By Nhat Quan
Like anyone, once you know how to find and walk on the upward path towards goodness, altruism will also arise naturally. All of you have entered the bodhisattva path, are practicing, and have some experience in bodhisattva deeds. So you have used your human body in a meaningful way.
To activate altruism, the first step to generating bodhicitta is to have the mindset that:
- All sentient beings are really your parents.
This is a necessary practice, if you can count the countless sentient beings in samsara and think that they were once your parents, all those sentient beings will become close to you. All sentient beings wish for happiness, but people are confused and do not see clearly the cause of happiness. What they want is happiness, but they create opposite causes that are causes of suffering, so sentient beings keep spinning in the cycle of samsara. So you must really regard all sentient beings as yourself or your parents. This makes you feel closer and warmer.
After you have practiced making countless sentient beings close to you, you must not only think that they were your parents but also always remember their love. In countless past lives, when they were your parents, they were very loving and devoted to you. Visualize in your mind the love and compassion that sentient beings are mothers or fathers, brothers and sisters…. was for you. And now you wish to repay the profound kindness of those sentient beings.
To repay the kindness of your parents for many generations, you sincerely practice the Dharma, recognize yourself, and try to help them liberate. The best way to repay the kindness of parents in the past many lives is to help them to be freed from samsara through Dharma, through realization. So make a vow that:
- May I liberate all sentient beings?
Next, you think that in this life you want to help all sentient beings through your body, mouth, and mind. You first generate the mind of wanting to save sentient beings in order to have an object of salvation. Then you practice accumulating merit, wisdom, accumulating good conditions for yourself. At the end of your practice, you dedicate the accumulated merits. I think that way you can achieve the goal of benefiting all sentient beings in some way. To help all sentient beings through this physical body is very difficult, so turn it into Dharma practice, pray, and dedicate all the merit you've cultivated. Remember the following practical steps:
- First, you generate bodhicitta
- Then transfer Bodhicitta into Bodhi of Action, in Bodhicitta of action you have to start with the six Paramitas.
- Then you dedicate all the accumulated merit to all sentient beings.
While practicing, you visualize giving everyone all your happiness, health, and success. Then all the merit and wisdom that you have accumulated from this life as well as many previous lives are bestowed upon sentient beings. Indirectly you are trying to purify the cause of suffering for all sentient beings.
If you practice like this, according to the venerable ones, you will gradually or directly or indirectly save sentient beings. When you practice the development or completion stages, whatever you do with pure motives, especially at the end of the practice, it is very important that you dedicate yourself before being carried away by unwholesome thoughts. Dedicate this pure merit to purifying the three poisons for all sentient beings.
According to the practice of Bodhicitta, the intention is altruistic, the hope is to attain enlightenment in order to save all sentient beings. There are two types of altruism.
- First of all, the conditions for generating an altruistic mind towards sentient beings, wanting to have Bodhicitta to help all kinds of living beings.
- This leads to the second kind of altruism: The wish for liberation, and enlightenment. This principle of conduct arises also for the benefit of all sentient beings.
You can say bodhicitta is the highest form of altruism, of courage and you can say bodhicitta is the result of actions that help the noblest. Indeed, Bodhicitta is, in my opinion, a miraculous miracle. The more you think about helping others, the more you care about them, and the more blessings you will enjoy. That's so great.
The more you develop the altruistic mind of bodhicitta, the more you will find that it is most effective in creating merit and developing spiritual abilities. Furthermore, it is one of the most powerful methods of dealing with destructive, unwholesome tendencies. Since on the spiritual path the most basic thing is to overcome negative feelings and develop good qualities, the development of altruism is the greatest, most effective, and necessary journey.
Maitreya, in an inspirational prayer, said:
Bodhicitta can free you from lower attitudes, lead you to rebirth in higher realms, and can even take you beyond old age and death.
What Maitreya said was very special. Normally, Buddhism teaches that when you live with morality, you will not be reborn in the lower realms. But according to Maitreya, the practice of Bodhicitta is a higher path, beyond even the virtuous way of life. Bodhicitta is a good way for you to plant the seeds for better future lives.
You can summarize as follows:
The practice to generate and nurture altruism are the basic elements of all spiritual practices. Practicing bodhicitta can replace all other cultivation techniques because usually, each method has only one use. Therefore, I consider the development of bodhicitta to be the source of both short-term happiness and lasting happiness.
If you look at the precepts of people who practice altruism or want to cultivate bodhicitta, you will see the immense courage of those who take the vows. In Nagarjuna's Precious Garland, there is a passage that says:
- May I always be a joy
As sentient beings often wish
Fun without problems like:
Earth, water, wind, fire, herbs, and woods
May I be close to sentient beings
Just like they are very close to me
Please accept all their mistakes
And give them all the good qualities in me.
You can clearly see that his wishes were filled with immeasurable courage. His mighty selfless heart extends to all sentient beings, his mind does not discriminate and has no time limit. It is limitless.
And in Shantideva's guide to the bodhisattva path, Shantideva describes his mighty aspiration that transcends time and space as follows:
- When there was a world
When there were living beings
I swear to stay
Help people reduce suffering
When you have an altruistic mind with insight into emptiness, especially if there are realizations that one has attained Bodhi Mind on both the levels of Compassion and Wisdom, you will grasp the perfect method to attain enlightenment. That person deserves to be respected by everyone.
Master Candrakirti writes poetically in his book Finding the Middle Way:
- When a person reaches such a spiritual level, it is as if they have two wings. One wing of compassion, one wing of wisdom about emptiness. That person can fly beyond space and time, to the shores of the liberation of a perfectly enlightened Buddha.
Your problem now is how to develop bodhicitta?
There are two aspects to being able to develop Bodhicitta as once said:
- Wishes to help others and
- Wish I was enlightened
Must be nurtured and trained by different methods. You need to cultivate the desire to help others first. Wishing others to be happy includes, of course, helping to relieve them of their physical suffering, but that is not the point. Bringing peace to people means finding a way to help them be liberated is the last point.
The second aspect of developing bodhicitta is the aspiration to be liberated, which is also directly related to the two aspirations for benefiting others.
1- Wish to attain enlightenment:
As you know, the highest form of spiritual practice is to develop altruism, which is bodhicitta, to seek enlightenment to help all beings. Bodhicitta is the most precious state of mind, the sublime source of benevolence that wishes to fulfill true wishes, and the basis of selfless actions.
However, bodhicitta can only be realized when you make steady and methodical efforts. To do that, you need the discipline to train your mind and transform it.
As you know, the conversion of mind is not something that can be done in a few days but a process slowly. Although there are unexpected enlightenment cases, only a temporary personality. When those sudden experiences occur like lightning flashes, the practitioner can be very touched and excited, but because the incident is not basically persistent discipline, it is very unpredictable and the transformation. The mind is only very limited. On the contrary, true transformation is often durable because it comes from continuous efforts and on a solid basis. The transformation of the long-term mind only occurs after slowly and disciplined training.
You have clearly seen the intention of altruism consisting of two wishes to help sentient beings and enlightenment to be useful for people. Bodhisattva Maitreya also thinks that everyone in you has the potential, or the elements of goodness are enlightened seeds like Buddha. The truth is that enlightenment is your original mind, described including pure light and wisdom. Through the experience of studying and diligence, you will gradually eliminate obstacles, you can contact those Bodhi seeds. When you slowly advance step by step, the pristine nature of the consciousness begins to manifest more until reaching the level that is no different from the enlightened mind of the Buddhas. The obstacles are removed here, Buddhism wants to mention that are two types of pollution of the mind
- One is the expression of the affliction of the mind,
- One is the micro-ignorance that hinders the wisdom not to arising.
Those are the imprints and trends of emotions and unwholesome meaning repeatedly in you. When you understand that you can turn the root of these negative feelings, which means you can also eliminate all the trends created by them. Understanding this point, you will understand what enlightenment in Buddhism means.
2- Working is beneficial for others
The other wish of the intention of altruism or Bodhi mind is to bring peace to sentient beings. From the Buddhist perspective, Peace is understood as the liberation of all suffering, and sentient beings here mean countless creatures in the universe. This second wish is the key to the first prayer wishing to achieve enlightenment to benefit sentient beings. This wish is basically compassionate without distinguishing all species. Compassion means that there is the desire for all types to be free from suffering. That is the foundation of all activities and intentions to benefit people.
You need to cultivate altruism strong enough because you feel like taking responsibility for actions that benefit others. In Buddhism, it is called great compassion. This point is repeated again and again in the Mahayana sutras:
Immeasurable compassion is the foundation of wholesome qualities, the root of the Mahayana path, and the heart of bodhicitta.
Maitreya Bodhisattva in the Mahayana-sutralamkara teaches that:
- Compassion is the root, the basis of Bodhicitta.
Likewise, Master Chandrakirti in the Madhyamakavatara always says:
- Compassion is a superior virtue. It is crucial for the initial stage of practice, it is also very important for your progress on the path, and it is still essential even after you are enlightened.
If you read any of the sutras of Mahayana Buddhism, you will find that the great authors, commentators, and great masters have emphasized over and over again the importance of compassion as fundamental, which is the root of all spiritual endeavors. Compassion or altruism is the wish for everyone to be free from suffering, but if you look deeper, you will see that compassion has two levels:
- First of all, it may just wish others to suffer less.
- But it can go to a higher level, instead of just wishing, it shows the will to act to help those who are suffering.
This is when you take responsibility and make a personal commitment to selfless feelings and ideas. But at any rate, to be successful in developing altruism or bodhicitta, you need additional elements of wisdom and enlightenment. Without these two things, when you meet someone who is suffering, you can generate an altruistic mind, but because your capacity is limited, you only have wishes for them to end their suffering.
Many times, your wishes to help others frustrate you because there is nothing you can do to change the situation. But on the contrary, if you are equipped with wisdom, you will have support as the more you focus on helping the object, the more compassionate energy there is, and the faster altruism will grow.
Because wisdom affects compassion, in the Buddhist scriptures there are three kinds of compassion:
- First of all, just wish others to stop suffering, while you don't have any understanding of the nature of suffering, the nature of sentient beings.
- Second, compassion with a little understanding of the true nature of all things, such as understanding of impermanence, suffering, and not-self. With wisdom, your compassion will be stronger.
The third stage describes altruism as a kind of formless compassion
It's still compassion for sentient beings but with the added enlightenment of human nature. This is a very great and powerful kind of altruistic mind because it causes you to help others without seeing them as your object. You also do not get attached to the idea that they are a person close to you or not, nor do you distinguish from which country they belong.
Since compassion is the wish for the end of others' suffering, you must first feel related to them. Experience has shown that the closer you feel to a person or animal, the easier it is to empathize with that person or thing.
So in order to develop compassion or altruism, you need to have affection and feel that you are related and friendly to the object. I call it compassion. The closer you are to the subject, the more uncomfortable you feel when you see that person suffering.
There are two main methods to help you develop this intimacy in Buddhism:
1- One is to put yourself in the situation of others. Although this method was proposed by Nagarjuna, Shantideva developed it to perfection in his Guide to the Bodhisattva Way.
2- The second method is the practice of causes and conditions that emphasize cultivating your passionate attitude towards everyone, not just your loved ones.
The tradition of Mahayana Buddhism often considers anyone to be: your mother, your father, your close friend or relative, near or far..v ...v... Mother is a symbol, the important point is In your heart, you must consider all sentient beings very dear, and close to you.
Before applying the above method, you need to develop an equanimous mind towards all sentient beings, by treating everyone as your equal. The key to the practice of equanimity is to overcome the discriminatory feelings you often have toward others, depending on whether they are near or far away, but you have different feelings. It is true that when you are bound, your vision is limited, and you are no longer aware of the wide plane.
When you practice developing equanimity, it is sometimes beneficial to use visualization. Let's say you picture three people in front of you:
- A very friendly person,
- The second person is an enemy you don't like at all and
- The third person you neither love nor hate.
Then let's see how the feelings naturally arise in you. You will find that for your loved one, there are many problems, while for the person you don't like, you have anger and hatred, don't like to meet, and you don't have much affection for the other person.
Here you can think to yourself:
- Why do I have different feelings for those people?
- Why do I feel so attached to the person I love?
You will be able to begin to see the basis of your problems:
- Someone you love because they've done this and that for you, etc... But if you wonder if those qualities are permanent, whether that person always does, you'll immediately see that it's not always it is like that. Today this person is a friend, tomorrow may become an enemy. This is a very real thing that happens often. In Buddhist terms, if you take into account many different lives. Your very close friend in one life may have been your enemy in another, and vice versa. In this case, you see no solid basis for emotional attachment or any other problem.
Also, look at the person you don't like, and ask yourself:
- Why do I have such negative feelings towards this person?
Maybe it's because that person messed with you. But if you wonder if the other person wants to be your enemy for the rest of his life, and you consider other lives as well, you may also find that the person in his previous life was sometimes very close to you, they were just enemies in this short time only.
You will see that there is no rational basis for you to be extremely angry with someone for long.
Finally, consider the person in the middle whom you feel indifferent to. If you ask the same question above, you will find that although this person has nothing to do with you now, they may have been important to you in other lives, or in the future of this very life. In this way, you will balance extreme feelings towards people, so that you can establish a solid basis for reasonable closeness with them.
Think of others as loved ones
After developing equanimity, you can practice the cultivation of dependent origination. That is, you cultivate the idea that sentient beings are all relatives like your parents, brothers, or friends. This teaching is of course based on the concept of time without beginning and end; Any sentient being was also once your parent, brother, or friend. This is how you relate to others and develop relationships with each other for many lifetimes.
This practice is important because, in nature, mothers play an essential role in the upbringing of their children. In animals, there are species that play the role of both parents taking care of their children, but most of them are the mother.
Reflecting on the compassion of sentient beings
The second thing in the practice is a contemplation of the kindness of sentient beings. In meditation, when you visualize the compassion of sentient beings, especially in the context of considering everyone has given birth to you in previous lives, you will naturally have the idea:
- I must repay this favor. I must recognize the deep affections they have bestowed upon me.
Such feelings often naturally arise in the hearts of virtuous, self-respecting, and so-called civilized people.
Once you acknowledge that everyone is as kind and loving as your mother, you will naturally feel close to them. On that basis, you cultivate compassion, which is defined as wishing for everyone's happiness, and you develop compassion, the wish for everyone to be free of suffering. Love-kindness and compassion are two sides of the same coin.
In short, to activate altruism, the first step to generating bodhicitta you have to have the mindset that:
- All sentient beings are really your parents.
In addition, you use the method of transforming the mind to see yourself as someone else, putting you on an equal footing with others. This is also the first stage of cultivating equanimity, although the word equality here is different from the word equality I mentioned before.
Here, equality is understood as the equality of all sentient beings, in the pursuit of happiness and freedom from suffering. Everyone is the same, all sentient beings are the same in that natural desire. Along with a will, do you believe you have the right to fulfill that wish? When you accept this, and you apply it to others, you will find that they also share the same basic desires
You have the right to fulfill your wishes, and so does everyone, they also have the same rights as you. That is the basis for you to recognize the equality of all sentient beings.
While practicing putting yourself on an equal footing with others, this is the stage where you develop an understanding of the fundamental equality of all. The next stage is a contemplation of the lack of excessively personal ideas of yourself, and their negative consequences, and contemplation of merits when you have a welfare mentality toward others.
You also have to compare yourself to people. You have to accept that you and others are equal from the ground up, in the pursuit of happiness and freedom from suffering. Then you recognize that all sentient beings, including you, have equal rights to fulfill the above wishes. No matter how important or insignificant a person is in the world, in terms of those desires, everyone is absolutely equal. When you see that everyone is equal, the mind of jealousy and hatred is no more.
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