Recently, I had a difficult time with a dear friend. As a parting sort of benevolent gift she gave me some homework. My kind of homework: the profound, holy Dharma (Dharma is what Buddhists call Buddhism).
Herein follows my simple contemplations of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva.
The text, a small golden paper pamphlet, begins with a simple aspiration via great teacher Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche:
May this be of great benefit to all sentient beings.
And that just happens to be the vow of she or he who would walk the Bodhisattva path: to be of benefit to others. All others, not just those we like or agree with. All others, not just humans. All others, not just the cute animals—blades of grass, cockroaches, that lady who bugs you…your mom and dad and sister and brother and ex-boyfriend—all are included.
Then, there are two verses that set the stage for the 37 verses to follow. The first says that while the nature of existence is neither permanent nor non-existent, the bodhisattva works for the benefit of all. We bow in respect with everything that we have—body, speech and mind—to one who is so dedicated.
Next, there’s a verse about how those who are true bodhisattvas become so by studying and practicing Dharma—which means, simply, truth. And now the text will go into those practices.
Now that you have attained a human body endowed with freedoms and resources, a great ship so difficult to find
In order to free yourself and others from samsara‘s ocean,
Day and night, to listen, reflect, and meditate without distraction
Is the practice of a bodhisattva
In Buddhism we call it precious human birth—this state of being is short and fragile and incredibly lucky, like winning a cosmic lottery.
Now that we’re here, the meaning of this life is to free ourselves and others from confusion, neurosis, selfishness, anger, attachment, ignorance.
This purpose is our only purpose—we don’t do it just when we meditate or study, it should be the point of everything we do—eating, pooping, working, traveling, shopping, hiking…it’s all so that we may be of service. Any activity that does not help us to serve in this way is distraction.
This is our practice, our joy, our path—to stop obsessing about ourselves and work tirelessly to be of benefit.
I’ll contemplate #2 next.