(3.15) Therefore, in whatever I do,
I will never cause harm to others;
And whenever anyone encounters me,
May it never be meaningless for them.
(3.16) Whether those who encounter me
Generate faith or anger,
May it always be the cause
Of their fulfilling all their wishes.
(3.17) May all those who harm me –
Whether verbally or by other means –
And those who otherwise insult me
Thereby create the cause to attain enlightenment.
Such altruism! It is concern only for the welfare of others, only the happiness of others. We want only what is best for others. We do whatever others want us to do. We stop doing whatever others want us to stop doing. Maybe that feels extreme. There’s a mind that says “you need to be sensible.” Generally such a mind is self-cherishing. Because we’re not willing to make such sacrifices as merely part of our training.
We all feel that such a practice is perhaps one we’ll be able to carry when we’re actual Bodhisattvas. Can we develop this attitude now? Giving all? Even this body? Are we prepared to do whatever it is that people want from us? If I’m doing something that may harm someone, even give rise to an unpleasant feeling in their mind, I have to stop, don’t I? Should we do whatever we can to make others happy, to free them from unhappiness? At whatever cost to ourselves. We generally think there’s some danger. What about my spiritual practice, my spiritual life?
We’re nervous, aren’t we? What Shantideva is describing seems extreme. We’d probably feel comfortable with having the attitude without having to act on it. If that’s the case we haven’t even got the attitude. What Shantideva is concerned about is not what we’re concerned about. We want to be the condition for their enlightenment. We should be concerned about being the object that makes others’ lives meaningful. What a lead-up to the Bodhisattva Vow!
We need to learn to thrive and love difficulties. Normally we are very attached to things going well and we quickly become despondent every time things are difficult. We have an extreme sensitivity to anything going wrong, either externally or internally. We are reluctant to engage in our practices because we know that will entail some difficulties, and we don’t want to undergo any difficulty. We have an extreme attachment to our happiness right now.
This attitude is a huge obstacle to our spiritual development. If we are too attached to the short term happiness, we never get to the long term ultimate happiness. We have to be willing to endure difficulties now to have less problems in the future. We do this all the time with our studies, with our work, etc. If our alternative were to experience the difficulties of the path or to experience no difficulties at all, it could make sense to not bother with the path. But in reality, our choice is between experience the difficulties of the path and thereby avoid all the difficulties of samsara or avoid all the difficulties of the path but experience all the difficulties of all of samsara. No matter how hard it is to attain enlightenment, it is infinitely harder to remain in samsara. We have already fallen into the hole, to get out will be difficult, but it is less difficult than remaining in the hole forever. Once we fully accept this reality, we will naturally find the energy necessary to endure the difficulties on the path.
We need to learn to accept our difficulties. Difficulties are going to come no matter what, the difference is whether these difficulties drag us down or push us out. If we are attached to worldly concerns of experiencing happiness now, then when things go up and down, we will become a yo-yo and we will suffer. If we can learn to wholeheartedly accept everything, then everything will instead function to push us out of samsara.
Patience is a mind that is able to accept, fully and happily, whatever occurs. It is much more than just gritting our teeth and putting up with things. It means welcoming wholeheartedly whatever arises and giving up on the idea that things should be other than they are. The main idea here is we change our perception of what is pleasant: with our wisdom minds we make what our samsaric minds thinks is unpleasant circumstances into pleasant ones. Then the unpleasantness of the situation goes away, and with it the anger.
To accept wholeheartedly means to welcome. Right now we have a problem with everything. There are certain people or situations which we would rather avoid and we push them away or resist them. We live in samsara. We resist these things because we think they cause us suffering. If we can instead learn to use all of these situations, then we wouldn’t need to resist them but we could accept them wholeheartedly. As our ability to use difficult people to accomplish our spiritual goals increases, so too does our confidence because difficult situations no longer pose a problem for us. We will fear nothing.
How does this mind of acceptance enable us to be in a pure land right now? A pure land is a place where there is no manifest suffering and everything leads us to enlightenment. Through the mind of acceptance, we can use everything, so nothing is a problem for us – just an opportunity to grow. In this way there is no manifest suffering. Everything functions to push us out of samsara. Everything confirms the Dharma and propels us further on our path, so all energy put into the system gets channeled into pushing us out. So it is just like a pure land. We can then be like the Buddhas who are able to remain in samsara and joyfully use everything to help beings get out.