Cultivating a Seed Instead of Climbing a Mountain

Hey yogis, Do you ever wish you were as enlightened as a full-time yogi dwelling at the top of a mountain? Who wouldn’t want to live life with a soft smile on their face and an eternally steady state of mind? But is enlightenment at the top of a mountain? The sanskrit word for enlightened is bodhi. We say ‘enlightened,’ but there isn’t really a word for ‘enlightened’ in Sanskrit. The more accurate translation of bodhi, according to Lama Palden Drolma and Pema Chodron, is ‘awakened.’

I have thought of enlightenment as the thing at the top of the pyramid, as though you climb the ladder of the 8 limbs of yoga until you reach samadhi, the state of full consciousness. But Drolma describes the seed that lives within each of us that awaits wakening. If you are on the path of awareness, working toward understanding yourself (and therefore others - all others, not just human others), then you are in the process of awakening. You are, to some degree, enlightened, whether you’re on a mountaintop or in Stop n’ Shop.

Perhaps you’ve heard utterances of ‘bodhi’ before now. The word bodhichitta refers to the awakened heart, the heart which allows all feelings in and still makes the decision to send love and compassion out. A bodhisattva (know that Steely Dan song?) is an awakened being that travels the world, showing up to help others before moving on. The enlightened but mischievous surfer played by Patrick Swayze in Point Break was named Bodhi, as he appeared to help Keanu Reeves’ character before disappearing into the waves.

Thinking of yourself as a partially enlightened being is a kick. It’s also realizing that you’ve come a long way. Even more, it highlights where you have work to do on your path. It’s up to you to dedicate yourself to developing bodhichitta. If you follow this fork, you’ll discover the bodhi practices that grow the seed inside of you.