Clear Motivation

"Be kind whenever possible. It's always possible" – The Dalai Lama

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Don’t Worry, He’s Nice

Jogging around the block the other day, I approached a dog sitting on someone’s lawn. The dog stood up and started to come towards me, and a man standing nearby quickly called out, “Don’t worry – he’s nice!”

Isn’t that often all we need to hear? All of my anxieties, suspicions, and soreness that come between me and others – when I really trust those words, they immediately fade away. I can see the other person, or dog, as simply another being. I can stop worrying about what harm may come to me if I let my guard down.

Holding up a guard itself creates the tension that leads to so many unsatisfying encounters. Clinging to my self and the safety of my ego is what leads me to turn others into enemies. First comes a negative image – a judgment – of them. Then, thinking I’m standing before someone who could do me harm, I act like a jerk. Acting like a jerk, the recipient of my unfriendliness is now inclined to reciprocate that behavior. As the pattern repeats, enemies are born as easily as fears.

I think to get over this habit, we need to realize that we ourselves are nice. Once, the Buddha was in a village with 500 of his disciples. A mad elephant was let loose and began rampaging through the village, running straight for the Buddha. All of the villagers ran away, as did the monks. Yet, the Buddha remained still, totally unafraid. Only Ananda stayed with him. As the elephant came closer, the Buddha radiated metta (loving-kindness) towards the wild beast. By the time the elephant reached the Buddha, he stopped in his tracks and bowed down before the Buddha.

The Buddha’s heartfelt love for this elephant aroused him from his nightmare anger. This love told the elephant, “Don’t worry – You’re nice!” It allowed her to see her basic goodness, the inner purity of her mind. It’s like how many people, from all walks of life, report feeling something quite unique and enjoyable when in the presence of H.H. the Dalai Lama. His profound love reminds us that we’re far more than we’re ordinarily aware of. It’s very hard to stay angry around someone like that!

Realizing that my own basic nature is related with this kindness enables me to give up my hostility. I can replace the usual anxiety and suspicion of others with warmth and affection for them. When everyone I meet is a friend, no matter what they do, everything is a favor.

Since everyone appreciates kindness, this attitude spreads. If I can hold on to the awareness of my own capacity for love, I’ll share it with those around me. I’ll see the kindness of others.

Today, I’ll practice being mindful of the power of love and train myself to dwell there. Thus, all beings around me, my friends, my mothers, will be encouraged to awaken their own potential for limitless love.


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The Buddha’s Caring

The following is from the section on the good qualities of Buddha’s mind from Lama Tsongkhapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment .  Tonight, I’ll allow these words to touch my heart and let the meaning sink in. I’ll rest in a space of wonderment and admiration for compassion and the Buddha’s perfect embodiment of it.

“(ii) The good qualities of caring

In the same way that living beings are bound inescapably by the afflictions, so is the Sage bound by great compassion, which thus arises continuously as he beholds the suffering of living beings. You should reflect on this as set forth in the Praise in One Hundred and Fifty Verses:

The afflictions bind all

These beings without exception.

You, in order to release them from the afflictoins,

Are eternally bound by compassion.

Should I first make obeisance to you,

Or to the great compassion that causes you

To dwell for so long in cyclic existence

Despite knowing its faults?

Also, the Chapter of the Truth Speaker says:

The Supreme Sage feels great compassion

When he sees beings whose minds

Are constantly obscured by the dark gloom of ignorance,

Locked in the prison of cyclic existence.

And also:

The Conqueror feels great compassion when he sees beings

Whose minds are overwhelmed by attachment,

Who have great craving and always long for sensory objects,

And who have fallen into the ocean of craving’s attachment.

The One Possessing the Ten Powers feels compassion

Which seeks to dispel all suffering

When he sees the afflictions of beings

Harmed by a multitude of illnesses and miseries.

The Sage’s compassion arises constantly;

It it impossible for it not to do so.

The Buddha is free of faults because he is concerned

With the needs of all living beings.”

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Shantideva’s Dedication

May all beings everywhere,

plagued by sufferings of body and mind,

obtain an ocean of happiness and joy

by virtue of my merit.

May no leaving creature

suffer, commit evil or ever fall ill

May no one be afraid or belittled

with a mind weighed down by depression.

May the blind see forms and the deaf hear sounds.

May those whose bodies are worn with toil

be restored on finding repose.

May the naked find clothing,

the hungry find food.

May the thirsty find water and other delicious drinks.

May the poor find wealth,

those weak with sorrow find joy.

May the forlorn find hope,

constant happiness and prosperity.

May all who are ill or injured

quickly be free from their ailments.

Whatever diseases there are in the world,

may these never occur again.

May the frightened cease to be afraid

and those bound be freed.

May the powerless find power,

and may people think of benefiting each other.

For as long as space endures

and as long as living beings remain,

until then may I too abide

to dispel the misery of the world.


Shantideva, from the Bodhicaryavatara (Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of life)

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Offer Every Benefit and Happiness to All Beings

In short, I will offer directly and indirectly

Every benefit and happiness to all beings, my mothers.

I will practice in secret taking upon myself

All their harmful actions and suffering.

Here, again from the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation is a presentation of the profound pith instruction for generating bodhicitta, the mind intent on full enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. The instruction is so simple, yet totally tears the fortress of our self-centered world asunder.

Offering direct benefit and happiness can come in infinite forms. I can smile and say hello to people, open doors as others make their way inside, give material aid, lend a hand where its needed, volunteer time to help friends with projects or to serve people in need, or give the gift of Dharma.

Offering indirectly is to imagine giving my body and all my possessions, along with all my good qualities and positive actions, to others. Visualizing that all beings receive exactly what they need to fulfill their deepest yearnings for happiness and seeing that they become satisfied is a practice that allows loving-kindness to flourish in my mind. Because possessing great impartial love will enable me to powerfully give direct benefit and will prevent me from harming others, this practice indirectly benefits others. Further, simply wishing others well does seem to have an actual effect on others.

Taking upon myself the harmful actions and suffering of others increases my compassion. It overwhelms my fearful and miserly mindset that wants to protect myself, even at the cost of others. It allows me to see that clinging to my own security and welfare is really like affixing a clamp to my heart, constraining the full potential for me to experience true openness and happiness. It destroys this self-fixation, totally changing my experience of the world and making every interaction I have with others a cause for rejoicing.

I take harmful actions because these are the cause of suffering. Taking their suffering, I imagine that they are free of the miserable effects of harmful actions.

I visualize black smoke entering in my left nostril as I inhale, bringing the suffering of others into myself. It hits my heart, where the essence of my self-centeredness hides, and like an intense bolt of lightning striking a tree, incinerates this lump of selfish concern.

In self-centered thoughts’ absence, a beautiful and serene white light permeates outwards, pervading all worlds and bringing with it exactly what each living being needs and desires.

Today, I will practice this verse of transforming my mind into an abode of compassion. I’ll joyfully accept any hardship or difficulty that I come across, taking it in along with the pain of all others. With delight, I’ll burst open the seems of selfishness to offer to all beings – my mothers – any happiness or good condition I happen to have.

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When Someone Hurts Me, I Will See Them as My Teacher

When someone I have benefited

And in whom I have placed great trust

Hurts me very badly,

I will practice seeing that person as my supreme teacher.

What is it that someone I love and trust can teach me by turning against me and harming me? They teach me about the reality of cyclic existence.

Nothing is certain. None of the people or things that I love and trust will stay the same for even two consecutive moments, much less forever. Sentient beings, myself included, are under the control of mental afflictions and habit-forming imprints of previous actions. Strangers turn to friends, then to enemies, then back to strangers, all depending on conditions that are largely out of my control. I am not the center of the universe, and there’s no universal law saying that others have to please me.

If I exert myself in benefiting others simply to be respected and appreciated or to receive praise or reward, this is clearly going to leave me disappointed. Even if people I’ve benefited don’t purposefully hurt me, but just don’t happen to notice the things I did, I will feel hurt if I’m expecting some grand acknowledgement.

Thus, these people are pointing out my desire for good reputation and approval, and it is only by seeing it clearly through these experiences that I will understand that it is a faulty attitude and abandon it.

It is my supreme teacher who shows me that security comes from the intention to be of benefit to others without hope or expectation of what will come of it. It is my teacher who shows me through direct life experiences the truth of Buddha’s teaching of impermanence – “All birth ends in death. All meetings end in separation. Whatever is accumulated is dispersed. Whatever is high falls low.”

Today, I will practice this verse from The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation. I’ll bring my expectations in accord with reality – instead of assuming dear ones will always be there for me, I’ll understand that this is actually impossible. No matter what our relationship entails while it lasts, we will at one time or another separate.

Then, if they happen to actually harm me, I’ll be able to remain peaceful and loving. I’ll remember that we’re both just sentient beings doing our best to achieve happiness, but out of confusion creating causes for suffering instead. In this way, humility and compassion will arise in my heart.

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Bedtime Motivation

Setting a motivation before bed is just as important as doing so on waking. Contemplating one’s motivation before doing any activity and making it positive will necessarily make that activity bear positive fruits.

Tonight, as I lay to sleep, I’ll think of beings who do not have a warm bed to sleep in tonight. Refugees from Syria in crowded camps; homeless people in every part of the world; animals displaced from their abodes. None of these beings has a smaller yearning for comfort than me nor is any less deserving of happiness than myself.

Yet, they suffer. Tonight, I’ll cultivate compassion for these beings, wishing that they enjoy my good conditions and happiness and that I take their place in enduring miserable conditions. Going to sleep ‘like this will make this even seemingly passive activity extremely meaningful.

Seeking Refuge in the Awakening Mind

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I will use this teaching to motivate my actions throughout the day –

Bodhicitta (literally, “the mind/heart of awakening/enlightenment”) is a mind with the intention to attain the fully purified and perfected state of a Buddha in order to be able to benefit all sentient beings.

Today, I will reflect on the advantages of developing this mind. I will strengthen my confidence that it is the most worthwhile endeavor. I will show myself that it is possible to develop it. And I’ll let it guide my actions throughout the day, taking my focus away from my own self-centered concerns and looking towards others as the object of my care. All the while, I’ll keep in mind the long-term intention that dedicates my actions as causes to progress towards the fully awakened state.