Mahayana View: Vastness & Collective Liberation

A series of talks and meditations I began at the lunar new year (Yang Earth Dog), on Śivaratri, that look at practice as understood by the visionary Buddhist movement known as the Mahāyāna, or “Great Vehicle.” I think it rambled a bit to start, especially the one on whether our practice is progressing, which almost veered into “Is American Buddhism really screwing up?” I hope I saved the flotilla from that particular difficult vortex, but it’s only a vortex because it might be partly true, of course.

The series settles down into exploration of some important Mahāyāna concepts like altruism, bodhicitta, and bodhisattva practice: the strange mystery of how you can vow to save all beings while simultaneously cultivating the perception that there are no beings to be saved. I make a pass at answering that ancient hard problem at the end of the Feb 27 talk.

Then we spend some time looking at the core dynamic of self and other, relationship, social action, and individual healing. Continuing, we’ll look at Emptiness, of course, the heart of the Mahāyāna vision, and of the tantric Buddhisms that grew from it.

Lunar New Year & Śivaratri & Mardi Gras talk: “Does this work?” or “Is my practice progressing?”


Meditation: Turning inward, Śiva the Lord of Yogis, mantra: OM NAMAḤ ŚIVAYAḤ

The vast View at the heart of the Mahāyāna, and the tension between individual and collective liberation.


Meditation: Breath, body, ease, presence

A talk on the core Mahāyāna ideal that liberation practice be rooted not in the longing for individual release from suffering but in the altruistic impulse to become liberated in order to liberate all other beings. The importance, and subtlety, of altruism, and its refined expression, bodhicitta, the “Heart of Awakening.”


Meditation: a reflection on identity and interconnection using the visualization of a 5-ringed maṇḍala. I use this reflection both in discussions of karma and interconnection, and in social justice and deep identity work. The rings, from center out, are:


Continuing with bodhisattva practice, looking at the core dyad of self-other, seeing the other (and not), seeing that which self and other may share: that which may be called universal, and based in compassion the arising of the intention to help and not harm others. Then the bodhisattva vow to become a Buddha in order to liberate beings most effectively, and the opening to paradox and vastness.


Meditation: self, other, seeing the other, compassion for the other, seeing that actions have effects, intending help not harm, expanding to all others, compassion for all others, intending help for all others.

I continue to explore Mahāyāna ideas through an exploration of the Diamond Sutra, one of the most important mystical texts of early Mahāyāna Buddhism. Continue with those talks here.

More soon! Some of this is preparation for my upcoming online course on the Heart Sutra, to be offered through the Sutra Project.

Leave a Comment

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

Scroll to Top

Connect with the beauty and power of Buddhist training.

Receive articles, guided meditations, and tools for starting or deepening your practice, along with Dr. Oakes’ teaching schedule.

We use cookies as part of website function, and ask your consent for this.