Chapter 9: Cultivation of Bodhicitta

Using the bases of loving-kindness, compassion, and refuge, cultivate bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment.

Not only is this mind concerned for the happiness of sentient beings, but it also takes action toward freeing them from confusion and suffering and achieving both temporary and absolute peace and happiness.

Bodhicitta is the universal mind, stretching as far as space; limitless, it is called bodhicitta, the precious mind. This is the backbone of Buddhism.

Without bodhicitta, Buddhahood is not possible no matter how much one strives with this method or that spiritual path. They would be like a rotten seed from which you do not expect any fruit.

Bodhicitta is such a great light that it can dispel the darkness of ignorance and confusion in a way unlike any other light.

Bodhicitta is such a great axe that it can cut the root of samsara, which no ordinary axe can do.

Bodhicitta is such a great broom that it can sweep the dust of samsara’s cause and suffering, which no ordinary broom can do.

Bodhicitta is such a great fire that it can burn the entire forest of bewilderment, which no ordinary fire can do.

Bodhicitta is such a great medicine that it can heal the chronic disease of afflicting emotions, which no ordinary medicine can do.

Bodhicitta is such a great sword that it can cut the net of duality, which no ordinary sword can do.

For those who are interested in freeing themselves from suffering and who want to benefit other sentient beings, bodhicitta is the one thing to hold, cherish, and actualize. Buddhahood is the perfect mental formation of bodhicitta. …

When one has bodhicitta, one has indomitable courage—no fear or doubt about staying in samsara to benefit sentient beings until its end.

When one has bodhicitta, the thought of cherishing oneself does not arise, nor is there interest in one’s own peace. One becomes of full service to all other sentient beings without discrimination, just as the earth serves as an impartial ground for sentient and non-sentient beings to move and grow, sustaining their lives. Likewise, water, fire, and air provide universal benefit.

In the same way, the motivation of bodhicitta is impartial.

If these great beneficial effects were known, how could anyone miss this opportunity to apply themselves in growth and to benefit others?

One who has this mind is called a bodhisattva. People respect bodhisattvas highly and expect them to solve their problems, bring peace and happiness, and heal all their conflicts.

It is because bodhicitta is precious that bodhisattvas are considered so precious.

A bodhisattva who has this bodhicitta will not be carried away when all the different types of suffering, obstacles, and undesirable conditions arise.

Rather, they have very powerful methods and continuously utilize them to train their minds, and to purify and enhance their practice.

So, no matter what manifests around a bodhisattva’s life, everything becomes a specific way to practice—reminding them of impermanence, the suffering of samsara, and the progress of bodhicitta. In this way, they don’t have to make a special effort to bring about peace and happiness.

Chapter 10: Training in Aspiration Bodhicitta

Aspiration bodhicitta is based on great compassion and wisdom.

Great compassion comes from projecting all sentient beings in samsara and observing their suffering nature. In order to be free of this cycle of suffering, great wisdom must be developed.

Until one becomes a Buddha, one does not have the infinite capacity to benefit sentient beings. In order to benefit sentient beings through the infinite manifestation of activities without effort, one has to attain Buddhahood. Therefore, this mind must be cultivated.

There are three ways to cultivate aspiration bodhicitta: like a king, like the captain of a ship, and like a shepherd.

Kingship is cultivated by first gathering all the essential qualities of a leader of a country. After becoming king, one rules the whole country and benefits all its beings.

Likewise, aspiration bodhicitta “like a king” is cultivated by first making effort to purify obscurations and collect the qualities of Buddhahood. Then, one will help all the sentient beings.

The captain of a ship will load all the passengers onto the ship, steer it through the ocean, and arrive at the other shore together with those passengers.

Likewise, such a bodhisattva cultivates aspiration bodhicitta in a similar way, saying, “May I and all sentient beings attain Buddhahood together.”

A shepherd takes all the sheep and animals to a pasture with good grass and water, and protects the herd from all predators. In the evening, he brings them back to the farm and puts them safely into their pens. Only then does he go home and take his rest.

Likewise, such a bodhisattva cultivates bodhicitta by saying, “I will not retire or take nirvana until all sentient beings are free of samsara and attain enlightenment.” (The means to protect, enhance, and advance this mind are well explained in the text.)

Chapter 11: Training in Action Bodhicitta

Once a bodhisattva has cultivated aspiration bodhicitta, he has to exert himself to perfect that mind in order to actualize the precious altruistic thought and use it for sentient beings’ welfare.

All study and practice, even sitting for one moment, doing one prostration, or reciting one mantra become methods to further this mind.

All afflicting emotions are included in the three categories of poison: desire, aversion, and ignorance. These three are the core from which all types of afflicting emotions manifest and create countless negative karmas, through which we encounter endless suffering and obstacles.

In order to purify and eventually uproot them, Buddha taught the respective antidotes for each.

Therefore, all Dharma teachings can also be categorized into three: Vinaya, Sutra, and Abhidharma.

The subject matter of the Vinaya is concerned more with moral ethics, discipline, and precepts.

Sutras are more concerned with how to calmly abide and other methods of mental concentration.

The Abhidharma places more emphasis on interdependent origination, wisdom awareness or insight. Even though this is true, these Dharma teachings are strongly interconnected.

In addition to moral ethics, Vinaya includes instruction on meditation and insight wisdom awareness.

In addition to meditation techniques, the Sutras also teach about moral ethics and insight wisdom awareness.

In addition to teachings on insight wisdom awareness, the Abhidharma has teachings about moral ethics, discipline, and meditative concentration.

By studying these three baskets and actually training in the moral ethics, meditative concentration, and wisdom awareness, their interdependence becomes quite clear.

Without support from the other two, one training alone is not sufficient to actualize Buddhahood.

When one has pure conduct, it helps to free oneself from non-virtuous activities, keeps the mind clear, and builds the strength to tame the mind more successfully.

When the mind is sustained with the support of moral ethics, it is much easier to achieve mental stabilization and calm abiding.

It is not possible to stabilize the good qualities of meditative concentration without moral ethics.

When one’s mind is concentrated one-pointedly on the ten virtues, the mind is very calm, peaceful, and clear. Based on this, it is much easier to kindle the light of special insight.

The flame of wisdom awareness can endure when well protected from the wind of shattering thought, which in turn becomes a very powerful way to dispel the darkness of confusion and afflicting emotions and attain freedom from samsara.

These are the actions we develop in the mind and use on the path to perfect the five paths. Dharma Lord Gampopa divides the three trainings into six paramitas, which are explained in detail in the next six chapters.

Source: Gampopa, Dharma Lord. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The Wish-fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings. Translated by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche. Edited by Ani K. Trinlay Chodron. Boulder, Colorado: Snow Lion, 1998.