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The most powerful thought in the universe

February 22, 2013

Today I saw a very moving video of the effect that our lifestyle is having on the birds living on an uninhabited island thousands of miles away from any human being, take a look:

Midway Journey Trailer

Its shocking to see the debris gathered up inside the bird’s bellies and the devastating effects that result from simple decisions we make everyday. A plastic bottle top we drop into a drain, or throwing the rubbish out in one big bag with no recycling. To be honest, i’m no expert on the environment, but as a Buddhist what this shows very clearly is the power of even the smallest thought to completely change the world.

There is a story about a boy who walked along the shore gathering up the jelly fish which had washed up on the beach, throwing as many as he could back in to the water. Someone stopped him to ask what was the point? After all, for every jelly fish he saved, thousands more would still wash up with the next tide. The boy thought about this for a while and finally replied, “But for the one I save, it makes a big difference!”.

When I look at these birds I know that my actions alone cannot save all those birds, but perhaps one of them died because of my rubbish, and believe me, if the shoe were on the other foot, and it was my life that was lost or won due to a single decision, I would certainly prefer to live! For each of these thousands of birds the world exists or ceases, partly in dependence on how I manage my rubbish.

More than just looking at the pollution in the bellies of these birds, this shows very clearly how the whole world is interdependent. This video for me is a very graphic representation of the truth that with our thoughts, even our smallest thoughts, we make the world.

Buddha said there is no creator other than mind. Actions depend on intention and intention is a mind. All spiritual practice is focused on changing our intention. Geshe-la says that enlightenment is very easy to understand,

Ordinary beings cherish only themselves, whilst Buddhas or enlightened beings cherish all living beings. To become enlightened, we need only to change the object of our cherishing.

The first step to to enlightenment is the wish to change the object of our cherishing in this way, which in turn is the basis for the very special intention leading to bodhichitta. On the other hand, what is the intention which led to the action which produced the scenes captured in this film? Of course, the intention was a very selfish one, or put another way, a very narrow, blinkered one which hardly sees the world at all.

In Buddhism selfishness is called a type of ignorance or not knowing, it is this ignorance which is said to be at the very root or heart of all suffering for both ourself and others. On the other hand cherishing or loving others is called a type of wisdom and is at the very heart of all the happiness there is in the world. Watching this video its easy to see how this is true.

A Pure Environment Starts in the Mind

The most powerful thought in the universe is said to be Bodhichitta, we recite the Bodhchitta prayer everyday with the intention to bring this into our own mind stream so that it becomes our natural view.

“May I become a Buddha for the benefit of all”

Contained in this thought are quite a few parts (here are a few):

  • The view that all living beings are extremely precious, kind, beautiful,
  • The feeling of pure love wishing them to be happy all the time
  • Compassion wishing them to be free from all suffering
  • The intention to give them that happiness they so desire
  • The intention to protect them permanently from suffering
  • The wisdom knowing that to accomplish this wish each living being must be completely liberated from ignorance
  • The wisdom knowing that to achieve this, we ourselves must become a Buddha, a being who is completely free from ignorance and completely wise
  • A strong urgency to accomplish our wish or intention as fast as possible

Shantideva (click here to read his benefits of Bodhichitta- scroll down the page) says that after exhaustive investigation the Buddha’s discovered that this mind, called bodhichitta is the very best way to solve all human problems and that as a result it is the most precious thought in the whole universe. He explains that just to think about Bodhichitta for even a moment has countless benefits leading to happiness.

In Eight Steps to Happiness, Geshe-la tells the story of a magical crystal which was said to have the power to purify any environment it was placed in. He goes on to say that the mind of Bodhichitta (which cherishes all others and works constantly for their happiness) is just like this crystal, even one person in a community who truly cherishes others, will have an enormous impact. We  can see this again and again from history and even t.v. programs like The Choir, or Undercover Boss, and most importantly from our own experience.

Seeing this video today I got a strong sense of the state of my own mind, which can produce such tragic consequences, but I also felt really inspired to re-dedicate myself to mixing my thoughts as often as possible with Bodhisattva intention and prayer, knowing that by so doing, it will gradually change my intention and increase my wisdom, thus fundamentally changing my actions, benefiting not only these birds, but all living beings. Just the thought! Because with our thoughts we make the world, this video really helped me see that its really important to chose our thoughts carefully.

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