The Buddhist System of Liberation - 2
I understand that such orientation toward one's own peace and happiness constitutes the Small vehicle and that the Great vehicle involves dedication of all one's activities for the welfare of others with the love and compassion of the mind aimed at enlightenment by the desire to liberate all beings from samsara.
This emphasis on the mind aimed at enlightenment (bodhicitta) distinguishes the Great Vehicle from the Small vehicle. It is the sine qua non of Great vehicle practice, for the penetrating wisdom by which we will eventually see the true v oid condition of all things must be balanced by the love and compassion of the mind-for-enlightenment in order to yield the perfect, non-exclusive freedom from samsara known as enlightenment.
Even in the Tantric Vehicle, which is a refinement in method but basically the same in philosophy as the Great Vehicle, the mind-for-enlightenment is a necessary prerequisite for practice. The Sanskrit term for this, bodhicitta, can be defined as the condition of the mind wherein all actions are performed spontaneously for the benefit of all. It is almost an instinctive drive for one's own freedom so that one may have the ability to guide others.
On the other hand, bodhicitta is not itself directly productive of liberation, for unless tempered by wisdom it will only bind the practitioner more tightly to samsara.
Persons traveling a path involving generation of this mind-for-enlightenment through tantric or non-tantric methods are called bodhisattvas, or "enlightenment warriors." (Sanskrit sattva means " living being," but has the secondary meaning of heroic or courageous, and is rendered thus in the Tibetan.)
Mila sums it up in this way:
having conceived of samsara as a prison, understand that all beings lost in it are none other than our own parents who have given us birth throughout beginingless time. With love and compassion for those lost in samsara, generate the mind aimed at supreme enlightenment for the sake of their liberation.
Then ride the great waves of practice aimed at enlightenment : the three basic path-practices, the four social means, and the six transcendences, thus compiling the two stores and purifying the two obscurations.
This passage summarizes the main practices of the Great Vehicle. The three basic practices comprise morality as behavioural practice, and concentration and wisdom as mental practice. The four social means-giving, relevant communication, assisting the development of others, and serving as an example for their inspiration-are practices oriented primarily toward the welfare of others. The six transcendences-giving, moral behaviour, patience, effort, concentration, and wisdom-are practiced primarily for one's own development, although of course in the Great Vehicle there is no exclusive self-interest.
These practices have a double-effect. First, they increase the two stores of personal power-the store of merit based on ethical behaviour and proper performance of ritual, and the store of gnosis based on examinations the samsaric condition and its correction, from the first intellectual gleanings up to transcendent, supermundane wisdom beyond the range of words and thoughts.
Secondly, they reduce the two obscurations-the obscuration of afflictive mental states, which blocks realization of nirvana, and the objective obscuration, which masks the reality of things, thus blocking the omniscience of perfect buddhahood.
Mila explains how the six transcendences, particularly those of concentration and wisdom, must be coordinated in a systematic practice of path:
Giving, moral behaviour, and patience are the means of compiling the store merit. Concentration and wisdom are the means of compiling the store gnosis. Effort furthers all of them. The highest gnosis is the very mind of buddha. Those wishing to obtain it should apply themselves to these various methods.
Special attention is given to the development of concentration and wisdom. Basic meditation may be divided into that of focusing, or quieting the mind, through one-pointed concentration and the analytic process of generating wisdom through transcendent insight.
This quieting, known in Sanskrit as samatha, is so called because by one-pointed concentration the activity of the mind is stilled. As certain mental functions are alerted, the mind assumes different, meta-stable modes of operation.
The eight " different modes" are termed absorption levels (dhyana) and are similar in both Buddhist and Hindu mental cosmology. They are entirely samsaric, though of a much more refined nature than ordinary consciousness, and are the range of the traditional yogi's meditation. By practising these states, all yogis receive their powers and bliss.
Because of the mental pleasure and supernormal powers they confer, the absorption levels can be construed as a path to liberation, which they are not. They are rather the solid bases from which the transcendent mental leap to direct confrontation of voidness through wisdom can occur.
Since they are more developed and tranquil than ordinary mental operation, they are like the glass chimney of an oil lamp, steadying the tiny flame of wisdom against the winds of afflictive mental functionings.
Wisdom is developed by the practice of insight, a process of examination and analysis of our perceptions, a pressing of the intellect to the limits of its range until the flash of direct experience of reality occurs. This is the experience of the egolessness of persons and the voidness, or lack of identities, in things. It is the only meditational state capable of clearing the traces of experience that give rise to afflictive mental states and illusions about reality. Thus the practice of insight exceeds the practice of quieting, which can merely supress the active forms of afflictive mental states.
The yogi must travel five paths to enlightenment. The process of compiling the two stores of merit and gnosis is the accumulation path, and the meditational application of these two stores to direct perception of voidness is the application path.
The direct perception of voidness itself is the path of seeing, and the development and repeated application of such direct perception to clear the compulsive action of the imprintings of experience is termed the "meditation path." The final elimination of all traces of the two obscurations is the final path, or path beyond practice, equivalent to buddhahood.
Mila sums it up:
In brief, the basis is faith, the assistor is effort, the antidote is the acquisition (of virtue) and expiation (of sin), the direct cause is the integration of wisdom with method ( the active aspect of the mind-for-enlightenment), and the subsidiary cause is the practice of the accumulation and application paths. When the path of seeing is thereby attained, that is the direct experience of the wisdom of insight.
With the attainment of the path of seeing, the bodhisattva-warrior stands on the first of ten bodhisattva stages, and after traversing them one by one attains the eleventh stage, the stage of enlightenment.
Reference: Drinking the Mountain Stream: Song's of Tibet's Beloved saint: Milarepa