Daniela Mieritz adjusts to Abbey life with the help of bodhicitta:
“When some teachers of the past reflected on the rarity of human existence they did not even feel like sleeping, they could not bear to waste a single moment. They put all their energy into spiritual practice.” – Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
For many years I have had trouble getting up early in the morning. I have tried but still I have to train myself to get up with a happy mind. Even if I try to go to bed very early, it seems I cannot manage it. For me getting up early has symbolic meanings of enjoying life, feeling light, diligent and industrious. Last year, when I was in Germany, I asked Ven. Thubten Chodron whether she could give me a recommendation on how I could motivate myself for an early start. She replied that I could imagine all other Dharma friends at Sravasti Abbey when they get up and go to the meditation hall for practice every morning. I knew, it would not feel good to stay in bed while my Dharma friends were meditating.
Once here at Sravasti I caught a bad cold and felt that I could not go to the morning meditation. My roommate was getting ready in the morning as usual for the day, putting on her clothes, going to the bathroom and doing offerings at the altar. After she left the room, I tried to fall asleep again, but I could not, even though I was feeling sick. I rested for a while but in my mind I could see how the sangha were meditating in the temple. I was no longer able to lay in bed. I knew that at least I had to practice by my own or to read a Dharma book.
This has shown me how helpful the sangha and a regulated daily schedule are. But still I did not have the right motivation in the morning. I was missing something from my own side, like a proper motivation. I asked myself what else I could do to increase my motivation. So here are some options I have learned about. As soon as you wake up, you can take Refuge in the Three Jewels. Or, you can imagine a deity like Green Tara in your room. Imagine green light filling out your whole room and melting into you and all beings. It is also very helpful if you start with the bodhicitta motivation: May I attain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.
I feel the bodhicitta motivation is extremely helpful.¹ Now, I am practicing some prayers for the development of bodhicitta. They state, for example, that when you wake up in the morning, you should maintain the following thought: May all beings awake from the sleep of ignorance. This is the prayer of a Bodhisattva when he/she wakes up.Furthermore, it is said: May all beings attain the form body of a Buddha. This is the prayer of a Bodhisattva when he/she gets up. Since I want to strive for a high motivation and to make a good use of my life, I try to integrate these thoughts into my mind as soon as I can remember to do so.
There are other very useful prayers from this sutra. When one puts on his or her clothes: May all beings wear the robes of integrity and consideration for others. This is the prayer of a Bodhisattva when putting on clothes. If you make tea and hold the cup, you can imagine: May all beings drink the nectar of wisdom. This is the prayer of a Bodhisattva if he/she holds a cup. If you leave the house: May all beings escape from the prison of cyclic existence. Or if you close the door: May I close the door for all beings to the lower realms.
You can add your own prayers or thoughts for different situations like washing dishes or sweeping the floor. I find them all very useful and would therefore like to mention more of them. For example on the way to work, or to the meditation hall, you can think or pray: May all beings set out on the exalted path. And when meeting someone you can pray: May all beings meet the Buddha. You can practice in specific situations: When you see a sad person: May all beings be disappointed by the worldly phenomena. Or when you see someone discussing the teachings: May all beings attain the eloquence of a Buddha.
The prayers are helping me to direct my mind for the well-being of all sentient beings. I’m getting more aware, more mindful. My mind tries to stay focused on the ultimate goal- to attain buddhahood for the benefit of sentient beings. It is very easy to go along the path and think about whatever just pops up in my mind. Maybe I’m hungry and I crave a particular food. Maybe I have a disagreement with a friend and I think too much about it or I plan what is coming up next for me or consider what I plan to tell this or that person. Or if I am eating, I may only think about how good it tastes, that it tastes better than it did yesterday and so on. I dwell primarily on taste, not so much on my motivation, I forget to use the food to nourish my body and mind to benefit sentient beings.
By training my mind in this way I am getting more and more familiar with the compassionate mind, and always to be inspired and follow the teachers advice and their teachings to have a strong heart so I can not bear to waste even a single moment and to put all my energy into spiritual practice. The practice to cultivate bodhicitta makes me happy, equally if waking up early or in any other circumstance.
¹ From the Flower Ornament Scripture (Buddhavatamsakanamamahavaipulyasutra; Sangs rgyas phal po che zhes bya ba shin tu rgyas pa chen po’i mdo) (Toh. 44) in Dharmashri’s Commentary on the Three Vows, ff. 176a5-177b1.