Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

Bodhichitta

Public teaching given online in the Pacific Northwest
July 5, 2021
Part 1: 44 minutes, Part 2: 53 minutes

Transcript / Video


Note 1: This is an edited transcript of a live teaching, and should not be taken as Rinpoche’s final word. Every effort has been made to ensure that this transcript is accurate both in terms of words and meaning, however all errors and misunderstandings are the responsibility of the editors of madhyamaka.com. Please see note.


Note 2: This transcript includes footnotes with clarifications and more information about Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist terms used in the teaching. Please click on the superscript number to read the footnote. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s name is abbreviated to “DJKR” throughout.


Talk 1

Bodhichitta is much more than kindness and compassion

Introduction

[There was a] request last time when we [were on] Zoom to say something about bodhichitta. I will try my best. Bodhichitta is like the quintessence of the Mahayana teaching. That’s how it is said. And again, I have to say [that] our language and philology is going to be challenging. I think it’s really difficult to translate [the word] “bodhichitta”.

Anyway, according to the Mahayana sutras and shastras, just the fact that the term bodhichitta is still alive today, and that you and I are talking about it, this alone means that we have done something so good in our past lives. Some sutras say that there will be a day when terms such as bodhichitta and its meaning will no longer exist. And that [will] almost [be] close to [a] dark age1Ed.: a dark age (Tibetan: münpé kalpa, མུན་པའི་བསྐལ་པ་) is an age or kalpa in which a Buddha does not appear – see münpé kalpa.. Not the total dark age, but quite close.

Bodhichitta is really vast and deep. This is a big subject for the Mahayana. Of course, initially it was taught by the Buddha. And subsequently there were a lot of [other] teachings on bodhichitta. One of the most popular and revered in Tibet is a text called the Bodhicharyavatara (The Way of the Bodhisattva) written by Shantideva2Bodhicharyavatara (Sanskrit: बोधिचर्यावतार) – see Bodhicharyavatara.. But it’s not just Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara. [There are] many many other texts [on bodhichitta]. Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara just came into my mind, so I’m saying this.

Historical context

If you think about the context of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara, it’s quite something to think about. For example, in Peru I think there is a civilization called the Inca civilization3Ed.: DJKR originally referred to the Maya civilization, and then corrected himself later in the teaching.. The reason why I’m talking about Peru is [because] at the moment they’re playing football with Brazil, right this very moment. And when the Bodhicharyavatara was composed or written or taught in India (Ed.: in about 700 CE4See Bodhicharyavatara.), the Inca civilization was still alive5Ed.: DJKR is referring to the Maya civilization, which reached its height in c. 250-900 CE. The Inca Empire arose from the Peruvian highlands in the early 13th century CE, and its last stronghold was conquered by the Spanish in 1572.. It was the beginning of the decline, I think. So, this is something to think about.

And then in Japan, since it looks like there are some Japanese people listening, [it was the] Nara period. And in India, I think the Pala dynasty in West Bengal was sort of thriving at that time. And this is something to note: at that time, the Jatakamala Sutra was translated into the Arabic language. And in Indonesia, the big stupa at Borobudur was just beginning to [be] constructed. And all this is preparation to say the following: so-called Great Britain didn’t even exist. I hope Richard Dixey is listening. Vikings where are they from, Sweden? The Swedish Vikings were just beginning to go to England and make the English people learn how to at least be like humans.

So, when we look at this context, as a Buddhist I feel very moved that a concept like bodhichitta is still being studied, practiced and read [today], and [there are] thousands of commentaries.

Bodhichitta is ruthlessly honest

Now, I think the idea, the concept, the term “bodhichitta” has been watered down too much. Bodhichitta is measured or seen as something very philanthropic, compassionate, loving, kind, smiling, nonviolent — that’s about it. People don’t go beyond that. That is a really big downfall. If you really want to know about bodhichitta, there is a big loss [in] approaching bodhichitta this way.

There is an aspect of bodhichitta that is relentlessly ruthless. That is so important. [The aspect that is] ruthlessly honest, ruthlessly raw and ruthlessly blatant or honest or truthful. Not many people pay attention [to] this aspect of bodhichitta. I think partly it’s because of the fault of cultural differences6Ed.: DJKR said “of a different culture”. This has been changed., I would say.

Because when you go to a traditional Mahayana Buddhist temple, a bodhisattva is almost always depicted as someone who’s very compassionate, [with] kind eyes, [like] Avalokiteshvara and Arya Tara. Very nice people basically. Even though if you closely look at Mahayana temples, especially Vajrayana temples, there are a lot of bodhisattvas [who] are not what — in our mundane world — you would call “nice guys”. They don’t look good. They are very wrathful. Their methods may not necessarily be gentle.

And I think this is because, as I said, the aspect of bodhichitta which has something to do with the truth has been watered down, or not emphasized, or forgotten. This is why.

This happens. Someone [might] say, “Oh, he’s really like a bodhisattva”. What does this mean? Usually [they are referring to someone who is] not short tempered, very forgiving, patient, soft spoken. Usually [when] we say “He’s a bodhisattva”, we are hardly [ever referring to] someone who shouts, yells, [or is] rude. We hardly [ever] say [of a person like that], “Oh, he’s a great bodhisattva”.

Bodhichitta is like alchemy

Bodhichitta also gets interpreted as some sort of a kind heart and kind mind. And that’s it. That’s where it stops. It doesn’t really go beyond that. Then you are missing a big part of bodhichitta. In the Mahayana sutras and shastras, they say that bodhichitta is like alchemy. If bodhichitta is just a kind heart, kind mind, loving, compassionate — if that’s all there is, then bodhichitta can never become alchemy.

We also read in the Mahayana texts that if you have bodhichitta [then] there’s nothing, not a single thing that you do, that will not become beneficial to sentient beings. Such a statement is [possible] because bodhichitta is not just kind, gentle, soft, compassionate. It is beyond that. That’s why [the Mahayana texts] can afford to say such things.

So I will try to decipher some of the reasons why bodhichitta is not just kind, compassionate, loving kindness.

How is bodhichitta to be understood?

(1) Freedom from suffering and the causes of suffering

At a glance, one would think that bodhichitta is the mind that wishes to free sentient beings from suffering, which is sort of correct. [It’s] not complete, but it has some element [of that]. However bodhichitta is not [just] a mind that wishes to free beings from suffering, not just that. It has to go beyond that. It [also] has to have the element [of wishing] to free beings from the cause of suffering.

Now, even more complicated is — what is suffering? And here again, I have to remind people, the English word “suffering” may not be doing justice [as a translation of] the word dukkha in Sanskrit. Of course, I don’t need to say that nobody wants to suffer. I mean, that’s standard. That’s given. Who wants to suffer? Nobody wants to suffer. And if we know the cause of that kind of suffering, we will also try to do something [to remove the cause of suffering].

(2) Freedom from happiness and the causes of happiness

[The] wish and effort to go away from suffering that we usually talk about, that exists with everyone. But not everybody wishes to be free from happiness. When we talk about bodhichitta, from the bodhichitta point of view, happiness is also problematic. I mean, the happiness that you and I think and talk about. Because from the bodhichitta point of view, from the Bodhisattvayana7Ed.: the Bodhisattvayana is the yana or path of the bodhisattva. It is synonymous with the Mahayana. point of view, [the] so-called happiness that we have is actually untrustable. It’s conditioned. It’s fabricated. It’s dependent [on] lots of causes and conditions. Therefore, you can’t really rely [on it]. You can’t trust [it].

As I’ve already said, we want to be free from suffering. Bodhisattvas want [this as well], but bodhisattvas also want to be free from happiness. That is what makes bodhichitta kind of special, [although] a lot of [other] Indian wisdom traditions [also] have that kind of guts or courage to free ourselves from happiness and the cause of happiness. It’s not really Buddhism or Mahayana exclusive.

(3) Freedom from all phenomena

Now, the third one [is] even more important. Bodhichitta is the wish to free all sentient beings from all phenomena. Now, this is what makes bodhichitta special. Just so that we can understand what I’m talking about, [the term “phenomena” refers to] the moment there is a concept, such as values [or] language. The bodhisattva even wishes to be free from the very path that the bodhisattva or the practitioner is practicing. So I would say this makes bodhichitta unique.

I’m sorry, probably I’m putting it in a very academic and complicated way. I will try to simplify as we go. An example I often use when I teach the Mahayana path is when a mother is playing with her kids in the sand at the beach. And the kids construct a sandcastle and the mother also really helps to build it. But there is an element, a part in the mother that knows that this sandcastle is not really a real castle [Ed.: for example, she knows it will be washed away as the tide rises]. This is probably a good example for bodhichitta.

Earlier I was talking about being ruthlessly truthful, so to speak? By the time it’s eight o’clock in the evening, the mother will say to the kids, “Okay, let’s pack, let’s go back”. Being honest about the facts, [the truth]. I think this element is something that Mahayana practitioners really can’t afford to miss when we talk about bodhichitta.

Awakening to the truth

Once we understand this aspect, then we will realize that with bodhichitta, we can actually turn many so-called non-virtuous [thoughts and actions] into [something] virtuous. And this is why you hear things that non-Mahayana people or other religious people may [find difficult to] understand. [For example,] Mahayana [people] say, “Oh, you know, a bodhisattva could tell a lie and that lie could be virtuous.”

And usually, when we explain this, we always talk about intention, “Oh, for the sake of saving lots and lots of people, maybe a bodhisattva could tell a lie to [mislead] a killer”, and so forth. But actually, it’s not just the intention. It’s knowing the truth. Because of that, if a bodhisattva has that kind of realization of the truth, [then] even the bodhisattva’s nonvirtuous action becomes virtuous.

And, even more importantly, not all virtuous actions become a path to enlightenment. Many virtuous actions [only] end up becoming a cause for a higher birth or good experience. For example, you could even build a hospital [and] save thousands of people’s lives and so forth, but [if you do not realize the truth] it might still not be a path to enlightenment. But with bodhichitta not only [does] the nonvirtuous become virtuous, [but also] virtuous actions become what we call [a] path to nirvana.

I will try to explain this from a slightly different angle. Fundamentally bodhichitta is [the] union of wisdom and skillful means. You know, we Mahayana practitioners always say that we have to have bodhichitta. And the way we practice bodhichitta is usually like, “For the sake of the enlightenment of all sentient beings, I shall do this and that”.

Here again, sometimes we get bogged down by terms such as “enlightenment”. When we say “For the sake of the enlightenment of all sentient beings”, what we really mean is “For sentient beings to awaken to this truth, one way or another I shall do this and that. I shall light a lamp. I shall burn incense. I shall circumambulate a stupa, whatever”.

So next time when we think about “To enlighten all sentient beings”, I think it would help if you think in this context — to awaken sentient beings to the truth. If you can really contemplate on this, it’s really the highest wholesome thought that exists. From the Mahayana point of view, the wish to awaken others to the truth is far greater than wishing to build a lot of hospitals and saving lots of lives and so forth.

So if you think about concepts such as love, compassion, and bodhichitta, you can [differentiate] these three:

  • Wishing somebody [to be] happy and have the causes of happiness is considered love, kindness.
  • Wishing others to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering is considered compassion. This is a very standard way of explaining.
  • But bodhichitta has to have this element of [wishing to] awaken beings to the truth. In other words, to place them in the state of enlightenment.

Bodhichitta is the union of skillful means and wisdom

Remember I was talking about the union of skillful means and wisdom? Wishing to free others from suffering and wishing them to be happy, these are skillful means. [In addition] there are methods such as discipline, ethics, patience, and samadhi, such as mindfulness. These are all skillful means. But these skillful means without wisdom, without prajña — without the quest for the truth, let’s say for now — all these skillful means are very blind and also very misleading.

Pick one. [For example], we wish other people to be happy, [but] without the wisdom aspect. This is very vague. First of all, we don’t even know what is happiness. We wish no harm to others. But that’s also very vague. I mean, the best we could do is “What I don’t want, I guess others don’t want. Therefore I will not give him or her what I don’t want or what I don’t like”. That’s about the best thing we could do.

Or whatever you think you are happy with, or [what makes] you feel blissful, [you might think] “I guess others also wish [for this], so I give [this to them]”. That’s very good. I’m not condemning this. It’s good. It’s very sweet. It’s very nice. But it’s very vague. There’s not much guarantee there. Who knows? Maybe what you like is what the other person really detests. So if you shove what you like down their throat, probably you are not doing a good thing.

So this is why if you miss this wisdom aspect, the Mahayana idea of bodhichitta ends up becoming very limited and very mundane. Bodhichitta is not mundane, that’s what I’m trying to say.

Okay we’ll take a break here, and then we will resume again.

[END OF TALK 1]


Talk 2

Realizing the truth

Okay, so there are questions. I will try to answer them later. But let me finish a little bit more about bodhichitta.

I hope I’ve managed to convince you that bodhichitta really should have this element of wisdom. I’m using the word “wisdom”, but I don’t know whether that’s a really a good translation [of the word prajña]. Anyway, to enable beginners to understand this [more easily], I would say [that] wisdom is basically a mind that is seeing the truth.

The three marks of existence

A lot of you have heard this before, but for the newcomers [I will] repeat. [When we talk about seeing the truth, we are talking about truths] like impermanence, for instance. Many times we are looking at something that’s impermanent, but we always [fail to] see its truth, which is impermanent. [Instead we] keep on imagining that it’s permanent. And similarly, we are looking at things that [have] a lot of parts, but then we always end up thinking it’s just one unit. And so forth. This is just to give you an example.

If we talk [at a] deeper level of the truth, we are talking about [how] we relate to things that are just an imagination or an appearance, but we always end up seeing them as real. Some of them, we can sort of understand that they are just our imagination. But there are a lot things that we think are real, “[This] has to be the ultimate truth”, things like that.

Anyway, seeing the absolute truth is what we call prajña8prajña (Sanskrit: प्रज्ञा) = precise discernment; wisdom; knowing correctly, clearly and fully – see prajña., which is translated as “wisdom”. That aspect is a big part of bodhichitta. If someone wishes to have a cup of tea, water is essential. But tea leaves are important. You can’t just give this person a cup of water. Likewise, this aspect of wisdom is really important.

We are not accustomed to understanding the truth

But for most beginners, the understanding of this truth is beyond their comprehension, I guess. It’s not because it’s difficult, it’s just that habitually we are not accustomed to [it].

For instance, impermanence. We kind of intellectually know [that] yesterday’s me and today’s me, they’re kind of different. But in our day-to-day interaction with life, we just forget. We just think that yesterday’s me is the same as today’s me. Not only yesterday’s me, [but] last year’s me is the same as today’s me, and so forth.

And if we intellectually analyze things like our ideas and values, we can come to some sort of understanding and conviction that, “Yes, that’s just my idea. That’s just my opinion. That’s just my projection”. Kind of. I mean, for a lot of people even that is difficult. Because for us, some of our ideas and values are really precious. They’re stone carved in the centre of our heart. Very valuable. We will not give [them] up as just [our] imagination.

Wishing that all may be enlightened

Okay, so for beginners [like us], how do we then practice bodhichitta? It’s tough to conceive it [because of our] habits. So then what do we do?

This is why it is a such a brilliant method to practice bodhichitta [by wishing] “May all be enlightened”, instead of saying “May all be happy” or “May all not suffer” or “May all be well”. Instead of [just] wishing [others] well, [we wish] “May all be enlightened”. For beginners, this is a such a brilliant idea. It’s like a really good stepping stone.

I know it sounds like I’m repeating again and again, [but] this wish to make other people see the truth is really the greatest wholesome thought.

All Mahayana methods are to lead you to the truth

Another thing that probably you want to make note of is this. Generally in Buddhism, and especially in Mahayana Buddhism, basically all methods are in one way or another related to [or to lead you to] end up at this truth.

For example, Buddhists will talk about things like renunciation. The ascetic life, let’s say. The word renunciation means a lot, but let’s choose the practice of asceticism or austerity, like [living] a simple life. Without wisdom, if knowing the truth is not there, then the ascetic life or the renunciant life is [just] pain. It’s nothing more than just some sort of a penance. It’s not a Mahayana path.

And it’s for this reason that we see a lot of Mahayana practitioners in the past and also in the present not necessarily adopting the ascetic life. They are businessmen. They are rich, affluent, wealthy. They wear rings, earrings, nose rings, whatever.

So in this way, you can even say [that] when the Buddhists begin to talk about teachings such as renunciation, love and compassion, basically it’s an attempt to slowly stir you, I mean to lead you or lure you towards shunyata, towards the truth.

For instance [let’s take] mindfulness, since mindfulness is such a thing to talk about these days. For the Mahayana, for the Bodhisattvayana , the stability of the mind really means nothing if there is no understanding of the truth. A stable mind — for what? [You] might just as well have a jumpy mind, they would think.

Realization of the truth and having perfect compassion are synonymous

This is why in the sutras you will read phrases like “When you have complete nyingjé, karuna, compassion, that actually means you have understood shunyata”. So, realization of the truth and having perfect compassion are synonymous.

This aspect of bodhichitta is really something that needs to be emphasized for the Mahayana practitioner. As long as you don’t have this quest for the truth, this prajña, then compassion and loving kindness could be self-deceiving. And they could also be a deception for others too.

And not only that, if you don’t have prajña then love, compassion, morality and ethics are very exhausting. For instance generosity — the perfection of generosity. How are you going to achieve that? How do you define someone who has perfect generosity or perfect discipline? How do we define this?

Even practically, we can be generous to one or two people for maybe a year or two or even twenty years. But after a while, it can get exhausting. And it can even really disorient yourself. We see this a lot. And things like love and compassion also become very partial. For example, someone may have love and compassion towards dogs, but then they have no love and compassion towards cockroaches or mosquitoes.

Bodhisattva activity

The classic word for somebody who has bodhichitta is a bodhisattva. And one of the connotations of the bodhisattva is the “courageous one”, the one who has that kind of courage. When we talk about courage, what are we talking about? We are talking about someone who has understood the truth, or [who is] aspiring to understand the truth.

I’m emphasizing this because the act of benefiting others without prajña can be very daunting and very tiring. And if you don’t have hearing and contemplation regarding ultimate bodhichitta, [which is] wisdom, then you will also not have access to the incredible, infinite, skillful means. [Whereas] if you have wisdom, there’s nothing that is not a skillful means.

For instance, every day we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. And we breathe in and out every moment. A skilled bodhisattva can even turn these seemingly mundane day to day acts [into] a bodhisattva path. I know many of you may think “Me eating breakfast? How can that become bodhisattva activity?” You see, we’re stuck with this idea that a bodhisattva has to be some sort of a philanthropist. But if we can sort of explore a little bit of this prajña, then even our breathing in and out — which we do anyway, we have to — even that, we can turn it into bodhisattva activity. 

Taking the Bodhisattva Vow

So lastly, the question is, do we even have the capacity to have this bodhichitta mind? According to the Mahayana, very much so. In fact, your true nature is bodhichitta. This is what Mahayana people think.

Yes, for now, you may be cocooned and wrapped by all kinds of emotions and defilements, but your true nature is this bodhichitta.

Just like when a good human being drinks a lot of alcohol, they misbehave and they seemingly become kind of rowdy and kind of not a nice person. [But] when the alcohol effects subside, they land or they arrive at the state of a good human being again. [It’s] just like that.

Right now, we are drunk on our emotions of hope and fear. And when these things subside, we are back to normal and that normalcy is nothing other than bodhichitta. So there’s every reason why we can have bodhichitta

And according to Shantideva, in the book that I was talking about earlier, even if you [just] wish that all beings understand the truth you have become a bodhisattva. You have become the object of veneration by gods and asuras, that’s what he said. But if you want to enhance the determination to awaken all sentient beings, it is also possible to surrender to rituals such as taking the Bodhisattva Vow.

So, before I let you ask questions, we are quickly going to take the Bodhisattva Vow and I urge you to take this Bodhisattva Vow. Some of you may be wondering what kind of dietary commitment you have to commit to, or [whether] you need to get up early in the morning. Not to worry about those things. Stuff like that doesn’t exist. Remember prajña? Those things are not so important. Actually, they are not important [at all].

What’s really important [is that] you are taking a vow that “I shall try my best, one way or another, to make people see the truth, step by step”. That’s it. How can you not take this vow?

So, I will request you to take this Bodhisattva Vow. We are doing this online, and I know online stuff like taking a vow is a bit controversial, but since this is a Mahayana [teaching] I think it’s okay. But just don’t tell some of those orthodox lamas that I’ve done this.

So, folding your palms together, let us take refuge first. Basically, what we are saying is that we will accept the truth as our object of refuge, and the one who taught [the truth] as our guide, and the system or the community as our support.

Okay, so please repeat this9From Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara, II:26, trans. Padmakara Translation Group.:

བྱང་ཆུབ་སྙིང་པོར་མཆིས་ཀྱི་བར།།
jangchup nyingpor chikyi bar
Until the essence of enlightenment is reached,
乃至菩提藏

སངས་རྒྱས་རྣམས་ལ་སྐྱབས་སུ་མཆི།།
sangyé namla kyapsu chi
I go for refuge to the Buddhas.
歸依諸佛陀

ཆོས་དང་བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའ་ཡི།།
chödang jangchup sempa yi
Also I take refuge in the Dharma
亦依正法寶

ཚོགས་ལའང་དེ་བཞིན་སྐྱབས་སུ་མཆི།།
tsoklang dézhin kyapsu chi
And in all the host of Bodhisattvas.
菩薩諸聖眾。

[3x]

We’ll now take the bodhisattva vow10From Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara, III:23-24, trans. Padmakara Translation Group.:

ཇི་ལྟར་སྔོན་གྱི་བདེ་གཤེགས་ཀྱིས།།
jitar ngöngyi déshek kyi
Just as all the Buddhas of the past
如昔諸善逝

བྱང་ཆུབ་ཐུགས་ནི་བསྐྱེད་པ་དང།།
jangchup tukni kyépa dang
Have brought forth the awakened mind,
先發菩提心,

བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའི་བསླབ་པ་ལ།།
jangchup sempé labpa la
And in the precepts of the Bodhisattvas
復次循序住

དེ་དག་རིམ་བཞིན་གནས་པ་ལྟར།།
dédak rimzhin népa tar
Step-by-step abode and trained,
菩薩諸學處,

དེ་བཞིན་འགྲོ་ལ་ཕན་དོན་དུ།།
dézhin drola pendön du
Likewise, for the benefit of beings,
如是為利生,

བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་ནི་བསྐྱེད་བགྱི་ཞིང།།
jangchup semni kyégyi zhing
I will bring to birth the awakened mind,
我發菩提心;

དེ་བཞིན་དུ་ནི་བསླབ་པ་ལའང།།
dézhin duni labpa lang
And in those precepts, step-by-step,
復於諸學處,

རིམ་པ་བཞིན་དུ་བསླབ་པར་བགྱི།།
rimpa zhindu labpar gyi
I will abide and train myself.
次第勤修學。

Okay. That’s it. So I will answer some some questions. Maybe I can’t answer them all.


Q & A

[Q]: If bodhichitta is wisdom, what is the basis for the spontaneous desire to share that wisdom with other beings? Is there not still the need for a contrived vow in order to motivate oneself to do this?

[DJKR]: Well, bodhichitta is not only wisdom. Remember, to make tea you need tea leaves and water. I’m just emphasizing the wisdom because oftentimes bodhichitta gets limited to kind thoughts and generous thoughts and so forth.


[Q]: Is inhabiting nonduality the bodhichitta mind, and is this uniquely Buddhist?

[DJKR]: Yes. I would say that it’s really hard to distinguish between a lot of Indian wisdom traditions, such as Nyaya and Jain and Buddhism. But bodhichitta is probably one of the unique things [in Buddhism]. I haven’t really heard this bodhichitta bit from others. So, this may be a very big one. So, please, scholars and researchers, if you can, maybe make comments.


[Q]: How can we develop bodhichitta practice daily?

[DJKR]: There are a lot of short and long rituals that can help you. So you can do those. But actually, I would rather encourage you to do it informally. For instance, [I encourage you to] wish to live, wish to continue living, so that one way or another [all] your actions, even the most mundane actions — remember I told you earlier, like drinking a cup of tea — will in one way or another lead to making others understand the truth. Yes, this kind of longing is contrived. It’s fabricated. But it’s nevertheless gearing towards wisdom. And it’s so important and that’s a bodhichitta practice.

And especially if you or your friend are on their last stage of their life, thinking of bodhichitta is very important. Usually you think, “This is it. Life is coming to an end”, so to speak. But it’s not really the end. Because of bodhichitta, your life is just beginning. There are all these countless sentient beings that you need to awaken. [It’s a] big project. One life is not enough. [Thinking that this is the end is] very cowardly thinking. You wish to come back. Until all sentient beings have finished, you want to come back as bugs, as human beings, as whatever. That kind of planning and vision.


[Q]: To help [others] see the truth, and to help myself see the truth, how do I know whether I should continue working? Or should I take some time off for deepening my own practice? How do we know this? And how can we make a decision?

[DJKR]: I don’t know your situation. It depends on what kind of situation you are in. Do you need to pay a mortgage? Do you need to pay certain bills? Do you need to prepare for your next year? Do you have children? But from time to time, if you [can] take off some time and invest your time and energy into things like bodhichitta, definitely it can charge you with the bodhichitta spirit, so to speak.


[Q]: Can you elaborate on the relationship between karma and bodhichitta?

[DJKR]: We are going to talk about karma, I think quite soon. So can we hold on with this question?


[Q]: When we make offerings, how to do it in the best way to also approach the truth?

[DJKR]: Well, as you have heard today, you are doing this offering with bodhichitta. So that one way or another, this act will awaken others to the truth. I’m trying to not use the [classic] phrase ”For the sake of the enlightenment of others”, just so that you can understand what I’m trying to emphasize.


[Q]: Having gone astray down a wrong path for such a long time, it can be hard to be courageous to come back to this high path. The karmic effect remains. Is there anything you can say?

[DJKR]: This is why the bodhichitta is absolutely important. As Shantideva said, the darkness of millions of aeons can be illuminated by [just] one thought of bodhichitta. I did not elaborate it today, but usually when we take the Bodhisattva Vow, we even say that “Today we have become the child of the Buddha. Today we become like the illuminator”. It’s precisely with this kind of situation [that] bodhichitta becomes like alchemy. Just imagine — without bodhichitta, how do we make ourselves perfect? It’s impossible. It’s really impossible.


[Q]: If, as you said, everything is soon to become nonexistent, what then?

[DJKR]: Oh, I think here there’s a little bit of a misunderstanding of what we mean by nonexistence. Generally when Buddhists, especially Mahayana Buddhists, say “nonexistence”, it also includes the nonexistence of nonexistence. Yes, the prajña, the wisdom is nondual. If it is just nonexistence, then that’s duality.


[Q]: If someone is manipulating you all the time, do we still have to generate bodhichitta, up to the point that it’s completely destroying your own mental state?

[DJKR]: The question implies do you still need to behave gently, softly and submissively and so forth? But as I said right at the beginning, a big part of bodhichitta is [being] relentlessly, ruthlessly honest and [truthful]. It’s a truth seeking thing. Without that, without that wisdom, if it is just being loving and [showing] kindness, that could really burn you, I guess.


[Q]: What are the benefits of having an awakened mind?

[DJKR]: There are many, many benefits. Among many, I think it’s always good to have a bird’s eye view of life. A view of life from all angles. That’s going to be so liberating. Not just one angle, not lopsided.


[Q]: How to come up with this kind of courage for this wiser bodhichitta that you allude to?

[DJKR]: Yes, that’s actually quite interesting, wise. And you use the words “courage” and “wise” together. Oftentimes courage also seems to have the connotation of being a little bit stubborn and sometimes even stupid. But if you see the truth, if you have the bird’s eyes view of life, then yes, basically that is the courage we are talking about here. Then you are in the comfortable zone, so to speak. You have the vista.


[Q]: Is it cowardice to wish to be reborn in the Amitabha realm?

[DJKR]: Not at all, it’s the most courageous. You should do this. And — I think that this is a question coming from China — you should visit the main temple of the Pure Land school, where there’s a really beautiful statue of Amitabha Buddha. And to make it even greater, why don’t you wish to be reborn in the Amitabha realm so that you will enlighten all sentient beings, or so that you will awaken all sentient beings to the truth? See, I told you. It’s like alchemy.


[Q]: How can we help others without seeing the truth ourselves?

[DJKR]: At least we wish to see the truth and that’s already really good. Not many people even have that.

And to whoever it is, thank you for correcting me that Maya is mostly Central American. Peru is Inca. And on this very auspicious note talking about Maya and Inca, I shall say that we will meet again in this cyber world, and I think we will be discussing about something to do with karma. And meanwhile, please take care of yourself..

[END OF TALK 2]


Note: to read footnotes please click on superscript numbers

Transcribed by Mihaela Cristina Ionescu 咪咪 and Alex Li Trisoglio
Edited by Alex Li Trisoglio