DHARMA IN EVERYDAY LIFE
- INITIATING ALTRUISM
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
an inspirational prayer, said:
can free you from lower attitudes, lead you to rebirth in
higher realms, and can even take you beyond old age and
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.
summarize as follows:
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
beings often wish
water, wind, fire, herbs, and woods
May I be
close to sentient beings
they are very close to me
accept all their mistakes
them all the good qualities in me.
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.
Shantideva's guide to the bodhisattva path, Shantideva
describes his mighty aspiration that transcends time and
space as follows:
- When there
was a world
were living beings
I swear to
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.
Candrakirti writes poetically in his book Finding the Middle
- 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.
now is how to develop bodhicitta?
two aspects to being able to develop Bodhicitta as once
- Wishes to
help others and
- Wish I was
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
is beneficial for others
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:
compassion is the foundation of wholesome qualities, the
root of the Mahayana path, and the heart of bodhicitta.
Bodhisattva in the Mahayana-sutralamkara teaches that:
is the root, the basis of Bodhicitta.
Master Chandrakirti in the Madhyamakavatara always says:
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
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
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
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.
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
stage describes altruism as a kind of formless compassion
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
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
two main methods to help you develop this intimacy in
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.
second method is the practice of causes and conditions that
emphasize cultivating your passionate attitude towards
everyone, not just your loved ones.
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.
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.
practice developing equanimity, it is sometimes beneficial
to use visualization. Let's say you picture three people in
front of you:
- A very
- The second
person is an enemy you don't like at all and
- The third
person you neither love nor hate.
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
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:
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
at the person you don't like, and ask yourself:
- Why do I
have such negative feelings towards this person?
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
You will see
that there is no rational basis for you to be extremely
angry with someone for long.
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.
others as loved ones
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.
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
on the compassion of sentient beings
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.
feelings often naturally arise in the hearts of virtuous,
self-respecting, and so-called civilized people.
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:
sentient beings are really your parents.
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.
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.
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.
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
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