06/07/2013 12:59 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2013

Wanting to Develop Bodhicitta

Aspiring Bodhicitta is wishing to become a Buddha for the benefit of all. Aspiring Bodhicitta desires to reach the goal, whereas "engaging Bodhicitta" is taking steps on the path to Buddhahood with this motivation. Engaging in acts of generosity, patience, moral discipline, joyful effort, concentration and wisdom -- with Bodhicitta motivation -- are the actual steps toward the goal.

We must use lojong practice to develop the goal of attaining Bodhicitta before we can develop aspiring Bodhicitta. I discussed lojong meditation in my blog "The Bodhisattva's Mind-Training Meditation." Lojong practice employs the practice of analytic meditation in order to develop and strengthen a belief or emotion. In the case of developing Bodhicitta, we must clearly and deeply believe that it is very important to develop this attainment. It may sound a bit strange, but in order to want to become a Buddha, most people must first develop the want to have this want. We normally think that we just have the wants that we have and do not think about why we want what we want. However, advertisers know very well that it is possible to cause others to want something that they do not presently want. In the case of lojong practice for developing aspiring Bodhicitta, rather than someone else wanting us to have a want, we want this for ourselves.

If we just have an occasional passing thought that we would like to become a Buddha, we do not seriously want this. We need to cause ourselves to want to attain Bodhicitta very much, and afterward we must train our minds to have this later want, analogous to the way advertisers cause us to want a product they want us to want. Just as advertisers train us to want to possess some product by making the product appear attractive, we must train ourselves to want to acquire aspiring Bodhicitta by making the possession of aspiring Bodhicitta appear attractive.

Verses two through four of chapter one of my book, Ocean of Compassion, state how attaining Bodhicitta can be made to appear attractive. Once possessing aspiring Bodhicitta appears attractive, you will want to develop it. Then you have set the stage for the next step of your spiritual practice -- engaging in the lojong practices that actually result in attaining aspiring Bodhicitta. If you clearly understand the reasons stated in these verses why Bodhicitta is an attractive goal, you can simply mentally repeat the verses to yourself in your analytic meditation and then do placement meditation on the want when you find yourself wanting to develop Bodhicitta. We may be tempted to skip this step and jump right to engaging in the lojong practices that are used to develop aspiring Bodhicitta, but this is a mistake. It is not an easy task to develop aspiring Bodhicitta, so we must have a very strong motivation in order to succeed.

Here is verse two:

Bodhicitta is the supreme jewel of practice;
It impels us down the path.
Without the proper motivation,
Our happiness will not last.

This verse begins by stating that we should view aspiring Bodhicitta as a supreme and precious jewel. After stating how we should view Bodhicitta, the verse explains how to develop this view by building on the attainment of renunciation. Renunciation is the attitude that mundane, worldly things cannot bring true and lasting happiness, but that they are found at the end of the spiritual path. To be ready to begin developing the desire to attain Bodhicitta, you must have already attained renunciation. I discussed renunciation on the June 6, 2012 episode of The Life of Universal Loving and archived a guided meditation on June 30, 2012. After verse two states that we should view it as a precious jewel, it implies that Bodhicitta impels us down the path to true and lasting happiness. So, the analytic meditation stated in this verse to reflect on the fact that having the mind of aspiring Bodhicitta will help you reach true and lasting happiness, and, as a result, view it as a precious jewel-like attainment. Because Bodhicitta is the wish to help all living beings find true and lasting happiness, the verse tells us that wanting to help all others in this way will result in us achieving our own happiness. It may seem a little odd to reflect on a self-centered wish to be happy in order to develop the desire to develop the altruistic wish for everyone to be happy, but that is what we are doing, and it can be very effective.

Verse three states:

The mind of respected Bodhicitta
Is exquisite and rare to find.
So, earnestly strive with your sweetest Effort
To cultivate this mind.

This verse reiterates that we should view Bodhicitta as a rare and precious jewel, and then it urges us to regard our lojong sessions used for developing the desire to attain Bodhicitta joyfully. This is what is implied by the expression, "earnestly strive with your sweetest Effort to cultivate this mind." As I explained in my blog "Joyful Effort," this perfection is the disposition to experience joy when regarding oneself as having taken a step on the path to Buddhahood. As with all perfections, it is practiced with Bodhicitta motivation, but prior to developing Bodhicitta one should have already developed the disposition to experience joy when regarding oneself as having taken a step on the pre-Bodhisattva stage of the path. This verse, therefore, tells us that when we rise from a session of lojong meditation that focused on developing the want to attain aspiring Bodhicitta, we should remind ourselves that we have taken a step on the path to true and lasting happiness and elicit a feeling of joy. This will make us eager to return to our meditation practice as soon as possible.

Here is verse four:

All the suffering we endure
n this precious human span
Arises from cherishing only ourselves
And spurning the others at hand.

This verse tells us to meditate on the disadvantage of biased self-cherishing -- the fact that it makes us engage in the non-virtuous actions that cause all our suffering. Since Bodhicitta overcomes our biased self-cherishing, this meditation makes attaining Bodhicitta appear attractive because of its role in eliminating all of our suffering.

In summary, in order to develop aspiring Bodhicitta, we must begin by developing the desire to develop this mind. This is a stage of the pre-Bodhisattva path that presupposes the attainment of renunciation. Today, I have reiterated that renunciation plays the key role of viewing the attainment of spiritual goals as steps on the path to true and lasting happiness and the end of suffering, and explained that the lojong methods for developing the desire to attain Bodhicitta presuppose the attainment of renunciation. The main analytic meditations for developing the desire to attain Bodhicitta are of three types. One type is to imagine Bodhicitta as a rare and precious jewel. The other two are to think about the advantages of being motivated by Bodhicitta and the disadvantages of biased self-cherishing. The advantage of having the mind of Bodhicitta is that it is causes us to travel the path to true and lasting happiness. The disadvantage of biased, self-cherishing is that it causes us to engage in the non-virtuous behavior that results in all of our suffering. It is because of the advantages of having aspiring Bodhicitta and the disadvantages of a biased, self-cherishing mind that Bodhicitta is a rare and precious jewel. Finally, the verses tell us that by generating joyful effort after lojong meditation practice, we will be eager to return to it.

For more by Tenzin Norbu, click here.

For more on spiritual development, click here.