Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Respecting everyone as we would Buddhas

(6.114) They are not equal with regard to their realizations;
But, because living beings have the good quality
Of helping to produce the same result, Buddhahood,
They are equal in the sense of also being a field of merit.

We know our spiritual guide, Je Tsongkhapa for example can be a field of merit.  In just the same way, one living being, the living being whom we find most difficult in our life, can be for us a field of merit.  But we do not want to recognize that person as a field of merit in the same way we happily recognize our our spiritual guide Je Tsongkhapa as a field of merit.  Why not?  Why do we not want to regard such a person as a field of merit, yet quite happily regard our spiritual guide as a field of merit?   The only reason why not is worldly concerns.  If we were more interested in gaining spiritual realizations than we were worldly concerns, we would naturally think like this.

Certainly to hold in our mind those we find to be difficult to be a field of merit will bring enormous benefit.  We look at this person and we think, “You are my field of merit.”  That recognition itself brings about such change in our mental environment. “You are my field of merit.” Just that thought. We need to train in this until it becomes habit and natural.  Think about what changes this will bring about.  It is quite a practice!

(6.115) Whatever merit there is in venerating one with limitless love
Is due to the greatness of all living beings,
And whatever merit there is in having faith in the Buddhas
Is due to the greatness of the Buddhas.

(6.116) Thus, they are said to be equal because being respectful to both
Leads to the attainment of the state of Buddhahood;
But because living beings do not possess limitless good qualities,
They are not actually equal to Buddhas.

(6.117) The unique qualities of a Buddha are so extensive
That any being in whom even a small fraction of them appears
Is worthy of veneration that would not be adequately expressed
Even by offering them everything in the three worlds.

(6.118) Therefore, because they share in giving rise
To the supreme state of Buddhahood,
At least from this point of view
It is suitable to venerate living beings.

The idea here is very simple:  when we respect people, we generally don’t get angry with them.  If we can come to respect all living beings, then we are must less likely to get angry at any of them.  If we can respect them in the same way we respect all the Buddhas, then it is almost impossible for anger to arise in our mind towards them. 

Obviously the qualities of a Buddha are vastly superior to those of an ordinary being, otherwise why bother attaining enlightenment.  It is helpful to contemplate the good qualities of Buddhas so that we know all of the different ways they can help us.  In many of our practices, there are praises and requests, such as the praises to the 21 Taras or the prostrations in Offering to the Spiritual Guide.  We don’t contemplate the good qualities of Buddhas just to think how awesome they are or how much better than us they are, but rather because when we know their function, we can request their specific blessings to help us in these ways.  Further, when we contemplate the good qualities of Buddhas, we develop admiring and believing faith thinking, “how amazing.”  This then leads to wishing faith, wishing to gain these good qualities ourselves.  This wishing faith is the main force behind our bodhichitta, wishing to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others.  If we don’t think Buddhas are amazing and worth becoming like, then we won’t be sufficiently motivated to travel the path.

Fundamentally, though, the one common characteristic of all of the good qualities of the Buddhas is they are helpful, indeed indispensable for our attainment of enlightenment.  Without them, we couldn’t do it; with them, we can.  By attaining enlightenment, we can accomplish all of our own and other’s wishes.  Enlightenment is the real wishfulfilling jewel.  Many Sutras begin with a homage to compassion because compassion is the cause of enlightenment, and it is better to pay homage to the cause than merely the effect.  When we genuinely appreciate the essential nature of Buddhas, we naturally generate deep respect for them, and we naturally treat them accordingly.  It would almost be impossible to get angry at a Buddha when we appreciate how truly valuable their helping us attain enlightenment is.

In exactly the same way, all living beings are equally indispensable for our attainment of enlightenment.  Without others, we would not be able to practice compassion, giving, patience, and so forth.  Without others, we could never generate bodhichitta, and thus have sufficient power in our mind to overcome our obstructions to omniscience.  Other living beings are an essential prerequisite to our attaining enlightenment, just like Buddhas are.  Without them, we couldn’t do it.  So just as we respect Buddhas seeing them as being indispensable for our attainment of enlightenment, so too we respect all living beings as being equally indispensable.  With this appreciation of their preciousness, it is almost impossible for anger to arise in our mind towards them.  No matter what they may do, it pales into petty insignificance compared to their indispensable help for our becoming enlightened.

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