Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Strive to bring joy to others

(5.54) Thus, having checked thoroughly for delusions
And minds that are drawn to meaningless things,
Courageous practitioners should hold their mind steady
Through applying the appropriate opponents.

(5.55) With complete certainty, strong faith,
Steadfastness, respect, politeness,
Sense of shame, fearfulness, and inner peace,
I should strive to bring joy to others.

Here, Shantideva outlines the main causes and conditions necessary for our practices of guarding the mind and moral discipline.

First, we need constant mindfulness of what we are doing with all of our bodily, verbal and mental actions.  If we are not aware of what we are doing nor seek to improve it, we will never change, but continue to be blown by the winds of our delusion and negative karma.  If instead we remain mindful of our behavior, we will become aware of our mistakes and learn how we can do even better.  In this way, we gradually improve and overcome all our faults.

Second, we need complete certainty about the objects to be abandoned and the objects to be attained.  For as long as we grasp at our outer problem as being our problem, we will remain confused about what is to be abandoned and what is to be attained.  We will waste all of our energy seeking to change our external circumstance and invest little in changing our own mind.  For me, the most important distinction on the spiritual path is between our outer problem and our inner problem.  If we are clear about the difference between the two, we will naturally seek two types of solutions:  outer solutions for solving our outer problems and inner solutions for our inner problems.  Happiness depends on peace of mind, delusions destroy our peace of mind, virtue is enhances our peace of mind, our mind goes on into countless future lives.  When we are clear on these fundamentals, the objects to be abandon and the objects to be attained become self-evident.  We have certainty in our practice.

Third, we need strong faith.  Venerable Tharchin explains that the key to effort is realizing the methods actually work.  When we see our spiritual goals are doable because the methods we have are reliable, then effort becomes “effortless.”  When, however, we believe our spiritual goals are unattainable and we have no idea how to accomplish any of them, effort will be almost impossible.  As Buddhists, we generate faith in Buddha Shakyamuni as somebody who has actually completed the path himself.  Because he has “been there, done that” we know he knows what he is talking about.  To generate faith in the Dharma, we are encouraged to test the instructions out for ourselves.  We are encouraged to be inner scientists who verify the truth of Dharma for ourselves.  Everyone who has put his instructions into practice has confirmed for themselves their efficacy.  To generate faith in Sangha, we learn from their example, both their successes and their mistakes.  With faith, we will know we are on the right track and that if we put the instructions into practice, we will enjoy all of the results indicated by the instructions.

Fourth, we need steadfastness, the mind that is undeterred by spiritual adversity.  We have a vajra-like mind that is prepared to do “whatever it takes” to accomplish our spiritual goals, no matter how hard it might be and no matter how long it might take.  Because we have methods that work, if we never give up, our eventual enlightenment is guaranteed.

Fifth, we need respect.  When we have respect for somebody, we look up to them and we naturally seek to fulfill their wishes.  If we respect our spiritual teachers, we will admire their many good qualities and wish to emulate them; and we will naturally wish to fulfill their wish for us to make progress along the spiritual path.  If we respect living beings, we will admire their good qualities and rejoice in their virtues, and we will naturally cherish others and put their interests first.

Sixth, we need politeness.  If we do not act in ways that are consistent with societal norms and expectations, then people will view us strange and have no wish to enter the spiritual paths we follow.  Without politeness, people will find us abrasive and naturally reject our advice, even when it is exactly what they need.

Seventh, we need a sense of shame and fearfulness.  A sense of shame is not guilt.  Guilt is anger towards ourselves and a non-acceptance of the fact that we are not perfect.  A sense of shame seeks to avoid faults for reasons concerning ourself, such as wishing to live up to certain ideals or even simple fear of taking lower rebirth if we do not.  Fear is not a delusion if the object of our fear is valid.  We should fear delusion, negativity, lower rebirth, rebirth in samsara and all those we love taking rebirth in samsara.  These fears protect us from making mistakes and the provide constant encouragement to do the right things.

Finally, we need inner peace.  If our mind is unpeaceful, it is necessarily uncontrolled.  If it is uncontrolled, we will have no ability to bring our behavior under control and our actions will remain faulty.  The more peaceful our mind is the more control we will have over our behavior.

And what should we do with these eight inner causes and conditions?  We should dedicate ourselves to bringing joy to the world.  Normally people bring only problems, but as bodhisattvas we strive to bring joy and meaning to others.  Our path is called the Joyful Path not just because it is such a delight to travel it, but also because it is the purpose of our path, namely bringing joy to others.


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