A few week’s ago my husband, daughter, and I attended a dharma talk at the Green Gulch Zen Center about training to be a bodhisattva, which can be defined as one who is on the path of enlightenment and personal liberation, but who is also committed to easing the suffering of others.
When the monk was describing the bodhisattva path, a little voice inside me piped up with “That’s me!” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, in fact, this describes almost everybody in the Owning Pink community. We are a Universe of bodhisattvas, supporting and loving each other as we seek enlightenment while dedicating our lives to easing the suffering of others.
So of course, I had to write a post to teach all you fellow bodhisattvas what I learned.
The monk began the dharma talk by holding up a pumpkin and telling a story.
A Pumpkin Story
Once upon a time there were a bunch of squashes fighting, trying to kill each other, screaming hurtful things, scared that there wouldn’t be enough food or water or sunlight.
Then a monk walked into the garden and said, “Why are you all fighting? Can’t you see that you’re all one big squash plant and each of you is connected by the same vine?”
When the pumpkins realized that they were not individual squashes but part of one big collective squash plant, they stopped trying to hurt each other and started cooperating.
So too are we. All beings are interconnected and when we slather each other in hurt, fear, lack mentality, greed, and violence, we hurt the whole squash plant and ultimately, we all suffer.
The Bodhisattva Path
Those who commit to being a bodhisattva choose to forgo nirvana in order to stay in this world and be a healer (in the broadest definition of the word – we all have the potential to be healers).
3 Ways To Ease Suffering In Others
The bodhisattva training teaches three precepts:
- Presence: Presence is all about restraining yourself from being distracted from what is right in this moment. It’s about refraining from leaning into gain or leaning away from loss. It’s about being with what is without making it right or wrong or telling yourself stories about it. It’s about personal liberation, which you must achieve in order to truly alleviate the suffering of others.
- Cultivating wholesome qualities and refraining from evil ones. Wholesome qualities worth practicing are things like love, generosity, gentleness, and gratitude. Evil ones are things like killing, stealing, greed, cheating on your spouse, and getting loaded. It’s hard to ease the suffering of others when you’re engaging in practices that cause suffering to yourself and others, but when you practice ethical behavior, you can more effectively serve others and ease their suffering.
- Service to all beings. This is all about making a commitment to ease the suffering of others, knowing that we are all one big squash plant. This means avoiding the tendency to “like” some people and “dislike” others. It’s remembering that we are all connected to Source and we are all manifestations of divine love, here on this earth to let our Inner Pilot Lights radiate.
The Three Bodies Of The Buddha
Training in these three precepts requires cultivating what Buddhists call the “trikaya” or the three bodies of the Buddha – the truth body, the bliss body, and the physical body.
The Truth Body
The truth body is the part of you that knows that we are all one, that separateness is an illusion, and that love and unity of our souls is the only true way to relieve suffering.
The Bliss Body
The bliss body is the part of you that grins like a maniac when you are practicing presence, cultivating wholesome qualities and refraining from evil ones, and living your life in service to all beings – because it’s really that f*cking awesome to live like this!
The Physical Body
The physical body is the limiting part of you, the body that can get sick and die, but which allows you the blessing of being in this world to live out your bodhisattva vows, know and teach the truth, and experience bliss.
You don’t need to be a Buddhist to be a bodhisattva. In fact, the zen temple where I listened to this dharma talk has a group of Muslim bodhisattvas that gather together to practice their commitment to easing the suffering of others.
The Visionary Path
After hearing this dharma talk about the bodhisattva way, I realized that, not only am I a bodhisattva-in-training, much of my work revolves around serving other bodhisattvas.
Most of my one-on-one consultation practice is about coaching visionaries who are committed to easing the suffering of others. I’m leading a workshop in Montana this summer called Heal Yourself, Heal The World. My friend Amy Ahlers and I have co-creatied a program called Visionary Ignition Switch: Fire Up Your Message, Money & Meaning In The World which will be the go-to Business Program For Inspired Visionaries. And we just held a free, amazing webinar training around 10 Red Hot Secrets to fire up your message, money and meaning in the world.
I’m fired up, not just about easing the suffering of others, but about supporting, amplifying, and lifting up others who are committed to healing the world in their own unique, bodhisattva way.
Are You A Bodhisattva?
What do you do to ease the suffering of others? Do you practice presence? Do you cultivate wholesome qualities? Do you try to serve all beings and acknowledge that we are all one?
One big squash plant,
Related: Are You In Service to What I Serve?
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Revolutionary, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
Learn more about Lissa Rankin here.