Teachings on The Thirty Seven Bodhisattva Practices

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Teaching given by His Eminence Nubpa Rinpoche

Arranged and translated from Tibetan to Chinese by Konchog Trinlay

Translated from Chinese to English by Ratnashri Translation Team

Edited by Dr. Kay Candler



18. Though you may be impoverished, always disparaged, gripped by disease, and tormented by spirits,
      never lose courage but take on the misdeeds and pains of all beings.
This is the way of a bodhisattva.

Good day, Dharma friends. Today we are going to talk about the eighteenth verse of The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices:

This is not a simple bodhisattva practice. First, let us understand what “bodhisattva” means. In general, a bodhisattva is defined as someone who purifies the obscurations of afflicting emotions as well as the obscurations to knowledge, and perfects the primordial wisdom. In order to attain such an extremely profound fruit as enlightenment, bodhicitta and courage must be cultivated in an extraordinary way. Someone who is equipped with such extraordinary vigor and cultivation of bodhicitta is called a “bodhisattva.” All in all, a bodhisattva cultivates indomitable bodhicitta to benefit others, and thus has the vigor and courage to accomplish all endeavors. While cultivating such bodhicitta, no matter how long and difficult the process is, one accepts it joyfully and persists to completion. Even if one has to offer one’s own head, arms, and legs, there is no hesitation. However, in order to cultivate bodhicitta to such a high bodhisattva level, one begins with training the mind and progresses gradually. It is not possible for an ordinary person to immediately cultivate a level of bodhicitta that high. Therefore, as mentioned in The Bodhisattva Practices, an ordinary person starts to practice generosity by giving away small things like vegetables. As one gradually gets used to the practice of generosity, one’s ability to give increases naturally, to the point where one has the capacity to give away one’s own head, arms, legs and other parts of the body naturally. Train the mind uninterruptedly in this way, and habituate it. Joyfully perform all actions that benefit sentient beings. But while training your mind, bear in mind that it is a long process and you must proceed gradually, step by step. This is very important. If we don’t have sufficient mental preparation but just rely on “three-minute enthusiasm,” the result can be disastrous and we won’t be able to sustain it to the end.

This eighteenth verse tells us that in our daily lives, we will encounter all kinds of circumstances—sometimes being rich and sometimes being poor; life circumstances do not remain the same, there are ups and downs. What we are talking about today is, when a bodhisattva encounters the most difficult life circumstances, how would he or she react? You may be impoverished: suppose you cannot even secure the daily necessities such as food, clothing, and housing, and so on; your life is full of hardships; and you even have to beg for the three daily meals. In addition, you are always disparaged and harmed by others, and surrounded by those who despise and scold you. On top of that, due to the imbalance of the four elements, you are gripped by disease that is not trivial, but a dangerous one, like being tormented by invisible evil spirits! In face of such a serious disease, such as an incurable cancer, the suffering is unspeakable. Lord Jigten Sumgön said that disease arises from two causes—immediate and remote. Immediate causes are improper food and drink in our daily life, and remote ones are the ripening of negative karma—such as that from stealing, killing, and so on—committed in previous lives. All in all, the root causes of all diseases are attachment, hatred, and ignorance. Since the mind is full of attachment, hatred, and ignorance, they manifest outwardly as various invisible demons. Someone encountering all these circumstances faces suffering on top of suffering, and finds it extremely difficult to live. At such a time, a bodhisattva adopts the method of exchanging self with others to overcome difficulties: “May all the current sufferings that I endure take the place of all the sufferings of all mother sentient beings, boundless as space, caused by the ripening of all the negative karma from their previous negative deeds. May all sentient beings be free from suffering and be happy!” Never lose courage but take on the misdeeds and pains of all beings. For bodhisattvas, the more hardships they encounter, the more immeasurably vast their cultivation of bodhicitta becomes; it is like pouring oil on fire. No matter what negative circumstances they encounter, they never forsake sentient beings, but rather, they use even greater compassion to further enhance their skillful means to overcome difficulties by exchanging self with others. Therefore, it is very important for us to learn to cultivate bodhichitta like this.

Nowadays we live in the 21st century, when technology and economy develop rapidly. While the outer standard of living goes higher and higher, our inner mind becomes more and more fragile. If we face some slight difficulty in daily life, we despair. We lack the courage to face reality, and some even choose to commit suicide. Actually, the difficulties that people encounter these days are nothing when compared to the difficulties described in this verse. Nowadays there are students who commit suicide because they failed their exams in school. Some very young people suffer from depression. Therefore, the best method for facing such things is the bodhisattva’s practice of training the mind. Dharma texts are not just objects to be placed on the altar and worshipped; rather, we have to use our mind to penetrate to the core essence of the doctrine, and use that doctrine to overcome our everyday conflicts and confusions. We need it to resolve both physical and mental problems. Without fully resolving the inner worries, the mind cannot remain calm, so there is no way to resolve the physical problems. Therefore, The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices are extremely profound verses! This is my opinion. These verses can resolve the problems that arise from society and other circumstances in our daily life. But nowadays many people do not think in this way; they think that the teachings in The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices are trivial. Some masters think that they have some other more profound teaching to transmit and expound upon, and the disciples also prefer to receive what they think is a more profound teaching for their purposes. Actually, it is not like that; The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices are more precious than gold. Unless we scrutinize the teaching thoroughly, we cannot understand how extremely profound it is. Otherwise, if we think it is just some trivial teaching that has become popular, this is utterly wrong. If you really want to attain unsurpassed enlightenment, there is absolutely no more profound and important Dharma teaching than this. Hoping to attain unsurpassed enlightenment but allowing practice to deviate from the doctrine of The Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices is like thinking a mirage created by the hot sun is actually water: one is totally deluded.






Just as the Buddhas of the past, when cultivating enlightening practice, dedicated roots of goodness in this way, and so do and will the buddhas of the present and future,
So too should I arouse my will and dedicate roots of goodness like those Buddhas - with foremost dedication, excellent dedication, supreme dedication,
Superior dedication, unexcelled dedication, peerless dedication, unequalled dedication, incomparable dedication, honorable dedication,
Sublime dedication, impartial dedication, straight-forward dedication, virtuous dedication, far-reaching dedication,
 Good dedication, pure dedication, dedication free from evil, dedication not going wrong.
(extracted from The Flower Ornament scripture)

Last updated on 2017-11-29