37 practices: ultimate bodhicitta overview 22-24

22. To remain free from subject-object fixation

All appearances are my own mind; / mind’s nature from the start is concept-free.

To know my own mind’s nature and refrain / from grasping onto subject-object signs:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

23. To give up attachment to positive experiences

When I encounter something that’s delightful / such as a rainbow on a summer day,

To give up all attachment to its beauty / and never cling to it as truly real:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

24. To regard adverse circumstances as delusion

All forms of suf-fer-ing are just like dreaming / that my belov-ed child has passed away.

Appearances like these are just delusions; / to take them as real drains my energy.

When I encounter adverse circumstances, / to see them as delusions of my mind:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

Audio of verses 22-24 together, above: note changes in verse 22 line 3 and in verse 23 line 1. Audio will be updated soon.

Up to now, we have completed the preliminaries for the path of full awakening (verses 1-7); an overview of the motivations for embarking on this path (verses 8-10); the main meditation practice that underlies all the specific practices of relative bodhicitta (cultivating love and compassion through taking and sending, verse 11); and practice with a number of specific situations for cultivating relative bodhicitta in daily life (bodhisattva boot camp, verses 12-19). In verses 20 and 21 we looked at how to work with two of the three root emotional poisons: anger and desire. These two verses acted as a bridge, serving as the last two verses of bodhisattva boot camp (how to deal with specific situations) as well as the first two of the three root emotional poisons (anger and desire). And now, in verse 22, we tackle the third root poison, ignorance, which gives rise to anger, desire, and all the other poisons, which then unfold into the full spectrum of samsaric existence and suffering.

Transcending ignorance — how and why: In verse 22, we are given the key to transcending and freeing ourselves from ignorance, aka, dualistic grasping, aka, relating to all our experience in mistaken terms of subject and object, truly existing self and truly existing other. This is the very nature of confusion, the opposite of wisdom, the opposite of being awake.

Verse 22 tells us how to wake ourselves up from this dream by meditating on ultimate bodhicitta, both on the cushion and in daily life. Verses 23 and 24 tell us how to apply this specifically to pleasant circumstances, which give rise to desire, and unpleasant circumstances, which give rise to aversion, in order to view them from the perspective of ultimate bodhicitta, the true nature of all our experience.

As Gampopa advises us at the beginning of Ornament of Precious Liberation, “That which is known as samsara is, by nature, emptiness, taking the form of illusions and characterized by suffering . . . . What causes the delusion? It occurs through great ignorance . . . . Those who think that illusion may dissolve on its own should be aware that samsara is renowned for being endless. [Considering] samsara in terms of it being an illusion, the extent of its suffering, its duration, and that it is not self-dispelling, strive in all earnestness and with great diligence, from this very moment onward, to attain unsurpassable enlightenment.” In short, there is no other way to free ourselves and others from the all-pervasive suffering of cyclic existence than to directly realize the nondual nature of our own mind and all appearances, per verse 22.

The mind training tradition teaches that we need to begin by cultivating relative bodhicitta — love and compassion — as we have done in the verses 11-21. The verses on cultivating ultimate bodhicitta — the true nature of reality —  will guide us to begin to see through the basic constructs that keep us trapped in our samsaric prison. And once we have developed in this set of verses a basis for transcending the confusion of dualistic ignorance, we will be ready to combine relative and ultimate bodhicitta in the practices of the six paramitas, or transcending actions, which — if we apply them mindfully and diligently — will carry our boat to the other shore of awakening. Tokme Zangpo will explain these practices in verses 25-30.

The index of the study guide and recordings of the classes are here.

Next practice: Verse 22: to transcend dualistic appearances

Complete list of verses to date: “37 practices translation” at top of screen, or click on link

The complete study guide: click here (see “about the 37 practices study guide” at top of page for orientation if needed)