Spurred by a practice I’m doing alongside an OI aspirant I have the pleasure of mentoring – which involves spending 2 weeks reflecting on each of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings – and an idea my good friend Rhonda had, I came up with a creative way to work more deeply with the Five Bodhisattvas in our Plum Village practice tradition. It’s an experiment I’m choosing to call: Bodhisattva Reflection Practice Group.
I emailed a number of our regular sangha members with an overview of the set up – which largely takes place over email – asking for a full commitment to the schedule below, should folks be interested in joining the group. I also explained that in large part this practice would be self-driven. I don’t intend on checking up on anyone or sending out the schedule each week. I sent one email out and encouraged everyone to save it for ongoing reference, which included a PDF of the necessary text for all Five Bodhisattvas (link to online text is included below). Including myself, we are a lovely group of 8 :)
Here’s how it works:
Monday March 4th: Read (& reflect on) Avalokiteshvara every day through Sunday.
Sunday March 10th: Send your answers to the three questions (see below) to EVERYONE on this email list.
Monday March 11th: Read (& reflect on) Manjushri every day through Sunday.
Sunday March 17th: Send your answers to the three questions to EVERYONE on this email list.
Monday March 18th: Read (& reflect on) Samantabhadra every day through Sunday.
Sunday March 24th: Send your answers to the three questions to EVERYONE on this email list.
Monday March 25th: Read (& reflect on) Ksitigarbha every day through Sunday.
Sunday March 31st: Send your answers to the three questions to EVERYONE on this email list.
Monday April 1st: Read (& reflect on) Sadaparibhuta every day through Sunday.
Sunday April 7th: IN PERSON GATHERING; answer the three questions and bring them with you to share.
Here are the three questions we will all be answering and emailing to the group each week (using the same questions each week):
1. How would you summarize this verse in your own words?
2. What do you see as being your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to the qualities of this Bodhisattva?
3. What is something you’ve gleaned by reflecting on this Bodhisattva this past week?
Bodhisattva literally means “enlightened being.” The Plum Village chant book defines it as such: One committed to enlightening oneself and others so that all may be liberated from suffering.
In our practice tradition, we are especially urged not to regard the Bodhisattva’s as external separate entities but more as qualities in which to actively cultivate within our own self, for the benefit of all beings. While the Bodhisattva’s are mentioned as actual human beings – and disciples of the Buddha – in the sutras, we are encouraged to see them as representing skill-sets and capabilities in which to hone and sharpen in our own life.
As we are amid week one in our reflection group, I’ll keep you posted as to my journaling on each of the Bodhisattvas, as well as my answers to the three questions.
If this arrangement goes well, I can see putting together other reflection group practices in the future. I really enjoy knowing that I’m practicing alongside my friends and that we can share what we’re working on with one another. We’re all in this together!