Inspirations from Bodhisattvas: Cultivating Our Intentions and Aspirations

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March 25, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Silver Spring, Maryland, community online on Thursday evening
March 26, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all online on Friday evening

Dear Still Water Friends,

Intention or aspiration is one of the four kinds of nutriments that the Buddha explored in the Discourse on the Four Kinds of Nutriments.

As a way to remember my intention and aspiration to wake up, I have recently started to chant before each sitting an adapted version of  the ‘Incense Offering’ (I call it the  ‘Heart Offering’). This Thursday and Friday evenings I will share this chant at the beginning of our meditation period.

I also regularly recite “Invoking the Names of the Bodhisattvas,” where I remember and cultivate awakened qualities embodied by the Five Great Bodhisattvas of Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Samantabhadra, Kshitigarbha, and Sadaparibhuta.

As Thich Nhat Hanh explained in a 1998 Dharma talk:

Bodhisattvas are awakened beings. We also have our nature of awakening, no less than they, but we have to train ourselves. One way is to practice invoking the names of the great bodhisattvas—Avalokiteshvara (Regarder of the Cries of the World), Manjushri (Great Understanding), Samantabhadra (Universal Goodness), and Kshitigarbha (Earth Store). When we recite their names in a deep, relaxed way, every word can touch our hearts and the hearts of those listening. In the beginning, we still feel separate from these bodhisattvas. But, practicing steadily, we realize that we are Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Samantabhadra, and Kshitigarbha. It is not important whether they were historic figures, born in such and such a year or in such and such a place. The key is to realize their qualities within ourselves.

We will begin our program with a guided meditation on the four bodhisattvas mentioned above and also Sadaparibhuta (Never Disparaging  or Great Reverence). I will also introduce you to the sound of the Taiwan Sangha’s new thirteen inch copper bell. It came from a bell factory that Thay visited years ago and selected bells for Plum Village practice centers.

We will begin our Dharma sharing with these questions:

  • What is the intention or aspiration that brings you back over and over again to practice?
  • Which parts of  the chanting and invocation especially touched you or inspired you?
  • How might you use these practices and text to cultivate these Bodhisattva qualities in yourself and others?

You are invited to join us.

The text of the “Heart Offering” and Invocation of the Bodhisattvas” are below.

Peace and Blessings,
水花 Sœui Fah

Heart Offering          
[Adapted from the Plum Village Incense Offering]

In gratitude we offer our hearts
Throughout space and time
To all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
May it be beautiful as Earth herself,
Reflecting careful efforts,
Wholehearted awareness,
And the fruit of understanding slowly ripening.
May we and all beings
Be companions of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
May we awaken to heartfulness
And realize our true home.

Invoking the Names of Bodhisattvas

We invoke your name, Avalokiteshvara.
[Regarder of the Cries of the World, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion]

We aspire to learn your way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen in order to understand. We invoke your name in order to practice listening with all our attention and open-heartedness. We will sit and listen without any prejudice. We will sit and listen without judging or reacting. We will sit and listen in order to understand. We will sit and listen so attentively that we will be able to hear what the other person is saying and also what is being left unsaid. We know that just by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other person.

We invoke your name, Manjushri.
[Bodhisattva of Great Understanding or Great Wisdom]

We aspire to learn your way, which is to be still and to look deeply into the heart of things and into the hearts of people. We will look with all our attention and open-heartedness. We will look with unprejudiced eyes. We will look without judging or reacting. We will look deeply so that we will be able to see and understand the roots of suffering, the impermanent and selfless nature of all that is. We will practice your way of using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering, thus freeing ourselves and other species.

We invoke your name, Samantabhadra.
[Universal Goodness, the Bodhisattva of Great Action]

We aspire to practice your vow to act with the eyes and heart of compassion, to bring joy to one person in the morning and to ease the pain of one person in the afternoon. We know that the happiness of others is our own happiness, and we aspire to practice joy on the path of service. We know that every word, every look, every action, and every smile can bring happiness to others. We know that if we practice wholeheartedly, we ourselves may become an inexhaustible source of peace and joy for our loved ones and for all species.

We invoke your name, Kshitigarbha.
[Earth Store, the Bodhisattva of Great Aspiration]

We aspire to learn your way of being present where there is darkness, suffering, oppression and despair, so we can bring light, hope, relief, and liberation to those places. We are determined not to forget about or abandon those in desperate situations. We will do our best to establish contact with those who cannot find a way out of their suffering, those whose cries for help, justice, equality, and human rights are not being heard. We know that hell can be found in many places on Earth. We will do our best not to contribute to creating more hells on Earth, and to help transform the hells that already exist.

We will practice in order to realize the qualities of perseverance and stability, so that, like the Earth, we can always be supportive and faithful to those in need.

We invoke your name, Sadaparibhuta.
[Never Disparaging , the Bodhisattva of  Great Reverence]

We aspire to learn your way of never disparaging or underestimating any living being. With great respect, you say to all you meet, “You are someone of great value, you have Buddha nature, I see this potential in you.” We will look with a wise, compassionate gaze, so we are able to hold up a mirror where others can see their ultimate nature reflected. We will remind people who feel worthless that they too are a precious wonder of life.

We vow to water only the positive seeds in ourselves and in others, so that our thoughts, words, and actions can encourage confidence and self-acceptance in ourselves, our children, our loved ones, and in everyone we meet. Inspired by the great faith and insight that everyone is Buddha, we will practice your way of patience and inclusiveness so we can liberate ourselves from ignorance and misunderstanding, and offer freedom, peace, and joy to ourselves, to others and to our society.