The path of bodhicitta, or “awakened heart,” is the surest way to a healthy and meaningful life. To follow this path is to become an aspiring bodhisattva dedicated to the service of others. It is also to explore what we can become as human beings—the greatest unfolding of our human potential. The path is infinitely rewarding, and also infinitely challenging.
In this evening talk, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel addresses the meaning and practice of the way of bodhicitta, which she calls, at its heart, a dedication to burn with love in an unfixable world.
Working with our experience.
We live in a world where everything we experience arises, plays out, and falls away in an infinite web of dependent relationships. The world is infinitely big, and though we can never grasp it, this path asks of us to have an equally big mind.
Our greatest challenge as practitioners is to avoid solidifying and reducing our world. We tend to do this by falling into the twin traps of trying to “fix” the suffering we encounter, on the one hand, or giving in to despair and numbness at that suffering, on the other.
The way to meet this challenge is to act in the knowledge that because “everything leans,” everything we do matters. Because of these reverberating effects, to be effective practitioners of open heart we need to move through life with special effort and special care.
A practical approach
But how do we do this in practice?
This path isn’t something we can Get Right. But it is something we work on actively. It is in the effort, joy, and curiosity that we bring to our bodhicitta practice that our world expands ever more beyond our self-absorption, the cause of so much of our own pain.
It’s from this humble stance that those aspiring to an open-hearted life can respond to the suffering in the world without the anxiety and desperation that comes from thinking they can fix it.
Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel has studied and practiced the Buddhadharma for 35 years under the guidance of her teacher and husband Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. She is the retreat master of Samten Ling in Crestone, Colorado and has spent over six years in retreat. She holds a degree in anthropology and an M.A. in Buddhist Studies. She teaches throughout the U.S., Australia, and Europe. She is the author of The Power of an Open Question: The Buddha’s Path to Freedom and The Logic of Faith: the Buddhist Path to Finding Certainty Beyond Belief and Doubt.
Elizabeth is known for her use of inquiry as a means to reach a place of genuine practice and awakening. She asks audiences to engage in the practice of open questioning with her while she takes a fresh look at all the assumptions and beliefs we have about spirituality. In particular, Elizabeth is fascinated with the Buddha’s essential teachings on the natural principle of pratityasamutpada, dependent arising. Audiences repeatedly comment on how her approach has reinvigorated their meditation practice and the way they relate to their lives as a whole.