When I started posting these Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices I never thought the mere act of compiling them could bring so much meaning to my life. Kinda feel like one of those bald-headed monks living in a cloistered society copying ancient words of wisdom so that others could learn to live life better.
I thought of a monk with quill in hand sitting at a tilted table by candle light scribbling — no, not scribbling, but gently writing each vowel and consonant — placing letter after letter on a piece of parchment, hoping the words would touch the heart of at least one person, bringing him or her closer to a Divine Truth.
Now, instead of a Christian monk, let’s shift from West to East, using the same vision, but with a Buddhist twist. The monk has the same bald head, the same robes, the same quill writing daily to help others find a path to Enlightenment. Daily contemplation of the words helps one to lead a more fulfilling life, easing suffering for the Self and others, the monk might have said, had modern scribes been able to interview him at his cave where he created his “best work.”
Don’t see much difference. A cave versus a monastery. Not different in the practice, except for the accent Buddhism places on “suffering.” It highlights something they call the The Four Noble Truths, and sets the stage to help ease, or transcend suffering, not only for participants themselves but for “all” beings. All sentient beings including animals and other life forms. (Can I get an “Amen“ from admirers of St. Francis of Assisi?)
I feel doubly grateful for being able to present these words, having “stumbled” across them just last week and, upon reading them, feeling a “need” to share them one day at a time. Composing, typing and editing them — in essence reading each line three or four times each — has helped to soothe me. In addition, I’m much better spelling such words as Bodhisattva. (There, I did it without looking at the text.) Some of the words seem archaic, some obscured. But the thrust of them go to what I have come to believe is for the greatest benefit of all.
“Due to my inferior intellect and poor learning, this is not poetry that will please scholars, yet as I have relied upon the sutras and the speech of the Sublime Ones, I think the Bodhisattva Practices are not mistaken,” said the monk Thogme who presented them nearly a thousand years ago.
“However, because it is difficult for one of inferior intellect like myself to fathom the depth of the great deeds of Bodhisattvas, I beseech the Sublime Ones to forbear my errors such as contradictions and incoherent reasoning. By the virtue arising from this,” the monk continued, “may all sentient beings become, through excellent convention and ultimate bodchicitta, like the protector Chenrezig who does not abide in the extremes of existence or peace.”
There is so much my “inferior” mind fails to understand while reading this from a Western perspective. But I can appreciate the man who gave of himself to help benefit all. “This was written for the benefit of himself and others by the monk Thogme, an exponent of scripture and reasoning, in a cave in Ngulchu Rinchen,” says the tiny booklet given to me by a Buddhist monk in Philadelphia a week ago. I’m presenting it here on WordPress with a modern version written by Alexander Berzin, a scholar who has given much of his life to help the East and West.
Berzin was born in Paterson, New Jersey, earning BA, MA and Ph.D degrees from many universities, including Harvard. He has focused on Sanskrit and Indian studies and lived some 30 years practicing with masters from the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions. His main teacher was Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche, the late Master Debate Partner and Assistant Tutor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, according to Berzin’s official website. (See Thirty-seven Bodhisattva Practices) “He served as his interpreter and secretary for nine years, accompanying him on several world tours. He has also served as occasional Dharma interpreter for His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” the website noted.
Berzin now lives in Berlin, Germany.
Don’t think it’s a monastery. Pretty sure it’s no cave. I wonder if he got the same feeling of peace and a connection to history as he was compiling his life’s work. On a typewriter. You know, those cave-like devices invented after the quill, but before people used computers to serve the Word.