.
What pleasure do you have in mere amusement
When you stray into the causes of your misery?
Do not be downcast, but marshal all your strength.
Take heart and be the master of yourself.
Practice the equality of self and other;
Practice the exchange of self and other.
Oh, but how could I become enlightened?
Do not be depressed by thoughts like these.
For the Buddhas, speakers of the truth,
Have spoken and have truly said
That if they bring forth strength of diligence,
Even bees and flies and stringing gnats
And grubs will find with ease
Enlightenment so hard to find.
Able to distinguish good from ill,
If I, by face and birth of human kind,
Will give myself to Bodhisattva deeds,
Why should I not gain the state of Buddhahood?
Through merit they enjoy an ease of body;
Though learning they enjoy a happiness of mind.
Even staying in samsara for the sake of beings,
Why should those with mercy ever sorrow?
So now astride the horse of bodhichitta,
Which puts to flight all mournful weariness,
And with a mind that goes from joy to joy,
Who could ever fall into dejection?
The forces that secure the good of beings
Are aspiration, firmness, joy, and moderation.
Aspiration grows through contemplating misery
And thinking of the benefit this brings.
If my acts are good
And mirror the intentions of my mind,
No matter where I go, respect and honor
Will be offered me, the fruit and recompense of merit.
But if, in my desire for happiness,
All I do is wickedness instead,
No matter where I go, the knives of misery
Will cut me down, the wage and recompense of sin.
From a place within the cool heart of a fragrant, spreading lotus,
Its petals opened in the Buddha’s light, I shall arise supreme,
With glory nourished by the sweet words of the Conqueror,
And live, the Buddha’s heir, within the presence of Victorious Ones.
First consider your resources –
To start or not to start accordingly;
Best it is to stay and not to go,
But once you start, then better not turn back!
Enfeebled by their minds’ afflictions,
Worldly ones are helpless to secure their happiness
Compared to those who wander, I am able;
Therefore, this shall be my task
When they find a dying snake,
Even crows behave like soaring eagles.
If I am likewise weak and feeble,
Even minor faults will strike and injure me.
How will those who leave the struggle, lily-livered,
Ever free themselves from such debility?
But those who confidently stand their ground and persevere
Are hard to vanquish, even for the powerful.
I shall be the victor over all,
And none shall have the victory over me!
The lion offspring of the Conqueror
Should constantly abide in that proud confidence.
Though tremendous danger should occur,
A man will always move to guard his eyes.
Likewise, though adversity befall me,
I will not be vanquished by defiled emotion.
If I never have enough of objects of desire,
Sweet honey clinging to the razor’s edge,
How could I feel I ever have enough of merit,
Which will ripen as my happiness and peace?
An elephant, tormented by the noonday sun,
Will dive into the waters of a lake;
Likewise I must plunge into this work
That I might bring it to completion.
If in the fray the solider drops his sword,
In fright, he swiftly takes it up again.
Likewise, if the arm of mindfulness is lost,
In fear of hell, be quick to get it back.
Just as seeping venom fills the body,
Borne on the current of the blood,
Likewise, when it finds its chance,
Evil spreads itself throughout the mind.
Like a fearful man, an oil jar in his hand,
Filled to the brim, and threatened by a swordsman
Saying, “Spill one drop and you shall die” –
This is how the disciplined should hold themselves.
At every time, then, that I make mistakes,
I shall reprove and vilify myself,
Thinking long that by whatever means
Such faults in future shall no more occur.
Thus at any time, in any situation,
Mindfulness will be my habit.
This will be the cause whereby I aim
To meet with teachers and fulfill the proper tasks.
The lichen hanging in the trees wafts to and pro,
Caught in the movement of the wind.
Likewise, all I do will be accomplished,
Quickened by the movements of a joyful heart.
Chapter 8 – Meditative Concentration
Now that diligence has been developed,
I will set my mind to concentrate.
For one whose mind is loose and wandering
Lives between the fangs of the afflictions.
On account of loved ones and desire for gain,
Disgust with worldly life does not arise.
These are, then, the first things to renounce.
Such as the reflections of a prudent man.
The penetrating insight of a mind that calmly rests
Destroys completely all afflicted states.
Knowing this, one must being by searching for tranquility,
Found by those who turn with joy their backs upon the world.
If for other beings there is craving,
A veil is cast upon the perfect truth,
Wholesome disillusion melts away,
And finally there comes the string of pain.
If I act like those who are like children,
Sure it is that I shall fall to lower sates.
Why then keep the company of infants
And be led by them in ways so far from virtue?
Associate with childish ones – what follows?
Self-praise, putting others down, and
Chattering about the pleasures of samsara.
Ever kind of vice is sure to come.
This kind of link between myself and others
Will be productive only of misfortune:
They will bring no benefit to me;
Neither shall I do them any good.
Like bees that get their honey from the flowers,
Take only what is constant with Dharma.
Treat them like first-time acquaintances;
Do not be familiar with them.
This being so, the wise man does not crave,
Because from craving fear is born.
And fix this firmly in your understanding:
All that may be wished for will face naturally to nothing.
For though they get themselves a wealth of property,
Enjoying reputation, sweet celebrity,
Who can say where they have gone to now,
With all the baggage of their affluence and fame?
In woodlands, haunt of stag and bird,
Among the trees where no sounds jar upon the ear,
Such would be my pleasant company.
When might I go and make my dwelling there?
When will I live and make my home
In cave or empty shrine or under spreading tree,
And have within my breast a free, unfettered heart,
Which never turns to cast a backward glance?
When might I be free of fear,
Without the need to hide form anyone,
With just a begging bowl and few belongings,
Dressed in garments coveted by nobody?
Like those who journey on the road,
Who halt and make a pause along the way,
Beings on the pathways of the world,
Halt and pause and take their birth
Until the time comes round when
Four men carry me away,
Amid the tears and signs of worldly folk –
Till then, I will way and go into the forest.
There, with no befriending or begrudging,
I will stay alone, in solitude,
Considered from the outset as already dead,
Thus, when I die, a source of pain to none.
Sending messengers and go-betweens
With many invitations to the bride,
Avoiding, in the quest, no sin
Or deed that brings an evil name,
Nor acts of frightful risk,
Nor loss and ruin of their goods and wealth,
And all for pleasure the perfect bliss,
That utmost penetrating kiss
Of what in truth is nothing but a heap of bones
Devoid of self, without its own existence!
If this all the object of desire and lust,
Why not pass beyond all pain and grief?
“But it is the skin and flesh I love
To touch and look upon.”
Why then do you not wish for flesh alone,
Inanimate and in its natural state?
The mind of those you love so much
Eludes your touch; this mind you cannot see.
Everything that sense perceives is not the mind,
Therefore, why indulge in pointless copulation?
Thus the unclean nature of such things
Is manifest, and yet if even now I harbor doubts,
Then I should go to the charnel grounds
And look upon the fetid carrion.
Did you see the heaps of human bones
And feel revulsion in the charnel ground?
Then why such pleasure in your cities of the dead,
Filled with animated skeletons?
The suffering of guarding what we have, the pain of losing it all –
We should see the endless troubles brought on us by wealth.
Those distracted by their love of property
Will never a moment’s freedom from the sorrows of existence.
Those indeed possessed of many wants
Suffer many hardships, all for very little –
Mouthfuls of hay the oxen get,
Their fine reward for having pulled the cart!
All that we desire is sure to perish,
And then into infernal pain we fall.
The constant little hardships and fatigue
We undergo, and all for no great matter –
With a millionth part of such vexation
Buddhahood itself can be attained!
The pains the lustful take exceed by far the troubles
Of the path of freedom and will give no freedom at the end.
Strive at first to meditate
Upon the sameness of yourself and others;
In joy and sorrow all are equal.
Be the guard of all, as of yourself.
So I will dispel the pain of others,
Since pain it is, just like my own.
And others I will aid and benefit,
For they are living beings, just like me.
Since the pains of others do no harm to me,
Why protect and make a guard against them?
But why to guard against “my” future pain, which
Does no harm to this, my present “me”?
It is surely for the sufferer himself
To parry any injury that comes!
The pain felt in my feet is not my hand’s;
Why then does my hand protect my foot?
Labeled continuities and aggregates,
Such as strings of beads and armies, are deceptive;
Likewise, there is none who has the pain.
Who is there to be oppressed by it?
But if there is no subject suffering,
There can be no difference in the pain of self and other.
Simply, then, since pain is pain, I will dispel it.
What use is there in making such distinctions?
Thus, the suffering of everyone
Should be dispelled, and there’s no debate.
To free myself form pain means freeing all;
Contrariwise, I suffer with the pain of beings.
If through such a single pain
A multitude of sorrows can be remedied,
Such pain as this all loving ones
Should strive to foster in themselves and others.
Those whose minds are practiced in this way,
Whose happiness it is to sooth the pain of others,
Will venture in the hell of unremitting agony
As swans sweep down upon a lotus lake.
The oceanlike immensity of joy
Arising when all beings are set free –
Is this not enough? Does this not satisfy?
The wish for my own freedom, what is it to me?
The work of bringing benefit to beings
Will not, then, make me proud and self-admiring,
The happiness of others is itself my satisfaction;
I will not expect some ripening reward.
Just as hands and others limbs
Are thought of as the body’s members,
Shall I not consider other beings
As the limbs and members of a living body?
Those who desire speedily to be
A refuge for themselves and other beings,
Should take the place of others, giving them their own,
Undertaking thus a sacred mystery.
Because of our attachment to our bodies,
We are terrified by only little things.
This body, then, the source of so much fear –
Who would not revile it as the worst of enemies?
Wishing to relieve our bodies’ wants,
Our hungry mouths, the dryness of our throats,
We live in wait along the road
And steal the lives of fishes, birds, and deer.
For their bodies’ service and advantage
There are those who even kill their fathers or their mothers
Or steal what has been offered to the Triple Gem
Because of which they will be burned in deepest hell.
Where then is the prudent man
Who wants to pamper and protect his body,
Who does not disregard and treat with scorn
What is for him a dangerous enemy?
“If I give this what is left for me?”
Thinking of oneself – this is the path of evil ghosts.
“If I keep this, what is left to give?”
Concern for others is the way of gods.
All the joy the world contains
Came through wishing happiness for others;
All the misery the world contains
Came through wanting pleasure for oneself.
Is there need for lengthy explanation?
Childish beings look out for themselves;
Buddhas labor for the good of others.
See the difference that divides them!
If I do not give away
My happiness for others’ pain,
Buddhahood will never be attained,
And even in samsara, joy will fly from me.
If there is no self-surrender,
Sorrow likewise cannot be avoided.
A man will not escape from being burned
If he does not keep away from fire.
To free yourself from harm
And others from their sufferings,
Give away yourself for others,
Holding others dear as now you do yourself.
“For I am now beneath the power of all,”
This, oh mind, must be your certainty;
Now no longer shall you entertain a thought
But to contrive the benefit of beings.
My sight and other senses, now the property of others –
To use them for myself would be illicit.
How much more so is it disallowed to use
My faculties against their rightful owners.
Think of lesser beings as yourself,
And identify yourself with others,
Then, your mind relieved of scruples,
Cultivate a sense of envy, pride, and rivalry.
“He is the center of attention; I am nothing!
I am poor without possessions, unlike him;
Everyone looks up to him, despising me;
All is well for him; for me there’s only bitterness.
“All I have is sweat and drudgery,
While there he’s sitting at his ease.
He is great, respected in the world;
I’m an underdog, a well-known nobody.”
“What! A nobody without distinction?
Not true! I do have some good qualities.
He’s not the best, he’s lower down than some,
While compared to some, I’m excellent!”
“I will noise abroad by every means
My qualities to all the world,
Ensuring that whatever qualities he has
Remain unknown to anyone.
“My faults I will conceal.
I, not he, will be the object of devotion;
I, not he, will gain possessions and renown;
I will be the center of attention.
“I for long will look with satisfaction
On his humiliation and disgrace;
I will render him despicable,
The mock and laughingstock of all.
“The rumor is that this unhappy wretch
Is trying to compete with me!
How could he be like me in intelligence,
In learning, beauty, wealth or pedigree?
“Oh, the pleasure, sending shivers
Up my spine, I have and revel in
To hear that everyone is talking
Of how talented I am!
Well then, even if he does have something,
I’m the one he’s working for!
He can have enough to live on;
I’m the boss, though, and the rest is mine!”
“I will wear his happiness away;
I will always hurt and injure him.
He’s the one who is in samsara
Did me mischiefs by the thousand!”
The truth, therefore, is this:
You must wholly give yourself for others.
The Buddha did not lie in what he said;
The benefits therefrom are later sure to come.
Every thought of working for myself
Is now rejected, cast aside.
“Now you have been sold to others,
Stop your whining, be of service!”
For if, through being inattentive,
I do not deliver you to others,
You will hand me over, this is certain,
To the guardians of hell.
Is is thus: if I wish for happiness,
I shall never seek to please myself.
So it is that if I wish to save myself
I must always be the guardian of others.
As must as this my human form
Is cosseted and guarded,
Indeed to that extent
It grows so sensitive and peevish.
And one who falls to such a state,
The earth in its entirety
Is powerless to satisfy.
Who can therefore give him all he craves?
Therefore, free from all attachment,
I will give this body for the benefit of beings;
Thus, though many blemishes afflict it,
I shall take it as my necessary tool.
Thus, to banish all obscuring veils,
I shall turn my mind from the mistaken path,
And constantly upon the perfect object
I shall rest my mind in even meditation.
Chapter 9 – Wisdom
[Note HH the Dalai Lama ran out of time in the seminar the book is based on and didn’t cover this chapter in the depth he wanted, see also the quotations from Nagarjuna and the Prajna Paramita sutra he uses to cover these few verses briefly.]
All these branches of Doctrine
The Powerful Lord expounded for the sake of wisdom.
Therefore, they must generate this wisdom
Who wish to have an end of suffering.
Conventional and ultimate –
These the two truths are declared to be.
The ultimate is not within the scope of intellect,
For intellect is said to be conventional.
Two kinds of people are to be distinguished:
Meditative thinkers and ordinary folks.
The concepts of the ordinary give way,
Refuted by the views of meditators.
And within the ranks of these philosophers,
The lower in degrees of insight are confuted by the higher.
Comparisons are held in common;
In order to achieve the goal, analysis is left aside.
Chapter 10 – Dedication
By whatever virtue I have here accrued
Form the making of this song,
This guide for entry on the Bodhisattva way,
May everyone being to tread the path to Buddhahood.
Beings everywhere, tormented
By thee sufferings of mind and body,
May they gain, by virtue of my merit,
Joy and happiness in boundless measure.
As long as they may linger in samsara,
May their joy know no decline,
And in uninterrupted stream
May they taste of unsurpassed beatitude.
And now, as long as space endures,
As long as there are beings to be found,
May I continue likewise to remain
To sooth the sufferings of those who live.
The pains and sorrows of all wanderers –
May they ripen wholly on myself.
And may the virtuous company of Bodhisattvas
Ever bring about the happiness of beings.
May the Doctrine, only remedy for suffering,
The source of every bliss and happiness,
Be nurtured and upheld with reverence
And throughout a vast continuance of time endure!
May precious bodhichitta take its birth
In those in whom it has not taken birth.
And where it has been born, let it not cease,
But swell and increase ever more and more.
Hearing Buddha Speak – notes
Rohatsu talk, Dec. 6, 2014
Following the ancestors, following the body
Through the forms, connecting to all the practice that has gone on before
Because we want to find out the actual value of the teaching, we practice Zen and train ourselves to have the actual living meaning of the scriptures. But this practice must be quite serious. If we are not serious enough, the practice will not work and the teaching will not satisfy you. If you have a serious friend or teacher, you will believe in Buddhism. Without an actual living example it is very difficult to believe or practice. So to believe in your master and be sincere—that is enlightenment. So we say, “Oneness of enlightenment and sincere practice.”
Placing oneself in a vertical relationship (with something larger than yourself)
- Opens us to the dharma, to life, from above and below
- Allows us to receive, barriers are set aside
- This is humility This is freedom
- This is dropping the fight—the bumper car relationships of the horizontal
- This opening to a fluidity of roles
Retaining our sovereignty in a vertical relationship (with the world?)
- This is not placing yourself in the teacher’s hands
- This is not giving yourself to the teacher, but giving yourself to the universe using the teacher as a model
- This is following the body
- This is taking on the shape of the mind
- The teacher’s job is to guide you toward relying on your own connection to the dharma
This is scary, requires lots of letting go. Through zazen, we must develop acceptance of not-knowing
- This is wholeheartedly giving away your preferences and taking on a different way
- This is allowing ourselves to be transformed in a way that we can’t imagine. When we get there we say, “Of course.”
We verify for ourselves
. . . So Dōgen said, “If you want to listen to a Zen master for absolute truth, you must not think about his rank, his accomplishments, deeds, or shortcomings. Accept him just as he is because he is a bodhisattva.” That is the right attitude toward life—just accept it.
Allowing the teacher to be a bodhisattva. To learn what it is to be a bodhisattva, you must meet a bodhisattva.
Teacher must continually hand back the gold that has been entrusted
Teacher just needs to be mostly trustworthy
Following the body (of the ancestors) through the forms of practice
Following the body that leads to the true self
. . . So Dōgen said, “Everyone is your master, don’t pay any attention to whether they are a layman or priest, a woman or man, young or old. Everyone is your teacher and your friend, but as long as you discriminate this from that, you will not meet a Zen master.”
. . . If your attitude is right, everything you hear will be Buddha speaking. Then the master is not teacher or student, but Buddha himself.
Opening to another human being, vertically, is s step toward allowing grasses and trees, fences and walls, to express the dharma.
Allowing pillars and lanterns to expound the dharma, Dogen, EK #10
Taking a step forward or backward at the top of a hundred jo pole, with a single mind, turn your face and transform your self. This mountain monk [Dogen] will allow the pillars and lanterns to expound this principle for everyone. Have they finished expounding it yet or not? They expounded it last night, and also the night before. Tomorrow they will expound it, and also the day after tomorrow. If they have finished expounding it, has everyone heard it or not?
All things expounding the dharma
Intimate exchange with each thing in this moment
Dogen, EK #68, Jumping and Stumbling in a Fragrant World
When we exhaust our strength to express it, the pillars help us from the sidelines with half a word. Training the mind and verifying enlightenment, a wooden ladle energetically adds another mouthful [of sustenance for practice]. For a person who can hear and who can practice, emotions are not yet born and forms have not yet appeared. Voices babbling on, every bit is naked. Without awakening, advancing each step we stumble over our feet, making seven mistakes and eight mistakes. Without resting, taking a step backward we stumble over our exposed legs; arriving at two and arriving at three. Jumping up and kicking over Mount Sumeru, pick it up and place it within everyone’s eyeballs. Stumbling and overturning the great ocean, pick it up and place it within everyone’s nostrils. Why doesn’t everyone awaken and understand?
After a pause [Dogen] said: Last night a flower blossomed and the world became fragrant. This morning a fruit ripened and bodhi (awakening) matured.
 “Making seven mistakes and eight mistakes” implies the mistake after mistake in our practice, which may be necessary for our practice to develop. In Shobogenzo Sokushin Zebutsu “This Very Mind is Buddha,” Dogen says, “Without making mistake after mistake one departs from the Way.”
2 “Arriving at two and arriving at three” seems to imply something extraneous.
3 Nostrils refer to the original face, or true nature, as the nostrils are at the center of our face but we cannot see them. Eyes refer to understanding. When Dogen returned from China he said that all he brought back was that his eyes were horizontal and nose vertical.
In the last moment a flower blossomed, in this moment the fruit is ripening
Each thing expounding the dharma
THIS PRECIOUS OPPORTUNITY TOGETHER
December 4, 2014 Rohatsu 2014 Bellingham
Let’s reflect a minute on how rare, how precious, this opportunity to practice together is. So many factors have to be present for us to be able to do this. Of course each of us made some kind of choice to be here. To show up. Sometimes we notice that level of condition, our own choice, or own motivation. But it goes much deeper than that, doesn’t it?
Shuso Chris Burkhart discussed the Chinese Zen poem “Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi” which is chanted as part of the Soto Zen liturgy.
Shuso Chris Burkhart discussed the Chinese Zen poem “Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi” which is chanted as part of the Soto Zen liturgy.