The brotherhood of Bodhisattvas
December 24, 2012
A cold fog has settled thickly over Bodhgaya as the fourth morning's teaching takes place at the Pavilion pure land. Perhaps the rain of blessings has settled as snow on the cone of Kailash. "It's quite cold today, my hand is freezing, " says the Karmapa when teaching bodhicitta. His carved throne is garlanded with wreaths of bright orange marigolds.
We gallop through the second primary element of the path, bodhicitta. The necessity of developing it and how to generate it are both covered in a few definitive words before the Karmapa moves on to give Refuge and Bodhisattva vows.
"If renunciation is not embraced by bodhicitta it does not serve as the cause for the bliss of perfect and complete enlightenment".
When we understand deeply that everyone of us has mistaken the cause of suffering as happiness and the cause of happiness as suffering, then we can generate great compassion. Think about it: all of us have mistaken the intention and its cause. With that deep understanding we generate the wish to pull every single being out of samsara from top to bottom.
From the text:Carried off by the raging currents of the four rivers,Bound by the tight fetters of karma so hard to undo,Enmeshed in the iron net of self-clinging,Completely shrouded in the pitch-black darkness of ignorance,
Tormented by the three sufferings without respite,Through birth after birth in the infinite round of existence—Such is the condition of your mothers.Contemplating their plight, rouse the supreme motivationWe may have very strong renunciation; we may have direct understanding of emptiness; we may have miraculous powers; we may even be developing the paramitas - but without bodhicitta we cannot become buddhas. Bodhicitta increases virtue so greatly, that even giving a bit of food to someone becomes a cause for enlightenment. It closes the door to lower rebirths. Whether we become enlightened in this life or not truly depends on bodhicitta. The qualities it radiates are so manifold that if bodhicitta had a form, the vastness of space could not contain it.
The bodhisattva has his own kind of brotherhood, his own family. There are two ways of entering into it. The more courageous person will exchange self for others. More fearful mortals have to take instructions on the 7-point cause and effect. To actually put bodhicitta into action, first we have to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha because that makes us fearless.
At this point the Karmapa gave Refuge and it would seem that most of the assembly knelt to take it again. Moving on immediately to the Bodhisattva Vow, he made a distinction between taking it as aspiration and as action. In brief, generating the bodhicitta is aspiration and taking the vow to actually work on it is action. It's up to the individual to decide which one to take. Again, it seemed the entire assembly knelt to take the vow.We human beings are creating so much suffering to other beings who are not independent; beings who are not free, who have no protection, or health. Therefore, I who have followed the dharma and generated bodhicitta, want to help others. I want to become their protector. I would like to give freedom to those who don’t have freedom, I would like to give well-being and happiness to those who have no happiness or well-being. I want to get rid of their suffering as much as possible.If I don’t have that kind of aspiration and don’t want to do it or don’t make an effort to do it, then it isn't dharma practice. If dharma practice is just to make me happy or just to have a good time, then it’s not necessary.There is one way to break the vow and that is to abandon someone. If you see that someone is unhappy and you feel that it's alright for that person to be destroyed; if you have the power to help someone who has no protector and is suffering but you don't do it; if you say one person is bad and you completely cut off all contact - these three ways of thinking are described as abandonment.
"If you give up a sentient being then you will completely get rid of your aspiration—no Bodhisattva Vow, no aspiration of bodhicitta."
These ways of thinking can be purified and the bodhisattva vow renewed.But if you really completely give up sentient beings at that very moment you become a non-Bodhisattva, you have lost the Bodhisattva Vow. If you give up the Bodhisattva Vow, you cannot become enlightened in that lifetime. Maybe in the next life you can – that’s another matter. But that’s how it is understood. This is bodhicitta.