A Short Commentary on
Thirty-seven Bodhisattva Practices
by Togmey-zangpo (Thogs-med bzang-po)
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
translated and condensed by Alexander Berzin, 1983
revised second edition, March 2006
First edition published in
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Four Essential Buddhist Commentaries.
Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 1983.
Order directly from Paljor Publications.
Day Three: Verses 8 to 37
Look at all the people around you, whether they are close or distant, rich or poor, all of us are equal in wanting happiness and no suffering. The best way to accomplish this is the practice of Dharma. We have fully endowed human bodies, have met with the complete teachings of ethical discipline, Mahayana, and tantra, and have likewise met with well-qualified gurus. Therefore, we need to set a full Mahayana motivation to eliminate all our disturbing emotions and attitudes, attain all good qualities and reach enlightenment.
The basic point is to develop a warm and kind heart. This is the root of all happiness for ourselves and for others, both superficially and ultimately. It is the root of the bodhichitta resolve, which brings us enlightenment and thus the ability to bring happiness to everyone. Therefore, as much as we can, we need to develop a kind heart.
Do not just say words like “May I develop a kind heart.” What we need to do is actually to train and practice the stages to attain it. We need to know the methods and then put them into practice. The full Dharma teachings are found in the hundred volumes of the Kangyur words of the Buddha and the two hundred volumes of the Tengyur commentaries by the Indian masters. The main lama who brought the full lam-rim graded stages of training the mind and cleansing our attitudes to Tibet was Atisha. His Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (Skt. Lam-sgron, Skt. Bodhipathapradita) is the root source of this text, The Thirty-seven Bodhisattva Practices. As The Thirty-seven is short and easy to understand, we need to try to memorize it and then recite it often, thinking of the meaning, and put it into practice.
Now listen to the continuation of the teachings on this text. First, we need to recognize our precious human bodies and think to take advantage of them. As it is certain that we will die and lose them, we need to turn from our obsession with this life and eventually turn from our obsession with future lives as well.
To do this, we need initially to think about death and impermanence, and that when we die we can be reborn in one of the three worse rebirth states. We cannot see the trapped beings of the joyless realms (the hells) or the clutching ghosts (hungry ghosts), but we know about animals and their sufferings. We see how they are abused, beaten, exploited for their labor, used cruelly in medical experiments, sacrificed for their meat, and so forth. In Buddhism, we need to develop kindness for them. In some other religions, they feel killing animals is not much different from chopping down a tree, or picking a vegetable. But in Buddhism, it is different. We actually look at and take the sufferings of animals seriously, and consider how we could easily be reborn as one of them.
The person who teaches the path of how to avoid being reborn as an animal is the fully enlightened Buddha. He taught the path of behavioral cause and effect, of what actions are to be dropped and which are to be adopted. We need to try to learn as much as we can of the Buddha’s perfect teachings, for they are without any faults and they offer a totally safe and sound direction in life. As we were saying yesterday, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are the Three Jewels of Safe Direction. Only these three offer a never-failing safe, protected, stable direction in life. Although there is no fault in going to worldly gods for help as friends, it is improper to seek our ultimate refuge in them.
Look at the monks in the monasteries of Thailand and Burma; they are really excellent. In their temples, they have only representations of Buddha Sakyamuni and no one else. In Tibetan temples, we may have a picture of Buddha Sakyamuni, but there are also various exotic looking protectors and so forth. In Japan, there are pictures of just the main teachers and almost no representations of Sakyamuni Buddha. Of course, there is the fact of the Buddha being inseparable from the gurus and appearing in many forms, but this is something different. The point is that the main one to whom we need to turn for inspiration and enlightening influence is Buddha Sakyamuni. Often, people criticize us and say that we Tibetans forget about the Buddha and just beat drums before pictures of protectors. There is much danger in this. So, be careful. But, enough on this point.
Concerning the Sangha Gem, the practice in Thailand and Burma also is excellent. The monks are treated with great respect and are supported by the householders and given alms. This is excellent. Often, people feel that there are actually only two Jewels of Safe Direction: the Buddha and the Dharma, and that the Sangha is unnecessary. They think that we can forget about them. There is no need for everyone to be monks and nuns, but we need to check our own dispositions, and if it suits us, being a monastic is best. But, at least never criticize monks and nuns. We need to examine and criticize only ourselves. The Sangha is very important for setting examples and for symbolizing the Buddha’s teachings. We need to be very careful about our own karma and about what we say and do.
(8) A bodhisattva’s practice is never to commit
any negative actions,
Even at the cost of our lives,
because the Able Sage has declared
That the extremely difficult to endure sufferings
of the worse states of rebirth
Are the results of negative actions.
In plain language, if we do good, good comes from it, and if we do bad, bad comes from it. It is very simple. The effect follows in the same category as the cause. It never fails and, moreover, from small causes we can experience extensive results.
In countries as well, any horrible conditions that happen come from negative forces built up from past destructive actions. In Tibet for instance, we sometimes have drought; our crops fail; sometimes there are wars, invasions, and so forth. All of these are due to our past destructive actions and our lack of positive force. If we do not have any positive force built up from our past actions, then no matter what we do, it will not bring about good conditions. Therefore, we need always to wish for others’ happiness. Like concerning the Chinese, we can only wish them well. We must not wish that bad things befall them. What they experience will be the results of their own actions.
Destructive behavior comes from our disturbing emotions and attitudes and, by acting in this way, we build up negative force, which brings us nothing but suffering. Destructive actions can be of body, speech, or mind. An example for one of the body would be, for instance, killing, which is taking the life of anything from a human down to an insect. It is very negative to kill, so we need to refrain ourselves as much as we can.
All beings have an equal right to life and cherish their lives as much as we do. If we prick our finger with a thorn, we say, “Ouch, I hurt.” Everybody feels exactly the same, all beings. It is especially terrible to sacrifice animals; they still do that in some lands. In the past, they did this in Kinnaur, Spiti, and some places in Nepal, and even in certain districts in Tibet. Superficially, the people there take refuge in me, the Dalai Lama, and then sacrifice animals. This is very bad. Saying the mantra of compassion “Om mani padme hum” and yet sacrificing, that will never, never do.
Next is stealing. This also is very negative. Inappropriate sexual behavior is to have relations with another person’s spouse, or with someone who has a relation with someone else, and not seeing anything wrong in so doing. When we look at the historical literature, most of the various discords and fights in royal families have come from sexual misconduct. It is very destructive.
Next is lying. This too is extremely negative. Of course, to lie to protect someone’s life is something else, but we need always to be honest. If we lie, it brings only unhappiness. We sit in fear that somebody is going to find us out. That always makes for a very uneasy mind, doesn’t it?
Next is divisive language, causing others to be unfriendly and apart. We hear bad things about someone and then spread it; this is very destructive. We need to try to bring other people together. When people live and work together, their harmony is based on mutual confidence and trust. When we look at the Chinese, for instance, they speak of everybody as being comrades, but this is only at the discussion table. Outside, they will not even share a bar of soap with each other. This is because they have no confidence; they do not trust one another. And this comes from causing divisiveness among others. Therefore, never use divisive language.
Next is abusive language, calling other people bad names like “beggar” and so forth. It hurts their feelings: it does not bring happiness at all. Gossip is chattering, always saying meaningless things; it is a complete waste of time.
Then there is covetous thinking. Someone else has something nice, which we would like to have, and we walk along directing all our attention at this object and wishing only to have it. If we are not careful, we will walk right into a wall!
Thinking with malice is next. This is also very negative. It just makes us unhappy. It usually does not hurt the other person; it hurts only ourselves. It is very self-destructive to hold grudges and to wish others ill. We can never solve problems by holding a grudge. Problems can only be solved through compassion, love, and patience; so never harbor ill will. Last is distorted antagonistic thinking: denying what exists or which is true, or making up something that does not exist or which is untrue.
These ten, from taking a life to distorted antagonistic thinking, are the ten destructive actions. We need to realize their disadvantages and refrain from them. The actual practice is, from seeing their drawbacks, to restrain ourselves, with conscious effort and joyful perseverance, from killing, lying and so forth. Even if we cannot refrain completely, we need to try to lessen them as much as we can. This is what follows from taking safe direction.
Now come the teachings for when we have an intermediate or middling scope of motivation.
(9) A bodhisattva’s practice is to take keen interest
In the supreme never-changing state of liberation,
As the pleasures of the three planes
of compulsive existence
Are phenomena that perish in a mere instant,
like dew on the tips of grass.
No matter where we are born in the three realms of compulsive existence, it is like merely being on different floors of a burning building. Everywhere is suffering, so we need, by all means, to attain liberation from it. Samsara, uncontrollably recurring existence, refers to the suffering aggregates, mixed with confusion, which we receive from karma and disturbing emotions and attitudes. We need to think about this. Although we have a precious human rebirth, yet if we are under the power of karma and disturbing emotions and have no independence, we can only create more suffering. Therefore, we need to try to free ourselves from these repeating syndromes. Whatever worldly pleasures we have are not ultimate. They are merely superficial and only temporary. We can fall to a worse rebirth at any time.
If our suffering comes from our very own aggregate physical and mental faculties, which are under the power of karma and disturbing emotions, then where can we run from our aggregates that are tainted with confusion? Think about that. If our own aggregates themselves are in the nature of suffering, how can we escape them?
The source of suffering is our disturbing emotions and attitudes, the main ones of which are attachment and aversion. These both come from unawareness (ignorance), the unawareness of grasping for inherent existence, but this is a distorted view. On the other hand, by cultivating the opponent for this, namely the opposite view, that inherent existence does not exist at all, and by accustoming ourselves to it, then the more familiar we are with the correct view, the less will be our unawareness.
The stains of unawareness over the mind are fleeting; they can be removed. The unawareness of grasping for inherent existence and the understanding of the lack of inherent existence are both aimed at the same object. Thus, when we have one, we cannot simultaneously have the other. It is in this way that the discriminating awareness or wisdom of voidness acts as the opponent to unawareness. With this discriminating awareness, we rid ourselves of attachment and aversion and thus gain liberation from suffering.
Some people say that attachment and aversion or hostility are natural: they are parts of the nature of the mind. They say that it is almost as if a person is not alive, if he or she does not have such feelings. But, if these were parts of the nature of the mind, then just as is the case when we accept mere awareness and clarity as mind’s nature, these feelings of attachment and hostility need to be present all the time. But, we see that anger can be quelled, it does not last forever. Thus, it is a mistaken view to feel that they are natural parts of life, and that it is the nature of the mind to have attachment and aversion.
We need discriminating awareness, then, to see the two truths: from the deepest point of view, all is devoid of inherent existence, yet conventionally, dependent arising is never false. This is the training in higher discriminating awareness, and to gain it, we need the training in higher concentration as its base, in order not to have any mental wandering and so forth. For this, we need the training in higher ethical self-discipline, either as a monastic or as a householder. For instance, there are the householder vows, the five lay vows, and it is important at least to keep these. Thus, we need the practice of the three higher trainings.
Next are the teachings for when we have an advanced scope of motivation.
(10) A bodhisattva’s practice is to
develop a bodhichitta aim
to liberate limitless beings,
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
All limited beings, as widespread as space, wish for happiness and no suffering, the same as we do. They are so numerous and, if we ignore them and think only of our purposes, it is pathetic, not to mention unfair. We need to place ourselves on one side and all other beings on the other. We all wish happiness and not suffering; the only difference is that we are one and they are numberless. So who would see it as fair or reasonable to favor one person over everybody else?
Bodhisattvas work and wish only for others’ happiness. There is no need to mention that, of course, they achieve enlightenment, but besides that, while on the path they do not become unhappy. The harder they work for others and the more they ignore themselves, the happier they become, which then encourages them to work even harder. But if we work only for our own purposes and ignore others, all we obtain is unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and discouragement. It is funny that it’s like that. So we need to try to lessen our selfishness and increase our concern for others as much as we can and, by so doing, we will find that, on the side, we will be a happier person.
If we are working only for the purposes of others, as is described in Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior, we will never be afraid where or in what conditions we might be reborn. Wherever we find ourselves, we will work there for the sake of helping others. Nagarjuna emphasized the same point in his Precious Garland. To work only for the sake of others and ignore our own purposes is the way to attain Buddhahood.
We say we are Mahayanists, but as Tsongkhapa has said, we need to have a Mahayana personality in order to be considered a Mahayanist. Therefore, we need to work for the sake of others. If we look around for ways to be helpful and if we develop a bodhichitta resolve, then automatically things will work out to benefit everyone. So as much as we can, we need to follow the Mahayana training and practice. Do you understand?
Now what is a bodhisattva? Similar to what I explained about the word Buddha, the first syllable of the Tibetan for “bodhi” is “jang” (byang) which means to eliminate faults, while the second, “chub” (chub), means to attain all good qualities. Actually there are two “bodhis” or purified states and what is referred to here is not the lesser one of the Arhats, but the higher one of a Buddha’s enlightenment. “Sattva” means one who has his or her mind aimed at this attainment of the higher purified state of bodhi, enlightenment, to benefit all.
Thus, we need two aims both together. We need to aim at limited beings in order to benefit them and to aim at enlightenment to be able to do that. That is the bodhichitta resolve and this is what we need to develop. How do we do that?
(11) A bodhisattva’s practice is to purely exchange
our personal happiness for the suffering of others,
Because (all) our sufferings, without an exception,
Come from desiring our personal happiness,
While a fully enlightened Buddha
is born from the attitude
of wishing others well.
How does all suffering come from wishing only our own happiness? Such a self-centered wish leads us to commit many destructive actions in order to accomplish our selfish aims and, consequently, we experience suffering. Buddhahood, on the other hand, comes from helping others. Therefore, we need to exchange our attitudes and, instead of wishing for our own personal happiness and ignoring others’ suffering, we need to wish only for others’ happiness and ignore ourselves.
To do this, we train in the practice known as “taking and giving” (tonglen), namely taking on others’ suffering and giving them our happiness. To help us do this, there is a very good and useful visualization. We need to visualize ourselves in our ordinary forms on the right, selfish and wishing only our own happiness. On the left, visualize infinite, numberless beings all wanting happiness. Then, we need to stand back in our minds as a witness and judge, “Who is more important, this selfish person here or all the others?” Think which side we would favor and which we would want to join – the side of the selfish person or that of all these pathetic beings, who equally deserve happiness? Such practice as this and others mentioned in Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior are very beneficial.
(12) A bodhisattva’s practice is,
Even if someone under the power of great desire
Steals or causes others to steal all our wealth,
To dedicate to him our bodies, resources,
and constructive actions of the three times.
Now we have developed a bodhichitta resolve. However, to attain enlightenment, we need to engage in bodhisattva behavior. If someone steals from us, there is the danger of becoming angry. But, if we are practicing to attain enlightenment and are giving away everything to others, then this so-called thief already owns our former possessions. He has taken them now because in fact they already are his. Therefore, we need to dedicate to him not only these possessions that he has taken, or which we think he has stolen from us, but even further, our bodies and constructive actions of the three times.
(13) A bodhisattva’s practice is,
Even if while we haven’t the slightest fault ourselves,
Someone were to chop off our heads,
To accept on ourselves his negative consequences,
through the power of compassion.
If others harm us, we need to have compassion toward them and accept on ourselves all harms from others.
(14) A bodhisattva’s practice is,
Even if someone were to publicize
throughout the thousand,
million, billion worlds
All kinds of unpleasant things about us,
To speak in return about his good qualities,
with an attitude of love.
When others abuse or say bad things about us, we need to stop saying anything bad in return. Never say nasty things back, but only speak kindly of them, as Shantideva explained in Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior.
(15) A bodhisattva’s practice is,
Even if someone exposes our faults
or says foul words (about us)
In the midst of a gathering of many wandering beings,
To bow to him respectfully,
distinguishing that (he’s our) spiritual teacher.
Even if others humiliate or embarrass us in front of others, we need to act as taught in the methods for cleansing our attitudes (training the mind). If others disgrace us or point out our faults, they are in fact our teachers. Thus, we need to thank them for making us aware of our shortcomings and show them great respect.
(16) A bodhisattva’s practice is, even if a person
Whom we’ve taken care of,
cherishing him like our own child,
Were to regard us as his enemy,
to have special affection for him,
Like a mother toward her child stricken with an illness.
If a child is naughty when he is ill, no matter how bad he is, his mother would still love him. This is the way we need to view all beings.
(17) A bodhisattva’s practice is,
Even if an individual, our equal or inferior,
Were to treat (us) insultingly
out of the power of his arrogance,
To receive him on the crown of our heads respectfully,
like a guru.
The same is true when others try to compete with us. We need to develop patience. As it says in Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior, if we had no enemies, we could not develop patience. Thus, we need someone annoying toward whom to develop a tolerant attitude. We cannot develop patience with our minds aimed at our gurus or at a Buddha. We need an enemy at whom to aim it.
For instance, I think about myself. If someone writes in the newspaper or calls the Dalai Lama a weak refugee and so on, if I am practicing sincerely, I try to develop patience with him or her. Since we need a teacher to help train us in patience, an enemy or someone who hates us is very important as this teacher.
If we think more about it, enemies are extremely important, aren’t they? If we are practicing Mahayana, we need to cultivate patience and endure difficult situations. How can we really practice Mahayana without enemies? In short, to exchange our attitudes concerning self and others, we need many trials and tribulations, many challenging situations. Therefore, enemies or people who are very annoying and difficult are extremely important and precious.
(18) A bodhisattva’s practice is,
Even if we are destitute in livelihood
and always insulted by people,
Or sick with terrible diseases, or afflicted by ghosts,
To accept on ourselves, in return,
the negative forces and sufferings
of all wandering beings and not be discouraged.
There are two very critical situations for Dharma practice. One is when, due to past causes, we are in very difficult straits, poor and so on. Then we become discouraged. The other is when we are extremely comfortable and rich. Then we become proud and arrogant.
We need to be careful in both cases. If we are very sick, for instance, then if we practice exchanging self with others and also taking and giving, we will become happy that we are sick. In fact, we will wish to take on the sickness and suffering of others.
(19) A bodhisattva’s practice is,
even if we are sweetly praised,
Bowed to with their heads by many wandering beings,
Or have obtained (riches) comparable to the fortune
of Vaishravana (the Guardian of Wealth),
Never to be conceited, by seeing that worldly prosperity
has no essence.
This is the other extreme, the other potentially dangerous situation. If we are highly esteemed and everything goes well for us, we can become very proud about that, lazy and arrogant. As this blocks our practice, we need to see that such worldly good fortune has no essence at all.
(20) A bodhisattva’s practice is to tame
our mental continuums
With the armed forces of love and compassion,
Because, if we haven’t subdued the enemy
which is our own hostility,
Then even if we have subdued an external enemy,
more will come.
There is no enemy worse than anger. If we look at the world, like for instance the situation of World War II, we can see that it all came about because of anger and hatred. At that time, the Western nations and Russia were allies and although they won the war, that did not conquer their own hostility! As they are now still left with this poison, we find the Soviet Union pitted against the West as enemies. If war comes again in the future, it will occur once more because of anger and hatred. But, if we wish peace and happiness, this can never come about without the elimination of these negative attitudes. Peace and happiness will come only if we develop love and compassion. Therefore, we need to train in the martial arts of love and compassion to overcome hatred.
(21) A bodhisattva’s practice
is immediately to abandon
Any objects that cause our clinging
and attachment to increase,
For objects of desire are like salt water:
The more we have indulged (in them,
our) thirst (for them) increases (in turn).
No matter what we are attracted to, we are never satisfied with it; we never have enough. It is like drinking salt water: we are never quenched, as is described in The Precious Garland. Think of an example: for instance, like when we have a rash. If we scratch it, it feels nice. But, if we are attached to that nice feeling, then the more we scratch, it just makes it worse. It gets sore, starts to bleed, becomes infected, and is a mess. The best thing is to cure the rash from its root, so that we will have no desire to scratch at all.
(22) A bodhisattva’s practice is not to take to mind
Inherent features of objects taken
and minds that take them,
by realizing just how things are.
No matter how things appear,
they are from our own minds;
And mind-itself is, from the beginning,
parted from the extremes of mental fabrication.
This seems to be an expression of the Svatantrika view [that inherent features exist conventionally, but do not exist at all from the viewpoint of deepest truth], but that is not necessarily so. When it says here that appearances are “from our own minds,” this means that they are the play of our minds in the sense that the karma accumulated through our minds brings about all appearances. The mind itself, from the beginning, is free of the extremes of inherent existence.
If we understand this, then we will not take to mind “this” is the consciousness that understands voidness and “that” is the object of this consciousness, namely voidness. Rather, we will simply place our minds in total absorption on the pure, nonimplicative nullification (nonaffirming negation) that is voidness – the absolute absence of all impossible ways of existing. This is the practice outlined here.
(23) A bodhisattva’s practice is,
When meeting with pleasing objects,
not to regard them as truly existent,
Even though they appear beautifully,
like a summer’s rainbow,
And (thus) to rid ourselves of clinging and attachment.
Although things appear beautifully like a rainbow, we need to see that they are devoid of inherent existence and not be attached.
(24) A bodhisattva’s practice is,
At the time when meeting with adverse conditions,
to see them as deceptive,
For various sufferings are like the death of our child
in a dream
And to take (such) deceptive appearances
to be true is a tiresome waste.
Thus, we need to see everything as deceptive appearances and not be depressed by difficult conditions. These are the teachings on developing conventional and deepest bodhichitta. Next is the practice of the six far-reaching attitudes (the six perfections).
(25) A bodhisattva’s practice is to give generously
Without hope for anything in return
and something karmic to ripen,
Because, if those who would wish enlightenment
must give away even their bodies,
What need to mention external possessions?
This is the practice of far-reaching generosity.
(26) A bodhisattva’s practice is
To safeguard ethical self-discipline
without worldly intents,
Because, if we can’t fulfill our own purposes
without ethical discipline,
The wish to fulfill the purposes of others is a joke.
Most important is to have ethical self-discipline, especially the discipline of refraining from destructive actions. Without it, how can we help anyone?
(27) A bodhisattva’s practice is to build up
as a habit patience,
Without hostility or repulsion toward anyone,
Because, for a bodhisattva wishing
for a wealth of positive force,
All who cause harm are equal to treasures of gems.
We need much patience. For a bodhisattva wishing to build up the positive force to be able to attain enlightenment, those who do harm, our enemies, are as precious as gems. This is because with them, we can practice patience. This builds up and strengthens our network of positive force, which will bring about our attainment of enlightenment.
(28) A bodhisattva’s practice
is to exert joyful perseverance,
the source of good qualities for the purposes
of all wandering beings,
Since we can see that even shravakas
Who would accomplish only their own purposes,
have such perseverance
That they would turn from a fire
that has broken out on their heads.
This refers to exerting joyful perseverance with zestful vigor for constructive behavior. If the Hinayana practitioners can work so hard to attain their goals for themselves, then we as Mahayanists working for the sake of all need to work even harder.
(29) A bodhisattva’s practice is to build up as a habit
A mental stability that purely surpasses
the four formless (absorptions),
By realizing that an exceptionally perceptive
state of mind,
fully endowed with a stilled and settled state,
Can totally vanquish the disturbing
emotions and attitudes.
This refers to the far-reaching attitude of mental stability (concentration) in the sutra context. Thus, to realize an exceptionally perceptive state of mind of vipashyana (special insight), we need to have attained beforehand a stilled and settled state of shamatha (mental quiescence, calm abiding) to hold it. Then we will have the joined pair, inseparable shamatha and vipashyana.
(30) A bodhisattva’s practice is to build up as a habit
The discriminating awareness
that’s together with methods
and which has no conceptions about the three circles,
Because without discriminating awareness,
the five far-reaching attitudes
Cannot bring about the attainment
of complete enlightenment.
We cannot attain enlightenment with only the method side, namely the first five far-reaching attitudes alone. We need the wisdom side as well. Thus, we need to cultivate inseparable method and wisdom. We need the discriminating awareness to see that the three circles of any constructive action based on these far-reaching attitudes – namely, the agent, the object, and the action itself – are all devoid of inherent existence.
Next concerns a bodhisattva’s daily practice.
(31) A bodhisattva’s practice is continually to examine
our self-deception and then rid ourselves of it,
Because, if we do not examine our
It’s possible that with a Dharmic (external) form
We can commit something non-Dharmic.
In other words, we need always to check our own disturbing emotions and attitudes each day, because as it says here, it is quite possible externally to appear to be proper but in fact not to be proper at all.
(32) A bodhisattva’s practice is not to speak about
the faults of a person who has entered Mahayana,
Because, if under the power of disturbing emotions
We talk about the faults of others
who are bodhisattvas,
We ourselves will degenerate.
We need to stop looking at others with the idea of trying to pick or find faults in them. We never know who others might be or what their attainment is. Especially as Mahayana practitioners, we need to have thoughts only of helping and benefiting others, not of faulting them.
(33) A bodhisattva’s practice
is to rid ourselves of attachment
To homes of relatives and friends
and homes of patrons,
Because, under the power of (wanting)
gain and respect,
We will quarrel with each other
and our activities of listening,
thinking, and meditating will decline.
There is much danger if we always stay in the homes of patrons, relatives, and so forth. We inevitably become entangled in complicated situations of arguments, disputes, and so on. Therefore, we need to avoid attachment to such places.
(34) A bodhisattva’s practice is to rid ourselves
of harsh language
Displeasing to the minds of others,
Because harsh words disturb others’ minds
And cause our bodhisattva ways of behavior to decline.
The root of anger is attachment to our own side. But here, the anger itself is stressed, especially when it leads to abusive language. Such harsh sounding words destroy our positive force, disturb others, and cause harm.
(35) A bodhisattva’s practice is to have the servicemen
of mindfulness and alertness hold
the opponent weapons
And forcefully to destroy disturbing emotions
and attitudes, like attachment and so forth,
as soon as they first arise,
Because, when we are habituated
to disturbing emotions and attitudes,
It is difficult for opponents
to make them retreat.
As soon as attachment or aversion arises, we need immediately to employ mindfulness and alertness to counter them.
(36) In short, a bodhisattva’s practice is (to work)
to fulfill the purposes of others
By continually possessing mindfulness
and alertness to know,
No matter where or what course of behavior
How is the condition of our minds.
As it says in Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior, we need continually to examine our minds and see their condition. Then, with mindfulness, we need immediately to apply the various opponents to any disturbing emotions and attitudes that might be present. For instance, if we were on a caravan and reached the northern plateau of Tibet , we would be very mindful and alert not to go just anywhere. We would choose the correct path very carefully; otherwise, we could easily get lost. In the same way, we need to not allow our minds to go just anywhere.
(37) A bodhisattva’s practice is,
with the discriminating awareness
Of the complete purity of the three circles,
To dedicate for enlightenment the constructive forces
realized by efforts like these,
In order to eliminate the sufferings
of limitless wandering beings.
Thus, the last bodhisattva practice mentioned here is to dedicate to enlightenment and the benefit of others the positive force of all these actions. This completes the actual body of the text. Next, is the third part of the outline, the conclusion.
Having followed the words of the hallowed beings
And the meaning of what has been declared
in the sutras, tantras, and treatises,
I have arranged (these) practices of bodhisattvas,
thirty and seven, For the purposes of those
who wish to train in the bodhisattva path.
The author has taken these teachings from various sources and condensed them into these thirty-seven practices.
Because my intelligence is feeble
and my education meager,
They may not be in poetic meter
that would please the erudite.
But, because I’ve relied on the sutras
and the words of the hallowed ones,
I think that (these) bodhisattva practices
are not deceived.
Next, the author apologizes if he has committed any faults.
Nevertheless, since it is difficult for someone
dull-witted like myself
To fathom the depth of the great waves
of bodhisattva behavior,
I request the hallowed ones to be patient
with my mass of faults,
Such as contradictions, lack of connection,
and the likes.
Then he ends with the final dedication.
By the constructive force coming from this,
may all wandering beings,
Through supreme deepest
and conventional bodhichittas,
Become equals to the Guardian Avalokiteshvara,
Who never abides in the extremes
of compulsive samsaric existence
or nirvanic complacency.
This concludes Thirty-seven Bodhisattva Practices by Togmey-zangpo.
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