Benefiting others

Benefiting others

Allegedly, when Buddha asked his disciples to serve the sick and the suffering, some of them recoiled at the idea. It was one thing to meditate and pray; another to wipe up the vomit of strangers.

His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama teaches, “Welfare, in the Buddhist sense, means helping others to attain total freedom from suffering, and the term ‘other sentient beings’ refers to the infinite number of beings in the universe.”

But is it possible to feel motivated enough by our beliefs to become personally involved in caring for others?  Is it even necessary?

If we are to follow the teachings of His Holiness, the Embodiment of Compassion, our salvation from the endless cycles of birth and death depends on working for the benefit of others. 

He is clear about this, “Likewise, Chandrakirti says in his Entry to the Middle Way that compassion is such a supreme spiritual quality that it maintains its relevance at all times:  it is vital at the initial stage of the spiritual path, it is just as important while we are on the path, and it is equally relevant when an individual has become fully enlightened.”

He continues, “Generally speaking, as I said, compassion is the wish that others should be free of suffering, but if we look into it more closely compassion has two levels. In one case it may exist simply at the level of a wish - just wishing the other to be free of suffering - but it can also exist on a higher level, where the emotion goes beyond a mere wish to include the added dimension of actually wanting to do something about the suffering of others. In this case, a sense of responsibility and personal commitment enters into the thought and emotion of altruism.”

In order to serve the sick and the suffering, we must love them as if they were our very own. The living Buddha says, “The closer you feel towards another being, the more powerfully you will feel that the sight of his or her suffering is unbearable.”

But if we don’t feel close, then we can cultivate a sense of closeness and intimacy by visualizing ourselves as that person, for instance, or we might employ what is known as the ‘seven-point cause and effect method.’

The Dalai Lama adds, “This emphasizes the cultivation of an attitude that enables us to relate to all other beings as we should to someone very dear. The traditional example given is that we could consider all sentient beings as our mother, but some scriptures also include considering beings as our father, or as dear friends, or as close relatives, and so on.  Our mother is simply taken as an example, but the point is that we should learn to view all other sentient beings as very dear and close to our hearts.”

So, there is no getting around it, to attain enlightenment, to achieve liberation, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and serve.

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