Bodhicitta of Aspiration

In this response to a student question, Phakchok Rinpoche elaborates on the motivation of bodhicitta.

The bodhicitta of aspiration means constantly reminding oneself about the wish to benefit beings and for all beings to be enlightened. So constantly thinking that thought and not forgetting it is aspiring bodhicitta.

Bodhicitta of Application

Now, with that same thought, if we integrate it with everything – absolutely anything we do – that becomes application. With that thought you drink, with that thought you sleep, and with that thought you practice, talk, or act. With that thought, doing dharma becomes bodhicitta of application. But we need to be clear here. What is Dharma? When we say the word “dharma” it doesn’t just mean the Buddha’s teachings. Sometimes we draw this kind of distinction and think that doing Dharma means only sitting in meditation sessions or attending Buddhist ceremonies, or pūjās, at a temple.

But in a bigger way, “Dharma” can mean everything: eating, drinking, sleeping, walking, taking showers, feeding your pets, watering your garden, sending an email, or receiving phone calls. All that can be practice. And if we see that all as Dharma, then every function and every thought becomes the path. Many of us think too narrowly and we see our Dharma practice, our path, as only one hour per day.

Every Moment of Life

For the true practitioner, every moment of life is the path. That means the whole day, all 24 hours! This is because they do every activity with the intention of Bodhicitta. Normally, we tend to make a separation between what is our “Dharmic” and our “normal” lives. We actually are limiting ourselves this way. However, if we remember the intention well, then everything you do becomes different.

Your aspiration always needs to be very vast. When we apply, we should start by taking small steps. We want to benefit all beings, but we need to begin somewhere, right? We start with ourselves. It is best if we begin with one family member, one friend, one action, or one hour-long session. It is important to have a vast aspiration, but as acting beginners, we need to start small so that we don’t have regret. By being smart this way, we don’t feel the burden and we don’t experience “burn-out.”

We can realize that our intention and our application don’t reach the same level right away. They are not exactly parallel: aspiration can be vast while the action starts less vast. Slowly, we will improve and our application will equal the aspiration!  And that, truly, is Buddhahood. Right now, we start with small steps. So we spend an hour doing practice, and an hour helping people. We clean the temple and we clean our altar shrine. Just start slowly, and then begin extending. Naturally, it will start to add up.

This teaching was given in answer to questions at the welcome ceremony for Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche at Riwoche Temple in Toronto in 2017.