Recap of the Five Bodhisattvas most common in our Plum Village Tradition:
Avalokiteshvara: Bodhi. of Great Compassion
Manjushri: Bodhi. of Great Understanding
Samantabhadra: Bodhi. of Great Action
Kshitigarbha: Bodhi. of Great Aspiration
Sadaparibhuta: Bodhi. of Never Disparaging
We invoke your name, Sadaparibhuta. We aspire to learn your way of never doubting or underestimating any living being. With great respect, you say to all you meet, “You are someone of great value, you have Buddha nature, I see this potential in you.” Like you, we will look with a wise, compassionate gaze, so we are able to hold up a mirror where others can see their ultimate nature reflected. We will remind people who feel worthless that they too are a precious wonder of life. We vow to water only the positive seeds in ourselves and in others, so that our thoughts, words, and actions can encourage confidence and self-acceptance in ourselves, our children, our loved ones, and in everyone we meet. Inspired by the great faith and insight that everyone is Buddha, we will practice your way of patience and inclusiveness so we can liberate ourselves from ignorance and misunderstanding, and offer freedom, peace, and joy to ourselves, to others and to our society.
I appreciate the mention of how looking with a wise, compassionate gaze is what enables us to hold up a mirror for others to see themselves more clearly – it doesn’t say: verbally tell others how you think they should change/aren’t doing it “right.” No one likes being judged.
Pondering: how would/do I remind those who feel worthless that they too are a precious wonder of life? I think my main go-to would be in the offering of my time and full presence and in my propensity for reaching out to others. Those who feel worthless tend to feel lonely and neglected; unseen. I’ve learned over the years that my true presence and my time are the greatest gifts I have to offer to others. I don’t have to do anything but simply show up and be there, in mind, body, and spirit.
There is a deep well of collective sorrow in regards to feelings of worthlessness. Many/most people lack self-esteem, self-worth, self-love. I feel as though culturally, we’re at a critical low point in terms of self-value. The watering of negative seeds is so incredibly pervasive. Individually and collectively, we need to learn and practice how to water positive seeds, so that our confidence and self-acceptance can grow and strengthen.
I doubt and underestimate people frequently. Mostly strangers; those I don’t have a personal connection with. Judgements of character, disposition, and values come swiftly for me – for all us I reckon. Sometimes it happens in a split second.
Case and point: last night, I attended The Moth storytelling event at the Wilma. As soon as a new storyteller appeared on stage, I’d made up my mind as to whether or not I liked them. And since this was a conscious happening, I then observed and investigated my inner workings around the judgements that arose. While my findings weren’t new, they were still helpful all the same. I doubt and underestimate people who are overly emotive/expressive/dramatic; those I perceive as emanating a certain airy vibe; and those who dress in certain ways (which I’m not sure quite how to describe – it’s one of those things where I just know it when I see it). And while it pains me to say, I tend to doubt and underestimate womenfolk much more readily than menfolk.
I’ve noticed that when I consciously engage with my judgements in the moments when they arise, I am able to work with them constructively and it greatly increases my ability to infuse understanding and compassion into the situation and change my initial assessment of the other person into one that more accurately reflects who they are.
1. How would you summarize this verse in your own words?
We will look with the mind and heart of compassion and inclusiveness in regards to our self and others.
2. What do you see as being your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to the qualities of this Bodhisattva?
Strength: Watering only the positive seeds in myself and others is a deep calling and a strong skill-set of mine. I see myself as being quite diligent in this regard. Weakness: Doubting and underestimating others is very common for me. I don’t whole-heartedly trust very many people.
3. What is something you’ve gleaned by reflecting on this Bodhisattva this past week?
It’s easy to see why people often get caught in thinking that our practice is calling us in the direction of perfection, as there is little to dispel this notion on paper. It says: We aspire to learn your way of never doubting or underestimating any living being. It doesn’t say some living beings, some of the time – it says any living being. It seems to be implying that we should aspire to apply the virtues of this bodhisattva to ALL beings ALL of the time. For me – and I judge for all of us – it is not only unrealistic but unhelpful to think we can actualize this in regards to every person we cross paths with amid every possible moment. And I truly don’t think this is what our practice tradition is suggesting; it’s our western mindsets of what perfection/accomplishment/success means that define it as such. Instead, we are invited to move in its direction, consciously and continually – and if we’re not actively moving in its direction, than at least we’re standing in such a way where we are facing it head on.
Just as the Buddha’s finger pointing to the moon is not the moon – and the moon is unobtainable as a place to set our end-game destination – so too are we called to action in the same way in regards to the virtues of the bodhisattvas.
My aspiration is to stay pointing in their direction – moving actively as much as I am able, even if it’s hella slow – which keeping in mind what is a realistic notion to have and what isn’t. For instance: growth, improvement, and strength with diligent ongoing practice is realistic; perfection and a life lived without pitfalls, backslides, challenges, missteps, and turmoil is not realistic.