We first need to take personal responsibility for ourself – seriously, fully, and completely. We like to blame others for our experience of life, the ripening of our karma, or the delusions arising in our mind. We think it is other’s responsibility to make us happy or care for us, and their fault if they do not. We need to assume responsibility not just for our experience in this life, but for all of our future lives. Because our past self did not purify our negative karma, we inherited a limitless supply of suffering. Likewise, because our past self made no effort to overcome all our delusions, we remain a puppet on their strings. Are we going to do the same to our future self? If we neglect to purify now or neglect to overcome our delusions, we guarantee we will have to experience endless suffering in the future. Nobody can purify our negative karma for us. Nobody can overcome our delusions for us. We either do it or we don’t, and we will have nobody to blame but ourselves if we don’t. A good friend of mine said we need to stop trusting our self-cherishing. We need to try now to stop trusting our self-cherishing. We stop following its wishes. We need to decide ourselves to attain enlightenment. Nobody can do it for us. We need to decide ourselves to solve our problems. Nobody can do it for us. The responsibility is 100% on us.
Once we have taken personal responsibility for ourselves, then we can take personal responsibility for others. At the end of the day, it is a question of what do we trust: our spiritual guide’s wishes for us or the wishes of our self-cherishing for us? What does my spiritual guide what for me? What does he want for those around me? Why don’t I want that as well? It is not enough for us to assume personal responsibility for others because that is Geshe-la’s wish for us, we need to make this our own wish. Others are depending on us. Without us, what do they have? Just samsara, just endless suffering. It is not enough to hear this, we need to look around us and see that it is true, and realize that it is up to us. I find the easiest way to think about it is of course it is up to me, after all it is my karmic dream!
We can start by taking more responsibility for one another. Sangha is our real family. We spend the rest of eternity with them. We need to support one another, because nobody else will encourage us to do what we are doing. Take the time for each other. Doing so creates the cause for others to support your practice.
And we need to really start loving our family and close friends. We need to become somebody special in their lives, somebody who they can count on, and somebody who just loves them unconditionally. It actually doesn’t take much because somebody who genuinely loves is so rare that they naturally stand out and have a huge influence on other’s lives. It all starts by accepting people as they are. Quit judging them and realize that they can’t help the way they are. When we see others who we find difficult, we can recall that Geshe-la loves this person. This person is an object of love and care for all the Buddhas. Then, we will naturally love accordingly.
But assuming personal responsibility for other’s welfare does not mean it is then up to us to solve all their problems for them, nor does it mean it is our fault if they suffer. Each person is responsible for their own experience in life. The only way others can overcome their suffering is if they too purify their negative karma and overcome their delusions. This is work only they can do. We can’t do it for them. We can encourage them to do so, we can set a good example, and we can pray for them, but they have to do the work. In other words, it is not enough to just cherish others unconditionally, we need to do so with wisdom. If we just go around and solve everybody’s problems for them, we will only create dependency of them on us. They will come to think the way to solve their problems is to manipulate us into doing so for them. They will come to think they can’t solve their own problems, they need us to do it for them. This disempowers them to assume responsibility for their own problems for themselves. We all know the saying “give somebody a fish and you feed them for a day, teach them to fish and you feed them for life.” This is true, but sometimes we go to the extreme of thinking we shouldn’t also give them a fish. It is hard to learn how to fish if you are starving. We can do both – give them a fish and teach them to fish, but we do the former in support of the latter. Again, it is not enough to have compassion, we also need to have wisdom.