Bodhicitta, pt. 3 Download
Participant’s experience with meditation on attention, intention, and will; living life at the level of intention or will in order to help others wake up (bodhicitta); Is bodhicitta or desire to help others awaken a natural instinct?; the four geneses of bodhicitta; meditation instruction for upcoming week: when you doing something you know is wrong, what needs to happen to lay it to rest? The four stages in the development of awakening mind; two aspects of awakening mind: apparently true and ultimately true; translation points on these two terms; aspiration and engagement awakening mind; attention, intention and will. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 9.
Ken: This evening is the twenty-second class in the Then and Now series, March 18, 2008, and we are continuing our discussion of bodhicitta or awakening mind. Before we begin I would like to say thank you to all of you who’ve been sending in donations because since we included the bit on donations at the end of the podcasts, we have been receiving some, and they’re very much appreciated as it makes it possible for us to keep these available. So, thank you.
Now, last week I left you with the exercise of directing attention at something and bringing intention and forming, or working with will. What that was like in your body? What emotions did it bring up and some of the stories. So what was your experience with this, starting with attention first? You’re all going to have to talk to me because there’s so few of you. Joe, you might as well start.
Joe: Well, first of all, I didn’t do this with anything earth-shaking, under the theory that it should be done by a trained driver on a closed course. [Laughter] But I did get some sense of the power of this technique and some sense of how it could be a tool. First of all, the whole category, what I want, is a mine field. Just trying to decide or recognize something that I wanted and why I wanted it, didn’t seem to go very much past wanting what made me feel good and not wanting what made me feel bad. But once past that, in attention, the usual suspects arose: tension, stomach tension in the chest, physically. Emotionally, fear and on the story level, “I am lacking something.” Do you want to just stick with attention or do you want to move on?
Ken: Let’s stick with attention. First. Elena, did you try this?
Elena: I did.
Elena: Well, it’s hard to say it. It was very difficult, first of all, to find a topic.
Ken: Like Joe was saying.
Elena: Yes. I thought at first something a little bit maybe too hard for the moment, so I moved to a career-related topic. We, I got a little sense of acceptance for a few seconds one day, after trying to bring attention to it. It was hard, though. It was—
Ken: What did you experience in your body when you tried to bring attention to it?
Elena: Well, mostly just distraction from various parts of my body like my neck, my head, my stomach. Just the position wasn’t right. All of that.
Ken: So bringing attention to something that you want. There’s all kinds of things that go on in you saying “No, we can’t do this.”
Elena: Yeah, like shutting down every few seconds.
Ken: Okay. Very good. Okay. Cara? Busted again?
Cara: No, I’m not busted. I sort of had, like Joe said, he was focusing what he wanted and why he wanted it, and that struck me because I think that what I did was because I had some situations this week where I was presented this week with things that I should want.
Ken: Give me an example of something you should want.
Cara: People. Well I’m 27; people whom I should be thrilled to date, something like that. You know you asked. I was just going to drive around it. But you wanted me to drive right through it.
Ken: I love the should business.
Cara: Well, yeah.
Ken: I didn’t ask you to engage something you thought you should want. I asked you to engage in something you do want.
Cara: That’s what I was driving at.
Ken: Oh, so when you thought of it you thought of all these should things.
Cara: But it got me to ask the question. I think the usual auto-pilot, indoctrinated response is: “This is fantastic. I should want it. I will go about making myself want it because I should want it.” Instead, this exercise was prompting me to say: “Do I want this? Do I want to put my attention into it?”
Ken: Okay. Very good.
Cara: So, I got to ask that question.
Nava: I had something very specific in mind that I wanted to know why I can’t do it and I was happy for this exercise. Bringing attention in my body. It started with just mild stomach area and permeated all over.
Ken: Ended up in a heart attack?
Nava: Close. Very close, yeah. But I noticed kind of going in and out of attention, the subject, and also the stories. It’s not a clear-cut “Now I’m in my body and now the stories.” It’s kind of going between and changes. I didn’t get to the emotion that day.
Ken: You flipped between the body and the stories.
Nava: And the stories.
Ken: I understand. So when you’re working with this, if you choose to in the future, keep coming back to the body, until you can actually stay in the body experience and then you’ll start being able to pick up the emotion. That’s how this one works. Okay. Peter.
Peter: I did something pretty basic. Just applying myself to getting my regular meditation practice back.
Peter: And it has been very irregular. And it really just a lot of terror typical sort of feeling, sparking on my heart meridian which I know where it is. It’s kind of a “phht” feeling, like that. But staying with it, it generally. Mostly just a feeling I stay with that. It was again going between body and the thinking. Then, when I did the idea of, what’s the phrase, using will—
Ken: We’ll come to that. I just want to do with attention. We’re going to go round again for intention, then end up.
Peter. Yeah, it did settle down a little bit, but it was very agitating.
Molly: I was most distracted by stories here and didn’t really want to hang out very long. Just wanted to move on to the next one because it was difficult. Yeah, there’s a lot of tension in my stomach and chest. This whole process made me realize more about where I am and where I don’t want to be.
Ken: So, I asked you to consider one thing you wanted in your life, right, and just bring attention to it. So, this is very interesting because a lot of you described that just bringing attention to one thing that you want in your life, generates a great deal of tension and brings up all kinds of stuff. That’s very interesting. Very interesting. What does this tell you about how you live most of the time? Cara?
Cara: I don’t have tension. I didn’t say a word about tension. [Laughter]
Ken: Your body language is telling us that right now. [Laughter]
Cara: Shhh! The more we get into these the less I want to talk, and before I wouldn’t shut up. What was the question?
Ken: Well, I’ll let you off the hook here.
Ken: I asked what your experience was, when you bring attention to something you want in your life. Almost all of you described experiencing a great deal of tension and that includes a lot of distraction, because distraction is the result of tension arising very quickly. Now, one of the things I think it suggests—this goes back to your earlier comment, Cara—is that most of the time we aren’t thinking about what we really want. We’re running on automatic, or conditioning, or what we’ve been socialized to consider that we want. And so, the act of bringing attention to something that I want can feel like some kind of breaking of the rules, or stepping out of the ordinary way of functioning. So, it’s very interesting.
So let’s move on to intention. Joe, we can come back to you.
Joe: What you said was really true. For me, was sort of like reactive pattern’s greatest hits. [Laughter]
Ken: Say a bit more please.
Joe: Just seeing what I wanted, they were all the result of patterns running.
Ken: I see.
Joe: When I got to intention, physically some of that tension subsided. And it had something to do with the fact that I’d been here before. I mean everything I came up with were things that I had intended at some time or another, something that I wanted to do and never did, something that was harping on me that I had not gotten to, had not found to look ahead, the will to do. And that happened on the emotional level too, and the stories, the one I just told: “I’ve been here before, I still haven’t done this, I intended to do this in the past, and still haven’t done it.” I want to say it went to a dullness, but that’s not exactly it. It kind of relieved itself.
Ken: Yes, but if you think of it now: “That’s something I haven’t done and I intend to do.” What happens in the body there?
Joe: There was a release of tension that I felt, in just becoming aware of it.
Ken: Yes. That’s interesting. Okay. Elena?
Elena: There wasn’t much release.
Ken: There wasn’t much release?
Ken: There was an increase of tension?
Elena: No. It’s more like an increase of stories.
Ken: Which is actually an increase in tension.
Elena: Yes. Lots of arguing.
Ken: What do you experience in your body? And this is very important. I know you’re relatively new. When you have a lot of stories going on, the function of all those stories is to absorb your attention so you don’t experience actually what’s happening in you. That’s why I’m encouraging everybody, when you notice those stories you come back to the body, because the body’s going to tell you what’s actually happening in you. So you think of intending to do something, just what happens in your body right there?
Elena: I don’t know. I don’t think it was fear.
Ken: Well, you look at what’s happening right now. When I ask you to do this you start to get quite fidgety. So there’s an agitation right there.
Elena: Oh, yeah, for sure. The tension was constant in my body throughout the whole thing. But at first, when I was trying to pay attention to it, I would actually understand it better than later on.
Ken: Yes because it’s actually bringing more energy to the whole thing. That’s good. Okay.
Cara: When you were asking that question, I think part of what comes to mind when it comes time to settle and setting the intention for your attention, the two things I’ve always struggled with are: “What if I don’t get it?” and, “What if I don’t get it because I don’t deserve it?”
Ken: So, those are stories.
Cara: Those are definitely stories.
Ken: What’s happening in the body when you bring intention?
Cara: When those stories come up I become very tense, afraid.
Ken: So which comes first, the tension or the stories? If you start bringing intention: “Okay, here’s something that I want and I’m going to get it. I’m going to do what’s necessary.” What happens in the body, right there?
Cara: I panic.
Ken: What happens in the body?
Cara: It becomes very tight and rigid.
Ken: Okay. And then the emotion of that is fear.
Cara: Right. But then conversely, of late, since you’ve—
Ken: I’ve totally screwed up your life.
Cara: No. But I’m not asking questions anymore. I’ve had several moments where I’ve brought my attention to something that’s made me uncomfortable or that I felt like I needed to focus more astutely on or something, and I’ve talked to you about it or I’ve talked to other people that I feel that are learned and I’ve meditated on it and then I’ve set my intention and the moment that I set that intention it’s just like [snaps fingers] done.
Cara: No worries, no stress, nothing, just total clarity on it. And when I’ve moved in that direction—
Ken: That’s worked.
Cara: It’s been very liberating.
Ken: Yeah, okay. Nava.
Nava: It’s a little bit hard for me to separate the intention and the will, in this case.
Ken: The difference here, if this is helpful to you, is that intention is the feeling: “I’m going to do this.” Will is: “It doesn’t matter what happens, I’m going to do this.”
Nava: Somehow, they came very close to each other, that’s what I’m saying, in the feeling that I have. The intention, I’ll start with that, definitely brought a different energy. If the tension was released it was for a split moment. It was different energy but then there was a different set of stories and emotions and body sensations. It was just different. But, then again, it’s like back and forth; what I want, and then what I feel that is happening, and then what I want and what I feel that is happening and what I want. I would say that there was a clarity of what I need to do, which was very simple. Nothing in an intellectual way but it was setting there, that’s—
Ken: Okay. Peter.
Peter: With intention, the panic, I felt less of the panic, more resistance. Or I get more in tune with resistance and a feeling of, rather more of a dispersed feeling in the center of my chest and more of a sad, sad feeling. I think that the story coming up was: “Oh, not going to happen.” [Laughter]
Molly: Very similar to what people have said where there’s less tension, a little bit more clear emotionally and feel excitement and seeing that this is what I need to do and doing it.
Ken: Let’s go to will.
Joe: When I got to will at the level of the body there seemed to be a complete release of the tension I was feeling earlier and openness and relaxation. On an emotional level, I guess the closest I could come to explaining it would be joy. On the story level a number of things arose. First of all,“I can actually do this, this can be done.” Then something came to mind about the relationship between power and joy that you’ve gone to in the past. I got a sense of how that might be experience-able. And another story I told myself was: “This practice is a lot like taking and sending. It exists in itself in the practice of willing it. Apart from actually going out and doing it, there is some effect that happens.” That was another story I told.
Ken: Okay, Elena.
Elena: I don’t think I really understood will. Now that you said that phrase, you know, like, “No matter what, I’m going to do this”—
Ken: That’s going to happen.
Elena: That finally I kind of, “Oh, okay, that’s what he meant.” So, you know, when I was doing it, I was a little confused. But, I know that after I finished doing that, you know, going back to the thing I wanted to do afterwards, I was practicing—in that case, singing—and I felt that the sound that I was experiencing was open and all-resonating and for a few days in a row. So, I mean, it happened every day and it was very different from what I experienced in practicing, doing meditation, but afterwards it was different. That’s the only thing.
Ken: Okay, Cara?
Cara: I think for me, when will sets in and takes over for intention, that a lot of the chaos is removed from the equation and it doesn’t feel like things are happening because I’m lucky; it feels like I’m focused.
Nava: As I say, it was connected to intention, but it was just knowing, “Just do it.” That was it: “Just do it.”
Ken: Okay. Peter?
Peter: With will I felt even more relaxation. Still though, but not thinking about how I was going to do it or any stories about what would happen. It didn’t matter, I was just going to do it. So, that was the only story that came up, was the satisfying idea that “Oh, I’ll take care of myself.”
Molly: Not distracted by stories, very clear, and ease in my body.
Ken: So this is very interesting. Start off with attention, everybody’s all over the place. Move up to intention, it gets a little better. Move to will and you start relaxing. The chaos goes away. There’s clarity, focus, all of these things. So I have a small question. How many of you live your life in will? Pardon? Take a microphone for me.
Molly: Not very much of the time.
Ken: Not very much of the time. Would anybody else agree with that? Okay, so why not?
Nava: It requires energy.
Ken: It requires energy. So? That isn’t an answer. Sorry. You have to go further. It requires energy. Yes. But that’s not an answer to why you don’t live in will.
Nava: You need to pay attention.
Ken: Do you want to say something, Cara?
Cara: Yes, I do. [Laughter] I experienced this today. Because when you live in will, people who do not live in will, don’t necessarily like you. Or, because when you are in control of yourself and your reactions, people can find it to be a little bit off-putting.
Ken: You know there is an old Maori proverb, which I’ve never found the equivalent of in any other culture: “Don’t hang out with people who don’t respect you.”
Cara: Absolutely, but when you’re in school…I’ll give you a very brief example, so that I can explain why this is true.
Cara: As you all know, here and otherwise, I’m in culinary school and I’m much older than the majority of the people I’m in school with, or more worldly or whatever. I had to show up for a final this morning that was like a corporate final that we had to have a scantron sheet. I didn’t have my sheet and I’m frequently late to this class because I live really far away. I don’t think that my teacher is a rocket scientist but I respect him because he’s the one running the class, but he’s often very condescending and chastening to people in the class unnecessarily.
So I show up to class and I don’t have this sheet. And I ask him this question, “Where is the sheet?” He doesn’t answer me, he ignores me. So I ask him two and three times, “Where do I get this sheet? I don’t have my sheet.” So, finally he starts to like, “Oh, you naughty little girl. You’re late to class frequently,” and I’ve brought this up.
And I, instead of sitting there and engaging him and defending myself, I was like: “I appreciate what you’re saying to me and I totally understand where you’re coming from; however, I need to take this test today. So, I need you to tell me what I need to do so I can take this test today or tell me when I can take it. But this dialogue that we’re having right now is completely and totally superfluous.” And he looked at me like I had seventeen heads, like it was his God-given right to sit there and lambast me and I was just going to have to take it. And I was just shaking my head and I was very calm.
And I got my sheet and I got it done. I think that he would have preferred it hadn’t happen that way. And then after class, some of my girlfriends who were in the class with me were like: “I would have smacked you.” I was just like: “Why? Because I know what I want and I want to get it done? And I don’t feel like being treated like a five-year-old?” And I feel that. I felt that. I didn’t feel angry, I felt empowered and I felt I was correct and I think that I didn’t do it in the big “b” way, I did it in the big person way. And for people who are not walking the path in the sort of point A to point B way that I feel like they don’t like that.
Ken: What’s the problem?
Cara: I don’t have a problem with that.
Ken: Good. Okay.
Cara: I was fine with it.
Ken: Joe, how often do you live in will?
Joe: Not very often.
Joe: And it occurs to me—[Laughter]
Ken: Thank you.
Joe: …that will can be, need not necessarily be, choosing things I want and going after them. It could also be accepting what is.
Joe: And willing what is.
Ken: Several years ago I gave a talk shortly before Christmas on using the dharma to meet Christmas. And I based it on the Three Marks of Existence: impermanence, suffering, and non-self.
Now, one of the things that comes up around Christmas time, the holiday season, is family interaction. For many people, it’s a big mess. It’s a source of suffering, etc. And, when people that I’m working with individually say, I’m going to visit my family over Christmas and I don’t know how I’m going to handle it etc., etc., it comes up quite a bit, because there’s usually lots of history and lots of baggage.
I ask them, what is your intention? And I encourage them to get a very, very clear intention and even raise it to the level of will. And sometimes it’s something like, I’m going to honor my parents. Okay, that’s fine. That’s a very clear intention. And then it becomes like Cara’s experience. Anything that isn’t in accord with that intention, you just don’t engage. Because if your parents start pushing your old childhood buttons, you just don’t engage them because that’s not your intention. Your intention is to honor them.
And in a way, in a very interesting way, by becoming very, very clear about one’s intention, one lets go of the ordinary conditioned self. And one’s now able to operate very effectively and powerfully in these situations in a way that’s actually better for everybody because you’re not engaging the usual reactive processes which generate suffering. Does this make sense?
Ken: So, let’s apply this to bodhicitta, awakening mind. What would it be like to live your life at the level of intention or will, to wake up in order to help others wake up? What would that be like? What happens when you think about that? Cara?
Cara: It feels both invigorating and frightening.
Nava: It feels very true and natural.
Peter: It feels simplifying.
Molly: I have a question about it. What was the question again?
Ken: Well, you can ask a question if you want.
Molly: What was the question again?
Ken: What would it be like for you to live at the level of intention or will: I am going to wake up in order to help others wake up?
Molly: Okay, my question’s in there with this whole process, where I’m looking at what I want. And if I look at what I want and I’m in will and very clear then I help other people. I was trying to make this connection, I think in this process to bodhicitta and waking up. So, is that kind of where we’re going, that if I’m in will I’m harming others the least amount?
Ken: I think that is probably true because you’re taking in everything that is going to be a problem and working with it rather than ignoring it.
Molly: And in that process where I’m also making other people wake up.
Ken: Or doing whatever you can to.
Ken: It’s very difficult to make other people wake up. It’s that old horses and water thing.
Molly: Well in Cara’s example, the guy that you’re talking to, he didn’t know what to do. Right? Or something happened in him.
Cara: He wanted me to feel really bad and feel kind of dumb in public.
Ken: Yes, but the point here, if I may, clarify is one of the few infectious virtues. Cara was being very clear. And so, her teacher in this class had to relate to her clarity and he did. So, clarity doesn’t allow the other to be confused. That’s why I say it’s one of the few infectious virtues, which is very interesting.
Ken: I think it’s been a very, very good discussion. I just want to say a word about the interaction that we have here that came up for me a couple weeks ago.
First off, I really appreciate you coming and participating in this kind of discussion because there’s a very big difference between one-way and two-way communication. When we read something or listen to something, it can be very helpful to us, it can show us new possibilities, but it’s one-way communication. We’re receiving it and it’s coming into our world, if you understand what I mean. And we do with it what we do.
What happens here in these interactions is two-way communication. You take something, you work with it and now you’ve got to stand in your own knowledge and interact with me about it. And it’s different because now you’ve got two things meeting: your own understanding, and where I’m coming from. And so you actually have to stand in your own knowing. And it’s that interaction between teacher and student where there’s two-way communication and not just one-way communication, that really makes the information or the stuff come alive in you and that’s very important.
I’ve been giving a lot of talks on the Heart Sutra recently, and the sutras are all about two-way communication. Student asks Buddha a question and Buddha answers and it goes back and forth this way. That’s what sutra is and this is exactly what is happening here. So, I just wanted to say a word about that.
Have you found this useful? This exercise? Okay. Good.
Ken: One of the principles we can draw from this chapter and from our practice in Buddhism in general is, it’s very much about living in attention, living in intention, and living in will, which requires increasingly higher levels of internal clarity as you’ve gathered from this exercise. And when you live with that kind of clarity, things actually become more straightforward and, as Molly was suggesting, one generates less suffering because you’re very clear about what you’re doing. So, Nava?
Nava: Why does it need to specify that in order to train for bodhicitta mind you need to have the wish to help others awaken? Is that natural?
Ken: We’re going to go into that today, if I may. That okay?
Ken: Thank you.
In Konchog Gyaltsen’s translation, we are on page 151, Objectives, which is the wrong translation. If you turn to the comparable section in Guenther, which is on page 116, you’ll see that he talks about frame of reference, which is, a better, I think, a better way of conveying what the word means in Tibetan. I think frame of reference is better. You’ll see now the start of this section it says: The frame of reference of bodhicitta, or awakening mind, is to achieve awakening and to benefit sentient beings.
Now, your question is, is this natural? Okay. There is an experiment someone did, but I don’t know whether she’s pursued the research. There’s a technique called sky gazing, where you just look in the sky. And so, she had a bunch of people just look at the sky for 30 minutes a day. She had a control group that didn’t. They did something else for 30 minutes. She found that there was a measurable increase in the altruistic considerations in the group that looked at the sky. Now. why?
Well, I think this comes down to how Buddhism understands what we are as human beings. As we talked about in the past, the one thing that we know, and about the only thing that we know about ourselves, is that we are aware. We don’t know what we are aware of. It seems that there is this world but it could be a dream. But even in a dream world, we are aware. Buddhism regards the natural expression of awareness is compassion. In this experiment, staring at the sky is a way of increasing one’s relationship with natural awareness. So, I didn’t think it was at all surprising that there was an increase in the manifestation of compassion. But let’s just take your own meditation practice. When your mind grows quiet what is your attitude to other people? Anybody? Nava?
Ken: Yeah. It occurs quite naturally, right. So selfishness is actually a product of an agitated mind. As your mind grows clear, what is your attitude to other people?
Nava: Same. would say acceptance again. They are the same.
Ken: You recognize they are the same as you. And what do you want for them?
Nava: Only good.
Ken: So, is this natural?
Ken: Is awakening mind natural? Yeah, I think it is.
Nava: I’m asking, why do they need to specify? I mean, we are in a path for awakening.
Nava: Right. But it doesn’t say in order to start to be on this path, you need to have a wish to be awaken, right? Everyone who’s awake, as you say, is naturally compassionate and naturally wants everyone else to be free of suffering. So, why do we need to start bodhicitta with that wish?
Ken: Hold on a second. We’ll come to that. All right?
So, these are the two frames of reference: waking up and sentient beings. Waking up means waking up to the nature of experience. That’s what it means in the quotation. Likewise the objective or framework is the search for primordial wisdom, pristine awareness, however you want to translate it. And then further down we have the quotation from a very famous prayer:
Limitless is the extent of space. Limitless is the number of beings. Limitless is the karma and delusions of beings. Such are the limits of my aspirations.
We find this in the Zen tradition:
Sentient beings are infinite in number, I vow to save them all. Reactive emotions are boundless, I vow to release them. Doors to the dharma are limitless, I vow to enter them all. Awakening is supreme, I vow to attain it or I vow to become it.
It’s very similar to this. From our discussion earlier today, this is all moving from the level of attention to intention to will; becoming very, very, very clear.
Then you’ll see that the next section is called Cause. Put a big X through Cause, please, and write Genesis there. This goes back to the same good discussion we had much earlier in this series of talks, when we were talking about karma. It’s often used in English, cause and effect. But it’s a mistaken notion. It is how things begin and how they evolve into something. What’s very interesting here is that, if you go down to the second quotation—says there are four—and it says causes here. I found this very, very interesting when I was reading this over, and it’s one of the reasons I really appreciate the opportunity to go into this text in detail, because you could look, okay, there’s four causes, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
But what’s really being described here is that there are four ways you can come into this. Because I mean, when you think of an oak tree, how many geneses does an oak tree have? One. One thing. An acorn grows into the oak tree. So when it says there are four geneses here it doesn’t mean you have to have all four. That wouldn’t make sense to me. It says these are four ways you can come into this. Right? And I think this is a response to your question, Nava.
The first one, the perfect noble family is the first genesis for the cultivation of bodhicitta. Now this takes us back right to probably the first or second talk, in which we were discussing the genesis of spiritual practice. We went through those five different types, remember the cut-off family, the dubious family, the Sravaka, the listener and the independent buddha and then the Mahayana family—a type, really. Both Guenther and Konchog Gyaltsen translate this as family. But it’s family in the sense of type, not family in the sense of something you belong to. So, one genesis for this path is this is how you are.
Then the second one, to fully attend the Buddha, bodhisattvas and the spiritual teacher. It isn’t your natural inclination that you just aren’t born with it or just come into it. But you hang around spiritual people and something moves inside you. That’s a second way of coming into this.
And then third is you cultivate compassion and the result of cultivating compassion is you go, “Ah, this is what I want to do. This is what I want to do with my life.” That’s a third way of coming into it.
And the fourth one is, you look at the world, and you see how it is. You see that it is full of pain and suffering and misery. And the clear recognition and acceptance of that moves you to say, “This is what I’m going to do.” And that’s why it’s referred to as a fearlessness there, because for many people when they see all that pain and suffering in the world, they shrink from it. They don’t want to deal with it. They retreat into an enclave of some kind which could be literal or figurative.
Molly: So having fearlessness towards the suffering of hardships is my suffering as well as being with others who are suffering?
Ken: When we’re really with our own suffering we come to understand other peoples’. Yeah.
So these are four different ways you can come into it. You’re quite right, Nava, that when one moves into awakening then that naturally expresses its compassion. But that’s not where we start from. How do we start that whole process? And that’s being talked about here. Does this make sense to you? Okay.
So we go on. Now, the quotation at the top of the next page is also important. Bodhicitta or awakening mind which arises from a proper ceremony and ultimate Bodhicitta, have two geneses. Wherever you see the word cause in here, replace it with genesis.
We’ve talked about there being two different aspects to bodhicitta; it’s what we talked about last time. There is awakening to what is apparently true and there’s awakening to what is ultimately true. Awakening to what is apparently true is about awakening to how do we actually interact with others in a fruitful way. The basis to that has been talked about as compassion. Awakening to what is ultimately true is awakening to what we are, which is emptiness. We are not a thing. What he’s saying here is that those two awakenings actually come from different places. The one is awakening to what is apparently true, which is the intention, in this case, to help others wake up. This comes through a ceremony, through taking the bodhisattva vow, where that’s one way that it can come about. That’s what this whole chapter is about, is that vow. So it’s about forming an intention and then cultivating that intention until it becomes one’s will in life.
And, as you learned from the exercise that I left you with or you did over last week, when you actually live from will, life becomes pretty straightforward and clear. You’re relatively free from conflict because you know what you want to do. You may not know how you’re going to do it but your direction in life is very, very clear. And I think a lot of peoples’ challenges in life come because they are not clear about their direction. This whole chapter is about adopting the intention to help others wake up as one’s intention in life. Molly?
Molly: You still have conflict. I mean, it comes up, and then it’s how you deal with the conflict. Right? It’s not that—
Ken: Yes, you don’t have internal conflict.
Molly: I see, eventually.
Ken: Yeah, I mean you have all of these parts of you that don’t want to go along with the intention, but you deal with them in the same way. You cultivate them so that they gradually say, “Okay, this is what we’re doing.” And so, that intention spreads more and more. And yes, you’re going to encounter tremendous obstacles and conflict in doing this because most people want to be asleep. I don’t know whether they want to be asleep, but they’re used to being asleep. You remember the story of Avalokiteshvara, who worked for three eons and to see how he was doing, he stopped and saw that things were worse off than they were before. So he had a problem with that.
What makes bodhicitta—awakening mind—so wonderful is that when it actually becomes our intention in life, then as we were discussing a couple of weeks ago, there is an inexhaustible fountain or font, of goodness that comes from that. And an inexhaustible energy that comes from it. But, yes, one encounters many difficulties in the way but it gives you a way of meeting all of those difficulties.
This isn’t everybody’s spiritual path. What’s very important—this came out of a conversation I was having today—we have to be very, very careful with the Tibetan tradition because it sets out a path so clearly. We can say, “Okay this is the path,” and many of us feel a connection with it and want to follow it.
But one of the things I’ve come to appreciate about teaching is no system actually works. Sooner or later, if you’re in a teaching position, you’re going to have to adapt whatever process or procedure you have for teaching, to the needs of an individual because everybody’s different. If you’re teaching something that’s relatively straightforward for a short period of time you may be able to get everybody through just a, b, c.
But teaching and learning are primarily about growing, not being processed. Everything grows in its own way. You plant two seeds of exactly the same plant, like a tree, and they will branch in different places. You can’t get them to branch in the same way. One will branch and the branch will go to the right and one will go to the left or straight ahead, or something like that.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that if you have a system, you can only use it for a certain period of time with people and how long you can use it is going to vary on those particular people. For some they can follow that system for a longer period of time, for others for a shorter. At some point, they’re going to have to make it their own and figure out their own relationship with it. This is very important so when you’re reading this we can easily get the idea that there is one path to follow. But what Gampopa’s really doing here is sketching out major characteristics or steps which are going to be engaged. But each of us has to find our own way. And that’s really important. Joe?
Joe: So, following along the idea of these four geneses, we might, since we find ourselves however far along this path, or at least we have an intention to explore this path. So then is the suggestion that we might look at these four, not as something which we must go out and find, but as something that we already have, and maybe one more than the other? And these as descriptions—
Joe: Again, each one of us might look at these four and say, “Oh, that’s where I stand more so than the others.”
Ken: We could do that right now and could just go through them. Which of these resonate with you, Joe?
Joe: Well, again we have to unpack the language because to call something a perfect noble family, you’re suggesting that’s more like type.
Ken: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. That’s just who you are. And do you know people like that?
Joe: If I take out the perfect noble I do.
Ken: Yes. Their way of approaching life, what they do in life, is that they just work to help others. It’s not something they train to do. But they’re very responsive, very helpful and it doesn’t seem to be any particular burden on them. I think we all know people like that.
Joe: Might we also say that we know people who have an understanding of ultimate bodhicitta, they have an understanding of the way things are?
Ken: Yeah, and it seems to be quite natural.
Joe: And that may not necessarily come from cultivating compassion.
Ken: Exactly. And then the next one?
Joe: People who are attracted or find devotion to be effective.
Ken: Yeah, and their devotion to their teacher or to the dharma or moves them in this direction.
Joe: Right. And the third one again is actually acting in a way.
Ken: Right. Molly?
Molly: I’m just wondering what to do with this, the four geneses.
Ken: Which one do you resonate with?
Molly: Well, just because Joe asked I kind of now understand the first one a little bit, but is that supposed to resonate as my type?
Ken: Not necessarily. When I look at these four, I would say, when I first heard about bodhicitta, something just moved in me, and that feels right.
Molly: That’s the second one.
Ken: Yeah, it’s also a bit a part of the first one. It just fit with me. There’s a psychologist I know, when she first heard about bodhicitta she just said, “No way, I’m not going to touch that!” She’s a psychologist, she works helping people but, she’s not the least bit interested in taking on that kind of responsibility. And for me, maybe, I don’t know, it just feels right. That’s the only thing to do. So, I’m thinking of it more in the first one. At that point I had only heard about it.
But another very important piece for me was, in the first three year retreat, I did a month or two really very deeply focused on cultivating compassion. It had a very, very deep effect on me. I know it had a deep effect because everybody regarded me as easier to get along with in the retreat after that. I didn’t think I was hard before, but they said I was. I’ll have to take their word for it. It’s one of the reasons why I put a great deal of emphasis on compassion and you’ve heard me talk about this before, but when you really experience compassion, it’s not necessarily a pleasant experience. It feels like you have no skin. You see others suffering and it’s painful. And you are motivated to do something about it. It’s not that you can’t tolerate the pain, you can. You don’t have to get rid of it. You see the destructiveness of suffering others and it moves you. That’s the sense of compassion. And some people are moved by that so much that they just want to be able to help.
Molly: So these explain the ways by which we have come to where we are?
Ken: Yeah, we can come into. That’s right. And so these are ways of finding out what resonates with you, what your own way is.
The next part of this that I want to touch on says:
Due to the power of friends, the power of cause, understand that as genesis, the power of the root, the power of hearing or through virtuous tendencies, bodhicitta appears as stable or unstable when it arises from a proper ceremony conducted by others.
What I find interesting here is this stable or unstable. If you read the commentary later it says bodhicitta is unstable when developed through the power of friends. All the others arising from genesis and so forth, are stable. It’s at the bottom of the next paragraph.
In other words, when you just hear about it from others, it can move you, it can inspire you, but that’s not particularly strong; it’s unstable. When you start tasting it through your own experience, and it starts growing in you, that’s when it becomes stable. So what Gampopa’s point here in bringing all of this up is in order for this to become something that actually operates in your life, it’s not sufficient to think about it and hear about it, you got to taste it in your own experience. It’s got to mean something to you. You got to make it your own. A very important part of making it our own is the bodhisattva vow which involves saying: “I’m going to do this in the presence of somebody else.” And as it goes on later it says maybe you can’t be in the presence of somebody else but it’s really forming this intention. That’s one way that you make it your own. Do you have a question, Elena? Please.
Elena: I was really thinking about it. Yes, I was kind of listening to you going through those four geneses, and I don’t get very much the second one.
Ken: The second one being to fully attend the Buddha and bodhisattvas?
Elena: I guess it’s kind of connected to what you were saying right now, anyway.
Ken: Well, what this one means is that you hang around people that you respect and you see how they’re operating and this is the way they’re approaching the world and you think, you know, that’s a good way to approach the world. And it is, when we say it’s a genesis, it’s how the process starts in you. Does that answer your question?
Ken: Now, just hearing about it, it may start the process, but at that point it’s unstable, or it’s not very strong. Then you reflect on it more and you go, “You know, this really makes sense.” And so, you start making it your own and that’s when it becomes strong and stable.
Now, the second piece in here, which is referred to as the ultimate bodhicitta and again the genesis of the birth of ultimate bodhicitta is said:
When the perfectly enlightened one’s pleased, when the accumulation of merits and perfect wisdom is well-gathered, when there’s non-conceptual thought, perfect wisdom the dharma that is held to be ultimate bodhicitta.
This is in mythic language again. Let’s just translate it into experience as best we can. How many of you have had an experience at some point in your life where everything seemed to stop? Everything stopped, you’re just there. What was that like? Nava. Where’s the other mike?
Nava: It was very clear.
Ken: Did it make a difference in your life?
Nava: I would say it gives me inspiration and some energy, something to go back to.
Ken: Yep. Okay. Anybody else? Elena?
Elena: I guess it gives me the memory of the fact that I can experience that again. That’s probably the main thing.
Ken: Okay, so that’s the genesis of ultimate bodhicitta. Now that kind of experience happens pretty well for everybody at some point in their lives, but not everybody takes note of it, or absorbs it or reflects on it or does anything with it. Sometimes it’s gone. It’s still the genesis of bodhicitta, it hasn’t taken, hasn’t started to grow yet. But you’re all here and it could be argued partially, because of that experience. There’s, as you said, something to go back to. There is, you know from your own experience, another way of experiencing things. That make sense?
And that’s what he’s referring to here when there is non-conceptual knowing. When the world stops, that’s what we experience, non-conceptual. I think we could look at that but I don’t think the translation…I think it’s when you’re free from conceptual thought. What does Guenther say for that one? Ah yes, When there is non-discursive knowledge of the dharma.
Let’s look at Guenther’s translation. It’s on page 117. When the perfectly enlightened one is honored. Really, really coded language. What does this mean in plain English? Perfectly enlightened one, I’m going to give you a hint: that means Buddha. What does it mean to honor the Buddha? Molly?
Molly: To be open to what is.
Ken: It’s really coded language for everything stopping, and just being present. When merits and spiritual awareness have been acquired. This is another way of saying the same thing, when you have sufficient goodness, the effect of goodness in your mind is to make it clear, and when there is a sufficient level of clarity, you just know how things are. When there’s non-discursive knowledge of the dharma, that’s much more accurate translation, I think. There’s just knowing; not knowing of something; just knowing. This is where ultimate bodhicitta comes from. These are the kinds of experience which grow into that. So, we are about nine-thirty already? That’s about as much as I thought we were going to get through, even though I studied further ahead.
Joe: You were going to explain the prayers tonight.
Ken: Well, I know I was going to and I’m going to do that. I think we may get the next one or certainly the one after that. I want to go through those prayers, but I can do that in the context of going through some of the elements of the ritual. You have another question. No? You look like you had another question.
Elena: I was just thinking about what you were saying, I was like, “Ah yes, I would like to know something about those prayers.” [Laughter]
Ken: Meditation. A little bit of homework for you: this is getting ahead into what I hope we’ll get into next week. So, take something that you’ve done in the last day or week or month, I don’t know how far you have to go back, that you know was wrong. Ouch. Okay.
What do you need to do to get clear about it, so that it no longer causes disturbance in your mind? What needs to happen? That’s the question that I want you to consider. You don’t like that one, Karen? You don’t want to talk with me? Okay. Isn’t this a useful exercise? Think of something you did which you know was wrong, those more virtuous will have to reach back over the last month, maybe last year, I don’t know, and what needs to happen so that you can let it go and it no longer causes any disturbance? This is very important.
Now, as per usual, don’t try to think this out. Keep coming into your body. And, by exploring the physical sensations that come up when you entertain this question and the emotional things, you’re going to be led to a kind of knowing which will be much more reliable than if you just try to analyze this. This is a challenging exercise and it may cause you more than a little pain but that’s okay.
Molly: What if we come to the answer? Should we—
Ken: Then you do it!
Molly: Fix it?
Ken: Absolutely. And if you think, oh, this is what I need to do, then by all means do it. We’ll see how many people are here next week. [Laughter]
Cara: I wonder if you could tell us also which pages to focus on?
Ken: Yeah. Thank you.
So next week I would like us, if possible, hee hee, from whom you receive it, that’s relatively straight forward, so we’re going to go into the method, which is the ceremony, and what I’d like to do is get through the preparation for the Shantideva one, anyway, which takes us in the Konchog Gyaltsen’s from page 154 up to 163. Now that looks like a lot, but it may go more quickly than we suppose. In Guenther’s translation, it goes from 117. That’s where we’re talking about who you take it from the teacher, and then the preparation starts on the bottom of page 118 and goes through to 129.
Now the reason the preparatory stage is important—this is getting a little ahead of ourselves—is that bodhicitta, awakening mind, is a very wonderful intention, and you want to make everything clear and clean so that it can grow in a good environment, and it’s not poisoned. You think of it’s like planting seeds. If you want something to grow well you take the earth and you filter it, you make sure that it’s pure and there’s nothing bad in it and you put nutrients in it, and it’s got the right amount of moisture in it. You actually prepare the soil so when you plant the seed it will grow well. That’s basically what the preparatory stage of the ceremony is. It’s preparing the soil so the seed of awakening mind can then grow, in a good way.
We’ll probably go over the prayers then. Okay? So, shall we do the conclusion? Thank you.