Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Finding others’ suffering unbearable doesn’t mean we suffer

(8.103) “There is no need to dispel everyone else’s suffering!”
This is not a valid argument.
If my suffering should be dispelled, so should everyone else’s;
And if others’ suffering should not be dispelled, neither should mine.

It is useful to also recall what we discussed in an earlier post.  If there is suffering in my world, then it is my suffering because it is taking place within my world/my mind.  Since we are not separate from our world, if there is suffering taking place anywhere within our world, it is our suffering.  This is especially true when we understand the emptiness of everything that takes place in our world.  It is all coming from our own mind. 

(8.104) “But such compassion will bring me suffering,
So why should I strive to develop it?”
How can compassion bring suffering?
It is the very nature of a peaceful mind!

We discussed this in an earlier post, but it is worth recalling the reasoning so we have no confusion or hesitation about generating compassion.  Our suffering is painful because we have body consciousness or mental consciousness with respect to these aggregates.  It is unbearable because we cherish our own well-being as important.  The suffering of others is not painful to us because we do not have body or mental consciousness with respect to their aggregates.  If we do not cherish them, then their suffering won’t harm us and we won’t care.  But we will then conventionally be a jerk, and ultimately we will be letting the cancer of suffering metastasize in the body of all living beings (which exists and is created by our own mind).  If we cherish them, then their suffering is not painful, but it is unbearable.  If there is attachment to others not suffering in our mind – in other words, we mistakenly think that our own happiness depends upon others not suffering – then when they suffer, we will suffer too.  We don’t suffer from their suffering, we suffer from the attachment in our mind.  But if our mind is free from attachment to them not suffering, we will find their suffering unbearable, but it won’t be suffering for us.  What will it be?  It will be a powerful energy to do something to help – a selfless mind wishing to help.  Such a mind is full of energy, but virtuous, so our mind will remain peaceful.  If we also then have wisdom knowing what can actually help to permanently free others from suffering, then we will be filled with powerful energy to do that thing.  What is that thing?  Attain enlightenment ourself so we can lead others to the same state.  The strength of our unbearability then drives us with great power to attain enlightenment.  It is what powers our bodhichitta.  Unbearability + wisdom knowing how to help = bodhichitta.  Bodhichitta is the most virtuous mind possible a living being can generate. 

The suffering of others cannot harm us because it is taking place within their body.  We do not suffer from their suffering.  If we cherish them, it is true we will find their suffering unbearable, but this is not a suffering for us.  Finding their suffering unbearable will induce within our mind love and compassion, which are virtuous minds that are the nature of inner peace.  Compassion also leads us to bodhichitta and enlightenment.  Finding their suffering unbearable also induces us to engage in virtuous actions, which is the cause of our future happiness.  Being clear about all of this will remove the residual doubt we have about generating compassion for all living beings and fearing that we will be crushed by all of the suffering we see in the world.   

(8.105) If, through one person experiencing relatively little suffering,
The infinite sufferings of living beings can be eliminated,
A kind-hearted Bodhisattva will gladly endure it
And delight in working for others.

(8.106) Thus, although the Bodhisattva Supushpachandra understood
That he would suffer at the hands of the king,
He did not seek to avoid his own death
But instead released many others from their suffering.

And even if we do need to endure a little bit more suffering as a result of our working for others, what is more important, the suffering of one or the freedom of countless?  The story of Supushpachandra is he knew he would be killed by the king if he went to an area and taught Dharma, but he also knew that he would lead thousands to liberation.  If we view the suffering and happiness of all beings as equally important, regardless of who is experiencing this, then it is perfectly logical to do this.

The story of Jesus also illustrates this perfectly.  He knew if he went to Jerusalem, he would be crucified, but in so doing, he would become a source of inspiration and refuge for billions in the future.  He underwent terrible suffering, but in so doing created a path for countless others.  He did so willingly because he valued the happiness of others as more important than his own.  Soldiers do the same when they go off to war to protect their homeland and firefighters do this when they jump into the blazes to save the family trapped inside.  We can happily be the same, willing to undergo any hardship in order to help others.

But let’s get real – what hardships do we really need to endure to travel the path?  The only things we actually need to abandon are the inner diseases of our delusions, which harm our inner peace anyways.  We travel a joyful path.  Sure, it might be easier in the short-run to abandon living beings when they grow too troublesome or problematic.  We do that, don’t we?  We are happy to be around others when they are happy, but as soon as they have problems, are down, depressed, or troubled, we say, “sorry you are feeling that way,” and we find our way out as quicky as we can.  My mom would call such people “fair weather friends.”  As kind-hearted bodhisattvas, we are the opposite of that.  We actively seek out those who everyone else has abandoned.  We seek to be the friend of the friendless, the one who is there for others in their hour of greatest need.  Does this involve some sacrifice?  Only of our selfish wishes, but as we already looked at before, our self-cherishing is the root of all our suffering.  What is bad for our self-cherishing is good for us. 

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