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How To Cultivate Bodhicitta?

~ Virtue is about using your senses in a way that is responsive to the needs of others.

There are four primary conditions upon which bodhichitta can be based and generated.

Number one: bodhichitta — whether you call it good-heartedness, loving kindness, enlightened heart, or awakened heart — is able to arise from innate wakefulness. If you are someone with an innate power of reflection or thoughtfulness, gentleness, and quietness; if you are able, without depending on any external supports, to wake up to the feeling that bodhichitta resonates in your mind — this is one way that bodhichitta can be generated.

Second, bodhichitta is generated through the strength of a virtuous life, which means one’s virtuous attitude and conduct. Such virtue is nothing profound. It means being mindful and consciously aware of how your actions and speech affect others. When you go to a restaurant, for example, and some wonderful person holds the door open so you can pass through, that is a simple gesture of virtue.

Virtue is about decency; it’s about respect. Virtue is about using your senses in a way that is responsive to the needs of others. If that kind of virtue is naturally strong in you — even if you cannot say the Sanskrit word — you can be sure that bodhichitta resides in your heart.

Third, bodhichitta is said to arise from the strength of meditation and contemplation. Through the power of meditating and contemplating, you may meet with the inner wisdom awareness. That very simple “clicking-in” brings the awareness that the actions of your body, speech, and mind do impact the lives of others. You cannot be careless with your attitude or actions, because this is not — as many of us believe — just your life.

Our lives do depend on others; in the same way, many lives do depend on us. What I say and do, my personality, mannerisms and behavior, my likes and dislikes all have an immense impact on the lives of my family and friends, the people I work with, my community, society, and the world at large. When that awareness arises as the resultant state of contemplation, meditation, or reflection that is also a point where bodhichitta can arise.

The fourth basis from which bodhichitta can arise is what you are experiencing [during the Kalachakra empowerment]: by being in the presence of an enlightened spiritual master, whose very life is an inspiration to cultivate bodhichitta. This is the fourth way one may be inspired to meet with bodhichitta. Then you don’t have to spend so much time philosophizing about one of the most simple, beautiful, and most cherished qualities of human nature: loving kindness, which is bodhichitta.

It is very helpful to explore these four: innate wakefulness, the strength of virtue, the strength of meditation, and being in the presence of great beings who exemplify great compassion and loving kindness. These are the bases from which bodhichitta can arise.

Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche, from her “Loving Kindness is Realistic: A Teaching on Bodhicitta”.