I’ve had the opportunity to attend quite a few teachings by the Dalai Lama over the years. If you have too, then you know they are usually 3 or 4 day affairs, 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon, and the Dalai Lama gives deep teachings. It is unfortunate that he is more renown as a sort of Buddhist celebrity. In my opinion, his real contribution to all of us is being the foremost teacher and interpreter of Madhyamaka philosophy in the world today. I can’t think of any other teacher who comes close.
Here are some notes I took at a 2001 teaching on Shantideva’s “Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life.” I thought I would share them with you:
If you wish to overcome hatred you must cultivate loving-kindness just as you turn on heat to dispel cold or turn on a light to illuminate darkness.
In itself, the mind is neutral and can take either the form of mental affliction or insight into true reality.
Samsara has a powerful antidote and the power of this antidote can be increased infinitely.
We who recite the Heart Sutra should accept the Buddha as the embodiment of the object of ultimate realization. Bodhicitta [‘thought of awakening’] is the aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the welfare of all beings. When bodhicitta arises, all the actions of the individual are those of a bodhisattva.
If you have insight into emptiness but no bodhicitta, you will not realize full awakening. If you have no insight into emptiness but have bodhicitta, you are on the way no matter what. Bodhicitta is a benefit both temporary and long term. You should practice bodhicitta as an antidote to pride. It is also powerful when you are depressed.
Bodhicitta cannot be realized merely by making a wish or offering a prayer, but you can practice to a point where you make a simple thought and this causes a spontaneous arising of bodhicitta within you.
To develop compassion first cultivate a sense of closeness to all sentient beings, then a real empathy with them. A practice that is very powerful for cultivating compassion is seeing others as your mother, who symbolizes the one who has shown you the greatest kindness.
It is important to have some understanding of what kind of sufferings you wish others to be free from. The wish to free oneself from suffering is true renunciation. To wish others to be free is true compassion.
Bodhicitta has two elements: 1) closeness to others and 2) understanding of suffering.
To achieve the kind of liberation we are talking about requires great courage.
Three elements to attain Buddhahood: 1) bodhicitta, the heart of the practice, 2) compassion, and 3) understanding of emptiness (through tranquil abiding and penetrative insight).
The purpose of the Buddha’s teaching is to transform negative aspects of the mind and mind training.
Both the Buddha and Nagarjuna had unobstructed vision. One should think that in their presence, ‘I have nothing to hide, I have no guilty conscience.’
Great guidance! As you know, a bodhisattva is an individual who begins his or her practice by generating bodhicitta, the aspirational wish to liberate all living beings from their sufferings. The Tibetan term for bodhisattva is jang chub sem pa, which translates roughly as “mind-hero.”
Bodhisattvas are heroes of the mind. They have learned to master their minds, rather than letting their minds master them. Why are they heroes? They have the “great courage” the Dalai Lama talks about, the bravery, the audacity to aspire for liberation.
It reminds me of the line in the David Bowie song “Heroes”: “We can be heroes, just for one day.” That is all it takes… small acts of random kindness… beginning with just one day. Be a hero for just one day and it expands from there like a ripple in a still water when there is a pebble tossed… which reminds me of another song…