A week ago I was in the parking lot of a grocery store and looked up to see a drug addict selling a magazine (part of a program here in Norway to support the homeless and drug addicted) and a few feet away I saw a happy little girl of maybe 5 years old dancing around next to her mother. Then I heard myself suddenly repeat a mantra within me: “Human potential. Human potential. Human potential….”
When I took the Bodhisattva Vow 2 years ago I vaguely understood what I was doing intellectually and I had some reservations taking it, as it was rather last minute and I felt my conceptual mind wrestling with this decision since I had little time to consider the enormity of what I was going to be committing to (in this life and others as this vow extends into future lives). But the rapid spring of cautionary thoughts were overshadowed by a calling from my heart to take refuge in this vow and to do it with a living reflection of that vow who has deeply inspired me, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. I’d work out the details later, I told myself.
Now, only now, 2 years later am I starting to uncover the full power of this vow to cultivate an incredibly empowered heart, expansive compassion, and the ability to pierce the tendency of the mind to pigeonhole the actions of another human. This pigeonholing has caused me to conceptually put a layer of cement of codification over an individual which prevents them from altering in my vision and regard. It also simplifies their breadth and complexity and rationalizes the shutting down of my heart towards them (and in the end to myself as well).
In short, the fulfilling of the Bodhisattva Vow shaves down the potential of my own mind to produce delusion, suffering, and selfishness.
The Bodhisattva Vow, as a commitment to reduce suffering in the world makes it clear ON A HEART LEVEL that I must embrace EVERYONE without condition into the center of my heart irregardless of the quality of their mind. And in those moments when I find the courage to pull open the contours of my heart to swallow an act or person or circumstance I simply did not know I had the capability to do previously—I find nothing, absolutely nothing but a wash of surrender and love so wide I am usually left with tears in my eyes and a sense of abiding calm.
Just love remains.
I am no longer just attempting to lovingly embrace those who are nice and attentive to me, but every Mr. and Ms. Nasty. All beings are now embraced and deserving of my love, service, and attention. Instead of considering if someone is in my good graces, I have to see all humans as an expression of grace! Without exception.
A bodhisattva is a warrior of love. Indeed the vow calls on me for continual acts of loving bravery to unhook and unravel all the conditions I have sitting in the hidden places of my heart that shut my compassion and love out.
However, if the door into the heart is challenging to walk through, an understanding on the nature of mind can help a lot. If we study systems like Yoga, Vedanta, and Buddhism we are met with some really useful teachings. For example:
1. The contents of the mind do not define who we are fundamentally.
2. Thoughts, speech, and action are just an expression of the mind’s ability to produce beautiful dreams and nightmarish disasters.
3. The mind’s creative potential is expressed as temporary and constantly morphing.
The other day at a teaching here in Oslo, His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama taught that we can understand the mind by viewing it as water. Water is pure and neutral at its base nature. Yet, if we put dirt into a glass of water, the water is colored by that dirt and we accidentally assume that the dirt is the water, but when the dirt is filtered out the water is once again unsoiled, expressing its essential neutrality.
He went on to say that the only reason we can transform the contents of the mind, for example, turn anger into compassion IS because the essential nature of the mind is neutral just like water. This makes a lot of sense.
Of course what this means is that we have to start seeing that potential within ourselves and then view others as having that same potential.
Suddenly the ability to call anyone ‘good’ or ‘bad’ seems a bit ridiculous, as we see we are just acknowledging what potential of the mind has been cultivated and fed. No one is essentially, anything really, in this regard.
A profound understanding of mind can unchain the limitations on our heart and a profound surrender of heart can make us intensely aware of the mind’s potential.
Now more and more, I find that I’m more fully able to “serve” in this quest to reduce suffering in the world by staying aware that I am encountering (myself included) beings who view themselves as people who have minds instead of minds that are expressing themselves as people.
Nothing IN the mind is solid. Nothing IN the mind is stable.
But if I may use a bit of poetic license for a moment; sometimes the mind can glimpse the eternity of a radical, boundless heart.
The calm loving eternity that occurs when my ability to compassionately embrace the hurting, defensive, greedy, mad, aggressive, manipulative, depressed, scared, sorrowful, and insulating expressions of the mind and wake up my heart in the presence of it.
All in a day’s work of an aspiring Bodhisattva.