Class 1 Transcript: A Gift of Liberation 38: Becoming a Bodhisattva: Steps to Create a Kinder World (2021, Arizona)


Hi, welcome back to Gift of Liberation and this is Geshe Michael. I’m excited about our course. It’s going to be a very deep course and we’re going to continue talking about this idea, everybody talks about bodhichitta, and we hear this word of bodhichitta. And I think a few people still think it means enlightenment mind, and then they think it means “the mind of a Buddha” because bodhi means “Buddha” and chitta means “mind”. Of course it doesn’t mean that. What it means is “the Wish to reach enlightenment”. If we study it for two or three lam rim courses, two or three retreats, then I think we also start to forget what bodhichitta is.

You can say as the Wish for enlightenment. That’s okay. But I very much prefer if you have the real feeling of it–and the feeling is completely different. It’s not to sit and like when you’re a kid and you’re wishing for a bicycle for Christmas. It’s not like that. It’s not like that. It’s a different kind of thing. So I thought maybe at the very beginning here we can do a small meditation, just a few minutes. You can do a longer one in your extra classes, but let’s just do a short meditation on what this bodhichitta feels like. And that way we can do the whole course and we can remember where we’re trying to go.

I will describe the experience of bodhichitta directly and then you just follow along and imagine it. And I don’t know … when I was in sports when I played tennis in high school, they would tell us to imagine yourself making these great plays and doing these great things. My yoga teacher told me if you can’t do a pose then just go halfway into a headstand and then imagine yourself in the headstand. Then that’s a cause for being able to do it. So we’re going to do the same thing with bodhichitta.


So please get ready. We’re going to do just the little tiny meditation. You do your serious meditations in your extra classes.

Eyes are soft. A little bit of a smile.

Hands are soft. Fingers are soft. I like to touch my thumbs. I like to put my palms on each other.

Sit up very straight. Shoulders back.

A strange thing about pulling in your tummy is if you exhale two times, your stomach will come in automatically. That’s just good for your posture and it’s good for your health. So let’s do long exhales. When you run out of breath, push a little bit more breath out and your lower stomach will tighten and that will support your back.

Okay, here we go. 10 long exhales.

And we’ll imagine that we’re having the direct experience of bodhichitta. Imagine your mom comes up in your mind. It’s not a picture. It’s not a painting. It’s not a photograph. It’s your real mom in front of your mind. And it’s nice to picture her in her health when you knew her or you saw photos of her when she was young and healthy–happy. And you’re just sitting together, and you’re talking to her.

“Look, Mom, I know your life has not been easy. Life is not always easy. I know you have worries. Wherever you are now, I know you have more worries. I know you have trouble in your life. And we have that big fear of death but I want you to know that I’m going to take care of you. It’s not an empty promise. I have the power. I am learning the power to take care of you. You really don’t have to worry.

“So kids are supposed to take care of their parents when they get older, and I’ve got plans for taking care of you. I will be a Buddha–a real Buddha who can go to all places, all times, all worlds, and knows all things and can help you. Real help for you. I’m on a fast track for that. So you don’t have to worry. I know it’s my job to take care of you the way you took care of me, and you don’t have to worry. I’m on a path and it works. I can see where it’s going and I can see that I will take care of you ultimately.”

And try to picture that day when you have power to move from world to world, planet to planet, galaxy to galaxy, in countless bodies. It feels like dancing across worlds and taking care of everyone in each world. Imagine that power. Your mind has that power because your mind is empty. You have that power. You just have to wake it up.

Creating a mandala, perfect world, perfect universe where no one suffers, no one gets old, no one dies. You have that power. You are learning how to do it. You are a Buddha in training. But don’t ever forget where you’re going and why we are doing these courses. Make that promise to your mom.

Okay, then you can open your eyes.

Take a stretch–me and mom. (laughs)


So this course in the Lam Rim, and we’ve been going for over 10 years now, and we’re working our way very … I don’t know, for me it’s a great pleasure to come back to the Lam Rim every few months in the last 10 years. For me, it’s like swimming in a sauna. I don’t know how you call this heated swimming pool, or the ocean at San Pacho, or San Miguel, on very nice day. It just feels so pleasant to come back to the beach called Lam Rim and jump in the water again, and kind of get my motivation and get my courage back again, and then my life doesn’t seem so difficult. And I can dream again about becoming a Buddha.

This book, oh, it’s got to be the greatest book ever written for the entire Buddhist path. If you can read Tibetan, every single word is extremely beautiful. It makes you think that Trijang Rinpoche was a very special being, my teacher’s teacher. So you’re of a good lineage. And we’re going to continue.

I’m going to review what we did in the last Lam Rim, which was: what’s the cool stuff that’s going to happen to you if you can get bodhichitta–if you can really reach this motivation and this vision. Never forget the vision. I don’t even like to call it motivation. Get that vision in your mind of traveling from planet to planet and jumping between planets. It’s a lot of fun and you can do it. Don’t think this is the only planet. Come on! Go out and look at the stars some night. So keep that in mind.

We’re going to review the last Lam Rim we had. The subject of the last Lam Rim was really focusing on ten … it’s called PHAN YON BCU, which is the ten benefits of bodhichitta–the Wish for enlightenment. If you can reach it … if you can have that direct experience, then what’s it going to feel like and how are you going to feel? So we’re going to go through those ten benefits. I’m going to show some IDIMS–some pictures that give you a idea of the benefit.


The first one we can show … so when we talk about the first benefit of reaching this kind of vision of jumping between planets, dancing between planets, there are ten benefits. This is a picture of the first benefit.

I like to call it “visiting the middle of the sun”. And this is called THEG CHEN GYI ‘JUG SGO SEMS BSKYED KHO NAR BSTAN PA. It means you will enter the Greater Way, and it’s like going to the middle of the sun. Why do I say middle of the sun? Because it’s a very intense, good karma. A very, very high good karma. The good karma of
imagining yourself dancing between planets and helping people is incredible. Just the good karma of imagining it is … you can even feel it, right? When I first taught this last summer, we were talking about the virus and how could we help to stop the virus.

We were talking about if we could send the virus to the middle of the sun then that would be great. Then it’d be great if we could send the virus to be destroyed in the middle of the sun. And also in between that time, we had the Medicine Buddha retreat and all of us were doing a lot of dedication, helping save the life of animals, thinking of ways to save the environment with our carbon offset program, and different ways of helping life on this planet. For example, not eating meat. Then people started to write me, “Oh, things are happening, this karma is working”. I think … I don’t know about you guys, but in America we are very .. what do you call that? We don’t believe those things. We were very skeptical. We’re like, “Ah, come on,
don’t be superstitious.” “Yeah, we studied the Medicine Buddha, yeah, we meditated on saving life, yeah, we made plans to stop pollution and save the forest.” “But come on, it’s not really going to change things like that.” But suddenly, I don’t know about you, but I started noticing things happening.

The vaccination came out. The vaccination was finished. They used to take 10 or 20 years to develop a vaccine and this one was developed in less than a year. And then they started giving it and I actually didn’t call anybody. I didn’t plan to get a vaccination. Just some friends called me, “Oh, go there, they’re going to give you a vaccination.” I went there and I got my vaccination. Veronica got a vaccination. Jigme got a vaccination, first and second one. Now suddenly, yesterday we went to a restaurant for the first time and we had such a good time not wearing masks. It was so pleasant. Then suddenly things started happening. I was looking for a recipe to cook something at home because Veronica is a very good cook and Geshe Michael is an okay cook but not like Veronica. And I thought, “Oh, I want to learn some new recipes.” I was looking for vegetarian food and I found an advertisement from McDonald’s. They are making a vegetarian meat–plant-based meat. And it’s a big, big thing now in Asia, in Singapore, for example. You can get your Chicken McNuggets made from plants.


This guy was so cute. He said, “Okay, I’m going to cook some, I bought some uncooked and we’re going to cook them together.” I was watching the cook’s video and he cooked this non-meat chicken, and then he showed how to cook it, and then he tried one and then he was like, “Oh my God, that tastes so good.” And I was like, “Yay!” McDonald’s announced they’re going to serve it in McDonald’s. And I was so happy. Then Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest guys in the world, he finished a book. His suggestion in the book is that all wealthy countries, OECD, should become plant-based meat, all of them, and it would save the environment. He had a very great chapter about that. Then I got an email from Starbucks. They say, “Come in on Monday. It’s Meatless Monday.” Starbucks is not serving meat on Mondays, and you can have lots of tasty vegetarian things. And I thought, “Oh my God, when McDonald’s and Starbucks changed to vegetarian, it means my karma is working. It means this Lam Rim bodhichitta meditation is definitely working. So I don’t think it’s superstitious. I think it’s real.

I want to encourage you to think that we created that. Those Lam Rim guys, and those Medicine Buddha guys, we changed McDonald’s. We made the meat industry vegetarian. We made vegetarian meat. That’s so cool. I want to encourage you to believe in it. Like don’t be so skeptical and don’t be mean. Don’t say, “Ah, that’s superstition.” It’s not superstition. I believe us Lam Rim guys, and us Medicine Buddha guys, we changed Starbucks, we changed McDonald’s, and we changed Bill Gates with our Lam Rim. So congratulations. When you get to tantra, when you get to the Diamond Way, it’s a bad deed not to believe that you can change something. It’s a bad deed to think you didn’t change McDonald’s. So let’s celebrate. We changed McDonald’s. Congratulations! Do you know McDonald’s started in Phoenix, Arizona? The first McDonald’s was next to the library. My mom used to take us there. She would buy us french fries. That was about 50, 60 years ago. Unbelievable. I never thought that I would see a McDonald’s hamburger that’s not hamburger. Congratulations you guys.


Second advantage, and we are reviewing the last Lam Rim. So my idea for this first class together is we’re just going to review the ten benefits of bodhichitta. The first benefit is you get this incredible karma that can change anything. We can say, in Tibetan it’s called THEG CHEN GYI ‘JUG SGO SEMS BSKYED–“It’s the only way to get into the Mahayana”. So forget Mahayana as a philosophy from ancient India. Don’t think like that. Mahayana means jumping from planet to planet. And you got there. You are there.

Second one … let’s look at the Tibetan Tim … RGYAL BA’I SRAS ZHES BYA BA’I MING THOB PA RGYAL BA’I SRAS means “daughter or son of the Buddhas”. MING THOB PA means “you get that name”. You get the name and it’s such a sexy name. I think … there was a rock’n roll song when I was younger called Bodhisattva. I didn’t know what a bodhisattva was at that time, but it sounded so nice to me. The word sounded so nice to me. The song got very popular and you will get the name Bodhisattva. It’s like, Tim, you’re getting a degree in the college. They’re giving you a degree. It’s like, Okay, that’s a Buddha on the left, and you and me are on the right. And Buddha’s like, “Oh, okay, this is your degree”. Now you have a new name like Dr. Tim. Or I don’t know, Pau Pachi Ph.D. But now they’re going to call you Bodhisattva Tim, or Bodhisattva Pachi, Bodhisattva Gyelse. And you got a new name. And you get a new degree. It’s really, really beautiful. It’s so beautiful to know that you’re a bodhisattva. When you hear people say bodhisattva–I think bodhisattvas usually don’t tell people they’re bodhisattvas–but when you hear people say bodhisattva, you’re like, “Yeah, that’s me, they’re talking about me”. And you feel happy, you
just feel really happy. “Oh yeah, I got that name. I have that bodhisattva degree.” That’s the second benefit


Third benefit. NYAN RANG RIGS KYI SGO NAS ZIL GYIS NON PA. This is very, very famous
and much, much described in the commentaries. NYAN RANG means “listener”, NYAN means “listener” and RANG means RANG SANGS RGYAS “self-made Buddha”. But the point is that these are very, very deep spiritual practitioners who don’t have that vision. They don’t have that vision of going from planet to planet, but they are very beautiful people and their meditation is really great. Their morality is perfect. Their concentration is perfect. Everything about them is really amazing. And I like this picture of… I had this idea of an ocean.

I saw this picture and it reminded me of this idea that the birds in the picture are like arhats. They reached nirvana. These birds are to me, I like to think they are listeners and self-made buddhas. It’s beautiful to watch them especially at sunset over the ocean. But the sun; you can see the reflection of the sun, you cannot see the sun. But compared to the sun, the beauty of the birds is beautiful but it’s nothing compared to the sun. The whole sun lighting up the whole world compared to those birds. The birds are beautiful, they are arhats–they reached nirvana. They are listeners. They are self-made buddhas. They are people who didn’t have that bodhisattva vision. And then sun is that higher vision. And you become like the sun. When you’re a bodhisattva and you have that higher vision, you become like the sun. It doesn’t mean the birds aren’t beautiful. They’re beautiful. In fact, the sun makes them more beautiful, but imagine if you could be the birds and the sun, something like that.


Fourth benefit is called MCHOD PA’I ZHING MCHOG TU ‘GYUR BA. MCHOD PA means “to make offerings”. ZHING means “garden”, in this case: garden. MCHOG TU ‘GYUR BA means “you become the highest one”. You become the highest garden where people can plant a good karma of offering. And I imagine, wouldn’t it be cool if you’re really a bodhisattva and you walk into the coffee shop and you order a coffee.

Like you just walk into the coffee … we have a coffee shop next to the college. I’m thinking of like, this lady just became a bodhisattva–she had that vision. Nobody knows she’s a bodhisattva, but she did reach that vision in her meditation directly. She saw the real thing. And now this guy is offering her a coffee and that guy offering her the coffee suddenly makes this intense good karma. He suddenly gets this incredible good karma because he’s serving you a coffee and you’re a bodhisattva. So everyone who is sweet to a bodhisattva is collecting extraordinary karma. And wouldn’t it be nice to be the bodhisattva. Every time someone comes close to you and smiles at you or helps you in any way … and they don’t even know that their karma is like a million times more. They don’t even know about it, but you are making other people happy just by drinking their coffee at their coffee shop. That’s so cool!


Fifth benefit.

you heard the word TSOGS for a dharma party and it means lots of good things to eat and lots of good things to drink. That’s called a TSOGS–lots of cool offerings. RGYA CHEN PO means “very big”, and BDE BLAG TU RDZOGS PA means “you can make good karma very, very quickly”. I was trying to think of a photograph for this and Gyelse, do you remember when we first started Diamond Mountain University, the retreat center, then we were thinking to build roads so we could connect retreat cabins. So, I don’t know, a hundred people went out in the desert and we picked up rocks. It was so funny. A hundred people walked about 50 steps in two hours and we just picked up rocks. We’d throw them on the side and we are making a road. It was so funny and we worked so hard. Oh my god, you guys go to Diamond Mountain Retreat Center now, you’re so lucky. People worked so hard. And I remember we said, “Let’s build a road.” We used to do that in Boy Scouts. “Let’s build a road.” We would work for like five days and build a road for like a hundred yards. So then we were all throwing rocks. Then later we got more money, we got more support, and here’s the picture.

These machines came to Diamond Mountain. This is Diamond Mountain. These are the machines that were paid for by our sponsors. And it’s difficult. I took this picture. The wheel of the machine is taller than me. You can make a road, I don’t know, in a few hours. You can push those big rocks to the side, and bodhichitta–this bodhisattva’s heart, the bodhisattva’s mind–is like those big machines. You want to make good karma? It’s good karma to pick up rocks at Diamond Mountain, but it’s going to take you a hundred years to build a road. Go get one of those stupid machines. The tire is taller than me, and just use it. The karma of being a bodhisattva is like that–very, very powerful and very efficient.


Benefit number six. SDIG SGRIB MYUR DU SBYANG BA. SDIG SGRIB means “obstacles”. So we all did bad things in our life. We still remember. We’re still doing them. We can’t stop ourselves. Sometimes we do bad things. We hurt people, we do things we’re not supposed to do, and then immediately it creates an obstacle in our life. We’ve been doing that for our whole life; many years collecting obstacles one by one, and we can remove them just by having that bodhisattva vision. So let’s call bodhichitta “the vision of a bodhisattva”, and just by imagining going from planet to planet and helping people … just thinking about it can remove all these obstacles you have in your business life, your health, your relationships, and in your state of mind.

Just imagining once in a while, this goal of dancing from planet to planet, is enough to remove all those obstacles. You can take medicines, you can go to doctors, you can go to marriage counselors, you can talk to business consultants for many years and you won’t remove the obstacles like you can with a few short bodhichitta meditations. It’s just very cool. It’s very efficient. Saves a lot of money also.


Benefit number seven. CI BSAM PA GRUB PA. CI BSAM PA means “whatever you want, anything you can think of”. CI BSAM PA is a nice word. It means “anything you can think of”. GRUB PA means “you can get it”, anything you can think of. I love this organic way to get things in your life. I don’t worry about money and it was never my goal in my life to be wealthy. I thought if I tried I could be, but it’s not my priority. It’s not something I want, but I would like to have a lot of money. It would be fun. I could do so many good things. Mr. Binh in Vietnam, just built 400 houses for poor people. I think that’s so cool. I would like to have money like that. And I would like to have a perfect relationship at home with my wife. I’d like that to be, and I’d like to be healthy. I don’t want to be sick. Those are things I want.

And the amazing thing is, just this bodhisattva vision … just thinking about it once in a while, things start to happen in your life. The karma is so intense that cool stuff starts to happen in your life and you start to build this perfect world without thinking about it. You’re not like, “Oh, I want to get rich.” Or you’re not like, “Oh, I want to be super healthy.” But suddenly all these things are happening to you. If you keep coming back to this vision … you got a picture for me Pachi, city in the sun.

I’m thinking this is a picture of like Shenzhen. In a way, this is a beautiful combination. I love this city in China because they mix these beautiful buildings with nature. And as you walked through the city there’s a beautiful balance. People need homes to stay and people need offices, so there are these beautiful buildings and there’s a sensitivity to the environment. There’s a nice mixture in that particular city of nature. And without thinking, without planning, if you just come back to this vision a few times a day the karma is so intense that you will start to have beauty and physical wealth around you that you didn’t dream of; and beautiful relationships and things you didn’t dream of.


Benefit number eight. GNOD PA DANG BAR CHAD KYIS MI TSUGS PA. GNOD PA means “things that would cause you trouble”. BAR CHAD means “interruption”. My teacher used to get really irritated if he was meditating and someone would knock on the door or something. That’s called BAR CHAD. BAR CHAD means your meditation’s going really good and then somebody knocks on the door. That’s called BAR CHAD. So if you have this vision, a bodhisattva’s vision, then you’ll be protected from those BAR CHADs. I liked the picture. Pachi, are you ready? A tank.

And look, I know it’s a military thing. I know it’s not a nice thing. It’s true. It’s a very bad thing. Still in this world, a country’s power is calculated by the number of tanks. Still, they say this country has four thousand, this country has three thousand, this country has a hundred thousand tanks. And if you can imagine a war, and if you imagine bullets flying here and there and people getting killed. Every few meters somebody’s dying then there’s this guy relaxing in the tank. Probably he’s having a cappuccino, I guess. There’s bullets and bombs and people dying, and he’s just relaxing in the tank because nothing can get through the tank. And I know in the movies, they like to show … Brad Pitt goes out and hits the tank with his hand and it breaks down. It’s not like that in a real war. The tank comes through and kills everybody. The guys in the tank are just relaxing and you can’t touch them.

So bodhichitta is like sitting in a tank. The whole world can be crazy and insane, people can be doing terrible things to each other, and you’re just in this bubble of bodhichitta protection. Things just don’t happen to you like they happen to other people: disasters, problems, all kinds of disturbances in their life happened, and even though you feel guilty … “Oh I am in the bodhichitta bubble and other people are not; and look they’re having so much trouble.” Yesterday, a friend of mine, her brother committed suicide. And I have to see this. I have to meet her. I have to talk to her. I feel like, “Oh, just get in the bubble”. “Just get in the tank.” “Just think about bodhichitta once in a while, and you will have this; you can be protected.” That’s the eighth benefit.


Ninth benefit. SA LAM THAMS CAD MYUR DU RDZOGS PA. SA LAM. SA means “bodhisattva levels” and LAM means “path”. THAMS CAD MYUR DU RDZOGS PA means “quickly”. You’ll go through all those paths. So the spiritual progress is judged by five paths and ten bodhisattva levels. It’s very hard to get to the first bodhisattva level. When you get to the first bodhisattva level you already saw emptiness directly, that’s number one. Imagine what number ten is! But if you have bodhichitta, it’s like you’re climbing a mountain and you’re just at the top. Right away you’re at the top. No trouble, no work, you don’t feel tired … just suddenly that bodhichitta can take you to the top without much trouble, without much sweat, without much hard work. If you just practice that vision we talked about the beginning, then it’s automatic. You go to the top of the ten bodhisattva levels.


Last benefit. ‘GRO BA’I BDE SKYID MA LUS PA BYUNG BA’I ZHING SAR ‘GYUR BA’O ‘GRO BA’I BDE SKYID BDE SKYID. I have a friend here in Sedona. Her name is … they call her Dickie, but her real name is BDE SKYID. BDE SKYID here it is. BDE SKYID means “super happy”. I’ll show a picture.

This is a valley and this whole valley I imagined there was a river going through there. The whole valley is covered with nice beautiful soil, fertile soil. You put seeds there, it grows. There’s places like that. Not Arizona. But there are places
where the soil is so good that just everything will grow there automatically. Without any work at all things will grow there; and oftentimes it’s river soil. The tenth benefit of the vision of the bodhisattva is that you become like a valley of fertile soil for other people. You become like … people can plant their crops in you. Which crops? Their happiness. You are like the good soil, and just by being around other people their good karma increases and they can plant their happiness in you … with you. You’re available; you’re nearby and you give them a chance. Somebody says good morning to a bodhisattva but they’re like already going to be in nirvana within ten years. It’s crazy. So it’s nice to be the soil that other people can use to grow their crops that they need to live and to be happy. It’s nice to be the person in the room that is a very fertile soil for the happiness of other people.

And needless to say, when you become a Buddha, after you go through bodhichitta … with bodhichitta motivation you become a Buddha, then obviously it’s just cool to be the person who makes billions of other people happy. In the end, human beings are not selfish; we want to make other people happy. It makes us happy when we make other people happy and we know that. We feel that. And a bodhisattva is going to be the one who makes everybody else happy. Just imagine you’re able to throw a party for the whole billions of people because you have this bodhichitta.

So that’s a review of the last Lam Rim course that we had. That was just a short review of what we went through in the last Lam Rim course. Now we’re going to start the actual instructions for how to get to this vision. There’s actually seven easy steps we can take and that’s going to be the new Lam Rim course that we’re starting on now. Let’s learn the seven steps we can all do to get to this vision.

So I’ll see you in the next episode. Yay!