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In Buddhism, bodhicitta[a] (Sanskrit: $'; Chinese: , putixin; Japanese:

, bodaishin; Standard Tibetan:!$&, Wylie transliteration: byang chub kyi
sems; Mongolian: ; Vietnamese: B- tm), "enlightenment-mind", is
the mind that strives toward awakening and compassion for the benefit of all sentient

Contents [hide]
1 Etymology
2 Spontaneity
3 Levels
4 Origins and development
4.1 Use in early Mahyna
4.2 Late Mahyna texts
5 Practice
5.1 Ideal
5.2 Paramitas
5.3 Cultivation
5.4 Two Practice Lineages
5.5 Universality
6 See also
7 Notes
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links

Etymologically, the word is a combination of the Sanskrit words bodhi and citta. Bodhi
means "awakening" or "enlightenment". Citta derives from the Sanskrit root cit, and
means "that which is conscious" (i.e., mind or consciousness). Bodhicitta may be

translated as "awakening mind" or "mind of enlightenment".[2]

Bodhicitta is a spontaneous wish to attain enlightenment motivated by great
compassion for all sentient beings, accompanied by a falling away of the attachment
to the illusion of an inherently existing self.[3]
The mind of great compassion and bodhicitta motivates one to attain enlightenment
Buddhahood, as quickly as possible and benefit infinite sentient beings through their
emanations and other skillful means. Bodhicitta is a felt need to replace others'
suffering with bliss. Since the ultimate end of suffering is nirvana, bodhicitta
necessarily involves a motivation to help others to awaken (to find bodhi).[3]
A person who has a spontaneous realization or motivation of bodhicitta is called a

Different schools may demonstrate alternative understandings of bodhicitta.
One tradition distinguishes between relative and absolute (or ultimate) bodhicitta. [4]
Relative bodhicitta is a state of mind in which the practitioner works for the good of all
beings as if it were his own.[4] Absolute bodhicitta is the wisdom of shunyata[4]
(unyat, a Sanskrit term often translated as "emptiness", though the alternatives
"openness" or "spaciousness" probably convey the idea better to Westerners).[5] The
concept of unyat in Buddhist thought does not refer to nothingness, but to freedom
from attachments[b] and from fixed ideas about the world and how it should be.[c]
Some bodhicitta practices emphasize the absolute (e.g. vipayan), while others
emphasize the relative (e.g. metta), but both aspects are seen in all Mahyna
practice as essential to enlightenment, especially in the Tibetan practices of tonglen[6]
and lojong.[3] Without the absolute, the relative can degenerate into pity and
sentimentality, whereas the absolute without the relative can lead to nihilism and lack
of desire to engage other sentient beings for their benefit.
In his book Words of My Perfect Teacher, the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Patrul
Rinpoche describes three degrees of bodhicitta:[7]
The first
The way of the King, who primarily seeks his own benefit but who recognizes that his

benefit depends crucially on that of his kingdom and his subjects.

The second
The path of the boatman, who ferries his passengers across the river and
simultaneously, of course, ferries himself as well.
The third
That of the shepherd, who makes sure that all his sheep arrive safely ahead of him
and places their welfare above his own.

Origins and development[edit]

Use in early Mahyna[edit]
Describing use of the term bodhicitta in Tibetan Buddhism, Paul Williams writes that
the term is used differently in early Mahyna works, referring to a state of mind in
which a bodhisattva carries out actions:
We are describing here the late systematized Indo-Tibetan Mahyna. It seems that
in the relatively early Ugraparipcch Stra, for example, the bodhicittais a much
vaguer concept, more "a certain state of mind" in which a Bodhisattva acts (Nattier
2003a: 148). [...] Pagel points out that many Mahyna stras, including the
Bodhisattvapiaka, hold that the arising of bodhicitta (bodhicittotpda) is not simply a
static thing that occurs just at the beginning of the Bodhisattva path. Rather it is
continuously retaken and evolves through practice.[8]

Late Mahyna texts[edit]

Among the most important later source texts on bodhicitta, used by traditions of
Tibetan Buddhism, are:

ntideva's A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way Of Life (c. 700 CE),

Thogme Zangpo's Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva[9] (12th century CE),

Langri Tangpa's Eight Verses for Training the Mind[10] (c. 1100 CE), and

Geshe Chekhawa Training the Mind in Seven Points in the 12th century CE.

Mahayana Buddhism propagates the Bodhisattva-ideal, in which the Six perfections
are being practiced. Arousing bodhicitta is part of this Bodhisattva-ideal.

In Mahyna and Vajrayna Buddhism, the goal of Buddhist practice is primarily to

be reborn infinite numbers of times to liberate all those other beings still trapped in

Mahyna Buddhism teaches that the broader motivation of achieving one's own
enlightenment "in order to help all sentient beings" is the best possible motivation one
can have for any action, whether it be working in one's vocation, teaching others, or
even making an incense offering. The Six Perfections (Pramits) of Buddhism only
become true "perfections" when they are done with the motivation of bodhicitta.
Thus, the action of giving (Skt. dna) can be done in a mundane sense, or it can be
aPramit if it is conjoined with bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is the primary positive factor to
be cultivated.

The Mahyna-tradition provides specific methods for the intentional cultivation of
both absolute and relative bodhicitta. This cultivation is considered to be one of the
most difficult aspects of the path to complete awakening. Practitioners of the
Mahyna make it their primary goal to develop a genuine, uncontrived bodhicitta
which remains within their mindstreams continuously without having to rely on
conscious effort.
Among the many methods for developing uncontrived Bodhicitta given in Mahyna
teachings are:

Contemplation of the Four Immeasurables (Brahmaviharas):

Immeasurable Loving-Kindness (Metta),

Immeasurable Compassion (Karun),

Immeasurable Joy in the Good Fortune of Others (Mudita), and

Immeasurable Equanimity (Upeksa)

The practice of the Pramits (Generosity, Patience, Virtue, Effort, Meditation,

and Insight).

The Taking and Sending (tonglen) practice, in which one takes in the pain and
suffering of others on the inbreath and sends them love, joy, and healing on the
outbreath,[6] and the Lojong (mind training) practices of which tonglen forms a

Viewing all other sentient beings as having been our mothers in infinite past

lives, and feeling gratitude for the many occasions on which they have taken
care of us.

Two Practice Lineages[edit]

Tibetan Buddhists maintain that there are two main ways to cultivate Bodhichitta, the
"Seven Causes and Effects" that originates from Maitreya and was taught by Atisha,
and "Exchanging Self and Others," taught by Shantideva and originally by Manjushri.
According to Tsongkapa the seven causes and effects are thus:
1. recognizing all beings as your mothers;
2. recollecting their kindness;
3. the wish to repay their kindness;
4. love;
5. great compassion;
6. wholehearted resolve;
7. bodhichitta.
According to Pabongka Rinpoche the second method consists of the following
1. how self and others are equal;
2. contemplating the many faults resulting from self-cherishing;
3. contemplating the many good qualities resulting from cherishing others;
4. the actual contemplation on the interchange of self and others;
5. with these serving as the basis, the way to meditate on giving and taking [tong

The practice and realization of bodhicitta are independent of sectarian
considerations, since they are fundamentally a part of the human experience.
Bodhisattvas are not only recognized in the Theravda school of Buddhism,[13] but in
all other religious traditions and among those of no formal religious tradition. The
present fourteenthDalai Lama, for instance, regarded Mother Teresa as one of the
greatest modern bodhisattvas.[14]

See also[edit]

Bodhisattva vow

Bodhisattva Precepts

Consciousness (Buddhism)


Jump up
^ For definitions of the components of the term see Wiktionary: bodhi and citta.


Jump up
^ particularly attachment to the idea of a static or essential self


Jump up
^ The classic text on unyat is the Prajpramit Hdaya Stra, a discourse of
theBuddha commonly referred to as the "Heart Stra".


Jump up
^ Das, Surya (1998). Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western
World. Broadway Books. pp.145146. ISBN0-76790157-6.


Jump up
^ Das, Surya (1998). Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western
World. Broadway Books. p.149. ISBN0-76790157-6.


^ Jump up to:
a bc

Fischer, Norman (2013). Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice

of Lojong. Shambhala Publications. p.11. ISBN9781611800401.


^ Jump up to:
a bc

Khenpo, Nyoshul; Das, Surya (1995). Natural Great Perfection. Snow Lion

Publications. p.56. ISBN1-55939-049-2.


Jump up
^ Trungpa, Chogyam. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Shambhala Publications.
pp.197199. ISBN978-1570629570.


^ Jump up to:
a b


"The Practice of Tonglen". Shambhala International. Retrieved April 3, 2015.

Jump up
^ Rinpoche, Patrul (1998). Words of My Perfect Teacher. Shambhala Publications.
p.218. ISBN1-57062412-7.


Jump up
^ Williams, Paul (2008). Mahyna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations.Routledge.
p.355. ISBN9781134250578.


Jump up
^ "The Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva". Archived from the original on June 3,

2004. Retrieved April 3, 2015.

10. Jump up
^ "Eight Verses for Training the Mind" (PDF). Prison Mindfulness Institute. Retrieved
April 3, 2015.
11. Jump up
^ Tsongkapa (2004). The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment
Volume 2. Snow Lion Publications. p.28. ISBN978-1559391689.
12. Jump up
^ Rinpoche, Pabongka (1991). Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. Wisdom
Publications. p.598. ISBN978-0861711260.
13. Jump up
^ Dhammananda, K. Sri; Maha Thera, Piyadassi (1983). Gems of Buddhist Wisdom.
Buddhist Missionary Society. pp.461471. ISBN978-9679920048.
14. Jump up
^ Dalai Lama (2002). An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life. Back
Bay Books. p.23. ISBN978-0316930932.

Further reading[edit]

White, Kenneth R. (2005). The Role of Bodhicitta in Buddhist Enlightenment.

The Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN978-0-7734-5985-4. [includes translations of the
following: Bodhicitta-sastra, Benkemmitsu-nikyoron, Sammaya-kaijo]

Lampert, Khen (2006). Traditions of Compassion: From Religious Duty to

Social Activism. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN978-1403985279.

Sopa, Geshe Lhundub; Pratt, David (2004). Steps on the Path to Enlightenment
Vol. 1. Wisdom Publications. ISBN978-0861713035.

Harvey, Peter (2000). An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics. Cambridge University

Press. ISBN978-0521556408.

Matics, Marion L. (1970). "Entering the Path of Enlightenment: The

Bodhicaryavatara of the Buddhist Poet Santideva". Macmillan.

Gyatso, Tenzin (1995). The World of Tibetan Buddhism: An Overview of Its

Philosophy and Practice. Wisdom Publications. ISBN978-0861710973.

Powers, John (2007). Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. Snow Lion

Publications. ISBN978-1559392822.

Sangharakshita (1990). A Guide to the Buddhist Path. Windhorse Publications.


External links[edit]
Look up Bodhicitta in
Wiktionary, the free

Compassion and Bodhicitta


Drikung Kagyu Ngndro Teaching By Lama Sonam Jorphel Rinpoche

Berzin, Alexander (2001). The Berzin Archives. Stages of Bodhichitta.



Buddhism topics

GND: 4308636-6

Categories: Buddhist terminologyMahayana

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