The precepts for aspiring and engaging bodhicitta

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The text turns to training the mind on the stages of the path of advanced level practitioners. Part of a series of teachings on the Gomchen Lamrim by Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa. Visit Gomchen Lamrim Study Guide for a full list of contemplation points for the series.

  • The benefits and limitations of seeing others as bodhisattvas
  • Being honest with your spiritual teacher
  • How to give useful feedback by referencing a specific action
  • The origin and historical debate regarding the precepts for cultivating bodhicitta
  • Explanation of the first four of the 18 root bodhisattva precepts

Gomchen Lamrim 83: The precepts for aspiring and engaging bodhicitta (download)

83 The Gomchen Lamrim: The Precepts for Aspiring and Engaging Bodhicitta 03-17-17

Contemplation points

Precepts of aspiring bodhicitta

Before taking the bodhisattva precepts, we prepare our mind by taking the aspirational code in the presence of our spiritual mentor. Venerable Chodron went through the precepts for keeping our aspiring bodhicitta. Spend some time on each.

Note: Some of these are really difficult because we’re so used to doing them, we don’t even realize it. But you can practice, start to habituate, these precepts through these contemplations, imagining difficult situations, what you have said and done in the past, and how you might act differently in the future. In this way, you start to build up new, more beneficial habits and create the causes to generate and sustain bodhicitta.

How to protect bodhicitta from degenerating in this life

  1. Remember the advantages of bodhicitta repeatedly.
    • What are the advantages of bodhicitta?
    • How might remembering the advantages protect your bodhicitta from degenerating?
  2. To strengthen bodhicitta, generate the aspiration three times in the morning and three times in the evening.
    • How might reciting the refuge and bodhicitta prayers in the morning and evening help protect your bodhicitta?
    • If you are already doing this, how has it benefitted your mind and practice?
    • How does it protect your bodhicitta from degenerating in this life?
  3. Do not give up working for sentient beings, even when they are harmful.
    • When you’re having a difficult time with others, what thoughts can you generate to counter the desire you have to give up on them?
    • Why is this point so important to the bodhisattva practice?
    • Why does it protect your bodhicitta from degenerating in this life?
  4. To enhance your bodhicitta, accumulate both merit and wisdom continuously.
    • Why does accumulating merit protect bodhicitta from degenerating in this life?
    • Why does accumulating wisdom protect bodhicitta from generating in this life?

How to keep from being separated from bodhicitta in future lives

  1. Abandon deceiving your guru/abbot/holy beings.
    • Take some time to think about lies and deception you have done in the past. What were the driving thoughts behind your deception? Why did you do it? Consider the mind that wants to look good and cover up mistakes. How does it harm you? How does it harm others? Why can being honest be so difficult sometimes?
    • Why is lying, in particular, to your teachers and the holy beings a problem?
    • How does being honest with them help you from being separated from bodhicitta in future lives?
  2. Abandon causing others to regret virtuous actions they have done.
    • Think of personal examples in your own life where you’ve caused others to regret their virtue or they have caused you to regret yours. Why is this harmful to you? To them?
    • Why does abandoning this help you from being separated from bodhicitta in future lives?
  3. Abandon abusing or criticizing bodhisattvas or the Mahayana.
    • What does it mean to criticize the Mahayana? What does it meant to criticize bodhisattvas.
    • Venerable Chodron made it a point to say that this doesn’t mean that seeing everyone as a possible bodhisattva, we say and do nothing when we see harm in the world. Consider how to live practically in the world, how to keep this aspiration while still working for change to benefit sentient beings. Be specific, thinking of harm you see in the world today.
    • How does seeing others as possibly being bodhisattvas lessen the proliferation of anger and judgment in your OWN mind? Why is this so important?
    • Why does abandoning this help you from being separated from bodhicitta in future lives?
  4. Abandon not acting with a pure, selfless wish, but with pretension and deceit.
    • Venerable Chodron said this one is easy to do. Think of situations in your own experience where you acted with pretension (pretending to have good qualities you don’t) and/or deceit (pretending that you don’t have faults that you do). Why is this so harmful to yourself and others? What can you do to begin to habituate a sense of transparency, of being straightforward with others?
    • Why does abandoning this help you from being separated from bodhicitta in future lives?
  5. Practice abandoning deliberately lying to and deceiving gurus, abbots, and so forth.
    • This is the companion to #1. How is being honest with your teachers and the holy beings beneficial to yourself and others?
    • Why does practicing this help you from being separated from bodhicitta in future lives?
  6. Practice being straightforward without pretension and deceit.
    • This is the companion to #4. How is being straightforward with others beneficial for yourself and others?
    • What does being straightforward mean? There is a kind way to do this and an unkind way. Consider how you have communicated in the past with others. Has your honesty been harsh at times? What was your motivation? What motivation is this precept steering your towards and how would that translate into straightforward speech?
    • Why does practicing this help you from being separated from bodhicitta in future lives?
  7. Generate recognition of bodhisattvas as your teachers and praise them (or Recognize people you respect as your teachers and praise their good qualities).
    • Why is this beneficial to yourself and others? What is it about praising the qualities of your teachers that creates virtue in your own mind?
    • Take some time now to think about what it is you appreciate in your teachers, mentors, and others you respect.
    • Venerable Chodron said that there are different ways of praising others. We can do it in a way that is non-specific (You’re wonderful!) or specific (I really appreciated it when you did ____ because it gave me ______ that I needed). How has specific feedback made a difference in your own life in shaping how you move forward? Consider developing the habit of praising others in this way?
    • Why does practicing this help you from being separated from bodhicitta in future lives?
  8. Assume the responsibility yourself to lead all sentient beings to awakening.
    • This can feel really BIG, but why is it so important to have this thought even at the stage of aspiring bodhicitta?
    • Why does practicing this help you from being separated from bodhicitta in future lives?

Conclusion: If you have already taken the bodhisattva vows or aspiring bodhicitta with a spiritual mentor, allow this contemplation to reinforce your virtuous goals and aspirations as you move throughout your day, resolving to continuously cultivate and never abandon bodhicitta. If you have not yet taken aspiring bodhicitta, consider the benefits of doing so. Even if you are not ready at this time, cultivate a feeling of appreciation for those who have, consider the benefits of doing so, and generate a wish to take and follow these guidelines at some time in the future.

Engaging bodhisattva precepts

Venerable Chodron started giving commentary on the bodhisattva ethical code, which are the guidelines you follow when you “take the bodhisattva precepts.” Consider them one by one, in light of the commentary she gave. For each, consider the following:

  1. In what situations have you seen yourself act this way in the past or under what conditions might it be easy to act this way in the future (it might help to consider how you’ve seen this negativity in the world)?
  2. Which of the ten non-virtues is the precept keeping you from committing?
  3. What are the antidotes that can be applied when you are tempted to act contrary to the precept?
  4. Why is this precept so important to the bodhisattva path? How does keeping it benefit yourself and others?
  5. Resolve to be mindful of the precept in your daily life.

Precepts covered this week:

Root Precept #1: a) Praising yourself or b) belittling others because of attachment to receiving material offerings, praise, and respect.

Root Precept #2: a) Not giving material aid or b) not teaching the Dharma to those who are suffering and without a protector, because of miserliness.

Root Precept #3: a) Not listening although another declares his/her offense or b) with anger blaming him/her and retaliating.

Root Precept #4: a) Abandoning the Mahayana by saying that Mahayana texts are not the words of Buddha or b) teaching what appears to be the Dharma but is not.

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