Whenever His Holiness the Dalai Lama is asked to recommend a book that explains how to put Buddhism into practice, he suggests Shantideva's A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life. David Michie, a corporate communications consultant and author, sees this Tibetan Buddhist classic as "the world's first self-help book, outlining specific techniques to 'reframe' our experience of reality to achieve greater happiness and inner peace." Enlightenment to Go offers a sampler of Shantideva's spiritual teachings as well as a primer on Tibetan Buddhism.
According to Michie we all have the choice of waking up or staying asleep. We can live in the here and now or hide out in the past or future. Shantideva opens up both options with definitions of great love as the wish to give all other people happiness and great compassion as the yearning to help free them from suffering.
"Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world
All comes from desiring myself to be happy."
Tibetan Buddhists teach ways we can equalize ourselves with others — especially people we tend to look down upon or do not respect. They suggest seeing every person we come across as having been our mother in a previous lifetime. Or you might try thinking of all living beings as your best friend or sibling centuries ago. This practice makes it much easier to see others as beings just like us who are seeking happiness and wanting to avoid pain.
Michie emphasizes the importance of the bodhisattva way of life, which he defines as "the ultimate expression of compassion." In the second half of the book, he explores the connection between meditation and bodhichitta, the enlightened or awakening mind, stating that it can be practiced on a day-to-day basis. Bodhichitta becomes the seedbed and the catalyst for generosity, a state of mind that overcomes grasping and is its own reward. It activates the ten precepts or ethical actions and fuels patience in the face of anger and depression. It breaks the cycle of dissatisfaction and brings into being the four laws of spiritual success. And, finally bodhichitta promotes adventures in inner space and serves as a shield as we take on the battle with the eight worldly dharmas.