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Home > Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism > Level 2: Lam-rim (Graded Stage) Material > Explanation of The Foundation for Good Qualities > Session Five: An Aspiring Dedicated Heart of Bodhichitta

Explanation of The Foundation for Good Qualities

Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche I
translated by Alexander Berzin
Ulverston, England, October 1982

[edited transcript]

Session Five: An Aspiring Dedicated Heart of Bodhichitta

Review

Let us set the proper motivation for listening to these teachings, namely a heart of bodhichitta, dedicated to helping others and to achieving enlightenment in order to be able to do so. These teachings have been presented in terms of the three levels of motivation. On the initial level, the main thing that the Buddha indicated is that we need to follow the strict ethical self-discipline of avoiding the ten types of destructive actions and of trying always to be constructive in all ways. We do this in order to avoid a worse rebirth state. On the second level, we look to the ethical self-discipline of keeping the various sets of vowed restraints for individual liberation – the pratimoksha vows. We keep this higher ethical self-discipline in order for it to serve as the basis for developing the training in higher discriminating awareness. After all, we understand that to develop higher discriminating awareness, we need the training in higher absorbed concentration, and the basis or root of that higher absorbed concentration is the training in higher ethical self-discipline. Therefore, keeping the ethical self-discipline of a certain set of pratimoksha vows is the essence of the practice at this intermediate level. 

Then, at the third or advanced level, we need to think about how we are not the only ones in the situation of wanting to be happy and not to suffer, but also everybody else is in the same situation. Therefore, it is not sufficient just to liberate ourselves alone from our problems. We have to work to help everybody out of his or her problems as well. In order to do this, we need to achieve a state of enlightenment. Therefore, we develop a dedicated heart of bodhichitta with which we dedicate ourselves to others and to achieving enlightenment in order to be able to benefit them and to relieve them of all their problems and sufferings, as much as is possible. This is the essence of the practice on the advanced level. 

The Two Stages of a Dedicated Heart of Bodhichitta

In terms of its nature, there are two stages of a dedicated heart of bodhichitta: aspiring bodhichitta and engaged bodhichitta. Simply the wish or aspiration to be able to achieve enlightenment to be able to help everybody is known as an “aspiring dedicated heart” (wishing bodhichitta). When we actually engage ourselves in the practices that will bring us to that goal, this is known as an “engaged dedicated heart” (involved bodhichitta). 

There are two ways to train and work ourselves up to being able to dedicate our hearts purely to the aspiring stage. The two are: (1) the seven-part cause and effect quintessence teaching and (2) equalizing and exchanging our attitudes about ourselves and others. 

The Seven-Part Cause and Effect Quintessence Teaching for Developing an Aspiring Dedicated Heart

As for the seven-part cause and effect quintessence teaching for developing a dedicated heart of bodhichitta, it sets compassion in the middle and considers the results that will follow from it and the causes for being able to generate it. Before we can develop great compassion, we need heartwarming love – the type of love, or wish for others to be happy, with which we automatically feel close to and cherish everyone, are sincerely concerned about their welfare, and would feel sad if anything bad ever happened to them. 

As for how to develop this heartwarming love, it is not something that we have to do any separate practice for. It automatically arises when we have the three attitudes that we develop prior to it. These three are (1) recognizing everyone as has been our mothers, (2) remembering the kindness of motherly love, and (3) feeling gratitude for that kindness and wishing to repay it. 

All these positive states of mind follow from training ourselves to be aware of everybody as having been, at some time, our mother, When we think about it, the person who has helped us the most, out of all our friends, is, in fact, our mother. When we were tiny infants, we were no better off than a tiny bug. We had no ability to take care of ourselves. We didn’t know how to walk and we didn’t have any teeth. We were completely naked. The fact that we survived that helpless state is all due to the kindness of our mother having taken care of us. And so, for someone who has helped us so much, it behooves us to try to remember her kindness. For instance, if we were deathly ill and a very skilled physician came and gave us some special treatment and medicine that cured us and saved our life, we would be extremely happy and grateful. If we think like that, then when we were tiny infants, our mother saved our life all the time. 

Although someone has been very kind to us and we wish to repay that kindness, to just do it in terms of giving the person food or drink, or some money or possessions, although it is a certain way of repaying kindness, it is not a very great way. People have been reborn countless times, and in those various times they have undoubtedly been extremely wealthy and in very prosperous situations, and that was of no help to them. But if we could get over and solve all our own personal problems and become completely free from them, and then reach our fullest potential and become an enlightened Buddha, we would then have the ability to help our mother out of all her uncontrollably recurring problems and sufferings. That would be a really significant way of repaying her kindness. 

The way to begin this line of thinking that leads to dedicating our heart with bodhichitta is to remember our own mother and how kind she was to us. We try to recall all the kind things she has done for us over the years and then think not only has she been so kind to us in this lifetime, but in countless past lifetimes as well. Then we extend, in stages, the scope of this way of thinking. We think about our father and how he too has been our mother in some previous life. Then we extend this further and eventually think in terms of our enemies as well. We think of the people that we hate: they too have, in fact, been our mothers in past lifetimes and been very kind to us. We extend this eventually so that we can think of all limited beings as having been our mothers and having been very kind to us in the past.

Developing Equanimity

It is extremely difficult to build up “mother-awareness” as a beneficial habit of mind. The reason is that we lack equanimity. We have various friends and people that we are infatuated with and attached to. We feel very strongly toward them in a clinging way. There are others who annoy us and whom we can’t stand. We consider them as our enemies, and we feel very hostile and are repelled by them. In this way, we don’t have equanimity toward everyone. The type of equanimity that we are talking about here in this context is the equanimity with which we get over and stop any thoughts of attraction and repulsion. If we can develop this kind of equanimity very well and sincerely, then all the other attitudes that follow from it will come more easily. 

The way to develop this type of equanimity is to imagine three persons in front of us: first of all someone who has helped us very much, next a person who has hurt us very deeply, and then a third person who has neither helped us nor harmed us, just a total stranger. We think of these three types of people and look at the attitudes and feelings that arise when we think of each of them. Toward the person who has helped us very much, the type of attitude that arises is that we feel attracted and attached, and wish to help them back. The reason we have these strong positive feelings toward that person, the feelings of attraction, is simply because this person has been nice to us and helped us. But that is not a stable reason at all. Although they might have helped us, and it is for this reason that we consider them a friend and are attached to them, nevertheless it is quite possible that they can also hurt us and cause us great pain. So it is not certain at all that this person will always help us. 

In addition, when we look at the mental state of desiring and being attached to someone, it is a state of infatuation. This infatuated desire overestimates the person. It is a very disturbing state of mind. Because it is a disturbing emotion, it leads us into a worse type of rebirth, so in fact there are many disadvantages to being so infatuated with someone. Thinking along those lines, we would try to stop our attachment. For instance, there are certain types of male and female cannibal spirits who are like sirens in the sense that they appear in very lovely and enticing forms. They can emanate in all sorts of miraculous forms. They trick people into becoming infatuated and drawn toward them, and then, when people come near, they revert to their actual forms and gobble them down. If we are very infatuated with someone who seems so enticing, we need to think of the example of the siren men and women and how such persons could just gobble us down. In that way, we can try to block our infatuation and attachment. 

If we look at the person we can’t stand, the reason we feel so hostile and repelled is perhaps because this person has hurt us in some way. But, we need to try to rid ourselves of that feeling by thinking that it doesn’t necessarily follow that this person will always hurt us. It is quite possible that they can help us a lot in the future. Furthermore, we need to consider how, by depending on this person, we might be able to overcome anger and hostility and develop tolerance and patience. In fact, we might be able to perfect the far-reaching attitude of patience and, by means of that, be able to become totally clear-minded and fully evolved as a Buddha. So, in fact, this person is very kind for giving us the opportunity to perfect this far-reaching attitude of patience. 

Furthermore, if, in the face of someone who makes us angry, we can remain placid and help them out, this would really be a great type of spiritual practice. But if we always get angry, our anger and hatred will send us into one of the worse states of rebirth. On the other hand, if we can overcome and eliminate anger and hatred, then there is no reason at all to have to be reborn in one of the worse states. 

Some people might raise some doubts and questions here. In the god realms, there is no such thing as anger and hatred. If that is the case, if the gods never become angry, how is it that the gods can be reborn in the worse states of rebirth? Isn’t there a contradiction here, because when we look at the stages of the practice, when our anger lessens and we reach the stage of practice called the patience stage, at that point, because we have no more anger whatsoever, we are never born in one of the worse states. So what is going on here? What is the difference, here, between achieving the patience state of mind and, consequently, never being reborn in one of the lower realms, and the gods not having any anger? 

The answer is that, in the case of the gods, it is just that, in their particular rebirth state, they no longer have any manifest anger or hatred, but they haven’t eliminated them completely. They can arise again and therefore the gods can be reborn once more in one of the lower realms. 

If we have deep hostility and anger and hatred toward those who provoke and harm us, we need to think about how if we act like that, we are no different from a scorpion or a snake. With those creatures, all we have to do is poke it with a stick and it immediately attacks. If we are quick to become hostile and bite back, then we are no different from a scorpion or a snake. In this way, we learn to control and overcome becoming so angry. 

When we look at the third person, the person who is a complete stranger that neither helped nor harmed us in any way, the feeling that we develop is one of not really caring about them. We neither wish to help them nor do we wish to go out of our way to harm them; we just feel like ignoring and leaving them alone. This, as well, will not do, because in fact it is quite possible that this person could help us a great deal in the future. It is just a matter of time.  And so, it is not right or fair to just remain totally indifferent to someone like that. 

Thinking in this way, we develop a feeling of equanimity toward all beings. Whether they are friends, enemies or strangers, we will have an equal feeling of wishing them to be happy and not to have any problems or suffering. We will develop a state of equanimity with which we no longer have feelings of strong infatuated attachment, hostility and anger, or indifference. 

The way that we start this practice is first to try to eliminate the feelings of infatuation with those who have helped us and hostility toward those who have harmed us. We try to have an equal, undisturbed type of attitude toward everyone, in the same way as we would have toward someone who has never done anything good or bad to us. Then, we work to overcome feelings of indifference toward all of them. 

The Next Steps in the Seven-Part Cause and Effect Quintessence Teaching

What follows this, then, is becoming aware of everyone as having been our mothers, remembering the kindness of their motherly love, and then developing a sincere feeling of gratitude to them and wishing to repay their kindness. If we include equanimity, then, there are four points here. If we don’t include it and just start counting from mother-awareness, then there are three, but that doesn’t make any difference. 

After developing these three or four attitudes based sequentially on each other, what follows is having heartwarming love toward everyone. This is something that we don’t have to do any extra, additional practices to develop. It is something that will arise indirectly and automatically as a result of the previous training. 

The next point is developing the compassion with which we wish for everybody to be free from all their problems and difficulties. We need to develop a compassionate state of mind that is completely sincere and not at all phony. To develop such compassion is extremely important; it is the basis of being able to totally purify ourselves and achieve the highest state of growth. It is the root and foundation for all the various vehicles of mind, so it is extremely important to train ourselves to have such compassion. 

The great Indian master Aryashura said, “All wandering beings are bound by their disturbing emotions and attitudes. But you, the Buddha, have the wish to free them all from that. In fact, you have bound all beings with your compassion.” Then he raised the question, “To whom should I then make prostration first – to the compassion in the mind-stream of the Buddha or to you, yourself, O Buddha?” In the salutary verse to his Supplement to (Nagarjuna’s “Root Stanzas on) the Middle Way,” the great Chandrakirti answered this question. There, he said, “I make prostration first to great compassion, since this is the root for all constructive and positive things of all three vehicles of mind.” Therefore, we need to listen to and study very well the texts concerning this subject matter of compassion, and try to practice accordingly. 

That is the tradition of the seven-part cause and effect quintessence teaching – six parts are causes and the final part, a dedicated heart of bodhichitta, is the effect or result. 

The Initial Steps of Equalizing and Exchanging Our Attitudes about Ourselves and Others

The second tradition for developing a dedicated heart of bodhichitta is equalizing and exchanging our attitudes about ourselves and others. This method starts out with developing the same state of equanimity, awareness of others as having been our mothers, remembering their kindness, and feeling gratitude and the wish to repay that kindness as we had before. All these stages up to heartwarming love are exactly the same, except that there is a special way of remembering the kindness of others in this latter tradition. 

In the former tradition, we remember the kindness of others within the context of their having been our mother. Here, the kindness of others is remembered even when they have not been our mothers because, in fact, there is nothing kinder to us than others. We think about how we are totally dependent on the kindness of other beings for the various things that we enjoy. For instance, when it is cold and we wear nice woolen sweaters, where does this wool come from? It came from sheep. Without sheep, we wouldn’t have the wool. It is the same in terms of, for instance, when we are sick and very weak and we eat meat, this meat came from the flesh of animals. It comes from the kindness of animals. Likewise, when we enjoy honey, this comes from the work of a lot of bees: flying around and collecting pollen is a lot of work. We are very dependent on the work of these small creatures. It is the same in terms of all the other types of animal products that we enjoy – milk and so forth. 

Thinking in this way, we will become more aware of how kind all the creatures around us have been to us. In fact, there is nothing kinder than that. Think about an enemy, someone we can’t stand. This person gives us the opportunity to develop patience and tolerance. By developing such a far-reaching attitude of patience and tolerance, we can become totally clear-minded and fully evolved as an enlightened Buddha. So, in fact, this person whom we can’t stand and whom we consider our enemy is extremely kind for offering us such great opportunities to develop ourselves. 

In order to develop patience and tolerance, we need to have someone who annoys us, someone whom we can’t stand. It is only toward such a person that we can then develop patience. Patience is not something that we develop toward Buddhas or bodhisattvas; we develop it just toward an enemy, someone we hate. Therefore, such persons are very kind to offer us this opportunity to develop ourselves and reach enlightenment. Look at my own situation as a Tibetan refugee. We lost our country at the hands of people that we considered our enemies. As a result of that, we have ventured into this part of the world. We are able to travel and see very great countries like this one and meet with all you people. This is all due to the kindness of our national enemies. 

So if we think in this way, then when we look at all that limited beings have done for us, we realize that they have been extremely kind. When we compare the kindness of all limited beings with the kindnesses of the Buddhas themselves, they are both, in fact, equally kind. This is something that has been attested to by the great Shantideva. Thinking like that, we develop a state of mind with which we cherish others and would be very upset if anything went wrong with them. This is what is known as “heartwarming love,” the attitude of cherishing others and feeling upset if anything were to go wrong with them. 

Once a great mentor of the Kadam tradition asked his disciple what he always meditated on – in other words, what he always tried to build up as a good habit of mind. The disciple answered, “I always try to build up love as a good habit of mind. That is what I meditate on all the time.” The master took his hat off in respect and said to this disciple, “You really are doing the most excellent type of practice.” 

Equalizing Our Attitude about Ourselves and All Others

Now, in addition to this, we need to equalize our attitude toward self and others. If we examine ourselves honestly, we see that all of us are in the situation of being extremely selfish – we cherish ourselves and ignore others. Furthermore, we have favoritism; we play favorites. There are some that we feel very close to and there are others that we feel very distant from. Those people who have helped us and therefore we like, we feel close to and we want to help them. There are others who have done nothing for us and we feel distant from them. It doesn’t even enter our heads to try to do anything for them. What we are concerned with here is developing a second type of equanimity – the equanimity with which we don’t play favorites. 

To develop this type of equanimity, we think first about how all beings – that means everybody – have been equally kind to us in all sorts of different situations. In the past, we have had to rely on others for various things, and in the future as well, we are going to have to rely on them. 

When we think about how others have been equally kind and helped us in so many different situations, the thought might come into our heads: “But they haven’t all helped us all of the time. Sometimes, others have been very nasty to us and hurt us. What about that?” Well, what we need to do, if we think like that, is to consider that any individual being has been our enemy and hurt us on just a few rare occasions. But the amount of help that they have given us in the long run has far outweighed any small type of harm or annoyance they have created. In this way, we need to think about the great benefits that others have given us and in particular our enemies. And, in this way, make prayers to equalize our attitudes toward self and others. 

The next point to consider is impermanence. No situation ever remains static. If we think about an enemy, if that enemy was going to be executed in the evening, to hurt them in the morning would be absurd; there would be no point if he is going to die that night. Likewise, if we ourselves were going to die in the evening, it would not be worth it to hurt people in the morning. If we think in this way about death and impermanence, this as well will allow us to overcome feelings of hostility and lack of equanimity. 

Furthermore, just as we ourselves want to be happy, the same is true of everyone. Moreover, nobody likes to be unhappy or to have problems and suffering. This is something we need to think about a lot. If we were a doctor and there were ten patients who were all desperately ill with the same terrible sickness, it would be completely improper just to treat one or two of them and forget about the rest. All ten sick people have the equal right to be treated; there is no room or place for any favoritism on the part of the doctor. Likewise, we need to try to develop the same type of attitude with respect to wanting to help and benefit everyone, without playing any favorites. This example of the doctor being faced with ten patients is very helpful for developing that type of attitude. 

Likewise, if ten hungry, thirsty persons came to our door, all ten of them have the equal suffering and problem of being hungry and thirsty. Again, it is completely unfair and improper just to give food and drink to one or two of them, and to turn the others away. It is not fair at all to play favorites. All of them have an equal right and it is our duty to help them all equally. All of these points are implicit in a four-line verse in The Lama Chopa (An Offering Ceremony to the Spiritual Masters, The Guru Puja): “Inspire us to increase others’ comfort and joy, by thinking that others and we are no different: No one wishes even the slightest suffering, nor is ever content with the happiness he or she has.” We need to think of these points when we are reciting that text. 

Then in addition, if there were any such thing as these true categories of “ friends” and “ enemies,” then the Buddha himself would have seen different individuals in the light of those categories. But, in fact, the Buddha never considered others in those exclusive, clear-cut categories of friends or enemies. If we ask how it is that the Buddha saw everybody without these categories, then we need to consider the example of the Buddha’s cousin Devadatta. 

Devadatta was always trying to assassinate the Buddha by hurling rocks at him, and so on. Once, a physician offered a very large dose of strong medicine to the Buddha. Devadatta, who was always trying to compete with the Buddha, insisted that the physician give him the same dose of the same medicine. The physician said, “This doesn’t suit you; you don’t have the bodily strength of the Buddha.” But Devadatta kept on insisting and bothering him. So the doctor gave him a very large dose and, sure enough, Devadatta became extremely ill, in an awful state. The Buddha came to him and, placing his hand on his head, said, “If I have no favorites between you, who are always trying to harm me, and my own son Rahula, by the power of the truth of that statement may you be cured,” and Devadatta was cured. But instead of thanking him, Devadatta merely looked up at the Buddha and grumbled, “Get your dirty hand off my head!” 

With this example, Buddha himself illustrated that he never considered his son as being his beloved one, closer to him than anyone else, and that others were distant and even his enemies. He always felt an equal attitude toward everyone, with no favorites. We need to think how on the basis of that type of attitude, he was able to reach the fullest potential and become an enlightened being, a Buddha. 

We need to go on and think about how we seem to always think in terms of these two factors: there are some people who are our friends and loved ones, who always help us, and there are others whom we consider as just rotten people and we don’t like them at all. They are our enemies. But then we need to remember that, in fact, there is no certainty of status at all in compulsive existence. This is a point that was raised when we were training ourselves on the intermediate level of motivation – that there is no certainty at all in the uncontrollably recurring situations of samsara. We need to apply that point here to see that there are really no such things as these definite concrete categories of some people being friends and others enemies. 

In addition, we need to think that all these terms and categories are just relative. We tend to think of concrete categories of “me” and “others,” of “friends” and “enemies,” as if these were categories established and existing by themselves somewhere “out there” from their own sides. In fact, there is no such thing as fixed categories established and existing from their own sides, with various items sitting firmly in them. 

Consider the example of the far mountain and the near mountain. It seems to us that the far mountain is something that exists out there, facing us, and coming out toward us from its own side, as the actual “far mountain” over there. If we were to go across the valley and stand on the so-called far mountain, it would no longer be “the far mountain.” Where we were previously standing would now become “the far mountain.” In this way, we need to see that all categories “ friend,” “ enemy,” “close,” “far,” and so on are all relative terms. Nothing exists in these categories inherently, from their own sides, as definite concrete things somewhere out there, and even the categories themselves do not exist in these impossible ways. 

In short, up until now we have been very selfish, concerned only with ourselves and we have ignored having any concern for others. What we need to do is equalize our attitudes: not have exclusive concern for just ourselves, but have an equal attitude toward all. 

The Disadvantages of Self-Cherishing

Now, when we talk about this selfishness, it is something that is extremely destructive. When we look at various diseases in modern times, cancer, for instance, is considered the most horrible disease. But even worse is the disease of selfishness. Selfishness is worse because we cherish ourselves and want to get ahead of everyone else. As a result, we might go out and steal, murder and do all sorts of destructive actions. These actions will then ruin us, not only now, but in future lives as well, bringing us to worse states of rebirth. When we look at all the troubles and disharmony that arises in other parties, in families or countries, the root it all comes from is selfishness. Because the parties are selfish, concerned only about themselves and their own points of view, all troubles and discord arise. 

When we look at the situation of the liberated beings, the Arhats, they have overcome all their internal enemies – their emotional obscurations – and have achieved a great state; that is true. But they are unable to achieve a state of enlightenment. They are not able to overcome the cognitive obscurations preventing their omniscience. The reason for this is their self-centered concern; they are only interested in being able to overcome their own problems, and not in knowing all the methods and details that would enable them to help liberate all others as well. Likewise, if we have an official who is very selfish and only concerned with personally getting ahead, such a person is not considered very good by anyone. They are just considered a very selfish and ambitious politician or official. It is the same thing if we have a group of people living together. Let’s say, five or six people are living together, and there is one person in the group who is extremely selfish, and is only thinking of doing things that he likes, without any consideration of the others. All the others will naturally not like him. 

It is necessary, then, to think about the points raised in the next verse in The Guru Puja and build them up as a beneficial state of mind: “Inspire us to see that this chronic disease of self-cherishing is the cause giving rise to our unsought suffering, and thus, begrudging it as what is to blame, to destroy the monstrous demon of selfishness.” 

The Benefits of Cherishing Others

Furthermore, having concern for all others, the attitude of cherishing others, is the root of all good qualities. The fact that we have been reborn as human beings is due to having cherished others, in the sense that we have restrained ourselves from killing others. We were extremely ethical in our actions toward others and, as a result, we were reborn as human beings. That came about from cherishing others. The Buddha himself cherished all others and, as a result, become totally clear-minded and fully evolved. If there is an official in a country who is concerned for and cherishes the welfare of all others, then everybody in that country likes them. If that official were to die, the people would feel a great loss and sorrow. From that example as well, we can see how an attitude of cherishing others is the root of all things going well and of all good things. 

That is dealt with in the next verse from The Guru Puja: “Inspire us to see that the mind that cherishes our mothers and would secure them in bliss is the gateway leading to infinite virtues, and thus to cherish these wandering beings more than our lives, even should they loom up as our enemies.” 

Again, since we often recite this Guru Puja, we need to be mindful of what we are saying and try to build it up as a good habit of mind. 

In short, the Buddha achieved his fullest potentials and became enlightened as a result of cherishing others, whereas we continue to have all our problems and sufferings because we are so selfish and cherish only ourselves. Therefore, we need to think that unless we get rid of and overcome our selfishness and start now to cherish all others instead of just cherishing ourselves, there is no other way. The next stanza of The Guru Puja deals with that point: “ In brief, inspire us to develop the mind that understand the distinctions between the faults of infantile beings slaving for their selfish ends alone and the virtues of the Kings of Sages working solely for the sake of others, and thus, to be able to equalize and exchange our attitudes concerning others and ourselves.” 

In this way, we consider all the faults and disadvantages of being selfish and ignoring others and think of all the benefits and advantages of cherishing others and ignoring our own selfish concerns. 

Exchanging Our Attitudes about Ourselves and Others

Based on that previous step, we now resolve very strongly to change our attitudes: instead of thinking only of ourselves, we will now think of others, and instead of ignoring others, we will now ignore ourselves. This is what is meant by “exchanging our attitudes about ourselves and others.” 

This is referred to in the next verse in the The Guru Puja: “Since cherishing ourselves is the doorway to all torment, while cherishing our mothers is the foundation for everything good, inspire us to make our core practice the yoga of exchanging others for ourselves.” 

Exchanging our attitudes about ourselves and others doesn’t mean to think that now I’m you and you are me. It is not that simple-minded. What it means is to exchange the attitude we have had toward ourselves with the attitude we have had toward others. We have always been selfish before and ignored others, now we will turn that around and ignore our own selfish needs and have our major concern be for others. This is the root, the sole method for becoming enlightened. If we don’t want to become enlightened, that is one thing; but if we do, there is no other way but to exchange our attitudes concerning ourselves and others. It is a necessary prerequisite for developing compassion. 

The Remaining Steps Leading to Developing a Dedicated Heart of Bodhichitta

The way to develop compassion is to look at the poor bugs and creatures all around us.  We think about the terrible problems they have to face, and how awful it must be to be such a creature. In terms of ourselves, we have built up the potential to be reborn as the same thing. So we need to think about how horrible it would be for us to be a small bug or something like that. We continue by thinking like this in terms of our mother and how awful it would be if she had to be reborn like this. We then extend that to our father, our friends, our enemies and to all beings. In this way, we develop a sincere, heartfelt feeling of compassion – a sincere wish for everybody never to have any problems or suffering. 

Then we think about how everybody wants to be happy and doesn’t want any problems, but they don’t know how to avoid problems. In fact, they just find themselves in uncontrollably recurring situations filled with problems and unhappiness. We develop not only a sincere feeling of compassion for them, but also of love – the wish for them to be happy – and an exceptional resolve – the wish for ourselves to be able to bring all others to the fullest state of happiness and relieve them of all their problems and sufferings. This leads us to develop a dedicated heart of bodhichitta. 

What we need, in fact, is to develop the feeling or attitude that, “I am going to dedicate my heart sincerely to others and to achieving a state of enlightenment, and I shall never give that aim up until I actually achieve that state.” When we give such a strong pledge, “I shall never give it up!” that is known as a “pledged aspiring dedicated heart.” This is described in Tsongkhapa’s text here:

(7) Just as I have fallen into the ocean
   of compulsive existence,

So, too, have all wandering beings -
   they have been my mothers.

Seeing this, I request inspiration to grow
   to a supreme bodhichitta aim
To take responsibility to free these wandering beings.
 

The next stanzas go into the subject matter of having an engaged dedicated heart and this I shall discuss this afternoon.