Letters to Hawk

Asangas Feather Digital Photograph May 2014 R 648 165
Asanga’s feather, digital photograph, May 2014

Letter Six: Bodhisattva vows

O Guru Buddha Shakyamuni, please listen to what I now say.
From this time forth until I attain enlightenment
I go for refuge to the Three Jewels—Buddha, Dharma and Sangha—
And confess individually all negative actions.

There are six perfections of practice to train or develop this heart, and first is the perfection of giving. The following explanation is taken directly from A Handbook for the Daily Practice of Bodhisattva Vows and Tantric Vows.

In the practice of giving you should practice:

giving material help to those in poverty, including giving food to animals;

giving practical help to those sick or physically weak;

giving protection by always trying to save others’ lives, including those of insects;

giving love, learning to cherish all living beings by always believing that their happiness and freedom are important; and

_giving Dharma, helping solve the problems of anger, attachment and ignorance by giving Dharma teachings and meaningful advice. _ [6]

The following parable tells of Asanga, a Buddhist practitioner who had a great wish to understand the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. Asanga tried to find a teacher to help him, but he could not—so he decided to attain a direct vision of Maitreya, who had received these teachings directly from Buddha Shakyamuni. To do so, Asanga went into a cave for three years and meditated and concentrated on a visualization of Maitreya, but it did not occur. Discouraged, he stopped his retreat.

Returning home, he met a man on the side of the road who was working hard to cut a block of iron with a peacock feather. Asanga asked the man, “How can you cut this iron block with a peacock feather?” and the man answered, “With effort we can accomplish anything. Look, I have already made some progress.”

“What are you going to do after cutting this iron block?” asked Asanga.

“Nothing, just leave it here,” answered the man.

And Asanga thought, “If this man can work so very hard for something that has no meaning, surely I can work continually in my retreat for something that will bring great meaning to myself and countless human beings.” [7]

The man cutting the block with the peacock feather was in fact emanated by Maitreya for Asanga’s benefit.