Cultivation of bodhicitta, or the heartmind of enlightenment, happens in stages. In the beginning it might be completely artificial, just saying the prayers without meaning them because one doesn't yet feel it. One doesn't get it in the beginning because one does not have much understanding of reality but it changes with practice, like everything does. Through efforts towards greater clarity and peace of mind within oneself, even doing lip service of prayers of compassion leads to accumulation of experiences which in turn brings about transformation. Then we begin to say those prayers and thinking all sentient beings with some care and concern, with some personal involvement. Through reflection of one's and others' inner state*, our world view begins to change and we actually begin to care for others. It doesn't necessarily mean that we come to like people, because people are not easy to like, but we become concerned where the whole human operation is heading towards. We realize the value of dharma for humans and all sentient beings and understand how deeply screwed we all are. From there arises compassion and it is curious that it does. It does because under all the bullshit and deceit, shines basic goodness, (tib. kuntuzangpo). The truth of our being is positive and life-affirming, not negative and life-denying. So, after some time, we start feeling something, a bit compassionate. Bodhicitta keeps growing like a sapling, getting bigger and bigger year by year.
Something that I have observed in my students who have opened all their bhumis, who therefore have no need to search for knowing awareness or rigpa, is that for many of them it takes a while after the shifts to display compassion. Even when one has a direct and constant connection to the buddha within, it apparently takes time for the dynamic aspect of it, bodhicitta, to grow on the person. At one point I was actually very worried about this because many students had opened their bhumis but I wasn't seeing any initiative and action for the existential wellfare of others. They just bathed in their own clarity and bliss. I spent sleepless nights over this. I was stressed whether I had created some sort of a perverted path that lead to clear awareness but is not compassionate, for that'd be awful. Without compassion, Open Heart would not be a path to great accomplishment, that is, mahasiddhi or buddhahood. But then, to my great relief, they became more active and started showing their concern. Colour returned on my face!
|Avalokiteshvara - Bodhisattva of Compassion. The name literally means "The Lord who hears the cries from below".|
When I started practicing I didn't have all the toys and know-how my students have, so my path was largely just relying on bodhicitta and letting that lead me. Nevertheless, it appears that with or without shifts in perception (bhumi openings), bodhicitta takes time to develop. Stabilizing rigpa is one thing, something very meaningful to any sentient being and on top of that, becoming one with bodhicitta is another. It ensures correct direction of one's practice until full enlightenment is attained. What does becoming one with bodhicitta mean?
As sentient beings we are tied to our self-centered views and thoughts. From there we start loosening the knots of me, me, me and begin to think in terms of us all, us all, us all. That can be scary in the beginning. ”What do you mean 'taking the suffering of others into my heart'!? Fuck that! No! I don't want that!” Despite of initial self-based reactions such as panic, we come to see that it works, if we have had enough of confusion. Those who are ready, i.e. have merit, take their practice like ancient masters have, very seriously. This puts us inside a machine of sorts that takes us beyond duration and location. By going through our pain tirelessly like a warrior, we reach the other shore that is beyond and better than all states and achievements. Para sam gate bodhi svaha - gone completely beyond to reach natural perfection.
In this process, we become unified with compassion. Our mind starts thinking in ways that are aligned with the very message of ”may all beings be free” and ”I vow to liberate all sentient beings”. Our mind becomes united with bodhicitta, which means that it becomes the heartmind of enlightenment. We become that and when we do, we embody the fully enlightened potential we all have.
When we take the Bodhisattva Vow, it puts us into this engine that peels off the layers of self-confusion bit by bit. This can be scary and unpleasant at times. When the samsaric pus comes out, it hurts and stinks for a moment but in the long run gets better.
That we can exercise, contemplate, pray, chant, act and meditate on bodhisattvic compassion is the greatest gift given by the buddha within. I highly recommend receiving it. I am not aware of a better way of solving internal and external conflicts, and since the world is burning, this is the time when it is needed the most.
-Kim Katami, 8th of August 2019
Open Heart Sangha
See also Playlist of Bodhicitta workshops at YouTube.