Vows, commitments and modern life: Not acting for others, not praising

Not acting in accordance with the inclinations of others. 

When relating to others we should try to please them by conforming with their wishes whenever possible, unless of course their wishes are wrong and would lead to great suffering.  If we ignore the wishes of others without a good reason we incur a secondary downfall.

As a general rule, we are here to serve.  Everything we do should be reduced to this basic practice.  In fact, there are no exceptions to it.  However, how we serve must be informed by a wisdom which understands what is actually helpful to the other person.  It has been discussed in earlier posts some of the circumstances under which “helping” somebody is actually doing them a disservice.  We need wisdom.

In the end, the test is very simple:  if other’s inclinations are harmful to themselves or to others, we should not go along with them.  If other’s inclinations are good, or at least neutral, then we should go along with them.  Often, of course, we don’t know, so we do our best and learn from our mistakes.  Where things can grow complicated is when our decisions and actions affect more than one person.  Very often people’s wishes and inclinations are in conflict with one another, so by going along with one person we are often going against somebody else.  So what should we do in such situations?  Quite simply, we try to maximize the aggregate benefit taking everybody concerned as equally important.  So we need to take the time to consider how our actions or decisions will affect everybody involved, and even if there will be some people who are made worse off, if more people are made even better off then we go forward.  Again, we never know for sure and so we need to be open to learn from our mistakes.

Ideally, of course, we should try find some third way that leaves everybody at least “no worse off” due to your decision.  For example, if the gains from a decision truly outweigh the losses, then it should almost always be possible to transfer some of the gains to those who are made worse off so that at a minimum they are made “no worse off” after your transfer of gains than they would be if you never made your decision in the first place. 

Not praising the good qualities of others. 

We should rejoice and praise the good qualities of others.  If motivated by delusion we do not do so we incur a secondary downfall.

Venerable Tharchin says just as our rejoicing in others’ good qualities creates the causes for us to acquire those good qualities ourself, so too criticizing others for their apparent faults creates the causes for us to acquire those same faults ourselves.  So quite literally, we are sabotaging ourself. 

Praising and rejoicing in others’ good qualities is by far the easiest way to acquire such qualities ourself.  How hard is it really to see good qualities in others and praise them for it?  Yet we almost never do so.  Most of the time our self-absorption is so extreme that we simply don’t see anything outside of ourself – we are too busy looking at ourself.  Most of the time our pride is so extreme that we simply don’t see any good qualities in anybody other than ourself.  When others praise somebody else, our mind immediately generates a “yes, but they also have … fault.”  These are terribly counter-productive habits. 

Instead, rejoicing in others good qualities helps inspire us to adopt them ourselves.  It makes the other person feel good about themselves and encourages them to continue their good deeds.  Our praising sets a good example of how we should relate to one another, thus helping change the inter-personal dynamics of all those around us.  Only good comes from it. 

As always, we need to be skillful with this.  Our praising should be legitimate – praising somebody for qualities they do not possess often is taken as shallow, contrived or even manipulative.  It should also not be exaggerated because otherwise it will not be believed.  Our praising should also be free from any selfish concern – praising our boss, even if merited, with the intention of personal advancement is not Dharma it is brown-nosing.  Likewise, we should be mindful to not create jealousy in others.  Sometimes we praise publicly, but if doing so will cause somebody else to become jealous, etc., then we should pick our time, place and method accordingly.  We should also try have our praise be widespread.  The bottom line is everybody has good qualities and everybody has something they can teach us.  Find this in them, praise them for it, learn from them and be grateful to them.  In many ways, pride is the worst delusion.  If we have every delusion, but we remain humble, we can learn from others and eventually overcome all of our faults.  But if we have pride, we feel we have nothing to learn from others, and this closes the door to changing anything.  Systematically praising others breaks down our pride like no other method.  It softens our heart, opens our mind and allows personal transformation to take place.


3 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life: Not acting for others, not praising

  1. This will seem unrelated to the post but there is a direct link.

    Reflective practice is so important in purifying the mind if we consider our life is a meditation.

    We have preparation, contemplation, meditation, dedication and subsequent practice in the break. Our life takes place in the break so we need to be able to reflect well so that we can not only extract the meaning but use Lamrim in how it is meant to be used. Everyday, used in conjunction with everyday appearance.

    How does a reflective practice help with serving others, praising them and rejoicing in the actions of beings? It helps to become a Dharma scientist which mines our mind for inner answers. We collect evidence, we practice, we see what works, we learn our shortcomings and our bad habits. We challenge our own views and experiment within our mind.

    Reflective practice is always used in conjunction with Vajrasattva at the end of the day.

    What Lamrim object did I choose? What worked well? What did not work?
    Observation: what was I thinking, feeling, sensing, how did I behave?
    What actually happened? Factually. What else contributed.

    It’s easy as a practitioner to avoid our deluded thoughts or disregard them but they are great teachers.

    The use of creative Dharma: how did I conceptualise the experience? What was its meaning to me? Ask: so what? What follows from this.
    What is the implication of using this object in relation to my life now, how does it make it better or worse? What am I avoiding?
    How is this helping me in my goals of attaining realisations and how do I rate it’s effectiveness, how can I measure it?
    How does this change me as a practitioner, student, teacher etc and what key conclusion have I come to?
    Are there other ways to viewing my practice, what works well and not so good?

    What steps do I need to take to get better and how can I put that into action next time? What didn’t I understand and who can I ask for advice?

    Something I am going to change/correct/add/remove next time will be…
    What are my key assumptions, blind spots, how can I use these as opportunities for growth?

    How can I get feedback? How do I come across? What does my face say? What does my body language say? What vibe am I giving off in relation to my mood? How do my delusions scare people? What are the alternative ways of viewing this? What’s realistic, probable, most likely?

    Reflective practice is Dharma gold in the search of inner wisdom. Without a solid reflective practice it is easy to coast and deceive oneself or become complacent.

    By reflecting in a special way with Vajrasattva, we can become better servants, communicators, masters of observation and take control of habitual minds.

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