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The benefits and causes of bodhicitta

Part of a series of talks on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Three Principal Aspects of the Path given in various locations around the United States from 2002-2007. This talk was given in Boise, Idaho.

  • Benefits of the altruistic mind
  • Reflecting on the kindness of sentient beings
  • How developing bodhicitta creates a meaningful life

Bodhicitta 02: The benefits and causes of bodhicitta (download)

Last week I started to talk about the advantages of the altruistic intention. Do you remember? What were some of the advantages? Hello? What were some of the advantages?

Audience: Getting the things you want.

Venerable Thubten Chodron (VTC): Okay, all of our wholesome wishes will occur. What other benefits? What were other benefits?

Audience: Get respected.

VTC: We become an object of respect and offering, because of the altruism in the mind. What other benefits?

Audience: We become a child of the Buddha.

VTC: Yes, we become a child of the Buddha. We are following in the footsteps of the Buddha, growing up to become like a Buddha. What else?

Audience: Our minds.

VTC: Sometimes you can get other extra-sensory perceptions like clairvoyance and so on—different realizations.

Audience: Obstacles created by our negative karma are eliminated very quickly.

VTC: Yes. We are able to purify our negative karma very quickly, because the altruism totally opposes the negative emotions with which we acted in harmful ways. What else?

Audience: Become a source of comfort and happiness for all sentient beings.

VTC: Yes. Become a source for comfort and happiness for all sentient beings. What else?

Audience: Create merit and positive potential.

How to listen to the teachings

We create a lot of positive potential because we are working for all the sentient beings. It’s important that you remember these and that you contemplate them. It is important when you come here that you jot down some notes during the teaching. Or even if you do not want to jot down notes during the teaching; after the teaching when you go home you write down the major points and that you contemplate these things. This is because the teaching is what gives you the information—that is the first step. But then you need to take it and contemplate it and digest it and make it a part of yourself. Otherwise it just remains on the level of words and when you come the next week it’s like you are starting all over again because you do not even remember what the topic was the previous week. It’s real important that during the week you work with this material and that before you come to the class you review it. That way you know what page we are on, you know where we are and where we left off. These teachings develop in a gradual way and each subsequent point is based on a previous one. So please review the previous points.

In the teachings they often describe to us how to listen to the teachings. This is something that is very important. You may remember when I was here in February I talked about that. Do you remember the three kinds of pots, the analogy of how to listen to the teachings?

Audience: The pot with the hole in the bottom?

VTC: Okay, so what is the pot with the hole in the bottom?

Audience: It is where you hear the teachings but they go in one ear and out the other, and you forget them.

VTC: Yes. That’s it. It’s very easy for us to be a pot with a hole in the bottom isn’t it? Or worse yet we are an upside down pot when we are in the class and the teachings do not go in because our mind is spinning around something else all together. So it is important to not be an upside down pot. Let the teachings in when you are here. It is important not to be a pot with a hole in the bottom, in one ear and out the other. And the third analogy—do you remember what that one was?

Audience: The pot with dirt in it, or something like that.

VTC: Yes, the dirty pot. That’s the person who listens to teachings with the wrong motivation. They are all full of their own ideas and ready to argue at any point. So they are not really taking the teachings in and considering them or doing so with a pure motivation. It’s important when we listen to teachings to pay attention, to remember them, and then to listen with a good motivation.

I find that I usually have to remind groups that the responsibility of the teaching does not lay on the teacher. This is a co-created thing and so each audience brings something out of the teacher in a different way. According to how the audience practices, then they receive different teachings because they bring different things out of the teacher. So it is a co-created thing, the students are as responsible as anybody else. For after all, it is for the benefit of the students that the teachings are happening. It’s not so I can listen to myself talk. I listen to myself talk too much. The benefits are for the students, it is important that you really take the benefit and take it to heart and think about the teachings.

A few other advantages of bodhicitta: Remember bodhicitta is this primary mind with two aspirations. The first one is to work for the welfare of others, and the second is aspiring to become a Buddha in order to do that most effectively. You need those two different aspirations. Compassion alone is not bodhicitta, and love alone is not bodhicitta, and wanting to work for the welfare of all beings alone is not bodhicitta. There also has to be this intention to become a Buddha in order to do that. It’s this motivating force that pushes us along the path.

Bodhicitta is valuable at the beginning, middle, and end of the path

They say that the bodhicitta, the altruistic intention, is valuable at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the path. It’s valuable at the beginning because it gets us going. It shows us our potential of becoming a fully enlightened being, our potential of being able to care for others in an equal minded way. It gives us some vision of our qualities and what we can develop. So it gets us energized. We also see at the beginning of the path that so much of the goodness we experience in our life comes from bodhicitta. We experience a lot of happiness in our life that comes as a result of our own positive actions.

We learn how to create positive actions because others taught us, and those who taught us usually have a good motivation. They learned because of the Buddha’s teachings to start with. And the whole reason why the Buddha is the Buddha is because of bodhicitta. If we look even at our own virtuous actions, we can see that they depend upon this altruistic intention in the mind of a Buddha and all the myriad effects that come from that. At the beginning of the path we really begin to see how even our ordinary happiness in our own lives ultimately derives from this altruistic intention in the mind of other beings.

Bodhicitta is valuable in the middle of the path because it keeps us going. We start out in the path with a lot of energy because we are inspired by the vision the bodhicitta offers us at the beginning. Then sometimes when we are in the middle of practicing, things do not go the way our ego wants them to go. You know, we are trying to help all these sentient beings and they tell us to mind our own business. Or we are trying to help all of these sentient beings and it turns out a mess. Or we help somebody and they are ungrateful and they criticize us. That happens a lot, doesn’t it? In the face of all these kinds of obstacles remembering that bodhicitta helps us overcome the obstacles. They may be the obstacles in the environment, like other people not being receptive or other people blaming us for things we did not do. Bodhicitta helps us overcome the obstacles in our own mind, for example expecting that people should appreciate us because we are working for their benefit and expecting that they should say, “Thank you. Your advice is so wise. Please give me more.” When we think of the bodhicitta we see that often we have agendas in our mind. We see that we really need to come back to a compassionate attitude instead of pushing our agendas onto other people.

Bodhicitta helps us have a mind that is more resilient and that is able to handle difficulties. For sure when you are working for the benefit of sentient beings you are going to have problems. Even if you do not work for the benefit of sentient beings you are going to have problems. It’s true, isn’t it?

If you look at His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I mean he has more problems than any of us have. Are you the leader in exile of a people who have been in exile for forty years? Talk about having problems. Would you want to have to lead an exiled community? Would you want to have to negotiate with the Beijing government? Would you want to have to keep a group of people unified? Talk about problems and difficulties. He has many more than we do and yet you can see that his compassion, his altruism is what keeps him balanced and capable of dealing with all of this. So the bodhicitta helps us in the middle of the path to keep going and keep our positive intention.

Face of a Buddha statue in Ladakh.

When we attain Buddahood, then spontaneously, effortlessly, the energy flows to be of the greatest benefit to others. (Photo by Jonathan Choe)

It helps us at the end of the path because when we have actually attained Buddahood, when we actually are enlightened, then spontaneously, effortlessly, the energy flows to be of the greatest benefit to others. I think that is one of the great qualities of a Buddha. A Buddha doesn’t have to sit there and go, “Okay, so-and-so has a problem. What in the world am I going to do to solve this?” Or “So-and-so has a problem; and this guy last time I helped him was such a jerk. I really don’t know if I want to bother about this sentient being this time.” Buddha doesn’t have to go through that. Or a Buddha when they see somebody who has a problem or is suffering doesn’t go, “Oh yes. That guy really has a very bad problem. But it’s Sunday today and I want to rest. I have had a really hard week working for the benefit of sentient beings. I want a day off.” A Buddha doesn’t think like that.

You can see that when we attain enlightenment then automatically, spontaneously, without having to consider it, the wish and the ability to be of the greatest benefit comes. There’s no hesitation, there’s no laziness, there’s no fear or reluctance or anxiety involved. There is just this pure wish to help.

Then also because a Buddha has these clairvoyant powers, they are able to see the different karmic propensities of different sentient beings. So a Buddha can benefit them according to what is going to be most effective. You can see that is a great blessing because many times we want to benefit people and we don’t know the best way to it, do we? It’s hard to say sometimes. Whereas when you have become a Buddha and your mind is fully omniscient, then this appears to the mind spontaneously. There aren’t these kinds of difficulties. That’s why bodhicitta is good at the beginning, middle, and end of the path.

Bodhicitta is our true friend and refuge

Bodhicitta is also our real friend. If you are ever lonely, look for the friend of bodhicitta. What do we usually do when we are lonely? What do you do when you are lonely? Take our usual three refuges: the refrigerator, the TV, and the shopping center. When you are lonely what do you take refuge in?

Audience: Microwave popcorn.

VTC: Microwave popcorn—Okay! Does the microwave popcorn fill the hole in your heart? No! It fills our stomach, it makes our belly expand, but it doesn’t—you know, when we are lonely there is this feeling of emptiness in the heart. Does the popcorn fill it? No. When you are lonely and you plop yourself down in front of the tube and you’re doing your channel surfing, does that fill the emptiness in the heart? No. When you go to the shopping center and buy something that you don’t need and can’t afford, or even if you need it and can afford it, does it fill the emptiness in the heart? It doesn’t, does it? When we are lonely we use totally the wrong strategies to deal with our loneliness. We make ourselves fat, bored, and broke—and we are still lonely.

Bodhicitta is a real friend. If when we are lonely we sit down and do the meditations on bodhicitta and we reflect on the kindness of sentient beings. We reflect on everything they have done for us throughout this life and throughout all our beginningless previous lives. We reflect that everything we have and do and are is dependent on others; and what they have done for us. Then this feeling of connection automatically comes in the heart, doesn’t it? And when there is this feeling of connection with sentient beings we’re not lonely any more. Often when we are lonely we are so involved in spinning around me, aren’t we? Have you noticed that? “Aw, I am so lonely. Nobody loves me, nobody cares about me, poor me, poor me, poor me, poor me, poor me.”

We do our mala of “Poor me’s.” Then we do a mala of “Nobody loves me, nobody loves me, nobody loves me.” That way of thinking makes us more lonely, doesn’t it? This is because we’re concentrated with single-point intention on how lonely we are, so of course we make ourselves more lonely. That loneliness gets created and amplified in the mind—and just accelerated. If we do the meditations on bodhicitta—we start meditating on equanimity, or the kindness of others, or if we do the metta meditation generating love for others, or we do taking and giving—any of the bodhicitta meditations. Then automatically our heart is open and expanded toward others. That’s the direct opposite of the feeling of loneliness isn’t it? So bodhicitta becomes our real friend. It’s the thing that really conquers our loneliness.

Sometimes we are really silly so we feel lonely and we say, “Oh, bodhicitta is supposed to conquer my loneliness.” So we say “Okay Buddha. You have bodhicitta. Do something with my loneliness. Make it go away.” As if Buddha is going to take out his magic wand and go, “Boing.” I mean, wouldn’t that be nice? But you know Buddha doesn’t have a magic wand. Or actually I should say that Buddha’s magic wand is the teachings on bodhicitta, which we have received. So then it’s time for us to contemplate them and integrate them into our own hearts.

Bodhicitta makes our life meaningful

Bodhicitta is a way for us to make our lives meaningful. I think in modern day America, having a meaningful life is something that people are really struggling with. We’re given this image of success and meaning, and a lot of people have it and they are still unhappy. Meaning is that you are supposed to be rich and famous and high powered. But you know people are rich and famous and high powered and they’re not necessarily happy. Witness some of our politicians. Very good example, don’t you think? Those kinds of things are not necessarily a mark of success, or a mark of having a meaningful life. You can have all of that and actually wind up quite miserable. I think the ex-mayor is probably really miserable right now.

So I think it is time, especially in this country for us to really ask ourselves what makes our life meaningful. What is something valuable? When we come to the time of dying what do we want to look back on our life and feel good about? When we’re dying do we want to look back and say I was rich and powerful and famous, but now when you die being rich and powerful and famous does not mean beans, does it? It doesn’t matter whether you die in this luxurious hospital bed or you die in the gutter in Calcutta, because when you are dying what good is your plush hospital bed going to do for you? Especially when they’re playing the TV; you are trying to die and they have Star Wars on the TV. So really think about it—what is it that is going to make our life meaningful, you know, when we look back on our life? And here we see that it is not just what we do in terms of being busy, doing stuff all day. It is not just in terms of what we have, because you have a whole house full of stuff, but when you die none of it comes with you. You know the ancient Egyptians put a lot of it in the tomb and it is still here. [laughter] It did not go with Tutankhamen to his next life. [laughter] It is still here and it sits in museums. And I don’t know if our stuff is nice enough to put in museums. [more laughter] You know, it is probably mostly going to go to the Goodwill. [laughter] So is just accumulating stuff what we are going to feel good about in our life at the end? I don’t think so. I think what we really feel good about in our lives—if we just contemplate a little bit—is the way in which we have been able to connect with other people. And the way that we have open hearts. It’s not the external relationship that’s the connection, so much, it’s the feeling in our hearts of being connected. Because we can have external relationships with a lot of people but not feel connected to them, and we can be very far away from other people but feel very connected with them.

When we see certain images from Iraq, do we feel connected with those people there? We don’t know them, they are total strangers, but when there’s a feeling of compassion in our heart for them we are connected even though we don’t know them. Should we meet them one day, it is even nicer to be able to really connect with them, but even if we don’t meet them the feeling of connection is there. I think they feel that too. Because we all know if we flip the situation we may be far away from somebody else who we know feels connected to us and that helps us, doesn’t it? So it is this ability to open our heart to others that becomes very valuable. That is what bodhicitta is about.

Bodhicitta prepares us for death

At the time we die, it is our level of wisdom—whether we are in touch with the nature of reality—that is important isn’t it? Whether you know the current stock market rates is not important when you die. Whether we know the nature of reality, or whether we have trained our mind in contemplating impermanence and emptiness and things like that, that’s very valuable when we die. Bodhicitta is something that energizes us to do those wisdom contemplations. We can see that this attitude of bodhicitta is what makes our life meaningful. Whether we’ve developed bodhicitta to the fullest extent or not is not the issue. Just even having a tinge of bodhicitta in our hearts, even having cultivated it once, even if we forget it afterwards, something has changed inside and that becomes very valuable.

Imagine when you get to the time of death, you can die with a feeling of contentment about your life and a feeling of how fortunate you’ve been to have heard these teachings on bodhicitta. Knowing that it’s time to leave this life now, I pray that in my future life I am born in a place and in a time where I can meet somebody who will teach me about bodhicitta, where I can take the bodhisattva vows, where I can continue this practice and dedicate all the merit that I have accumulated in my life through the power of this compassionate thought for the benefit of all living beings. Imagine having that kind of thought in our mind when we die. It would be nice wouldn’t it? Having our mind so well trained in compassion that when we die there’s no regret, there’s no fear; there’s a feeling of rejoicing, a feeling of fulfillment, a feeling of trust. When we do the bodhicitta meditations and see the kindness of others, we begin to trust them more. We stop being so self-centered and worrying neurotically about our self. This enables us when we die—we just let go on to the next life. It is not a big sweat. Whereas you can see that without bodhicitta dying is total chaos, isn’t it? It’s like “Ehhhh, I’m separating from my body! Who am I going to be if I don’t have this body? And I am separating from everybody I love, so who’s going to help me? I’m separating from my whole ego identity, so who am I going to be? And my life is so full of regret because of what I have done. I have so many wrecked relationships in the past because I have been so mean to people and angry with them and I feel how all that is weighing on my heart and I can’t even apologize.” Imagine dying like that. Yuck! Really painful.

We can see that by training our minds in bodhicitta now we’re preparing. We make our own life happy now and when the time comes to die, no problem, we just let go. My teacher used to give the example of when a bird is on a ship and starts to fly; it just takes off and flies over the water. You know it is not looking back at the ship saying, “I want that ship.” It just takes off and goes. I think that it would be so nice when we die to do it like that. Like no big trip. What I am getting at is that by cultivating this altruistic intention, we are given the ability to have a meaningful life and then we are able to relax at the time of death. So if this is something that’s appealing for us, we should meditate on bodhicitta now. We should try to develop it now. You don’t wait until five minutes before you die to try to do it. What were those teachings I heard twenty years ago? What was the bodhicitta? What am I supposed to do now?

Bodhicitta transforms our outlook on life

Bodhicitta also gives us a feeling of hope and optimism. It’s the best antidote to depression, discouragement and despair, which are all pretty rampant emotions in America nowadays. You know how it is when you watch the six o’clock news and get filled with despair. You try to do something but you feel discouraged. It just seems like everything is going wrong. Bodhicitta gives us a sense of hope and optimism. People ask why that is so. They say “A bodhisattva who has compassion for everybody must get so depressed thinking about everybody’s suffering. Doesn’t contemplating everybody’s suffering just make you more depressed? I don’t want to meditate on bodhicitta; I have enough problems with my own suffering. I don’t want to think about others.” But the way in which we think about others’ suffering when we are trying to generate bodhicitta is very different because a bodhisattva has the background of the three principal aspects of the path and the four noble truths. The bodhisattva knows that all phenomena are empty of true existence. When you know, at least on an intellectual level, that everything does not exist in the way that it appears, that things lack their own inherent essence, you see that even suffering lacks an inherent essence. You see that sentient beings that are obnoxious lack the inherent essence of being obnoxious. Believe it or not! Yes the guy that you think is the biggest jerk in the world does not have an inherent essence of jerkness or obnoxiousness. This is just something that we label according to circumstances, but that’s not the essence of the person. A bodhisattva may see a sentient being suffer, but she knows the suffering comes from causes and that the chief cause is ignorance. She knows that ignorance can be eliminated by generating the wisdom that realizes the emptiness or inherent essence of phenomena. So in that way, a bodhisattva sees that suffering is not pre-determined. It is not an inherent given. It is not something that has to happen. It only happens because there are causes and condition. If we change the causes and conditions then the suffering doesn’t come. If we eliminate the ignorance, which is the root of the suffering, the suffering is not going to happen.

When bodhisattvas have even an intellectual understanding of the nature of reality, they see that there’s hope—that even when beings are suffering those beings can change. Those beings have the Buddha nature; the causes for their suffering can be discontinued. Therefore, a bodhisattva has a lot of hope and a lot of optimism and doesn’t get depressed when they think about other peoples’ suffering. They think the suffering is sad and they certainly commiserate, but they don’t sit there and get all depressed and feel hopeless about it because they know there is something that can be done to change the situation. And the bodhisattvas take that responsibility and do something according to their own ability. They do not just sit around and go “Aw I’m just a lowly bodhisattva, there’s so much suffering, and I can’t really help. I wish the Buddha would help them more.” A bodhisattva takes the challenge; she goes out and does it even while knowing her limitations. Some help is better than nothing, isn’t it? She takes the challenge and she does it. When we really think about bodhicitta in this way, we can see why it is said to be the cause of all happiness. Even right now in our own lifetime, it can totally transform how we look at life—how we look at our experience and how we look at what is going on in the world today.

Developing bodhicitta

What kind of causes do we need to have to generate bodhicitta? First, we need to see the benefits, like we have just been talking about earlier. Second, we need to purify our mind and accumulate positive potential. This is one of the results of doing the recitations before the teachings. The Seven Limb Prayer, for example, is very good for purifying negative karma and for developing positive potential. If you do the Vajrasattva practice or you do bows to the Thirty-five Buddhas, you are doing purification. If you have an altar at home, you could practice making offerings. Remember a couple of months ago I taught how to set up the altar and how to make offerings. It is on a tape somewhere in case you do not remember. If you have an altar and you make offerings at home, you accumulate a lot of positive potential. If you give generously to various charities, not out of obligation, but with a happy heart, you also create a lot of positive potential. These kinds of practices purify the negative attitudes and generate positive ones as they set the stage for generating bodhicitta. You can see that in order to generate something noble like bodhicitta, we have to get rid of obstacles and cultivate conducive circumstances. This how a lot of the other practices we do fit in with this. It is quite important.

Supportive conditions

It is very helpful to live near other practitioners who value bodhicitta and who are also practicing to develop it. That becomes a good support for us. So that’s why coming to teachings, coming to the Center and making friends with each other is something very important, because when you’re friends with Dharma people they understand that part of you and they are going to support it. Some of our other friends may not. Some of our other friends might say “You are going to sit on a cushion and meditate on compassion? Why don’t you stay home and have compassion for me and we’ll go out boating this weekend?” Or somebody at work is going to say “Get a life! What are you going to do a retreat for, and sit on a cushion for two days? Get a life, do something. You could have so much fun.” Or they might say “You are trying to meditate to develop love and compassion for everybody? That is useless; all these people are so obnoxious. Do you really want to love George Bush? Do you really want to love Saddam Hussein? Come on, you know this is stupid.” Your Dharma friends are not going to say that, I hope. [laughter] Our Dharma friends are going to support us; they’re going to understand our virtuous wish. They’re going to support it. They’re going to say “Oh yeah, retreat is so useful, and it is so valuable and you feel so good when you come back and you get along so much better with your family when you come back.” Dan’s son said Dan is a lot nicer when he comes back from retreat. [laughter] He knows when he wants something, to ask his Dad when he comes back from his retreat. [more laughter] It is true isn’t it?

Dan: I start cleaning and my wife is like, “He’s back.” [more laughter]

There’s a guy in our group in Seattle, and his wife is the same way. She doesn’t come to the Center, but she loves when he goes on retreat because he’s so wonderful when he comes back. So you know our Dharma friends will really support us when we want to do retreats or we want to go to teachings because they see the results. It’s really sweet. There is one other lady in the group in Seattle. She has a son who is about 26 or 27 and she’d been practicing maybe just for a year or two, not a real long time, and she asked him one day, “Do you see a difference since I started practicing?” And he went, “Well, Mom, you are so much less neurotic.” [laughter] You know from a 20-year-old son that’s a real compliment. So she was just tickled about that. So it really improves the quality of your life and your dharma friends support you in that. And if you are doing bodhicitta meditation and you get stuck somewhere, or you run into a glitch in your practice, or you feel kind of down in the dumps because you thought you would be enlightened by now [laughter], your dharma friends remind you that this is going to take a little while so be patient and they support you. So living in contact with other people who are also practicing bodhicitta, having access to books about bodhicitta, having access to teachers who teach bodhicitta—these are very good supportive conditions for developing this art.

So hearing and studying teachings about bodhicitta, having contact with a teacher and really trying to set up a regular daily meditation practice where we do some purification, some creation of positive potential, where we remember bodhicitta all the time—that becomes a very good cause for generating it.

Training the mind

Do you remember the little thing I told you to do in the morning when you wake up? What are the three intentions when you wake up? First one?

Audience: Be thankful just to wake up.

VTC: Yes, be thankful just to wake up. Okay, then on the basis of that?

Audience: Probably, be grateful that we get to hear the teachings. And also choosing what is important to do that day.

VTC: Yes, so we choose what is important to do that day. And what did we come up with? First thing. What is the most important thing to do every day, bottom line? In as much as possible, not to harm anybody. Second most important thing?

Audience: Is to help.

VTC: Yes, to help. In however big or small a way, we just have to help as much as we can. We do not have to be Mother Teresa. And third?

Audience: Is it to ask, “What is going to make my life meaningful?” Is that part of it?

VTC: Do you see all these empty pots? [laughter] Remember bodhicitta? Right! So write these three things down. Put them on a Post-it by your nightstand, or on the mirror in the bathroom and on your refrigerator. The three things to remember when you first wake up and as much as possible throughout the day:

  1. not to harm anybody in as much as possible,
  2. to help them as much you can, and
  3. to have this long-range spiritual motivation of bodhicitta wanting to become a Buddha to benefit everybody.

If we try to generate those three things every day and make it a habit, that becomes a very strong cause for actually generating bodhicitta. Because what we’re doing is re-habituating our mind with different thoughts. Because a lot of what we are trying to do in spiritual practice is re-train our mind or reform our mind. Yes, we’re all in reformatory school. [laughter] We’re trying to reform different habits. So instead of waking up with the thought “What do I have to do today?” and “Is the coffee ready yet?” or ” I want to sleep more,” we train the mind to wake up with this feeling of purpose and meaning and joy. And then throughout the day, remembering this.

Thich Nhat Hanh has a lovely tradition with his students. Every so often they ring a bell and everybody stops what they’re doing and breathes three times in silence. When you’re breathing three times in silence, come back to bodhicitta. Come back to these three things of not to harm, to benefit, and to aspire for enlightenment for the benefit of everybody. Use that as your trigger to come back to what’s important in your life. So you may not have a mindfulness bell around you, but there are stoplights and they can be your trigger. There’s the telephone ringing and that can be your trigger. One woman told me, because she has little kids, she uses “Moooommmmmy” as the trigger for her to come back and remember these three things. The more we habituate our mind with this the more it just becomes our habit and the different way we look at other people. And you can see this as you get to know people who are practicing; they will often have a different take on things. We’ll go in and take a look at something and be so discouraged and they’ll go in and look at something and see all the hope and potential. Or we will just look and say, “Oh this whole society is going down the tubes” and they will look at it and say, “Wow there are some good things happening now. There is some real potential for change here.” So it all depends on how we train our minds, what we look at. A friend of mine once said a pickpocket sees pockets. Most of us do not notice people’s pockets, do we? Well maybe some of you do, depending if you … , but pickpockets really do notice pockets because those are important to them. So if you’re a pickpocket, you train yourself to notice everybody’s pockets. If you are not a pickpocket, you very seldom notice people’s pockets. So it’s just a matter of what we train our mind in. If we are training our mind in bodhicitta we notice people’s goodness. If we do not train our mind in bodhicitta, all we do is complain. It is the glass is half full and the glass is half empty thing, isn’t it? So that is a little bit about the benefits of bodhicitta and the causes for bodhicitta.

Next will be how to develop it—the actual method.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.