We continue with the discussion of how to be good example. There are three types of example we set, an outer example, an inner example and a secret example. In this post I will explain how to set a good outer and inner example.
“be the best outer [example]…”
First it is important to clarify a few things about being an example. We should ‘be’ a good example, not ‘show’ one. If we are a good example, we will naturally show such a good example. If we try show one but are not such an example, it will come across as false and not work. We should be the best example we can possibly be. This means watching our behavior as best we can, imagining that we are in the presence of Geshe-la and all the Buddhas. Part of this means being at peace with and accepting our mistakes. Part of being perfect is creating the space to make mistakes and learn from them.
The outer example of a Kadampa is the Pratimoksha. For our purposes, it has three elements. First, we should harm no one. We need to eliminate any trace of harming others with our body, speech or mind. Second, we should help everyone. We need to find out what others are trying to accomplish and help them do it. And third, we need to get our life in order. In a later post, I will explain some basic suggestions on life skills and why this is important.
I wanted to say a few words about the difference between a lay and an ordained outer example. Within the tradition, we need a wide spectrum of examples to capture the wide spectrum of lives people have. There is enough room for everybody as their own example within the lineage. There are many wrong views about being lay or being ordained. Some stay in lay life out of attachment to samsara. Some become ordained out of aversion to engaging in certain activities or living a certain way of life, grasping at such ways of living as being inherently deluded and samsaric. Both of these are a lack of creativity with regards to how to transform any activity into the quick path. Each activity gives us a chance to work on certain delusions. The training is to be able to do this activity without delusions and to engage in it with supreme virtue. There are many layers of delusions and many layers of making any activity more virtuous. Lay or ordained are just different personal choices of mode of practice. What matters is that we commit our lives to the best of our ability to overcoming delusion and training in virtues for both ourselves and for others. Gen-la Khyenrab says there is ‘one path’, whether we are lay or ordained. The real question is our individual karma what is most beneficial for others.
The inner example of a Kadampa is a Bodhisattva. There are three aspects to this. First, we try gain the realizations necessary to lead others to enlightenment. While we are still under the influence of delusions ourselves, we are limited in how much we can help others. So we eliminate everything within us that prevents us from helping others. Others suffer due to their delusions. Dharma realizations oppose delusions. We can only help others gain Dharma realizations if we ourselves have them. So we need to focus on gaining our own realizations of solving our problems with the Dharma, then we skillfully share our experience with others.
Second, we need to live our life from the point of view of exchanging self with others. This powerful mind gives us the wisdom which knows what is in fact good for our self and for others. We should live our life from the perspective of exchanging self with others and view everyone as an aspect of our own mind. We view all others as our self, and then we cherish this new ‘self’ as much as we can or want. We see each being as an aspect or part of our mind, and we naturally feel the need to lead every aspect of our mind to enlightenment. We can also view our self as “all others.” In other words, we believe that everything that takes place within our own mind is a synthetic reflection of what is taking place in the minds of all others. In summary, we say all others are my self so I need to cherish ‘myself’ as much as I can; and we say I am all others, so by working to completely purify my own mind I am in fact, like a supreme spiritual doctor, working on their mind so that they can be free (we become a Buddha for their direct benefit). If we combine exchanging self with others with rejoicing in other’s happiness, then we can literally enjoy ourself not only all the love we give, but all of the happiness of all beings in the world! If we truly want to love ourself, this is the way to do it!
Third, we need to become everyone’s closest and most reliable friend and confident. We need to become the person others turn to when they are in trouble and need help. The closer the relationships we forge with others, the deeper the levels of delusion within our own mind we work on. I have found the best strategy for becoming this special friend for others is the following: First, we find out what people are trying to do, and then we help them to do it. We need to leave others completely free to make their own choices without even the most subtle form of control or manipulation. This is particularly true in Dharma centers. It is far too common for over-enthusiastic officers of Dharma centers, convinced by the higher moral calling of their purpose, wind up using the Dharma to manipulate others into accomplish their personal wishes and vision for the center. Then, when others don’t dutifully comply, tensions and conflict inevitably ensue. Instead, the officers of a Kadampa centers should ask themselves what are the pure spiritual wishes and projects that the members of the center already have, and then they dedicate themselves to helping those members accomplish their visions. The officers are there to serve the community, not the other way around.
In all circumstances, whether we are in a center or at our work or home, we need to have no personal need whatsoever that others make certain choices or do certain things. No matter what others do, from our perspective, it will be equally good for our practice. When we see somebody in need, we should never force our help on them. Instead, we just offer it and leave it to them to decide if want to take it. Generating the intention to help others naturally creates opportunities to do so.
The best way of helping others is to relate to their good qualities. Relating to their good qualities is a means of drawing them out. This is not difficult to do. It is merely a question of not having inappropriate attention with regards to others faults and instead to practice appropriate attention to their good qualities. If we are to help others, we need to have something useful to offer them. The most useful thing we can offer to others is our own experience of solving your problems by changing your mind through practicing Dharma. But if we can’t provide such help to others, we should not hesitate to help others in any other way possible, even if on the surface it seems we are providing worldly help to them. We may be providing worldly help, but we are dedicating the merit we create to later be able to help them with spiritual matters. And by helping them in worldly ways, we draw ourselves closer to them and later this close relationship will be the conduit through which we can help them follow the spiritual path.