Whenever we enjoy worldly pleasures we should do so with a bodhichitta motivation. If we fail to do this and indulge in them out of attachment or discontent we incur a secondary downfall. This vow also advises us to transform our daily activities into the Bodhisattva’s way of life by continually maintaining a bodhichitta motivation.
What are worldly pleasures? From an external point of view, they are quite simply all of the things we normally do to enjoy ourselves, such as go out to restaurants, see movies, hang out with friends, go on vacation to exotic and beautiful places, etc. It also includes things like alcohol, sex, etc. With the possible exception of drinking alcohol, which if we have taken Pratimoksha vows is considered a downfall, none of these so called worldly pleasures in and of themselves are a problem. The essential function of Kadampa Buddhism is to attain the union of the Kadam Dharma and modern life. All of these things are entirely normal parts of modern life. So we do not need to abandon them, nor do we need to stop enjoying them. What needs to change – the only thing that needs to change – is the mind with which we enjoy them. In simple terms, we need to try enjoy these things for spiritual reasons, not attachment thinking these things, in and of themselves, are causes of our happiness. In French we say, “prendre plaisir sans saisir,” which basically means take pleasure without grasping at it.
So what are some spiritual ways to enjoy modern enjoyments? Venerable Tharchin explains that ultimately the key question for any enjoyment is whether or not we are imputing “mine” on it. If we are, we are burning up our merit. If we are imputing “others’” onto it, then we will accumulate merit. The easiest way of doing so is to imagine that we have a Buddha at our heart and as we partake of the enjoyment we are actually offering it to the Buddha at our heart. It simply passes through us on route to the Buddha. If we enjoy things in this way, instead of burning up our merit from our enjoyments we will accumulate even more merit. Likewise, whenever we enjoy things we can do so with others and we can offer the activity to them. For example, when I go out to a restaurant with my wife, I can think I am offering her a meal. Or I am taking my kids to a movie, or taking my family on a vacation. I am doing these things for them, and I am just going along to help them have a good time.
We can likewise view many of our enjoyable activities as opportunities to learn something. When we go for a walk in the park, we see all sorts of different things – couples fighting, parents struggling with their kids, homeless people, drunk people, whatever. Each one of these things is teaching us some aspect of the Dharma. What we see on TV can teach us all sorts of Dharma lessons. Our ability to extract Dharma lessons from our daily appearances primarily depends on two things. First, it depends on us actually looking for Dharma lessons in everything we encounter. If we are looking for spiritual meaning, it is not hard to find it. If we are not even looking, it is almost impossible to find any. Second, it depends upon us receiving blessings. Ultimately, any Dharma understanding we gain depends upon us receiving blessings from the holy beings. They bless our mind, activating certain karmic seeds on our mind which ripen in the form of some new spiritual understanding. To receive blessings through everything we merely need to view everything as in fact emanated by our Spiritual Guide. If we view everything as emanated, we will receive blessings through everything, and everything will teach us the Dharma. In this way, we can go anywhere, do anything and none of it will be indulging in worldly enjoyments out of attachment, rather it will be us enjoying our modern life in a Kadampa way – a true uniting of the Kadam Dharma and modern life.