The ultimate goal of Buddhist spiritual practice is the attainment of the fully awakened state of mind. This completely perfected state—variously known as enlightenment, buddhahood or the highest nirvana—can be achieved by anyone who removes the gross and subtle obstructions clouding his or her mind and develops positive mental qualities to their fullest potential. However, we shall not be able to attain this fully awakened state if we do not first develop bodhichitta, the mind of enlightenment. What is bodhichitta? It is the continual and spontaneous state of mind that constantly strives to attain this perfect enlightenment solely for the benefit if all living beings. . . .

If we are to develop bodhichitta we must destroy all obstacles hindering its growth as well as accumulate the necessary prerequisites for its cultivation. The main obstacle to the development of bodhichitta is evil, defined [by Shantideva] as that which has the potential power to produce the fruit, suffering. Because we have a large accumulation of such misery-producing tendencies from the unwholesome actions we have done in the past, we find it extremely difficult to give birth to the precious and virtuous thought of bodhichitta. . . .

However, the purification of evil is not, by itself, sufficient for our purposes. We must also accumulate a great deal of merit, or positive potential energy, and this comes from the practice of virtue. . . .

Once we have taken hold of the precious bodhichitta, we must prevent it from decreasing. This is done by conscientiously attending to the wholesome actions of our body, speech and mind. . . .

Having grasped and then stabilized the bodhichitta by means of conscientiousness, we must strive to bring this mind to its complete fruition: perfect enlightenment. This is done by taking the bodhisattva vows [see pages 264-267] and practising the six perfections. . . . The development of bodhichitta takes place in three stages. The ten chapters of Shantideva’s book cover this threefold development, which is outlined concisely in the following often-recited prayer of generation:

May the supreme and precious bodhichitta
Take birth where it has not yet done so;
Where it has been born may it not decrease;
Where it has not decreased may it abundantly grow.

In the first two lines we pray that those sentient beings, including ourselves, who have not yet given birth to bodhichitta may do so. Next we pray that those who have already given birth to this altruistic mind may be able to maintain it without letting it decrease. In the final line, we pray that those who have cultivated and stabilized bodhichitta may be able to bring it to its full completion. In the same order, the method of giving birth to bodhichitta is explained in the first three chapters of this text, the way to stabilize it is the subject of the fourth chapter, while chapters five to ten describe the methods whereby the stabilized bodhichitta may be continually increased until full enlightenment is achieved.

If we practice in accordance with the instructions set forth in the ten chapters of the Bodhisattvacharyavatara [see pages 252-257], it will not be too difficult to attain the exalted state of mind known as enlightenment, pristine fulfilment or full and complete buddhahood. In this state all our human potentialities will be fully developed and we shall be able to benefit others to the greatest possible extent.

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