25 Bodhicitta & Vipashyana: What is Your Signal to Noise Ratio?

12 Apr 2016

After two weeks in which we have seen a crescendo that culminated in aspirational and engaged bodhicitta, everything else now may seem an anticlimax. Actually this is the beginning. We arouse bodhicitta until it arises spontaneously. Within the framework of the Buddhist teachings on the primary mind & mental factors, bodhicitta is considered primary mind, it is core (the primary mind becomes bodhicitta). It is the motivation that can satisfy our eternal longing, it is the core meeting the core. When your mind becomes bodhicitta, that is the undercurrent even while you are resting, you are walking, when you are doing all sorts of activities. Sometimes it is obscured by mental afflictions that come and go, but once you have entered this flow of bodhicitta, even when resting you accumulate merit, according to Shantideva. When it is uncontrived, the slightest event will immediately trigger the bodhicitta, thereby becoming manifest. At this level you are a bodhisattva. The first stage is called earth-like bodhicitta on the Mahayana path of accumulation. Now, how do you make this bodhicitta irreversible? We need wisdom that will protect your bodhicitta. Specifically it is the kind of wisdom explicitly referenced in The Ornament of Clear Realization (Abhisamayālaṅkāra), by Maitreya. In order to get to the second stage of the Mahayana path of accumulation we need the four close applications of mindfulness.

In order to be effective in our cultivation of bodhicitta, we begin where it’s easier, with loving kindness for ourselves, and then we move on to a very dear one, a more casual friend and then to people we have more difficulties with. Alan states that we can find a similar strategy in the teachings of Natural Liberation revealed by Padmasambhava, with regards to shamatha. There we begin by looking at an object like a pebble or a stick and then we move on till doing awareness of awareness. So it is from coarse to subtle.

When it comes to cultivating vipashyana, there are good reasons to go back to the four close applications of mindfulness, especially emphasised in the Theravada tradition. In this way we start where we live, and this strategy can make an impact on our mental afflictions. Also here we can see that the approach is from coarse to subtle. In this way we can start to cultivate insight (wisdom) which can protect, guard our bodhicitta, as if we were crossing from the small to the medium stage of the Mahayana path of accumulation.

The meditation is on the close application of mindfulness to the body.

After meditation, Alan expands on the importance of realizing not only the identitylessness of persons, but also the identitylessness of all phenomena. The latter is the indispensable basis for an effective practice of Vajrayana, together with renunciation and bodhicitta. Then he continues the oral transmission of the Panchen Lama’s text - we are now venturing into the section on sutra mahamudra.

Meditation starts at 23:00

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