Monthly Archives: April 2018

37 practices: verse 27, part 1 of 2

27. To cultivate patience

For bodhisattvas wishing to accrue / a wealth of wholesome virtue and good deeds,

All harm is like a precious treasure trove, / from other people or adversity.

To cultivate a patient attitude, / not feeling irritated or abused:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

verse 27 audio above

Patience is really the basis for all the bodhisattva boot camp practices, starting with verse 12, in which we truly begin to put others first, after setting the ongoing preliminary practices in motion (verses 1-7) and developing the three levels of motivation to wake up (verses 8-10).

Patience is the opposite of emotional reactivity, and it is that freedom, to whatever degree we have cultivated it, that gives us the space and perspective to repay harm with kindness and to see our detractors as our teachers, instead of blindly following the emotional impulses that arise from our ordinary habitual patterns. Geshe Jampa Tegchok, in Transforming the Heart, observes, “All of the practices mentioned earlier that involve transforming bad conditions into the path are included under the practice of patience.”

If we didn’t possess at least a little patience, we wouldn’t even be able to count to 10 before responding to insult or injury — the first step in anger management that most of us learn as children. So the good news is we probably aren’t starting from scratch, even though we may feel we have a long way to go.

So what, exactly, is patience? Gampopa has the answer!

Continue reading

37 practices: verse 26

26. To guard ethical conduct

If, through a lack of ethical conduct, / I can’t accomplish my own benefit,

Then any aspiration to achieve / the benefit of others is a joke.

To keep and guard my ethical conduct / completely free from worldly in-flu-ence:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

Verse 26 audio above.

The paramita or transcending action of ethical conduct is variously referred to as discipline, morality, or ethics, or any combination of these terms. The widely respected translator Lotsawa Tony Duff, in his fabulous online Tibetan-English dictionary The Illuminator, provides a very helpful explanation of what the Tibetan word tsul.trim really means and why “unfortunately, there is no single word that captures this particular flavor in English.” He feels “discipline” is the most accurate option, though still imperfect. I first used “moral discipline” because that’s what Ken Holmes calls it in his translation of Ornament of Precious Liberation, and because it was easy to fit into the verse meter. I later updated it to “ethical conduct” because it’s the term used in Mingyur Rinpoche’s online course on the six paramitas, and I felt it was a bit clearer in meaning. It fits the explanation of this paramita well, and it still fits the meter, though the stresses are a tad less perfect.

So … now that we’ve decided what to call it, at least in this class, what exactly do we mean by ethical conduct, moral discipline, or just discipline?

Continue reading

37 practices: verse 25

25. To practice generosity

If, wishing to attain awakening, / I need to give even my body up,

Then doesn’t it go also without saying / that this applies to mere external stuff?

Without hope for reward or benefit / to generously give away a gift:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

verse 25 audio above

Note: The whole translation to date (verses 1-26) is now posted as a pdf file under “The 37 practices translation” at the top of this page.

Entering the home stretch: With verse 25, Tokme Zangpo introduces the six paramitas, the heart of action bodhicitta. These are the transcending actions we engage in that propel our boat, the precious human existence, to the shore of full awakening. The first five of these actions–generosity, ethical conduct, patience, joyful effort, and meditation — are also ordinary virtues through which we benefit ourselves and others.

When we apply the sixth transcending action, the wisdom that realizes emptiness, to the first five paramitas, that is what makes these virtues transcending actions that also directly help us awaken. This wisdom is the same as ultimate bodhicitta, the nature of mind, which we have already studied in 23-24.

Continue reading