We are pleased to bring you this excerpt from Giving Our Best with Pema Chodron. Compassion is a skill. You can learn it here and now, and the benefits are vast. In this recorded retreat, Pema Chödrön shows you how—using a text that is very close to her heart: the Buddhist classic known as The Way of the Bodhisattva. Here she focuses on its primary subject, the enlightened heart and mind (bodhichitta), showing us how this awakened state, which often seems infinitely far out of our grasp, is always available to us right where we are.
So what is bodhicitta? As a working definition of it, I’m going to call it a longing and a commitment to wake up fully and completely, which is the same thing as saying to be free of suffering and the cause of suffering, completely.
And why? In order that we could help other people. And this last part, in order that we can help other people, is very key to bodhicitta because it’s a longing. A lot of you are probably in professions where you help people. So you set out to want to do that and you’re right up against all your old habits, fear, and loathing. People tell me all the time about, you know, I wanted to save at risk teenagers so I trained and I went into that profession, and, you know, in two days I just like hated most of the kids. So I realized, you know, I had a little work to do if I really wanted to do that and it wasn’t a little work to get rid of all these kids and getting some nice kids in here. Could we just get rid of all these kids and get some that cooperate?
And so, you realize that then the longing and commitment really grows strong to want to clean up your act and that means, you know, to be less reactive and more open, less fearful, less stuck in your old ways that keep getting in the way of you and helping other people. So it’s a longing and that’s really an important word, but also a commitment to actually do what it takes to free yourself of old habits and fears which is the same thing as saying freeing yourself of suffering.
And then to the degree that you can do that, you're right there for those teenagers or husband or wife or child or whoever it might be, your right there for them and of course you might be reacting inside but your right there and they can feel it. You are there for them and therefore to the degree you can be there, then you can help.