Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: We can’t afford to not practice

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Kadam Lucy once said we shouldn’t be too concerned about other’s relationships with us, but rather their relationships with each other.  We work out of the wish that all living beings have love for one another.  Our goal is not that everyone have good relationships with us, rather that they have good relationships with each other. 

Very often we criticize one to move closer to the other.  We see this all the time, and not just with teenagers.  Most political speech these days is of this nature, we signal our judgment of some other group so that we feel accepted by a group we wish to be a part of.

We need to do the opposite.  We need to say only good things about each person to all the others.  We need to praise people for being kind and good with others.  It is also good to praise the people in our world for being friendly and happy with others.  This draws these characteristics out.  We need to make people feel like they are a light in other’s lives, then they become such a light.  It starts with us individually and then it broadens to the whole world.  Individually we strive to do this for the Sangha to be happy and harmonious and learn how it works.  Then our Dharma community does the same for those outside of the community and in our daily lives.  Our role in the world is to help others love one another.   In this way, we can gradually transform our society and world into an enlightened society and an enlightened world. 

(6.73) If we cannot bear the relatively slight suffering
That we have to experience now,
Why do we not refrain from anger,
Which causes the far greater sufferings of hell?

(6.74) In the past, because of my attachment to non-virtuous actions,
I have endured aeons of torment in the hells and elsewhere,
And yet none of that has brought any benefit
Either to myself or to others;

(6.75) But now, through enduring comparatively little discomfort,
I can accomplish the greatest purpose of all –
To free all living beings from their suffering –
So I should feel only joy at having to endure such hardships.

If we genuinely felt that we could attain perfect freedom and help others do the same by enduring the difficulties on the spiritual path, we would feel only joy, wouldn’t we?  The problem is the benefits of the path seem very far off in the future, if they ever come at all; whereas the inconveniences of following the path are experienced now.  Our delusions all have a similar function – to fool us into thinking happiness is found by following them.  Because we still have strong faith in our delusions and weak faith in the Dharma, to go against the grain of our delusions is hard – it takes effort.  It’s very easy to conclude it is not worth it and settle into our spiritual life being a temporary fad, or a part-time hobby.

But if we can gain conviction in the 100% certainty of the sufferings of samsara and we can come to understand clearly how Dharma works to provide a solution, then this calculus reverses.  We realize if we really want to be free from inconvenience, we must practice – not practicing is worse.  When we have this long-term outlook, then we view working through the temporary difficulties on the path as the very substance of our spiritual practice – we are digging ourselves out of samsara.

Sometimes we can become very frustrated with Dharma teachings, either thinking they are asking the impossible of us or they are so difficult (such as the teachings on emptiness) that they seem meaningless.  Shantideva has a tendency in particular to provoke these sorts of reactions.  When we first start practicing Dharma we are like a baby that eats only mashed food, but now we are learning how to chew.  We need to train in the patience of definitely thinking about Dharma, accepting that we don’t understand, but joyfully working with it like a spiritual puzzel, knowing that when we get it all figured out it will be well worth it.  So we should be willing to gladly accept the difficulties because we understand it is completely worth it.

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