Three Degrees of Courage for Arousing Bodhicitta

Amita[bha] Buddha is
the great king who presides over Pure Land,
the great boatman who ferries beings across, and
the great shepherd who protects beings on the way.

– Anonone

The Courage of a King: A king’s first priority is to overcome all his rivals, promote those who support him and proclaim himself sovereign. Only after that does his wish to take care of his subjects come into effect. Similarly, the wish first to attain Buddhahood for oneself and then to bring others to Buddhahood is called the king’s way of arousing Bodhicitta [the aspiration to attain Buddhahood for all beings].

The Courage of a Boatman: A boatman aims to arrive on the other shore together with all his passengers. Likewise, the wish to achieve Buddhahood for oneself and all beings at the same time is called the boatman’s way of arousing Bodhicitta.

The Courage of a Shepherd: Shepherds drive their sheep in front of them, making sure that they find grass and water and are not attacked by wolves, jackals or other wild beasts. They themselves follow behind. In the same way, the attitude of those who wish to establish all beings of the three worlds [of desire, form and formlessness] in perfect Buddhahood before achieving it for themselves is called the shepherd’s way of arousing Bodhicitta.

The king’s way, called ‘arousing Bodhicitta with the great wish,’ is the least courageous of the three. The boatman’s way, called ‘arousing Bodhicitta with sacred wisdom,’ is more courageous. It is said that Lord Maitreya aroused Bodhicitta in this way. The shepherd’s way, called ‘the arousing of Bodhicitta beyond compare,’ is the most courageous of all. It is said to be the way Lord Manjusri aroused Bodhicitta.

The Words of My Perfect Teacher
(Patrul Rinpoche)

Learn about Developing Bodhicitta:


  • To save others, you have to save yourself first. How can you save others when you yourself are in peril?
    It’s like you must yourself know how to swim in order to teach and prevent others from drowning.

  • It is not totally true that we have to save ourselves totally first before being able to be of any help to others.

    For example, even an amateur swimmer can give some relevant advice to a non-swimmer. Better still, one can advise where to find better coaches. Even a poor man can help a poorer man….

    Bodhicitta is about doing one’s best in the moment to help one and all, as one advances towards perfection.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Alert: Content is protected !!