37 practices: verses 31-34

Verses 31-34: the four instructions from the sutra

For the first time since this class began a year ago in June 2017, we are going to attempt the feat of discussing four verses at once. This is both because they go together, and because they are all pretty straightforward. They are called the four instructions from the sutra because they were all included in The Sutra That Encourages Noble Superior Intention, a teaching on the proper conduct of bodhisattvas given by Buddha Shakyamuni to the bodhisattva Maitreya and others. This is explained in endnote 96 of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s commentary.

His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, addresses them, in his book Traveling the Path of Compassion, as potential pitfalls we should avoid on the path. They are basically actions we should avoid or abandon in order to keep our practice true. Though the first one (31) is expressed as a positive, “to examine and give up my own confusion,” the point is that we can’t consider ourselves authentic practitioners if we don’t examine our own confusion first and foremost. The other three are expressed as actions to avoid: talking about the faults and mistakes of others on the bodhisattva path (32), getting involved with worldly rewards and concerns related to benefactors, relatives, and friends (33), and speaking harshly to others (34).

Here are the verses:

31. To examine and give up my own confusion

If I don’t look into my own confusion, / I could be just a Buddhist counterfeit —

A person who has all the outer trappings / but doesn’t act the way the Buddha taught.

To always analyze my own confusion / and then take measures to abandon it:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

Verse 31 audio above.

32. To avoid relating the faults of bodhisattvas

If I, compelled by reactivity, / relate another bodhisattva’s fault,

It undermines my own integrity / and I myself decline as a result.

To never speak of faults or of mistakes / of someone on the Mahayana path:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

Verse 32 audio above.

33. To give up attachment to worldly domains

When I am swayed by honor and reward, / I may fall prey to quarrels and discord,

And motivation may disintegrate / to study, contemplate and meditate.

Abandoning attachment to domains / of benefactors, relatives and friends:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

Verse 33 audio above.

34. To refrain from harsh speech

Harsh words, besides upsetting other people, / impair my bodhisattva practice too.

To give up speech that’s harsh, rude, or abusive, / unpleasant for recipients to hear:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

Verse 34 audio above.

Verses 31-34 audio above

More to come after this week’s class!

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

Next practice: Verses 35-36: to practice mindfulness and vigilance

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

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