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In Praise of Bodhicitta
by Paul Levy
Paul Levy
During his recent visit to Portland, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave teachings on bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is a sanskrit word that means "awakened heart," or the "mind of awakening." According to His Holiness, bodhicitta is "the heart of the Bodhisattva path." When doing any practice in Tibetan Buddhism, the practitioner always generates the "precious bodhicitta." This is the very high-octane rocket fuel that propels our journey out of the fear-based nightmare of the separate self into the true heart of love, compassion and wisdom.

When we are thinking about our own self and our own problems, this very narcissistic, self-concerned thinking is itself the activity that precludes our enlightenment. The Buddha saw through the fiction of the separate self with all its problems; he realized it was something we were literally imagining into existence moment by moment. He saw that we had all gotten absorbed into a habit pattern of imagining that we existed in a certain substantial, and hence separative way that we simply do not.

To generate the precious bodhicitta, we need to step out of the arbitrary, imaginary and false identity pattern that we are separate selves, and make a slight though radical adjustment in the way we view reality and ourselves. To use a modern metaphor that I imagine the Buddha would be quite happy with, instead of looking out of windows when we look out of our eyes, it is like we are wearing a big mirrored motorcycle helmet, where everywhere we look we see nothing but the reflection of our own true face. In other words, our definition of who we are imagining ourselves to be literally expands to include and embrace everything and everyone we are experiencing. It is like stepping into a new suit of clothes, in which we are much more expansive, multi-dimensional and non-localized than we previously imagined.

As latent bodhisattvas, it is our responsibility to strengthen the muscle of bodhicitta, as the precious bodhicitta is something that can be cultivated. Just like we make butter by churning cream, we cultivate the precious bodhicitta by recognizing the truth of our situation, which is that we are all interconnected and not separate. This is exactly the state of mind that Christ was pointing at when he said, "Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do unto me," and "treat your neighbor as thyself." The natural expression of this realization is the intention to be of help to seemingly other beings, who are now recognized to be embodied reflections of parts of our true self. Paradoxically, to have the intention to help and serve seeming others is the very state of consciousness that redeems our own suffering. We realize that the best way for us to receive the blessings we've been seeking, be it of love, healing, or enlightenment, is to embody and radiate out these very qualities for the benefit of others, as the duality between self and others has been seen through. This is the place where to give is to receive, where we become a true servant of God.

A healer and artist whose medium is dreaming, Paul Levy is in private practice, helping others who are also spiritually awakening. A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, he is in the new book Saints and Madmen: Psychiatry Opens its Doors to Religion. A long-time Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, he is the coordinator of the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center. He can be reached at (503) 234-6480.
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