Developing Bodhichitta: Sevenfold Cause and Effect
There are two methods for training the mind in bodhichitta: training the mind in the sevenfold cause and effect, and training the mind in equalizing and exchanging self with others. In the method of training the mind in the sevenfold cause and effect, we train ourselves to hold others as dear to us as our mother. This method has eight steps; the first step is a preparation, the next six are meditations to generate causes of bodhichitta, and the last stage is the attainment of bodhichitta. The eight stages of the sevenfold cause and effect are:
1) Developing equanimity. This is a meditation practicing on balancing our attitudes and feelings towards three groups of people we encounter: those we like and have an attachment to them, those we don’t like and have an aversion to them, and those we feel neither attachment nor aversion towards them. We contemplate how those we dislike now were our friends in this or past lives, how those we have a strong attachment to now were our enemies in this or past lives, and how those we are neutral towards have been both our friends and enemies in the past. Relationships and our attitudes towards others are impermanent and always changing and everyone has been both friend and enemy to us at some point. Understanding this, we make the determination to regard all people with the same balanced attitude, feeling neither attachment nor aversion to anyone.
2) Recognizing that all living beings are our mothers. Because our births have been countless, so we have had countless mothers. All these past mothers are the various living beings here with us today.
3) Remembering the kindness of all mother beings. We start by remembering the kindness of our mother of this life. Without her, we wouldn’t be here. We can remember all the kind things our mother has done for us, from giving birth to us to taking care of us, and every other way we can think of. Then we remember that all our mothers from our previous lives did the same.
4) Developing the wish to repay the kindness of all mother beings. It is natural to want to repay any kindness we have received once we recognize that kindness. We contemplate the best method for repaying our mothers’ kindness, and come to the conclusion that the best way to repay her kindness is to give her permanent liberation from samsara and make the determination to do this.
5) Developing affectionate love. Affectionate love is feeling close to someone and holding them dear to us. If we have affectionate love for all beings it is impossible to develop jealousy and anger toward them. From affectionate love develops cherishing love (caring for others’ well-being), and from cherishing love develops wishing love - the love that wishes all other beings to be happy. When we develop wishing love, we naturally develop great compassion at the same time.
6) Developing great compassion. Great compassion is a mind that wishes all beings to be free from suffering. We need to cultivate great compassion to enter the Mahayana paths. Enlightenment is only possible with great compassion. The sign that we have realized great compassion is that whenever we see another living being we have the spontaneous wish for them to be free from their sufferings.
7) Developing superior intention. Superior intention is the promise we make to personally liberate all beings from suffering in samsara. Just wishing for beings to be released from suffering is not enough; we are determined to do something about it. Superior intention is a firm decision and a commitment to free others from suffering.
8) Developing bodhichitta. Bodhichitta is a spontaneous wish, motivated by great compassion, to attain enlightenment to benefit all living beings. The sign that we have realized bodhichitta is that we never lose this thought. When we realize bodhichitta, we have entered the Mahayana path.