All of our experiences arise from our karma. What creates karma is ultimately our mental actions, and of these it is our mental intention that is the most important. All of our actions ultimately arise from our mental intentions. Our mental intention is primarily about ‘why’ we do things. For each of our actrions, we may have many reasons why we do them. The more spiritually mature our “why” is, the more spiritually beneficial our action will be.
The most spiritually advanced “why” for all of our actions is bodhichitta, the wish to become a Buddha so that we can lead all beings to enlightenment. Our job as an aspiring bodhisattva is to make bodhichitta our final, fundamental reason for all that we do. If we can do this, then every moment of our entire life will become part of our path to enlightenment.
Practically speaking, bodhichitta is about improving our personal qualities so that we can be of better service to others. We need to train ourselves to be able to help others even more. The best way to help anybody is to help them along the spiritual path because only this can help them in this and all of their future lives. But to be able to help others along the spiritual path requires tremendous skill, wisdom and social ability.
How can we acquire this skill, wisdom and social ability? By living our normal lives with a bodhichitta motivation. The fundamental reason “why” we do everything we do should be to train ourselves. If we wish to gain wisdom from a situation, that is what we will find. If we wish to improve our social skills in a situation, that is what we will do. We acquire this skill, wisdom and social ability with the intention of later putting it to use in helping guide people along the spiritual path. If this is our intention for what we do, then the karma we will create will ripen in the future in the form of opportunities to use these skills and wisdoms to help people along the path.
For me, for example, my job is to be a diplomat. From an ordinary perspective, the final result of the diplomatic path is to become an Ambassador. But what is a spiritual guide in this world? Conventionally, they are an Ambassador for all of the Buddhas. They have come into this world, but they are not of this world. They come into this world to represent their country, namely the Pure Land. So when I do my work, I try have this be my fundamental reason why I do everything I do. I am acquiring the skills of being an effective Ambassador so that I may one day become an Ambassador of all of the Buddhas. Seeing these connections enables me to simultaneously do a really good job at my work and at the same time make my work part of my bodhisattva path.
We can do the same with any job, viewing it as a training opportunity to acquire the skills we will need to be an effective spiritual guide in the future.