Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Is there something you want more than enlightenment?

Now we can look at the four powers that help us to increase our joyful effort:

(7.31) The four powers that assist us in working for the benefit of others
Are the powers of aspiration, self-confidence, joy, and rejection.
The power of aspiration is generated by contemplating the benefits of virtuous actions
And developing fear of the cycle of suffering.

(7.32) Having overcome all three types of laziness,
I should continuously strive to increase my effort
Through aspiration, self-confidence, joy, and rejection,
And through the force of familiarity and mental suppleness.

We will look at each of these four powers in turn now, but first we need to return to a very basic fundamental:  why am I here in the Kadampa tradition?  Why do I practice?  If we do not have a good answer to this question, then it is guaranteed we will not be able to sustain our effort and make it all the way.  We are desire realm beings, which means we have no choice but to work for whatever we want.  This is unchangeable for as long as we are in the desire realm.  Even if we intellectually know better, if in our heart we want something, that is what we will work for.  The trick, therefore, is to change what we desire.  We need to want to make spiritual progress more than we want to indulge our worldly concerns.

What is a good answer to this question of why am I here?  First, we should look at what are not good answers.  It is not a good answer to say, “I don’t know why.”  If we do not know why, when the karma for us being here exhausts itself we will be blown to the next place.  It is also not a good answer to say, “because I know I should be.”  I “should” be is a thought of the head, and one typically motivated by guilt.  When our “shoulds” come in conflict with our samsaric wishes in the heart, coming to class, doing our practice, etc., will be torture, and eventually we will not come anymore and we will stop practicing.  It is also not a good answer to say, “because I want others to think good of me.”  If this is our answer, then our motivation will be worldly, and even if we “do” a lot of Dharma actions, they won’t be spiritual actions.  There is only one good answer:  Because “I want to be.  I need this.”  We need to realize that we have freedom and nobody is putting any pressure on us.  I shouldn’t do our practice, go to the center, attend festivals, etc., for any other reason than we want to.  We realize we need it.  If we don’t have this reason in our heart, we need to engage in sincere lamrim practice until our desires change.  Lamrim functions to change our desires into spiritual ones.  With spiritual desires, everything else will naturally fall into place.

If I asked you “do you want to attain enlightenment,” I am sure everyone reading this would say yes.  But that is not the right question.  The right question is, “is there something you want more than enlightenment?”  If there is, I guarantee you that you won’t make it all the way.  If there is not something you want more than enlightenment, I guarantee that you will make it.

Some teachers or Dharma administrators mistakenly think, “people are lazy, so we need to oblige them to do things to get them to do them.  Otherwise, they will do nothing (or less).  We are doing them a favor by making things obligatory.”  My answer to them is this:  The middle way between freedom and laziness is personal responsibility while being fully informed of our situation.  It is up to us to attain enlightenment.  We need to realize that this is something we need to do from our own side.  We can not be convinced, pressured or manipulated into doing traveling the path to enlightenment.  If we do not enlighten yourself, it won’t happen.  Nobody can do it for us.  We need to take personal responsibility for our own enlightenment.   Geshe-la’s teachings explain to us our samsaric situation and they explain to us how all the various Dharma tools work.  But it is up to us to pick them up and decide to use them. 

Geshe-la understands clearly that we must improve our motivation. We need to change now, seriously change our intention.  We need to familiarize ourselves with Buddhist intention, a beneficial intention, a good heart.  A good intention will help us to take responsibility, full responsibility, and enjoy that responsibility.  We will enjoy engaging in our practices because we are doing them for heartfelt spiritual reasons.  We will enjoy our work in developing the Center and  we will enjoy our work helping other people, especially our work helping other people to meet and practice Buddhadharma.

It seems without that beneficial intention and good heart, it is not going to work for us.  Our enjoyment and enthusiasm will decrease until finally there is none. We start to not look forward to going to the center and doing our practice.  We start to see these things as work, as a job.  We start living up to other people’s wishes, instead of our own.  This eventually collapses and we come to resent these other people.  We can free ourselves from this danger by trying to improve our motivation.  We need to seriously try to change our intention from a selfish one to a beneficial one.

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