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Vipashyana and Relative Bodhicitta

Another crisp, clear, cool, cloudless and sparkling Sunday morning at the prison.

Today was the Theravadin gathering and there were 14 folks present. We did an abbreviated form of the Theravadin chants and meditated for 15 minutes. The topic of conversation today was vipashyana and relative bodhicitta. I reviewed a class we had several weeks ago that emphasized absolute bodhicitta and shamatha practice. Then we dug into the notions of relative bodhichitta and vipashyana practice. I focused on the nature of relative bodhicitta and it’s quality of compassionate activity. How through opening one’s heart/mind with mindful awareness, the possibility exists that we can penetrate with deep insight into the nature of all the arisings that occur “within” and “without”. How our demons and obstacles in our life can be investigated with mindful awareness. Our obstacles are not rejected or ignored but allowed to be, bathed in the relaxed mindful awareness which can recognize the true nature of these obstacles. There was discussion about spiritual by-passing which seems to be a favorite topic among the guys. They really understand how obstacles and trauma in their lives can become a catalyst for growth and opening their hearts and minds further towards everyone around them. They (we) recognize this as a huge challenge yet know that with diligence, focus and commitment they can slowly progress along the path. They talked about their shadow and how to accept it and know it for what it is, and how they try not to leave footprints when they walk on the hard prison floors…I liked that metaphor a lot!

We also discussed what metta and bodhicitta means from a Theravadin point of view as compared with a mahayana point of view. We concluded that the development of love for oneself and others and compassion may not be so different in these traditions. That cultural and philosophical differences may exist and certain practice methods can differ, but that the experience of love and compassion is essentially the same. That we can now have open discussion about this topic is really quite a breakthrough. We are all beginning to see each other as human beings that share the same innate goodness which doesn’t recognize differences as solid and permanent.

There was a lot of openness and love in the air this morning at the meditation group. As usual, I left everyone with a tender joyful/sad heart full of gratitude.

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