Bodhisattva or Not?

Sam Gentile, modified 2 Months ago.

Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 1344 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
There doesn't seem to be any categories for Tibetan practices particularly Mahayana. My question is to hopefully start a possitive discussion. In my Tergar studies, we are about to study the great Mahayana text The Way of The Bodhisattva, I raised the following greedy question to Tim Olmsted one of Mingyur Ringpoche's Senior Teachers and I think his answer should be shared and discussed. It gave me a lot to think about.

Q: I have a greedy confession and question. First I want to thank all of you for this course and I want to keep pracicing Dzogchen forever. To my gredy confession. I know Way of the Bodhisattva.is a classic set of teachings but I’m greeddy. I want liberation for me. I can’t wrap my head around everyone. In the Thervada system, I have already attained Stream Entry. Help me think differently.

A: 
    • Sam – thanks for your question and your candor. Volumes have been written about this question. One would need to ask, if individual liberation is the goal, why did the Buddha go on and teach the next two turnings of the wheel? Imagine that a family was on a family cruise with the mother and father, children and grandchildren. Imagine that the boat hit a rock and everyone was thrown into the water. Somehow, the mother ended up landing safely in a lifeboat. It would be unthinkable that she would remain there, happy and satisfied that she was safe. Wouldn’t her immediate response be to try to reach out and bring as many of her family into the boat as possible? This is a simple human response. Anything else would be unthinkable. Consequently, if you have discovered freedom from suffering for yourself, wouldn’t the only natural impulse be to want others to experience the freedom that you have begun to feel? This isn’t about Dharma, but a simple response of the human heart.Kalu Rinpoche said of one attaining realization, “Immense compassion springs forth spontaneously toward all sentient beings who suffer as prisoners of their illusions.” Or, as the wonderful Kangyur Rinpoche, of whom Mingyur Rinpoche is an incarnation, said “Compassion is nothing but the glow and display of emptiness, from which it is inseparable”.I can remember talking to Mingyur Rinpoche’s father, Tulku Urgyen, about this. We were talking about the relationship between wisdom and compassion. I still didn’t quite get it. So, as always, I just kept asking. We were sitting next to the window in his small retreat room in his Hermitage, Nagi Gompa. He said very simply “Imagine that someone was thought that they had realized the true nature of reality, that they were enlightened. Imagine that that person was looked out this window at the nuns playing in the courtyard below. If intense compassion didn’t arise in them in watching the nuns, that person would be deceiving themselves about their realization”.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 5878 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Uhm... what is that separate self that could achieve liberation on its own? Sounds like sci-fi to me. Spi-fi maybe. emoticon
Sam Gentile, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 1344 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
It could be a silly question on my part which is why people to correct me.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 5878 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
A very common and human question. Sorry, I didn't mean to belittle you. 

I just stopped seing the problem, and after that, the question sort of became the cosmical joke. 

I don't think you need to worry about it. It's not optional. If you need to start out aiming at individual liberation, then go for it. And if you choose to take the vows, that's no sacrifice. 
Sam Gentile, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 1344 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Thank yiou Linda for validating my question.
AKD, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 151 Join Date: 1/20/21 Recent Posts
Hey Sam, this isn't a silly question and I have felt the same way as you have. I still feel this way when I read or hear about all of the qualities of the Bodhisattva. To illustrate the point, one western teacher I worked with (Tibetan lineage) said that her husband read all of the qualities of the Bodhisattva in a book and he told her, "There is no way anyone can live like this". In essence, you're not alone in feeling this way. 

That said, when you put aside the Progress of Insight for a moment, and start to conceptualize the path as seeing through your own personal reactive patterns and belief structures, you'll start to measure your progress or fruits of the path in a different way. You'll start to see how your own reactivity causes suffering for yourself and for others. You see how your own automatic reactions to situations actually limits your ability to choose and actualize a more wholesome or skillful response in any given situation. Fewer reactions, belief structures, and filters means that a person can be more flexible in addressing the needs of moment - not to say that they will necessarily choose the best response though.

​​​​​​​Basically practice starts to free up some space so that you're not so caught up in your own dramas, reactions, or assumptions which can lead to better responses to various life situations. It's a shift in perspective from blind reactivity to a more productive/skillful response. In the book 'Wake Up to Your Life', Ken McLeod refers to this sort of shift in ethics/response as the 'Awareness Code' I believe. 

For me personally, I've seen how noticing my own reactive patterns has been beneficial. There are areas of my life where I was looking for validation & some of that has been seen - as a result I am a bit less needy emotionally, but there is still a lot of work to be done in this area and I am sure there is more to see. I see areas where I have been resistant, but haven't said anything - as a result I was finally able to set healthier boundaries. I feel less defensive and there is more love - although any defensiveness or ignorance sticks out like a sore thumb. I am also more charitable with money or time to a degree. I have also seen a lot of interactions happen with folks that I haven't spoken to in years and I can just listen and relate better without pretending that I already know them. A part of this unfolding involves accepting that the very same reactivity that has caused me so much suffering affects many of the people that I interact with whether they are family or friends or coworkers or strangers, etc. and this is where compassion comes in. 

I don't really have an interest in being a Bodhisattva, but I am very much interested in being slightly better for all people with whom I interact with... although results vary. And since results vary so wildly, it's always good to keep the '8 Worldly Winds' in mind and to find some sense of peace in the tumult - because reality will always be wild and unpredictable.

The Bodhisattva Ideal is really one of perfection. For many of us, it's a good 'North Star' to orient our practice towards. I treat it as such. I don't expect myself to ever meet any of the requirements of the Bodhisattva, but there is more love in my heart so that's a beneficial outcome. Yes, I want to wake up, but I don't see why I can't benefit others as a result, you know? That said, I'm not trying to save the world through meditation so my intent is much more modest. 

Edit: a final thought - ethics is an area where life often leads the way. So see what life presents to you in terms of difficult issues and see if you can look through your usual automatic responses for a more productive outcome that can address the needs of everyone involved... as long as it is productive and reasonable of course. 
Sam Gentile, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 1344 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Thank you AKD for your very thorough and kind response. For me it comes down to when you said 
​​​​​​​I don't really have an interest in being a Bodhisattva, but I am very much interested in being slightly better for all people with whom I interact with... although results vary. And since results vary so wildly, it's always good to keep the '8 Worldly Winds' in mind and to find some sense of peace in the tumult - because reality will always be wild and unpredictable.

The Bodhisattva Ideal is really one of perfection. For many of us, it's a good 'North Star' to orient our practice towards. I treat it as such. I don't expect myself to ever meet any of the requirements of the Bodhisattva, but there is more love in my heart so that's a beneficial outcome. Yes, I want to wake up, but I don't see why I can't benefit others as a result, you know? That said, I'm not trying to save the world through meditation so my intent is much more modest. 
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
If death wasn't a mystery, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Since death is a mystery, we have the conundrum that lays itself out before our very eyes. What is the course of action one must take? In my view, the comparison between self-liberation and that liberation which is revolving around the notion of a bodhisattva is too limited. There are vast areas known to man that have no bodhisattva and no self-liberation, so in my mind the discussion needs to include these precious folks as well. The ones that call you schizophrenic for trying to explain the dharma and stream entry and keep you locked in a hospital for days. I love these people!

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A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
A. Dietrich Ringle
If death wasn't a mystery, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Since death is a mystery, we have the conundrum that lays itself out before our very eyes. What is the course of action one must take? In my view, the comparison between self-liberation and that liberation which is revolving around the notion of a bodhisattva is too limited. There are vast areas known to man that have no bodhisattva and no self-liberation, so in my mind the discussion needs to include these precious folks as well. The ones that call you schizophrenic for trying to explain the dharma and stream entry and keep you locked in a hospital for days. I love these people!


​​​​​​​From my experience, I think a lot of trouble comes from when people cross the A&P and immediately turn their eyes to boundless conciousness. If your on a boat cross the A&P is like passing through the waves that come with the surf. Yet there are bigger dangers after this small feat of crossing the surf. You could get caught in a storm, you could get into an arugument with your fellow passengers and be thrown overboard, the weather could turn nasty in all sorts of ways including animals like sharks and changes in water temperature. You could hit an iceburg. So yes most dangers have passed and yet if you only think about your landing (boundless conciousness) you will likely not make it. !
Sam Gentile, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 1344 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
A. Dietrich Ringle
A. Dietrich Ringle
If death wasn't a mystery, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Since death is a mystery, we have the conundrum that lays itself out before our very eyes. What is the course of action one must take? In my view, the comparison between self-liberation and that liberation which is revolving around the notion of a bodhisattva is too limited. There are vast areas known to man that have no bodhisattva and no self-liberation, so in my mind the discussion needs to include these precious folks as well. The ones that call you schizophrenic for trying to explain the dharma and stream entry and keep you locked in a hospital for days. I love these people!


​​​​​​​From my experience, I think a lot of trouble comes from when people cross the A&P and immediately turn their eyes to boundless conciousness. If your on a boat cross the A&P is like passing through the waves that come with the surf. Yet there are bigger dangers after this small feat of crossing the surf. You could get caught in a storm, you could get into an arugument with your fellow passengers and be thrown overboard, the weather could turn nasty in all sorts of ways including animals like sharks and changes in water temperature. You could hit an iceburg. So yes most dangers have passed and yet if you only think about your landing (boundless conciousness) you will likely not make it. !

I am not sure I understand what you're saying. Could you please unpack this?
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Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 761 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
There are vast areas known to man that have no bodhisattva and no self-liberation, so in my mind the discussion needs to include these precious folks as well. The ones that call you schizophrenic for trying to explain the dharma and stream entry and keep you locked in a hospital for days. I love these people!

Why would you even attempt to explain SE to people who obviously did not ask you to?

Imho it is better to treat enlightenment as hobby.
When you eg. collect stamps you do not bother other people insisting they need to do it also.
When someone asks you why are you calm when they are not then you can say "ah, you see I am meditating and being calm is one of the fruits of my practice" and if they are interrested in what you have to say you continue. When instead you are like "hey you non-enlightened person, you suffers and there is one right path to liberation bla bla bla..." then you are seen as crazy because you are.

On the same note I am crazy because I describe on DhO things I was not asked to describe but at least this is the right place to do it and no one will lock me up because of this and I can at most get a ban if I do it unskillfully. When you do it in real world then you can also get a ban on real world if you do it unskillfully. So better look around and think twice or as many times it is necessary, before opening your mouth to anyone about this stuff.
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Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Bodhisattva or Not?

Posts: 761 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Being Bodhisattva is big part of Mayhana so probably Vajrayana also.
This is however something which needs to happen spontaneously and need to be genuine, meaning you only do it when you are really ready for it and not something you do because people are supposed to be Bodhisattvas to progress in these traditions.

I also recommend not participating in any Bodhisattva rituals because they do not really oblige you to anything and are just for a show. Especially for lay people completely meaningless and just because it is something you can participate in doesn't mean you should. Have it when you feel like it, addressing all sentient beings do not require any special environment. If your call is genuine you will be heard, this you should not worry about as technical stuff is handled automatically for you.

When you actually do it, when it is genuine and from the heart, then it changes direction of your practice completely. It is not about your liberation anymore. Liberation in the sense of dukkha can happen but not liberation from the vow. This you sing up your soul to. You do not when you are not genuine and if you are not then then such fake vow doesn't matter and then this changes nothing except that now you pretend you are something you are not.

I had spontaneous Bodhicitta awakening and immediately did Bodhisattva vow where I addresses all sentient beings, told what was in my heart and since that day personal liberation was not on my mind at all. My vow was not even about some mysterious liberation but concrete definition of what I see the issue is and what I see the solution is and promise I will move the universe if needed to allow people (not force!) to be able to use the proposed solution. After that this became on the forefront of my attention during all my practices while any liberation in general or even ultimate sense was put to the back drawer. The vow is to be realized and when it is then you become Buddha. In Mahayana making the vow is the beginning of third path and 1st bhumi and Bhumis are related to realization of the vow.

This is what the Bodhisattva vow looked like in case of Gautama Buddha. I mean he didn't have any Mahayana commission giving certificates or anything like that. Also obviously since he considered himself viable for complete cessation he considered his vow realized so this was something he accomplished in his life. It is not super hard to figure what that was emoticon

That is pretty much all there is to it.
Maybe one bit of advice: really make it from the heart. If you are not sure what this vow should be about and do not feel like committing to things like "until every last soul is liberated" then do not make sad jokes and do not promise this because it is now genuine and creates just bad karma. Bodhisattva is Bodhisattva and then becomes a Buddha because of concrete ideas and ideas about viability of realization of these ideas and not because some nonsense like infinite compassion or whatever they teach at schools. Be open to call on bullshit of people you admire. There is nowhere stated one cannot be good and bad at the same time and same goes with ideas and teachings. Pick up the grains from the chaff and when you feel it is really your call then just do it and if you do not feel like it yet then it is all fine regardless. These things can take a lot of time, you cannot rush them and you should definitely not be forcing them.

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