May 17 Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions

  • What does Bodhicitta, the mind of Enlightenment mean?
  • What are afflictive emotions?
  • Why are afflictive emotions considered to be adventitious stains on our Buddha nature?

Reading Assignment
Read chapters 1 – 3 of Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.

Meditation Topics

  • Identify specific experiences in your life where you’ve felt a deep sense of altruistic compassion. What were the causes and conditions that gave rise to your compassion? Cultivate this mental state of compassion for others, practice extending it to people you love, feel neutral to, and feel dislike towards. How does this feel?
  • Start by trying to identify which afflictive emotion causes you the most suffering in your life. In your daily meditation practice, try to recall particular experiences when this emotion has taken control of you. How did it feel?

4 thoughts on “May 17 Discussion Questions

  1. What does Bodhicitta, the mind of Enlightenment mean?
    Attaining Bodhicitta–the mind of enlightenment–means the elimination of all forms of sufferings. It removes the obscurations of dualistic perceptions and negative emotions. It is the remedy for all maladies and gives rise to a wholesome mental state. Shantideva likens this to the rising moon which soothes the sorrows created by delusion and also like a “mighty sun” that illuminates ignorance. Holy teaching results in a rich quality of mind that is likened to rich butter churned from milk of Holy Teaching. Wandering beings–those still in samsara do not have fully enlightened minds, but may begin to have experiences of enlightenment. However, fully enlightened beings are not wandering (migratory) beings.

    What are afflictive emotions?
    Afflictive emotions are any mental state that disturb the tranquility and happiness of the being. Afflictive emotions result from false projections. For example, wealth has no independent, substantial reality but is a mental projection based on a variety of conditions. So, the goal is to always have the intention to benefit sentient beings. Shantideva advises that we wish everyone merit even on catching sight of us. Those who “slight, blame, and slander” us should be seen as those who help us greatly on our journey to enlightenment. In order to do this, we must be aware of how emotions and story-thoughts create false projections.

    Why are afflictive emotions considered to be adventitious stains on our Buddha nature?
    Afflictive emotions obscure the “pure and spotless state of mind.” We need this state of mind in order to bear the karmic fruit of buddha nature and to maintain the “faultless lineage” of Buddhas. Even though we may not always act perfectly because we are always struggling with our afflictive emotions, it is important to be aware of them and how they begin, so we don’t act out of these emotions.

    In verse 28, we see that our afflictive emotions are like a “mound of filth” but we can find the jewel of boddhicita–even if we are not enlightened (“like a blind man”) but practice with faith, dedication, and good intention.

  2. Patricia — thanks for sharing your insights with us. Just a couple of thoughts, bodhicitta is a main mind — a mental state of love and compassion. It’s the combination of bodhicitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness that gives rise to the state of Enlightenment.

    By practicing love and compassion for ourselves and for others and meditating on emptiness, we can gradually uproot our fundamental ignorance and come face to face with our afflictive emotions openly and honestly.

    Afflictive emotions are — as you said in your first two sentences, emotions that disturb our inner peace. So, basically these are emotions related to attachment and aversion and all the zillions of subtle permutations thereof! As you pointed out, afflictive emotions result from a mistaken understanding of how things exist. We tend to blow things out of proportion as a result of our strong attachment and aversion to things that we incorrectly assume have a concrete independent existence.

    The “pure and spotless state of mind” that you refer to, is our inherent Buddha nature. I’m not sure I understand the next sentence. Anyway, the point is just that all sentient beings have Buddha nature and it is by definition, a state free of all afflictive emotions. Through our spiritual practice and meditation we remove the causes that give rise to these emotions and the associated suffering. You are right — we need to be vigilant and keep close watch on our actions of body, speech, and mind so as not to harm others. By cultivating bodhicitta and an understanding of emptiness, we follow the bodhisattva’s way of life.


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