The Practice of Compassion
As Tushita welcomes His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Buddha of Compassion, once again, I would like to say just a few words about compassion.
Since the purpose of our lives is to live for the benefit of others, compassion is the most important meditation, or practice, you can do. Even though the Buddha’s teachings talk about billions of different meditations, or practices, that you could spend your whole life doing, this is the most important—benefiting others; living your life with an attitude of compassion for others. This is the real purpose of life, the real meaning of your life.
Even if you have only an hour to live, a minute to live, the purpose of life is still to live for the benefit of others, with a good heart, with compassion for others. Even if you have only a minute to live, only a minute of this precious human body left, the most important thing you can practice is compassion; nothing else.
The same thing would be true were you to have a hundred years to live, a thousand years to live, even an eon to live. To fulfill your life’s purpose, you would still have to live with compassion for others, for the benefit of others.
If you are enjoying a happy life, experiencing pleasure, in order for your life not to be empty, to be beneficial, useful, for others, you should practice compassion, live your life for the benefit of others.
If your life is unhappy, if you are experiencing relationship problems, if you have cancer or AIDS, if you are depressed, if your life is uncomfortable, even if you are encountering so many hundreds and hundreds of problems—health, relationship, job-related problems—that it seems as if you are drowning in a quagmire of problems, you should also practice compassion for others. If you can practice compassion at times like this, you will still be making your life meaningful, beneficial for others, useful for others, and therefore—by benefiting others—you will be constantly making your life beneficial for yourself. Cherishing others is the best way of cherishing yourself.
Cherishing others brings enlightenment
Cherishing others means that you don’t harm others, and not harming others is not harming yourself. Even in terms of protection, this is the best way to protect your life. Similarly, when you cause others to be happy, you bring happiness to yourself. The karma created by making others happy causes you to experience happiness too; that’s the kind of karma that results in happiness. Even if you don’t want happiness, once you have created its cause, that’s what results.
If you plant a seed in the ground and all the right conditions are present, such as perfect soil, water, and heat—everything is together and there are no obstacles—then no matter how much you pray for the plant not to grow, it will grow. It will definitely grow because the seed planted in the ground has met all the conditions necessary for growth; the cause and conditions have met. Since it is a dependent arising, it is inevitable that that the flower or fruit will grow, no matter how much you pray for it not to.
Similarly, if you lead your everyday life with compassion, bringing as much happiness to others as you possibly can, the natural result will be for you yourself to experience happiness, both now and in the future—there’s the immediate effect of peace of mind in this life and the long-term effect of happiness in all your future lives. All this is the definite result of bringing happiness and benefit to others.
Therefore, there is much to be gained by cherishing others, taking care of other living beings as you do yourself. Whether they are insects or humans, they are living beings just like you—wanting happiness; not wanting suffering. Just as you need the help of others to eliminate problems, so do they. Just as your happiness depends on others, so does theirs. Not only humans but also insects need your help. Their freedom from problems depends on you; their happiness depends on you.
Why is cherishing others, taking care of others as you do yourself, not harming but benefiting them, the best way of looking after yourself, taking care of yourself? Because it is through having a good heart, cherishing others, benefiting others, that all your own wishes get fulfilled.
In general, in the world, when others see a person who has a compassionate, loving nature, who is good-hearted, they get good vibrations, a positive feeling from that person. Even when strangers meet that person on the road, in airplanes, in offices or shops, just the sight of that person makes them happy, smile, want to talk. Because of your good heart, good vibrations, positive feeling, you make others happy. Even their facial expressions change to reflect their happy minds. Even if you aren’t experiencing any problems, others keep offering you help.
When you have a good heart towards others, all your wishes for your own happiness get fulfilled by the way. Even though your motivation, like that of a bodhisattva, is only the happiness of others and you have not a single expectation of happiness for yourself, even if everything you do, twenty-four hours a day, is exclusively dedicated to the happiness of others with not a thought for your own, you yourself will experience all happiness.
Because of their realization of bodhicitta, the attitude of those holy beings, the bodhisattvas, is such that they totally renounce themselves for others; they have no thought for their own happiness but instead spend every moment seeking the happiness of others. So what happens? With bodhicitta, they are able to develop the ultimate wisdom realizing the very nature of the I—the self and the aggregates, the association of body and mind that is the base that is labeled I—and all other phenomena. Because of their bodhicitta and the ultimate wisdom they develop, they are able to eradicate all errors of mind, the cause of all suffering—both the gross defilements, the delusions of ignorance, attachment and aversion, and the subtle defilements, which are in the nature of imprints left on the mental continuum by the delusions.
This, then, is the special feature of bodhicitta, because with its support you can develop not only the wisdom realizing emptiness but can also stop the subtle defilements and thus become fully awakened, attaining the state of omniscience, the fully enlightened mind, knowing directly and without a single mistake, not only the gross karma but also every single subtle karma of each of the numberless sentient beings; seeing all their different characteristics, wishes and levels of intelligence; knowing every single method that suits the minds of all these different sentient beings at different times; and revealing the appropriate method that suits the mind of each individual sentient being at different times in order to guide that being from happiness to happiness, all the way up to enlightenment.
Thus, bodhicitta allows your wisdom to function such that it can overcome even the subtle defilements, making your mind fully enlightened. In this way, bodhicitta allows you to become a fully qualified guide, a perfectly enlightened being, and therefore to liberate numberless other sentient beings from samsara, the ocean of suffering, and bring them into the peerless happiness of full enlightenment.
When we welcome His Holiness we make all kinds of offerings, and that is entirely appropriate and should be done. Still, the best offering we can make to him is our practice of compassion, as very briefly outlined above.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Buddha Amitabha Pure Land Retreat Center