1. The first intention is the willingness in the heart of every practitioner to remove the suffering of all living beings. We should always keep this foremost in our awareness.
2. The second intention is the willingness to lead every living being to the ultimate state of prosperity and happiness, which is buddhahood.
3. The third intention is the willingness to use our bodies in the service of making good things for both ourselves and others. Instead of using our bodies for any and everything, we should use them to benefit all beings.
4. The fourth intention is to always keep in mind the suffering, difficulties, and troubles associated with the six realms. Among these realms, the inhabitants of the lowest three experience the most difficulty. Therefore, we should help and serve these beings as much as we can. Of course, more immediately we can help animals, since we share a strong connection and are in close contact with these beings. So, the fourth intention is to maintain the powerful thought in our hearts and minds that we are going to help dispel the suffering and solve the problems of all beings in the three lower realms, especially animals, as much as the situation allows.
5. The fifth intention that we as practitioners should always guard in our hearts and minds is to be instrumental in bringing happiness and peace to all living beings by removing their difficulties, not just now, but throughout each of our future lives. Wishing and praying that throughout our lifetimes we will be able to continually help all beings through the actions of our bodies, speech, and minds is the fifth intention.
6. The sixth intention is that we are ready and willing to exchange our joy, peace, and happiness for the difficulties and troubles of others. We have the capability and opportunity to actualize this intention through the practice of tonglen. The openness and willingness to engage in these actions is the sixth intention.
7. The seventh intention is to be able to fulfill the wishes of every living being in answer to their needs. It is the wish that we may fulfill their hopes according to the Dharma, so that they will benefit and thus beable to benefit all other sentient beings.
8. The eighth and final intention is to achieve enlightenment—buddhahood—for the sake of all beings.
Regardless of the title we give these intentions, whoever has the willingness to engage in these activities is a bodhisattva, a great and beautiful being. As you all know, the best foundation for these intentions is bodhichitta, which is filled with courage, commitment, and openness. By keeping and igniting these thoughts as much as we can, we will become beautiful followers of the Buddha. When we read the life stories of all the great ancient masters, we see that this is the same teaching they taught and practiced themselves, following in the noble footsteps of the Awakened One.
The essence of the Eight Intentions of Great Beings is one hundred percent unconditional love, compassion, and wisdom. Therefore, these intentions have no connotation of violence, negativity, deceit, or the intention to disturb or take advantage of others. Rather, they represent the authentic nature of the absolute Dharma, which is Dzogchen. We are practicing the Dharma whenever we are in touch with this willingness to benefit sentient beings as much as we can.
Cultivating these intentions is not just beneficial for others: these wonderful thoughts will also help remove our own obscurations, obstacles, and negativities. They will fulfill our own wishes and goals. For this reason, these bodhisattva intentions are known as methods to accumulate merit. Upon developing them, we build up beautiful energy in our mindstreams and physical systems. It is this energy that will bring about realization, which is based upon our accumulation of true merit. Finally, our realization and bodhichitta will naturally reflect to and benefit others.
Uniting these bodhisattva intentions with our practice of Dzogchen will establish a beautiful system of interdependent coordination that will ignite and accelerate our progress, thereby bringing benefit to all beings. We should never allow our Dzogchen meditation to stray from this foundation. By practicing in this way, our realization will flower and its fruit will ripen perfectly. This will make everyone, including ourselves, ever happy and joyful, and we will eventually become beautiful practitioners and great beings. Beginning our journey with this perfect foundation, we will conclude it in the same way, uncovering the innate liberated state in ourselves and all beings.
By Venerable Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
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