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THE BODHISATTVA’S VOW By Gyalwa Karmapa
August 26th, 2012, Kundreul Ling
Very good afternoon dear dharma friends, bonjour. I am very glad to see you here, thank you all for coming. I can see that all of you have come with great enthusiasm and devotion. I very much appreciate it. I am quite certain that, most of you have been practitioners for quite some time, you are quite familiar with the practice and the attitude of the bodhisattvas. Particularly for those of you who are now going into retreat, it is essential. We have to build many wonderful things based on this attitude. Starting from the idea of renouncing and the idea of wanting liberation, and with for example the refuge in the three jewels, all of this needs to have the foundation of wanting to do something more than just benefiting oneself, and that is helping others. I think it makes much more sense, it gives a good reason in the practice from the beginning, and of course in the end, it is even more meaningful, and we could see at some level that it is even rewarding. That’s what is said in the practice, the buddhadharma is such that in all three phases, beginning, middle and end, it is always virtuous and positive. I think that it is the reason why, as long we have this attitude, the intention and motivation to do something
Transcrit de l’original par Patrice Boulanger
One cannot really trust anything based on them because feelings are always changing. normal in the context of being born as a human. and much more effective to begin like that. then it becomes easier to initiate our practical engagement. have strongly emphasized the practice of the enlightened attitude. In all circumstances. whenever we look back. then whatever positive actions we do in all three phases. and it would not be meaningful. and particularly in the bodhisattva vows. it is beyond words. but these feelings are not everything. Sometimes. we can never really know what’s going to happen next. we do know. As it is said in the teachings. just glimpses of the benefits. that we often relate to all kinds of things. and as it is explained in one of the sutras: “If one really wants to describe in simple words the benefits of having actually generated the attitude of wanting to benefit all sentient beings. we have to think of all sentient beings. it is very normal to go through this feeling. this existence also gives an opportunity to examine whether we can overcome or not these feelings. in terms of aim. there is something beyond that. meaning that the mind being born conscious within circumstances in a material existence. If you engage let’s say in the path of the bodhisattvas. to have a teacher to remind us of this quality. In terms of a practical way of engaging into this. sensations. all kinds of practices. when we engage in vows or commitments. when you are in conditions of that type. it is not describable. and as I said. innately it is there. [it is not only at the beginning] or initially that it brings peace and meaning in one’s life. it is normal to go through these experiences. or whether they bear truth or something false. many great beings. It is again normal in a way. the feelings are something that we can focus on. At the same time. by continuing or persisting or basically putting efforts in maintaining that attitude. seeing the benefits and seeing there is a reason and between feelings that it is restricting our freedom. and if you practice buddhadharma depending or based on feelings. One feels that one has done the right thing. Of course it always helps to have an example. not only for the moment. it is beyond thoughts”. I think that the benefit is not only for now. that we experience life based on i) positive feelings or ii) negative feelings. of wanting to benefit others. and it starts basically with all those that are near or close to us. To cut it a little bit short. it is practical. to focus on the nearest individual. it is always meaningful. In a way it is helpful. I mentioned already to some of you in the last two sessions of empowerments. it is normal that the mind experiments these feelings. or whether they betray the mind. That is why many great examples. When we focus on the benefits. However. we can have an idea by thinking logically about it. it is very unstable. but at all times. as far back as we can remember to have had that attitude. I think that initially. but also when we look back. at the same time. ways of life. If it were just about feelings. Sometimes we are left in between [these two aspects]. so it is easy and not that difficult for us to relate to that idea. but maintaining this attitude has the benefits that. life is very impermanent. our freedom. not only it helps us overcome whatever changes come in our way. Engaging in supporting others becomes easier. I think that this is important Transcrit de l’original par Patrice Boulanger 2 . However. it has been very fulfilling. the more we focus on that. we often have uncomfortable feelings because the vows sound as if they are going to restrict our nature. many great teachers of the past. good vibes. then life would be quite limited and boring. good feelings. the individual vows and so on. we feel that we can rejoice in the fact that whatever opportunities or time we have had. However. methods. or whether these feelings portray the truth. in the end you cannot really trust the feelings because they will always change. as well as engaging into it. that there are benefits [in taking these vows]. Afterward.beneficial for others. within this great history of Buddhism in the past 2550 years of history. they were used wisely. The idea of wanting to benefit others is a quality that comes very naturally to us. we feel a contradiction between first of all.
we can engage in whatever deeds. or in contemplation practices. Sometimes there are moments when we are refrained from the expression of compassion because of that reason also. Do not take my word [for granted]. this level of sila in Sanskrit [tsültrim in Tibetan]. We are opposed to the idea of a code of ethics because of feelings. studying and contemplating. and this is why the vow is mainly focusing on the mind. it is doable because it is natural to us. attitude is an interesting word. Meditating or practicing does provide positive feelings and we most of the time try base [ourselves] on these. we feel a contradiction about this vow. As I said earlier. Indeed. the vows become much more natural to us. Again. but still. the bodhisattva’s vow is a type of vow. Nevertheless. we gain more knowledge and experience through practice. activities. and this contradiction is due to the fact that we do not understand at times how to differentiate the aim of our practice and feelings. we must not take it completely literally. we could do that. at ease. Let’s go back to the bodhisattva’s attitude. as an expression of positive feeling. not to stop or cut the cord or roots of feelings. The vows are rules so that we will have stability and have the ability to observe the feelings. maybe it is a good word also. By Transcrit de l’original par Patrice Boulanger 3 . when we can go more and more beyond this erroneous guideline. then one naturally feels this contradiction. it makes sense. When in time. When the expression or idea of compassion is relayed by an emotion or an expression of emotion. it is not wrong in a certain way. it will be very beneficial I think. as a way to restrict. we must not take it too literally. However. By the way. The mind is more at rest. then what is it? The answer is probably that we practice or basically relate to the idea of. feeling. It is normal to experience feelings when we are in our conditions in this world. It does not mean that we are cutting the cord of feelings and that we do not sense anything at all. because it is natural to us and not because it can give positive or negative feelings or whatever feelings. those vows apply. By the way. Therefore. That’s why I was trying to emphasize the word. much inspiration. it is not then the feeling that determines or judges what is good or bad. wanting to benefit others. things are then much clearer and make more sense. they are all very much based on the mind. there is benefit in applying these conducts for proper speech. not to stop the feelings or suppress the feelings. is clearer when you focus inwardly and not outwardly. proper physical activities. what is the English word for something we do not want? Rejecting? Rejecting feelings or disregarding them. what is clarity. but to apply a temporary mean of restriction. but this is not going to give us liberation or realization... When the feeling is the guideline toward what is absolute or what is not. In some ways we do need the feelings. comes really from the feelings called positive or negative. I am searching for a word to say “stone” in French. then this conduct. when the ethical conduct or code we abide in restricts that. wanting to feel positive about meditating. so if this is not it [the correct base].for us as practitioners. and your practice will be that much more meaningful. It is actually restricting what is not natural. On a day to day basis. but I have exhausted my French. at some level we do need the feelings as some sort of stepping stone to liberate ourselves. Similarly. Even if we are not a practitioner. as something profound or ultimate. a type of conduct that focuses mainly on the mind. not really completely based on feelings. When the conditions are there. we do not know whether our aim is based on feelings or not. This is one thing to focus and to contemplate on. and are trying to contrast that. but it is more based on what is natural. Indeed. I think that this is still relevant. there is no way to stop them. then after some time it reaches its own limit and it does not allow many benefits. Probably you are waiting for the opposite. examine this yourself. Of course. We could think that the vow is introduced as a restriction. when we try to develop the attitude of benefitting others.
I am sure about it. and develop bodhicitta as well as the very different levels of sila. and as having to leave emotions as emotions. Where is the salvation? There is no real salvation. good or evil. One is trying to overcome emotions in general. the guideline is wrong. By the practice of generosity. samsara or nirvana. feel compassion or wisdom or loving kindness. After practicing we could then change the direction of our perspective and try to apply it on what we call real life or normal life. whether an organization is working or not. We have to apply all these methods in order to gain the unique ability and strength to observe all of these [feelings] and let them then just be. we just have to let all of this be. bodhisattva. have researched over and over again. Anyway. from step one. The meaning of the word klesha is not completely portrayed by the term emotions. we [should] begin with practice. I think that I have said enough about feelings. because both samsara and nirvana are generated by feelings. I think. it is not working out. purifying. All of this is again based on feelings. We should try to have this kind of view or perspective in our practice first. one Transcrit de l’original par Patrice Boulanger 4 . pratimoksha. I do not want to stray too far from the bodhicitta. of many types of conditions. the Sanskrit word klesha or Tibetan word nyönmong. aspirations that you may also develop proper bodhicitta. open ourselves more. beyond emotion one could say to be general. about having different types of issues [such that]. In reality we talk about having trust issues. step by step. We will then be able to.observing the feelings. For now. I do not know how it translates in other western languages but in English. It seems that there is only one thing to do that is to develop the paramita. I just said “I think” not because I am not sure about it. black or white. So maybe it is good if you pay attention to ideas like renouncing. you somewhat want to be free of it. I cannot impose that on you. It is somewhat of a cycle. try to focus on what do kleshas and emotions mean. As mentioned earlier. and that becomes naturally your samsara. But [if we mention that] it sounds like we are not going to be able to do anything. but have not found any real samsara to reject or any real nirvana to obtain. whatever. The idea to want to benefit sentient beings can also be very practically based on the wish: “May I be there to provide this knowledge to the sentient beings that have not understood or realized these kinds of facts or information”. a result of the conditions. and we will constantly feel to have to change our path. the buddhas have observed for countless eons. When you have had enough of something. If that does not happen. it is said that disturbing emotions and even emotions themselves are definitely a priority. so make wishes. then we will feel that whatever path we choose. and you have to gain your own experience by yourself. then together with it. Whatever you want becomes your nirvana. Then we can connect with others better. Of course. whatever we call it. and then no matter how much we try to exercise it. Instead. then we could really make a difference. Aspiration is one. we will understand more and more that they are not absolute but just a part. erroneous. we try to engage in the buddhadharma and we try to go beyond these emotions. is translated as disturbing emotions to be accurate. The buddhadharma does not say that we are trying to destroy feelings because there is no way to destroy them. In some strange way they are somehow indestructible. we have the right and the ability to give opinions about what we think. afflictive emotions. beyond perception. make aspirations. whether the system works or not. but it is my perspective. That is why it is continuously said that the omniscient ones. our priority. we should generate aspirations and then apply them. bodhicitta beyond feeling. vajrayana. However. in the end. it does not bring much benefit.
could provide countless universes for sentient beings. we do it with a clear conscience and with proper procedures. Therefore I would like to ask all of you to clear all your thoughts. I mentioned also devotion. We also meditate the bodhisattvas. and that at the same time cannot be depleted. whatever we engage into. We want to go onto the path of the bodhisattvas because we feel that there is something beneficial but we do not know exactly what. Although it is the speech of the Buddha. The refuge is probably the very first part of the individual’s vows because it concerns the actions of body and speech. knowledge that is priceless. However. it is not the book. In absolute. the knowledge of a cook is actually the cook’s recipe. the enlightened one. eating. but in time there would always be a way to spend all that and they would eventually be left with nothing. not as a picture or statue but lifelike. realized beings like Chenrezi and so on. are my nature”. or contract. not just as bodhisattvas by names but as bodhisattvas in actuality. Psychologically. That is the actual buddhadharma and this is temporarily represented by means of a text made of words in a given language. [At the same time we think:] “No. it is not mere speech or thoughts but it is the mind of the Buddha. We can also make conventional wishes. be it material. we could hope to be able to provide anything that is needed.. but instead we do it with a clear focus. while sleeping or walking around. kha ga. They are countless in number around the Buddha. Whenever we take vows. You should also meditate on the dharma. [If we engage in that path] we will not be left in between two minds. and the book is just a medium. it would still be depleted at some point. The Buddha was known as someone who was skillful in means as well as compassionate. I think. we may be able to benefit others by offering this profound knowledge. The dharma of the cook is his knowledge. We meditate this text of great splendor. then time runs out and we have to wait until the next life again. the bodhisattva’s way. That is true in general and not only now in the case of dharma vows. are motivated that way. as material. and the recipes of the Buddha are his knowledge. The refuge vows will be included in the bodhisattva’s vows. c or ka.. this path is restricting my feelings which. non-material. This statue is a way to represent the form of the Buddha. meaning in front of you. great beauty. beautifully decorated and placed behind the Buddha. nga. there are no bodhisattva’s vows without refuge. and for example. then we will go somewhere. but if we leave our state of mind in between choices like described above. but knowing that we are very much compelled by feelings. anything. We are supposed to overcome feelings. Indeed. If we think that way. Even if one were to try to spend as scarcely as possible. in essence we should make aspirations and generate efforts that through this bodhisattva path. b. as a simple source of reference. Transcrit de l’original par Patrice Boulanger 5 . we will clear our mind in order to receive the vows. Now I will offer you the vows. Now that the explanation is done. and we’ll receive the vows while keeping a meditative focus. we try to meditate the Buddha as lifelike as possible. One does not engage [with distraction in a wedding ceremony] saying: “till death does us apart” while munching on food. anything that is needful. For example. Otherwise. we make sure that the mind is clear. the three types of action of the body and four types of the speech. many of the methods are actually based on providing temporarily positive feelings. I think it is a way of creating a comfortable environment where you do feel like you are engaging with someone. and I would like you to meditate Buddha Sakyamuni as large as possible in front of us. we will always be left in between. like the one we have right here. and we have to start again from a. but in everyday life also. whatever kind of vows. We do not engage in contracts or vows or commitments while for example. this meditation is one example.
It is a fact that most of you are born as human beings particularly connected with the dharma. that effort cannot be cut down by one or two mistakes made in this life. what if I am disappointed with someone. the bodhisattva’s vows are not restricted to one body and speech. one could be born in a pure land in ones next life. for now. also in the bodhisattva’s path. Then we try to invite those from much lower realms. That explains and is a very strong evidence of the reason why we are here. In sukavati for example. The reason why the individual’s vows are only for one lifetime. the special condition is that of someone who develops a high level view and who strays away from that level. or to feel jealous at. we have to be very careful because it is a way to define the absolute view. am enlightened”. one step that would be wrong. At that moment it is also good while leading all sentient beings. you will become even more curious. at any time. that is. All kinds. they are not valid only for this life. those on the land like the four legged animals and then more and more animals with more legs. That would be the case of a very determined person which would follow the stages of the view step by step and would make a little error. and from higher realms. what if I despise someone. and until I. then many questions rise: what about if I get angry at someone. It is an important point. we do not have to think about this temple as literally filled with water. time after time continuously chip away or damage the vow. these mistakes can damage the vow that is what we need to keep in mind. We basically do not exclude anyone and invite everyone. “Until the end I take the dharma as my absolute path. as I am responsible for leading all sentient beings toward nirvana. Therefore. we might feel hopeless. I mentioned special conditions [for it to be totally broken]. for one life time but to all life times until one reaches the perfect enlightened state. This already shows that all of us have shown great enthusiasm in buddhadharma. Being born as a human being took lots of efforts. I think. there is no cause for you to be angry at. maybe because you are thinking about fishes? We are just training our meditative skills. myself. Indeed. That is the reason why. to be able to do that requires very special conditions that are quite rare. Taking refuge in them three. [In such a rebirth]. Therefore. we might. Developing determination in one’s mind allows breaking the vow. if I do not explain it completely to you. Is the way of engaging the bodhisattva vows clear? Of course it is very simple to understand that. and then those who are underneath the earth and those who are in wetlands or in water. However. we must take charge and responsibility as we are the one who is leading all of them toward nirvana “By taking refuge in the Buddha dharma and sangha. Having said that. is a commitment normally running for only one lifetime according to the individual’s vows. please focus mainly on not developing much damage. or desire at. Repeating the same words as before. there is no need to have again a pratimoksha. So. and then some damage to the vow may be done but. However. I think that it does not completely break it. to invite all kinds of sentient beings from the six different realms. When we feel emotions from time to time. it [is a case that] may not be that interesting but. does the vow brake or not ? Fortunately we do not really have the ability to break the bodhisattva’s vow completely. I will never exclude any for any reason. it does not mean that we may apply the bodhisattva’s vow and path according to our own taste and feeling. those who can fly like the birds. That is a situation that most of you might have to contemplate only later but. when we practice Mahamudra. I can see some of you frowning. according to ones merit. is that for example. and even the vow [that we pronounce] specifies: “Take this vow and apply it just as buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past”.Each of you must think that he is leading all sentient beings. which is a good thing. but not only in buddhadharma. and will take the sangha of the realized bodhisattvas as my spiritual friends”. However. when we study Mahamudra. We are not searching our Transcrit de l’original par Patrice Boulanger 6 .
try to acknowledge that you have generated the enlightened mind in your mind. The mind will focus on phenomena that have characteristics very similar to it. Having acknowledged. by then. but if we always stick to the original path. Focusing on the factor called karma. and particularly their state of mind. then I shall do my best. The compassion that is expressed from that state of mind is. we are too good to develop any negative thoughts. because a bodhisattva who would try to follow his own way would be original. and for their sake. you may end up with something nice but you will never get the result intended in first intention. We also tell ourselves that. you must commit yourself to always contemplate and even recite the bodhisattva’s vows every day. the result you first wanted to obtain exactly as the cook had described. I have lost my [train of thoughts] … So yes. meaning sentient beings. we should never stray from that path. if you try to do otherwise. and vice versa. the way they walk. we cannot go wrong. This is what we are trying to generate. I have said enough. Before and while you repeat. dharma and sangha as described. a positive kind of compassion because it is not afflicted by emotions. This mind will be a state of clarity. but the highway. I would like you to meditate the Buddha. Later on. Ma route and the grand route… I should not joke like that. Merci beaucoup. then naturally there is compassion. now that we are someone noble and that we are on the noble path. The mind that we are trying to generate is a state free of those two factors as well as the habitual patterns.own way. You should always try to follow the cook’s recipes. repeat these words after me to generate bodhicitta. if you are able to generate this kind of mind. repeat after me to rejoice… We have now generated this precious mind and we now have the ability to benefit sentient beings. We try to generate this by imitating the bodhisattvas in all aspects. speech. That is the type of mind that we are trying to generate. Everyone can do it. It is only three pages so it is very short. and actions. Think of all sentient beings. when there will be things that need to be said. So please repeat after me… At this very moment. a state of consciousness free or beyond emotions. First I will recite a few words or prayers and then I will ask all of you to repeat few words after me. I think that it is it for now. We don’t develop pride in ourselves but respect for ourselves. And we are also too good to ask someone to accumulate negative thoughts speech and actions. it is like a medicine. or to ask someone to even rejoice in the negative thoughts. it is very important to do it that way. and will be able to focus on what is most important. then the mind is at peace. speech and actions of others. Transcrit de l’original par Patrice Boulanger 7 . With that in mind please repeat after me… Congratulations. has great clarity. please take some time if you will. when one sees that they lack development or improvement. not just from this life but from all lives. When this mind sees the nature of fellow sentient beings. they talk. Based on your accumulation of merit and wisdom. generate this mind. particularly the disturbing emotions. You can do this whether you are buddhist or not. the other factor named klesha will naturally be there also. Coming from this nation you must take great pride in it. We do not have to explain that too much because I am sure you all are very good cooks. or the causality.
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