Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  How to listen to Dharma

(5.88) I should listen to Dharma
With respect and a good heart,
Recognizing it as the supreme medicine
For curing the pains of anger and attachment.

The best way of helping others is by teaching them Dharma. The best teacher is the best listener.  Knowing how to listen to the Dharma not only helps us gain the most from the teachings we attend, but it also creates the causes for our students to listen correctly to us, thereby making our teachings more beneficial.

Listening to Dharma is different than listening to music on our iPod.  Reading Dharma is different than reading the newspaper.  From our side, we need to create certain causes and conditions within our mind to be able to receive the teachings in a way that moves our mind the most.  Listening with a mind of faith is clearly different than listening with a skeptical mind.  If we listen correctly, even if our teacher is teaching to a vast audience of thousands, it will feel as if the teaching was personalized just for us.

First we should have a mind of respect for the teacher.  To have respect means “we look up to” somebody with admiration and we naturally seek to “fulfill their wishes.”  At a minimum, this means we should abandon any inappropriate attention on any perceived faults.  Sometimes we have had a bad experience with our teacher in the past, and subsequently we receive no benefit from their teachings because all we can see is their past mistake.  Our teachers don’t have to be perfect to give us useful teachings.  We can realize our teacher has many good qualities and their giving Dharma teachings is coming from a good place in their heart.  When we respect somebody, we naturally seek to fulfill their wishes.  What does our teacher wish for us?  That we learn how to be happy all of the time, and then help others do the same.  A good teacher has no wish other than this.  To help cultivate our respect, we should imagine that the living Lama Tsongkhapa enters into the heart of our teacher, and through the conduit of our teacher gives the teachings.  We may not have full respect for our teacher, but there is no reason why we can’t have full respect for Lama Tsongkhapa.

To listen with a good heart means our motivation for receiving the teaching is spiritual.  People attend Dharma teachings for all sorts of strange reasons, but if we want to get the most out of them we should strive to cultivate a spiritual motivation.  At a minimum, we can recall that we have two types of problems, outer and inner.  Dharma teachings can’t explain to us how to solve our outer problems, our normal studies in school and life teach us that; rather Dharma teachings explain to us how to resolve our inner problem of delusions and negative karma.  If we are confused about the distinction between these two types of problems, thinking our inner problem is our outer problem, then Dharma teachings will seem to have little value.  But if are clear on this distinction, we will grasp their purpose.  Ideally, we should have a “pure” motivation.  A pure motivation is one that transcends the concerns of this life alone.  This life is short and its duration is uncertain, but our future lives are long and their duration is endless.  The real purpose of Dharma is to provide us protection in all our future lives – protection from falling into the lower realms, protection from another rebirth in samsara and protection from becoming stuck in solitary peace and not pushing through to full enlightenment.  A sincere and sustained practice of Lamrim will help us improve our motivation, making it increasingly spiritual and increasingly pure.

Finally, we should regard the Dharma teaching as personal advice for curing our inner sickness of delusions.  If we are not aware we have cancer, explanations of cancer treatments are of little interest.  But when we realize our life depends on the explanations because we do have cancer, we listen with a clear intention to put into practice whatever is explained.  When we come to a Dharma teaching, we should “bring our problem with us.”  On any given day, something is bothering us one way or another.  We should bring that problem, no matter how big nor how small, to the teaching, and view the teaching as exactly the personal instructions we need for overcoming this particular problem.

How can it be that our teacher can be giving instructions to many yet it still be personal advice?  The answer is blessings.  When we have respect, a good motivation and view the instructions as personal advice for the sickness within our mind, we will receive special blessings that enable us to understand the teachings we are receiving as they relate to our inner problem.  If others are doing the same with respect to their inner problems, they too will receive their special blessings and the teachings will likewise be personal advice for them – just in a different way.  Ultimately, we have no problems other than the ones our delusions mentally create for us.  All Dharma functions to oppose delusions, and every instruction of Dharma understood correctly has the power to oppose any delusion.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Giving away our body

(5.86) Because I use this body to practise bodhichitta,
I should not harm it for the sake of temporary benefits,
But care for it so that I may fulfil my bodhichitta wish,
So that eventually all living beings’ wishes will be fulfilled.

We are taught that we need to give away everything, including our body.  This does not, however, mean we throw our life away.  To give away our body is an action of mind in which we cease to impute “mine” on our body, and instead we impute “others’.”  We still retain control of our body, but no longer ownership of it.  In truth, we have never owned our body, it has always belonged to our parents.  It is only our selfish ignorance that imputes “mine” onto it.

There are three main reasons why we should give away our body.  First, if we no longer grasp at our body as our own, we will no longer suffer on account of it.  When somebody else’s body gets hurt, we don’t suffer from it because we are not imputing “mine” onto their suffering.  In the same way, when our body experiences some form of pain we will no longer suffer from it because it will not be “ours.”  Second, we will naturally engage in virtue with it.  If our body belongs to others, we will naturally use it to serve their interests.  We do not steal the belongings of others and use them for our own purposes.  If we view our body as belonging to others, we will view using it for our own purposes as mismanagement of their resources at best, theft at worst.  Third, dying will not be a problem for us.  The sufferings of death are associated with the feeling of having our body ripped away from us.  But if we long ago gave away our body to others, death will not represent any great loss.  The only reason we experience human suffering is because we identify with a human body and mind.  Giving away our body to others helps break our identification with it, and thereby frees us to become who we were truly meant to be.

There is no contradiction between giving away our body and taking proper care of it.  When we borrow something from somebody else, we are far more likely to take good care of it because we know it is not ours.  If we borrow somebody’s car, we fill it up with gas before we return it.  In the same way, knowing our body belongs to all living beings, we will feel a responsibility to maintain it, keep it healthy, keep it safe and keep it alive for as long as possible.  We will invest in it so that it can better serve those it belongs to.

(5.87) Those who lack pure compassion and wisdom
Should not actually give away their body
But, instead, devote it to accomplishing
The great purpose of this and future lives.

To actually give away our body in this context would refer to literally handing over our body to others, such as becoming their slave or giving our inner organs to others who might need them while we are still alive.  If we are sufficiently realized, this would not be a problem for us, but few of us are so advanced.  Besides, acting in this way would likely do more harm than good since it would bring the Dharma into disrepute.  Actually giving away our body could also refer to being willing to sacrifice our life for the sake of protecting others, such as a soldier who throws himself on the grenade to save those in his squad.  While few of us encounter such situations in our daily life, we can nonetheless deeply rejoice in the mind that is willing to do such things.

However, there are many practical ways we can give away our body.  For example, if we see an old lady struggling to carry her grocery bags, we can carry them for her.  This is offering our body to others.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Virtuous negativity and giving everything

Shantideva now introduces the moral discipline of benefitting others – helping others in whatever way we can – as a discipline, a moral discipline.

(5.84) Buddha, the compassionate Far-Seeing One,
Allows Bodhisattvas to perform certain actions that are otherwise proscribed.
Understanding this well, I should always put effort
Into my practice of the Bodhisattva’s way of life.

A big part of the Bodhisattva’s way of life is to enter people’s lives just as our Spiritual Guide has entered our lives, and then with a pure intention, attempt to tame their minds.  We cannot hold back. We need to become more and more aware of how helpless people are – people need so much help.  We have to be willing to put ourselves out, to inconvenience ourselves if need be.  We have to give others whatever they need.  More, we need to become the person that other people need.

Sometimes we will make mistakes.  We should have a pure intention and try to learn from our mistakes.  We can’t hold back being afraid to make mistakes.  Sometimes people think it is better to do nothing than to make mistakes, but this is not as helpful to others.  We have to be willing to make mistakes, sometimes even big ones, in the name of helping others.  It is sometimes only by making mistakes that we can learn what is the right thing to do, and even if our actions are not perfect, they will often be better than doing nothing.  People are in a hopeless situation. We can’t just sit by and watch.

Our Spiritual Guide will help us to help others.  We bring him into our heart and then we just go for it, doing our best.  We can’t hold back, we have to give as much of ourselves as we can to others.  Our Spiritual Guide at our heart will help us avoid many mistakes.  For those we do make, we learn from them and then we request Dorje Shugden that he bless others’ minds so that even our mistakes become a cause of their enlightenment.

Sometimes, even, otherwise negative actions of body and speech can be virtuous actions.  The example is given in the scriptures of Buddha Shakyamuni in a previous life killing a sailor who was planning on killing all the others on the boat.  It is likewise sometimes appropriate to engage in what might otherwise be hurtful and divisive speech if doing so is what is required to preserve the pure Kadampa tradition in this world.  But when we engage in these otherwise negative actions, we must be very careful that our motivation for doing so is pure love and compassion for others.  Buddha was trying to protect the all the sailors, both the ones who would have been killed and the one who was intending on doing the killing.  Protesting for religious freedom protects those who are doing nothing wrong to practice freely as they choose and protects those who would persecute them from accumulating negative karma for themselves.

(85) I should share my food with animals,
People who are hungry, and practitioners,
And eat merely what I need.
Ordained people can give everything except their three robes.

We decide what we actually need in our life to be able to comfortably follow the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, and then we give away everything else for the benefit of others.  Geshe-la says we need inner peace, but also we need good physical health, and for this we need reasonably comfortable physical conditions, such as food, etc. to support our practice.  But by and large, we should give everything else away.

Some people save their money to spend it on themselves.  Philanthropists earn money to be able to give it to others.  Parents work hard to provide for their families.  Bodhisattva’s give everything away.  They offer to all living beings all of their money and possessions, their body, their mind, their time, everything.  Ultimately we give everything away by using things and ourselves for the sake of others.   Sometimes we may retain possession of certain things that we manage well for the sake of others, but mentally we never forget that others have ownership.  We can spend money on ourselves to stay healthy, support our practice, develop our abilities to better serve, and so forth; but everything else we have we should use for the sake of others.

It is true, the highest cause we can give towards is the flourishing of the Dharma because only it can solve the problems of living beings.  Everything else can at most temporarily reduce people’s suffering.  But sometimes we can go too far with this and fail to live up to our worldly responsibilities.  If we have a family we are responsible for, our first responsibility is to our family.  If we give all of our money and time to our center, but as a result we neglect providing adequately for our families, then we will being the Dharma into disrepute because we will be acting in conventionally inappropriate ways.  But even if we are not giving everything to the Dharma, we are giving everything we have, holding nothing back for ourselves.  For myself, mentally I first offer my family to all the Buddhas, and then I provide for my family.  In this way, mentally my action of giving is both giving to the flourishing of the Dharma indirectly while providing for my family directly.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Engage in every practice for the benefit of others

(5.82) I should perform all my Dharma activities
With skill, clear understanding, and strong faith,
So that others will increase their wisdom
And experience immeasurable benefit.

To engage in our Dharma activities with skill means to engage in them at the appropriate level.  For ourselves, this means not engaging in such easy practices that we are not forced to grow, but also not engaging in such advanced practices that we are not actually moving our heart.  For others, this means not doing nothing to try help them progress along the path, but also not forcing the Dharma upon them.  Our advice should engage others at the level they are at, not the level we are at.  Likewise, we should abandon any need whatsoever for others to take our advice to heart, instead we leave them completely free to do with it what they wish.

Performing our Dharma activities with clear understanding means we are very clear on what are the objects to be abandoned and what are the objects to be attained.  Attachment and aversion think something external needs to change.  Wisdom understands the difference between our outer and inner problem, and uses appropriate external methods to solve external problems and internal methods to solve internal problems.

Working for others with faith means to practice with confidence knowing our methods will work, even if we don’t yet understand exactly how things work.  For example, we are taught that anger always makes things worse and patience always makes things better.  Sometimes it seems to us the opposite is true.  But because we have faith, we nonetheless let go of our anger and learn to accept.  The inner workings of karma are a deeply hidden phenomena, but that doesn’t make them any less true.  With faith, we are able to abandon non-virtue and instead practice virtue.  Cherishing others is the root of all happiness and self-cherishing is the root of all suffering.  But every habit within our mind moves in the opposite direction.  Faith gives us the power to overcome these bad habits.

The purpose of all of our actions should be to help others increase their wisdom.  Giving people good advice helps them once, helping people develop their own wisdom helps them forever.  All the suffering of all living beings comes from mistaken actions.  Only wisdom reveals the unmistaken path.  Generally speaking, if we give people wisdom it will remain intellectual for them; but when they experience its truth for themselves, they own that wisdom as their own.  Therefore, our goal should always be to help people gain person experience of the truth of Dharma by helping them act upon their wisdom.

(5.83) Although in general the perfections of giving and so forth
Are progressively higher than those that precede them,
I should not forsake great virtues for the sake of small ones.
Principally, I should consider the benefit to others.

The meaning here is each virtuous action can be engaged in at multiple levels in dependence upon our motivation.  Giving flowers, for example, can be done for selfish purposes, to gain a higher rebirth, to escape from samsara or to become a Buddha.  We need to practice where we are at.  If we try practice at a level that exceeds where our heart is, our practice will largely be intellectual.  If we practice at too low of a level, then we won’t actually be moving our mind.  We should honestly admit to ourselves where our mind is really at, and then gently push things a little further.  It does no good to pretend we are better than we actually are, and it is self-defeating to not try do better because it is not “natural.”  Sometimes people mistakenly think “if it is forced, it is wrong.”  What is natural is simply what is familiar.  All Dharma practice is about changing our habits, so it is necessarily “forced.”  But forced does not mean “fake.”  It means we know right from wrong, and we try do right even though our natural tendency is to do wrong.

In Meaningful to Behold, Geshe-la says taking all things into consideration we should try to determine which course of action is most beneficial – what will ultimately be most beneficial for others.  We need to consider both the long-term effects and short-term effects.  When we don’t know, we must look to our spiritual guide, also to other teachers to see how they do things.  Above all, we should pray for the wisdom to know what is the most beneficial thing to do.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Becoming intimate with everyone

(5.80) Whenever I see other beings,
I should think, “I can attain enlightenment
In dependence upon these living beings!”
And cherish them sincerely.

(5.81) With either a cultivated motivation
Or one that arises spontaneously,
I should always sow seeds of great virtue
In the fields of holy beings and living beings.

Sometimes we hear Dharma practitioners, especially ordained ones, say things like “relationships are deceptive.”  It is true, we can’t take refuge in our relationships with others thinking that they will provide us with any protection or security at the time of death.  It is also true we shouldn’t look to our relationships with others as being a source of our happiness.  But relationships in and of themselves are not deceptive, it is only our unrealistic attachment to them that is.

Relationships are the very means though which we fulfill our bodhisattva wishes.  We are only able to benefit others in dependence upon the quality of the relationship we have with them.  Geshe-la once told Venerable Tharchin that if he stayed on retreat, he would attain enlightenment but he would be a “useless Buddha” because he would have no karmic connections with living beings.  Our ability to transmit the Dharma primarily depends upon three things:  (1) our personal experience of the instructions through which blessings can pass, (2) the purity of our love and compassion for the other person, free from selfish concerns, and (3) the quality of our karmic relationship with the other person.  All three are necessary.  A great Yogi once trashed a farmer’s field because he understood a bad karmic connection was better than none at all, and once the negative karma had been purified he would then be able to help.  We may justify isolating ourselves from others as us learning to live contently in our cave, but more often than not we are merely running away from our relationships with others.

The path to enlightenment is a process of gathering a collection of merit and wisdom.  Merit is accumulated in dependence upon virtue, and all virtue depends upon others who serve as objects of our virtue.  Wisdom is accumulated in dependence upon learning from interaction, and all interaction depends upon having others to interact with.  The purpose of attaining enlightenment is to serve all living beings and lead them to the same state.  It is clear, there is no enlightenment without others.  This does not mean we should never be alone, rather it means when we are alone we never stop thinking about others.

As we go through our daily lives, we are with people a lot.  As a result, we have a lot of opportunities to sow seeds of merit in the field of living beings.  We can’t forget about living beings, but we usually forget they are a field of merit.  In Chapter 6, Shantideva says that the field of living beings is like the field of enlightened beings in that both are a field of merit.

If we view others as a field of merit, it will no doubt lead to great results. With everyone we meet, we should think “this person is a field of merit,” “I can attain enlightenment in dependence upon you.”  We must value the presence of any living being in the same way we value the presence of holy beings.  We can feel each and every living being is important and cherish them. We can think “you are important.”  If we think in this way, we will never ignore them.  Then we will never miss an opportunity to gather virtue, to take another step in the direction of enlightenment.  We want to attain enlightenment for that person!  For every living being, including that person.  Imagine if we were to do this.  We would be enlightened in no time.

It is quite easy to have superficial relationships with a great many people; it is quite hard to be really close to even one person.  The reason for this is simple:  the closer we are to somebody, the more deeply we are forced to confront the delusions within our own mind.  When we are very close to somebody, they “rub up into” those deeper delusions we have not yet tamed.  We then mistakenly think the other person has the power to disturb our inner peace and we then push them away.  This is exactly the wrong approach.  Our close relationship with another person enables us to identify and finally overcome these deep-seated delusions.

Ultimately, our goal is to become a fully qualified spiritual guide.  When we are, we will seek to mix our mind inseparably with those of our students, and our students will wish to mix their minds inseparably with ours.  There is no more intimate and close relationship than this – all duality between ourself and others dissolves away.  If we don’t know how to be close to others without becoming heavily deluded, how will we ever be able to mix our mind inseparably with our Spiritual Guide’s, much less our future students?  Sexual intimacy is superficial, the intimacy we seek with others is total.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Qualities of correct speech

(5.79) I should speak truthfully, coherently, and to the point,
Making my meaning clear in a pleasant manner.
I should speak gently and in moderation,
Without a selfish motivation.

The quality of our speech is important if we’re going to accomplish the aims of a Bodhisattva.  It is primarily through our speech, both written and verbal, that we communicate with others.  We may wonder what is wrong with the way that we speak.  We need to check.  Just as there are the extremes of not caring about our body or caring too much about our body, so too it is the same with our speech.

To speak truthfully means to never deceive others motivated by delusion.  Sometimes we think telling “the truth” is a virtue in and of itself, even if the truth we wish to speak is harmful.  It is not enough that our words be conventionally true, we should only speak that truth which is beneficial for others to hear.  Normally we grasp at their being an “objective” truth, and of course we grasp at our own perspective as being that objective reality.  According to Dharma, truth is established not objectively, but rather by what is beneficial for people to believe.  Sometimes people misunderstand this to mean we can lie to people if the lie is beneficial.  But it is not beneficial to believe something that is conventionally false.  Therefore, the middle way is speak only those parts of the truth that are beneficial to believe.

To speak coherently means what we say must make sense and not contradict other things we know to be true.  Sometimes people fall into the extreme of being afraid to utter any Dharma that is not verbatim from the books or teachings.  Other people fall into the extreme of inventing their own lineage.  There are three lineages, the lineage arising from listening, the lineage arising from contemplation and the lineage arising from meditation.  How do we know whether our understandings derived from contemplation and meditation are reliable Dharma?  We do three things.  First, we request Dorje Shugden to sabotage any wrong understandings we may have of the Dharma.  Second, we test our new understanding to see if it contradicts any known instruction we have received from listening.  Third, we test to see if our new understanding is consistent with all known instructions.  If we satisfy these three tests, then our new understanding is sufficiently reliable to move forward.  To speak coherently means to satisfy these three tests with our speech.

To speak to the point means we should communicate directly our meaning in as concise a fashion as possible.  If our speech is complicated, it is because we are complicating things.  A clear, concise mind will naturally produce clear, concise speech.  Often times, the fewer words we use to communicate our idea, the more effective our speech will be.  We should not beat around the bush or get side-tracked into secondary topics, instead we should go straight for the heart of the matter.

We need to be clear with our speech so that the listeners are left with no ambiguity as to our meaning.  We shouldn’t leave people guessing and we should make things as simple as possible.  It is easy to use jargon and specialized vocabulary, it takes a master to communicate the same meanings with language our eight year old son and eighty year old grandma alike can easily understand.  What gives speech its clarity is the precison of the distinctions it draws.  The way we know anything is through distinguishing one object from another, thus it is our ability to draw clear distinctions that leads to clear understanding.

We should always speak in a pleasant, friendly manner.  If we are aggressive, attacking or judgmental in our approach others will become defensive and reject what we have to say, even if we are right.  Our speech then becomes counter-productive – it would have been better to say nothing.  The key to pleasant speech is the genuine love we feel in our heart for whomever we are speaking with.  If we feel love and gratitude, our speech will naturally be pleasant.

To speak gently means to let go of any attachment to the other person agreeing with or listening to what we have to say.  Normally when we speak we are trying to manipulate others into thinking or doing what we want them to do, usually for our own selfish purposes.  There is an attachment in our mind to them agreeing with us, and when they don’t we become upset.  People are not stupid, they know when they are being manipulated.  They sense our ulterior motive and therefore reject what we have to say, even if it is exactly what they need to hear.  When we speak, it shouldn’t matter – at all – whether others accept what we have to say.  We leave people 100% free to take or reject our words as they wish.  Paradoxically, it is only when we let go of needing others to take on board our words they begin to do so.  This is especially true when giving Dharma teachings or advice.

To speak in moderation means we should really only speak when we have something beneficial to say that others are happy to receive.  If what we have to say is of no value, we should keep silent.  If others are not open to our point of view, we shouldn’t offer it.  If others are not asking for our advice, we shouldn’t give it.  The reason for all of this is simple:  if these conditions are not met, then people will actively reject what we have to say.  Instead of helping them, we will be giving them an opportunity to grasp more tightly onto their wrong views.

To speak without selfish motivation means our only objective in speaking should be to help others for their sake.  Normally our speech has no purpose other than an aversion to silence or an attachment to our own views.  The implication of our every criticism of others is we are somehow better.  When we speak nicely, it is usually because we are trying to get something.  Selfless speech is free from all of these and wishes only to help others find happiness through wisdom and virtue.  Selfless speech seeks to create harmony and heal division; it softens the heart and opens the mind.

If we train consistently in improving our speech in these ways, it will naturally become very powerful and there is hope we can bring great benefit to others.  Ultimately, the entire bodhisattva path is about gaining realizations to be able to share with others.  We share our realizations primarily through our speech.  If our realizations are profound but our speech unskillful then our realizations are useless.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Our two choices

(5.77) I should perform all actions for others’ happiness.
This good quality is precious and rare,
And through it I shall enjoy the pure happiness and joy
That arises from actions that benefit others.

(5.78) If I do this, I shall suffer no loss in this life
And in future lives I shall experience great happiness;
But, if I do the opposite,
I shall experience misery and pain in life after life.

If we are honest with ourselves, most everything we do is motivated by selfish concerns.  We examine every situation through the lens of “how can I get what I want?”  Even when we are nice to others, a large part of our motivation is still selfish – just a more clever form of it.  Seeing this, though, we can sometimes go too far thinking if we can’t do selfless things for purely selfless reasons we shouldn’t do them at all.  But how is that any better?  It’s true it is better to do selfless things for selfless reasons than selfless things for selfish reasons; but it is surely better to do selfless things for selfish reasons than selfish things for selfish reasons.  The latter is bad, the former is good and the first is best.  Best is better than good, good is better than bad.

Being selfless does not mean becoming a martyr, who makes a big public display of sacrificing themselves for the sake of others.  “OK, since no one else is willing to take out the trash, I’ll do it!”  We often see this kind of behavior in Dharma centers.  In almost every Dharma center, there are usually a few people who do most of the work and everybody else does the minimum they can get away with doing without calling attention to themselves.  This is probably true in most every Dharma center, with very few exceptions.  We’re all human and imperfect, what can we expect?  Sometimes, though, more often than we care to admit, those who do do most of the work can sometimes become bitter about it.  They become resentful about the fact that they have to do everything, and everybody else just comes and “consumes.”  They then will use all sorts of direct and indirect signals to communicate their displeasure with the people who come to the center, making them feel guilty, or worse, trying to use the Dharma to manipulate them into doing more work.  People are not stupid.  They know when they are being made to feel guilty or when they are being manipulated.  At first they might do more work for the center, but they are doing so to avoid the guilt-tripping and manipulation.  As a result, they develop resentment towards the center administrators and at some point tensions begin to arise.  This just fuels the administrator’s resentment towards the people in the center and so it continues in a vicious cycle.

The entire premise of such a dynamic is completely wrong.  Work for the center is not a chore, it is a spiritual gold-mine.  Geshe-la once said, if we understood how valuable the opportunity is, we would gladly pay money to be able to do so.  But if the center administrators relate to it as a chore to be avoided, they will develop resentment and the negative cycle begins.  If the center administrators relate to it as a spiritual gold-mine, they will do everything they can because they want to.  Their enthusiasm and wisdom will inspire others to do the same, naturally and from their own side.  And if it doesn’t inspire others, big deal.  The center will just be smaller and will do less.  So what?  At least people will be happy.  A small, happy center is spiritually larger than a physically large, but spiritually unhappy community.  But don’t we have to spread the Dharma?  Venerable Tharchin explains the real Dharma center is “the inner realizations of the community bound together by our love for one another.”  If there is guilt, there is no joy.  No joy, no effort.  No effort, no realizations.  If there is mutual resentment, there is no love for one another and nothing is bound together.  Being selfish for good causes is still being selfish.

Family life is no different.  In every family, there are usually a few people who do all the work (usually the mother) and everybody else contributes very little.  The members of the family take advantage of the person who does all the work, and then become bitter when their needs are not met in the way they want.  The mother then feels put upon and develops resentment for everybody else.  The workplace is also no different.  Some people do all the work, others just go along for the ride.  Countries work the same way, even the whole world works this way.  Everyone gets wrapped up in this “maker/taker” paradigm.  All of this comes from the same wrong premise – putting others first makes me worse off.

If there is one central point of the Bodhisattva’s path it is a refutation of this wrong view.  It is only by completely and utterly forgetting oneself that we can fulfill our every possible desire.  Imagine what the world would be like if everyone realized the secret to happiness is to put the interests of others first?  But then we say, “nobody else is doing this, so if I am the only one who is, then I become everybody’s sucker.”  No, you become the only happy person in the room.

The question is not what would happen if the whole world did this, the question is what would happen if we were to do as Shantideva advises?  Would we become disappointed or upset if someone did not take our advice?  Would we try even harder and have even more joyful effort?  The help that we usually give is conditional. If it were unconditional, we wouldn’t get upset when our help doesn’t work out the way we want or the other person doesn’t respond the way we want?  No, we would be like a First Ground Bodhisattva who just hearing the word “give” gives rise to extraordinary bliss.