Bodhicitta

Consider this statement, gentle reader:

"Magic without Bodhicitta is death. Magic devoted to the benefit of all beings makes the world whole."

Thus opens one of my favorite magical-instruction books of all time: Tantric Thelema by Sam Webster, available at my store, and via Concrescent Press. Sam has produced a magnificent work, though you won't find a huge, sprawling 800-page tome filled with tables, correspondences, rhythmic incantations, or self-importance. Instead, you will find this book to address, in pithy and inspiring manner, the very heart of magical practice: generating beneficial energy of a divine nature for the sake of all beings, and a means to enfold yourself within the idea of "all beings."

Sam and I have enjoyed many conversations on this topic of motivation in magic. I appreciate his points of view, and his work has helped me to develop a more thorough means for assessing my magical actions that goes far beyond "an it harm none do what ye will." (Though I still think that is a good place to START in the creation of a personal system of magical ethics.)

Bodhicitta is a term from Buddhism that I have heard translated as, "compassion," "lovingkindness," and "boundless friendliness." It is the idea of conditioning the awareness toward benevolence for all beings, with an eye toward holding the greater good above one's own individual good.

When my magic is designed for me and my own ends alone, it is like running headlong into a brick wall. Why? Because it begins and ends with me. It is a closed energetic circuit. There is no mingling of my energies with a wider goal, and frankly, I'm a pretty small being to drum up all of that hooha for. I may be divine and sacred, and I do believe that to be true, but I'm not trying to puff myself up, either, and I think it fair to opine that many people actually feel a pretty strong sense of humility about themselves. This humility, when not expressed healthily and regularly in one's magical practice, gives birth to the self-doubting voice that rises when you are standing at your altar and asks, "Really? Are you all that important to ask for all that stuff?" This voice can completely slaughter the efficacy of our magic if we allow it. One antidote sometimes used is to prop oneself up with affirmations and practices designed to get one to feel good enough about oneself to believe one is worthy of the ensuing magic (cleansings, baths, self-blessings and such belong to this class of practices, IMHO.) These are good methods to help one recover from the near-constant public messages of worthlessness we receive because we are women, pagan, poor, "insert-your-own-reason-why-you-have-it-hard-right-here." These messages are very real, and very damaging. Practices to undo that damage are very helpful, and I see many people employing them successfully. I view them as part of a wider whole.

In addition to self-elevating practices, there is another crucial piece of the antidote to this little doubting voice that denies your desires. By dedicating your magic for the sake of all beings, and including yourself within that populace, all of a sudden your simple request seems piddling by comparison to all the needs of all those you know and love, as well as those you dislike, as well as those you don't know. Your tiny claim is entirely swallowed up in the vastness of possible healing that could come of this working, and you are immediately swathed in gratitude for all you DO have. This is key to manifestation: a grateful state of mind. Your choice to devote your energies to the greatest good joins you with the most powerful force possible: Bodhicitta. The turn from self to other. The turn from tightness in the chest to relief in the limbs. The flooding of affection for humanity, this life, this moment, all of it. The pure feeling that generates life-changing magic.

If you look at nature and the cosmos, where does energy tend to flow most powerfully? Through the widest possible channels. Yes, water trickling down a slender cleft in rock can wear away a chasm over time, but water gushes and frolics in the wider rivers so much more freely. When I do magic for myself alone, I am attempting to wear down stone, to bend nature. (Insert here your own inner awakening to the meaning of wicce, "to bend." Consider its implications in light of this analogy. I invite you to complicate your understanding of this idea further :) When I do magic for the greatest possible good, I relax into trusting that although I believe I know best, if I do not I will be corrected. Then I jump in, join my energies to that of the laughing, rushing river, and I ride the current happily toward my goal along with everyone else I have included in the working. This results in near-instant personal growth of a quality way better than I could possibly have imagined, a whole lot of positive results in the lives of those I can see who were also affected by the wave of goodness, and a sense that my personal goals are wholesome, rather than worrying if they are at odds with the Universe.

Consider here: the moment you tell someone, "I'd like to pray for you," your prayer is already working because they have felt the power of your love even in your asking for permission. Already, you are an intensely powerful force for good, even if they politely decline.

There are no times when going against the greatest good is the best solution. If one awakens Bodhicitta in one's magic, a peace settles into the heart and stays there. One naturally begins to ask for everything to be dedicated to the greater good, and that all beings have their needs met, including those who have different goals/beliefs/principles than one's own. This is where that pesky little self-doubting voice that used to block us starts to actually help us. We engage in healthy self-reflection in light of the greatest possible good. It starts us asking important ethical questions. "If I get that million dollars, and everyone else who wants that does, too, what will it do to our economy?" "If I manifest that rainbow, will anyone be harmed by the rain it takes to create it?" "Could it be that my beloved has not yet shown up because it is to his/her highest good to be learning whatever lessons they are learning right now?" These questions offer one an opportunity to pause and consider the farther-reaching implications of the magic, to reframe the request with greater skill, to deepen into the actual meaning of the request.

Once we have formed our desire, awakened Bodhicitta, and reflected on the deeper good, there is no cleansing bath in the world that can make us feel cleaner or more wholesome in our magic, which typically then proceeds apace at quite a clip and with stellar results.

I leave you with this quote from Quietly Comes the Buddha by Elizabeth Clare Prophet:

"Only in selflessness can a soul be trusted with omnipotence."

If there is any benefit in these words, may it be dedicated to greatest possible good of all beings. If there is any error, let it fall upon me alone.