Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Running straight towards the causes of suffering

(1.27) If the mere intention to benefit others
Is more meritorious than making offerings to the Buddhas,
What can be said of actually striving
For the happiness of every single living being?

Making offerings to the Buddhas is an extremely beneficial thing to do.  In ancient times, people would make sacrifices to their gods when they would make requests.  Why they thought killing something would make their gods happy is anybody’s guess, but the mind willing to make a sacrifice and the mind of offering is quite similar.  When people would make a sacrifice, the basic idea was you take something that is very dear and valuable to you, such as your best lamb, and you are willing to offer that to the holy beings because you recognize receiving their guidance and protection is worth far more.  The greater the request being made, the more valuable a sacrifice would be given.  The sacrifice was not the killing of the animal, rather it was the giving up of something valuable for the sake of receiving blessings.  In Buddhism, there is a particular type of offering called a Torma offering.  The basic idea of a torma offering is we are willing to give everything we have for the sake of realizations, understanding it is worth it.

Because most of the offerings we make in the context of our Buddhist practice are mentally imagined, there is a tendency for us to lose this mind of being willing to give up something valuable to us for the sake of receiving blessings.  There is an external appearance of an offering, but there is no real sacrifice being made on our part.  As such, we actually accumulate little merit.  A monk friend of mine once went to a Tsog puja and didn’t bring anything.  His teacher chastised him for it.  About a month later, there was another Tsog puja and the monk looked at his bank account, and he had a total of $2.75 in it.  He took out all of his money and bought some cookies to bring to the puja.  His teacher asked him, “did you bring an offering?”  My friend replied, “I am making a Torma offering.”  He quite literally offered everything he had.  Even though the cookies were only worth $2.75, mentally he offered everything.  This is perfect.

Benefiting others is more beneficial than even making torma offerings.  Why?  Buddhas, from their own side, need nothing.  But we, from our side, need a great deal of merit.  It pleases Buddhas for us to make offerings not because they like receiving presents, but rather because they know we are receiving such benefit from doing so.  The highest offering we can make to the Buddhas is our own practice of Dharma, and amongst Dharma practices, cherishing and benefiting living beings is the one that pleases the Buddhas the most.

If benefiting living beings is like a candle, Bodhichitta is like the blazing of the sun.  It is a mind that wishes to bring every conceivable benefit for each and every living being, not just now but for all of time.  And it and actually does something about it – it works towards that end.  It is necessarily a greater virtue than any other because its final goal is beyond all others.  There is no greater offering than bodhichitta, there is no greater virtue.

(1.28) Although living beings wish to be free from suffering,
They run straight towards the causes of suffering;
And although they wish for happiness,
Out of ignorance they destroy it like a foe.

We all want happiness, but what we do to get it just guarantees more suffering.  Why?  The fundamental reason is because our delusions have utterly deceived us.  We follow the advice of our delusions for securing happiness, and since all delusions are deceptive we wind up with only suffering.  Attachment promises us the satisfaction of our desires, but it leaves us more unsatisfied.  The cruel truth of attachment is it karmically functions to separate us from the object of our attachment.  For example, many women desperately want to become pregnant, but no matter how hard they try they never become so.  Then, as soon as they give up trying, they suddenly become pregnant.  This is no mystery, this is how karma works.

Our other delusions are just as deceptive.  Anger promises us that we will feel better and by getting angry we will protect ourselves.  But when we get angry we feel worse and we create more enemies for ourself.  Karmically speaking, just as attachment creates the causes to be separated from the objects of our attachment, so too anger creates the causes to have to encounter the objects of our aversion.

Jealousy promises us if we get jealous we will be able to possess the object of our desire, but in reality our jealousy just pushes others away and it creates the cause to be separated from such good fortune.  There is little more annoying than a jealous partner, so quite quickly they flee from our possessive and jealous attitudes.

Doubt promises to protect us from making a mistake.  We think, I am not sure if this is true or not, so it is better that I don’t believe it.  But when doubt is our habit, we wind up lacking the ability to believe anything and we never go anywhere.  Many people are like this, they can spend literally decades in the Dharma but they never wind up believing any of it, always plagued by doubts, and so they never make any progress.

Self-cherishing promises us happiness.  It tells us “if we don’t look out for our own happiness, nobody else will.”  It tells us if we work to secure our own interests then we will be happy, but in reality self-cherishing is the root of all suffering.  All suffering comes from negative actions, and all negative actions are motivated by self-cherishing.

Self-grasping promises us that we have an objective view of reality. It convinces us there is some objective truth out there independent of our mind and we seek to discover it.  But believing this just imprisons us in the chains of samsara and ordinary appearance and conception.

It is not enough to consider these things theoretically, we need to examine the delusions we personally have and see how they are deceptive.  We need to see how our personal delusions promise to make us better, but in the end they always make us worse.  When we see this clearly, then we will have no difficulty to not follow them because we know they are deceptive and treacherous.


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