THE 37 PRACTICES OF A BODHISATTVA By Ngulchu Thogme (Root Text)

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Ngulchu Thogme
Ngulchu Thogme

THE 37 PRACTICES OF A BODHISATTVA
By Ngulchu Thogme

Its purpose is to help us with our motivation!
Beginning of Text

Prostration

Namo Lokeshvaraya.
You see that all phenomena neither come nor go.
Still you strive solely for the benefit of beings.
Supreme Guru and Protector Chenrezig,
to you I continually bow with body, speech, and mind.

Author’s intention

The perfect Buddhas, sources of benefit and happiness,
Arise from accomplishing the genuine Dharma.
Since that in turn depends on knowing how to practice,
The practices of a Bodhisattva shall be explained.

Practice 1
Commitment

Now that you have obtained a precious human body,
the great boat so difficult to find,
In order to free yourself and others from the ocean of samsara,
To listen, reflect, and meditate with diligence day and night
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 2
Detaching from passion, aggression, and hatred

Passion towards friends churns like water.
Hatred towards enemies burns like fire.
Through dark ignorance, one forgets what to adopt and what to reject.
To abandon one’s homeland is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 3
Relying on solitude

Giving up negative places, Mental afflictions gradually decrease.
With no distractions, virtuous activities naturally increase.
When mind becomes clear, Certainty in the Dharma is born.
To rely on solitude is the practice of a Bodhisattva

Practice 4
Abandoning attachment to this life

Old friends and relatives will separate.
Possessions gained with effort will be left behind.
Consciousness, the guest, will leave the guesthouse of the body.
To let go of this life is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 5
Giving up negative friendships

When friendship with someone
Causes the three poisons to increase,
Degrades the activities of listening, reflecting, and meditating,
And destroys loving kindness and compassion,
To give up such a friendship
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 6
Relying on a spiritual friend

When in reliance on someone, your defects wane
And your positive qualities grow like the waxing moon,
To cherish such a spiritual friend even more than your own body
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 7
Seeking refuge

Themselves captives in the prison of samsara,
Whom can the worldly gods protect?
Therefore, to seek refuge in those who do not deceive,
the Three Jewels, Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 8
Relinquishing negative actions

The suffering of the lower realms, so difficult to bear,
Is the fruit of wrong deeds, so the Buddha taught.
Therefore, even at the cost of your life,
Never to commit negative actions
Is the conduct of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 9
Striving for unchanging liberation

Like dew on the tip of a blade of grass
Happiness in the three worlds evaporates in a single instant.
To strive for the supreme state of liberation that never changes
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 10
Developing bodhichitta

From beginningless time your mothers have cherished you.
If they now suffer, what good is your own happiness?
Therefore, in order to liberate limitless sentient beings,
Giving rise to bodhichitta is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 11
Exchanging happiness for suffering

All suffering comes from yearning for your own happiness.
The perfect Buddhas are born from the intention to benefit others.
Therefore, to truly exchange your own happiness for the suffering of others
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 12
Responding to theft

Even if someone driven by desire steals all your wealth
Or incites someone else to steal it,
To dedicate to this person your body, possessions,
and all your virtue of the three times
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 13
Responding to injury
If someone cuts off your head
Even when you have not done the slightest thing wrong,
Through the power of compassion
To take his misdeeds upon yourself
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 14
Returning praise for slander

Should someone slander you
Throughout a billion worlds,
With a heart full of love, to proclaim his good qualities in return
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 15
Responding to public humiliation

If in the middle of a crowd of people
Someone reveals your hidden faults and abuses you for them,
To see him as a spiritual friend and to bow with respect
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 16
Responding to ingratitude

If someone whom you dearly cherish like your own child
Takes you for an enemy,
Then, like a mother whose child is sick,
To love that person even more
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 17
Responding to spite

Even when someone who is your equal or inferior
Driven by spite seeks to defame you,
To place him on the crown of your head
With the same respect you would accord your guru
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 18
Abandoning discouragement

Though gripped by poverty and always scorned,
Though stricken by disease and tormented by evil spirits,
To take upon yourself the negativity and suffering of every being
And never to get discouraged
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 19
Counteracting arrogance

Though famous and prominent, someone to whom others bow,
Though you amass the riches of the god of wealth,
To see that worldly splendor has no essence
And thus to be without arrogance
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 20
Taming the mind

If you have not tamed the enemy of your own anger,
Combating outer opponents will only make them multiply.
Therefore, with an army of loving kindness and compassion,
To tame your own mind is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 21
Relinquishing attachment to sense pleasures

Sense pleasures are like salt water.
The more you partake of them,
The more your craving will increase.
Therefore, when something arouses attachment,
To abandon it immediately is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 22
Transcending dualistic appearances

All appearances are your own mind, and
Mind itself primordially transcends all mental fabrications.
Knowing this is the precise nature of reality,
To remain free from dualistic conceptions
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 23
Seeing pleasant objects as rainbows

When you encounter objects that please your mind,
Know they are like rainbows in the summer season.
Though they seem beautiful,
To see they are not real and to give up attachment to them
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.
Practice 24
Seeing unpleasant circumstances as delusions

All suffering is like the death of your child in a dream.
To take such delusive appearances as true, how exhausting!
Therefore, whenever you encounter unpleasant circumstances,
To see them as delusions is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

[Practices 25 through 30 address the six perfections, or 6 paramitas.]

Practice 25: The First Paramita
Giving generously

If those who aspire to enlightenment willingly give up their bodies,
What need is there to mention external objects?
Therefore with no hope of reward or benefit,
To give with generosity is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 26: The Second Paramita
Guarding discipline

If lack of discipline prevents you from benefiting yourself,
Then your wish to benefit others is just a joke.
Therefore, to guard discipline
With no longing for worldly existence
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 27: The Third Paramita
Practicing patience

For a Bodhisattva who seeks a wealth of virtue
Every harm is like a precious treasure.
Therefore, without getting irritated by anything at all,
To cultivate patience is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 28: The Fourth Paramita
Cultivating joyous effort

If Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, who strive for their benefit alone,
Expend effort as if to extinguish a fire burning on their heads,
Then for the benefit of all beings,
To cultivate joyous effort, the wellspring of positive qualities,
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 29: The Fifth Paramita
Attaining meditative stability

Vipashyana perfectly endowed with shamatha
Completely conquers all afflictions.
To cultivate meditative stability That transcends the four formless states
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 30: The Sixth Paramita
Cultivating nonconceptual superior knowledge

Without superior knowledge,
It is not possible to attain perfect enlightenment through
the first five paramitas alone.
Therefore, joining it with skillful means
and not conceptualizing about the three spheres
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva

Practice 31
Analyzing delusion

If you have not analyzed your own confusion,
You might put on a Dharmic façade
While behaving in a non-Dharmic way.
Therefore, to continuously analyze your delusion and discard it
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 32
Not criticizing other Bodhisattvas

If, compelled by your own afflictions,
You speak of the faults of other Bodhisattvas,
You, yourself, will degenerate.
Therefore, never to mention the faults of those
Who have entered the Mahayana path
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 33
Relinquishing attachment to households

Desire for gain and honor leads to argument,
And activities of listening, reflecting and meditating decline.
Therefore, to relinquish attachment to the households
of friends, relatives, and sponsors
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 34
Abandoning harsh speech

Harsh speech disturbs the minds of others
And compromises a Bodhisattva’s right conduct.
Therefore, to give up harsh and unpleasant speech
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 35
Eliminating mental afflictions

Once you become accustomed to the mental afflictions,
They are hard to cure with antidotes.
Therefore, with the remedies of mindfulness and awareness
To eliminate afflictions the moment they arise
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice 36
Remaining mindful and aware

In brief, wherever you are and whatever you do,
Always examine the state of your mind.
Cultivating mindfulness and awareness continuously
To benefit others is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Practice Thirty-seven
Dedicating merit

To clear away the suffering of all infinite beings,
With superior knowledge free of concepts of the three spheres,
To dedicate to enlightenment the merit accumulated through these efforts
Is the practice of a Bodhisattva

Epilogue A
Relying on scripture and oral teachings

Relying on what is taught in the sutras, tantras, treatises,
And the words of the genuine masters,
I have composed these thirty-seven Bodhisattva practices
To benefit those who wish to train on the Bodhisattva’s path.

Epilogue B
Confidence in basis of the practices

Because my intelligence is small and my studies few,
I cannot compose poetry to please the scholars.
Yet since they are based on sutras and teachings
of the genuine masters, I believe these practices of a Bodhisattva are not mistaken.

Epilogue C
Supplication to the genuine masters

Nevertheless, since the vast conduct of a Bodhisattva is difficult to fathom
For one with an inferior intellect such as mine,
I pray to the genuine masters to consider with patience
All my mistakes such as contradictions, incoherence, and so on.

Epilogue D
Final dedication and aspiration

By virtue of the merit gathered here,
By the power of relative and ultimate bodhichitta,
May all sentient beings become like the Protector Chenrezig
Who dwells neither in the extreme of existence nor in that of peace.

Epilogue E
Place of composition

The monk Thogme,
A proponent of scriptures and logic,
Has composed these verses
In a cave known as Ngulchu Rinchen Puk
To benefit himself and others.