Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Compassionate emanations bursting forth from our burning desire to help

(3.18) May I become a protector for the protectorless,
A guide for those who travel on the road,
And, for those who wish to cross the water,
May I become a boat, a ship, or a bridge.

(3.19) May I become an island for those seeking dry land,
A lamp for those needing light,
A place of rest for those who desire one,
And a servant for those needing service.

(3.20) To benefit all living beings,
May I become a treasury of wealth,
Powerful mantras, potent medicine,
A wish-fulfilling tree, and a wish-granting cow.

There is no denying the spiritual poetry of Shantideva.  Who cannot help but be inspired to become whatever living beings need by such words.  As was explained before, a Buddha’s form body has the power to appear in any form beneficial to living beings, from something as simple as a toothbrush to something as divine as the form of a holy spiritual guide.  Mothers describe there is no feeling of love greater than breastfeeding one’s newborn baby, imagine the loving bliss of a Buddha whose body nourishes all beings.

But it is important to move beyond the feelings of inspiration by such imagery to taking practical action to have such ability ourself.  How can we do so?

As with all things in the Dharma, such abilities begin with a pure motivation.  Normally, when we are very busy and people are placing many demands upon us, we become frustrated when people ask even more of us, piling further burdens upon us.  At such times, we develop the thoughts, “I wish people didn’t ask so much of me.”  Or perhaps we pass by somebody in need of something and we think, “I am too busy to help this person,” or maybe it doesn’t even dawn on us that we could be helpful because we see no way in which we could, so we don’t think anything of it.  At all such times, instead of feeling frustrated, too busy or indifferent, we should generate the thought, “at present, there is nothing I can do for this person, but I wish there was.  I wish I could spontaneously become whatever they need.”  We pass by people in need all of the time, indeed everyone we cross is in need of something.  Each situation, therefore, gives us an opportunity to train in generating this altruistic wish.

When we engage in the meditation on generating bodhichitta, we first generate compassion for living beings, then we generate the superior intention wishing to be able to help them ourselves.  Then we think we currently lack the ability to do so, but a Buddha does, therefore we generate the wish to become a Buddha.  Every time we see somebody, we should stop and take the time to ask ourselves, “what does this person need?”  “What does this person need of me?”  If we can provide them what they need, we should provide it unless we have a good reason not to.  If we can’t provide them what they need, we should nonetheless generate the wish thinking, “even though I can’t provide them with or become whatever it is they need, I sure wish I could.  Wouldn’t it be great if I was a Buddha, then I could do so.”  If we think like this every time we encounter somebody in need – which is all the time – we will find the day is filled with opportunities to train in Bodhichitta.

I find it useful to consider the example of 1,000-armed Avalokiteshvara.  One explanation for his thousand arms was he was contemplating the suffering of living beings, and his wish to help them all in every way was so strong 1,000 arms spontaneously sprouted forth from his body enabling him to do so.  This is how we should feel – our wish to help is so strong, the ability to help others spontaneously bursts forth out of us.  I personally believe the ability of bodhisattvas and Buddhas to emanate forms, of things as well as emanations of themselves, is of the nature of their compassion bursting forth spontaneously to help others.  Instead of wishing people weren’t coming to you for help, wish that you had two, three or even 1,000 copies, or emanations, of you with which you can help people.  We see how much we can get done with one of us, imagine having many.  Wouldn’t that be great!  The more we compassionately fantasize in this way, the more karmic causes we create to one day actually be able to emanate forms for the benefit of living beings.

Venerable Tharchin said, “the more we generate the wish to help others, the more opportunities to actually do so will arise.”  In other words, the wish to help others creates the karmic causes to actually have the ability to do so, both in terms of ourselves having the ability to help as well as activating the karma where others arise who need and want our help.  From a conventional point of view, we can understand this in terms of the activation and ripening of special karma; from a faith in Dorje Shugden point of view, we can understand this as him arranging all of the conditions necessary for our own and others swiftest possible enlightenment; and from an ultimate point of view, when we look at the world through the lens of “how can I help?” our mental factor discrimination re-imputes the world we see into a plethora of such opportunities.  Even if we find ourselves alone in our apartment, opportunities to cherish and love living beings will – like magic – simply fall into our lap.  Who could not be happy living a life full of love such as this?

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