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Bodhisattva Vow Pema Chodron

The bodhisattva vow is extremely vast, because it's a vow that is vaster than anybody really feels is possible. So it's not just to help the people that are close to you or, say, the homeless people, or any particular group of people. It is to help everyone like that, but it's really about trying to help all beings-all sentient beings.

And not just for the duration of your lifetime or not just from Monday through Friday, or something like this, but it's really, as the wording goes, As long as space endures, and as long as there are any beings to be found, may I continue likewise throughout all my lives to become more and more capable of driving away the sorrows of the world.

So, at some point, one feels inspired to make such a vow. Although, Shantideva himself says, I must have been out of my mind to take this vow, because I'm one of them... I'm one of the ones that needs to be saved! I'm as confused and ignorant and have has as much aggression and craving, and so forth, as other people.

But the little twist for Shantideva was instead of then saying, Therefore, I'm inadequate... therefore, I'm hopeless-- turning it into some kind of negative twist.

Instead Shantideva says, I must have been mad to do this; therefore, I better get busy and really use the precious human birth I have, the remaining days, to come closer to this wish.

And that means working on yourself.

Those of you who have been studying the text for the last three years know that the whole emphasis is on how you personally work with your mind. How each of us individually work with our strong emotions. How we connect with the openness and warmth of our hearts and minds.

It's interesting because for most of the book he doesn't talk that much about going out there and helping others. He talks about working on himself.

But the underlying theme of the whole book is: You work on yourself in order to be able to work with other people. That's a much bigger perspective.

Instead of self-improvement, it's the kind of things we need to learn to be less afraid of groundlessness, less intimidated by outer circumstances.

It's that kind of help that we need. When we do feel intimidated, when our anger just spills out all over, we learn how to see that clearly and how to work with that skillfully so that it becomes a path of enlightenment.

So, not acting out of these things, but also not repressing. And we learn to somehow wake up, attain enlightenment, being who?

Being exactly the person we are. Not some person that's more enlightened or has it more together. It's just you working with these instructions. That's what the book is about.

But, why do you do that? Not just to get happy or to get comfortable--those are sort of side benefits. But you do it so that you're more and more able to go into more and more difficult situations. More and more able to be around in your work with people who challenge you, provoke you, trigger you. More and more able to go into the pain of other people's suffering and be there for them without shutting down.

You work on yourself with this big motivation, this big perspective of trying to bring peace to the world, one by one to the people of the world, including yourself.

In that spirit, we read this vow. So in reading it, you're not actually formally taking it-- you have to go through a whole ceremony to do that. But this is the spirit of this retreat and the spirit with which we listen to these teachings.

We listen to them with the aspiration that they might give us some tools and some inspiration and some support for sticking with ourselves when the going gets rough, so that we could stick with other people, when the going gets rough.

[All read Bodhisattva Vow] And this comes from the book that we're studying, The Way of the Bodhisattva, in Chapter Three.