Benefiting Others: Awakening the Bodhichitta
Discussion led by David C. Clark, Co-Chair Program Committee
What is Viriya/Virya? The parami of Viriya, or paramita of Vīrya, is the perfection of Energy. In Buddhism it is often defined as effort or diligence, but the root of the Sanskrit word literally means “Hero.” It also serves as the etymology for the English word virile. In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, there are traditionally three types of diligence: Armor, Virtue, and Compassion. The Sangha will explore these dimensions in this way:
~ Character & Courage: The Development of Virtues
~ Spiritual Training: Studying the Teachings
~ Benefiting Others: Awakening the Bodhichitta
How do we practice Wise Effort and maintain Zeal?
Vīrya (Sanskrit; Pāli: viriya) is a Buddhist term commonly translated as “energy”, “diligence”, “enthusiasm”, or “effort”. It can be defined as an attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities, and it functions to cause one to accomplish wholesome or virtuous actions.
“You have to be honest with yourself, and slowly start to change your life into one that is more conducive to practice.”
~ Barry H. Gillespie, Handyman
Four Right Exertions:
1. Restraint (saṃvara): to prevent unarisen unwholesome mental states from arising
2. Abandonment (pahāna): to abandon unwholesome mental states that have already arisen
3. Cultivation (bhāvanā): to develop wholesome mental state that have not yet arisen
4. Preservation (anurakkhaṇā): to maintain and perfect wholesome mental states already arisen
“Without the engagement of energy, without the engagement of effort, without the engagement of intention; there is actually nothing intrinsically transforming about sitting down. Cat’s do it really well…”
“Exertion is surrendering completely into attentiveness again and again. Exertion is being utterly straightforward with whatever arises. Exertion is doing whatever needs to be done, and doing so as completely as possible: taking a complete step, a complete breath, touching completely, hearing completely. This is complete and wholehearted practice.”
~ Ven. Jinmyo Renge Osho, White Wind Zen Community
Awakening the Bodhichitta
“Chitta means ‘mind’ and also ‘heart’ or ‘attitude.’ Bodhi means ‘awake,’ ‘enlightened,’ or ‘completely open.’ Sometimes the completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love. Even the cruelest people have this soft spot. Even the most vicious animals love their offspring. As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche put it, ‘Everybody loves something, even if it’s only tortillas.’”
“There are many defensiveness shielding our heart. So now that we have to remove all the defensiveness; so much that we are able to love everyone in this Universe. That heart is the Bodhichitta; the heart of the Buddhas; the heart of the bodhisattvas. It is a heart without any defensiveness. Can you imagine that… we can have a heart without any defensiveness?” [sic]
~ Anam Thubten
“Buddha nature is boundless Energy. What are we doing that we’re not expressing that? We’re closing it down by our attachment to things and our holding on to wrong views. That’s why the first thing to give rise to Virya is generosity.”
~ Lama Shenpen Hookham
Four Bodhisattva Vows
All beings without number I vow to liberate.
Endless blind passions I vow to uproot.
Dharma gates beyond measure I vow to pass through.
The great way of Buddha I vow to attain.
EXERCISE: Splitting off in to small discussion groups, consider what it means to experience Viriya within the traditional three components: Armor (Development of Character & Courage), Virtue (Development through Ritual & Teachers), and Compassion (Development through Benefiting Others). Having been assigned a specific component, explore practical, pragmatic, constructive, or tangible actions we can take, or habits we can let go of, to generate Energy in our daily lives, especially in our spiritual and/or meditation practices. Be prepared to share your Best Answer(s) with the Sangha.