We must set ourselves goals or targets towards which we direct our mind and our activities. We are quite used to doing this for worldly goals. We also need to set ourselves meaningful spiritual goals. Some for a day, some for our life. All Dharma goals are ‘do’ goals, not ‘result’ goals. We cannot make a commitment, “I will attain spontaneous bodhichitta by the end of this year.” We can’t control when the results will ripen. But we can say, “I will focus my spiritual practice on training in bodhichitta this year.” That is something we can do. We can also commit, “I will keep training and never give up until I attain spontaneous bodhichitta.” Once again, that is a “do” goal – something we commit to doing.
Once we make a commitment, we then commit ourselves to keeping it. We commit ourselves to striving towards and eventually achieving or accomplishing these goals. Our spiritual progress very much depends upon keeping our commitments. We can look at parents. Parents make huge commitments to take responsibility for the lives of their children. We need to do the same for our spiritual children – all the beings in our karmic dream.
But generally, if we are honest we don’t like to commit ourselves, do we. We think commitments limit our freedom, when in reality it is our delusions that limit our freedom, and keeping commitments is what sets us free.
There is no doubt by setting ourselves goals, and committing ourselves to reach those goals, we increase our capacity, don’t we? Our spiritual guide is trying to help us do this. He is always trying to get us to increase our capacity until we possess the capacity of an actual Bodhisattva, finally an actual Buddha. But we must be realistic right about what we are able to accomplish. What we feel we are able to accomplish. We must be honest with ourselves.
It is difficult to know sometimes what we can accomplish. This is one reason we need reliance on our spiritual guide. One good reason why we need to be of service to him is because he knows what we are capable of. Perhaps what he feels we are capable of and what we feel are going to be different which is why we need to trust our spiritual guide. We offer ourself to him – please do with me whatever you want. We don’t need to move to a Dharma center or receive detailed instructions from him about what we should do with our time, it is a mental attitude. We offer ourself to him. We commit ourselves to the fulfillment of his wishes in our own little karmic world. All he wants of us is that we practice Dharma, so we commit to doing so at our work, in our homes, and with our families and friend.
If we have offered ourself to be of service to him, then we can expect sometimes to be stretched. Sometimes we mistakenly think if we start practicing Dharma, life will somehow get easier. We will somehow be protected from samsara’s sufferings. Ha! If only. The truth is, it never gets any easier. It is always equally hard, we just start dealing with more and more responsibilities as our capacity grows. Maybe sometimes we feel we cannot accomplish the results that our spiritual guide is asking us to accomplish. We think we cannot reach the goals, even the short-term goals that he is asking us to reach. But we need to trust, to have faith and trust, and then apply ourselves without hesitation to reaching those goals, accomplishing those results. He believes we can do it, we do not. Who do we trust? Even if sometimes we do not manage to reach those goals, from our side is there any fault in doing our best to try? Perhaps trying our best and failing is how we learn the spiritual lesson we need to learn.
This is why we need patience, we need patient acceptance. We need to be able to accept our weaknesses as well as our strengths. Our inabilities as well as our abilities. It is so important. Perhaps sometimes we all feel we just cannot do it. We think of some goal we would really like to set ourselves, some practice perhaps that we would like to engage in, and we feel we are not ready, that we can’t do that yet. If we are not accepting of where we are at, we then set unrealistic goals and set ourselves up for failure. Then how can we ever develop our confidence? If there is no acceptance, then how can we be confident, and then how can we ever improve? If we strive for a goal and fail, we also need to accept that. It is OK to fail as long as we are learning. We accept we didn’t make it, but we just pick ourselves back up and try again. When we accept ourselves, we can also accept our failures. Then, we never fail, we only learn.