Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Where do all these worldly people come from?

(8.13) As a result of associating with the childish,
We naturally engage in unwholesome actions
Such as praising ourself, disparaging others,
And discussing the importance of worldly pleasures.

(8.14) The relationships I have made with the childish
Have been completely deceptive,
For the childish have done nothing to fulfil my wishes
And I have done nothing to fulfil theirs.

When we associate with the worldly, it brings out the worst in us and the worst in them.   We are very easily influenced by those we hang out with, and when we surround ourselves with worldly people, we become just like them.  When we behave in worldly ways, we cause others to become just like us.  We wind up doing all these things Shantideva describes.

Where do all these worldly people come from?  They come from our own worldly mind.  It is our mind projecting them.  We are the creator of all these worldly beings. Nobody is worldly and childish from their own side, rather it is our own worldly and childish mind that projects a world filled with worldly and childish people.  So yes, we should want to have absolutely nothing to do with worldly and childish people, but we need to understand very clearly where they come from – our own mind.  People or situations or activities are worldly and meaningless only if we relate to them in a worldly and meaningless way with a worldly and meaningless mind.  This is what we need to stop and stop completely.  Shantideva is a wisdom Buddha, so we can be certain that this is his meaning here.  It is really worth looking over these verses in this light and we will discover a deep, hidden meaning.

But Shantideva makes a vital point – others have done nothing to fulfill my wishes and I have done nothing to fulfill theirs.  We sometimes confuse superior intention – the mind that takes personal responsibility for the happiness and freedom of others – and co-dependency, thinking it is our job to make others happy.  We have no power whatsoever to make others happy.  Whether they are happy or not depends on what they do with their own mind, and we have no control whatsoever over what they do with their mind.  We think we are being compassionate, but in fact we are mistakenly appropriating responsibility for making others happy and then we think it is our fault if they are not.  Because we think this way, they start to think this way too – that they can’t be happy without us and that we are responsible for solving their problems for them, and if we don’t, they can’t be happy.  We create a dependency on us, which just serves to disempower them to solve their own problems and find their own happiness within themselves.  We can help others by setting a good example, offering wise advice if asked, and praying for them.  We cannot solve their mind for them.  And they cannot solve our mind for us.  We are each responsible for our own experience of life.  Others have done nothing to fulfill my wishes and I have done nothing to fulfill theirs.

(8.15) Therefore, I should withdraw to a great distance from the childish.
If I should subsequently meet them, I should please them by being happy
And, without becoming too close,
Act in agreeable ways according to convention.

(8.16) Just as a bee takes pollen from a flower,
So should I gather only what I need to sustain my practice
And then, without clinging, return to abide in solitude
As if I had never met anyone.

Sometimes we get so sick of being with the worldly and the deluded that we just want to get away from them.  Many people when they are in the early years of their Dharma practice develop a strong aversion for deluded people and do not want to have anything to do with them.  The thought of spending time with the family or ordinary friends is like torture.  Later in our Dharma practice, when we have a love of retreat, we develop an aversion for being anywhere near worldly life and we want to do as Shantideva says and get away from it all so we can focus on our practice.  As our bodhichitta and skillful means develop, there will come to be hundreds and hundreds of people who have relationships with us.  We need to think carefully about how we should approach all of these relationships.

We need to find balance.  One extreme is the extreme of attachment to others.  We view others as causes of OUR happiness, and we pursue our relationships with them towards this end.  The problem with this is it creates the cause for us to be separated from them in the future.  Since we are their access to the Dharma, our attachment to them creates the causes for them to be separated from the Dharma.  Terrible!  The other extreme is the extreme of non-loving.  We are so afraid of attachment to others that we become distant with others, indifferent, and there is no emotional connection in our relationships.    The problem with this is we cannot really help anybody if there is not a close relationship.  We need to develop extremely deep and meaningful relationships with others, where they have the closest relationship with us as they do with anybody.   And we need to have this with hundreds, indeed thousands of people.

One of our difficulties is we do not know how to love people, really love people, without it becoming mixed with romantic attachment.  These types of minds can become real obstacles to our developing close relationships.  Why does this occur?  Because we so admire the other person and see so many good qualities, that the only time we normally do that is when we have strong romantic attachment to somebody, so it winds up triggering these sorts of minds.  We need to learn to cultivate a pure love free from all attachment.  I think we need to start with each other. 

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