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Protecting and Maintaining Bodhicitta


According to Buddhist teachings, human life, at once so precious and so fragile, is the existential opportunity par excellence. Of all forms of existence, it is the only one in which development along a spiritual trajectory is truly possible. And yet the occasion is easily wasted.

The problem lies in the mind itself, or rather in the emotions that arise there. The simple but difficult task is to become aware of how thoughts emerge and develop.

Just as the mind is the source of every suffering, likewise it is the wellspring of every joy. The good news is that the mind can be controlled and trained.


The technique prescribed by Shāntideva is that of constant, unrelenting careful observation—constantly paying attention to what is happening within ourselves. He says that we should guard our minds with the same care with which we would protect a broken or wounded arm while moving through an unruly crowd; and here again, the educative methods of fear and encouragement have their place. Shāntideva recommends that as soon as we feel the urge to do anything—to speak or even to walk across the room—we should get into the habit of self-examination.

Shāntideva refers to the minutiae of everyday behavior—all the little things we habitually overlook, excusing ourselves with the thought that they are too insignificant to bother about. In such a practice, in fact, it is precisely the small, often subliminal impulses and behavior patterns that require the closest attention. And in any case, everything we do affects the world. Any action can be the cause, or the cause of the cause, of another’s suffering. Thus the way we eat, walk, move furniture around, even matters of personal hygiene—all are significant.

Coming at the conclusion of the post devoted to the protection of bodhichitta, patience is celebrated as the supreme austerity. It is the antidote to anger, regarded in Buddhism as the most destructive and perilous of all mental factors. And enemies are best teachers.

Events that seem beyond our control are in fact the fruits of former actions, which means that it is incorrect to claim that the enemy is nothing but an aggressor.


Even more, given the consequences of the enemies’ evil deeds, and also the great results of patience in the face of adversity. Enemies are not merely the objects of tolerance; they are to be cherished as indispensable helpers on the Bodhisattva path. Our enemies do for us what no friend or loved one can. By awakening us to the reality of our own ego-clinging, our enemies provide opportunities for patience, purification, the exhaustion of evil karma.


Excerpt From

The Way of the Bodhisattva: Shantideva

Further reading


What is bodhicitta? - click here

Lama Yeshe on Bodhicitta - click here

Meditating on Bodhicitta - click here


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