A Journey Within: 12

With a wish to free all beings, I shall always go for refuge to
Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha until I reach full enlightenment.
Enthused by wisdom and compassion, today in Buddha’s presence
I generate the Mind of full Awakeness for the benefit of all sentient beings.
As long as space remains, as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then too, may I remain
And dispel the miseries of the world.
The Bodhisattva Vow from The Bodhisattva Aryacharya by Shantideva

Buddhism is not unique in having a philosophy of well-being for others. Its uniqueness lies in the universal application of that wish and a commitment to that throughout time. With a wish to free all beings… I believe the root of this wish and dedication is two-fold: Shakyamuni’s realization that only in the full recognition of inter-dependence, and therefore correct action and intentions, will all beings be soul-fully happy and well served; and also from a then culturally known ethos stemming from a sutra of Patanjali’s. The sutra states: “Yama is. It is irrespective of race, place, time, or emergency.” Yama is a five-fold goodness* and is the first Means to Yoga. From it all of the other Eight Means are possible. It is the ground. Aspiring to it, and living it the best of one’s abilities, one benefits all beings. Not doing so creates immediate negative karmic seeds that will grow and reseed, grow and reseed lifetime after lifetime. Therefore, as the Hindu culture of Gautauma Buddha’s time and today well knows, practice yama and goodness follows.

With a wish to free all beings is an inclusion that the sutra does not state. Patanjali’s sutra is human-centered, and within that is the acceptance of overarching cultural prejudices such as the caste system and misogyny. What the Buddha recognized is that any deviations from the well-being of all beings creates the slippery slope of deluded thoughts and actions. Hence, to assist people of his time to understand this expanded principle of goodness, he gave a new sutra. “All beings have been your mother. Honor them as your mother for she has given you the precious gift of life.”

Like the parables of Jesus, this sutra is a multi-layered teaching.

  • It states the obvious to a culture that understood reincarnation as a given and as common sense. At some point, all people we meet have likely been our mother. Therefore, recall the kindness of your mother in your interactions with every person you meet. (In that time all mothers were loving, kind, dutiful, and patient. It is a result of not living this understanding of interdependence that even motherhood has experienced degradation in principle and in action.)
  • The next layer of meaning is deeper. Remember that every interaction with any being is a generative moment. A karmic nodule is being created then and there. At the first instance of interaction, the moment is empty – not pre-qualified. What we do, think, chose, or walk away from at that exact instant is mother: a generative source of the next moment and a karmic trail of cause and result, result being the next cause which furthers the next result. Karma, being neutral unless otherwise colored by previous actions, thoughts, choices, etc, can birth neutrality (non reactiveness), positivity (benefit, ease, and well-being), or negativity (hardship of innumerable kinds). Therefore, since life is a constant source of interactions (mother), it is also constantly generative of karma (mother feed back loop of self-recreation). Thus living with the intention of mindfulness toward all beings is wise and will result in happiness and well-being for all.

Circle of LifeBecause Buddhism is a philosophy first, a science second, and thirdly a religion only to those who take monastic vows, its presentation in the West has incurred problems with interpretations and definitions. Like the Hindu roots of Buddhism, great philosophical concepts underlie much of its tenets and practices. As stated above, the ground of that philosophy is that only with the realization of inter-dependence can we perceive the oneness that reality actually is and our role in that oneness. We can foster goodness within the oneness, can foster apathy, or harm; yet be assured that we are constantly fostering something within the oneness of life. Yet from its earliest times, Western culture has cultivated independence. Independence and inter-dependence do not have the same goals. At root, this is the core of  misunderstandings of Buddhist precepts.

Within Buddhism, lay practitioners aspire to live certain philosophical principles and to apply them in life. This is done through the scientific approach of method, analysis of result, and adjustment in order to accord with the core principle. The point of this explanation is in reference to taking refuge in the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. These are large concepts. Individually each conveys a whole set of meaning to the practitioner if he or she has meditated on them or has had them properly explained. Briefly,

  • Buddha is the innate buddha nature that is the fullness of human beingness. Taking refuge in that, we chose a higher default than a coarse, personal, or ignorant one. Also, we take refuge in that Siddharta Gautauma was a human being, historically he lived, sorted out his feelings and thoughts, and then awakened himself. He used methods that anyone can, found advice along the way, but ultimately simply opened his heart so fully that it expanded the full potential of his Mind. Taking refuge in Buddha one aligns with one’s fullest enlightened potential. Like him, we, too, can do what he did. His example is one of effort, diligence, and altruism.
  • Dharma is all teachings of light. To me that means from all sources. See previous post.
  • Sangha is those who have walked, are walking, and are aspiring to walk a path of light. We take refuge in those who have done it because they, like you and I, are human and had to understand and overcome the same inner things that you and I do.  We take refuge in the camaraderie of others who share a similar intention with life because support is given to one another. Examples of this abound such as 10 Step groups or hobbyists because it is natural to want to hang out with others of a similar interest and find mentorship and support in that interest. The interest in Buddhism is awareness and a living application of that.

Enthused by wisdom and compassion is plain and then some. The addition is that wisdom has a two-fold meaning. Wisdom is the excellence of heart and life generated wisdom, as well as being the result of the contemplations on emptiness or ego-less-ness. At essence these contemplations help us hold space for what is instead of filling the space with what we think or project or desire. The depth of the philosophy behind it doesn’t matter to this short article, instead, what matters is the application in one’s life. Thus, for example, a craving for chocolate when held for a moment simply as it is has the possibility to be felt as not about chocolate, nor about craving, but probably about boredom and buzz. Chocolate can never actually fulfill the boredom and its buzz will be temporary. It can only momentarily superimpose the feeling of satisfaction on top of boredom. Soon, that satisfaction will dissipate and one will still be bored. However, if in holding the craving for a moment, one experiences that it’s not about chocolate, then he or she is experiencing a common emptiness. With that wisdom s/he can engage a different behavior pattern. The same is so for all emotions and feelings that arise, as well as all self-referencing (me, my, I, you, etc). They are all empty. It’s a great exploration!

shakyamuni buddha… today in Buddha’s presence, I generate the Mind of full Awakeness. Buddha’s presence is as described above. In that many layered understanding of Buddha’s presence we bow humbly and generate from within our self a further aspiration: to awaken because that will empower us to benefit others and bring more goodness and light into the world. Mind of full Awakeness is one of several interpretations of the Sanskrit word bodhichitta. Bodhi means light, therefore awakeness, brightness of Being. Chitta means the activity of the mind or the stuff of the mind, but mind means more than the computational critical mind. It includes the full range of compassion. To generate bodhichitta, then, is to constantly bring forward within oneself the internal dynamo of awakening for all the reasons stated thus far. Additional deeper reasons or layers of altruism and emptiness are included in this dedication for those who have perceived them as possible.

And finally, we commit to this orientation for all lives to come, as long as space and time remain. Why? Because we are all in this together! Because, while I have the right motivation and right understanding, I’m going to set the tone for lives when I might be weaker or not as self-aware. Because, if I set the level of commitment now, it will generate support in those lives to come. And because, the world needs each person to show up awake and ready to do the good thing, the right thing.

Over the years, I have personalized my restatement of the vow. Each slight adjustment supports my aspiration through direct reminders. The Buddha never intended to teach an ism. Humans do that to teachings. We have done so with the teachings of Jesus, Rumi, Lao Tzu, of Steiner and Bailey to name a few. To me, the beauty of the philosophy that poured from Shakyamuni Buddhas’s heart is its common sense. We really are all in this together, and together on the page of goodness, goodness will flow.

With a wish to free all beings, I shall always go for refuge to
Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha until I reach full enlightenment.
Enthused by wisdom and compassion, today in Buddha’s presence I generate emptiness until I am that Love.
As long as space remains, as long as Life remains, this long I remain
Relieving the pain of the world.
The Bodhisattva Vow with slight modifications

* Yama is a five-fold goodness:
– harmlessness, truthfulness, refrain from stealing, continence of emotions, and freedom from both avarice and from greed. Sutra II:33  more …

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About Donna Mitchell-Moniak

See www.LivingAwarenessMeditation.net for meditations and free online meditation training. Visit www.SpiritFire.com for more information.
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