The one responsibility of the bodhisattva is to not cause suffering.
The one commitment of the bodhisattva is to love all beings pervading space and time, regardless of any beings ability to return, or even receive, that love.
We’ve all been in situations where we have offered love to someone unwilling to return that love – for instance, we still love our child, even when in the a rage of differentiation she yells, “I hate you, Mom!”. We often call this unconditional love.
Those of you who have made a practice of cultivating compassion have probably intentionally cultivated love for someone who has withdrawn their love, or someone who doesn’t agree with out beliefs or lifestyle, and therefore, at least on a hypothetical level, does not want your love. These may be political or historical figures. Or they may be estranged family.
My largest breakthrough in the depth and breadth of this commitment was when I realized that *I* was one of those beings pervading time and space, that deserved the love of my bodhisattva self, even when I was incapable of returning, or even receiving that love.
That it was the responsibility of my awakened self to address suffering, and the root of suffering, in my own life. It was my commitment, in my awakened heart, to cultivate loving compassion for my “imperfect” self – the one that was attaching to, and therefore being the cause of, my own suffering.
Sound tricky? Well, it is, and it isn’t.
This is a great practice for days when your heart feels stuck or bruised, you’re feeling a lack of self-love, or are feeling unable to forgive yourself for some past or present participation in the creation of suffering; that of yourself or another.
The ironic part of holding on to the guilt of being a cause of suffering, is that we continue to cause suffering through our attachment to the guilt!
It is not the negative emotion that causes the suffering. Nor is it the act that caused the suffering itself – whatever that act may be – that causes the suffering. The attachment to the suffering, in any form, is the root of the cause of suffering.
Truly, attachment to joy or pleasure, or any emotional state, is the root of the cause of suffering, but addressing that is a practice for another essay.
The way I’ve come to see it, the true work of the bodhisattva is to release ourselves from suffering, and the attachment to suffering. To engender the attitudes of enlightenment, and slowly, overtime, become proficient; and to do this work for the benefit of all beings.
Here’s the practice, in three easy (or sometimes, not so easy) parts.
Part I: Two Ways of Generating Pure, Compassionate Love
1. Commit to the thought of not being the cause of suffering to yourself, or others. Release attachment to any suffering that has been caused in the past, by you or any being, or may be caused in the future. Release attachment to suffering itself.
a. Commit to pure, compassionate love for all beings pervading time and space. Start generating this love by feeling it in your body, if possible, and then growing that love with each breath.
b. Some times this approach may be out of reach, so instead, imagine some being you love easily – your child, your pet, your beloved, your best friend – enveloped in a soft, glowing bubble of your compassionate love for them. Breath by breath, grow this love until it fills your whole sense of time and space.
Part II: Recognize That You Are a Being That Deserves Your Love, Whether You Can Return, Or Even Accept, That Love.
1. Once you’ve filled all of time and space with your love, recognize that you are a being already released from suffering. That you are enveloped in your own pure, compassionate love. And in being filled and surrounded by your compassion, you are surrounded by the impartial, unconditional, compassionate love of all time and space.
There is no separation between You – the bodhisattva, that awakened being generating this love – and you, the self sitting and being held in it, regardless of your ability to return, or receive, that pure love. That love unattached to anything you think you have been, or think you may be. Anything you think you have done, or think you will do.
2. Allow that pure compassion, unattached to any outcome or past experience, to hold you securely in the awareness that you are already fully present. Fully perfect. Fully awake. Fully free from suffering, and the attachment to suffering.
Part III: Release Attachment to the Practice Itself
1. Stay in this state for as long as you are able, without clinging to it. Attachment to joy, pleasure, or comfort are also the root of suffering. Be present, not attached.
2. If you lose your way in the practice, return to the place in the practice where you became distracted. Perhaps there is some work there to move through. Or, perhaps you just got distracted. Or, perhaps there is a part of you that’s unwilling to receive that love that is being generated. Don’t attach! Move fluidly to the points of the exercise that are within reach, and continue working towards compassionate love for all beings.
3. If tears come, let them come. And let them go. If laughter comes, let it come, and let it go. If euphoria comes, let is also go. If pain comes, let it arise, and release. Let yourself be exactly as you are, exactly where you are. Cultivate compassion for every emotion that arises, and then release it.
4. Don’t forget to breathe.
May this act, and all acts, be dedicated to the liberation and awakening of all beings. Bodhi svaha.
I dedicate these works, and all works, to the unfolding of awareness. May this act serve me, as it serves all beings, through the revelation of awareness. May my increasing awakening to presence serve to bring awareness of presence to all beings throughout space and time. So it is.
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