Ven. Lama Zopa Rinpche.
The thought of bodhicitta is unbelievable. It makes everything other than working for sentient beings boring and unsatisfying. There is no real interest or enjouyment in life apart from this. Anything else is meaningless, empty, essenceless.
Real happiness and satisfaction start when you live your life for others. You retreat for others practice Dharma for others, study for others, work in the office for others, cook for others, When your attitude is transformed so that you do everything for others, to pacify their suffering and obtain their happiness, there is real satisfaction and peace in your heart.
When you are cherishing yoursedf, thinking only of yourself how can I be happy? How can I be free of problems? There is no happiness in your heart, only worry and fear. You see only problems and your mind is not relaxed. But in the next moment, when you change your object of concern to another sentient being- even if it is only one other sentient being- suddenly your heart is released from self- cherishing, like limbs released from chains.
As soon as your object of concern changes from yourself to someone else, your heart is released from the bondage of self cherishing thought. As soon as you change the object of your cherishing, there is suddenly peace in the very depths so yours heart. Right in the very moment that your mind changes from self cherishing to cherishing others, there is liberation, freedom from the tight bondage of the selfish mind.
We are responsible for all sentient beings:
To work perfectly to benefit all sentient beings. one has to achieve the state of omniscient mind - no matter how long it takes, so matter how hard it is . There is no other method. Until one achieves omniscient mind, the realizations of one's own mind are not complete and one cannot give sentient beings what they need, which is the highest, longest - lasting happiness. Achieving enlightenment is the most meaningful thing one can do to benefit oneself and to benefit other sentient beings.
You can understand the idea of highest happiness from an everyday examples: given a choice, even animals will choose the most delicious food and leave other feed that is not so interesting. Even a dog does this. And when shopping or doing business, people try to get the most profitable deal they can by buying the best quality, longest - lasting goods. Even though they may not know that they can achieve such a thing as enlightenment, in their daily lives, everyone wishes to get the best. Unless extremely poor, everyone tries to get the best. Unless extremely poor, everyone tries to get the best of everything, to build the best, longest - lasting house. Even though there may be no knowledge of enlightenment, there is a concept of peerless happiness. It is only because of sack of the Dharma Wisdom-eye that people are not aware that enlightenment is the main thing missing in their lives, and what they need to achieve.
Just as you are always trying to get the most in terms of happiness, sentient beings need the peerless happiness of full enlightenment, the state free of all obscurations and complete in all realizations. Having received a perfect human rebirfth, met a vertuous teacher to lead us on the path to liberation and enlightenment, and met the Buddhadharma - especially the Mahayana teachings - each of us has the opportunity to free all sentient beings from all obscuration and sufferings, and lead them to the fully enlightened state. We have this opportunity to help because we have received all the necessary conditions to develop our minds to generate the graduated path to enlightenment and to achieve omniscient mind, with great compassion for all sentient beings and the capacity to guide them. Therefore we are responsible for freeing all sentient beings from all suffering and its causes, the obscurations, and for leading them to the fully enlightened state.
I often use this example: If you saw a blind person walking towards a cliff, you would immediately grab him before he falls over the precipice. It wouldn't matter whether he asked for help or not. If you have all the necessary conditions -eyes to see, limbs to grab, voice to call - then you are capables of helping the blind person. simply by having these, you are responsible for helping the person who is in danger of falling off the cliff.
While having the capacity to help, if someone saw the situation and didn't help, this would be very cruel and shameful. Somehow it wouldn't fulfill the purpose of having eyes and limbs. which is to use them to help others, If such a thing happened, how pitiful it would be from the side of the blind person about to fail off the cliff; and how terrible from the side of the person who had all the conditions necessary to help, but didn't.
It is the same if , while we have all the necessary conditions, we do not practice bodhicitta, which is the essence of Buddddha's teachings, particularly the Mahayana teachings. If we don't develop this ultimate good heart, If we don't develop the capacity to guide sentient beings, If we don't achieve enlightenment in order to work perfectly for sentient beings, but always live our life with self - cherishing thought thinking of nothing other than our own happiness, this is very cruel and harmful We are completely responsible for leading all sentient beings to enlightenment.
Concern for other sentient beings a natural wish to give them happiness and not harm them. You don't want to lead those sentient beings to suffering. Remember the story of the bodhisattya captain who, by killing that one person who was planing to kill the five hundred traders, sacrificed himself completely. In order to save that person from creating negative karma, the Bodhisattva captain was willing to be reborn in the hells. But instead of becoming negative karma and cause of rebirth in the lower realms, his action of killing shortened his time in samsara by 100,000 eons. Buy generating bodhicitta and cherishing this one sentient being, by exchanging himself for this one sentient being, the bodhisativa captain accumulated incredible merit and came closer to enlightenment.
There is also a story about Asanga. For twelve years he tried to achieve Maitreya Buddha in his meditations, but for all those years he was unable to see Maitreya Buddha. One day when Asanga was returning to his cave, he saw a wounded dog full of maggots. He felt such unbearable compassion. First he cut flesh from his own leg and spread it out on the ground so that he could put ant maggots from the dog's body onto it. And then so as not to kill the maggots by removing them with his fingers, he bent down to pick them up with the tip of this tongue. As he leaned forward to do this, with his eyes closed, he found that he could not reach the dog. Asanga opened his eyes and saw Maitreya Buddha right there, instead of the dog. Sacrificing himself for what he saw as a wounded dog became a powerful purification only after this did Asanga see Maitreya Buddha.
There are many other stories like this. Sacrificing yourself to protect even one sentient being from suffering and to lead them to happiness is powerful purification not only does it purity may eons of negative karma. But it accumlates much merit, bringing you closer to enlightenment. Because you achieve enlightenment quickly by sacrificing yourself for even one sentient being is one reason to cherish others.
Cherishing yourself is an obstacle to the development of the mind, to the generation of realizations of the path. If you cherish yourself, there is no enlightenment; but if you cherish even one sentient being, there is enlightenment. Cherishing even sentient being makes possible the achievement of enlightenment.
So, there is a big difference. With self - cherishing thought there is no hope of enlightenment; but cherishing one sentient being, which purifies obscurations and accumulates extensive merit, leads you to enlightenment. From these stories and reasons, the conclusion is that even one sentient being is much more precious than you. Without considering how precious sentient beings are due to their great number, you can see that even one sentient being is unbelievably precious. There is no way to finish explaining the value of this sentient being, all the benefits you can gain from this one sentient being.
What is called "I" is the object to be abandoned forever; what is called "others" -even one sentient being - is the object to be cherished forever. The is why lining your life for others - dedicating your life to even one sentient being - gives the greatest enjouyment and the most interesting life. Real happiness in life starts when you cherish others. Lining your life for others, Cherishing them with loving kindness and compassion, is the door to happiness.
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