Ultimate Bodhicitta is non-dual. When a person like me says “non-dual,” I’m thinking about something like a first-level bodhisattva. Even that can be too much, but it’s close. How will a first-level bodhisattva manifest for the benefit of other sentient beings? As non-dual. But it can’t be totally non-dual, because otherwise the first-level bodhisattva would be Buddha. But we have to be practical and honest. If I saw a first-level bodhisattva and a Buddha together, I don’t know if I would recognize which is which. I’m afraid I might say to the Buddha, “Please wait here,” thinking he is the attendant! I might bring the first-level bodhisattva to my home and serve him. This is because, compared to us, the first-level bodhisattva’s Bodhicitta is non-dual and ultimate, so it would be hard for us to know the difference at that level.
The second-level bodhisattva’s Bodhicitta and activity manifestation is non-dual compared to the first-level bodhisattva, and this can go on and on and on. But what is the ultimate bodhicitta? The non-dual manifestation, the Buddha, Buddha activity—only that is final. That is the definition of Buddha. So these two things are important for us to know—relative bodhicitta, which is how we practice, and the ultimate bodhicitta, which is always within us, always there, but when it is totally liberated, it is called enlightenment. And Buddha’s compassion, Buddha’s loving-kindness, Buddha’s joy, Buddha’s impartiality are, taken together, the ultimate bodhicitta.
In order for a person like ourselves to apply Bodhicitta in our everyday lives, a few important principles are described. These five principles are entitled 'Five Strengths'. This means a strength that will never be exhausted, a strength that can go on and on until enlightenment. This is inner strength. Every bodhisattva should practice these five strengths.
- The first strength: is described as “I will attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.” If we know what enlightenment is, if we know what we mean when we say “I,” if we know what we mean when we say “I will attain enlightenment,” if we know what “all sentient beings” means, if we know precisely what we mean when we say “attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings,” that is the first strength. Once we say it, and we know what we say, we’ll never give up.
- The second strength: is that once we say it personally and honestly, we have the constant motivation towards action related to that first strength. And those conditions will help us to gain the momentum to go on.
- The third strength: is that when that momentum goes on, everything becomes like a seed. Whatever we do now becomes a seed for the next thing. That particular creation which comes out of the seed isn’t just a fruit that comes up and is gone. It will be another seed. Everything becomes a seed. When we look at it from another point of view, this is karma. Karma means condition, so everything that is done now becomes a condition for later. Everything that is happening now has a condition related with the past.
- The fourth strength:To illustrate the fourth strength, we have a saying. “When I make a journey of a million miles, I might miss my step, I might slip millions of times, but I will put my feet back on my path.” We’re expected to make mistakes. We must not, but we will. It’s almost guaranteed. All of us will make mistakes—sometimes terrible mistakes—but we should learn from our mistakes and not lie to ourselves. We shouldn’t try to brainwash ourselves that our faults are not faults. We make mistakes and we learn from them. Very simple. We acknowledge our mistakes and then bring ourselves back to the right track and go on. Then we become invincible, because there is nothing that can destroy us. We recognize every mistake we make and we go on. Any bad situation that happens becomes good circumstances for us because it helps us to see all of our mistakes that caused the negative situation.
- The fifth strength: is very important -to let go of everything at every moment. I have to explain this a little bit more. When we say “Let go of everything,” it means that when we do something good, if we don’t let go of that, we’ll get stuck there. We might get proud of it. And when we get proud of it, we naturally become arrogant. That arrogance becomes a roadblock for us that will keep us from progressing. That is why we totally dedicate anything positive that we’re able to do. We don’t think about it, we just appreciate it and then dedicate it for everyone.
In the practice of Vajrayana Buddhism especially, it is always emphasized that if we forget to dedicate, then our good deed isn’t complete. For that reason, every prayer or practice has three parts—the beginning—the refuge and bodhicitta—the actual practice, and the dedication. First we remind ourselves of Buddha, his teachings and his followers, and bodhicitta—the four limitless thoughts that I just described. Then, the actual practice. Last is the dedication. When we dedicate, it simply means, “I dedicate this merit, I dedicate this wisdom, for the benefit of all sentient beings.” We can add, “I dedicate this merit and wisdom for the benefit of all sentient beings, so I will attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.” If we add that, it becomes complete. That is the fifth strength.
These five strengths empower our Bodhicitta and make it complete and strong. That way it gains momentum and goes on non-stop.
I’ve read in many Mahayana sutras and commentaries that if we have pure bodhicitta, the four limitless thoughts, and all of these strengths together, then even if we’re not doing anything, our Bodhicitta naturally increases. It says, “Every pulse that is moving in your body, every breath that you take, becomes practice.” That is quite good. And the reason is because we are the bodhicitta, so therefore we are the bodhisattva.
Excerpt of a Teaching given by His Eminence Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche