Tag Archive | bodhicitta

Aspiration

Jizo 10One of my favorite Buddhist verses, the aspiration from Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara, here interlaced with some commentary of my own that keeps occurring to me as I do my morning breathing exercises with this aspiration at eye-level:

May I become at all times, both now and forever

     today, tomorrow, this very breath, every breath until I have no more

A protector for those without protection

     including those who need protected from their own delusions

A guide for those who have lost their way

    including those who threw away every map, every compass

A ship for those with oceans to cross

     including those running away from whatever they refuse to face

A bridge for those with rivers to cross

     including those who have burnt the very bridges they now need

A sanctuary for those in danger

     including those who are their own greatest enemy

A lamp for those without light

     including those who will not open their own tightly clenched eyes

A place of refuge for those who lack shelter

     including those who have rejected every shelter offered them

And a servant to all in need.

     including those who are difficult and those I dislike. Including every sentient being. Every single one.

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Renunciation

Jizo 19My catalyst in this life to becoming a Buddhist occurred when I was a teenager visiting Asia with my parents. In Nepal, we encountered Tibetans in exile, who radiated the most amazing peace and joy despite having lost everything in their flight across the Himalayas. I spent my fifteenth birthday with three new friends, an American woman, an Australian man, and a Nepalese man who were all practicing Tibetan Buddhists. They took me on a tour of the awe-inspiring Buddhist sites of Bodhnath and Swayambhunath and gave me an living example of Western converts to Tibetan Buddhism.

For a few years afterwards I corresponded with the American woman, who was in process of ordaining as a nun. She expressed great joy when I took refuge (formally converted to Buddhism), but when I wrote to tell her of my impending engagement to my now-husband, she was the only person who didn’t offer me congratulations. The gist of her reply was that if I got married I would be tying myself down with ever-increasing attachments that would bind me to samsara, this world of suffering. She urged me instead to embrace spiritual practice. Only through devoted practice, preferably as an ordained nun, could I achieve enlightenment quickly and thus benefit not just myself or a few people but all people.

I was eighteen and in love; I didn’t like her response and I didn’t know how to react to it. I stopped writing to her. A couple years later I got married to a wonderful man. I considered myself incredibly lucky (and still do). But I have to admit, she was right. I am thoroughly tied to samsaric existence. The height of my spiritual practice is striving to be a virtuous householder; I am a long way from renunciation. Continue reading

Focus

Jizo 8I’ve been struggling with focus the last few weeks as a number of unexpected events have brought suffering and impermanence directly to the forefront of my experience. The regular sitting meditation practice I had been carefully cultivating crumbled in the face of uncertainty and stress. Most days I had no formal practice at all, though I continued to practice mindfulness as much as I could manage.

I also did tonglen meditation, a Tibetan Buddhist breath meditation where you breathe in the pain and suffering of sentient beings and breathe out peace and happiness. Tonglen is a practice to develop bodhicitta, the mind intent on attaining enlightenment for the benefit of others. It’s also a wonderful, simple meditation when in the presence of suffering or when personally experiencing pain. If you’re interested in more direction, Lama Kathy Wesley has 2 excellent, concise PDFs about tonglen on her website here.

My Dharma reading the last few weeks has concentrated on being with, preparing for, and helping others cope with death and loss. I’ve recently acquired a great many excellent Buddhist books on the topic and so far have particularly enjoyed the two that I will profile in this blog. Continue reading