All you do, for other’s sake

Standard

Directly, then, or indirectly,
All you do must be for other’s sake.
And solely for their welfare dedicate
Your actions for the gaining of enlightenment.

-Shantideva

Generally, I accept the teachings with a positive, enthusiastic attitude, even when they point out that my troubles are my own doing. I don’t mind being made aware that the responsibility is my own, even if it can take a while to sink in, or to admit that there’s more I could do.

When I first read this passage, though, I thought to myself, “Yes, wonderful, all for other’s sake! I’ll just do that!”

Then I did a quick mental scan of the things I enjoy doing and reality set in… “Wait… everything I do? Everything? Maybe I’ll save this enlightenment stuff for my next life!” I guess my attachments are stronger than my conviction.

Even though most of my activities aren’t really considered harmful, I can’t say they are really for the benefit of all beings, either.

But, even if it’s just my ego talking, can we hang on to this word “indirectly” a bit. Does that open things up a little, if I intend my actions to be for the sake of others. Is it enough if I go hiking and take my camera that I intend the experience and the photos to be shared with all of you? When I sit on the floor pouring tea, is enough to think that if one day you are sitting with me, I’ll have practiced enough to pour you the best cup of tea?

I’m not sure how these activities will lead any of us to enlightenment, so maybe I’m grasping here, but is the intention for them to enough? Or, if our activities truly benefit us, mentally, physically, or spiritually, isn’t that also indirectly a benefit to others in the end?

3 responses »

  1. According to the scholarly interpretations, intentions is the basis of practice. Some might say it’s good enough because the actions that follow will be guided by the intention for good or well-being. I’m not sure about that. But if we set the intention to do no harm and open to not-knowing, we’re doing what we can – in a “Right Effort” kind of way.

  2. Genju makes a good point. Also, we might consider how we separate “self” and “other” – and if there really is such a separation. After all, the Four Great Vows begin with “sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all.” How could that be possible, unless there was no separation?

  3. Thank you Genju, and Barry.

    Last night I was thinking about it more and had a similar thought. If the intention is truly there then action should be shaped by that.

    …as long as I can stay mindful !

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