Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday we will practice Invoking the Bodhisattvas’ Names, a form of touching the earth while contemplating certain qualities that can help us on our path of mindfulness. You can read the text of the ceremony by clicking here.
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, bodhisattvas need not be taken literally as deities. They are symbols of the wonderful characteristics that we all have within us—compassion and lovingkindness; the ability to listen and understand others; the capacity to act skillfully; and the vow to help others, regardless of how uncomfortable it might make us. Invoking the Bodhisattvas’ Names reminds us of our own innate ability to behave in these ways and allows us to investigate our intentions surrounding these qualities in ourselves.
Thursday, we will touch the earth while invoking the bodhisattvas’ names and then discuss whether we are ready to cultivate these qualities in our daily lives; what allows them to flow from us readily; and what stops us from embodying the bodhisattvas’ qualities.
We hope you can join us.
From a dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh on January 15, 1998:
At the beginning you may believe that the four Bodhisattvas are outside of us. If you practice steadily, you will see that you are also that Bodhisattva because you also have all of those qualities.
Some historians may not believe that there was ever a ‘real’ Avalokitesvara or Manjushri; they are not historical personalities. We cannot say that they were born in such and such a year and died in such and such a year… and so you may be embarrassed…. But you must know that the name, Avalokitesvara, is a symbol of deep listening and compassion. Compassion and deep listening truly exist everywhere, but where is everywhere? You must see that deep listening and compassion exist in at least one person. When you see such a person you know that that person is not the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara although they are manifesting the qualities of that Bodhisattva, and so you will feel that you will be able to do it also. I also have compassion and deep listening. Maybe my compassion and deep listening are not as strong as the other person's is, but I will train myself to increase this ability to love. Therefore, it is not important whether Avalokitesvara is an historical personage… if the qualities of love, compassion and deep listening exist, so then must Avalokitesvara.
We can also see that Avalokitesvara is a representation of some of the qualities of the Buddha also. Gautama Buddha is an historical person and he had these qualities… and Gautama Buddha said that everyone had these qualities like him. The qualities of the Buddha, love, understanding, compassion and deep listening, are also in you…. The key point is for us to be in touch with these four Bodhisattvas within ourselves by using the energy of mindfulness.
From “No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva” by Pema Chodron:
There are many benefits to [prostrating]. First and foremost, prostrations overcome arrogance. Trungpa Rinpoche used to say that because we have basic goodness, we can take pride in surrendering. We don’t have to hang on to our accomplishments or good fortune. We can afford to be humble and bow down to those who embody wisdom, those courageous ones who worked hard so that the teachings still remain alive today.
Second, prostrations connect us with our own sanity. In the presence of an extremely open and compassionate person, we can feel these qualities unfold in ourselves. Some seemingly separate person or object of veneration can awaken the clarity and freshness of our mind. As a gesture of respect, love, and gratitude to those who show us our basic goodness, we bow down and prostrate.
Third, prostrations serve as a way to overcome
resistance and surrender our deeply entrenched neuroses and habits.
Each time we bow, we offer ourselves: our confusion, our inability to
love, our hardness and selfish ways. It’s like opening our hands
and saying: “With this gesture I willingly acknowledge how stuck
I am. I surrender it all to the vast and compassionate heart of
bodhichitta. Until attaining the essence of enlightenment, I take
refuge in awakened mind.”