Lotus Blooms In the Blog

July 1, 2006

To Open Doors For Others

Filed under: Shantideva — by Kent Sandvik @ 6:46 pm

Open a DoorWhen studying Shantideva’s amazing text called Bodhisattva Way of Life there are sections that deal with the conduct of someone aspiring to follow the bodhisattva path. Actually, there are explicit instructions how to behave when dealing with other people and the environment, one might say the etiquette of a bodhisattva. Here are some extracts from chapter five, based on the translation by Alex Berzin, available here.

Chapter 5: (91) Should I spit or toss away the stick for (cleaning) my teeth,
I shall cover it over (with earth).
Further, it’s despicable to urinate and so forth
Into water or on land that’s to be used.

(92) I shall not eat with stuffing my mouth,
With noise, or with my mouth wide open.
Nor shall I sit with my legs outstretched
Or with my arms simultaneously (crossed),
pressed (against my body).

(93) I shall not go in a vehicle, on a bed, (a seat),
Or in a room alone with someone else’s woman.
Having observed or inquired, I shall give up
All that would bring disrespect from the world.

(94) I shall never point with (my left hand or) one finger,
But respectfully with my right,
And with the entire hand;
I shall also indicate the path like that.

(95) I shall not wildly wave my arms,
Nor shout out loud, when it’s scarcely urgent,
But shall signal with a snap of the fingers and the like,
Otherwise, I’ll get out of control.

Now, to remember, one of the targeted audiences for this text was the monks at Nalanda monastery, so the advices has connotations related to Vinaya vows, especially the issue of being alone in the same location as a woman.

For me, having a system when dealing with others is a way to develop connections with everyone we meet. It is very tough to develop universal compassion to all sentient beings sitting on the cushion — it’s doable, but the scope is grand and very abstract in the beginning. While helping out with instructions at work, always opening doors for others, or deliberately place oneself last in the line is a very simple and creates positive potentials in the mind. As such, having advices about etiquette, and how to behave in various situations, is a daily practice of training the mind towards the goal of always being around others helping them.

If you want to read more about Buddhist etiquette, Jeff Watts has collected a god set of the most common traditions.

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