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Heartfelt Advice on the Practice of Bodhichitta

From Tulku Karzang Rinpoche, January 2018

“Actualization is the process of making spiritual practice

manifest in our lives outside of meditation sessions or temple
practice. As human beings we all have positive emotions and
negative emotions. In general we probably have more negative than
positive emotions arising. These emotions cause anxiety, sadness,
isolation and many other troubles. Our negative emotions need an
antidote and the dharma is the antidote. Powerful emotions can be
like fire and can destroy so much, as the great Bodhisattva
Shantideva taught in his work, Entering the Bodhisattva Path.
(Bodhicharyavatara). But virtue that is realized and actualized can
prevent harm. Like a container that is eventually filled up by the
tiniest drops of water, one at a time, we can learn by diligent practice
to tame our minds. Even as stones can be worn away by relentless
drops of water, one drop at a time, so too our stubborn habitual
tendencies can change. Enlightenment is not possible without
focused effort. It is about creating the proper causes and conditions.
For example if you wish a tree to bear good fruit you must create the
appropriate conditions. Practicing on bodhichitta is an excellent path
towards our ultimate liberation. Most people in the Vajrayana
tradition try to engage in mantra recitation or visualization of deity, or
some sort of energy work, but in fact the most important thing to do is
train the mind in bodhichitta. As the great Dzogchen master, Patrul
Rinpoche said, we must train our mind, we must train our mind with
Bodhichitta!” Even if one accomplishes no training at all through the
actions of the body or speech, one is on the road to perfect
accomplishment through training the mind. Shantideva, the great
Indian master, said that the ordinary mind is like a crazy wild
elephant and that we must use the techniques of being mindful to
train this elephant…..and he also said, all techniques and practices
are only useful in order to train the mind.

How to affect mind? The Bodhisattva of Compassion says that

the mind is so powerful it can affect the body and cause suffering.
When the mind has correct view, attitudes and habitual tendencies
will change. Ordinary people have little control over their emotions.
People cling to their emotions, baby them and even grieve when they
are gone. In fact, enlightened mind and these ordinary emotions are
really the same thing but in different forms. We must learn how to
affect transformation. This is similar to how water assumes different
forms and yet remains the same substance. It is actually formless as
a liquid and assumes the shape of whatever contains it. Ice is frozen
water-one shape only-almost another substance, hard. We need to
liberate our minds in the same way that ice may melt and turn into
the liquid form of water. Bodhicitta mind training will help us to
analyze the practice and actualize it. Through this practice we can
understand more about the meaning and importance of bodhichitta,
which is the Supreme Practice of the Mahayana path. We have all
had many, many different kinds of teaching and yet without
bodhichitta training and practice we are unable to actualize this
teaching so that it is always stable with us. It is similar to peeling the
inedible skin off of a piece of fruit in order to reach the inside.
Bodhichitta mind training is a way of creating timeless stability and
awareness. Our most precious teacher, Khenchen Münsel Rinpoche
said that without being able to use the teachings in real life
circumstances, all of them are relatively useless. In my own life I
totally see that knowing the words and actualizing the experience are
two different things. How much do we actually realize of the truth of
experience? I may know many fancy words and yet knowledge and
experience are two different things. We must constantly reconnect
with our spiritual truths or they may evaporate. The true cause of our
problems in samsara is our attachment- it is the biggest demon.
Without analyzing the training, our recitation of mantras and other
practices are like a wooden mask with a paper tongue fluttering in
the wind. Without recognizing Bodhichitta, our practices are like a
corpse. Especially in these degenerating times, we must attend to
stabilizing our minds and practice. Then we will experience true
comfort and relief in our daily lives and other practices will unfold as
we are more able to overcome emotions, fears and stress. We will
then become truly “the master of our fate, the captain of our soul.”
Until then it does not matter how much practice we do, or how many
masters we meet. The material world cannot fulfill our spiritual
needs. Whatever problems we have remain with us. The Buddha
said that even he cannot use water to wash out people’s negativity,
or stop suffering with his magical hands and he cannot transfer his
realization. However, he can show us the way to attainment and
then, we must do the work for ourselves. A little reminder will help all
of us. Even after many years of devoted practice, I also need these
reminders myself.”