Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Making Our Relationships Immortal

(8.21) Why am I unhappy when someone criticizes me
And happy when I am praised?
Both criticism and praise are just empty words,
Like echoes in an empty cave.

Each one of the objects of worldly concern can either be beneficial or a mara.  It depends upon our mind.  In general, they are harmful if we become attached to these things, thinking that our happiness depends upon them.  They are also harmful if we think we have to avoid these things, thinking that they are necessarily obstacles. 

It is helpful to make a distinction between consume and invest.  If we consume or enjoy our worldly experiences as ends in themselves, then we burn up our merit and it is all meaningless.  But if we reinvest everything that comes our way into the accomplishment of our spiritual goals, then we actually accumulate more merit.  For example, if we offer our enjoyments or any praise we receive to our guru at our heart, we are accumulating merit, not burning it up. 

We also need to learn to appreciate the enormous value of having our worldly concerns frustrated.  Generally we don’t like it when that happens, but from a spiritual point of view, it is excellent.  We need to look at each of the worldly concerns and see how we can ‘use’ or transform not having our worldly concerns met.  If we do this, then we will develop a real equanimity with respect to what happens in our life, and everything will be perfect for us. 

For myself, it all comes down to my reliance upon Dorje Shugden.  His job is to arrange all the outer, inner, and secret conditions I need for my spiritual practice.  I long ago surrendered my life completely into his care and requested that everything that happens to me be perfect for my swiftest possible enlightenment and that of everyone I love.  With this faithful mind, I can then view whatever happens to me as exactly what I need for my practice.  Worldly concerns met or frustrated are equally perfect.  If they are met, I can use these things for my practice or the flourishing of Dharma.  If they are frustrated, I can use the absence of these things to train in Dharma minds and let go of my delusions.  Either way, perfect.

When somebody comes into our life, we have to make a strategic choice about the nature of our relationship with them.  We decide by our own actions and view whether our relationship with the other person is a worldly one, and thus meaningless; or a spiritual one, and thus mutually beneficial.  Of course, most of the people we meet in our life we will not be able to explain to them Dharma, but this does not prevent us from having a spiritual relationship with them.  If we adopt the view that this person is a Buddha appearing in the aspect of an ordinary being to give us an opportunity to practice, for us it will be spiritual relationship, even if the other person only gets worldly things out of the relationship.  At a deeper level, since the other person is empty, adopting this view will also karmically reconstruct them to appear to be a spiritual being in the future because there is no ‘other person’ other than emptiness.

A very beneficial view to adopt is ‘this person is my personal responsibility.’  We realize that we are spiritually responsible for the future of this person, and so we organize our relationship towards that end.  In the short run, we will primarily help people in ordinary ways, but through that we will draw closer to them and we will make dedications that we later be able to help them in a spiritual way.  We need to view our relationships from a very long term perspective, and we take people as far as we can in this life and pray to be able to continue helping them in their future lives.  A pure love for somebody can only be possessed by a spiritual being.  A pure love is wishing for the happiness of the other person in their future lives.  Pure love understands that all that matters are the causes they are creating, not what they are experiencing.  This view alone will transform all of our relationships with others into spiritual ones, even if on the outside everything still appears quite ordinary.

In particular, it is essential that we remove all attachment from our motivation of having relationships with others.  Our attachment tells us that it is thanks to our attachment that we can have any relationship with others at all, but in reality, it is the exact opposite.  Attachment functions to separate us from the object of our attachment, so the more attachment we generate towards others, the more we are accelerating our inevitable separation.  As Bodhisattvas, this should really scare us because it is through their relationship with us that they have access to the exit from samsara.  If their relationship with us is blown, they will wander in samsara for perhaps aeons before there is another such opportunity.  It is particularly important that we remove any attachment in our relationship with our sangha friends, teachers, and students (if we are a teacher ourselves).  As teachers, if we allow our relationships to be governed by attachment, it creates the cause to encounter false teachers who abuse our faith in the future; and as students, it creates the cause to lose our spiritual life.

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