How to Perform the Bodhicitta of Conduct
(Bodhicitta Series Part IV)


Under the guidance of the Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen
Written by Yutang Lin

To avoid unnecessary repetitions, we assume that our readers have already studied Yogi C. M. Chen's "How to Develop the Bodhicitta."


1.1 Motive and Consequence

The motive of the Bodhicitta of Conduct is to attain Full Enlightenment, and its consequence is advancement toward or realization of Full Enlightenment. Thus it is distinctly different from the good deeds of laymen or other non-Buddhist religious acts. Although Jesus and many martyrs of Christianity have sacrificed their lives, they could not attain Full Enlightenment because they were not performing the Bodhicitta of Conduct. The Bodhicitta of Conduct may even take a form which is contrary to the usual standard of goodness. For example, a Buddhist practitioner who goes into long periods of retreat has to give up his family and job and become dependent on society which is usually not considered a good thing to do.

1.2 The Wisdom Element

The fundamental distinction between Buddhism and other religions is the Sunyata philosophy. It is essential for the Bodhicitta of Conduct to have this Wisdom element in it. Thus the Bodhicitta of Conduct stems from Great Compassion and is guided by the Non-egoism of Sunyata. The result is a balance of Wisdom and Compassion. Without the Wisdom of Non-egoism, one may be tied down by one's good deeds or their consequences, and therefore cannot be ultimately liberated from Samsara. With the Wisdom of Non-egoism, one may deepen and widen his compassion until Full Enlightenment.

The Wisdom of Non-egoism enables one to realize the unity of the whole Dharmadhatu. Thus, all conducts of Bodhicitta are for the Enlightenment of all sentient beings of past, present and future. Therefore any act of Bodhicitta has its own intrinsic value regardless of worldly opinions.

2.The Three Steps

After one has developed his own vows of Bodhicitta, one needs to put them into action so that they may be realized. Nevertheless, to reach the goals of one's special vows immediately may be well beyond one's capacity. Hence one may need to perform the Bodhicitta of conduct in several steps according to one's situations. Generally speaking, one's performance of the Bodhicitta of conduct may be divided into three gradual steps:

2.1 The first step may be called the step of Pure Conduct. At the beginning one's daily activities are not related to the Bodhicitta of Will, thus they need to be brought into certain correspondences with it as exemplified in the "Pure Conduct" Chapter of Avatamsaka Sutra. Therefore the recitation of this Chapter followed by putting the teachings into practice would be a helpful first step.

2.2 The second step may be called the step of the Six Paramitas. When one's daily activities are identified with the Bodhicitta of Will, one may have control over one's actions and put them under the guidance of the six paramitas. Thus one engages in various kinds of Bodhicitta activities.

2.3 The third step may be called the step of special Bodhicitta of Conduct. When one's actions are completely in conformity with the Right Dharma, then one may be able to put one's special vows of Bodhicitta into action properly.

3.The Step of Pure Conduct

Following the examples set in the "Pure Conduct" Chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra, we propose for each of the ten worldly professions listed below five kinds of pure conduct. We encourage the reader to follow these examples and work out the correspondences between his daily activities and his Bodhicitta of Will.

3.1 For Scholars:

  1. When reading, he wishes thus: May I and all human beings study and understand the whole system of the Buddha Dharma.
  2. When lecturing, he wishes thus: May I and all human beings become able to preach the Buddha Dharma appropriately to all kinds of audiences.
  3. When writing, he wishes thus: May I and all human beings become able to write suitable articles to spread Buddha's teachings to every kind of reader.
  4. When xeroxing, he wishes thus: May I and all human beings make numerous fine copies of all Sutras for free distribution.
  5. When thinking, he wishes thus: May I and all human beings be free from dualistic thinking.

3.2 For Farmers:

  1. When planting, he wishes thus: May Bodhicitta be planted into every sentient being and then ever growing until it is ripe.
  2. When irrigating, he wishes thus: May the Great Mercy Water of Buddhas soothe the sufferings of all sentient beings and nourish them.
  3. When fertilizing, he wishes thus: May every practitioner obtain the manure of dhyana and rapidly attain realization.
  4. When weeding, he wishes thus: May the sorrows and hardships of all sentient beings be weeded out.
  5. When harvesting, he wishes thus: May I and all sentient beings soon harvest the fruits of Bodhi.

3.3 For Labor Workers:

  1. When busy, he wishes thus: May the salvation activities of Buddhas become our task.
  2. When resting, he wishes thus: May I and all sentient beings rest peacefully in the Blessings of Buddhas and be free from all hardships.
  3. When sweating, he wishes thus: May the sins of all sentient beings disappear with this sweat.
  4. When producing, he wishes thus: May every sentient being that comes into contact with the products of our labor soon become a Buddhist practitioner.
  5. When transporting, he wishes thus: May I and all sentient beings be delivered to Buddha-lands upon death.

3.4 For Businessmen:

  1. When opening the store, he wishes thus: May the door to Buddhahood be open to every sentient being.
  2. When closing the store, he wishes thus: May the door to Samsara be closed to every sentient being.
  3. When banking, he wishes thus: May I accumulate merits and share the merits with all sentient beings.
  4. When accounting, he wishes thus: May the merits of every human being be abundant, while the sins of everyone be non-existent.
  5. When doing transactions, he wishes thus: May our customers become our Dharma brothers and sisters.

3.5 For Military Personnel:

  1. When on a mission in time of peace, he wishes thus: May we protect Buddhas, Dharma, and the Sangha at any cost.
  2. When on a mission in time of war, he wishes thus: May we destroy all and only evil beings and pray to Amitabha Buddha for their rebirth in the land of Supreme Bliss.
  3. When marching, he wishes thus: May I and all sentient beings march on the path of Bodhi.
  4. When using a firearm, he wishes thus: May all illusions be knocked down by the Wisdom firearms.
  5. When saluting, he wishes thus: May I and all sentient beings salute to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

3.6 For Lawyers:

  1. When handling divorce cases, he wishes thus: May my clients and all sentient beings realize the transient nature of all things.
  2. When handling criminal cases, he wishes thus: May my clients and all sentient beings realize that only by following the teachings of Buddha may we ultimately be free from all sufferings.
  3. When handling criminal cases, he wishes thus: May my clients and all sentient beings realize that we are all part of the same Dharmakaya and hence help one another instead of harming one another.
  4. When handling forgery cases, he wishes thus: May my clients and all human beings honor their honesty beyond worldly considerations.
  5. When handling adultery cases, he wishes thus: May my clients and all sentient beings be free from the domination of desires.

3.7 For Medical Doctors:

  1. When examining eye-sight, he wishes thus: May our patients and all human beings obtain the Right View of Buddha Dharma.
  2. When listening to a psychotic patient, he wishes thus: May our patients and all human beings be free from the turmoil of the five poisons: Greed, Anger, Ignorance, Arrogance, and Jealousy.
  3. When encountering incurable fatal cases, he wishes thus: May our patients and all human beings learn the process of death from the Sutras and be prepared for their death before it is too late; furthermore, may the Mercy of Buddha Amitabha be on us all.
  4. When helping a delivery, he wishes thus: May each new born baby be a reincarnation of a Buddha or Bodhisattva.
  5. When giving treatment, he wishes thus: May we become Buddhas so that we would have the miraculous healing power to cure all diseases.

3.8 For Bank Tellers:

  1. When giving cash, he wishes thus: May our customers and all human beings have enough money to live and practice Buddha Dharma.
  2. When counting money, he wishes thus: May our customers and all human beings count their time more carefully than they count their money.
  3. When accounting, he wishes thus: May our customers and all human beings keep good count of their merits and sins and constantly increase their merits.
  4. When receiving, he wishes thus: May our customers and all human beings save their money and energies for Dharma activities.
  5. When answering questions, he wishes thus: May I and all human beings be equally kind to others, whether old or young, rich or poor, pretty or ugly.

3.9 For Stewardesses:

  1. When taking off, she wishes thus: May our passengers and all sentient beings soon enter the originally pure space of Sunyata.
  2. When landing, she wishes thus: May our passengers and all sentient beings soon be settled on the Land of Eternal Light and Silence.
  3. When walking in space, she wishes thus: May we and all women soon realize our Dakini nature.
  4. When serving food or drinks, she wishes thus: May our passengers and all sentient beings receive nectars from Buddhas.
  5. When helping airsick passengers, she wishes thus: May all attachments be released and the Sunyata nature of all things appear.

3.10 For Astronauts:

  1. When living in space, he wishes thus: May I and all sentient beings become able to dwell in the basic space of Sunyata at will.
  2. When looking around in space, he wishes thus: May I and all human beings realize the minuteness of worldly affairs.
  3. When coming back to earth, he wishes thus: May all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas land on this Earth to carry out their salvation activities.
  4. When doing activities in space, he wishes thus: May our activities and those of all sentient beings be carried out in the deep samadhi of Sunyata.
  5. When landing on other planets, he wishes thus: May we and all sentient beings be able to visit all Buddha-lands at will.

4.The Step of the Six Paramitas

4.1 One should practice the Bodhicitta of Conduct according to the guidance of the Six Paramitas. Yogi Chen's "How to Develop the Bodhicitta" has expounded this point very well. Additionally Yogi Chen has written a long article in Chinese entitled "How to Learn from Bodhisattvas." Below we will present materials based on one of its sections entitled "Simplify the Essential Practice of Bodhi."

A. From Yogi Chen's Stanza of the Complete Bodhicitta system ("How to Develop the Bodhicitta," pp. 46-58) we quote: "My body is for the service of Buddhas, My mind always prays for sentient beings." (Section 65) The above quotation is a result of Yogi Chen's life-long experiences of practicing the Bodhicitta of Conduct. Keeping this in mind would be of tremendous help to the sincere practitioners. A more literal translation of the Chinese original would render it like this: "Before Buddhas I repay the benevolence of sentient beings; Before sentient beings I repay the grace of Buddhas." That is to say: When we prostrate, make offerings, praise, pray, etc. to Buddhas, we should visualize that our folks and enemies, and the beings in the six realms of transmigration are surrounding us and are doing the same, so that they could all simultaneously receive the same blessings from the Buddhas. In so doing, we are directly repaying the grace of Buddhas while indirectly repaying the benevolence of sentient beings.

When we do service, preach, give alms, etc. to sentient beings, we should keep in mind that we are the Dharma instruments being used by the Buddhas, that we are carrying on the Holy Karmas of Buddhas, so that our Dharmic activities can be solemnly and carefully performed. In this case, while we are directly repaying the benevolence of sentient beings in ways taught by Buddha, we are indirectly repaying the grace of Buddha by working as their instruments.

An application of this integrated understanding of the unity of repaying Buddhas and sentient beings would be, on the one hand, to advise people not to comply with the perversive views and violent actions of the communists so that Buddha's teachings may spread all over the world, and on the other hand, to prostrate and repent before Buddhas on behalf of the communists so that they may be blessed by Buddhas and the Protectors to reach a speedy ending of their perversive views and violent actions.

B. Basic to all Bodhisattva practices is the practice of Samatha. To develop one's strength in Samatha, one should follow the Nine Steps of: Inward Abiding, Continuously abiding, Well abiding, Abiding near the good, Overwhelming, Silence, Deep silence, One-pointed attention and Equal abiding. Through long and proper practice of these Nine Steps of Samatha, one's mind may become free from distractions, drowsiness and forgetfulness. Unless one gets rid of these three Devils of Mind, one's mind is simply unfit for profitable Bodhisattva practices. Please read Chapter Seven of Yogi Chen's "Buddhist Meditation" for a thorough treatment on this subject.

C. Usually one readily realizes that Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, teachers, parents, etc., are our benefactors, but one neglects the fact that all sentient beings are our benefactors. Yogi Chen has given many indications to this fact in Chenian Booklet Series New No. 103 "Why All Beings are Our Benefactors." Some of the reasons given are: because they help us to develop the Bodhicitta, because they help us to gain the attainment of Non-egoism, because all sentient beings are our fields of welfare, etc. Furthermore, he urges us to remember that "without sentient beings, there is no Bodhi; without Bodhi, there is no Bodhisattva; without Bodhisattva, there is no Buddha; and without Buddha, there is no Buddhism." Thus it is clear that the source of all our benefactors is sentient beings and the collection of all our fields of welfare is sentient beings; and hence we should accumulate our merits and practice Bodhisattva deeds through services aiming at the Enlightenment of all sentient beings.

D. The thirty-seven branches of Bodhi may be classified into eight categories: Faith, Diligence, Remembrance, Renunciation, Concentration, Wisdom, Joy and Ease. Of these, the last two belong to the achievement of good practices.

Hence one may simply practice the first six categories. It is only natural that the practices of the Bodhicitta of Conduct should include these six categories. Of these six categories, Faith and Remembrance apparently are not included in the Six Paramitas. Nevertheless, it is obvious that they are closely related to the Six Paramitas.

4.2 Here we would like to bring up two kinds of Bodhicitta activities, namely, releasing lives and the praying for the dead to exemplify the many aspects of the Bodhicitta of Conduct.

A. Releasing Lives:

The general principle of saving lives is in accord with the precept of not to kill and is implied by the Vinaya of Bodhicitta that states, "Do not behave meanly to sentient beings." Thus a Buddhist should not work as a butcher, should not approve of abortion, and in time of war, should apply for non-combat duties whenever it is possible--although one person's action, in general, would not immediately alter the common Karma of his society.

In some cases the saving of lives requires certain skills and facilities, e.g., to save a cancer patient and a drowning man would take a physician and a life-guard, respectively. A Buddhist who is not in the position to offer direct help may, however, still give indirect help as much as he can.

In some cases the saving of lives involves killing. Sakyamuni Buddha, in one previous life, killed a robber in order to save five hundred merchants. In the "Vajra Body" Chapter of the Great Nirvana Sutra Buddha also tells of his fighting with the enemies of Buddha Dharma in his past life.

Nevertheless, saving lives in itself may be just a good deed but not an act of Bodhicitta, unless it is related to the Buddha Dharma.

A common Buddhist practice, called "Releasing lives" in Chinese, is worthy of our attention here. It is a simple practice of Bodhicitta to save lives, but its significance is very profound.

The first step is to save lives that are in danger. It may be just to pick up a crab rushed to the shore by the waves, or to provide a stick for ants fallen into water, or to buy from merchants or butchers animals that are waiting to be slaughtered like pigeons, turtles, sheep, etc. At this stage the basic point is to save lives that are in danger. Hence one should not order the merchants to catch a certain number of pigeons for one to release later. By rendering help we are practicing under the guidance of the Paramita of almsgiving, either of wealth or of fearlessness or both. And we are positively in keeping with the Paramita of Vinaya.

The second step is to bring those lives saved to an environment which is safe and suitable for them. In the case of providing a stick for the drowning ants, we may not have to do anything for this step. For the pigeons and turtles, a lake in a public park is usually an ideal place for them, because most people who go there would not harm them and may even take food to them. The careful choosing of a nice spot for releasing them and the cares taken in transporting them constitute a practice of the combination of Compassion and Wisdom. The time and trouble we take upon ourselves in doing all this may train us in the Paramita of Patience. To occupy ourselves with Dharma activities instead of fooling around is a practice in the Paramita of Diligence.

The third step is to perform a simple ritual for these beings which are saved. This step makes the connection between our saving lives and the Bodhicitta of Conduct concrete. We begin with repeating the refuge formula three times, thereby these beings are brought under the grace of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Then we repeat the Six Syllable Mantra of Avalokitesvara 108 times so that these beings may be freed from the transmigration of the Six realms. Then we repeat the Mantra of Ascending to the Pureland three times so that these beings, upon their death, may be favored with the mercy of Amitabha Buddha and get reborn in His Pureland. Next we repeat the Releasing Lives Stanza of Yogi Chen as follows:

Send you from Samsara and Nirvana,
To the original state of Tathata.
When one is sent, all beings sent, too.
Born from non-born, as well as Buddha!

This stanza enlarges the perspective of our activity immeasurably to that of the whole Dharmadhatu. Although we are releasing only a few lives, this signifies our intention to release all beings from the sufferings of Samsara. Although we are taking them only to a place of worldly safety, our aim is toward taking all sentient beings to Buddhahood which is the ultimate and real freedom for all. Furthermore, because the whole Dharmadhatu is of Sunyata nature, when we abide in the Sunyata nature and do the releasing, we are actually releasing all beings from samsara, and the merits resulting are actually shared by all beings, although they may not be able to become aware of this. This step is thus connected with the Wisdom and Compassion of Non-egoism. To abide in the Sunyata nature requires good Samatha, hence it is also connected with the Paramita of Concentration.

Finally we dedicate the merits to Peace on Earth and the Enlightenment of all sentient beings. We may also add a short prayer for the well-being and longevity of our relatives or friends who do not kill.

Thus in this simple practice we are guided by all Six Paramitas. Whenever there is an occasion for celebration, like birthdays, engagements, weddings, opening of a new building or new business, etc.; or an occasion for sympathy, like sickness, accidents or death, etc., we should try to do this practice so that the good get better and the bad become pacified. As soon as some lives have been saved, the merit is generated immediately. Therefore, whenever we want to help a sick person get recovery or a dead person ascend to the Pureland, the practice of Releasing Lives is a speedy remedy available. Even when there is no special occasion, we may choose to do this practice to develop our Bodhicitta.

B. Praying for the Dead:

We go to a cemetery with incense and rice, then we repeat the mantras of Amitabha Buddha, Avalokitesvara, and Ascending to Pureland, or the Sutra of Amitabha Buddha. Then we disperse the rice on the graves while visualizing that the blessings of Amitabha Buddha have reached to the dead ones. Finally we dedicate the merit to all sentient beings for their ascending to the Pureland of Amitabha Buddha upon their death, and for their Enlightenment.

Just as in the case of Releasing Lives, we may connect this practice with the guidances of the Six Paramitas. With the help of the commentaries made in the case of Releasing Lives, the reader may want to find out the connections in this case by himself.

This is a simple practice that one may do on weekends. Instead of going to an ordinary park for pleasure, a good Buddhist would go to a memorial park for practices. One should try to visit as many cemeteries as possible, instead of visiting only the graves of one's dear ones.

For a detailed exposition of the merits of this kind of practice. we refer the reader to Yogi Chen's "The Merit of Practice in a Cemetery." (pp. 75-90, A Systematized Collection of Chenian Booklets Nos. One - One Hundred, Vol. One)

5.The Step of Special Bodhicitta of Conduct

As to how to carry out one's special vows of Bodhicitta let us consider the case of the Ten Great Vows of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Cf. Part III of this Bodhicitta Series, Chenian Booklet Series New No. 110).

5.1 To Prostrate to Buddhas

One may do prostrations three times daily, doing at least 10 prostrations each time, and the more the better.

5.2 To Praise the Buddhas

Every morning and every evening one may repeat the standard prayers or use one's own special praise stanzas. Or simply repeat the ten honorable titles of a Buddha. Or repeat "Namo all Buddhas in the ten directions of the Three Times who constantly remember and teach the practitioners of Buddha Dharma."

5.3 To Repent for Sins

On the Full-Moon day of every month one should repent according to the ritual of the Thirty-Five Buddhas. One should offer the Thirty-Five-Buddha Lamps. One may do this at home or go to a temple to have the guidance of the Sangha. The repentance ritual of Kuan-yin or that of Water may also be used.

5.4 To Make Offerings

One may make offerings to Gurus, Buddhas, and the Sangha. One may donate money or labor to help the building of temples, retreat huts, Five-Wheel stupas, Mandalas, bell towers, etc. One may make copies of Sutras or Buddhist literature for free distributions. One may provide offerings of food to the protectors or the ghosts. One may sponsor Buddhist Lectures.

5.5 To Rejoice in Merits

Whenever we notice the good deeds of others, we should not be envious of them, rather we should express our admiration and praise them. We may also accumulate merits in this way.

5.6 To Request for Dharma Teachings

Whenever we get a chance to meet a Buddhist scholar or practitioner, we should try to obtain the benefit of his teaching us or the Public. It may be on a special Sutra, a special topic or a discussion session. This kind of activity will stimulate interest in and improve understanding of the Dharma. Hence upon special occasions like Buddha's Birthday, New Year's, Weddings, etc., we should arrange for these kinds of meetings.

5.7 To Plead for Staying with Us.

To all those honorable Gurus or members of the Sangha we should plead for staying with us to guide us. Whenever they show symptoms of an ailment, we should take good care of them and provide them with proper medical treatment.

5.8 To Follow the Teachings of Buddha

Since our age is very far from that of Buddha, we should be very discreet about how to follow the teachings of Buddha. We should think like this: What would Buddha do if he was in our situation? And our thinking should be in accordance with Dharma and Reason. Buddha will bless those of us who are pure and sincere practitioners to reach the right answers.

5.9 To Comply with Nice Deeds

One should comply with only the good deeds of sentient beings. One should not comply with any perversive views or violent actions. One who complies with the communists are victims of brutal forces and will surely end up in the hell.

5.10 To Dedicate the Merits

One should always end all practices by dedicating the Merits to the Full Enlightenment of all sentient beings. All beings are of the same Dharmakaya. Any being remaining in Samsara marks the imperfection of our Dharmakaya. Dedicating the merits to all beings may help them as well as increase our own merits. Let us all work together for the realization of our unity in the Dharmakaya.

It may not be as easy as the above example to carry out one's special vows of Bodhicitta. On the one hand it is very easy to commit volitional or prejudicial actions; on the other hand, some of the vows of Bodhicitta may be in need of Samadhi or Buddha's supernatural power for their realization. Thus it is very important to practice the Bodhicitta of Victorious Significance to get rid of the negative actions, and to learn to attain the Bodhicitta of Samadhi and that of Kunda to achieve positive results. We will study these topics in the remaining booklets of this Bodhicitta Series.

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