H.H. Dalai Lama: Kalachakra Teachings Bloomington 1999, Day 3 Morning

Preliminary Teachings

by His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama

Prior to the Kalachakra Initiation


Shantideva’s Meditation

Chapter Eight of the Bodhicaryavatara

Kalachakra Bloomington, Indiana USA, August 20 – 22, 1999


Day 3, August 22, 1999, Morning session

His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama

We will start today with the ceremony for generating bodhicitta, the mind for enlightenment. We will follow that with the continuation of Santideva’s text.

The ceremony will consist of two parts. The first part is the ceremony that symbolizes the affirmation and stabilization of one’s aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. This will be performed on the basis of the reading of a few verses the English translation of which has been distributed. This will be the first part.

The taking of the Bodhisattva Vows will follow this. The text that I will use for the ceremony of conferring the Bodhisattva Vows is that of Asanga’s Bodhisattvabhumi or the Bodhisattva Grounds.

For the ceremony one needs to imagine at the place in this thangka where the image of the Buddha is depicted, one imagines in this space the actual Buddha Shakyamuni. Imagine that the Buddha Shakyamuni is surrounded by the bodhisattvas such as Manjusri, Maitreya and so on who are in the their celestial forms.

Also visualize that the Buddha surrounded by the great Indian masters such as Asanga, Nagarjuna and so on. All of these great masters have made a tremendous contribution towards the flourishing and continuation of the sacred Dharma of the Buddha Shakyamuni who is the embodiment of perfect kindness. These Indian masters particularly the one who made tremendous contributions and whose legacies we still benefit from today such as text composed by Nagarjuna and Asanga that we continue to derive tremendous benefit through studying, contemplating and meditating upon. So visualize all of these great Indian masters around the Buddha.

Also visualize the past great masters of Tibet, the lineage masters of the various traditions and so on. Imagine yourself being surrounded by all sentient beings and this is visualization one needs to perform to set the stage for the ceremony. We will now do the preliminary recitations as we did yesterday, the salutations to the Buddha, recitation of the sutras and finally dedication of the merit. This will then be followed by the recitation of the Heart Sutra as before. (Recitation)

The great master Nagarjuna stated in his Precious Garland or Ratnavali that those who aspire to attain the highest enlightenment of Buddhahood. All of the essential aspects of the teachings of the Buddha are contained within the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, the Great Vehicle and the Vajrayana or the Diamond Vehicle. All of the practices of the Lesser Vehicle, Great Vehicle and the Vajrayana can be regarded as either as a preliminary or actual practice or as the completing aspects of the practices of bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration.

One can say that bodhicitta, the altruistic mind aspiring to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings cultivated through the method of Exchanging and Equalizing Self and Others can be said to be the key or actual essence of the practice of the Buddha’s teachings. So when one can cultivate this precious mind of bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, it provide one with the basis for attaining highest enlightenment, the state of the omniscient, enlightened mind of the Buddha.

It also enables one to go through successive lifetimes of attaining favorable existences of higher rebirths. So one can say that the attainment of higher rebirths is in fact a by-product of the practice of bodhicitta. Not only that when one practices bodhicitta that one will go from one state of joyfulness to another state of joyfulness but even within this lifetime itself, the fruits of practicing bodhicitta are very obvious. As a result of practicing bodhicitta one will experience a sense of deep fulfillment, provide inner strength, courage and also a powerful basis for spiritual attainment. These are all obvious and evident fruits of practicing bodhicitta within this very lifetime.

If one thinks carefully, trying to examine the natural state of one’s normal thoughts, one will find that at a deeper level all of us pursue life with a basic motive of trying to fulfill one’s own self-interest. At the root of this is self-cherishment. One cherishes one’s own interests and wellbeing so much and have gone through successive lifetimes trying to fulfill one’s basic aspiration to be happy and overcome suffering. By pursuing this self-centered approach even in this lifetime if one thinks carefully, one will realize that throughout the twenty-four hours of the day one’s thought are constantly motivated and influenced by self-centeredness. This is to the extent that even in one’s dreams self-centeredness and self-cherishing play an important role.

However if one were to think carefully trying to figure out whether this pursuit of absolute self-centeredness really helps one to fulfill one’s aspiration one is seeking, the answer is not really. For example one’s thoughts are constantly plagued by feelings of discontent, dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Even Dharma practitioners have these feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. The moment one starts having conversations with someone, even Dharma practitioners gradually one will begin to hear comments reflecting a lack of satisfaction and so on. Similarly whether a person is rich or poor, educated or uneducated, all share these basic feelings of dissatisfaction.

This suggests that the way one has pursued and is pursuing one’s aspiration to seek happiness and overcome suffering based on total self-centeredness is lacking. This is something one needs to recognize.

When one reflects along these lines one will realize that everyone deep down at the very core of their being, one cherishes two thoughts. On the one hand is the belief in some kind of objective, intrinsic reality of things and events that is self-grasping. On the other hand along side this self-grasping attitude is its ever-present companion which is the self-cherishing thought that cherishes one’s own wellbeing oblivious to the wellbeing and concerns of other sentient beings. If one examines this carefully one will realize that one harbors these two thoughts within almost as if they constitute the core of one’s inner essence or being. In fact one entrusts one’s entire wellbeing to these two thoughts as if they are the ultimate source of one’s refuge and protection, the source of one’s happiness.

If the influence of these two thoughts are so powerful that even when one engages in the practice of the Dharma then their influence is felt. For example when one takes refuge in the Three Jewels often one’s motivation in taking refuge is that one may gain some benefit for oneself. So the influence of self-cherishing thought is so powerful that it is felt even in the practice of Dharma. Having recognized this influence one needs to question where has this mode of being led one? Has it really helped one to fulfill the basic aspiration to be happy and overcome suffering?

No, there is something missing or wrong with this mode of being. Therefore one needs to now try and reverse this mode of being. In place of self-grasping one needs to cultivate the insight into no-self existence, selflessness. In place of the self-cherishing thought one needs to cultivate the thought that cherishes the wellbeing of other sentient beings. Since one has already recognized the failure of the self-cherishing attitude and self-grasping one needs to now give a chance to their opposites, the thought cherishing the wellbeing of others and the insight into selflessness.

Maybe I can say this here. If I give my own personal experience, although I cannot claim any high levels of realization nor find the time to engage in extensive Dharma practice, I can claim that I have undertaken some extensive practices. From my thirties I have paid special attention to developing an understanding the view of emptiness. Especially in my forties I paid special attention to the cultivation of bodhicitta. As a result of these practices, although I cannot claim to have actual realizations of bodhicitta or the perfect view of emptiness, one thing I can state is that I do feel that as the result of prolonged practice I have genuinely developed a deeply felt admiration for those ideals and practices.

This is based on a genuine conviction as the result of my prolonged practice and I also feel that my mind has an affinity towards these practices which is increasing always so that I feel closer and closer to these ideals and practices. Because of this even though my level of realization may be very minute, but the moment even this little experience starts to dawn, that in itself has a tremendously uplifting effect and freeing effect. So if one were to then continue to pursue these practices with total dedication month after month, year after year then certainly I get a glimpse that there is the possibility to genuinely develop, enhance and eventually actual gain a perfect realization of bodhicitta and the view of emptiness.

Similarly I would like to take the opportunity here to appeal to my fellow spiritual brothers and sisters, my fellow Dharma practitioners to engage in proper practice, dedicating oneself to the practices so that you too have a glimpse of the actual experience. Of course I must also point out that it depends on a large extent whether or not one finds an affinity or inclination towards these types of practices on one’s own mental disposition, one’s own interests, one’s own inclinations and so on. In the final analysis it is the practitioner themselves who is the best judge to choose whatever path that one wants to pursue. But I felt that giving an example of my own personal experience may be of interest here

One finds in Tibetan Buddhism the practice of the Vajrayana and within the practice of the Vajrayana there is meditation on generating oneself as a deity and so on. These practices have definitely profound effects and they also have the potential for developing and enhancing one’s path towards enlightenment. If all of the preconditions for the practice of the Vajrayana deity yoga are complete then of course the practitioner will be able to derive those benefits. However the preconditions are that the practitioner must have a firm grounding in the practices of bodhicitta, the perfect view of emptiness and so on. If one lacks these foundational practices, the realization of bodhicitta and the understanding of emptiness then even if one were to engage in deity yoga meditation, visualizing oneself as a perfectly enlightened deity at best it will only be a self-conciliation. The basic fact remains that one is not fully enlightened and one is only imaging oneself in an enlightened form. So at best it is a self-conciliatory practice but at worst it will not have any beneficial effects in terms of enhancing one’s own spiritual development.

In fact once a Sri Lankan bhikshu made an observation and said that if one looks at the sophisticated meditations in the Vajrayana relating to the visualization of mandalas and deities, of course they are very appealing and attractive. However the problem is that if one engages in these practices instead of benefiting they will undermine one’s development as the only effect they will produce is that they will proliferate further conceptual thought processes. This will bind one ever more firmly within cyclic existence. This comment really has a point because if one looks at the literature of ancient Indian Buddhism one finds that this doubt has already been raised and addressed.

The issue was placed in the following manner in those scriptures. Since self-grasping at the intrinsic existence of oneself and the world is the root of unenlightened existence, the root of samsara, how can meditation on a deity or mandala such as deity yoga be of actual benefit in eliminating the root of samsara? Many explanations have been given as to how this is effective. So the Sri Lankan bhikshu’s criticism does have a point and it is important to appreciate this criticism taking it as a warning or a signal, especially for Vajrayana practitioners.

This is because in Tibetan Buddhism one sees the Vajrayana very extensively taught. Just as I mentioned earlier, in order for one’s practice of the Dharma to be successful one must insure that the Dharma practice becomes an actual Dharma practice. Similarly one must insure that the Mahayana practices must become actual Mahayana practices. In the same manner in order for the Vajrayana practices to be successful one must insure that one’s Vajrayana practice becomes true Vajrayana practice.

What makes deity meditation a true Vajrayana practice? Here again the foundation truly is the generation of bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings and the view of emptiness, a perfect understanding of emptiness. Once one has these two prerequisites, these two foundational practices then when one builds one’s Vajrayana meditational deity yoga on the basis of these two practices then of course one will be able to derive the profundity of the Vajrayana.

Having said this some people might then think that if that is the case then until one has accumulated the right conditions such as the realization of bodhicitta and a perfect understanding of emptiness there is no benefit or point in taking a tantric teaching and practicing it. This however is not the case. I think what is important is to have a comprehensive and holistic perspective on one’s Dharma practice. So although in actual practice, the actual approach to Dharma practice one must place greater emphasis and focus on the specific aspects of the path that correspond to the level of one’s own understanding and realization. One needs to place emphasis on the development of that particular element or aspect of the path.

However at the same time it is important to gain or cultivate a familiarity with the entire spectrum of the path of Dharma. This includes the Vajrayana as well so that in a sense one is rehearsing with the entire sequence of the path, preparing oneself for the eventual realization of the higher levels of the path. So to conclude one must cultivate a conviction that bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, is the foundation for all paths including the Vajrayana. Bodhicitta is the key practice, it is the foundation. With this recognition and realization I will go on with the ceremony of generating bodhicitta.

This ceremony literally means the ceremony for generating bodhicitta by taking a pledge, committing oneself to the aspirational aspect of bodhicitta. This ceremony is performed when the practitioner as the result of their prolonged practice has gained a glimpse of the actual experience of bodhicitta. At this point the practitioner affirms it and stabilizes it by taking a pledge in the setting of a ceremony.

Traditionally before the ceremony for generating bodhicitta is performed one undertakes the practice of the seven limbs. We will do this by reciting the section on the Seven Limb practice from the Prayer of Samantabhadra. For those of you who do not know this in Tibetan, reflect on the seven practices, paying homage to the Triple Jewels (the field of merit), making offerings, disclosing and purifying one’s negativities, rejoicing on one’s own and others’ virtuous acts, requesting the Buddhas to turn the Wheel of Dharma, appealing to the Buddhas not to enter parinirvana and finally dedicating the merit accumulated through this practice. Reflect upon these seven limbs of practice and reaffirm one’s visualization of the Buddha Shakyamuni surrounded by all the bodhisattvas and great masters. (Recitation)

As for the text that is normally used for the ceremony of generating bodhicitta, there are different versions of different lengths and so on. However the text that I am using here are two verses that are extracted from tantra. The first verse reads:


With the wish to free all beings I shall always go for refuge

to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha

Until I reach full enlightenment.


This taking of refuge in the Three Jewels is in the Mahayana sense where one is wishing for all sentient beings to be free from not only the emotional and mental afflictions but also from the subtle imprints and propensities towards those afflictions. These obstruct one’s attainment of perfect knowledge and the perfectly enlightened mind. This is the purpose and one pledges to go for refuge to the Three Jewels until one attains full enlightenment, which specifies the time factor. So this is the Mahayana form of taking refuge.

The next verse reads:


Enthused by wisdom and compassion today in the Buddha’s presence

I generate the mind for full awakening for the benefit of all

sentient beings.


Here one then acclaims that by engaging in a path that is the union of wisdom and method one will generate the mind to attain full enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Not only is one making an aspiration but also one is making a pledge that one will generate this mind.

This is followed by a recitation of a quote from Santideva’s Bodhicaryavatara that reads:


As long as space remains,

As long as sentient beings remain,

Until then may I too remain

And dispel the miseries of the world.

When one reflects upon the meaning of these verses, one here is committing oneself to making one’s life, the sole purpose of one’s life, the sole purpose of one’s existence is to be of service to other sentient beings, to bring about the welfare of other sentient beings. One is suggesting that one’’ commitment to this ideal is such that one will pursue this goal for as long as space remains. When one cultivates this kind of powerful sentiment or aspiration and altruism then the time factor should not make any difference to one’s commitment, to one’s state of mind.

In fact whether one becomes fully enlightened or one remains unenlightened, one’s sole purpose is to be of benefit to other sentient beings. So if this is the case, once one has dedicated one’s life to this kind of ideal then every single instance of one’s life so long as one is able to be of some benefit to others then one is serving one’s purpose. When one realizes this, when one realizes that one is serving the ultimate purpose of one’s existence then there is no sense of exhaustion, no sense of frustration or tiredness. When there is no sense of fatigue then the time does not make any difference whether it be one eon or innumerable eons. The time factor involved makes no difference.

This is something one can attest to from one’s own personal experience when one undergoes a particular event or experience. If one finds a task exhausting, if one finds it tiring then even if the duration of the actual experience may be very short, one feels as if it was very long. On the other hand when one undergoes a joyful experience, something that gives one a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction then the time involved doesn’t make much of a difference. In fact there is a sense of preparedness to go through with the task whatever may come. It is important to try to cultivate this kind of powerful sentiment and sense of commitment to the ideals of altruism.

The actual performance of the ceremony will be done by the audience reading these three verses, three times.


With the wish to free all beings I shall always go for refuge

to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha

Until I reach full enlightenment.

Enthused by wisdom and compassion today in the Buddha’s presence

I generate the mind for full awakening for the benefit of all

sentient beings.

As long as space remains,

As long as sentient beings remain,

Until then may I too remain

And dispel the miseries of the world.

If you can now cultivate the thought within yourself that this altruistic intention that you have just generated, this powerful courage and sentiment that you have generated, then pledge that you will never abandon this aspiration at any time at all.

Please do not throw the paper away on which this was written. If you have an interest in practice try to read this on a daily basis and eventually memorize it. Reflect upon its meaning on a daily basis so that you can actually continue with this practice. This is for the practicing Buddhists and those who have a genuine interest in the practice of the Buddhadharma. For those of you who are Christians or followers of other traditions you can also perform this practice by substituting in the place of the Three Jewels with whatever object of refuge that you find most appealing. Do the same practice but substitute the object of refuge.

In any case the cultivation of this infinite altruism, this powerful altruism is central to all spiritual traditions of the world. So the main point that I am stressing here is that this precious, altruistic aspiration, this precious altruistic intention that we have generated today, the kind, warm heart that we have generated today is not to be let go after the ceremony. Rather you should endeavor to sustain and develop it, enhancing it on a daily basis so that you build on it.

Now I will begin the ceremony for taking the Bodhisattva Vows. The mandala offering was already made at the beginning of this teaching so next is making a request to the teacher to confer the vows. Although the recitation will be done in Tibetan regardless of whether or not one can follow the repetition or not, one should develop the thought that one is making a request to the guru. This request is for the guru to bestow upon you the Bodhisattva Vows. (Recitation in Tibetan)

Having made the request to the master and having expressed an interest in taking on the discipline of the precepts of the Bodhisattva Vows. The master then asks to determine whether or not one has the right motivation for taking the Bodhisattva Vows. Since the ultimate aspiration of a bodhisattva practitioner is to attain perfect enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, the master asks, “Do you have the aspiration to free sentient beings who are obscured by the obstructions to knowledge? Do you have the aspiration to free sentient beings who are caught in the cycle of existence because of their karma along with the mental and emotional afflictions? Do you have the aspiration to relieve those who are undergoing painful experiences?” By asking these questions the master determines whether or not one has the right attitude and motivation for taking the Bodhisattva Vows.

The master then questions further to determine whether one still has the right attitude. Are you taking these vows in order to compete with someone? Are you taking the vows under duress? Is someone forcing you to take these vows? To these two questions one responds no.

The master asks further questions. Are you familiar with the Avatamsaka Sutra, which is the root source of the Bodhisattva practices? Are you familiar with the Bodhisattvabhumi, the commentary on the Bodhisattva practices? To these questions one responds I am. Have you some understanding of these texts? To this question one responds yes I have. Do you have interest and admiration in the ideals of the Bodhisattva? To this question one responds I do. Do you commit yourself to the practices of these principles and ideals of the Bodhisattva? To this question one responds I do.

Especially to the first question of having familiarity with the sutras and the commentarial literature of the Bodhisattvabhumi, one responds I have some familiarity being very honest. For example in my own case out of a deep admiration and reverence towards the sutras I have actually received the oral transmissions of these. Also I try to read them and study them. However the key point is the practice of altruism so the key precept of the Bodhisattva Vows is to from this moment on refrain from harming others. If possible one needs to try and be of benefit to other sentient beings. This is really the key precept so one should cultivate this thought and determination within oneself that from now on from the depths of one’s heart one will strive as much as possible to be of benefit to others. One will never engage in any activity that is harmful to other sentient beings. Commitment to this ideal is the key precept of the Bodhisattva practices. (Recitation in Tibetan)

This is followed by the Seven-Limb Practice to again purify negativity and accumulate virtue. (Recitation in Tibetan) Next is requesting the guru out of increased eagerness to receive the Bodhisattva Vows. (Recitation in Tibetan)

Next the guru asks two questions to determine whether one has any obstacles for receiving the Bodhisattva Vows. The first question is “Are you a bodhisattva?” The second question is “Have you cultivated the aspiration towards bodhicitta?” Of course many of us here are not real bodhisattvas, as we have not gained the perfect attainment of bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. However what is required is that on your part at least there is a deeply felt admiration and single-pointed devotion along with a sense of dedication to the ideals that are represented by the practice of bodhicitta. So one must have this kind of single-pointed admiration and dedication to the bodhisattva practices. One also needs a sense of joy for what the ideals of the bodhisattvas represent so this is a basic requirement on your part. Because of this single-pointed dedication and admiration in the ideals of bodhicitta, if one has undertaken some practice of compassion then this practice of compassion will have awakened the seed for enlightenment, the seed for Buddhahood that is in all of us. This is the basic requirement one must at least have a single-pointed admiration for the ideals of bodhicitta.

The second question is asking whether or not one has affirmed and stabilized one’s aspiration by participating in a ceremony as we did earlier. Having determined that one has all of the conditions necessary to take the Bodhisattva Vows then the guru asks some further questions. Why do you wish to take the Bodhisattva Vows from me because the Bodhisattva Vows can be taken in front of a representation of the Buddha or can be taken from any other lama? (Recitation in Tibetan) You respond by saying yes.

The actual main ceremony for taking the Bodhisattva Vows according to this text requires no repetition after the guru. Rather it is performed in the form of a series of questions asked by the master. The questions are asked three times. In the questions the master points out that since one has cultivated all of the conditions for taking these vows, one must recognize that all of the Buddhas of the past gained perfect enlightenment by dedicating their spiritual practices on the ideals of bodhicitta and the Bodhisattva Vows.

This is the path; this is the way by which all of the enlightened beings of the past have attained Buddhahood. Also this is the way and path by which those who at the present are gaining enlightenment engage. This is also the path and way by which the Buddhas of the future will attain perfect enlightenment. In fact one can say that the bodhisattva generating bodhicitta and taking on and upholding the Bodhisattva Vows is the sole door leading to perfect enlightenment. Therefore one must generate bodhicitta and observe and uphold the Bodhisattva Vows. Do you wish this and to do so?

This question is asked three times. On the third repetition it is finished. At that point imagine that you have received the Bodhisattva Vows. Among the members of the audience those who feel that they cannot commit themselves by taking the Bodhisattva Vows that they cannot observe the precepts then do not imagine that you have received the vows or that you uphold the vows. Rather during the ceremony imagine that by participating in this ceremony one generates a mind of altruism and then from the depths of one’s heart always revere and admire the ideals and principles of the Bodhisattva practices. By doing this one will have the benefit of generating altruism but at the same time there is no risk of any infraction of the root or secondary Bodhisattva Vows.

However for those who are taking the Bodhisattva Vows it is important to have some understanding of the precepts particularly the eighteen root precepts and the forty-six secondary precepts to insure that in one’s daily activities that one does not transgress these precepts. The key precept is to insure in one’s daily life not to be dominated by the self-cherishing attitude. Rather one needs to constantly cultivate the thought of being respectful to others, to have a sense of concern and caring for others and to interact with others, acting out of this kind of altruistic motivation. If one has this basic observance of this precept then this will insure that one will not transgress any of the other precepts, the root and secondary precepts.

Since today we are participating in a ceremony where all of us are trying to generate this tremendous altruism, the sense of concern and compassion towards all sentient beings, I think it is also helpful to utilize this occasion to make some prayers together for the relief of pain and suffering of beings all over the world. I have heard that there was a recent earthquake in Turkey involving over ten thousand casualties. Reflect on the fact that similar to this incident there are people undergoing painful experiences and use this occasion to pray for all of these suffering sentient beings so that they become free of their pain. If one does this it can have some positive impact.

Those who have no problems with their knees please kneel down and those with problems please remain seated. (Recitation in Tibetan) Those taking the Bodhisattva Vows should now reinforce your altruistic aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. Also reinforce your commitment to engage in the practices of the bodhisattva and reflect that just as all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past had dedicated their lives to the practice of the bodhisattva and lived according to the ideals of the bodhisattva, so I also will generate this altruistic mind of enlightenment, never abandoning it, never letting it degenerate. Also I will engage in the practices of the bodhisattva and follow the ideals of the bodhisattva, in this way not only take the Bodhisattva Vows but also uphold the vows. By engaging in the ideals and practices of the Bodhisattva Vows I will soon attain perfect enlightenment so that I can serve the welfare of other sentient beings. It is very important to reinforce one’s enthusiasm and joy for taking the Bodhisattva Vows. (Recitation in Tibetan)

Next the guru calls the attention of all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions and requests them to witness for this important event. The guru appeals to them by calling out for their attention saying that today on this day, at this place I by the name of such-and-such have conducted a ceremony of the Bodhisattva Vows. The disciples by the name of such-and-such have all taken the Bodhisattva Vows so please bear witness to this event and note this important event.

So the guru calls the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ attention by making prostrations to the ten directions. (Recitation in Tibetan) I don’t need to go into the details of the tremendous benefits of cultivating this altruistic aspiration and generating the mind for enlightenment. I personally feel fortunate to have the opportunity to perform this ceremony for generating the altruistic mind of bodhicitta and also to have the opportunity to give the Bodhisattva Vows.

Compared to conducting a tantric empowerment ceremony which requires high levels of single-pointedness, meditation and so on, I feel that giving the Bodhisattva Vows is not only highly beneficial but also less risky on the parts of both teacher and students. In fact whenever I find the opportunity I try to perform this ceremony of generating bodhicitta which is for me also a very powerful method for increasing my own accumulation of merit. Also for me this is a powerful medium by which I can help others to appreciate the value, importance and great qualities of compassion and bodhicitta. Therefore I feel tremendously fortunate to have this opportunity today to perform this ceremony and I would like to express my appreciation to you.

Next the guru instructs the students not to speak about their Bodhisattva practices and Bodhisattva Vows particularly the precepts in inappropriate situations. For example to people who simply have no interest, people who may be cynical, people who have no enthusiasm for spiritual matters nor people who have no admiration for the Bodhisattva ideals. Also one should avoid the temptation of simply bragging about the Bodhisattva precepts and the Bodhisattva Vows so it is important to observe, when speaking about the Bodhisattva precepts that one does so in only appropriate situations.

I must remind you that because you have all participated in this ceremony of generating bodhicitta and taking the Bodhisattva Vows, do not be under the impression that when one walks out of this tent that you have become bodhisattvas, thinking that you are a bodhisattva. For most of us this is not the case, as you have not yet become bodhisattvas, so do not have a self-inflated illusion. In fact for many of us to be a true bodhisattva may take several lifetimes or maybe eons. However one can recognize that by participating in this ceremony, generating bodhicitta and taking on the Bodhisattva Vows, one has taken at least the first step moving towards becoming a bodhisattva, to becoming an Arya Bodhisattva. This is the first step towards becoming eventually a fully enlightened Buddha.

The text that I have used for the rite of giving the Bodhisattva Vows is from the chapter on ethical discipline from Asanga’s Bodhisattvabhumi, the Bodhisattva Grounds so these are direct citations from Asanga’s text. Now I proceed with the reading of Santideva’s text. I will not spend time explaining each and every single verse but rather I will concentrate on selected verses from the text giving commentary on them.

In verse thirty-nine Santideva explains the importance of transcending one’s attachment to the objects of desire.


Both in this world and the next

39 Desires give rise to great misfortune:

In this life killing, bondage and flaying

And in the next the existence of the hells.

He then tells how to create a distance within one’s mind by distancing oneself from the objects of desire. When speaks of the various forms of distractions that are the key obstacles to cultivating single-pointedness of mind perhaps the most powerful obstacle is attachment or desire. In fact in the manuals on meditation one sees that mental excitement, which is a manifestation or form of attachment is identified as one of the key obstacles for generating single-pointedness. So what one finds here in this text are various thought processes and meditations that enable one to distance oneself from attachment to the objects of desire.

So when one speaks of the objects of desire here one is mainly talking about the five sensory objects such as attractive forms, attractive smells, tactile sensations, sounds and so on, the five essential sensory objects that can give rise to desire and attachment. Of all of the forms of attachment and desire, sexual desire and attachment are said to be very powerful and intense. Therefore in the following verses Santideva teaches methods of reflecting that will help one distance oneself from excessive attachment to sexual objects of desire.

In the case of a male practitioner the object of sexual desire arises in relation to a woman’s body, her physical characteristics, smell, tactile sensations and so on. So one needs to find a way of transcending those desires. In the case of a female practitioner such attachment and attraction arise in relation to a man’s body and physical characteristics. In the following verses there are methods given for distancing oneself from such powerful sexual impulses and attachment.

These thought processes, the meditations suggested in the following verses to try and distance oneself from indulging in excessive sexual attachment are of tremendous benefit to celibate practitioners, the members of the monastic order. This is true whether they are members of the Buddhist monastic order or Christian monastics where the order is based on a vow of celibacy. For these practitioners these contemplations that are suggested here by Santideva can be of very powerful benefit to sustain and affirm their own practice of celibacy.

For lay practitioners of course a total abstention from sexual activity is not expected. However even for lay practitioners occasionally reflecting upon these kinds of meditations can have a positive effect because these can tone down excessive attachment to sexual activity, which is in fact quite unhealthy. If one has a more appropriate and balanced attitude towards sex then that can establish a firm foundation for a long-lasting marriage and relationship. Whereas if one lets oneself become totally taken away by excessive attachment and preoccupation with sex then it creates a tremendous fluctuation in one’s interactions with the opposite sex which can undermine one’s long-term relationships. So even for the lay practitioner these meditations are of some benefit.

So in verse thirty-nine Santideva identifies the key problem, excessive attachment and he points out that it causes the downfall not only in this life but also in the future.


Both in this world and the next

39 Desires give rise to great misfortune:

In this life killing, bondage and flaying

And in the next the existence of the hells.

So the point Santideva is making here is that when one’s entire life is dominated and dictated by perpetual wants and feelings of discontentment then that leads to all sorts of complications. Corresponding to one’s attachments and desires for more there is also a greater complexity and complications in terms of anxieties, pains and so on.

What the great Tibetan masters have said is very true in that for someone, who possesses inner contentment, in that home is a true richness. However the wealthy whose thoughts are perpetually afflicted by ever increasing wants, they have not recognized this value and fact of contentment. This is true because the person who has a deep sense of inner contentment, such a person has a sense of fulfillment, a settledness. However if someone no matter how wealthy they are if their thoughts are constantly afflicted by wanting more and more, this perpetual wanting itself becomes a form of suffering and pain leading to more discontentment instead of contentment.

From verse forty through verse forty-two Santideva explains how attachment, particularly sexual attachment towards the body of the opposite sex arises. From verse forty-three onwards Santideva dissects and deconstructs one’s excessive attachment and tries to undermine it by showing the irrationality of having excessive sexual attachment to a woman’s body, an object of desire. He begins this analysis by asking is it the physical body that one is attached to and if that is the case he then suggests a particular contemplation. If it is the mind of the other that one is attached to then he suggests another set of contemplations and so on.

This is how by examining the nature and causes of the body and its effects and also by reflecting upon the fact that many of the constituents making up a body, if analyzed individually there are what were normally be regarded as impure and unclean. So by reflecting upon these constituents Santideva recommends a way of dealing with excessive attachment to the body.

From verse seventy-one Santideva goes on to say that even the object of one’s desire that one feels so attached and which is in fact constituted by impure and unclean substances, is not an attitude acquired easily. He then goes on to discuss the difficulties and often the futility of seeking to fulfill sensual gratification together with seeking to increase one’s wealth and so on. This whole contemplation on and dealing with excessive attachment, particularly sexual attachment concludes with verse seventy-eight. (End of morning session)


103 Others impale themselves on the points of sticks,

Some stab themselves with daggers,

And others burn themselves – such things as these are quite apparent.

Due to the torment involved in collecting it, protecting and finally losing it,

104 I should realize wealth to be fraught with infinite problems.

Those who are distracted by their attachment to it

Have no opportunity to gain freedom from the misery of

conditioned existence.


Notes on texts

1. The translation of Santideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life is the one by Stephen Batchelor, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.

2. The translation of Nagarjuna’s Fundamentals of the Middle Way is by Jay Garfield, Oxford University Press.

3. The translation of Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland is by Jeffery Hopkins, Harper & Row.




Transcribed and typed by Phillip Lecso from audiotapes obtained from Tibetan Cultural Center entitled The Kalachakra Preliminary Teachings. I take full responsibility for all mistakes that have occurred, through hearing and writing incorrectly what was taught, for these I apologize. May all be auspicious. May any merit from this activity go to the long life and good health of His Holiness. May all sentient beings quickly attain the state of the Glorious Kalacakra even through these imperfect efforts.












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