Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Offering ourself as purification

(2.48) Likewise, I sincerely go for refuge
To the Dharma they have realized,
Which dispels the fears of samsara,
And to the assembly of Bodhisattvas.

Our self is imputed upon our body and mind.  Up until now, we have – unwittingly – offered both to our delusions.  We are slaves to our delusions and we do whatever they ask of us.  Our thoughts are ruled by them and our bodily actions are as well.  For as long as we continue to make this mistake, we will forever remain enslaved by them and liberation and enlightenment will be impossible.

Instead, we need to offer ourself – meaning both our body and our mind – to the three jewels.  The function of delusions is to deceive us into engaging in actions that damn us to the lower realms.  The function of the three jewels is to enlighten us into engaging in actions that free both ourself and all living beings from suffering forever.  The choice is ours, but we must choose.  There is no middle ground between delusion and wisdom.  They are necessarily mutually exclusive.

To offer our mind to the three jewels means to make our every thought consistent with the Dharma.  The Dharma is a way of thinking.  We adopt that way of thinking as our own.  It is not enough to simply start parroting the Dharma we have heard, we need to do the internal work to convince ourselves of its truth by dispelling all wrong views.  The essential meaning of contemplation is “testing the truth” of the teachings.  We engage in this exercise with intellectual integrity, prepared to change our views where proven wrong.  We then examine for ourself whether the teachings are true and reliable.  Everybody who has engaged in such an exercise with an open mind has come to the same conclusion – “yep, that’s right.”  It is also not enough to just have faith that the teachings are true when we don’t really understand why.  Faith is good, wisdom realizing the truth of things ourselves is better.  Only wisdom has the power to actually free us from the control of our delusions.

(2.49) Overcome with fear, I offer myself
To Arya Samantabhadra,
And I offer my body into the service
Of Arya Manjushri.

To offer our body to the three jewels means to offer it into their service.  What does this mean in practice?  Sometimes people think it means we need to go become a slave for the Spiritual Guide, bringing them dinner and tea, and working long hours for Dharma centers.  For some, that may be the case, but for most people that’s not realistic nor even desirable.  To offer ourself into the service of the three jewels quite simply means to offer ourself into the service of all living beings.  The Buddhas have only one objective – to benefit all living beings, indeed to eventually lead them all to everlasting happiness.  When we dedicate ourselves to the same purpose, we offer ourself into the service of the three jewels.

What are the advantages of doing this?  First, all of our actions become powered by all the blessings of all of the Buddhas.  If a sail on a sail boat is not aligned properly with the wind, the boat will not go anywhere even if the wind is howling.  But when the sails are aligned with the wind, the boat is pushed forward.  In the same way, the pure winds of the blessings of all the Buddhas are constantly blowing around us.  They always point in one direction:  the enlightenment of all beings.  When we align the sails of our mind with this objective, their pure winds fill our sails pushing us swiftly and effortlessly towards enlightenment.

Second, all of our actions become causes of our own enlightenment.  Because we work for the enlightenment of all beings, the karma we create while doing so is necessarily non-contaminated.  Since the final purpose of our actions is beyond samsara, the karma we create takes us beyond samsara.  It is as if our body becomes an extension of the body of all the Buddhas in this world, where they act through us but we get the karma.

Third, we are happy all of the time.  Our happiness, quite simply, depends upon whether our mind is at peace or not.  When our mind is controlled by delusions, our mind is rendered unpeaceful.  That is the function of delusions.  The root of all delusions is the self-centered mind (self-cherishing and self-grasping).  Working for all others is the opposite of all delusions, and so it functions to oppose all delusions.  Virtue functions to make the mind peaceful and controlled.  There is no virtue greater than cherishing others because all other virtues flow from it.  Dedicating ourself to the service of others fills our mind with virtue, which makes our mind peaceful and enables us to be happy all of the time.  Even a superficial look around us shows that the selfish are miserable and the selfless are happy.  The question is who do we want to be?

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