Medicine for the Sick

The Dalai Lama: We should have this [compassion] from the depths of our heart, as if it were nailed there. Such compassion is not merely concerned with a few sentient beings such as friends and relatives, but extends up to the limits of the cosmos, in all directions and towards all beings throughout space. The Bodhicaryavatara, xxiv 


Recently, I have read several books by the articulate proponent of Secular Buddhism, Stephen Batchelor. As a young person committed to the Dharma, he produced a translation from the Tibetan text of Shantideva’s classic, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. I went back to a translation from the Sanskrit by Kate Crosby & Andrew Skilton on my shelf, The Bodhicaryavatara: A Guide to the Buddhist Path of Awakening. Perusing it, I found the following verses*, to inform and inspire my slacker self…

1.8.  Those who long to transcend the hundreds of miseries of existence, who long to relieve creatures of their sorrows, who long to enjoy many hundreds of joys, must never abandon the Awakening Mind. 

1.28.  Hoping to escape suffering, it is to suffering that they run. In the desire for happiness, out of delusion, they destroy their own happiness, like an enemy.

2.37.  Everything experienced fades to memory. Everything is like an image in a dream. It is gone and is not seen again.

3.6-9. With the good acquired by doing all this as described, may I allay all the suffering of every living being.

I am medicine for the sick. May I be both the doctor and their nurse, until the sickness does not recur.

May I avert the pain of hunger and thirst with showers of food and drink. May I become both drink and food in the intermediate aeons of famine.

May I be an inexhaustible treasure for impoverished beings. May I wait upon them with various forms of offering.

3.16-18.  Those who will falsely accuse me, and others who will do me harm, and others still who will degrade me, may they all share in Awakening.

I am the protector of the unprotected and the caravan-leader for travellers. I have become the boat, the causeway, and the bridge for those who long to reach the further shore.

May I be a light for those in need of light. May I be a bed for those in need of rest.  May I be a servant for those in need of service, for all embodied beings. 

4.27 27-28.  I have no will in this matter, as if bewildered by spells. I do not understand. By what am I perplexed?  Who dwells here within me?

Enemies such as greed and hate lack hands and feet and other limbs. They are not brave, nor are they wise. How is it they enslave me?  

5.41. One should so observe the mind, thinking, ‘Where is mind wandering to?’, as never to abandon the responsibility of concentration, even for a moment.

5.71-74.  One’s own nature mastered in this way, one should always have a smiling face. One should give up frowning and grimacing, be the first to speak, a friend to the universe.

One should not throw down stools and other furniture violently with a crash, nor should one pound on doors. One should always delight in silence.

The crane, the cat, or the thief achieves his intended goal by moving quietly and gently. The aspirant should move in such a way at all times.

One should accept respectfully the advice of those who are able to direct others, who offer unsolicited aid. One should be the pupil of everyone all the time. 

6.65. When people harm one’s teachers, relatives, and others dear to us, one should, as above, regard it as arising on the basis of conditioning factors and refrain from anger towards them. 

6.93.  Like a child that howls a wail of distress when his sandcastle is broken, so my own mind appears to me at the loss of praise or renown.

8.21.  Some detest me. Why am I exultant when praised?  Some extol me. Why am I depressed when criticized?

8.39.  Freed from all other concerns, my own mind in a state of single-pointed thought, I shall apply myself to taming and increasing the meditative concentration of my mind. 

*From Paul Williams’s introduction: It is helpful for us in reading Buddhist texts, in meeting their strangeness, to be constantly sensitive to the practical context: ‘How does this perspective, or this practice, transform the mind of the practitioner in a way which Buddhists would see as beneficial—the cultivation of wisdom and compassion?’ xxi


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