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The central practice of Mahayana is bodhicitta, which means vowing, for countless lifetimes, to reach full buddhahood and help all beings to do the same.

The word is Sanskrit and mean bodhi=enlightened -- citta=mind. Bodhi is not equal to buddhahood, but has many levels approaching the perfect Bodhi of a Buddha.

Here is an excerpt from a famous sutra expounding the benefits of aspiring to the altruistic goal of a Bodhisattva, which is one who (in 10 stages) is on the path to becoming, eventually, a full Buddha.

The City of 10,000 Buddhas - Sutra Texts - The Avatamsaka Sutra 17

Bodhi Mind is how bodhicitta is rendered in this translation.


Later in this sutra, in chapter 39, the great Bodhisattva Maitreya (who will be the next Buddha) outlines a few of the tasks a bodhisattva (Sudhana in this case) aims to accomplish over many lifetimes:

This sincere good person has set out to save all beings, undertaken to liberate all beings from misery, to evaporate all bad tendencies, to put an end to all states that are inopportune for attaining enlightenment, to block off all perilous roads, to dispel all darkness of ignorance, to cross all the wastelands of the mundane whirl, to stop all vicious circles, to get beyond the reach of all demons, to remove all attachment and dependence, to rescue people from the mire of lust, to abandon passion for joy, to remove the fetters of views, stop attachment to the body as real, cut through the snare of conception, stop the pursuit of error, to pluck out the thorns of delusion, to break through obstacles, to shatter the mountains of obstructions, to remove the net of craving, to dissolve the bonds of ignorance, to illuminate existence, to do away with guile and deceit, to clear mental disturbance, to remove doubt and confusion, to get out of the current of ignorance and delusion, to repel all the ills of the mundane whirl....


i wonder if i will ever get to that level, lol. My progress has been rather slow the last couple of years, but i am faithful to my twice daily meditation practice..an hour at sunrise and a hour at sunset. i hope i have a break through soon, i am trying to be patient, lol. i enjoyed reading you post..Blessings for your health and happiness


If we truly wish to join in and work with the altruist army, then we need to recall the advice of Nagarjuna Bodhisattva about the three selfless resolutions or vows that will certainly lead one to become a Bodhisattva, who will always benefit all beings:

Where the Buddha has instructed one, in a past life or vision, to generate this resolve;
Where one generates resolve in order to protect the Dharma;
Or where one generates resolve on account of pity for suffering beings;
Those possessed of at least one of the three motivations of this sort, will definitely find success.

Motive is the key to developing true bodhicitta. The quote is based on On Generating the Resolve to Become a Buddha, p. 31, Kalavinka Press


Many Mahayana teachings are aimed at aspiring bodhisattvas, this is one of the best. Here Samantabhadra Bodhisattva answers many question about the Path. It is chapter 38 in the Avatamsaka Sutra, newly translated by Rulu in the anthology titled Transcending the World.

Here is the first question by Universal Wisdom Bodhisattva and the reply:

[He asked] “On what kinds of things does a Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva rely?”

Then Samantabhadra Bodhisattva told Universal Wisdom Bodhisattva and the other Bodhisattvas, “Buddha-Sons, a Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva relies on ten kinds of things. What are these ten?

They are (1) the bodhi mind, because he never forgets or loses it; (2) his beneficent learned friends, because they unite with him; (3) his roots of goodness, because he develops and expands them; (4) the pāramitās, because he fully practices them; (5) all dharmas, because he eventually transcends them; (6) his great vows, because they strengthen the bodhi mind; (7) his actions, because he completes them; (8) all other Bodhisattvas, because he and they have the same wisdom; (9) making offerings to Buddhas, because he purifies his faith in Them; (10) all Tathāgatas, because, like loving-kind fathers, They ceaselessly teach him.

These are the ten. If a Bodhisattva relies on these ten kinds of things, he will acquire a Tathāgata’s unsurpassed great wisdom as his reliance.”


Vimalamitra, a great bodhisattva of long ago, commented on the sacred text Qualities of Manjusri. He points out the identity of bodhicitta and Manjusri, even the paramount status of bodhicitta:

"Since fundamental bodhicitta is the foremost dharma of all, it is the 'principal' one. It takes on the roles of the three jewels... With respect to its profundity, because bodhicitta is non-dual, it is the jewel of the Buddhas. The jewel of the Dharma consists of realization of the meaning of [non-duality]. That which reproduces it is the jewel of the Sangha."

[From The Wisdom of Manjusri, 93-4]
Vimalamitra, a great bodhisattva of long ago, commented on the sacred text Qualities of Manjusri. He points out the identity of bodhicitta and Manjusri, even the paramount status of bodhicitta:

"Since fundamental bodhicitta is the foremost dharma of all, it is the 'principal' one. It takes on the roles of the three jewels... With respect to its profundity, because bodhicitta is non-dual, it is the jewel of the Buddhas. The jewel of the Dharma consists of realization of the meaning of [non-duality]. That which reproduces it is the jewel of the Sangha."

[From The Wisdom of Manjusri, 93-4]
That which reproduces Bodhicitta is the jewel. I certainly agree with that. Do you think/believe Bodhicitta when deeply internalized and practiced even leads a disciple
beyond mind( normal mind that is)? Two books I have read that are really great on the topic of Bodhicitta and Dharma are "The Union of Bliss and Emptiness" and also "The Diamond Sutra". Some good posts here.


There are many surveys of the stages of Mahayana that go deeply into bodhicitta, this is one of the best in English: Treasury of Precious Qualities: Book One by Longchen Yeshe Dorje and Jigme Lingpa.


Before treading the Mahayana path, one needs some native inclinations, Ju Mipham comments on four essentials:

There are a great number of signs, or marks, of potential. In brief, there are four signs that, when present in individuals, reveal their Great Vehicle potential, just as fire is revealed by smoke. What are these four?

(1) Even before entering or engaging in the Great Vehicle—that is, before turning the mind toward supreme enlightenment—compassion spontaneously wells up when seeing the suffering of sentient beings.

(2) When merely hearing the vast and profound Dharma of the Great Vehicle, one is naturally inspired, even though one may not understand its meaning.

(3) When hearing about the hardships undertaken for the welfare of others, there is no feeling of discouragement. One does not think, “How could this possibly be?” Rather, the teaching is embraced with a sense of wonder.

(4) There is a feeling of spontaneous joy in the virtues of the six transcendences and a wish to practice them. These are said to be definite signs of the Great Vehicle potential. Those without such a potential display the opposite signs.

Excerpt From: Maitreya. Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sutras, 4:5


Kalavinka Press has a small, profound, traditional shastra on the initial motivation critical to becoming a bodhisattva, and eventually a buddha. It begins like this:

"Exhortation to Generate the Resolve

I. Chapter 1: Exhortation to Generate the Resolve
A. Declaration of Reverence to the Buddhas

I respectfully pay reverence to the boundless community
Of past, future, and present-era Buddhas,
The possessors of unshakable wisdom as vast as space,
The saviors of worlds, the greatly compassionate Bhagavāns.

B. Introducing Bodhi Exhortation and the Practices Flowing Therefrom

There exists among the vast teachings the most superior
and sublime of dharmas. Drawn from the wisdom treasury and cultivated
by the Bodhisattvas and the Mahāsattvas, it is:

1. The exhortation to delight in cultivating and accumulating
[the bases for realization of] the unsurpassed bodhi.

C. The Practices Flowing from Exhortation to Resolve on Bodhi

By resort to it, one is able to influence other beings:

2. To generate the profound and vast resolve;
3. To establish the vows to carry out the most definite form of adornment;
4. To relinquish lives and wealth in subduing covetousness;
5. To cultivate the five groups of moral precepts, teaching and leading forth those transgressing against the prohibitions;
6. To practice the ultimate patience by which they control and subdue the hindrance of hatred;
7. To generate the heroic vigor through which they establish and stabilize beings;
8. To accumulate the dhyāna absorptions for the sake of knowing the minds of the many varieties of beings;
9. To cultivate wisdom, destroying and eliminating ignorance;
10. To enter the gateway of according with reality, thus abandoning all forms of attachment;
11. To propagate and explain the extremely profound practices of emptiness and signlessness;
12. And to proclaim praises of the associated merit, thus preventing the lineage of the Buddhas from being cut off."

Each of the 12 points has a chapter wherein Vasubandhu bodhisattva expounds the meaning.


The greatest work for humanity is not done visibly; here is one who found the invisible (to normal vision) centers from which Amitabha Buddha's disciples live helping all beings:

In the summer of 769, in a Dharma assembly at the nearby Hudong Temple,
Fazhao led a group practice of chanting Amitabha Buddha’s name in
five parts. Their sincere calls were answered by the appearance of colorful clouds
all over the sky. In the clouds stood towers, temples, and the Three Holy Ones—
Amitabha Buddha, flanked by Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and
Mahasthamaprapta. The people of Hengyang all witnessed this display, which
lasted for a long time. They all burned incense and made obeisance.

That evening, Fazhao came across an old man, who said to him, “You made a
wish to visit the golden world on Wutaishan, to make obeisance to Mañjusri
Bodhisattva. Why do you linger here?”
Fazhao answered, “The times are hard and the journey is rough.”
The old man said, “If one has strong aspiration, what difficulty can there be?”
Then the old man disappeared.

On the thirteenth day of the eighth month of 769, Fazhao, together with a
team of fellow monks, set off on a pilgrimage to the Wutai Mountain. On the
sixth day of the fourth month of 770, they safely arrived at the Foguang (Buddha
light) Temple in Wutai County.

Before dawn, Fazhao saw a beam of white light shining on him. He followed
it for fifty lis, and arrived at a mountain, under which was a steam. On the north
bank of this stream was a stone gate, at which stood two youths. They introduced
themselves as Sudhana and Nanda. Escorted by them, Fazhao went inside the
gate and walked five lis to a temple which bore a sign that read “Zhulin Temple
of the Great Holy.” The ground there was gold and adorned with jeweled flowers
and trees, just as he had seen in his vision.

Fazhao entered the auditorium of the temple and found Bodhisattvas
Mañjusri and Samantabhadra, each seated on a jeweled lion throne and
surrounded by a multitude of Bodhisattvas. Fazhao approached them, made
obeisance, and said, “Ordinary beings in this Dharma-ending age have low
capacities and severe hindrances. They are unable to uncover their Buddha
nature. Which Dharma Door can easily lead them to the essence of the vast
Buddha Dharma?”

Mañjusri Bodhisattva replied, “Your question is opportune. In this Dharma-ending
age, no Dharma Door can better fulfill one’s wisdom and merit than the
double Dharma Door of thinking of Buddhas and making offerings to the Three
Jewels. In past kalpas, through thinking of Buddhas and making offerings to the
Three Jewels, I acquired [sarvajña-jñana] the knowledge of all knowledge. All
good dharmas, such as paramita and profound dhyana, are born from thinking of
Buddhas, which is the king of dharmas.”

Fazhao asked, “How does one think of Buddhas?”
Mañjusri Bodhisattva replied, “West of here is a world in which resides
Amitabha Buddha. The power of His vows is inconceivable. You should think of
Him without interruption. After death, you will definitely be reborn in His land,
standing on the Ground of No Regress.”
Bodhisattvas Mañjusri and Samantabhadra both extended their golden arms
and rubbed the crown of Fazhao’s head. They said, “Because you think of
Buddhas, you will soon attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. If good men and good
women single-mindedly think of Buddhas, they too will quickly attain anuttarasamyak-
Exultantly and exuberantly Fazhao made obeisance to them. He left the
auditorium, and the two youths escorted him outside the temple. No sooner did
he raise his head than the temple vanished. Fazhao then made a pile of stones to
mark the site.

On the eighth day of that month, Fazhao and his group went to the Huayan
Temple and settled down. On the thirteenth day, he and fifty or so
fellow monks went to the Vajra Cave of the Wutai Mountain. They reverently
chanted thirty-five Buddhas’ names, making obeisance to each name. After only
ten prostrations, Fazhao saw the cave turn into a vast clean place where stood a
palace made of pure aquamarine. Present inside were holy Bodhisattvas,
including Mañjusri and Samantabhadra.

Hoping to see Mañjusri Bodhisattva once again, Fazhao later returned to the
cave alone. He prostrated himself on the ground and prayed. Suddenly he saw an
Indian monk who called himself Buddhapala.
Buddhapla led him to a sparkling jeweled temple with a sign above its door, the
golden words on which read “Vajra Prajña Temple.” In the temple compound
stood hundreds of majestic towers and mansions, and Mañjusri the Great Holy
was surrounded by the multitudes. Fazhao wanted to stay there, but Buddhapala
did not permit him. He led Fazhao outside and said, “Train assiduously. When
you return, you may stay.”

In the twelfth month of that year, Fazhao began a meditation retreat at the
Huayan Temple. He fasted and vowed to be reborn in the Pure Land. On the
evening of the seventh day, an Indian monk entered the hall and asked him,
“Why do you not tell people what you have experienced here on Wutaishan?”
Then the Indian monk vanished.

Next day, in the afternoon, Fazhao saw another Indian monk, about eighty
years of age, who sternly said to him, “If you share with sentient beings your
extraordinary experiences on Wutaishan, they will be inspired to activate the
bodhi mind. Why do you not do it?”
Fazhao replied, “I do not dare to conceal the holy Way. However, I fear that
people might doubt my words and slander me.”
The old monk said, “Even Mañjusri the Great Holy, who resides on this
mountain, cannot avoid slanders. It is more important to induce sentient beings
to activate the bodhi mind than to save yourself.”

After his retreat ended, Fazhao wrote down his experiences, and circulated
his stories for the world to know.

From Rulu's translation Thinking of Amitabha Buddha, pp. 205-06
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Bodhicitta (bodhi resolve) similes from Avatamsaka Sutra ch. 39:

The bodhi resolve is like a seed, for it is able to produce all the dharmas of a buddha; The bodhi resolve is like a fine field, for it is able to grow beings’ pure dharmas; The bodhi resolve is like the great earth, for it is able to support everyone in the world; The bodhi resolve is like pure water, for it is able to rinse away all the filth of the afflictions; The bodhi resolve is like the great wind, for it is unimpeded everywhere in the world; The bodhi resolve is like a raging fire, for it is able to burn up all the deadwood of views; The bodhi resolve is like the clearly shining sun, for it everywhere illuminates the entire world; The bodhi resolve is like the full moon, for it is perfectly full in the white dharmas of purity; The bodhi resolve is like a brightly shining lamp, for it is able to emanate many different kinds of Dharma light; The bodhi resolve is like the clearly seeing eye, for it everywhere perceives all the safe and hazardous places; The bodhi resolve is like the great road, for it enables everyone to enter the city of great wisdom; The bodhi resolve is like the right fording place, for it enables one to leave behind all wrong dharmas; The bodhi resolve is like a great vehicle, for it is able to transport all bodhisattvas; The bodhi resolve is like a door, for it opens and shows all the bodhisattva practices.


If one aspires for oneself and for the world to attain the unexcelled enlightenment, the roots of this are an awakening mind as firm as Meru, king of mountains, compassion extending in all directions, and gnosis not rooted in duality.

Nagarjuna, Precious Garland.


Just like the lotus among flowers
is bodhicitta supreme among all virtuous thoughts.
Since having it brings immediate and final happiness,
one should make every effort to produce it.

Since even knowledge of all modes of meditation
has its origin in just this supreme bodhicitta,
those who wish for freedom
should certainly make it their work.

Khunu Rinpoche