Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: If I enjoy this, what shall I have to give to others?

(8.125) “If I give this to others, what shall I have to enjoy?”
Such self-cherishing is the mind of a hungry spirit.
“If I enjoy this, what shall I have to give to others?”
Such cherishing of others is the mind of the enlightened ones.

We can feel the difference between these two attitudes.  These states of mind feel so different. It is not difficult for us to appreciate that one is the mind of a hungry spirit and one is the mind of the enlightened ones.  We can also understand mind here as a path. We often refer to minds as paths.  When put this way, it is easy to understand the first mind is really a path to becoming a hungry spirit, whereas the other really is a pathway to enlightenment.

We all have some merit.  In truth, compared to the vast majority of living beings, we have a ton of merit.  The question is what do we do with it:  enjoy it for ourselves or give it to others?  Money, time, power, reputation, position, etc., we all have these things to certain extents.  Certainly we have more than we actually need to sustain our human life.  So what do we give to others? How much do we give to others? How much do we keep for ourselves? Are we to enjoy anything that we have?

Again, Venerable Tharchin said we should mentally give everything away right now.  We may retain possession of some things, but only as a guardian or custodian of what belongs to others until we do eventually transfer possession as well.  But ownership, completely give it all away right now.  Everything we have belongs to all living beings, and we use it for their benefit.  If we impute “mine” on anything, we burn up our merit; but if we impute these things belong to “others,” then we accumulate merit.  We can see from this a very close connection between the practice of exchanging self with others – viewing all living beings as “self” – and the practice of giving.  We give everything to our new “self,” nothing belongs to “others” (our old self).  So powerful, so simple.

Venerable Geshe-la said we shouldn’t just enjoy the Dharma. We have Dharma teachings, Dharma books, perhaps we have the Dharma in our heart, but we shouldn’t just enjoy it for ourselves.  We should gain Dharma to share with others.  The more we give the Dharma, the more we have, which we can then in turn give some more in a virtuous cycle. 

(8.126) If we harm others for the sake of our own happiness,
We shall suffer the torments of the lower realms;
But if we are harmed for the sake of others’ happiness,
We shall experience the happiness of higher rebirth.

(8.127) If we hold ourself in high esteem, we shall be reborn in the lower realms
And later, as a human, experience low status and a foolish mind;
But if we transfer this esteem to others, we shall be reborn in fortunate realms,
Command respect, and enjoy good company and pleasant surroundings.

(8.128) If we use others for our own selfish means,
We shall experience servitude ourself;
But if we use ourself for the sake of others,
We shall enjoy high status and pleasing forms.

For me, these verses describe how a Kadampa should view their professional careers.  Basically the entire modern economy does the exact opposite of this, and we contribute in our own way.  But we don’t have to.  We can do as Shantideva explains.  Indeed, I would argue that if we do, we will have a much more successful career.  There might be some short-term gains we don’t enjoy by adopting such a selfless attitude, but in the long-run I would say we will do better by working in this way.  And even if we don’t, there is no doubt we will have a “successful enough” career.  Training in this way will enable us to make our career part of our Kadampa way of life.

If we possess basic Buddhist intention, that is a concern for future and not just for the present, then we will naturally refrain from selfish actions, will we not? We will naturally be more careful and more caring of others.  If we are concerned only for the present rather than for the future, it will seem to us like we will lose out, we will always be losing out if we consider only others’ welfare.  That is what it will feel like if we’re concerned only for the present – we will think we will lose out if we are considering only others’ welfare in this way.  But in truth, we will both gain.  The other person gains now, and we gain by creating good causes for the future.  We also gain now because we are happy because our mind is peaceful and virtuous.

We always have choice, but self-cherishing will not let us make the right one, will it?  We always have choice, but it seems self-cherishing will do everything it can to prevent us from making the right choice.  To self-cherishing it does not seem right – it seems unnatural, crazy even – to use ourself for the sake of others.   Self-cherishing will not even let us look to the future.  Why not?  Self-cherishing is not only just concerned with ourselves (a self that isn’t even us to begin with), it is only concerned with ourselves right now.  It is such a narrow mind.  Self-cherishing is cherishing the I that is appearing at the moment, it wants to make this present I happy.   To the self-cherishing mind, the future self is ‘other.’

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