Part of a series of talks on the 41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Ornament Sutra).
- Making neutral actions positive
- Keeping motivation in mind so positive actions don’t become mechanical
Verse 26, which we did yesterday:
“May all beings be filled with good qualities.”
This is the prayer of the bodhisattva when seeing a filled container.
Last night I came up to fill my water container, because there’s no water in my cabin, and I was standing there filling it and said, “Oh, this verse.” Although the container was not yet filled, I was thinking, “Ok, I’m filling sentient beings with good qualities,” as the container is filling. Then I was thinking of how many times everyday we fill containers, we pour ourselves a glass of juice, a glass of water, make a cup of tea. Always filling things up, you can think you’re filling sentient beings with good qualities.
It made me also think of the water bowls. It’s very important when we set out water bowls up in the morning that we’re not just doing this mechanical action that results in seven bowls across the altar, because what meaning does that have? It’s how that practice changes your mind when you’re doing it, that’s what’s creating the virtue. Generating the motivation of bodhicitta and then—with the cloth cleaning out the bowls—thinking you’re removing afflictions and suffering from sentient beings’ minds. When you’re filling up the bowls you can either think that you’re filling sentient beings with good qualities, or that you are filling the buddhas with bliss and offering bliss, imagining Buddha getting filled with bliss and you’re experiencing bliss at the same time. By the way when you fill sentient beings with good qualities they also become very blissful.
Really thinking about that when you’re filling the bowls. Of course, in the evening when you’re taking them down, then you think that you’re throwing away or dumping out the afflictions and sufferings of sentient beings and again cleaning their minds when you wipe the bowl dry. It’s this whole way of thinking that makes actions virtuous or nonvirtuous. This is also the whole purpose of the thought training, because when you fill a container, when you see a full container (I notice our water things on the table are full this morning), we can all think like this.
Those are neutral actions. You don’t create positive or negative karma, usually, by filling a container or seeing a container. But if you train your mind to think in this way, then those everyday actions become virtuous. It’s a way to accumulate a lot of good karma, especially if you’re doing it with a bodhicitta motivation. Then it’s amplified because you’re taking care of so many sentient beings and working for their benefit while you’re doing that.