The Bodhisattva and the Mahayana

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"Enlightening beings" are committed to living for the benefit of all beings; they practice in the "universal vehicle" which includes everyone.

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I'd like to bring up two kind of big issues. One is the issue of the Bodhisattva and the other is the issue of the Mahayana. Those are Sanskrit words. Bodhisattva could be translated as enlightening being. Can you hear me okay in the other room? A little difficult. Enlightening being is one translation of Bodhisattva. Or a being who has the... a Bodhi being. Sattva means being and Bodhi means awakening or enlightenment. So it's a Bodhi being. It's an enlightening being. It's a being of awakening. And as I


mentioned in the yoga room the other night, the word Bodhisattva actually was a new word that appeared in India sort of after the Buddha started teaching. Most of the words the Buddha used were words that he inherited, that were words of the people he met. But he introduced I think maybe the word Bodhisattva. We don't know what actual language he used when he spoke but when his speeches got translated into Sanskrit, for example, this word Bodhisattva appeared. And you do not find this in Indian literature prior to the Buddha. And he used that term to refer to his career. His career. And all the different beings that he was, that contributed to his awakening, all those beings are called the Bodhisattvas. The beings


who are evolving towards complete perfect enlightenment for the welfare of all beings. All those beings that are in this evolutionary pattern he called Bodhisattvas. And also referring to all the beings which particularly led to his path of evolution in the current moment. The Mahayana, which means big or great, great vehicle, it includes not just Bodhisattva but it includes everything, all beings, even those in whom we do not see how the way they


are living is really tuned in to the evolutionary process of awakening. Even if we can't see that, all beings are included in the great vehicle, the universal vehicle. Bodhisattvas, of course, that's where they live, they live in the universal vehicle. They live in the process by which all beings are being moved along towards the realization of the great peace and harmony among all beings, and enlightenment as to that process. So in one sense not everybody is a Bodhisattva, in another sense you could say everybody is,


because all beings are actually being, I would say, pressured by their relationship with all other beings, and all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are under pressure to realize Buddhahood. But Bodhisattvas usually refers also to a being, a form of being that's more or less you know, pretty much open to living for the welfare of all beings. Not to say Bodhisattvas don't have a lot to learn, but they're already sort of on board with like, what's your life about again, ma'am? Oh, this life is for the welfare of all beings, that's the description of what this life is for. Now they may have some kind of resistance to that occasionally,


but they see that as a lack of faith and practice, which they confess before all Buddhas to melt away the root of veering away from this complete commitment to the welfare of all beings. They're on board with that, that's their practice, which they sometimes might slip on, but that's their practice. It wouldn't be a surprise to them to say, you're here to help me, right? Like an enemy would come up to them, I'm your enemy, right? Yes. You know I'm your enemy, right? Yes, I know you're my enemy. You know I want to hurt you, right? Yes. And you're here to help me, right? Yep. This is what we usually call a Bodhisattva. And they're into the Mahayana, which includes all the people, all the animals, all the plants, all the mountains, it includes everything, it's the universal vehicle. When Bodhisattvas


first kind of like are struck by the actual wish to help others, the wish to help others in a wholehearted wish to give their life, moment by moment, every moment, to the welfare of all beings, to the supreme welfare of all beings, when they're first struck by that, that's called the birth of the mind of enlightenment. The mind of enlightenment wishes to live for the welfare of all beings, and at some point there's like a time when that seems to arise in a person and they kind of are there for it, and that's the birth of the Bodhicitta, or the mind of enlightenment. And then this mind can be lost though. Once it arises and the person is struck by it and maybe totally happy by being struck by it, they still can


get detoured, diverted, confused and forget about it. It's an impermanent thing, actually. But it can be the condition for another Bodhicitta, and that can be a condition for another Bodhicitta, and another Bodhicitta, and another Bodhicitta, another Bodhi mind, another Bodhi mind, another Bodhi mind. It can go on like that. And the first one, and the last one, the last one would be the one where there actually was the realization of complete Buddhahood, the first and the last ones have the same name. The mind of a Buddha is called a Bodhicitta, and the mind of the newly initiated or newly awakened being is called a Bodhicitta. Who for the first time feels this, that both of those minds have the same name, Bodhicitta.


In one case it's the arising of it, the other is the culmination of it, but they have the same name. Very generous of the Buddhas to let us, when we're first struck by this, to have the same name as their mind. It's generous and it's also Vira. Can you hear that, Vira? However, that first mind can be lost, and lost many times, can be lost and found, lost and found, lost and found. And once it's found, there's ways of taking care of it to protect it from being lost and actually help it grow up into its full potential. Somebody used the analogy of the first one related to the last one, it's like the comparison


between the light of a firefly and a galactic firestorm. And also the first, another comparison, the first one is like a candle, you know, a candle maybe like a candle, a candle that is the size of, maybe like six inches tall or something like that, that kind of candle, which if you blow on it, it goes out pretty easily. It can blow out in a fairly mild breeze. And the later, as the Bodhicitta develops, it gets to be more like a forest fire. And then if you blow on it, it just gets stronger. So at a certain point, adversity and all kinds of challenges and distractions just inflame this spirit. At the beginning, distractions


can snuff it out, but it can be found again. And I just wanted to mention that this analogy of, this mind of the Bodhisattva in its Bodhicitta core comes with practices which protect it. And the first practice which protects it, which I've been stressing lately, is what? Is generosity, is giving, is being gracious. That's the first practice of the Bodhisattvas. So, quite a few people have come to me over the years, and I might even come to myself occasionally, and said, and said, you know, I'm not a Bodhisattva, I'm not a Bodhisattva,


and said, that I have this feeling that I'm not being loved, of not being appreciated, and then usually they also say that they feel bad about that. They don't say, and I'm so happy that I feel not loved and unappreciated. Usually they're kind of like feeling really bad about it, they find that difficult to feel unloved, painful, which I usually completely, that's easy for me to empathize with, that that would be painful and difficult. And so what I recommend is, even though they may not have told me already that they're


a Bodhisattva, I give them a Bodhisattva practice, and I ask them, what's the first practice of a Bodhisattva, and they don't know, and I say, oh good, it's giving. If you practice, if you're generous with yourself and with these people who you think don't love you, if you are generous with them, if you're gracious with them, and you're gracious with them, and you're gracious with them, you will come to see, you will come to understand that they are gracious with you, that they are loving you and supporting you. And if we hold back in our graciousness towards others, and if we hold back in our graciousness


towards ourselves, that tends to go with us feeling like they're holding back in their graciousness towards us. However, sometimes you might feel like, I'm holding back, but that person isn't. It's possible, like, boy, they're just like totally loving me and supporting me, and I'm kind of resisting it. That can happen, which is great. But when you feel like they're holding back, then you are wrong. They're not holding back. And when you're actually feeling like they're not holding back, but you're holding back, you're wrong about yourself, and you're right about them. So, the key anyway for the Bodhisattva is, number one, practice giving. And people have trouble understanding the instruction that letting yourself be yourself is giving, and


giving to yourself makes it possible for you to give yourself to others and to give them to themselves. And everybody you meet, you can give them to themselves without their permission, at least, you know, written or verbal, and you can give them to themselves and feel joy in giving them to themselves, and you're practicing giving which protects the Bodhicitta, which protects the Bodhi mind. And no matter what you feel, you can be generous with it. Not try to fix it up, not like it or dislike it, but be generous with it. And that way of caring for it takes care of the Bodhi mind. And you will eventually see that no matter what you feel, it's loving you. If you're in pain, the pain is loving you.


It isn't liking or disliking you, it's loving you, it's supporting you, it's being generous with you. Your pain is not holding back. It's offering to you. It's completely giving itself to you. And you're completely generous towards your pain. You are all generous beings, we are all generous beings, but if we don't practice it, we do not realize it. Even if you think that's true, that everybody's generous and you're generous, unless you practice it, you really don't fully get it. But if you do practice it, you will understand this. And this is the first practice of the Bodhisattvas who live in the Mahayana. And by the way, in the Mahayana are all the other jhanas. In the great vehicle are all the other smaller vehicles. So Bodhisattvas are totally into all the small vehicles too. Any limitation


of the universal vehicle, they're completely into, they're completely love and support, and feel loved and supported by everybody's private narrow trip. They're all included, all supported, all loved. All the childish projects that are in the universe, Bodhisattvas love them all, and Buddhas love them all too. But being into all of them is that you're into each of them, but also all of them, and being into all of them is called the great vehicle. And some people in the great vehicle are just into some small vehicle, but they still get to be in the great vehicle, and get to be loved by all the Bodhisattvas, and all the Buddhas, and all the ancestors. It's a good deal, this Mahayana. That's why it's been popular at various points and places throughout the universe from beginningless


time. That's why it's unstoppable, irresistible. Now, you can resist it, but you eventually will cave in and join. You will eventually appreciate everybody's narrow childish trips. Not like, not dislike, appreciate with no gaining idea. You'll be drawn into the vortex of the Mahayana, and when you feel that, then you're a Bodhisattva. Okay, I'm a servant of the big program. Are you giving some instruction there? Vortex. It's like where things come together, where things are drawn together. Like you, you're a vortex of the universe. Catherine is a vortex of the universe. Each


of you is a vortex of all your support that's being given to you. All of you are being drawn into this process of liberation. Okay, that's the first practice of a Bodhisattva. Another thing I wanted to bring up about the Mahayana, and this part is, this can be a little scary, but giving is the basic medicine for being scared. So, if you get into giving, you'll be mostly over being afraid. But there's still a little bit of fear left until you understand emptiness. So, one of the ways of talking about what the universal vehicle is, is that the universal vehicle is a deep understanding of emptiness. This way that


all beings are working together, and the working together of all beings is actually a profound understanding of emptiness. But I would add now, it's actually a profound understanding and a profound practice. It's the understanding and practice, the Mahayana is the understanding and practice of emptiness. Practicing giving helps us open to the emptiness, and open to how we're all working together, and open to how the way we're working together is empty.


Empty of what? Empty of anybody's idea of how we're working together. Empty of anybody's idea. All things are empty of anybody's idea of all things or each thing. That we're empty of all conceptions of ourself and other beings are empty of all our conceptions of them and all their conceptions of them. Understanding this is the vehicle of all beings being liberated. And practicing according to this emptiness is the vehicle of the liberation of all beings. In the Heart Sutra, the Heart of Wisdom Beyond Wisdom Sutra, starts off by saying that Avalokiteshvara,


a Bodhisattva, a highly developed Bodhisattva, who's practicing giving, of course, he's also practicing, or she's also practicing, prajnaparamita. She's also practicing the perfection of wisdom. She's practicing the perfection of patience, the perfection of ethics, the perfection of patience, the perfection of energy, enthusiasm, the perfection of concentration and the perfection of wisdom. In practicing the perfection of wisdom, she clearly sees that all the different elements of existence, all the different elements that make a person are empty. All the different elements are innocent of any conception of what they are.


Seeing this, all suffering is relieved. All suffering is relieved. Not just her suffering, but all suffering is relieved in this vision. Beings who are not open to this vision, and are not opening to this understanding and practicing this understanding, they don't understand, they don't experience it. Beings open to this vision is liberation. This is what's going on all the time, but by practicing, practicing emptiness, understanding emptiness, the suffering is relieved in that vision. So now I'd like to talk a little bit about


emptiness. But again, it is often taught, perhaps not enough, but it is taught sometimes anyway, that unless you're grounded in the conventional, familiar with the conventional, it's not so appropriate for you to be taught about the ultimate emptiness. The Mahayana, the actual working of the Mahayana is a deep understanding of emptiness. In order to understand emptiness we need to be taught and we need to study and meditate on emptiness. That's part of the work of the great vehicle, because the great vehicle is the practice and understanding of emptiness, ultimate truth. But still, we're being warned that we should


be grounded in the conventional before we take on and open up to the teachings of the ultimate. We must be grounded. But being grounded in the conventional isn't enough, because only with the ultimate is the Mahayana liberation realized. So it's something we need, as bodhisattvas, we need to get ready for and eventually enter into the meditation on emptiness in order to fully perform our function in the Mahayana. But in order to do that we need to be grounded. The first grounding practice in the conventional world is giving, and then ethics, and so on. That's how you get grounded. And with that grounding then you can open to the teachings


of emptiness, because giving by itself, without yet realizing emptiness, is not liberation and is not realizing the saving of all beings. We need the wisdom to go with the giving. And it isn't that we practice giving and then stop, and then start practicing the wisdom study of emptiness. The giving goes on. We stay grounded in the giving, in the conventional. So I remember there was this magazine in the Haight-Ashbury days. There's still a Haight-Ashbury, but in the days of around 1966, 67, 68, they had this magazine called the Oracle, published in the Haight-Ashbury area, and there was an article on Suzuki Roshi in there one time,


and they said in the article that his favorite teaching was, guess what it was? Form is emptiness. What did you say? Form is emptiness. You got half of it. Emptiness is form. That's what the article said was his favorite teaching, and I thought, I didn't disagree, but I thought, what an interesting way to characterize a Zen teacher's favorite teaching. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form, in the Oracle. So radical. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Form, in order to realize the emptiness of form, you have to be grounded in form, and form is where you start practicing giving. You're generous towards form, and then feeling, and then perception, and then all mental formations, and consciousness. You practice generosity


in these conventional things, like forms and feelings. You practice with that, you're grounded, really on the ground, practicing, practicing, practicing generosity with the conventional. Then you get ready for seeing that all these conventionalities are emptiness. Empty, they're all empty, and they're all emptiness, in the sense that the way they really are is emptiness. They're empty, and also the way they really are is emptiness. They're both. Empty and emptiness. They're non-dual with it. All the forms through which we're bound are inseparable from the principle that such is free. All our blocks and limitations are inseparable from what such is free from our blocks and limitations. So we don't get


a little bit away from our blocks and limitations, and then get free from them. If you get a little bit away from them, you don't get free from them. Now, being not a little bit away from them, that's kind of a problem. And then, if you can not shy away from the being with them, then you have another problem called being free of them, which isn't away from them, it's free of them. That's a problem too. First of all, it's pretty hard to be right there, right here, right? It's pretty hard to be right here, not a little bit away from right here, which is generosity. It's generous of you, you are generous, and you are generously being right here. But if you don't practice that, you won't realize that you're generously right here. You'll think you're trying to get away from here, maybe.


Or at least be a little bit away from here. Maybe stay in the same room, but just be slightly over to the side of your situation. But again, being slightly someplace else from your conventional experience is not being grounded. You're close, you could take a little tiny step and you could be grounded, but you're a little bit not grounded. And in that way, if you're not being grounded, you don't feel like you're practicing generosity. You don't realize you're generously being right where you are. You're generously being right where you are. That's a gift. You're a giver of that. You're giving yourself to the place that everybody else gave you. You're grounded there. And in that grounding, you're ready to realize freedom from the place you're grounded. You're ready to realize the emptiness of the place you're grounded. The emptiness of your


grounding, the emptiness of your bondage, the emptiness of your suffering. But like I said, even that's a difficulty, because that's a new way of life, where you don't get to hold anything, or grasp anything. You don't get to grasp your release. As a matter of fact, it's generally recommended that if you're going to grasp, it's better to grasp your bondage than your release. So, how many of you have heard the story of the animal releasing ceremony? One, two, three, four, five, six. Only six of you have heard it. Only six. You haven't heard, have you, Kim? You've heard it? Wow. You haven't heard my story about the animal releasing ceremony. So, one of the practices in the Buddhist tradition


is to release animals. Kim knows about that, right? Did you say release crabs? So, I went to one which released chickens. And it was actually, it was at a brand new temple that I was at in Japan, in Chiba-ken, which is where the… don't tell me it's where… it's where the airport is. I can't remember the… what's the name of the Tokyo airport? Narita. Narita is in Chiba-ken. It's a peninsula out next to Tokyo. It's kind of farm country anyway. There's a new temple there and next to the temple was a golf course. A golf course conveniently located next to a temple or a temple conveniently


located next to a golf course. And so, we set up this altar sort of on the golf course and they brought these chickens in, in these cages. And then we did the ceremony, you know, mumbo-jumbo-bumbo-bumbo. And then at the climax of the ceremony, we opened the cages and the chickens flew out into freedom. This is the Mahayana. And we concluded the ceremony and then there was a lovely vegetarian feast for the humans who attended the ceremony. And then I, being one of the officials of the ceremony, cleaned up the altar afterwards. And while I was cleaning up the altar, the chickens came back and crawled back into their


cages. Freedom can be even more scary than being in prison. Now, I don't know if they use these chickens over and over in various ceremonies to make humans feel good. We're releasing animals and then we get this contact release, right? Oh yeah, freedom. And now we can have a vegetarian feast. Being grounded in the conventional is difficult. It's a challenge. And if it's not a challenge, that's not so good actually, because then the practice isn't growing. We each have situations to be grounded in, to learn to be 100% giving ourselves to where we are moment by moment. This is grounding in the conventional. We


have the practice of giving to help us, the practice of ethics to help us. Ethics help us kind of look to see are we really here. Patience, enthusiasm and concentration of course is about being here 100%. So those practices of compassion help us be grounded in the conventional and then we're all set to open to emptiness and so on. I don't know if you guys are grounded enough for me to tell you about emptiness. I don't know either. You don't know either? Thank you for saying that. Oscar, how are you doing with being generous with Oscar and


being 100% Oscar? How are you doing? So-so? Little resistance there? Okay, well get more grounded, please, because I'm not going to talk about emptiness until you get grounded. So you're holding up all these other people who are more advanced. Oh, and Catherine has a comment here. I said maybe it's just your story. I thought you were saying maybe it's just my story. No, no, no, I meant Oscar. Oh, she wouldn't say that about me. I could say that to you. I was just thinking maybe Oscar was 100% grounded. That's what I was thinking. Okay, now whose story is more generous? That's the question, which I don't want you to answer right now. Okay, so I invite you to get really familiar with the conventional existence which is presenting itself to you and to me every


moment. Get settled, and when you're all settled, we can take a peek at emptiness. Any feedback for me before lunch? Any feedback? How are you feeling? Strange. Strange? Yeah. Okay. And I kind of want to come down, but I also wanted to know how to be grounded when you're up here. Yeah, and I was suggesting you're welcome to come down, but it would be good before you come down to get grounded in being up there. Now, you can come down before you're grounded up there, but from me to you, I think it'd be great if you got grounded up there and see when you're grounded up there, do


you still want to come down here? You might, but first get grounded in feeling strange, which is the way… do you still feel that way? Okay, now see if you can really be generous and let Elizabeth feel strange. Like get familiar with feeling strange, if that's what's going on with you. How's Jerry doing up there? Huh? He's okay. You're okay? Are you getting grounded with being okay? Yeah, it's a strange feeling, but… Thank you, Elizabeth. Vera? Is there a vortex to emptiness? Did you say? In a way, the vortex of emptiness is the conventional, is form or feeling or whatever.


So if you're feeling strange, that feeling of strange isn't emptiness, but that feeling of strange itself is emptiness. The way it really is, it's emptiness. And the way emptiness is, it's in some sense the only way you can say emptiness, because you can't actually get at emptiness any more than you can actually get at form. And the fact that you can't actually get at forms or feelings, the fact that you can't get at anything or find anything, that's the emptiness of things. It doesn't mean there's no Stephen, it's just that you can't get at him, you can't find him. It doesn't mean you don't have an idea of Stephen, it's just your ideas


of Stephen never reach Stephen, never reach Stephen, any more than your ideas of Stephen reach Stephen. But this ungraspable emptiness, it also can't be grasped. When you try to grasp it, what you get is a form. When you try to grasp a form, if you're thorough about it, what you get is that you can't grasp it, and you can't grasp the not grasping either. So the vortex of emptiness isn't even something ungraspable, it's something that you think you can grasp, like a form. But then again, if you study that, you get emptiness. So form is emptiness, and then what's emptiness? It's form. So the vortex in some sense, the ultimate point of form is emptiness, but the ultimate point of emptiness


is also emptiness, but the easiest way to get to the emptiness of emptiness is form. Any other feedback? Elena? I have a question about an experience that is very green and very fragmented. Did you say green? Green as in raw or fresh? Like fresh produce? As in non-mature. Non-mature, yeah. New, fresh experience? I would say so. You would say so? Would you say so? Yes. That's good, see? Now she's not really young chickadee anymore, but she still has fresh eggs.