The Bodhisattvas in Us

The Bodhisattvas in Us

Discussion date: Thu, Mar 27, 2008 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

The predominant insight I carried home from last week’s discussion of violence and nonviolence was our need to stand up for what we believe in. It is not enough to think that people should be compassionate, we must ourselves be compassionate. We must stand up for compassion. As Gandhi put it: "We can work through eternity for peace and not achieve anything, as long as we refuse to be the change we wish to see in the world."

This Thursday’s program will continue this theme. After our meditation, we will perform together the guided movement meditation called "Invoking the Bodhisattvas’ Names." In this meditation we touch the earth and invoke, one after the other, the four Boddhisattvas (enlightened beings) who in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism embody the four basic qualities of a liberated being:

• Avalokiteshvara, the Boddhisattva of great compassion, 
• Manjushri, the Boddhisattva of great wisdom,
• Samantabhadra, the Boddhisattva of great meritorious deeds, and
• Kshitigarbha the Bodhisattva who takes the great vow to rescue all beings from suffering.
 
In the tradition of mindfulness practice, the Boddhisattvas are viewed not as deities, but as human qualities or capabilities which everyone possesses. In invoking the Bodhisattvas names we remind ourselves of these qualities and establish/reaffirm the intention to embody these qualities.

In our discussion we will especially focus on becoming like the Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara:

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. 

I hope you can be with us this Thursday.

In the excerpt below, Thich Nhat Hanh explains the inner attitude with which we prostrate and invoke the Boddhisattvas’ names. (The full text of Invoking the Bodhisattvas’ Names is available on our web site under "Articles and Resources/Still Water Mindfulness Ceremonies.)

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher


An excerpt from Touching the Energy of the Bodhisattvas, a Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on December 21, 1997 in Plum Village, France.

If we don’t have the energy of mindfulness we cannot be in touch with the great bodhisattvas. So while we are in touch with them as we prostrate our mindfulness needs to be complete, overflowing. If you don’t know how to prostrate, then tonight when you have a chance please practice and learn how to do it. When we are standing and we join our palms and hear the words: “With one pointed mind I bow down before Manjusri” we already begin to visualize, to see that raw material, that hand of the Buddha, that energy of wisdom. We bring all our body and mind to one point, and we are in touch with that energy. Our hands are like a lotus bud, we touch our forehead: “With all our brain”. We bring our hands down to our heart and we are in touch with our heart: “With all our heart”. It means we take our brain, we take our heart, and then we put our two hands out to the side and touch the earth. And when our two feet, our two hands and our head are touching the earth we turn our hands upwards very straight, to show that we don’t retain anything, we haven’t held back anything of ourself. And we open the doors of our soul, of our body, all the cells in our body, in order to receive the energy of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, which is already in our body, so that it can circulate in our body. And as we touch the earth we breathe in and out three times to look deeply. While we are on the earth we need to be really there, we need to follow our breathing, we need to allow the energy of the Buddhas, the bodhisattvas, the ancestral teachers to manifest. And after we prostrate like that we will be a different person. After three breaths in and out there will be a stopping of the bell, and at that point we turn our two hands around to put them on the earth, and we stand up.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Mar 27, 2008


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