The “Jewel in the Lotus” is the literal translation of the universal mantra of compassion “, Om Mani Padme Hum.” Although it may have multiple interpretations, one of the most popular explanations for its significance is that kindness is born when the mind’s jewel is placed in the heart’s lotus. The mind that is awake has diamond-like clarity. When this crystal-clear insight is placed in the heart’s love for others and love, both dimensions of freedom are realized.
According to Buddhist psychology, the mind and the heart are usually defined by one word “Citta.” The heart-mind is multifaceted. It is comprised of all the thoughts we have, emotions and feelings, our responses to our intuition, temperament and even consciousness itself. When we talk about the mind in the West, typically, we refer exclusively to the rational thinking process. In observing this part of the mind, we can see unending streams of ideas, thoughts and stories. Although this mind is discerning and can be helpful, it also allows us to separate ourselves from our world as our ideas effortlessly generate “us” in addition to “them,” good and evil both in the past and in the future. The thoughts of our minds also tend to create imagined problems. As Mark Twain put it, “My life was filled with horrible, unfortunate events… the majority of which have never occurred.” In an utterance of one of my instructors Sri Nisargadatta “The mind is the one who creates the abyss, and the heart goes through it.”
Alongside thoughts and emotions, Buddhist psychology also describes emotions as a natural part of the heart’s mind. We first notice that every experience triggers neutral, pleasant, or uncomfortable feelings. Suppose we observe them with a keen eye and without holding onto the enjoyable or denying any unpleasant sensations. In that case, we will keep how these emotions can trigger an array of emotions. Certain people think that feelings are harmful. However, the emotions themselves aren’t the issue, and it’s our inadvertence to them or the stories we make about them that cause our pain. If we aren’t aware, our painful emotions may reverberate into addiction, hate, or even insanity; ultimately, we lose touch with the emotions we experience and our heart’s fundamental wisdom. The 20th-century Christian theologian Simone Weil noted, “The risk is not that the soul doubts whether there is bread or not, but rather that, by lying, it will convince itself that it is in no way hungry.”
The Sanskrit word Bodhichitta is made up of the word bodhi, which is a word that means “awake,” and Citta is often used to indicate “mind”; however, it refers more specifically to “mind-heart.” Thus, we can consider bodhichitta to mean “the mind-heart that awakes.”
Bodhichitta is the desire to help others, awaken them, relieve them of suffering, and bring happiness. It is an incredible source of energy that can be used for individual and collective awakening. Without this desire, it is unlikely that we will be drawn to the practice of spirituality or towards social transformation. It was what led Prince Siddhartha to his journey of awakening for the benefit of many beings. This is what inspired people such as Harriet Tubman, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela to dedicate their lives to healing and social justice.
In the Mahayana tradition, anyone who creates a bodhichitta is believed as a bodhisattva. Sattva is a “sentient living being”, and bodhi means “enlightenment,” so a bodhisattva is “bound to awakening.” Their sole goal is to stop suffering for all living beings. They promise to hold off on their spiritual awakening to ensure that all beings are freed. According to the Mahayana tradition, there are ten stages, referred to by paramitas or