The Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva – Another Attempt to Reach Up from the Mud of Samsara
Can we really do this?
Something is being encouraged on deeper levels and something wants to reach up out of the mud of samsara (life/earth living/the illusion of the suffering of this dimension) and is growing and reaching toward the Sun like the Lotus (the flower associated with Buddhism).
The Universe, the Light of Divine Intelligence, the Harmony of Helios or however you want to name it, but some energy encourages this, as it always does and I even carried that encouragement around in my purse/handbag for nearly 5 weeks without realizing it!
And yesterday! Yesterday I received a reply email communication from a Tibetan Lama (the real Lama, not a secretary!)—my ego is impressed—in which the parting line was, “May all beings benefit from your practice of the dharma!” And my mind and body froze as if they were my marching orders from the head spiritual warrior!—or something like that. I felt the directive, the dictate, the command, the instruction, and the order deep within my heart, mind and soul.
“Deny samsara and help others do the same!”– Aye aye Captain! I was being given my marching papers or assigned my official mission from a Lama! Ha! And the Lama was probably simply just using a phrase to close the email with a customary, “May all beings benefit from your practice of the dharma!” Sounds like a simple wish to end an email with like “sincerely” or “may you have a nice day”– but for me it stopped my breath and my world for a moment as I swallowed hard and felt like, “Okay, this is IT.” And it’s time to get dead serious about it too! Especially since each day we get closer by-the-day to those final marching orders too.
Anyway, “dharma” is a word used to describe the teachings—practicing the dharma is doing the spiritual practices, following the teachings of Buddha who—and this is the part I love—said firstly that transformation of the mind is what is needed to alleviate suffering but most importantly he recommends examining the teachings carefully and objectively in order to know if it is something we can work with or live by or adopt. And secondly, if we do accept the teaching it is because we have done the (here comes my favorite phrase)… we have done the observation and correlation of the teaching. We apply it and see if there’s any truth to it through our own objective life experience and then if it turns out to be helpful and works for us, then (and only then) do we accept it as part of our own truth. Then, thirdly, we have the responsibility to put it into practice—to live the teaching.
When we do this, we create “bodhichitta” which is the mind of awakening or the enlightened mind that strives toward compassion for the benefit of all sentient (living) beings. It is a sudden and lasting compassion for all beings, accompanied by a falling away of the attachment to the illusion of an inherently-existing self. That last part is a kicker and I’ve been working on that one for some good long time now but since the purse-thing, finding that I’ve been carrying around the help for weeks now, is another strong synchronizing “hint” of encouragement.
One day shortly after I broke my toe (don’t ask) and while accompanying my daughter on some errands found myself at our local Goodwill store looking at the dusty old book section (no surprise, right?) Lo and behold I found a little book with a picture of the Dalai Lama on the front and the book was entitled “Essential Teachings”. Next thing you know my daughter calls out, “C’mon Mom we’re ready to go, are you ready?” Making my way to the checkout I pay something like 50 cents for the book, slide it into my purse/handbag and forgot about it.
In the meanwhile, 6 weeks later here, I’m watching a DVD of a Buddhist Lama teaching the Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva and although it wasn’t the first time I viewed it, and even though I have a good number of Buddhist books on the shelf in my apartment (and have read every one!), this time something really caught hold of me. That Lama seemed to explain it so well this time when I listened–and it was the very same Lama who gave me my mission via the email signature!
I’ve read the translations of The Middle Way: Nargajuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika and a number of books like it including quite few on Mahamudra. We also have ‘A Guide to the Boddhisattva Way of Life” by Shantideva to name a few. And I’ve spent hour upon hour viewing of teachings on DVD of the Dalai Lama on these very topics and teachings. This is conveyed, least you think that the path is very new–I’ve been traveling this way for a while and integrating Buddhism gradually. Anyway, so much for history…
A few days ago, I thought to blog about the Thirty Seven Practices (dharma teachings) to help myself and others—although I should have phrase that the other way around I suppose; but you get the idea. And from that thought, I began to wish to have these practices written down in a simple form just the way the Lama spoke about them. Well, I thought, why not look to see what’s out there from the Lama of Lamas: His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet! He says things so simply and he makes everything so easy to understand!
I could not find anything online and then had to stop my search anyway to go pick up my niece from her High School Driver’s Education Class. I didn’t want to be late. Once I got there, putting the car in park, and taking a breath, then found myself wishing I had a book along with me to read while I waited for my niece.
Then (light bulb turns on in the mind!) remembering that I had that old book from the Goodwill Store—the one I’d paid 50 cents for so many weeks ago—I smiled and pulled it out. I looked at the chapter headings and felt so moved and smiled from my heart seeing how this book by the Dalai Lama contains 37 chapters–each chapter being one of the 37 practices explained in his own simple words! There it was, just exactly what I was looking for and I had it with me all along. When the student is ready, the teacher… well, you know.
So I will be working with these now and blogging about them. Time’s up for now. If you follow along with future blogs, maybe (just maybe) we can do more to further create a ‘mind of awakening’ as we practice the dharma here.
“May all beings benefit from my practice of the dharma”–just like the Lama says!