The humble monk (Ngulchu Thogme) wrote the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva it in a cave in the Himalayas around the 13th century. It’s a guide for travelers on the path to enlightenment—practically advice on how to actually live day-to-day. Are you trying to consciously travel this path? Me too; c’mon let’s figure this out!
So like I’ve been saying how I’m going to write about the 37 practices of a Bodhisattva (guidance to live by). You know the Dalai Lama? He is said to be the Bodhisattva of Compassion incarnate. Oh, to be like him! Anyway, I’ve got (like most of you) about 1,000 coals-in-the-fire-of –life’ as the saying goes (busy/whatever) but I want to get started here. So I’m writing numbers from 1 to 37 onto 37 small slips of paper and have now put them in a small basked. I will draw one at a time and write about that one while asking that it bring importance guidance for something currently relating to my life on the day the number is drawn! Ready?
Divination Message 3/16/13 from the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva: Today I’ve drawn Practice Number 30! I don’t know these by heart, so I’ve got to grab the book and have a look; let’s together see what it says. I guess you already know that a bodhisattva (essentially) is someone who wants to work for enlightenment not only for their own benefit but for the benefit of others in order to end suffering. You probably already knew that.
Bodhisattva Practice #30
Reading and typing and divining as we go along here… right away I see it’s about virtue with heart. Maybe this is about putting our whole heart into attempts to be virtuous?
Gosh, I’m remembering (flashing on) something my “spirit-guides” (as it goes) conveyed and at the time (as I did with many things then), I shrugged and felt it to be too simplistic. You know, I was looking for something more profound after all—I was looking for something really sensational when I asked why I was here and what my purpose is. I was told we are here to develop and practice virtue—I completely blew that off back then. Yet, divine irony of irony, here I am studying the 37 Practices and Buddhism and that’s exactly what it’s about!
As I look at this little book of Essential Teachings (the one I carried unknowing with me for 6-weeks –see previous blog—which is the writing of the Dalai Lama himself), he’s talking about having the “right view”. The word “view” in Buddhism (email me if I’m wrong if you’re a Buddhist monk or someone more expert than myself a humble student) has to do with understanding the nature of reality and the 8-fold path.
“Right View” as they call it has to do with the type of wisdom that has to do with understanding of things as they are which of course has to do with those 4 main truths: there’s suffering, get real about it and then understand what causes it and the good news is that there’s a way to end it *(yay!) and following the 8-fold path enables us create that cessation. And back to the 8 fold path again of which right view is a part. Didn’t we just make a circle, a loop—right view leads back to right view. Ingenious!
Hey, by the way, thanks for being patient while I work through this.
Not to let all the cats out of the bag at once creating confusion but the 8 fold path (just as a preview and curiosity satisfy-er) and no, I’m not going into all this right now but they are as follows: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. But hey, let’s just stick with the view for the moment—right view. And let’s get back to the #30 practice of a Bodhisattva.
The Dalai Lama the guru teacher here says that this view in practice #30 has to do with realizing that the person who acts in any kind of way to do any kind of thing or who takes any action +plus the action itself that is taken +plus the person who may receive the action that we take don’t (in the right view) actually inherently exist. Wow, that’s a tough one to explain to the average bear on the street human if you know what I mean!
This IS samsara after all, don’t you know? This is a dream-like state of reality. That is what we’re being asked to remember. Things exist on a conventional level but ultimately—no, they don’t. It’s really not that hard to understand with the new science where we look at atoms and the core of the atom itself doesn’t even exist only if we put our mind on it. You know what I mean!? You’ve heard this! The chair you sit on or the table or any object is solid according to our perceptions but it is because the vibration is very, very, very slow. On the quantum physics microscopic level (hope I said that right), it’s nothing but energy molecules vibrating—just a bunch of atoms which are empty at their very core!
So, let’s say you give someone a gift, you could say something like, “There is no giver, no action of giving, no gift, and no receiver of the gift”—that’s ultimate truth. Conventionally, there is all that, but ultimately NO. So that’s the right view of things which, if you think about it, is quite liberating and there’s a part of us that says, “Okay, I get that and now I can tell myself to stop worrying about every little thing!” Or that’s one view you could take and it would be ‘ultimately’ right, correct, on the quantum or ultimate level.
Whew! Hope that makes sense. The bottom line of this practice is: No subject, No object.
So, what do we do?– we practice this. We hold this in our mind and remember it and function in life with this view right alongside conventional reality—to practice this it changes our behaviors, our attitudes, and we become a teacher of the dharma (phenomenon and the truth of phenomenon) by our very being via our life being witnessed by others.
Right view is called the word “prajna” in Buddhist teachings. If we get this one thing, in my humble opinion, it is the best thing we can understand and it really answers most any question we have about life and addresses any concern. Upset? Worried or fearful? Remember practice #30 of The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva – understand the emptiness of reality and shazam, this right view just calms it all right down for ya’! Totally and fer’ real as they say! What is real isn’t real—totally dude! Samsara is an illusion.
Another way of saying it since this practice #30 is the 6th of the Six Paramitas (more on that another time)… the 30th is about cultivating “non-conceptual superior knowledge” and in the words of the monk himself or at least one common translation:
Without superior knowledge, it is not possible to attain perfect enlightenment through the first five paramitas alone. Therefore, joining it with skillful means and not conceptualizing about the three spheres is the practice of a Bodhisattva.
And another translation:
Since five perfections without wisdom cannot bring perfect enlightenment, along with skillful means cultivate the wisdom that does not conceive of the three spheres [as real].
Note to reader: the three spheres in Buddhism are 1) self 2) other and 3) connecting action.
Now. How can I apply this personally in my own daily life? Ha! I’m reminded lately of the story of the monk who, so inspired by teachings on generosity, gave away his worldly possessions, two of which included his food bowl and his shoes! Since his generosity was not accompanied by wisdom he had to ask for them back when it came time to eat and then to go somewhere! I was very inspirit-ed to work with generosity yesterday in my efforts to be an ‘active’ Bodhisattva! In other words, it is one thing to wish all beings be relieved of suffering and I do that plenty but what about “putting one’s money where one’s mouth is?”—as the saying goes.
I did that to the point of pain yesterday—giving when it doesn’t hurt really doesn’t count in my book. If you’re going to give, make it a bit of a sacrifice at least! So with that attitude, I did so in a fairly large way; in fact, I gulped hard several times in the process thinking, “Yike, I hope I’m not being like the monk who gave away his bowl.”–!!
And today’s Bodhisattva Practice 30 is a great message for me (using the 37 practices as divination messages here)!
I’m being reminded that the 3 spheres of giver, gift and receiver are not ultimately real; self, other and connecting action don’t exist; and to remember this and embrace it is a practice of a Bodhisattva!