Gen Rinpoche teaches Bodhicitta, the Mind of Enlightenment

Teaching given by the Most Venerable Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey 
at the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre, Dunedin, Sunday 
18th December 1994.  It has been edited by Ven. Ani Sönam 
Chökyi from the oral translation by Losang Dawa. copywrite 
Dhargyey Buddhist Centre.

Today is the last teaching of 1994 so it is time to review what you 
have done during the year.  If you discover that your year has been 
positive, that you have done lots of practices, learned a lot and 
meditated a lot, now is the time to appreciate yourself and 
congratulate yourself on being so successful in spiritual terms, and 
it is also the time to rededicate yourself to practice, study and 
meditation in the coming year.  On the other hand, if you find that 
you have been irregular in doing practices and coming to classes, 
and that you have not actually done anything much that you have 
more-or-less wasted a year of this precious human life now is the 
time to feel regret and sadness about it.  But being sad about it is 
not enough   this sadness must also become a force impelling you to 
do better.  So now is the time to determine that you will change for 
the better in the coming year.

Bodhicitta is like the supreme gold-making elixir,
For it transforms the unclean body we have taken
Into the priceless jewel of a Buddha-Form. 
Therefore firmly seize this Awakening Mind. 

     We need to practise, and practise all the time.  The practice 
we most need to undertake is the most wholesome practice of all   
the practice in which we work wholeheartedly to develop bodhicitta, 
the state of mind that sincerely and fervently wants to achieve 
full enlightenment for the sake of all beings.  Nothing is as 
wholesome as concentrating on this mind.  It is said that if all the 
Buddhas of the three times were to put their heads together and 
discuss what would be most beneficial for suffering beings, giving 
them happiness in the short-term and in the long-term, they would 
not find anything more magical than the mind of enlightenment, 
bodhichitta, for it is the panacea of all ills.

     This mind of bodhicitta is of crucial importance, for it is 
this mind which determines whether or not our practice carries us to 
the state of enlightenment.  For instance if a person were to go 
away to the mountains, find a suitable cave for meditation and 
completely seal themselves inside the cave with the strong 
determination not to come out or see anyone, but to dedicate their 
entire life to concerted practice, if this person did not have 
bodhicitta, no matter what practice he or she might do inside the 
sealed cave, nothing much would come of it in terms of achieving 

     Thus we must realize the importance of this precious mind of
enlightenment.  Our efforts to achieve the state of enlightenment 
must be constant and steady, therefore we need the precious mind of 
enlightenment continuously.  Although you are going to have a 
month-and-a-half's break for the summer holidays, never have a break 
from generating bodhicitta.

     As Jamgön Lama Tsongkapa says, if one has the alchemists' 
elixir one can transmute base metal into gold; in the same way, if 
you have this precious mind of enlightenment, this bodhicitta, this 
jewel of all minds, it will transmute all your small and seemingly 
insignificant good deeds into a means by which you will reach the 
state of enlightenment.  

     The great Indian Buddhist master Shantideva says something very
similar:  If we have this mind of enlightenment, although at the 
moment we have a human body that originally came into being from the 
sperm and egg of our parents and is thus basically undesirable, 
impure and unattractive in itself, the elixir of the mind of 
enlightenment will transform this human body of gross, impure human 
material into the glorious, magnificent, enlightened body of a 

If even the thought to relieve 
Living creatures of merely a headache 
Is a beneficial intention 
Endowed with infinite goodness,

What need is there to mention 
The wish to dispel their inconceivable misery, 
Wishing every single one of them 
To realize boundless good qualities?

     The Tibetan master Dzogchen Patrul Rinpoche says,  I have been 
to many lamas of all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, I have 
studied the many tenets and views of Buddhist philosophy and 
practice.  None of the lamas or the texts say that there is a mind 
that is superior to the precious mind of enlightenment.  They all 
have the same view with regard to the supreme significance of this mind.

     Normally we understand the esoteric Buddhist practice of tantra 
as a very powerful and speedy way of achieving enlightenment   so 
powerful and so speedy that through its means certain people are 
able to achieve the state of enlightenment in one lifetime even 
though normally it takes millions of eons to travel the path.  
However without bodhicitta, even the practice of tantra, so powerful 
and speedy, will not help a person reach the state of enlightenment 
in one lifetime.

If you really want to know how to engage in extensive merit-gathering
practice in a simple way, the secret is bodhicitta.  If you manage
to develop bodhicitta, then even if you do no more than offer one
butter-lamp, one candle, that simple practice of offering one light 
will gather an enormous amount of merit a universe full of merit   
so that however much merit is used up the store of merit will never 
run out.  However if you were to engage in extensive offerings 
without bodhicitta  offering ten thousand butter lamps for 
instance the merits would not be as great as in the first case the 
merit would only be as great as the number of lamps offered.

     During Buddha's own time there was an Indian king called 
Prasenajit.  On many occasions he invited the Buddha and his 
followers, offering them meals for weeks together.  On one of these 
occasions the Buddha asked the king,  To whom should we dedicate the 
merits?  The king requested the Buddha to say the prayers of 
dedication to whoever had the greatest merits.  Assuming that he 
himself would have the greatest merits because he was offering so 
much food, the King thought that the Buddha would dedicate the 
merits to him.  However the king didn't have the most merit.  Also 
present was a beggarly monk called Surata who felt so good about the 
king's generosity in offering food to the Buddha and his followers 
for weeks and weeks, that he rejoiced sincerely in the king's 
generosity and thus, through his pure heart, gathered more merits 
than the king who had incurred a great deal of expense. 

For the one who has perfectly seized this mind 
With the thought never to turn away 
From totally liberating 
The infinite forms of life,

From that time hence, 
Even while asleep or unconcerned, 
A force of merit equal to the sky 
Will perpetually ensue.

     For two or three weeks the king didn't get any dedications at 
the end of the meals he was offering to the Buddha and his many 
followers.  Because it was the custom to say prayers at the end of 
the meal, and the Buddha and the Sangha didn't dedicate the merits 
to him, the king felt unhappy and had a very long face.  One of his 
ministers asked him,  Lord, is something bothering you?  The king 
answered,  Buddha has been here for weeks now.  I have been offering 
food all this time and all this time the beggar Surata has received 
the dedication.  So the minister resorted to a dirty trick.  Because 
the beggar continued to rejoice with a pure heart in the king's 
generosity, thus unwittingly gathering more merits, the minister 
decided to have someone chase the beggar so that he would have no 
chance to feel good about the king's generosity.  Because poor 
Surata had to run for his life, he didn't have time to rejoice, and 
that day it was found that the king had more merits.  Thus that day 
he got the dedication he wanted!

     There is another small anecdote about this poor beggar, 
Surata.  Though he was a beggar in material terms, in spiritual 
terms he was already quite developed.  He is said to have offered 
one butter lamp with bodhicitta motivation, praying,  With this 
butter lamp may I achieve the state of enlightenment for the sake of 
all sentient beings, and it is said that the butter lamp was so 
brilliant that when someone tried to put it out they were unable to 
do so.

     So with the precious mind of enlightenment, even if you burn 
only one incense stick and offer the fragrance to the holy objects 
and so on, the merit you will gather will be enormous.  If, before 
you light the incense stick and offer the fragrance, you say to 
yourself,  Today I offer this incense stick to the gurus and the 
Buddhas   may I achieve the state of enlightenment for the sake of 
all sentient beings, saying it not in a jaded, mechanical way but 
with full sincerity, you will gather as many merits by burning this 
one incense stick as there are sentient beings throughout the 

This intention to benefit all beings, 
Which does not arise in others even for their own sake, 
Is an extraordinary jewel of the mind, 
And its birth is an unprecedented wonder.

Now that I have told you about the need for and importance of
bodhicitta, about the magical power of bodhicitta, please
dwell in bodhicitta.  Remember this:  Bodhicitta is the
supreme object of meditation, bodhicitta is the supreme object of
any practice ...  Bodhicitta is supreme for it includes the
interests of all sentient beings, which is the greatest of all 
practices.  Bodhicitta is called  rinchen sem chog, meaning  the
precious jewel of all minds.  It is the core practice   the central
practice   of all bodhisattvas.  Ask any bodhisattva,  What do you 
mainly practise? and you will hear nothing other than,  I have tried 
to practise bodhicitta.  They will be unanimous in their

     I could keep on reciting the many teachings about bodhicitta
given by the Buddha himself in the Sutras, as well as by Indian 
masters and scholar practitioners.  In his great work 
Bodhicharyavatara (A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life) 
Shantideva says that if someone simply has the good heart to want to 
relieve another person of a headache, the merit from that good 
intention cannot be estimated.  There is a true story about this.  
It is the story of Dza.khän Pumo (literally  Potter's Daughter, 
though the person was a man).  Dza.khauml;n Pumo had been forbidden 
by his mother from going to distant islands in the high seas to 
fetch jewels for his father's trade.  Because her husband had lost 
his life at sea, Dza.khän Pumo's mother didn't want her son to 
follow in his father's footsteps since she didn't want to lose the 
only male remaining in the family.  In order to stop him, his mother 
could do nothing more than lie down on the threshold of their house, 
hoping that out of respect for her he would not jump over her.  
However he lost his temper and not only walked over his mother's 
body but also kicked her head.

     Dza.khän Pumo sailed for a long time in the company of 
others.  Eventually, as his mother had feared, the boat capsized.  
They were washed up on the beach of an island and as he walked along 
the beach trying to find his way, he came upon an iron house and 
went in. Inside the house he saw a terrible sight: a person whose 
head was being drilled by a wheel so that brains and blood were 
oozing out.  He was suffering tremendously.  Dza.khän Pumo 
asked him,  What is the reason that you have this terrible 
suffering?  He answered,  I think it must be because of the dreadful 
way I behaved towards my mother, walking over her and treating her 
cruelly.  Dza.khän Pumo thought to himself,  I am in the same 
situation, driven by karma to suffer the same consequences of the 
same actions.  The moment he realized that he was there due to the 
force of karma, a voice from above said,  May one who is bound be 
liberated and one who is free be bound, and he found that the wheel 
had left the other man's head and was busily drilling into his own.  
However even while he was suffering the agony of being drilled by 
the wheel, he was able to feel sympathy for others who might be 
undergoing the same suffering, thinking to himself,  May all other 
people who are suffering the same consequence through disobedience 
and walking over their mothers' heads, be free of their suffering: 
may the sufferings I undergo be sufficient for them too.  As soon as 
he had generated this good-hearted empathy for others, the wheel 
jumped off his head.  

I bow down to the body of the one 
In whom the sacred precious mind is born. 
I seek refuge in that source of joy 
Who brings to happiness even those who harm him.

     Dza.khän Pumo, this  Potter's Daughter, was in fact the
historical Buddha Shakyamuni in one of his earlier lives, as a 
bodhisattva on the way to enlightenment.  The reason he was called  
Potter's Daughter was that before his birth, his mother had had many 
boys but they had all died.  Then the parents thought,  If we have a 
boy next time, let's try giving him a girl's name.  They did so, and 
it worked!

One of the ways of generating universal altruism, bodhicitta, is 
equalizing and exchanging self for others.  In equalizing, one 
recognizes that oneself and others are the same; in exchanging self 
for others one mentally exchanges one's own position for that of 
others.  This very powerful practice of equalizing and exchanging 
can be traced back to the experience of the Buddha as the 
bodhisattva Dza.khän Pumo.

     If, like Dza.khän Pumo, you have bodhicitta, although you 
might be temporarily reborn in a bad state of existence due to some 
unfortunate past action, you won't be there for as long as is 
usually the case you will pay for your bad karma briefly.  

     As Shantideva says, if somebody has the kindness and good heart 
to want to help relieve someone else's headache, and if that 
kindness and goodness of heart gathers great merit, is there any 
need to say that if someone generates the good heart wanting to 
liberate and to work for the ultimate enlightenment of all sentient 
beings, that that person will gather much greater merits?

Today, please meditate on bodhicitta by way of understanding that
you yourself and others are the same, and then trying to exchange 
your cherishing of self for cherishing of others.  In other words, 
your sense of self-cherishing must be displaced by a strong, 
selfless sense of cherishing others.  Let such an attitude develop 
in your mind.  This is one of the ways of generating bodhicitta, 
universal altruism.

The verses quoted above are from Chapter One of Shantideva's 
Bodhicharyavatara as translated by Stephen Batchelor in A Guide to 
the Bodhisattva's Way  of Life.  Gen Rinpoche quoted phrases and 
lines from  Bodhicharyavatara many times during the teaching.

The Sanskrit word bodhicitta, (in Tibetan jang.chub.kyi 
sem), means literally  awakening mind and  mind of enlighten-ment.  
It is sometimes presented in English as  altruistic attitude or  
universal altruism.  It has been  described as  a mind infused with 
the aspiration to attain the state  of Buddhahood for the sake of 
all sentient beings.  This is the  entrance to and the motivation 
behind the Bodhisattva's way of  life.  (Stephen  Batchelor, A Guide 
to the Bodhisattva's Way of  Life, page 178.)

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