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Cultivating altruistic intention

Cultivating altruistic intention

Buddha statue in silhouette against sunset.
There is no training higher than compassion. (Photo by Angela Marie Henriette)

Once upon a time, I was a Buddhist because I wanted to “help everyone.” Read: “Show everyone that their way was wrong and mine was right, if they’d just let me show them.” Now I don’t concern myself with such madness. I work for others’ benefit. Their benefit is freedom from suffering. That freedom will look different to all of us. Who am I to decide what it must look like? That is to say, life has become very “organic” lately. It feels like life.

Guess that seems like a strange statement. It simply means that I feel like I’m actually living my life, the good and the bad, for a change now. It’s good.

The most precious and profound teaching I’ve heard says,

Thus, venerable compassionate Gurus, inspire me so all negativities, obscurations and sufferings of mother beings ripen upon me right now and I give my happiness and virtue to others, securing all wanderers in bliss.

There is no training higher than compassion, no thought that excels bodhicitta, and no teaching that surpasses the bodhisattva-dharma. One can say, “I have mastered the Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (by Shantideva),” but they are either fools or speaking relatively and therefore should qualify the statement. One can say, “The Perfection of Wisdom excels all other teachings, even lojong (thought training),” but that is foolish. Thought training and the perfection of wisdom aren’t two different things.

Simply put, all these teachings boil down to one instruction, “Train your mind!” In what? Bodhicitta. Relative or ultimate? Both. In meditation or out? Both. Always! That’s the point. It’s always the point. Ten thousand pages of Dharma, one lesson.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.

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