(6.119) Moreover, besides pleasing living beings,
What other way is there for us to repay
Those supreme, unchanging friends
Who bestow immeasurable benefit?
(6.120) By benefiting these living beings, I can repay Buddha,
Who many times gave up his life and entered the deepest hell for their sake.
Therefore, even if they inflict great harm on me,
I will always treat them respectfully and with a good heart.
(6.121) If Buddhas, who are far superior to me,
Disregard their own bodies for the sake of living beings,
Why do I act out of foolish pride
And not behave as if I were a servant of others?
We can consider the kindness of our own spiritual guide. How much have we already benefited from his dedication to us? How much have we benefited from that, let alone anyone else? We can ask ourselves, what kind of life would I have had if he had never appeared in my world? What would this world become like if he had not appeared in it? We are indebted to him, naturally we feel indebted to him. He has given us so much, he has given this world already so, so much.
What then is the best way of repaying his kindness? Shantideva says it is to please living beings. The best way to repay his kindness is to help him fulfill his wish to bring freedom, to bring happiness to the people of this world. Everyone we meet then, they are an object of our spiritual guide’s love, they are an object of our spiritual guide’s compassion. He’s given us the opportunity to help them. We can repay his kindness by doing so. We can take that opportunity and help them, we help them in whatever way we can, try to benefit them, try to please them.
Regardless of what they say to us, regardless of what they do. We make it our commitment to serve them. Our spiritual guide is totally dedicated to this person. So we can think, I will serve this person as my spiritual guide would. We try make this a commitment. I will be of service to each and every being I meet. We start with the people around us, in our families, in the center, in our daily life, and then gradually we expand it to include the people of our town and region and country and finally all beings. We consider ourselves a servant to these people.
Continuing with Shantideva’s advice on respecting other living beings
(6.122) Buddhas are delighted when living beings are happy
And displeased when they are harmed;
So it follows that, when I please or harm living beings,
It is the same as pleasing or harming all the Buddhas.
(6.123) If we harm a child,
There is no way to please its mother.
In the same way, if we harm any living being,
There is no way to please the compassionate Buddhas.
One reason we need to remind ourself throughout the day of the presence of enlightened beings is because we will naturally try our best to refrain from such harmful thoughts and actions. Would we harm somebody in front of our spiritual guide? Would we yell at somebody, saying hurtful or divisive words? Of course not. We respect him too much. We would feel shame for doing so. In exactly the same way, we can recall that all of the Buddhas are with us right now, we are always in their presence. They see and are aware of everything we do. It is perfectly correct to say anytime we harm somebody else we are doing so in the presence of our Spiritual Guide.
How does our spiritual guide feel, for example, when we behave badly towards the people in our life? Of course he is aware. How does he feel when we behave badly towards those people whom he wants us to help, he has given us the opportunity to help. There is a big contradiction, isn’t there? Behaving well before Buddhas, for example being humble, being considerate and so forth when we’re in the presence of our spiritual guide, and behaving badly before others. Being arrogant, inconsiderate, when we’re with others. It’s like we’re trying to fool our spiritual guide. Perhaps we feel we cannot displease Buddhas. How can we displease an enlightened being? We cannot make them unhappy, but they can certainly be displeased with what we are doing. They are sad for us because they know the karma we are creating.
In the same way, would we hurt a child in front of their mother? We know how much the mother loves her child, and we couldn’t possibly harm the child with her watching unless we had an iron or spiteful heart. Likewise, everyone we meet has a mother (indeed, everyone has been our mother). It is correct to say if ever is at least one other person present, we are in front of that person’s mother. Would you harm her child? This doesn’t mean it’s OK to harm others if nobody else is a witness, but there are plenty of times in which others are around when we get angry or engage in harmful actions. Remembering we are in the presence of their mother can at least protect us from engaging in harmful actions at such times.