Deep and Gentle Longing for Altruism

In gentler earlier times, I think calling and yearning for the awakening of the mind of bodhichitta was often inspired by less suffering ridden methods than used today. I have a book of love letters written in the 1600 and 1700’s. It’s very sweet and sincere. “I saw you buying a hat my lady, and my heart could hardly remain intact”. Beautiful poetry, “I can not forsake your image from my mind”. This imagery has a deep perfume of gentle longing and yearning. We not often see yearning with purity to it in our contemporary world, like these love letters. They continuously flow expression such as, “my heart, my love for you is true. I cannot tolerate being without your presence”.

It seems that modern society quickly degenerated into exhibited sensuality and cynical roughness that rips the glow and the dusting of starlight from the esoteric longing of these beautiful love letters. These love letters remind me spiritual beautiful poetry written toward the enlightened state. I used to write poetry like this in my just before life in the Tibetan language so I still remember the strong feeling. This uplifting quality and purity of intention and purity of aspiration is alive in this kind of poetry in this line of Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Life.

17. Although the result of the spirit of aspiring for awakening is great………..This longing for the resultant state of the Bodhi mind must happen and it must be heart-based like a sincere love letter rather than rough. By acknowledging this, subtle minds resonate and are encouraged to come alive within the system of development instead of just rising without purpose.

The only known method is steady daily practice that emphasizes compassion. Strong and sweet feelings experienced in meditation change the way we think about meditation and motivate us to do more so we can reinforce these wonderful feelings. Because of obstacles from this life and previous lives we also should work at developing a special kind of courage that is without anger or roughness that motivates us to continue when the sweetness just not arrive!

I had a conversation with a dear young woman who attended a couple of teachings, but is not a committed meditator. She said “Rinpoche, how do you just keep continuing meditation practice? I start and I do it for awhile, and then I get a feeling like maybe I shouldn’t do it, and then I just give it up and don’t do any practice at all.” I felt surprised to hear that because she was capable. I said, “Where’s you backbone that you would be so easily influenced to give up practice and meditation so easily? What are you, an inhabitant of a boneless chicken ranch?” “Well, maybe I am”, she admitted. We laughed, and I think she got it.

This aspiration to arise the genuine altruistic mind of a higher developed being definitely brings results. How? Because, with practice the mind is becomes continuously absorbed in a healthy new way. Very simply, while you’re thinking about bodhichitta, your mind is not delving into delusions.

I was recently at an airport, the plane was late so I wandering into a magazine shop to waste time. One magazine cover had a well-known person, with a banner headline “My favorite things are porn and water-skiing”. I thought he must feel pretty shy about saying something like this on the cover of the magazine, and then I realized this was not something that he felt shy about at all! In fact, he was expressing it just like telling his favorite movie, or I like the color blue. s I could see that his mind would be absorbed in the very things that interested him most! How much more wonderful when we place our minds toward what was actually going to produce quality benefits in the future.

So, even though the aspiring mind of bodhichitta has not actually done anything such as acts of a bodhisattva or saving all living beings yet, even that mind will produce so beneficial effects such as gaining human birth in the next life. How wonderful to have such grand aspirations.


  1. Dear Rinpoche,
    Thank you for your blog. I am doing Ngondro practice, and I sometimes struggle with feeling like it does not benefit anyone but myself, and I so want to be of benefit. Then, I struggle with the question of: is it just my ego wanting to see some tangible results, the big "I" wanting some kind of validation? I have had moments of bodichitta welling up so much it almost hurts; sometimes I feel like I don't even want to live if I can't be of real, lasting benefit. What other reason is there to be here? I know that becoming enlightened myself is the only true benefit to others. But what do I do in the meantime? It's hard to put into words. It's difficult to always keep the feeling that my practice is benefitting others, but I try to maintain the belief and faith that it is happening on an energetic level, even though I can't see it......Shenpen Lhamo

  2. One can know this to be true intuitively. We acknowledge our "heart's desire", we say "true love' is something different than lust and the like. So we do know there are degrees of love and caring above and beyond the so called "friend with benefits".
    What good fortune it is to find these careful Buddhist teachings that allow us to grow into one who can understand why and how to be of benefit to others.
    thank you for posting

  3. I like this one very much.
    Thanks Rinpoche!

  4. I, too, miss the tender, open-hearted "sentimentalism" of the expression of love in our culture. It seems to me that having a tough or closed-heart is often portrayed as the ideal rather than being tender and, thus, available to life.

    Thanks for sharing this, Rinpoche.


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