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One Goal

One Goal 

One Goal, Many Methods  

After we have explored the countless expressions of the different spiritual traditions and their meditative methods, even within the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana systems of the Buddha Dharma, we find their essence is the same. If we were to synthesize all these traditions and their practices into one essential practice or philosophy, this would be Bodhicitta (the awakened heart-mind of wisdom and compassion).

Bodhicitta is the core essence of the teachings we are receiving, of all the teachings we have ever received. This is a very important point to recognize. The great Kadampa masters, like Atisha, have already essentialized these practices for us, so we do not have to invent something new.

The proven path to success already exists. It is right here for us, in this moment. However, it is important to know how to essentialize the teachings, to look to their meaning, or Dharma can be very confusing, like when we come to a fork in the road when driving a car and we do not know which way to go. We have to recognize that the essence of all the teachings is Bodhicitta, the awakened state of mind, which is compassion itself.

When Atisha came to Tibet, he met a famous teacher named Rinchen Zangpo, who invited Atisha to his monastery. There they had a wonderful Dharma discussion. Rinchen Zangpo was able to answer any question Atisha had. Atisha said to his attendants, “Why do I have to be in Tibet when they have Rinchen Zangpo?” Finally, Atisha asked, “How do you practice all these sutras and tantras together?” Rinchen Zangpo said, “When you practice sutra, you practice sutra, and when you practice tantra, you practice tantra.”

Then he took Atisha to his temple and there were many images of deities, each with its own cushion. “Now I know why I have come,” Atisha said. Atisha saw that Rinchen Zangpo was relying on the superficial level of the Dharma, he was relying on the external form and not connecting with the essence, Bodhicitta.

Because Atisha saw how this approach to Dharma was corrupting the teachings, he unified them in order to reveal their essence and to prevent people from practicing improperly. For example, in Vajrayana Buddhism there are an incredible amount of teachings—ngondro, tsa lung, trekchod, mahayoga, atiyoga. But is there a separate purpose for all these teachings? No! There is a single goal and a single practice, although there are many methods.

Bodhicitta, which is ultimate love, is the highest realization one can gain through all these methods. Bodhicitta is not merely mundane love, it is the union of love and compassion, which is the actualization of wisdom. We can only understand the nature of reality through love, not through our small ideas, or concepts, or language, or even knowledge. We can only understand the highest reality through understanding and realizing ultimate love, which is Bodhicitta mind. Bodhicitta mind is love, which is wisdom itself.
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