Avalokiteshvara

Statue of Avalokiteshvara at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC

 

We invoke your name, Avalokiteshvara. We aspire to learn your way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen in order to understand. We invoke your name in order to practice listening with all our attention and open-heartedness. We will sit and listen without any prejudice. We will sit and listen without judging or reacting. We will sit and listen in order to understand. We will sit and listen so attentively that we will be able to hear what the other person is saying and also what is being left unsaid. We know that just by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other person.

– Chanting from the Heart, Parallax Press, 2006, p. 30

As mentioned in my last post, I plan on sharing my journal entries and the answers to the three questions I put together for use in our newly formed Bodhisattva Reflection Group. Today marks the end of week one in our five week practice. It never ceases to amaze and delight me how powerful it can be to put even just a small amount of intention into something in particular – whether it’s practice related or otherwise. Simply reading this Bodhisattva verse each day over the last week was enough to spur a number of insights and understandings.

It’s like when you go from never hearing about, say, visiting Yellowstone National Park and then when you start setting your sights on wanting to venture there, you suddenly find yourself encountering mentions of it all over the place. I find most things are like that, and working with the Bodhisattvas is no different.

Now, I didn’t journal every day. I journaled when I felt called to. Here’s what resulted:

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Bodhisattvas

Meme I put together using one of my own photos

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:

SCHEDULE:

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):

 
THREE QUESTIONS:

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!

Stay tuned!