Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Be happy for others

(6.78) Those who are not concerned with others’ happiness
And do not want them to be happy,
Are like someone who stops paying wages to those who work for him,
Who then experiences many problems.

One thing’s for sure – if we’re not concerned with the happiness of others, then we won’t get anything from them other than problems. Sooner or later, problems will come for us.  We may feel, we may say, “I am concerned. I am concerned for others’ happiness. Why else would I be practicing Dharma and doing all that I do.”  Ours is not yet a perfectly altruistic, selfless motivation. It is still to a large extent it is a selfish one. We have a problem of self-cherishing.  This is not an attack, it is a diagnosis, but one that we each individually need to make about ourselves.  The truth is we often help others for our own selfish reasons.

Seeing this can sometimes lead to a degree of paralysis.  We see that our motivation is mixed, and we then think it is wrong for us to cherish the other person with a mixed motivation, so we hold ourselves back from engaging in virtue!  Clearly that is wrong.  We should still engage in the cherishing action, even if our motivation is mixed, because our motivation is still partly good and the action is still partly virtuous.  Some virtue is better than none.  If we wait until we can do things completely purely, we would have to wait until we attain enlightenment.  But how are we supposed to attain enlightenment if we never start engaging in virtuous actions in the first place because our motivation is mixed?  Clearly that is absurd.  Instead, we can engage in the virtue, but become aware where our motivation is mixed.  Then, we gradually try to purify our motivation so that it is becomes increasingly pure.  As Geshe Chekawa says, we should “remain natural while changing our aspiration.”

(6.79) When my own good qualities are praised,
I want others to rejoice in me;
So why, when others’ good qualities are praised,
Should I not want to rejoice in them?

If I want others to rejoice, then I should join them in rejoicing.

(6.80) Having generated the bodhichitta motivation
Wishing for all living beings to be happy,
Why on Earth do we not rejoice
When others find some happiness for themselves?

(6.81) If I really wish for living beings to become Buddhas,
Who are worshipped throughout all worlds,
Why do I dislike it so
When others receive a little mundane respect now?

(6.82) If someone I was looking after
And providing for in different ways
Were to find his own source of livelihood,
Surely I would be happy, not upset.

(6.83) If I begrudge living beings even this,
How can I wish for them to attain enlightenment?
Where is the bodhichitta in one who is not happy
When others receive something good?

Good question. So when someone experiences some happiness in their generally miserable life, why can’t we be happy about that?  Every day we wish, don’t we, every day we wish for all living beings, all living beings without exception to experience the perfect happiness of enlightenment.  So why can’t we be happy when they find some happiness now?  Perhaps we do not rejoice when we see others’ happiness coming from non-Dharma activities.  But where does the happiness come from? What is the main cause of happiness? Their past virtue.

Rejoicing when other people are happy is one of the best opportunities we have to make a connection with them at such times.  If they sense that we’re unhappy when they’re experiencing happiness, they won’t want to draw very close to us. We can come across as disapproving.  We must be extremely careful. Even if someone has done a negative action, we mustn’t be disapproving. It is very important that we don’t come across as disapproving, judgmental, critical. For a long time people engage in worldly enjoyments for their happiness. We still do. So who are we to judge?

If we really love someone and we see that they’re happy, doesn’t that make us happy?  If we’re not happy, perhaps that’s a sign indicating we need to love them more.  We need to love them as they are, not who we want them to be. Just love them as they are.  We shouldn’t have the attitude of, “if you were a real spiritual practitioner and stopped engaging in worldly enjoyments and so forth, then I’ll really love you.”  We should really love them now! We need to accept and love everyone wherever they are at. We do this with people we are not close to reasonably well, but for those who are closest to us – our families, our work colleagues, our Sangha friends – we expect more, and we get mad at them when they fail to be less than perfect.

It is especially important to be happy for people when they have worked hard at something and accomplished something, even if for us it is something little. For example, when somebody is working hard at something, it is important to really praise them.  If they are really happy about what they have accomplished, and we belittle it, it is devastating for them and it results in discouragement and they don’t try anything.  If we are happy for them, genuinely happy, this will give them encouragement to keep trying.  The only thing we have to do to attain enlightenment is never give up trying.  If people are taking a long time, we need to be patient.  A Bodhisattva works with people over lifetimes and lifetimes.  We go as far with people as we can, and be happy with whatever they have accomplished.  

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