That lazy monk...

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That lazy monk...

Post by MindTheGap » Mon Apr 04, 2016 1:49 am

Shantideva was a lazy monk. 
He lived in the eighth century and attended Nalanda University: which, at the time, was possibly the greatest center of learning on the planet. He didn't attend classes. He didn't go to practice sessions for meditation. He mostly kept to himself. According to Pema Chödrön, beloved teacher and author of 'No Time to Lose' -  "His fellow monks said that his three ‘realizations’ were eating, sleeping and shitting."
He was not the class clown, or the teacher's pet - nor was he whatever was the eighth-century equivalent of a nerd or a geek. He didn't fit into anyone's neat little category. In fact, he was not well liked at all by anyone. Despite the scorn of his fellow monks, Shantideva never spoke ill of anyone, and never mistreated his detractors - which was pretty much the entire student body and faculty combined. I can imagine he was the sort of person who did kind things for people that went unsung and unnoticed - because, well, he was Shantideva. Nobody liked Shantideva. It was embarrassing to feel kindly disposed to him after all the scorn heaped upon him. No doubt the secret fear was that to see the good in Shantideva was to ostracize oneself from those who belittled him: people of high regard and import. Yet, his kindness made them uncomfortable in their shame. Can you imagine how that must have infuriated them?
So, his classmates devised a way to humiliate Shantideva. 
They invited him to give a teaching.
It was the sort of invitation that one could not refuse. It was less of an invitation and more of a challenge to "put up or shut up" and "shit, or get off the pot". What they didn't know was that Shantideva, in his aloneness and seclusion, had a seed growing inside him. He asked them if he should give a commentary on something old, or to provide them with a new teaching. Well, this was too much for his classmates and professors - Shantideva, of all people, had the audacity to proclaim that he would provide them with a new teaching; this so-called student who never studied, never attended classes, never showed any talent or ability to evidence any true realizations through his meditation practice.
In short, a man who was not puffed up with pride.
So, of course, they said to Shantideva, "By all means - give us a new teaching!" And so, Shantideva sat down before them and delivered a single poem. In ten chapters.

        The seed sprouted forth.

It's called the Bodhicharyavatara. 

Upon hearing it, his audience was stunned into complete silence: for it was the most concise explanation and description of the path - before or since. It is a collection of heartfelt advice, insightful criticism, a portion of wit and wisdom and a philosophical treatise that is razor sharp. 

       They looked into their hearts and finally recognized all the good in Shantideva that each had kept from one-another.

       The translation of the name, "Bodhicharyavatara" is "The Bodhisattva's Way of Life." A Bodhisattva is someone who stops short of achieving the goal of transcending the suffering of this life and vows to remain until all beings can find cessation from suffering. Not just people, but animals, plants, any being that can feel pain or be harmed in any way. In terms of reincarnation, this person is born again and again... and yet again, to bring compassion to other beings. Many types of people could "fit the bill" as a Bodhisattva. Martin Luther King. Mother Theresa. Mahatma Gandhi. Florence  Nightingale. Oskar Schindler. Albert Schweitzer. Jesus Christ. Even that person you've never met who smiled at you warmly, uplifted your day - and that you never saw again. Where did they come from?
Have you ever been in a checkout line with two, maybe three items? If you are a parent, maybe your kids are squalling. Maybe you've had a rough day at work and you're anxious, depressed or afraid. You feel uncomfortable with the situation - you just want to get the hell out of there. But - the person in front of you has a whole cart of stuff and yet... They smile at you and offer for you to go before them in line. You go to thank them, but they merely smile at you and wish you a good day.
Oh, and there's a phrase they're often fond of.
"Pay it forward."
Because they know that compassion begets compassion, and that is one of their chief motivations in life.
There are a great many quotes from the Bodhicarya -vatara: some of which you may have even heard before but never knew they were attributed to Shantideva. They focus primarily on developing bodhichitta - a very rough translation of which could be "an open heart". It is an attitude of awakening compassion, in oneself and in the world:

"The hostile multitudes are vast as space.
What chance is there that all should be subdued?
Let but this angry mind be overthrown
And every foe is then and there destroyed."

"All the suffering in the world 
comes from seeking pleasure for oneself alone.  
All the happiness in the world 
comes from seeking alone the pleasure of others."

"Where would I possibly find enough leather
With which to cover the surface of the earth?
But the leather on the soles of my shoes
Is equivalent to covering the earth with it

Likewise it is not possible for me
To restrain the external course of things
But should I re-train this mind of mine
What would be the need to restrain all else?"

"My body, thus, and all my good besides,
And all my merits gained and to be gained,
I give them all away withholding nothing
To bring about the benefit of beings."

"May I be like a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road.
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge."

And finally, the one that, for me, sums it all up:

"May all beings everywhere 
Plagued by sufferings of body and mind 
Obtain an ocean of happiness and joy 
        By virtue of my merits.

  May no living creature suffer, 
        Commit evil, or ever fall ill.
        May no one be afraid or belittled, 
With a mind weighed down by depression. 

May the blind see forms 
        And the deaf hear sounds, 
May those whose bodies are worn with toil 
Be restored on finding repose. 

May the naked find clothing, 
        The hungry find food; 
May the thirsty find water 
And delicious drinks. 

May the poor find wealth, 
Those weak with sorrow find joy; 
May the forlorn find hope, 
Constant happiness, and prosperity. 

May there be timely rains 
And bountiful harvests; 
May all medicines be effective 
And wholesome prayers bear fruit. 

May all who are sick and ill 
Quickly be freed from their ailments. 
Whatever diseases there are in the world, 
May they never occur again. 

May the frightened cease to be afraid 
And those bound be freed; 
May the powerless find power, 
And may people think of benefiting each other...

        And now, as long as space endures,
        As long as there are beings to be found,
        May I continue, likewise, to remain,
        To drive away the sorrows of the world."

        So, those who tend to keep to themselves, those who stand outside the course of society yet are capable of a kind word or a kind deed - more even than you may know: scorn them not, for you may yet see them in but one lifetime. Or maybe two.
And now, as long as space endures, As long as there are beings to be found,
May I continue, likewise, to remain, To drive away the sorrows of the world.

- Shantideva: Bodhicharyavatara

In this world there is no man, there is no woman. There is no person, self or consciousness.
Man and woman are merely imputed and have no essence. Thus, the minds of worldly beings are mistaken.

- Wisdom Moon: now known as the Bodhisattva Tara

When there arises a gap in the mind...


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