The Story of Bodhi and Chitta
Dr. Meyrav Mor
A contemplative story for dealing with betrayal, finding the equanimity to forgive and the courage to transform.
I would like to share with you a taster of the Abiding Heart’s primary curriculum content. This section is from Just Being: Compassionate Weeks curriculum for Class 6-8 (age 12-15). The following story and activities are an example of an immersive week exploring socio-emotional themes using the Buddhist pedagogy of listening, contemplating, and meditating.
Once upon a time, twins were born in the kingdom of Love and Peace. The baby boy was named Bodhi and the baby girl was named Chitta. The twins were inseparable. They knew what the other was thinking and felt what the other felt. There was no need for words between them.
Bodhi was destined to rule the kingdom when the time came. He always sat on a throne and had many servants tending to him. Mother and father pampered him and everyone bowed down to him. Bodhi was adored by everyone and was treated with respect as a kind, loving, and joyful boy that one day will rule the kingdom wisely.
Chitta cared for her brother and quietly made sure he was safe. She was his best friend. When they were together Bodhi could just be himself; sometimes giggly, sometimes grumpy, and always, he could just be. He felt protected when he was with his sister and knew he could trust her. Bodhi was happy when he was spending time together with Chitta. So did she.
The day came when Bodhi was enthroned. He then took on the duties of running the kingdom. His heart was pure and kind, however, Bodhi was also inexperienced in the ways of the world. He could not discriminate, at times, that there are people around him who have darkness in their hearts due to sadness and hurt. They allowed this dukkha to grow into weeds in their minds which then turned dark and poisonous.
Bodhi was a good king. He wanted everyone to be happy and he didn’t want anyone to suffer. However, he didn’t understand the mind of dukkha and darkness.
From the moment he was enthroned, Bodhi was surrounded by high, important officials and advisors and he led endless meetings. The officials guided Bodhi and he relied on them for advice. The more duties he had, the more dependent he became on his entourage to guide him and help him rule his kingdom. Bodhi mostly sat on his throne listening to his inner circle telling him what was happening in the kingdom. They didn’t always tell him the truth…
Bodhi’s pure heart and naïve mind soon caught the attention of a clever official whose head was filled with ambitions of money and power. This official’s name was ‘Brave Awareness’. ‘Brave Awareness’ had a dog that followed him everywhere. The dog only obeyed ‘Brave Awareness’ and growled at anybody else, although he did understand that he needed to be nice to Bodhi as he was the king. ‘Brave Awareness’ called his dog ‘Pure’ for he saw nothing wrong with the dog’s behaviour.
Soon, with ‘Brave Awareness’, Bodhi became a very famous king and everyone came to listen to him teach how to take care of the people so they become love and peace. Many kings sent their sons and daughters to learn from Bodhi, bringing many gifts of gold, silver, and precious stones. ‘Brave Awareness’ was in charge of the treasury and would collect all the gifts and put them in his room. ‘Brave Awareness’ loved counting the gold coins and knowing how rich they have become. Their wealth grew bigger and bigger and ‘Brave Awareness’ ordered new treasury houses, three times bigger than the original one, to be built.
Somehow all the fame and wealth made ‘Brave Awareness’ heart a bit funny. The more they had, the less he wanted to share with others.
One day, Bodhi mentioned to ‘Brave Awareness’, “there are poor people asking me for some food. Would you please share with them some of what we have?” “Certainly,” said ‘Brave Awareness’, knowing full well that Bodhi will never know if he gave the poor food or not. ‘Brave Awareness’ rarely gave to the poor. Instead, he ordered special food from far away countries and made special delicacies which he shared only with Bodhi and his dog ‘Pure’.
‘Brave Awareness’ became greedier and nastier and so did his dog; but in front of Bodhi they pretended to obey and listen to everything Bodhi asked of them. Bodhi thought everything was going very well in his kingdom and he was happy.
Now, what few people are aware of is that Chitta was born with a special gift to see into people’s hearts and know their true intentions. ‘Pure’, the dog, sensed that, and whenever Chitta was near him he would growl at her; once he even tried to bite her! Chitta didn’t know what to do about ‘Pure’. She tried to feed him delicious food to gain his trust. He ate it all greedily but he kept on being aggressive. ‘Pure’ hated everyone other than his master and Bodhi. Bodhi never saw Pure’s terrible behaviour and how ‘Brave Awareness’ encouraged that behaviour.
As Bodhi’s fame grew far and wide, he paid less and less attention to Chitta and their friendship. He took her for granted. “She will always be there, helping me, protecting me, showing me things,” he thought to himself. Chitta remained loyal to Bodhi and quietly made sure he was safe.
What Bodhi didn’t know was that ‘Brave Awareness’ ordered a new law to be implemented in the kingdom where everyone had to pay tax to the king, Bodhi. Many of the people in the kingdom were poor but ‘Brave Awareness’ didn’t care and he made everyone pay, even if it meant they would have no money to feed their children. Only those who paid their tax could see Bodhi for blessings. Bodhi didn’t know that.
Chitta knew what was in ‘Brave Awareness’ heart and she tried to warn Bodhi but he got angry with her and thought his sister was jealous because Bodhi now spends more time with his advisors. There was nothing Chitta could do or say. She was distraught.
‘Brave Awareness’ sensed that Chitta could see into his heart and that if she had an influence on Bodhi it would ruin the new orders he implemented. ‘Brave awareness’ kept on telling lies to Bodhi about Chitta and even Pure pretended to be hurt by Chitta.
Other people around ‘Brave Awareness’ soon did the same so they could be as close to Bodhi as possible, as it meant they too would become important and powerful. Everybody wanted to be close to the king and so they kept on making up terrible stories about Chitta. It got out of control!
In the end, Bodhi thought to himself, “So many people are saying bad things about Chitta, it must be true!” And so, one day when Chitta tried to warn Bodhi again about what is truly happening in the kingdom Bodhi got very, very angry with her. Bodhi’s heart turned into stone. He told everyone in the kingdom to cut off all contact with Chitta and not to help her with anything. He was going to show her that he is powerful and in charge of ruling the kingdom.
Months have passed and whenever Bodhi saw or thought of Chitta his heart filled with anger. “I must make sure she is out of my sight as her presence is upsetting my peace.” In the depth of his heart, he knew that she sees too much into everyone’s hearts. This worried him. Bodhi ordered Chitta out of the kingdom. Chitta was taken deep into the jungle and was left there with little food and water to fend for herself. ‘Brave Awareness’ and his soldiers' hope were that Chitta would be lost forever in the jungle, never to be seen again. Bodhi was relieved that he didn’t have to feel Chitta’s presence, “Now,” he thought, “everyone will be harmonious as the problem is gone.”
A year had passed and Bodhi felt happy as his fame grew and more and more people came to see him, seeking advice. With Chitta out of the way, ‘Brave Awareness’ asserted himself as the main confidant to Bodhi and insisted Bodhi agree to approve new rules and laws. Many of them meant that the treasury got fuller and fuller with gold coins. ‘Brave Awareness’ pressurised Bodhi to perform many more ceremonial occasions as it brought heaps of gold coins from visiting royalties. Bodhi felt that he couldn’t say no.
By now ‘Brave Awareness’ felt extremely powerful. Bodhi felt that he was losing his power and that those around him were just pretending to follow his orders. Bodhi felt helpless. In his heart, he felt that things were very wrong. For the first time, Bodhi became suspicious and distrusting of those around him. He felt very lonely and isolated.
Bodhi started to miss his sister. At first, it was a vague feeling but this feeling grew as time went by. He kept this feeling to himself. Besides, he didn’t know whether Chitta was alive or dead. Even if he managed to find her, he wasn’t sure she would be happy to see him. Bodhi became restless and he couldn’t sleep well at night.
One night, as Bodhi was tossing and turning, a thought crept to his mind, “Could it be that I was harsh on Chitta? Could it be that I have darkness in my heart that I ordered Chitta to be sent alone to the jungle knowing that she might die?” “What was she trying to tell me that I wasn’t ready to hear?” Bodhi was tormented by these questions.
During the day, Bodhi kept a brave face and pretended to be joyful, kind, and happy. Inside, his heart was bleeding. “How could I advise others when I am not sure whether I did the right thing when I sent my own twin sister to such a harsh fate?”
At night, Bodhi couldn’t sleep. He took to walking around the palace grounds late when everyone was fast asleep. Walking around the gardens, surrounded by darkness and the quietness of the night, was the only time Bodhi felt comfort and inner peace.
One night, Bodhi saw a beautiful white bird he had never seen before. “How unusual,” he thought to himself. Night after night, the bird circled above Bodhi’s head three times and then rested on a branch on a tree nearby. The white bird would sing a sweet song. Hearing this beautiful melody Bodhi’s heart became uplifted a bit and he was able to rest.
One night, the white bird did not show up. Bodhi searched everywhere on the palace grounds but he couldn’t find it. “I must search for the bird! I have no solace without listening to the white bird’s song!” Bodhi decided to go into the jungle to look for the precious bird. He was scared as he rarely went out of the palace at night and he never went anywhere on his own. He always had soldiers, attendants, and advisors with him. But not that night.
It was a full moon and Bodhi could see clearly the path that led to the jungle. He walked into the jungle; the deeper he went, the darker it got. The further in he went, the more entangled and afraid Bodhi felt. Bodhi was lost. He realised that he kept walking around in circles. He was exhausted. The first rays of light were rising and he was cold and on the verge of collapsing. He sat under a tree to rest and soon he fell into a dreamless sleep.
Bodhi woke up when the sun was at its highest. The jungle was full of life, sounds, and colours. He sat up and listened. He could hear water flowing and realised that he was very thirsty. Bodhi followed the sound of the water until he reached a waterfall with a beautiful big pond. He looked at the water, it was crystal clear. He could see his reflection in the water.
All of a sudden, Bodhi’s reflection changed. He was horrified! What was looking back at him was a man with a sharp chin, a pointy nose, pointy ears, and narrow, cutting eyes.
“Who are you?” Asked Bodhi.
“I am ‘Deception’,” answered the reflection.
“Where do you come from?” Bodhi asked.
“I come from inside you, I am a part of you,” ‘Deception’ answered.
Bodhi couldn’t bear looking at this reflection with the cruel face.
“Am I unkind, am I?” Bodhi asked. The reflection in the water haunted him. Bodhi walked to the other side of the pond. “Perhaps if I go to the other side, I will not see this reflection again. Perhaps a Naga is playing tricks on me.”
On the other side of the pond, Bodhi was about to have a wash in the water but just then he saw something else reflected back to him in the water. He saw a proud face looking at him.“I am the king of kings, and my name is ‘Pride,’” the reflection spoke softly and aloofly. “You must bow down to me! I deserve to have all the best of what is yours. Worship me or be gone! Never dare to challenge my perfection or I will destroy you!”
Bodhi felt horror again. “Who are those faces?” he thought to himself, “they can’t be part of me!”
Bodhi swam to the middle of the pond. He floated on his back for a while trying to calm himself. The sun was gentle and caressing; the water wrapped around his body in a warm embrace. Whenever Bodhi looked up, he saw ‘Pride’ with his dismissive look. Whenever he looked down, he saw ‘Deception’ with his cruel eyes.
Bodhi looked straight; he didn’t dare to look anywhere else. Then, the most amazing thing happened! When he looked ahead, Bodhi saw a beautiful clear light and he felt love and kindness warming his heart.
While still in the water Bodhi saw the white bird flying directly towards him. Bodhi was thrilled to see the precious bird again. The bird landed on Bodhi’s right shoulder and whispered in his ear. “Do not be afraid. Have courage. Look at ‘Deception’ straight in the eyes and you will see through him. Then, feel deep into ‘Pride’s heart and he will dissolve into space.”
Bodhi was terrified but he gathered his courage and looked down to where ‘Deception’ was looking at him. Bodhi looked ‘Deception’ straight in the eyes. He didn’t even blink. Just then, Bodhi saw all the harm and pain he caused others. His heart of stone melted and he felt remorse. Love and compassion to everyone arose in his heart.
Bodhi finally saw through ‘Deception’. Bodhi wasn’t afraid anymore looking at that reflection. “I know you are ‘Deception’ and I need to heal through making right all the wrong I have done.” Bodhi thought about Chitta and how unkind he was to her. “I listened to the wrong people. I became too greedy. The more I wanted, the harsher I became, taking by force what belongs to others. In my wish to conquer the world I forgot my own heart of being loving and caring.”
Bodhi then looked up and into ‘Pride’s heart. “I am the best king in all the kingdoms. I am going to conquer the Land of Gold and with that, I will become ruler of the world!” whispered ‘Pride’ looking straight into Bodhi’s eyes. Bodhi looked back at ‘Pride’ and into Pride’s heart. There, Bodhi saw himself sitting on his throne with everyone bowing down to him.
Everyone but one person. An old woman remained standing looking with eyes of compassion at Bodhi. Seeing this, Bodhi became angry and his heart grew dark. “How dare this woman challenges me like this!” he thought. At that moment Bodhi felt and saw clearly the darkness of pride in his heart. It was mixed with anger.
Bodhi was horrified at his unkind feelings and he ran out of the water and sat under a tree shaking and sobbing. “I have lost my compassion. I became manipulative, wanting to control everyone.” Bodhi felt deep regret. “I must fix things. My name is Bodhi and I am a loving and caring king.” Bodhi kept repeating to himself. “I am not Deception and Pride. I must make things right again. I must find love and kindness in my heart again”
The white bird circled around Bodhi’s head. Bodhi realised that the bird was asking him to follow her. They walked for a long while until they reached a small house by a river. The house was surrounded by a beautiful garden with fruit trees, vegetable beds and flowers dotted everywhere. Bodhi was very hungry.
He walked to the entrance and knocked on the door three times. Nobody answered. He knocked again but there was no answer. He tried the door handle. The door opened. Bodhi didn’t dare to go in but from the entrance, he saw a beautiful table with delicious food all set for a meal.
At that moment Bodhi heard footsteps behind him. He froze with fear. Bodhi slowly turned around. In front of him stood Chitta. She looked older and peaceful. She was surrounded by her heart's children. Bodhi fell back in shock, tears streaming down his cheeks. He didn’t think he will ever see her again. He looked into her eyes and saw kindness and care. There was no anger or hatred in her heart.
The heart children went about their business, tending to the flowers and vegetable beds. Bodhi and Chitta stood in silence for a while. Chitta then gently motioned Bodhi to come into the house and gestured to him to sit at the table. She served a warm meal. It was delicious and Bodhi ate feeling stronger and peaceful with every bite. They ate in silence.
When the meal was over, Chitta sat closer to the fire watching the purple flames dancing in the hearth. She then spoke softly, “Dear brother Bodhi, this all had to happen. Both you and I needed to learn and be trained in overcoming darkness; our own and that of others. We had to transform and unite in our heart love, compassion and wisdom so we can be filled with shining light.
Now, it is time for healing.
Now, it is time for peace.”
They both sat in silence for a while looking out through the window. A beautiful double rainbow appeared, shining brightly filling the afternoon sky.
Our class 1-8 curriculum is designed in such a way that every few weeks we pause and allow time for the children to Just Be in nature, with one another and with themselves while at the same time exploring one theme for a short time of the day. The combination of a gentle contemplation (short structured time- teacher directed) and just being (unstructured- child directed) over a week period allows the student time for reflection, digestion and integration as a way of supporting a transformative process. The focus during a Compassionate Week is on one theme that sometimes is connected with what lives in the group or within an individual in the class. In this way we engage with the students with real life situations and offer support and tools to the students through Buddhist and contemplative practices.
In the taster presented here, the underlying theme we explore with the students is betrayal, taking responsibility for one's own actions, and forgiveness. By age 12, children experience another shift in their development and their social life becomes more intense and more central to their lives. They are at the onset of adolescence with big changes occurring in their bodies and emotional lives. This is a period where friendships, that may last a lifetime, develop and blossom. However, bullying, exclusion, social cliques and betrayals are also experiences that some children go through at school. Such events can be traumatic causing lifelong scars if not addressed and healed. The pupils need our support to process the full on, and at times, challenging social dynamics and kleshas in a manner that nurtures the well being of the individuals and the group. This means helping the children develop skillful means, compassion, acceptance, self reflection and taking responsibility for one’s own actions.
The contemplative story above was written with the intention to support both children who have been excluded and those who have been doing the excluding. The story is told to the whole class as a way to awaken self-introspection, taking responsibility for one’s actions and the courage to self-transform and forgive. The story is told and discussed over a few days bringing together the Buddhist learning approach of understanding, meditating, applying/realising and listening, contemplating and meditating, together with the Waldorf three day rhythm learning method and multidimensional method of engaging the head (understanding, inquiry-based learning), heart (feeling, arts, experience or meditation) and doing (arts, discussions, writing). Woven in are an integrated and transdisciplinary approach to learning.
While we provide our primary teacher trainees a large amount of curriculum content for class 1-8, at Abiding Heart’s teacher training the trainees also acquire the knowledge or View (of Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist Psychology, child development, and learning theories and methodologies), teaching skills/tools (Abiding Heart’s curriculum studies and teaching methods and applications, arts and crafts skills and techniques), and self-confidence (i.e., inner personal development, practicum) to create their own lessons based on the unique needs of their pupils at a specific time or event. In this way, the curriculum content and the process of teaching and learning can be alive, organic, meaningful and transformative.
(Buddhist philosophy,Buddhist Psychology, child development learning theories and methodologies
(Abiding Heart’s curriculum studies and teaching methods and applications, arts and crafts skills and techniques (i.e., inner personal development, practicum )
The Story of Bodhi and Chitta
View: We tell the story of Bodhi and Chitta to the students (see story above).
Meditation and contemplation: Once the children listen to the story, we offer a guided meditation of letting the mind settle, then letting the story sink in by just being.
Application: Students paint, draw or sculpt an image or a feeling from the story that spoke to them. By class 6, the Abiding Heart pupils have learned to engage with different mediums of arts and developed skills, technique, and confidence to enjoy an independent free artistic exploration and expression.
Understanding: the whole class recalls the story. Then in small groups, the pupils take turns to read the story together.
Contemplating: facilitated by the teacher and as a whole class activity, the students reflect on Buddhist themes related to the story, such as karma, and the idea of justice and injustice from the view of karma.
Next, each child writes a reflection/ contemplation on the story.
Then, in small groups, the pupils share their written reflection and artistic expression they did the previous day.
Meditating: whole class, letting the mind settle meditation and breath meditation; letting go of the contemplation and discussion to just be. Part of the digestion and integration process is to let go of the conceptual exploration and return to experience through meditation and then letting go.
Meditating: Letting the mind settle; loving-kindness and compassion practice
Discussion: As a whole class, the students engage in a discussion with a few guiding open questions from the teacher. Together, the students, with facilitation from the teacher, draw out and construct through the story and discussions, their knowledge and understanding of the Buddhist view and ethics. At the end of the discussion section, the teacher adds relevant Buddhist content, context, and links that students did not know. In this way, the learning process begins with what the students first know and then the teacher adds the new learning.
This section includes short contemplations on themes relating to the story, such as taking responsibility for our actions and forgiveness,
Application: re-writing the story with wisdom and skillful means in mind: knowing what we know at the end of the process about the Buddhist view and meditating on it, how would you rewrite the story to include, at a key point in the story, different actions that are motivated by wisdom and skillful means that would avoid harming others or be harmed by others? The aim of this section is to help bring healing and closure to the event experienced by the student/s that the story is related to. Karma that ripens can't be changed but responses to such events that are motivated by the mind of Bodhichitta are always possible. The hope is to introduce to the students the idea that the poison can be the medicine.
Meditation practice: whole class: letting the mind settle meditation and breath meditation; loving-kindness and compassion practice. Part of the digestion and integration process is to let go of the conceptual exploration and return to experience through alternating meditation on loving-kindness and compassion and breath meditation.
May this education bring healing to all.
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This curriculum content is published as part of the Abiding Heart Education Primary curriculum, created by Dr. Meyrav Mor. © 2021. Abiding Heart Education™. All rights reserved.
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