Bodhicitta

The following article is from the Winter, 1997 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

CULTIVATING THE COMPASSIONATE MIND OF ENLIGHTENMENT

by Ven. Lobsang Gyatso, trans, by Sherab Gyatso

146 pp. #BOCUCO $12.95 February

In this practical handbook, Ven. Lobsang Gyatso describes the classical methods for developing the mind of enlightenment and, based on his experience as a meditator and a teacher, examines a wide range of obstacles to its development. His concern is to clarify the goal and the means to its achievement. Anyone who wishes to understand the heart of Buddhist practice will benefit from reading this book.

The following excerpt is from the chapter titled Affectionate Love.

Ordinary notions of what is attractive and unattractive are not based on any coherent reasoning. Rather, when we pay exaggerated attention to the desirable features of something it becomes attractive, and when we pay undue attention to the displeasing features, it is unattractive. The degree of familiarity and the extent of the intimacy we have with something also serves a role in producing these experiences. Just as there is no guarantee with respect to relationships of friend and enemy, what will be seen as attractive and unattractive at any one time is also subject to dramatic shifts.

Conversely, affectionate love arises from appreciating the great kindness which has been shown to us, and as all sentient beings have at one time or another benefited us as our mothers, there is a good reason to have affectionate love for all of them. Since we will definitely experience a great warmth toward those whom we do not distinguish from our own mother, let that influence your mental attention and act as the immediate motivating force for generating affectionate love.

Affectionate love is completely different from attraction in the normal worldly sense. Corresponding to this reversal of the worldly view of things, Buddhists see the real enemy to be the delusions that we have in our own mental continua, toward which there would be no point in generating affectionate love. Worldly judgments identify friend and enemy on the basis of specific individuals who do not in fact, from their own side, possess a single iota of such an identity. Rather it is due to fleeting conditions and irjudicious attention that they are ascribed as such. Likewise, when we label an object as attractive or unattractive, the object does not display any aspect of either nature from its own side. If we thoroughly analyze this and meditate upon it, affectionate love will not prove difficult to generate.

If you have been fortunate enough to have been close to your mother and to have received her kindness, then even when she becomes frail and physically unattractive you will still see her in an affectionate light. But under the influence of distorted attention the fact of another's kindness can be so completely overshadowed that it is possible to come to see even your own mother as your enemy. Again that would be due to inappropriate attention and would not be related to any actual reality. The transformations of birth, death, and rebirth effectively erase our memory, and were it not for this we would know that each sentient being has at various times been close to us and shown us kindness comparable to that of our present mother. These points require well-reasoned reflection, continuous analysis, and familiarization. When one can maintain the state in which one views others in an affectionate manner similar in intensity to the way a mother views her beloved child, that is the actual meditation upon affectionate love.

Some people just take a vague abstraction of love, and their meditation involves bringing that to mind in the hope that it will produce an experience. They claim in that way to be meditating upon affectionate love. When they are alone in their place of meditation in their introverted state, it may seem that they have achieved the desired result. But when they once again find themselves in the midst of society, it appears that their minds have not changed at all and that they have been unsuccessful in their attempts. The reason for this is that all genuine practices of mind training involve the dual aspects of analysis and placement, with stress placed upon the former. Just wishing alone will not bring the required effect.

Were one to make limitless different offerings

In a billion different spheres

Continuously, to the most supreme beings,

It would not compare in number or part to the mind of love.

image

As far as the sequence of meditation is concerned, the focus, first upon a friend, then a stranger, and finally an enemy, is for ease of meditation. If, however, one begins by focussing on the enemy, that also is quite valid. There is no need to treat the sequence as inflexible.

As to the benefits of the meditation upon love, the King of Concentrations Sutra (Sam>dhi-r>j>-sdtra) says:

t

Like the previous quotation from The Jewelled Garland, this states that one will attain an incomparable amount of merit. Particularly for those who use cogent reasoning to meditate specifically upon love, unwholesome minds such as those of attachment, harmful intentions, competitiveness toward one's betters, and contempt for the less fortunate will be overcome, and altruistic intentions and peaceful, controlled thinking will increasingly be instilled. Others will also be positively affected: their malicious intentions and cruel thoughts directed toward one will be pacified and they will be transformed into friends. All injury inflicted by humans and nonhumans will naturally be assuaged and those beings will come to respect and praise one. All this conjures up the meaning of the words,

The host of maras were overcome by the power of love.

If you have no basis of understanding in the view and try to invoke the power of the Bodhisattvas in an attempt to overcome antagonists, far from destroying harm-doers and obstacles, it will actually welcome their onset. You have no chance of overcoming maras in this way; on the contrary, you run the risk of allying yourself with them.

So those who have ambitions with respect to the Mahayana should train conscientiously and induce affectionate love and not take on more than they can hope to achieve. ä_æ

Back to all Snow Lion Articles