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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 Tenzin at sonamt@earthlight.co.nz   sonamt@earthlight.co.nz