The moment an Awakening Mind arises
In those fettered and weak in the jail of cyclic existence,
They will be named 'a Son of the Sugatas',
And will be revered by both men and gods of the world.
It is like the supreme gold-making elixir,
For it transforms the unclean body we have taken
into the priceless jewel of a Buddha-Form
Therefore firmly seize this Awakening Mind
Since the limitless mind of the Sole Guide of the World
Has upon thorough investigation seen its preciousness,
All beings wishing to be free from worldly abodes
Should firmly take hold of this precious Awakening Mind.
All other virtues are like the plantain tree;
For after bearing fruit they simply perish.
But the perennial tree of the Awakening Mind
Unceasingly bears fruit and thereby flourishes without end.
This intention to benefit all beings,
Which does not arise in others even for their own sake,
Is an extraordinary jewel of the mind,
And its birth is an unprecedented wonder.
How can I fathom the depths
Of the goodness of this jewel of the mind,
The panacea that relieves the world of pain
And is the source of all its joy?
If merely a benevolent intention
Excels venerating the Buddhas,
Then what need to mention striving to make
All beings without exception happy?
Although wishing to be rid of misery,
They run towards misery itself.
Although wishing to have happiness,
Like an enemy they ignorantly destroy it.
For those who are deprived of happiness
And burdened with many sorrows
It satisfies them with all joy,
Dispels all suffering,
And clears away confusion.
Where is there a comparable virtue?
Where is there even such a friend?
Where is there merit similar to this?
-Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, I.9-12, 25-30
What more can be said about an opportunity to practice the art of virtue with like-minded souls and aspirants of knowledge? Leisure is a rare gift; use your time to develop your practice. If you can make it to the retreats, come!