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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