Bodhi means “awake” and citta means “heart-mind.” Bodhicitta is a longing, a yearning, that comes to fortunate people to wake up, and specifically to wake up so they can be of help to other people and to the earth. It’s very common that people want to be free of suffering and go about it in ways that just increase their suffering. But it’s less common for people to want to be free of suffering because they really have a longing to help.
Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It’s about seeing how we react to all these things. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.
To be awakened does not mean to understand the truth or nature of reality, which then frees you from ignorance, leaving you awakened. It may be more accurate to think of truth as truthfulness, or living a truthful life. It means to live in a certain way rather than to gain access to a privileged knowledge.
With spectacular forthrightness, French novelist Marie Henri Beyle Stendhal handled love and ambition with the same investigative skill. His revelation of conformism and delusion more than justifies the recurrent claim that he is a major precursor of psychological realism.
Julien Sorel, the central character of Stendhal’s The Red and the Black is one of fiction’s first great antiheroes. Sorel’s immense predicament is that he is a Napoleon-like figure in the black world of the French Restoration, in which the egotist is supposed to follow, and to observe rank and hierarchy. Sorel’s inconsistency and intricacy assess him as a new type of fictional character. The American literary and social critic Irving Howe suggests,
The modern hero, the man who forces society to accept him as its agent the hero by will rather than birth-now appears for the first time: and he carries with him the disease of ambition, which flourishes among those who are most committed to the doctrine of equality and spreads all the deeper as the restored Bourbons try to suppress that doctrine. Before the revolution men had been concerned with privileges, not expectations; now they dream of success, that is, of a self-willed effort to lift oneself, through industry or chicanery, to a higher social level. Life becomes an experiment in strategy, an adventure in plan, ruse, and combat; the hero is not merely ambitious but sensitive to the point of paranoia, discovering and imagining a constant assault upon his dignity; and Stendhal carries this outlook to its extreme limit, perhaps even to caricature, by applying it to the affairs of love.
Thich Nhat Hanh writes in Calming the Fearful Mind: A Zen Response to Terrorism:
The Kingdom of Heaven is like the blue sky. Sometimes the blue sky reveals itself to us entirely. Sometimes it reveals half of itself, sometimes just a little bit of blue peeks through, and sometimes non at all. Storms, clouds and fog hide the blue sky. The Kingdom of heaven can be hidden by a cloud of ignorance or by a tempest of anger, violence and fear. But for people who practice mindfulness, it is possible to be aware that even if it is very foggy, cloudy, or stormy, the blue sky is always there for us above the clouds. Remembering this keeps us from sinking into despair.
In the bestselling The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, New York University-academic and business analyst Scott Galloway pontificates about the many obstacles Alibaba faces in its aspiration for global domination:
As such, Alibaba carries a lot of water on its path to global domination. First, there is no historical precedent for a consumer brand emerging from China. The world is used to global brands from the United States and Europe, and more recently from Japan and South Korea, but not from China. Chinese firms face associations (legitimate or not) of labor exploitation, counterfeit goods, patent infringement, and governmental interference. Those characteristics are inconsistent with the Western values that underpin aspirational brands. And it hasn’t helped that Alibaba’s early reputation was tainted by claims that many of its small retailers were disreputable.
The way out of our cage begins with accepting absolutely everything about ourselves and our lives, by embracing with wakefulness and care our moment-to-moment experience. By accepting absolutely everything, what I mean is that we are aware of what is happening within our body and mind in any given moment, without trying to control or judge or pull away. I do not mean that we are putting up with harmful behavior – our own or another’s. This is an inner process of accepting our actual, present-moment experience. It means feeling sorrow and pain without resisting. It means feeling desire or dislike without judging ourselves for the feeling or being driven to act on it. This is what I call Radical Acceptance. If we are holding back from any part of our experience, if our heart shuts out any part of who we are and what we feel, we are fueling the fears and feelings of separation that sustains the trance of unworthiness. Radical Acceptance directly dismantles the very foundations of this trance.
My right hand, which has written hundreds of poems, can also write calligraphy and ring the bell. Yet it is not proud of itself. It never tells the left hand, “You are good for nothing. You don’t write poems or practice calligraphy.” … It knows that it is also my left hand, and it acts according to that wisdom. One day, I held a nail in place with my left hand, my right hand, holding the hammer, missed the nail and pounded my [left] finger instead. The moment my right hand made the mistake and caused me pain, it put down the hammer and started taking care of my left hand. It did not say, “I’m sorry.” This way of behaving is perfect. My right hand considered itself one with my left hand and made no distinction such as, “I am the right hand. I am taking care of you, the left hand. You should remember that.” My right hand practiced the emptiness of loving perfectly. Our body and consiousness have the wisdom of nondiscrimination.
There are times in our lives when we wish we could change the ending of the story. Sometimes we lose what we care about, we are separated from those we love, our bodies fail us as we get older, we feel helpless or hurt, or our lives just seem to be slipping away. These are all aspects of dukkha, one of the principal teachings of the Buddha. Dukkha means suffering, discontent, unsatisfactoriness, hollowness, change.
The Buddha said, “I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering.” Suffering in his teaching does not necessarily mean grave physical pain, but rather the mental suffering we undergo when our tendency to hold onto pleasure encounters the fleeting nature of life, and our experiences become unsatisfying and ungovernable.
How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.