Vows, commitments and modern life:  Joyfully taking the worst jobs for yourself

Do not transfer your own faults and burdens onto others. 

We should not pass on our duties or responsibilities to others, or try manipulating them into doing things against their wishes.  We should also not blame others for our faults, but acknowledge them honestly as our own.

Anybody who works with others should make this vow their screen saver on their computer.  Anybody who lives with others should do the same.  In most group endeavors, be it at work or at home, the strategy of most people is to try avoid the most unpleasant tasks and to pass the buck to others when things go badly.  A Kadampa does the exact opposite.

Our attitude should be “give me the worst jobs that everybody else wants to avoid.”  We should be the first to volunteer to assume responsibility for the things that everybody else is trying to get out of.  When something goes wrong, we should be the first to assume responsibility for what went wrong, even if it wasn’t really our fault. And we should do this without the slightest trace of making ourself a martyr, such as doing things with the attitude of “well since nobody else will step up, I’ll take on this task.”  Likewise, we shouldn’t take responsibility for what went wrong with a sardonic attitude that is really saying, “I am not really at fault for this and everybody knows it, but I’ll take the blame just to highlight that everybody else is avoiding it.”  No, we should assume the hard tasks and assume responsibility in a genuine and honest way.

These Kadampa ways run completely counter to our normal way of doing things, and so quite naturally many objections arise.  The main objection that arises is, “if I do this, then everybody will take advantage of me.  I will become everyone’s favorite doormat.”  Here we need to examine “what do we want out of life.”  At the end of the day, the difference between a worldly being and a spiritual being is what they want out of life.  A worldly being seeks to maximize the amount of karmic fruit they can harvest in this life, such as being able to live a life of ease enjoying praise and good fortune.  A spiritual being seeks to maximize the amount of karmic seeds they can plant for our future lives.  The two attitudes are completely different.  If the other people at our work or at home are worldly beings, what they want is to avoid anything hard or unpleasant.  If we are a spiritual being, what we want is to plant good karmic seeds for our future.  So our assuming the hard tasks and assuming responsibility is a win-win for everyone.  They avoid the unpleasant and we create good karmic causes for our future.  Everybody wins!  There is only a tension if we give lip service to being a spiritual being, but in our heart we share the same worldly wishes for a life of ease and praise like the others.

Even at a worldly level, this objection is misplaced. If somebody at work or at home is a genuine “team player” who sincerely puts the interests of the team ahead of themselves, this person is not viewed as a doormat, rather this person is viewed with respect.  Such an attitude, if done correctly and genuinely, can completely change the office or home culture and environment from being one of grumbling and constant complaining to a high morale environment where everybody feels they are contributing to something greater than themselves.  The bodhisattva naturally and without effort becomes a leader and an example with their community.  Without saying a word, they bring out the best in others and inspire others to do better.  People from their own side will see your example, and naturally start to emulate it taking on more responsibility themselves.

Perhaps there will be some who might take advantage of the fact that you are doing everything, and they may even come to resent you for it.  But that is their problem, not yours.  In fact, we can say that their attitude should make them an object of our compassion.  What good karma will they have in the future?  They will be like the poor animal who stored nothing for the long winter ahead.  Such a person is really there to help you improve your skillful means.  Ultimately, they feel threatened by your attitude because it exposes their wrong attitude.  Instead of making them feel guilty for what they don’t do, try help them feel good about the contributions they do make.  When people feel like their contributions matter, they naturally do more.  If we make people feel bad because they “do nothing,” it is guaranteed, they will do even less in the future.


One thought on “Vows, commitments and modern life:  Joyfully taking the worst jobs for yourself

  1. The middle way is the key mantra for practitioners who are modern day Kadampa Buddhists.

    As a practitioner, it is not selfish to consider our own wishes if our motivation is to enhance the flow and continuum of practice since it is based on Bodhichitta. We need to take care of ourself first, Eight Steps explains this well.

    Practitioners fall to extremes when they are not ready. Or when the culture of Buddhist ways has got the better of them, they overdo it and burn out and fall back in their practice. Killing themselves for the sake of the centre is not the way. Slow, joyful, steady, like a flowing river is the way. Keeping the intention gives rise to opportunity.

    As for transferring faults, that’s about responsibility. In Tantra, we train to perceive the world and everyone in it as inside our real self. We are responsible for all of it. Everything. Random events, random happenings, everything! We are not separate from it at any point, this is exalted awareness based upon wisdom. Our awareness is at present grasping, small and limited. We just think everything has nothing to do with us ha ha, yet every action affects all living beings, this is a very complex concept to understand. But follows nicely from the previous post.

    Worst job means something different to each of us. So it’s difficult to know what jobs are the worst jobs. Things we do not want to do. This gives rise to much anger as our wishes are challenged. Our real job is to become a Buddha who functions to bless the minds of others. That may actually mean giving people more work to do, not taking on their tasks. We are seeking to bless and empower their minds not take away their ability to attain enlightenment themselves. But if we can help lighten the load and have an opportunity, we should allow them the decision of our kindness.

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