Friday, 4 May 2012

Inside, outside, let's do it right!

I saw this sign inside McDonalds, next to a rubbish bin. It is a reminder to patrons to throw their rubbish into the bin and to keep the restaurant clean.  However, I thought how apt  and relevant this message is for all of us. 

Today is the eve of Vesak Day. 

Because it is Vesak, I see many Buddhist friends and acquaintances preparing for this special day. The usual crowd would spend the day visiting temples or holy places to pray, to request for blessings and be involved in spiritual activities and/or charitable acts.  Some practitioners prefer to celebrate Vesak by doing extensive prayers and practice alone in solitary retreats or in groups.  On the other hand, many other Buddhists are busy, heavily involved in helping out or volunteering themselves in various dharma activities and events.   



While all the above groups of Buddhists are celebrating Vesak in different ways, they are reaping merits in different ways too. Everyone is planting different seeds of affinity with the Buddha Dharma. There is the bulk of the usual group of Buddhists who only visit temples to offer prayers on special days and not involved in daily practice. May they realise and recognise the need to study and practice the Dharma and may they meet the right teacher/guru to guide them so that they can be liberated the quickest possible. 

The second group of Buddhists are those who are devoted to their gurus, hardworking in studying the Dharma; attending teachings and going on long solitary retreats. However, mostly they prefer to practice alone and there may be a danger if the attitude is not proper. My guru Lama Zopa Rinpoche said, "It should bring some satisfaction to your life, some fulfillment to your heart. Why does that not happen? Because the motivation in your daily life is self-cherishing thought, working for self. It becomes more like a burden than enjoyment".  


The last group of Buddhists are involved in social service.  The essence of the Mahayana teachings is to cherish others, to benefit them with body, speech and mind. His Holiness the Dalai Lama emphasizes that Buddhism is “to not harm others and to benefit others", says Lama Zopa Rinpoche.  

“When a Buddhist does social service with a good heart, patience, bodhichitta and cherishing others, people feel their warmth, kindness and caring and are always happy to meet them. The student is able to give much peace, happiness, courage, and hope so the other person feels comfortable and relaxed. This is the way to communicate, to help people. You become an example for them to want to develop a good heart and be kind. By making them happy, it is easier to give them advice, explain Dharma, and make their lives meaningful. If you help with a proper attitude you can bring so much light into their lives and the unbelievable opportunity to develop patience, compassion, and bodhichitta; to purify many aeons of negative karma and collect infinite merit."

No matter which group of Buddhists we belong to, we must be mindful of our MOTIVATION

Our purpose and objective is very crucial and should not be for self. Do we go temple and pray for more money, more protection for ourselves?  Or do we do something in the aspiration to benefit others?  Or is our motivation to help others just lip service for others and to satisfy our own ego? Are we volunteering our service just to reap skies of merits or for the name of fame? Do we help out just to find many friends and for the sake of being popular? Are we offering service and serving the Sangha, but at same time, criticises our own guru? 

I have friends who tell me they are doing solitary retreats to gain liberation in the soonest possible time within this lifetime, so that they can liberate others in future lifetimes. But however, in the meantime, while they themselves are still in samsara, they ignore all others and feel handicapped to help them. They prefer to be in recluse from others. Is this the right motivation?  And from this attitude, will Bodhicitta arise? 

Lama Zopa Rinpoche has this advice,
“It is better to do social service with a good heart than to spend the life practicing in a wrong way, or even trying to meditate on lam-rim or Buddha, but only being able to do five minutes meditation and hours being spent in distraction or sleep. In that case just do a very short, good quality meditation and then do something for others. This way you are not lazy and make others happy. You are able to make your precious human life useful for somebody, even if it is not for all sentient beings. They get benefit, and when you see others happy, that makes you happy. So two wishes get fulfilled…”

Whether inside or outside, let's do it right. May all have the right motivation and proper attitude to benefit others as we celebrate Vesak Day tomorrow.

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