At the outset, develop the proper motivation to listen to the Buddha's teachings, preferably, in tune with Bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain Buddhahood so that one could be of ultimate benefit to all sentient beings.
So far, we have covered the practices up to the Middle Scope level, slightly touched on the path to the Greater Scope, touched a bit on how to develop a broad-based concern for all sentient beings.
On the basis of that, on how we cultivate Universal Compassion, gradually leading up to the level of Bodhicitta.
Universal Compassion, Bodhicitta and Emptiness
In this regard, the great Indian philosopher, Nagarjuna, has said that for those who want to cultivate the highest aim for oneself and others, there is no other way but through the cultivation of Universal Compassion, Bodhicitta and the cultivation of the unmistaken view of Emptiness. He said that these three are the indispensable causes for attaining Buddhahood for oneself and others.
While describing these, Nagarjuna characterizes these three indispensable causes by saying that amongst them, Universal Compassion is the indispensable cause for advancement to Bodhicitta. Universal Compassion does not know of any discrimination towards sentient beings.
On the basis of this kind of compassion, one then moves ahead to develop Bodhicitta. This Bodhcitta should be so strongly built that it cannot waver at all or be moved by any kind of wayward thought. It should be firm like Mount Meru.
Along with Universal Compassion and Bodhicitta, one should develop an unmistaken understanding of Reality – Emptiness. Emptiness should be understood in its proper perspective relative to the 2 Extremes.
Cultivation of Universal Compassion as the root cause for Buddhahood
Here, Nagarjuna very clearly specifies that amongst the three, it is the cultivation of Universal Compassion that is the root. It is from the root of Universal Compassion that one can then develop Bodhicitta and the unmistaken view of Emptiness.
In this regard, a quote has been cited from the work of Acharya Dharmakirti that Buddhahood is to be developed through familiarisation, or through development of the great Universal Compassion and it is this compassion which is the root cause and the route to advancement towards Buddhahood.
According to quotes from the Scriptures, it stated that Buddhahood is neither granted by someone else, nor is it held by someone to be requested to be given to you. It is rather dependent upon one's own efforts. One's own efforts are again referred back to the need to cultivate Universal Compassion, eventually developing Bodhicitta and then along with them, conjoining these two with the unmistaken understanding of Emptiness.
Through the combination of these three, one can advance towards Buddhahood which is the Ultimate State where one can be of ultimate benefit to oneself and others.
Take the case of our own historical Buddha. He wasn't a buddha from beginningless time. He was, like us, confused at one time. But through His cultivation of Universal Compassion, Bodhicitta and the unmistaken view of Emptiness, through His efforts for so long a time, He eventually excelled all of us and attain the state of Buddhahood, being of ultimate reliable benefit to all sentient beings.
Again here, to remind ourselves, the root, the beginning effort should be to develop Universal Compassion.
How to develop Universal Compassion ??
As we discussed earlier, Universal Compassion, a genuine, spontaneous sense of concern towards all sentient beings, wishing all sentient beings to be free from all sufferings can only be generated, experienced once we have gone through the sufferings on our own and have developed a strong urge to be free from that and thus from initial concern that focuses on oneself, one extends it to all sentient beings.
Genuine universal compassion, to be developed within us, then serves as the stepping stone to develop Bodhicitta. Universal Compassion, Bodhicitta, together with the understanding of Emptiness, these three, can then be a viable cause for one's eventual attainment of Buddhahood which is what great practitioners wish for the benefit of oneself and others.
How to develop Bodhicitta ??
In terms of how to go about developing Bodhicitta, we all know that we have to first begin by experiencing or understanding the suffering nature of samsara on oneself. Through such exploration, we will have gained a deep enough understanding of the suffering nature of samsara on oneself. From this will arise a strong urge to be free from the suffering for oneself.
Following, we can then extend such a concern towards others since others are equally steeped in such sufferings as oneself. Besides, others are more important then oneself on many grounds even if only from the point of view of numbers, others are more important than oneself. Also, from the point of view of how they have been kind to us from beginningless time, we can also generate a sense of closeness towards them.
Thus, through such approaches, we can develop a natural sense of concern towards others when we see that they are inflicted with suffering and a sense of rejoicing towards others when we see that they are experiencing happiness.
This is the way to go about developing Bodhicitta.
First, reflect the suffering nature on oneself and then exchange that to others. From seeing the suffering nature of others, we develop a strong sense of concern in the form of compassion.
With this strong sense of compassion being familiarised again and again, developing further and further, we can then eventually see how no matter how strong our wish for others to be free from suffering, we ourselves lack that ability to effect the wish to free others from suffering. Through reflection on our own ability, we can see that we lack the ability of even making oneself fully happy and fully joyful and thus the question of making other sentient beings happy, adorned with lasting sense of happiness is completely out of question.
So, through such an understanding of one's own inability at the moment, no matter how strong our wish for others to free from suffering, we will have to come to a definite conclusive understanding of how we will be unable to do so unless we attain Buddhahood.
Buddhahood being defined where we will be completely free from the two obscurations of Liberation and Omniscience. Through the complete elimination of these two obstructions and full development of the qualities of love, compassion, skilfulness and others, we can eventually benefit all sentient beings in an ultimate sense, without any shortage of ability or insight on our part.
So, in this way, we will develop a conviction that it is by the attainment of Buddhahood that we can fulfill the aspiration to free all other sentient beings from their sufferings. Thus, we will wish to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. This is the Bodhicitta.
Bodhicitta: transcends all, the unparalleled way to accumulate positivities and to overcome negativities
In the Bodhisattva Charya Vatara by Shantideva, it is said that once we have developed or once we have exerted to the point of developing Bodhicitta, from that point onwards, one has become a completely transformed being. One has become a being worthy of respect, not just by humans but also by celestial beings. All over samsara, one has excelled over all sentient beings in terms of one's spiritual achievements, spiritual developments.
From that point onwards, all of our activities, all of the actions issuing from our body, speech and mind will be conjoined and influenced by Bodhicitta. Thus, even in our sleep and distractions, one will also be influenced by Bodhicitta.
During these occasions also, we will be accumulating nothing but positivities. We will gain such a strength of positivities to the point where it will outshine all of our past positivities.
The positivities are likened to a big inferno or big flame that is capable of burning or consuming all kinds of negativities that we may have accumulated in the past.
From the point of developing Bodhicitta, we will have become a completely transformed person as from thence, we will only be accumulating positivities and purifying all our negativites that we have accumulated in the past.
Bodhicitta becomes a pure way by which we advance towards the attainment of Buddhahood.
Again, Bodhicitta is rooted in Universal Compassion or great compassion. In terms of the accumulation of merit through the cultivation of great compassion and Bodhicitta, it is said that the amount of merit accumulated from an instance of developing genuine compassion and genuine Bodhicitta is incalculable and as vast as space.
Asanga, Maitreya, a bitch and the maggots
In this regard, we find accounts of how Acharya Asanga spent twelve years in meditation to have a vision of Buddha Maitreya. He exerted so much throughout those years but still he could not have a vision. He lost heart and came out of his meditation cave. He was walking towards town when all of a sudden, he came across a female dog totally infected by maggots on the lower part of her body. She was being eaten away by thousands and thousands of maggots. Asanga felt so much compassion towards the maggots and towards the female dog. He was wondering how to relieve both the maggots and the female dog. The maggots themselves are so delicate that to pick them up with the hand will kill them instantly. Asange was so strongly motivated by compassion. To save both the maggots and the dog, Asanga cut a piece of flesh from his own body so that the maggots can have a safe place to stay after he licked the maggots off the dog with his tongue.
Under such strong compassion, he reached out his tongue with the eyes closed. No matter how much closer he went, he could not touch the dog. Asanga opened his eyes and saw Lord Maitreya there in all His glory. In shock, he slipped into saying to Lord Maitreya, "You seemed to lack compassion towards meditators. I have exerted so much effort over the past twelve years but could not get close to having a vision until now!" Lord Maitreya, however, has always been close to Asanga even on the very first day of his entering retreat. It is due to the strong and thick defilements that were obscuring Acharya Asanga that he could not see Maitreya. Thus, he came to understand that the very reason why he could not get a vision was because of the defilements weighing down on his mental continuum.
It is due to the strong genuine compassion towards the female dog, in actuality, the emanation of Lord Maitreya Himself, through the development of genuine compassion that he could clear out the obscurations.
This speaks of the great strength, great effectiveness and great power of genuine compassion directed towards all sentient beings without exception. Since it is developed towards all sentient beings without any discrimination, without any differentiation, even if it is developed only for a single moment, the merit accumulated is equal to the number of sentient beings which in turn is equal to limitless space.
Butcher soars the skies
We also find an account of a butcher who lives in Lhasa. The butcher used to kill so many cows and sheeps all day in his house. He killed them one by one. The demand was so great that he would kill several of them everyday. Once, he took a short break and went out to refresh himself. When he returned, he saw that his cleaver, used for killing the animals, was not to be found anywhere. When he looked around, he found out that it was hidden under the earth, dug and buried there by the animals themselves. He looked at the animals. Tears were dripping from the animals' eyes and their bodies were shivering with fear. He realised how much suffering he has been bringing to the animals even before they were subjected to the excruciating pain of getting hacked to death. The butcher developed a strong sense of compassion towards the animals and a strong sense of aversion towards his own deeds. He was so moved with compassion that he felt he would rather end his own life than to continue with what he was doing. He went up a hill and sought to kill himself. But since that was born out of a strong sense of compassion towards sentient beings, instead of falling down and crashing to death, he actually flew to the other side of the hill.
At that time, there happened to be a meditator in the same area and the meditator happened to know the person by his profession. When the meditator saw the butcher capable of flying over from one part of the hill to the other side, he thought that if even if such a sinful person can do so, then he, who has spent so many years in meditation can definitely do likewise. So he went up the same hill and threw himself down . He fell and died instantly!
This shows how powerful Universal Compassion is once it is generated purely within us in its purest aspect and how effective it is in clearing away the negativities no matter how strong the load of negativities we have in our mental continuum. Developing genuine compassion and Bodhicitta is definitely worthwhile.
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