- Becoming a buddha depends on generating bodhicitta
- Bodhicitta is the wish to become a buddha for the benefit of all beings
- Without the sentient beings, even the ones we find difficult, there’s no bodhicitta
To continue on a little bit more with dependent arising and how it helps us in developing bodhicitta, another way to think is that our ability to attain enlightenment depends on sentient beings. We usually think: “I’m attaining enlightenment for their benefit, those poor slobs.” That’s not the way to think. It’s rather that to become a Buddha depends upon generating bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is the wish to become a Buddha for the benefit of every single sentient being. So, that means that our enlightenment is dependent upon those sentient beings. Because without the sentient beings we wouldn’t have the bodhicitta, which would mean we couldn’t become enlightened. And, it’s not just sentient beings as a broad class that our enlightenment is dependent upon, because that one is easy, all those ones far away that we don’t have to deal with, easy to have bodhicitta and compassion for them, but it’s every single sentient being our enlightenment depends on, okay? So, when you’re walking in the meadow and a grasshopper jumps on you, your enlightenment is completely dependent on that grasshopper. Because if we omit one sentient being from the range of our bodhicitta, then there’s no bodhicitta, yes? If we eliminate one sentient being, if we get so angry at one sentient being that we say: “forget that one. I´m going to get enlightened for everybody else’s sake but not that one,” you know? Then our bodhicitta is totally destroyed and our own enlightenment is impossible, yes?
It’s really remarkable when you think about it that way. How dependent we are in each sentient being, how we need each sentient being to become enlightened. So that’s even for our own spiritual practice; so those days when, you know, “I´m going to get enlightened. I want to get enlightened.” Not about us, it’s about sentient beings. But even enlightenment—they talk about fulfilling the purpose of self, and the purpose of others. The purpose of self is the dharmakaya—to have the realization of emptiness and purify our own mind. So, if we want to attain that state of mind in which all the afflictive and cognitive obscurations are completely purified, we depend on that grasshopper, you know? And we depend on George Bush, and we depend upon the guy who scratched our car, and we depend upon our boss, and we depend upon, you know, the worker in India making the manholes for the New York streets. We depend on every single sentient being, you know? So, that’s a wide range of compassion.
When you think our whole spiritual attainments depend on sentient beings, it’s not like we are some independent entity there, or that our enlightenment is some independent entity. So really we have to expand the mind to include everybody. And what I’ve found very helpful in doing this is to look past the appearances that we have of sentient beings—to look past the role that we happen to be in with them in this particular life or the kind of relationship that we have with them in this life—but realize that there’s just a mind and a body there and there’s no actual person, they’re just a karmic appearance. So not to get locked into this idea of a person who we just can’t stand or a person who we really desire. There’s no person home, there’s nobody home, there’s just a mere label, a merely labeled person, that you can’t find when you search for it. That really helps us look past these superficial appearances and the superficial relationships that we have with different beings in this particular life. So that can help if you’re having a strong reaction to one sentient being or another to settle your mind down and then remember: “Oh! I’m going to be in a totally different relationship with them in the next life” and so let’s not get all stuck on how it is this life, either clinging to them, pushing them away, or in some way excluding them from the range of our compassion and bodhicitta.