Vows, commitments and modern life: neglecting those in need

Downfalls that obstruct the moral discipline of benefiting others

Not going to the assistance of those in need. 

If someone asks for our help, or we realize that they hope for it, and we are in a position to help them and yet, out of laziness or some other delusion, we do not go to their assistance we incur a secondary downfall.  We should try assisting others in whatever way we can.

Quite simply, this downfall says if we can help somebody and we don’t, then we incur a downfall.  Obviously, if we have a good reason for not helping, then this is not the case.  But generally speaking we help others in every way we can.  In reality, the Kadampa path is very simple:  during meditation, we improve our inner qualities; outside of meditation, we serve others.  There is nothing else we need do.  Everything we do, one way or an other, should be part of our practice of serving others. 

It is important to note, however, that sometimes helping people doesn’t actually help them.  If somebody out of laziness is manipulating us to do their work for them, then obliging them doesn’t help.  If somebody is confronted with some personal life challenge and absent our help they would do what is required of them and they grow from the effort,  then helping them doesn’t actually help them.  If people know that if they make mistakes of create problems for themselves we will always be there to clean up their mess for them, then we are in effect encouraging them to engage in reckless behavior and are again, not helping them.  If our kids are learning how to do things and we do it for them because it is just easier and quicker to do so, then we are actually not helping them.  We need wisdom to know when we are helping and when we are not helping them by helping them.  We will make mistakes along the way, but if we always request wisdom blessings to know what is the best way to help others, gradually over time we will become increasingly skilled.  Then, even our not helping others directly becomes an aspect of our serving them. 

Neglecting to take care of the sick. 

If we show no concern for sick people or animals whom we encounter and do not do our best to help them we incur a secondary downfall.

Often times people will ask what is good job for a Kadampa to have.  In my view, of course, any job is equally empty so any job can be equally transformed.  But with that being said, any job that is aimed at helping alleviate in some way the basic sufferings of samsara is a good one.  These basic sufferings are:  birth, sickness, ageing, death, being separated from what you like, having to encounter what you do not like and failing to fulfill your desires.  In this light, four of these are directly related to the medical profession in some way.  Being an assistant, nurse or doctor, therefore, seems to be a natural job for a Kadampa.  I know somebody who helps really old people in their homes.  Everyday they are confronted with the truth of ageing, and it does wonders for this person’s renunciation and compassion.  It is not emotionally or physically easy work, but it is a constant spiritual lesson.  I have another dear friend who helps people die in peace.  Wonderful.

We do not have to become a medical professional to go to the aid of the sick and dying.  Through the course of our life, the people around us will one by one get sick, get old and die.  We should make a point of being that somebody who does more than the minimum culturally expected.  Do something extra.  Be there when everyone else has moved on.  Let them know you care for them.  Above all, pray.  Pray that they be healed; but more importantly pray that their sufferings become powerful causes of their enlightenment.  Some sickness will eventually kill us all, but each sickness is an opportunity to find the truth of the spiritual path. 

I find that most of society lives in total denial about samsara’s real nature, but when we are struck with some of its sufferings there is no longer scope for such denial.  It is then that it all makes sense.  It is amazing how the death of a mutual friend helps cut through the nonsense that clouds so many relationships.

When we ourselves are sick in the hospital, don’t wallow in self-pity.  Become a light where there is none.  Reach out to your fellow patients, listen to their stories, let them know you care.  Perhaps there is a reason why you have found yourself in the hospital with them at the same time.  Again, above all, pray for them.  In reality, we are all on our death bed.  Live your life now as if it was so.

 

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