This article was later published in two parts in
the Jan and Feb 2018 issues of ‘For You Information’ (佛友资讯).
Q1: What is Bodhicitta (or the Bodhi Mind)?
A1: Bodhicitta includes ‘Common Bodhicitta’, which is the aspiration to seek Buddhahood, and to transform all sentient beings, to guide them to also attain Buddhahood.
Q2: How do we truly give rise to Common Bodhicitta?
A2: It is to be done by studying and formally receiving to uphold the Bodhisattva Precepts. Also to be learnt and cultivated are Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s Ten Great King Of Vows, aspiring to practise the Six Perfections’ ten thousand practices, to guide one and all with compassion and wisdom to Buddhahood. (Giving rise to Common Bodhicitta is just part of the criteria to be born in the higher grades of Pure Land. To know the details, do study the Contemplation Sutra.)
Q3: Does Bodhicitta have another definition?
A3: Since the Pure Land Dharma Door, as the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yinguang taught, is the ‘Special Dharma Door’, there is ‘Special Bodhicitta’. As defined in three ways below, it also includes the essence of Common Bodhicitta.
3A: 依据昙鸾大师的《往生论注》: 【此无上菩提心，即是愿作佛心。愿作佛心，即是度众生心。度众生心，即摄取众生生净佛国土心。】
3A: According to Great Master Tanluan’s ‘Commentary On The Rebirth Treatise’: ‘This unsurpassable Bodhicitta, is the Aspiration to become a Buddha. This Aspiration to become a Buddha, is the Aspiration to deliver [all] sentient beings. This Aspiration to deliver sentient beings, is the Aspiration to gather sentient beings to be born in in [Amituofo’s] Pure Buddha Land.’
(In brief, Bodhicitta is defined here as –  To have Aspiration to be a Buddha,  to deliver all to Amituofo’s Pure Land [where they are bound for Buddhahood].)
3B: According to the Pure Land Tradition’s 2nd Patriarch Great Master Shandao’s ‘Commentary On The Contemplation Sutra In Four Fascicles’: ‘Only giving rise to the one thought of aversion to suffering, [and giving rise to] joy [of being] born in all Buddhas’ realm [i.e. as represented by Amituofo’s Pure Land], to swiftly complete Bodhisattvas’ great compassionate vows and practices, return to enter [the cycle of] birth and death to universally deliver [all] sentient beings, thus is this named giving rise to Bodhicitta.’
(In brief, Bodhicitta is defined here as –  To have aversion to suffering, with joyful Aspiration to be born in Amituofo’s Pure Land,  to swiftly complete Bodhisattva training,  to guide all to Buddhahood.)
3C: 依据净土宗九祖蕅益大师的《阿弥陀经要解》: 【深信发愿，即无上菩提。】
3C: According to the Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ouyi’s ‘Essential Explanation Of The Amitabha Sutra’: ‘With deep Faith giving rise to the Aspiration [to be born in Amituofo’s Pure Land, [this] is unsurpassable Bodhi[citta].’
(In brief, Bodhicitta is defined here as –  To have Aspiration with deep Faith to be born in Amituofo’s Pure Land.)
If able to include Common Bodhicitta within Special Bodhicitta, the Aspiration in such ‘deep Faith and Aspiration’ is even more unsurpassable, and is truly the most noble and precious.
3D: Combining the three definitions, Special Bodhicitta is briefly defined here with four stages –
 With aversion to this Saha World, have Aspiration to depart from all of its suffering,
 and with deep and joyful Faith, have Aspiration to be born in Amituofo’s Pure Land.
 With swift completion of the Bodhisattva path to become a Buddha,
 deliver all beings to be born in Amituofo’s Pure Land.
The first half  &  is mainly about reaching Amituofo’s Pure Land by giving rise to ‘deep Faith and Aspiration.’ After reaching Pure Land, is where the second half  &  of completing the Bodhisattva path to deliver all beings will occur. Even if yet to consider the second half before birth there, so long as there is no opposing or contradicting in spirit, both aspects of seeking Buddhahood and transforming sentient beings will definitely be accomplished naturally after reaching Pure Land.
It is thus clear, that giving rise to Faith and Aspiration to be reborn in Pure Land is the main cause that gives rise to stable Bodhicitta, while Pure Land provides the ideal supportive conditions, to nurture its full blossoming. This is why Great Master Ouyi most concisely defined Special Bodhicitta as above, with its core criteria being ‘deep Faith and Aspiration’ to reach Pure Land. Being able to also give rise to Common Bodhicitta is of course excellent, though Special Bodhicitta must be given rise to, and will be adequate, for reaching Pure Land, where Common Bodhicitta will blossom fully.
Q4: How does Common Bodhicitta blossom fully in Pure Land?
A4: According to the Contemplation Sutra, when from lotus flowers born, those who have yet to give rise to it will do so upon hearing Guanshiyin (Avalokiteshvara) and Dashizhi (Mahasthamaprapta) Bodhisattvas’ teachings.
Q5: How many who have attained birth in Pure Land had previously given rise to Common Bodhicitta?
A5: The sutras have no mention of this. However, of the nine grades of birth there, only those of the three higher grades of birth did give rise to it, while the others of the six medium and lower grades (i.e. 66.67% of the 9 grades) did not. It can be said that beings who attain birth in Pure Land in this Dharma-Ending Age have mostly yet to truly give rise to Common Bodhicitta, as it is most difficult to do so in this era.
Q6: When encouraging birth in Pure Land, should the giving rise of Common Bodhicitta be emphasised?
A6: Those of medium and lower spiritual roots who hear this might lose confidence to be born in Pure Land. Especially those already with Common Bodhicitta, they should all the more, as compassionate skilful means, not insist that all must give rise to Common Bodhicitta, as most beings in this Dharma-Ending Age will find it difficult to do so. There can be encouragement but not insistence, bearing in mind that the Pure Land Dharma Door is meant for gathering and receiving all beings – of lower, medium and higher spiritual roots, including those with or without Common Bodhicitta.
Q7: For encouraging others to seek birth in Pure Land, but not knowing their spiritual roots, should they be encouraged to give rise to Common Bodhicitta?
A7: In normal times, there can be general explanation of the causes and conditions for the nine grades’ births, as a skilful Middle Path, to let them personally decide. Unless the dying persons are obviously of higher spiritual roots, there should only be encouragement to give rise to Special Bodhicitta. When approaching the end of life, there might be shortage of time to explain Common Bodhicitta too. To those approaching the end of life with great pain and suffering, great fear, and those who have done great evil but have just repented, it is also difficult to encourage them to give rise to Common Bodhicitta. To avoid leading these dying persons to oppose or contradict Bodhicitta, there should only be encouragement to give rise to ‘deep Faith and Aspiration’ to seek birth in Amituofo’s Pure Land by mindfulness of his name.
Q8: Could those who have yet to give rise to Common Bodhicitta in this life, but attained birth in Pure Land, have given rise to it in a past life?
A8: Whether they had given rise to it in a past life or not is unimportant as it cannot be remembered in this life. The crucial point is that in this life, they must at least truly give rise to ‘deep Faith and Aspiration’ (as Special Bodhicitta), using this to be mindful of Amituofo’s name to attain birth in his Pure Land. Due to the concerns stated in A6 and A7 above, there should not be insistence that the dying give rise to Common Bodhicitta.
Q9: How do we conclude if Bodhicitta is a must for birth in Pure Land?
答9: 依据阿弥陀佛的第十八大愿，得生极乐的最低准则是三资粮 – 以深信切愿持佛名号。’深信发愿’即是发特别菩提心。若愿得生上品，也要发通途菩提心。
A9: According to the 18th great vow of Amituofo, to attain birth in his Pure Land, the lowest criteria to meet are the Three Provisions – with deep Faith and sincere Aspiration powering the Practice of upholding the name of Amituofo. Having ‘deep Faith and Aspiration’ is to give rise to Special Bodhicitta. If aspiring to attain higher grades of birth, there must also be Common Bodhicitta.
Q10: Is there a more detailed but still concise summary?
A10: Below are some verses to summarise the above.
Verses On Special & Common Bodhicitta
[With] deep Faith giving rise [to the] Aspiration,
[to] seek birth [in Amituofo’s Pure Land Of] Ultimate Bliss,
is unsurpassable [Special] Bodhicitta
[as it is the swiftest path to Buddhahood for one and all].
[To] seek [the] path [to] Buddhahood above,
[and to] transform sentient beings below,
is unsurpassable [Common] Bodhicitta.
[To] seek birth [in Amituofo’s Pure Land Of] Ultimate Bliss,
also needs deep Faith,
needing [to] give rise [to] Aspiration too,
[together] as [Special] Bodhicitta.
[Those of] higher grades, before birth [in Pure Land],
gave rose [to Common] Bodhicitta.
[Those of] lower grades, after birth [in Pure Land],
give rise [to Common] Bodhicitta.
[Those] without [Common] Bodhicitta,
[but with] Faith [and] Aspiration upholding [Amituofo’s] name,
[are] also able [to] attain birth,
[in his Pure] Land Of Ultimate Bliss.
[From] lotus flowers’ transformed births,
[upon] hearing [the two] Bodhisattvas’ teachings,
[they] will definitely give rise
[to] great [Common] Bodhicitta.
Note: Bodhicitta In ‘Immeasurable Life Sūtra‘
依据净土宗九祖蕅益大师的《佛说阿弥陀经要解》: 【深信发愿，即无上菩提。… 大本《阿弥陀经》，亦以发菩提愿为要，正与此同。】
According to the Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ouyì’s ‘Essential Explanation [Of The] Amitā[bha] Sūtra [As] Spoken [By The] Buddha’: ‘[With] profound [or deep] Faith giving rise [to the] Aspiration [to be born in Āmítuófó’s Pure Land, [this] is unsurpassable Bodhi[citta]… [The] larger [‘version of the] Amitābha] Sūtra’ [i.e. Immeasurable Life Sūtra; 无量寿经), [is] also with giving rise [to the] Bodhi Aspiration [i.e. Bodhicitta] as essential [in its section on the Three Grades (三辈) for birth in Pure Land, which is] exactly with this [above], the same’ [in meaning as ‘Special Bodhicitta’（’深信发愿‘为’特别菩提心‘)].
How Pure Land Aids Bodhicitta & Deliverance Of Beings
How To Further Assure Reach Of Pure Land
Giving Rise To Bodhicitta & Reaching Pure Land
The Three Provisions For Rebirth In Pure Land