Examples could include providing water or (appropriate) food to local wildlife, offering a listening ear to someone in need, smiling at a stranger, giving your child the extra affection they need, hugging your partner, helping someone online, and so on. The inner spiritual alchemy that can result from these small acts is profound.
Remember that Bodhisattvahood is not about being a martyr or doormat. Yes, it’s important to set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself if it will cause you harm. The point isn’t to be the next Jesus or Buddha. The point is to open your heart and express your inner Being. This can create warmth, hope, joy, and solace for others.
3. Craft your own Bodhisattva vow
If being of service to the world and helping to ease the suffering of other living beings is important to you, formalize this intention with a vow.
The Dalai Lama, for instance, recites the following Bodhisattva vow inspired by the words of the 8th-century monk and sage Shantideva:
May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.
Another common Bodhisattva vow used in various schools of Buddhism is the following:
Beings are numberless, I vow to save them
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to end them
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them
Buddha’s way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.
Of course, you don’t need to formally adopt the above vows – you’re more than welcome to craft one of your own that comes straight from the heart.
But see this practice as a way of reaffirming your Soul’s purpose in this world (whatever it may be). See it as a sacred offering to life and this planet. So that it penetrates deep into your psyche, put your Bodhisattva vow somewhere you can see it every day (like on your work desk or bathroom mirror).
4. Ask, “where are my actions misaligned with my heart’s desire?”
No one is perfect. We all do dodgy things from time to time. Sometimes we even fall into plain old toxic habits that last for years.
Being a Bodhisattva doesn’t exclude you from doing the hard inner work of examining your shadows. Everyone has a shadow self – or “dark side” – and it’s this hidden force that tends to sabotage our best efforts.
By identifying shadowy discrepancies and doing something about them, you won’t struggle with imposter syndrome (i.e., the disturbing inner feeling of being a “fraud”). You’ll feel more inner clarity, access deeper layers of love and inner peace, and feel more aligned with your Soul’s purpose.
Note: this introspective practice isn’t about shaming yourself. It’s not about trying to be perfect. Rather, it’s about being honest and transparent, qualities that we need to hone on the Bodhisattva path and indeed the entire spiritual journey.
One great place to start your shadow work is through the simple act of journaling.
5. Cultivate loving-kindness toward humanity (note: it helps to have a role model)
At your very Core, you possess infinite Love and Compassion – qualities inherent in your True Nature. Yet, due to the strain of modern-day living, it can be hard sometimes to access this inbuilt fountain of loving-kindness.
Two powerful ways to open your heart and thereby embody your Soul’s purpose are to:
- Practice gratitude
- Find a heart-centered role model