Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Giving it all away.

(3.11) From this moment on, without any sense of loss,
I shall give away my body and likewise my wealth,
And my virtues amassed throughout the three times
To help all living beings, my mothers.

(3.12) Through giving all, I shall attain the nirvana of a Buddha
And my bodhichitta wishes will be fulfilled.
I give up everything for the sake of living beings,
Who are the supreme objects of giving.

It’s worth recalling everything that has been discussed in Shantideva’s Guide up until now has been preliminary practices for actually taking the Bodhisattva vows and formally entering the Bodhisattva’s path.  A Bodhisattva is somebody who commits themselves to working tirelessly for the sake of living beings until everyone has been lead to enlightenment.  A Bodhisattva does more than this – they promise to become whatever it is that living beings need in order to fulfill that aim.  What do living beings need?  They need us to become a Buddha for them.

Beings are lost.  How do we know this?  Because we are lost ourselves.  But through our incomparable good fortune, a holy being has entered into our life and introduced to us the possibility of entering into, progressing along and completing the Bodhisattva’s path.  There is nothing in this world that points us towards that destination, in fact everything points in the opposite direction.  Yet here we are.  We have found a perfectly reliable presentation of the Dharma, a fully qualified spiritual guide, a global sangha of practitioners eager to help, and all of the means necessary to complete the path.  We lack nothing except one thing:  ourselves.  Our full, unaltered, unflinching, unhedged commitment.  We cannot become a Buddha and hold something back for ourselves.  There is no middle ground.  What is the last thing we must do before we enter the Bodhisattva’s path?  We must give it all way, including ourself.  We must burn all of our bridges back into samsara and never look back.

Shantideva is giving away everything for the sake of living beings. He holds nothing back for himself.  This is the example we should try to follow, especially as Mahayanists trying to follow the Bodhisattva’s way of life.

This does not mean we need to stop enjoying ourselves.  What it means is that we give up ‘simply’ enjoying ourselves.  Of course enjoyment is important, but if we ‘simply’ enjoy ourselves then we’re using up our merit.  Of course we need to relax and recharge our batteries, but we derive our enjoyment from another source.  There is saying, “if you enjoy your work, you will never have to work a day in your life.”  This is how a Bodhisattva feels.  From one perspective, they work tirelessly, but from their perspective, they feel as if they never work a day in their life.  Who could not enjoy confidently progressing along a path that leads to freedom for all?  We don’t experience this enjoyment only because we lack faith in the law of karma.  We know worldly cause and effect, we are not so sure about the inner workings of karma.  But we need not doubt.  If the external world obeys the laws of physics, why should we doubt the internal world obeys the laws of karma?  In the Three Principal Aspects of the Path, Je Tsongkhapa says our understanding of emptiness and karma are correct when our knowledge of one confirms the truth of the other.  If things were not empty, karma would not work; because things are empty, karma must be.

One of the best ways to accumulate merit is to give it away to all living beings, just like Shantideva.  We hold nothing back for ourselves, we want nothing for ourselves,   Keeping and enjoying anything for our own sake is an obstruction to developing Bodhichitta.  It is an obstruction to fulfilling our own and others’ wishes.  Even when we enjoy ourselves, we should give it away to living beings and to the Buddhas in our heart.  Are we prepared to do that?  Give it all away, even our enjoyments?  Do we feel a sense of loss at the thought of doing so?  If we do, we still have work to do on improving our wisdom.  As it says in the Tao Te Ching, “if you want to be given everything, give everything up.”

By giving all we shall fulfill our own wish to experience the lasting happiness that we actually seek.  We’ll be able to fulfill our wish.  We must be prepared to give everything. Only by giving everything will we be able to fulfill these wishes.  We give everything and to everyone.  We should try to carry the thought in our mind when we’re with others — “whatever I have is yours.”

There are many things at present that we feel are ours, and we’re not willing to let go of them.  It is important that absolutely nothing is ours, even happiness.  We need to ‘feel’ nothing is mine to keep, to enjoy. I’m happy with nothing. Feel homeless, liberated.  Venerable Tharchin says, the mere thought that something is “ours” functions to burn up our merit.  We should feel as if nothing belongs to us, it all belongs to others, including ourselves.

2 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Giving it all away.

  1. A quandry. Everything above resinates well with me.
    My business partner died and left his half of the business to his daughter. We are 50/50
    partners. Her idea of this is that She should get half of the revenue no matter what. This means I do all the work and do notbearn a living wage while she should receive free money as a surplus since her husband has a wellnpaying full time job.
    How do I surrender? Hoe do I pffer the victory when all I can see is going broke with such an arrangemrnt? There has been no compromise. She is self absorbed, uncaring and greedy. Or such is my illusion.
    But my bank account dwindles…
    Thoughts please?

    • From the information you are providing, clearly that is not a sustainable situation. Your business partner no doubt did half of the work so it makes sense he would get half of the income. If the daughter does not do half of the work, then it doesn’t make sense to get half of the income. If you doing all of the work but only half of the income means you can’t survive, then obviously that won’t last either. As a practical matter, there seem to only be three choices: you buy her out (or bring in another partner who can buy out her half of the company), you sell your half of the company to her (or to somebody else who will take it over), or she does half of the work. Your former business partner may have misunderstood that the company has value without his work, but perhaps it doesn’t. It is worth what it is worth. If you know the current trajectory is unsustainable, there is no sense in trying to preserve it, you need to change it.

      As far as how this jives with “giving it all away,” that does not mean you need to “give it all away” to your partner’s daughter. You need to give it away to all living beings. Sometimes we need to practice the giving of keeping – we temporarily retain control of things so that we can give even more later. If we give away so much in an ordinary sense that we harm our ability to give even more in the future, then this is not wise. Mentally, we give everything we have away to all living beings, viewing them as the rightful owners of everything we have, but we still need to manage these things – like a good asset manager with a strong sense of fiduciary duty – in a smart way for the maximum benefit to others.

      The key is avoid extremes. We still need to do the externally normal thing we would do if we weren’t a Dharma practitioner in a situation like yours, but the REASONS why we do that normal thing become Dharma reasons.

      I hope this helps.

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