The ceremony for generating bodhicitta, the altruistic mind of awakening.
Among the audience, those who are practicing Buddhists can participate fully in this ceremony. Those who are not Buddhists can participate in the ceremony as a means to strengthen your commitment to the ideals of compassion and altruism.
Before you participate in the actual ceremony, as a preliminary practice you should call to mind
the Seven Limb Practices—these being :
(i) prostrations, (ii) making offerings, (iii) disclosure and purification of non-virtuous actions, (iv) cultivating the capacity to rejoice in the positive actions of others, (v) appealing to the buddhas to turn the Wheel of Dharma, (vi) requesting the buddhas not to enter into nirvana, and (vii) dedication.
For the actual ceremony, in the space where the thangka painting of the Buddha is hung you should imagine the presence of a real Buddha in person. Imagine that the Buddha is surrounded by many great spiritual masters of the past, such as Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Shantideva and those whose works we have cited. Then, with a mind untainted by afflictive emotions, reflect upon the fact that, just like you, all sentient beings have a natural desire to be happy and to overcome suffering. Also reflect upon the disadvantages of self-centeredness and the self-cherishing attitude, and upon the benefits of thinking about and working for the well-being of others. Bring to mind the infinite number of sentient beings, and cultivate the strong determination that you will seek the attainment of the full enlightenment of buddhahood so that you can accomplish their welfare.
With the recitation of the first verse we are invoking the presence of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas and calling out to them to bear witness to our generation of the altruistic mind. Now, with a strong resolve and determination to bring about the welfare of all beings, arouse the altruistic mind within you.
With these preparations, let us read together the following stanzas three times:
With the wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
To the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha
Until I reach full enlightenment.
Enthused by wisdom and compassion
Today in the buddhas’ presence
I generate the mind for full awakening
For the benefit of all sentient beings.
As long as space remains
As long as sentient beings remain
Until then may I too remain
To dispel the miseries of the world.
We cannot expect to actually gain the realization of the altruistic mind of awakening simply by participating in this ceremony. But if we constantly engage in the thought processes of training the mind by reciting these verses on a daily basis, and try to deepen our experience that way, we will gradually become more and more familiar with the sentiments of these verses and with the ideals of the altruistic mind of awakening. Over time we will be able to gain deeper levels of experience.
It will also be useful to remind yourself from time to time that you participated today in this ceremony of generating the altruistic mind of awakening on the basis of reading these lines. You can use this as an inspiration for your spiritual practice.