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The Path of the Bodhisattva

Extract from: 'Essential Teachings: His Holiness the Dalai Lama'

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

May all Beings Self realize - May all Beings discover lasting peace and joy.

Attaining Dharma

We cannot attain the ultimate Dharma immediately. But as soon as we enter into the path we can begin to develop the qualities that will guide us and step by step we will finally attain the infallible and supreme Dharma. In order to do this we must start at the beginning - that is, by abandoning the harmful actions of body, speech, and mind, which are listed below.

Harmful Actions:

  1. Killing.
  2. Stealing.
  3. Sexual misconduct.
  4. Lieing.
  5. Malicious gossip.
  6. Trivial speech, Idle chatter.
  7. Greed.
  8. Evil intentions.
  9. False Views
  10. Developing Correct Attitudes.
  11. The Sangha and the Buddha

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The harmful actions of the body are killing any being, from a person down to the smallest insect (and even, says one sutra, the egg of a chicken). However, in the latter example, for this to be a true misdeed you must be motivated by the intention to destroy.

Killing is the act that produces the gravest consequences, for it causes immediate suffering. There is no excuse for killing, either out of anger or aversion. The Dharma makes certain exceptions as far as animals are concerned. While it is forbidden to bring about the murder of an animal because of one's attachment to eating meat, buying some meat from an animal that has already been killed is not a serious fault. The problem of eating meat is resolved differently depending on certain sutra; these variances are due to the diverse circumstances and conditions in which disciples live.

So we will not deliberately kill an animal in order to eat it. But if our health depends on it, we may eat the meat of an animal that had been killed already, while refecting on the importance of a healthy and vigorous body to practise the Dharma so as to help all sentient beings. However, we will never do this only to indulge our tastebuds or satisfy our greediness, and a vegetarian diet is always preferred.

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Stealing is an unwise act, causing suffering by depriving another person of their possessions.

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Sexual Misconduct.

Acts of sexual misconduct are ranked among the principal faults of the body. In general, this means adultery, the act of having physical reltions with someone other than your own spouse. A great deal of trouble in daily life comes from this; from the most advanced societies of developed countries to the most 'primitive', most arguments occur because of problems caused by these kinds of relations.

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To lie relates to the habit of deceiving and misleading others. However, if the life of a sentient being or the Dharma can be protected by a lie, there is some excuse to be less than completely honest.

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Malicious Gossip.

Malicious gossip and slander create disputes and opposition between individuals or groups of people, and can bring about serious intolerance. The masters say that when we are with others we must look after our tongue, and when we are alone, after our mind.

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Trivial Speech, Idle Chatter.

Trivial speech, talkativeness, idle chatter, are useless. Such talk is generally centred around desire, attachment, or aversion, and only increases our illusions.

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Greed, Evil Intentions, and False Views.

Greed, evil intentions and false views come from the mind. The mental attitude of greed consists of always wanting what others possess and never being content with little. Evil intentions manifest by the mental attitude of aggression towards others. False views are those that deny the law of karma, reincarnation and the truth of the Three Jewels.

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Developing Correct Attitudes.

Abandoning this group of ten harmful actions is equal to acquiring ten corresponding virtues. This is the first step on the path of Dharma. With this base, the correct attitudes of body, speech, and mind can be developed. We then add the aspirations of bodhichitta and other practices that will assure our development. When we awaken to the view of impermanence and develop mindfulness of it, and when we recognise the nature of suffering, we will seek shunyata, emptiness, the ultimate truth. In this way, progressively, the ultimate Dharma will be born within us. This is why the true refuge, the Dharma, can save us.

The Dharma also means the practice of all that allows us to attain this goal.

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The Sangha and the Buddha.

The sangha must set an example and be a model for us. It is extremely encouraging to heat the stories of past gurus, of sentient beings developing bodhichitta and realising shunyata. If others have been able to do it, then why can't we? This is a source of great inspiration. So the sangha provides an example that helps guide us in our practice of Dharma.

We know from various stories of the aryabodhisattvas' heroic efforts to help sentient beings. We should be inspired to follow their footsteps exactly. This should sum up our attitiude regarding the sangha.

The Buddha is is the master who guides us, the Dharma is true refuge, the sangha is the helpful friend. To take refuge in the Three Jewels is a practice of bodhisattva.

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Essential Teachings: His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Souvenir Press

ISBN 0 285 63273 6.