The Beautiful Way of Life - Selections
Enter into the presence of a wise Buddhist master through this modern distillation of a spiritual classic.
The Excellence of Bodhichitta
I pay homage to the Three Jewels
and hereby promise to explain
the bodhisattva’s way of life.
This text contains nothing
that has not been said before;
I compose it solely to train my mind.
However, should others chance upon it,
it may benefit them too.
Favorable conditions are hard to find;
if I don’t take advantage of them now,
when will such a chance arise again?
Good thoughts are as rare and brief
as lightning illuminating a dark night.
Negative ones are common and strong;
what goodness other than bodhichitta
can vanquish them?
The buddhas saw it is bodhichitta alone
that can lead beings to the greatest happiness.
Whoever wishes happiness for themselves or others
should keep it tightly in their hearts.
And whoever generates it,
despite wandering in samsara,
will become Buddha’s child, a figure to be praised by all.
Bodhichitta is the elixir that transforms this ordinary
body into a buddha’s form.
The buddhas recognized its great value;
wandering beings, likewise, should hold it firmly.
Bodhichitta alone bears fruit forever;
other virtues, like banana trees, bear fruit just once.
It easily purifies extremely heavy negative actions,
so why not rely upon it?
Like time-ending fires,
it burns off, in an instant,
enormous negative karmic forces.
Bodhichitta is of two types:
aspiring to awaken
and actually engaging in the method to awaken.
The distinction between them is the same
as between aspiring to go
and actually going.
Aspiring has great benefits
but is not a continuous source of merit.
With engaging, however, even distracted or asleep,
merit continually increases.
Buddha explained this for those inclined to lesser aims.
If wishing to relieve a mere headache of another person
brings immeasurable merit,
what then of wishing to eradicate suffering
and bring happiness to every being?
Do even our fathers or mothers
have such generous intentions?
Do the gods, sages, or even Brahma?
Even in their dreams,
such a wish for themselves cannot be found,
let alone for others!
This intention is an extraordinary jewel of mind
and its birth an unprecedented wonder.
It’s the cause of happiness for beings,
a remedy for their sufferings.
How can its qualities be measured?
If the mere aspiration to benefit
excels venerating the buddhas,
what then to say of engaging to make everyone happy?
Beings strive for happiness
but constantly create the causes of its opposite.
For those destitute of happiness,
bodhichitta relieves them from countless sorrows
and fills them with bliss;
where else could such a precious friend be found?
We praise one who repays kindness received;
what to say of one who gives freely?
If simply giving a meal is virtuous,
what then of bringing all beings to enlightenment?
Harboring negative thoughts
toward such a bodhisattva
will cause lengthy rebirths in unfortunate realms.
Positive thoughts, however, will create far greater merit,
for even in the most acute situations,
bodhisattvas never commit negative deeds
but only do good naturally.
I pay homage to those in whom
this sacred state of mind has risen
and who benefit even their enemies.
Image courtesy of Dharma Eye.