ТОП 10:

The perfect Buddhas are born from the intention to benefit others.

Therefore, to truly exchange your own happiness for the suffering of others
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Whether related to our body, possessions, friends, or enemies, all suffering without exception arises because we want happiness for ourselves. The root of desire for personal happiness is ego-clinging. But where do the perfect Buddhas come from? Buddhas arise from the intention to benefit others. This intention is rooted in compassion, and if one has such compassion, one can become a perfect Buddha. The intention of a Bodhisattva is to benefit others by truly exchanging his or her happiness for the suffering of other beings. The text says, " to truly exchange," which means you do not just perform lip-service by mouthing, "I exchange my happiness for your suffering." Nor should it be merely a thought or an intention. You should actually be able to accomplish this exchange. Then you are a true Bodhisattva.


How do you develop the ability to do this? Begin by visualizing according to the instructions on tong len, the practice of giving and taking. First visualize that when you exhale, you give away your happiness in the form of white light for the benefit of all sentient beings, and then when you inhale that you take upon yourself their suffering in the form of black smoke which you perfectly purify when it reaches your heart. This visualization takes some getting used to. After you have become accustomed to tong len, have continued it for a long time, and have attained the Bodhisattva levels, then you will truly be able to exchange your own happiness for the suffering of others.

In his text, The Bodhicharyavatara: A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Shantideva makes many aspiration prayers on exchanging himself for others. Chapter 3, in particular, contains a number of them. One line says: "May I become a servant for those sentient beings who need a servant".

In an aspiration prayer, you aspire to help others who need help. You give yourself up for the benefit of helping others. Here, Shantideva wishes to become a servant to those who need a servant. He doesn't pray, "May I become the boss and give orders to others." In an aspiration prayer, you do not wish for your own welfare. If you do not read Shantideva's entire text, at least study the third chapter again and again to help you develop the right attitude.

In general, the Mahayana can be divided into two categories of practice: meditation on emptiness, which is a remedy against confused appearance and habitual tendencies because it cuts the root of samsara; and meditation on bodhichitta because it shows how to behave in everyday life within the relative world of samsara. Ngulchu Thogme's thirty-seven practices provide short, clear instructions for both categories of meditation that we can apply just as he teaches.


These thirty-seven Bodhisattva practices are as important for the Vajrayana as for the Mahayana, because if you carry them out, your Vajrayana practice will become more profound and you will be able to benefit many sentient beings.

Because Ngulchu Thogme was such a great Bodhisattva, he composed these verses so that ordinary beings could comprehend them. But merely understanding them isn't enough. You need to be convinced. Even conviction is insufficient. The practices must be applied and worked with. Reading them once and saying, "Oh, how easy! I understand everything," and then putting them aside will not bring any benefit at all. You need to read them again and again, memorize them, and strive to put them into practice.

Practice 12
Responding to theft

Even if someone driven by desire steals all your wealth
Or incites someone else to steal it,
To dedicate to this person your body, possessions,
and all your virtue of the three times
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.


The application of bodhichitta and the act of dedication enable you to benefit the thief. You also benefit yourself, since these practices accumulate merit and lead you closer to Buddhahood. Loving kindness and compassion are therefore very important.

If someone steals all your wealth and possessions or instigates someone else to do it, why should you dedicate everything to this person? The basis for the apparent contradiction is that sometime in a previous lifetime that thief was your parent. The Mahayana speaks of many lifetimes, throughout which every sentient being at some point has been your parent. In some past life this very thief showed you great kindness. Understanding this process encourages compassion for the thief-which means not developing anger. Compassion enables us to be patient so that we can actually dedicate everything to him or her. Without bodhichitta, we merely become angry.

There are many stories of how people came to the Dharma as a result of having been harmed by others. Milarepa is a good example. When he was very young, his aunt and uncle stole all his family's wealth and property. Because of this painful experience and others that followed, Milarepa undertook the practice of Dharma and subsequently developed gratitude toward his relatives. Like Milarepa, Mahayana practitioners should consider those who harm them as friends helpful to their Dharma practice.

It may be easy to comprehend this Bodhisattva practice, but to apply it is quite another matter. When someone steals everything we own, we become enraged. It is so difficult not to. Nevertheless, we cannot practice the Dharma when we are angry. We cannot develop compassion towards the thief. Until we behave in accordance with this verse, we are not following the practice of a Bodhisattva. We really must find out whether we can do so.

Practice 13
Responding to injury

If someone cuts off your head
Even when you have not done the slightest thing wrong,
Through the power of compassion
To take his misdeeds upon yourself
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

You have not done anything wrong, but still someone is trying to seriously harm you. Cutting off your head is the ultimate act of violence because it ends your life. How do you generate compassion towards someone trying to kill you? How do you quell your own rage? Understand that this person has not analyzed his or her actions with superior knowledge. He or she lacks wisdom, is ignorant, afflicted, and confused. This dark state of mind inevitably leads to negative actions that create negative karma for the one who wishes to injure you. Then think, "I see what a pitiable state this person is in, and I wish to arouse compassion towards her. In a previous life she was my father or mother, yet now she is lost in such ignorance and confusion that she wants to kill me." A thought process like this can be very effective in nurturing compassion. Once fully aroused, compassion enables you to take upon yourself the current misdeed of the person who intends to kill you. And on the basis of great compassion, you can take on all misdeeds the person has ever committed. By practicing tong len, absorbing all the person's negativity and sending out all your positive qualities, the enemy becomes your Dharma friend, your benefactor who increases the vast store of merit needed to reach Buddhahood.


The Buddha himself offers many inspiring examples. In his multiple lives as a Bodhisattva, The Awakened One was often killed, but he viewed these deaths as an opportunity to accumulate merit and to develop deep compassion for the person who took his life. Thus, he amassed great merit and in his final incarnation attained enlightenment.

When someone is trying to physically injure us, the practice is to meditate on patience for oneself and compassion for our enemy. Imagine a child who loves his mother very much. Suddenly, the mother goes crazy and begins to beat him because she is emotionally unbalanced.

The child's affection makes it easier for him to respond to the mother's distress patiently and compassionately, and to help her find a cure. Using this example, we can regard someone trying to harm us as our mother who has gone mad, and our attitude should be helpful. Those compelled to injure, even kill, have no control over their emotions. Possessed by anger or rage, they lose all self-control and strike out or even commit murder. There was once a book printer called Pharken Togden, which means "the one with high realization." In those days, books were printed from letters carved into pieces of wood, so his name became "the book printer of high realization." He was a very famous siddha with many qualities arisen from meditation. How Pharken Thogden came to practice the Dharma was rather unusual. One day as he sat carving, his mother unexpectedly showed up and disturbed his concentration. Pharken Thogden became so enraged that he lost control and beat her on the head with a block of wood until she died. Regaining his senses and seeing the horror of what he had done, he was overwhelmed by grief and shock.

Pharken Thogden's remorse was so great that he undertook a long pilgrimage to all the holy places in Tibet, including Mount Kailash, which was as far from his home in Eastern Tibet as he could go. Wherever he traveled, the grieving son carried his mother's head with him. Lama Pharken Togden endured many hardships on his pilgrimage. Afterwards, he returned home and dedicated the rest of his life to Dharma practice. In this way he became a highly realized being with many special qualities.

This example shows that without intending to, anyone can be overpowered by anger, lose control, and commit terrible deeds. Thus, sentient beings that harm others do not have power over their own senses. Through ignorance, they lose control; through confusion, they cause harm. Remembering this, we develop deep compassion. Have you ever been so furious that anger kept you awake and lack of sleep disturbed your mind and made you unhappy the next day? Perhaps you could not eat, could not concentrate, were irritable and distressed. All this because of anger. Now imagine that the person wishing to harm you is experiencing the same agitation: seething with hatred, unable to sleep, obsessed by vengeance. On the basis of your own experience, you can empathize and feel compassion for someone whose anger is the root of his suffering. More methods on how to take upon yourself the misdeeds of others are well described in Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye's Seven Points of Mind Training, called The Great Path to Awakening.

Practice 14
Returning praise for slander


Should someone slander you
Throughout a billion worlds,
With a heart full of love, to proclaim his good qualities in return
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Each of us thinks we are very important. When someone challenges our conceit by circulating unflattering lies about us, we condemn him or her. In Thogme's example, a slanderous person is broadcasting these lies throughout a billion worlds. In Tibetan, the term for "billion worlds" is sometimes translated as one tricosm, meaning one thousand to the power of three. Try to imagine a thousand worlds, multiplied by another thousand, which again is multiplied by another thousand. This is a very vast space! There are countless tricosms, a vast, endless number of worlds. Therefore, the text uses the metaphor of a billion worlds to suggest how far slander can extend. In our time, through television, radio, email, and other technology, it is possible to circulate a slanderous rumor around the globe. But that is as far as we can go.

When someone is going about slandering you, what can you do? The first reaction is to retaliate, to tell everyone who will listen how despicable the other fellow is-not exactly a Bodhisattva's response. But if, instead of striking back, you can lovingly praise this person and proclaim his or her virtues, then you are behaving like a true Bodhisattva.


Also be aware that it is generally better for one's Dharma practice to be obscure than to be famous. When we are not well known, pride has less opportunity to take root. Obscurity helps us develop an aversion to samsara and brings us to the Dharma. On the other hand, fame and prominence can generate so much pride that we eventually behave counter to the Dharma. We commit negative actions that contradict the Buddha's path or that destroy our own practice. This is important for us to know.


Though we practice correctly, if we think, "What a good person I am, what fine qualities I possess, what a warm and loving heart I have!" this is pride. Then, when somebody reveals what a miserable person we really are, our inflated self-esteem pops. Therefore, our slanderer is actually a friend who helps deflate our pride, the real enemy. Instead of harboring anger against this person, gratitude is more appropriate.

Practice 15
Responding to public humiliation


If in the middle of a crowd of people
Someone reveals your hidden faults and abuses you for them,
To see him as a spiritual friend and to bow with respect
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

This verse speaks of an abusive person who publicly reveals all our hidden faults and secrets. How do we respond like a Bodhisattva? Once again, the first impulse is to retaliate in kind. However, if we suppress this impulse in order to objectively ponder the actual criticisms, we may realize that they are accurate. We do have such faults. Observing them diminishes pride. What our abuser has actually done is to instruct us as a guru might. Whatever points out our actual faults and humbles us is a Dharma teaching. If we have a guru, he or she does not constantly praise us. That would just increase our pride. To keep us humble, the master may occasionally even abuse or hit us. Similarly, we can consider our public abuser no less than a spiritual friend, a helpful guru who restrains our pride. On this basis, we bow respectfully to the individual. If we can actually do this, we are behaving like a Bodhisattva.

In Milarepa's early life, his aunt and uncle continually insulted him and his family. These insults helped him develop a thorough disgust for and renunciation of samsara that enabled him to generate compassion for the cruel relatives. Renunciation and compassion became the bedrock of immense inner strength that enabled the Jetsun to meditate throughout his entire life. Another example concerns the translator, Vairochana, and the great practitioner, Namkhai Nyingpo, at a time when the Vajrayana was new to Tibet. When people saw them, they decided the two were dangerous practitioners of black magic, very bad men. This rumor spread and soon Vairochana and Namkhai Nyingpo were forced into exile. Vairochana was banished to the very east of Tibet, where the forest was so dense it was thought no one could survive there. Namkhai Nyingpo was sent to the far south, where the forests were also very thick and water scarce. Both practitioners accepted exile as an opportunity for solitary practice, became accomplished meditators, and attained great realization. Their story illustrates how it is possible to bring lies against oneself onto the path of Dharma.


Practice 16
Responding to ingratitude

If someone whom you dearly cherish like your own child
Takes you for an enemy,
Then, like a mother whose child is sick,
To love that person even more
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

In this example, a mother has a beloved child whom she has nurtured from birth. The child becomes ill, cries all night, and is cranky. Because she cherishes her child, she does not lose her temper. Instead, she tries to calm and soothe her baby. Keeping this analogy in mind, imagine that someone we have loved and nurtured for many years irrationally turns against us. The Bodhisatta's challenge is to increase compassion toward this person. An angry response is of no benefit, and it destroys Bodhisattva activity. If when someone dear to us treats us like an enemy and we can still practice loving kindness and compassion, then we are acting like a Bodhisattva.


Remember that the person behaving so ungratefully is incapable of seeing our kindness and good intentions because his or her negative state makes it impossible. The situation is like the process of observing a flower. Light allows us to perceive a flower and appreciate its beauty. Without light, perception cannot take place because the conditions are wrong, the circumstances negative. It is like this when someone we care about imagines we are their adversary.

Another example is a teacher eager for his students to become skilled and learned. This teacher imposes a challenging, disciplined schedule. The students must study diligently, behave properly in the classroom, and so on. So the students start to think, "Oh, this teacher is terrible. How he makes us suffer! We do nothing but study, study, and more study. What a hard time he gives us!" They do not understand that their work will benefit them in the future. Anger and resentment darken their minds, and negative circumstances blind them to the qualities of the teacher and his teaching. They perceive the teacher as their adversary, even though he or she has their best interests at heart. If we apply this example to individuals whose negative thoughts distort their perception of us, we can develop compassion.

In the lineage of the Shangpa Kagyu, there was once a very kind woman who was not well treated in return. This woman, later known as Sukhasiddhi, was married and the mother of two sons. The family was very poor. One day, when she was about sixty years old, her husband and sons went out to search for food. Only a single bowl of rice remained in the house. While they were away, a starving beggar knocked at her door and asked for food. So great was her compassion that Sukhasiddhi cooked the rice and gave it to the beggar. Her husband and sons returned that evening exhausted and hungry. They had not found anything to eat and ordered the mother to cook the last of the rice. When she told them she had given it to a beggar, the men became so enraged that they beat her, dragged her by the hair, threw her out of the house, and told her not to come back. Though forced to abandon home and family and to experience many difficulties, Sukhasiddhi eventually encountered an accomplished yogi who taught her Dharma. She meditated so well that siddhis arose through which she transformed herself into a young woman of sixteen, became renowned as a great yogini, and obtained the rainbow body when she died. You can read the biography of Sukhasiddhi and study her many profound teachings. Sukhasiddhi's life, in which the wrath of her husband and sons helped her along the path, exemplifies how the anger of another can benefit one's Dharma practice. In brief, for a Bodhisattva with great wisdom and great compassion, all conditions-whether negative or positive-can be brought to the path of Dharma.

Practice 17
Responding to spite


Even when someone who is your equal or inferior
Driven by spite seeks to defame you,
To place him on the crown of your head
With the same respect you would accord your guru
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Being despised is a wonderful remedy for pride. Praise has the opposite effect: Instead of deflating pride, praise inflates it. Of the two, then, which benefits your Dharma practice more? And why is it that praise causes pride, and blame causes frustration? Why do we enjoy praise and reject blame? When we analyze that question with our intelligence, we discover that both pride and frustration are concepts dependent on thoughts. Once we understand this conceptual process, it is easy to understand emptiness.

You may start out as a good Dharma practitioner, then everyone begins to praise you. The result? Your pride grows. You do not notice it happening, so you do not apply a remedy. And then? You begin to act against the Dharma and to harm others. But when people blame you and are spiteful, then naturally your pride is squashed. Therefore, blame is much more useful than praise, and we should respect those who despise us no less than we revere our guru.


Even an excellent student endowed with a good heart and good fortune can succumb to wrong views. For example, the Dakinis foretold that the pride of one of Milarepa's main disciples, Rechungpa, would be an obstacle in his spiritual development. Having gone to India twice, Rechungpa began to think, "What a very educated man I've become, and a very fine scholar, too." He became puffed up with pride, even imagining he was Milarepa's equal. Milarepa, eventually tamed Rechungpa's pride by manifesting miracles through which the disciple realized what an accomplished yogi his guru was. You can read about Rechungpa in the biography of Milarepa. Also, The Thousand Songs of Milarepa contains many stories about Rechungpa and how he developed wrong views. One of the main ones is the story of the yak horn.

Practice 18
Abandoning discouragement

Though gripped by poverty and always scorned,

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