Adopting a Bodhisattva Attitude
To reiterate the obvious, life has been hard lately. Depressing and a struggle for many and devastating for so many others. All this suffering around us: plagues, violence, floods, fires. And those of you who follow this podcast know, I've been looking at how we might find a way to help ourselves and others through all this from many different Buddhist-oriented approaches. Finally, though, I personally came back to a practice and an attitude from my many years of Tibetan Buddhist study and practice: the practice of and—more foundational—the attitude of a bodhisattva.
I came back to the beginning. In the beginning is intention or, for the purposes of this podcast episode, attitude. Right intention. Right attitude. It was as if I felt myself, in the midst of our ongoing "burning world", feeling around for a way out. And, without any conscious decision, I reached for and grabbed all my bodhisattva teachings and haven't let go.
When looking outside at our burning world is too hard to bear, it's time—again—to look inside. Look at my motivation, my intention … look at what my heart was holding and where my mind returned … and look to see how my heart can be softened and how my mind can let go of its death grip on negative thoughts.
This is the sort of practice that is pulling me from a pattern I've been trapped in since early 2020, when the pandemic began. A pattern of bobbing to the surface, holding on to some sort of hope or thought of resilience, then being pulled back under when things don't seem to be getting better.
For me, the trick was to keep practicing, with daily meditation on The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas and/or The Way of the Bodhisattva plus doing Tonglen (taking and sending), metta, and/or Lojong practice. It isn't easy because it takes breaking a habit of reactivity and, well, laziness or avoidance of the practice.
Here is a link to a downloadable PDF or online text from Garchen Rinpoche's website: www.37practices.info/
Recommended commentaries on The 37 Practices:
Don't Believe Everything You Think
Reflections on Silver River
Commentary on the Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva