The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Monday Mindful Morsel: The Easy Path

by Lydia Anderson
December 30, 2013
Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:30 -- landerson

Today's morsel comes from The Easy Path: Illuminating the First Panchen Lama’s Secret Instructions by Gyumed Khunsur Lobsang Jampa, a translation and commentary of The First Panchen Lama’s Easy Path (de lam). In this selection, Geshe Lobsang Jampa looks at the work's instructions for generating bodhichitta: equalizing and exchanging self with others. The Panchen Lama teaches this method in a unique manner that had been passed down in an oral tradition from Lama Tsongkhapa. If you look in Lama Tsongkhapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path or his Middle-Length Stages of the Path, you’ll see that he first teaches the seven-point cause-and-effect instructions and then teaches equalizing and exchanging self with others separately after that.

The Benefits of Cherishing Others

Cherishing others is the source of all good qualities. Therefore I’ll develop newly the cherishing of others that I’ve not yet produced, and I’ll increase from high to higher that which I have already produced. Please bless me, guru deity, to be able to do that.

Next comes reflecting on the benefits of cherishing others. In Eight Verses of Mind Training, Geshe Langri Tangpa compares sentient beings to wish-fulfilling jewels, gems that can bestow anything you request. When you cherish others, you see them as extremely precious like that. You treasure them. Arya Nagarjuna expresses something similar in his Discourse on Wish-Fulfilling Jewels when he says that there’s no difference between sentient beings and wish-granting cows, buddhas, deities, and gurus. When you love others, you see them as precious, as sources of good. Master Atisha regularly taught that for him the Three Jewels of refuge, his special deity, his guru, and the sentient beings of the three realms were all equally important. In his Compendium of Trainings, Shantideva similarly wrote that one should venerate and please sentient beings, poetically likening them to wish-granting jewels, wish-granting cows, precious vases, and also to gurus and deities. He explained that for someone traveling the path to enlightenment, cherishing other sentient beings is utterly essential.

There are two merit fields in relation to which we create the causes of enlightenment. One is the field of enlightened beings, such as the visualized merit field described earlier. The other equally important one is the field of sentient beings. Without others, you cannot practice compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, and so forth. All the good qualities of the stages and paths come from cherishing others!

Earlier you contemplated the kindness of others in past lives when they were your mother. Here you contemplate on others’ kindness in the past, present, and future. In terms of mother sentient beings’ kindness in the present, you think about how everything good in your life depends on others. The food you eat was mainly grown by others. Eggs, milk, and cheese came from others’ bodies. If you’re not vegetarian, then the meat you eat was others’ bodies! The materials for your home, your clothing, and so forth came from others. Any knowledge or wisdom you may have arose in dependence on the kindness of others who educated you. And of course the meaning and joy you find in being loving, generous, or ethical totally depend on the other sentient beings in relation to whom you engage in those feelings and behaviors.

Regarding the kindness of mother sentient beings in the future, you can think about how all the spiritual practices leading to higher rebirth, liberation, and enlightenment necessitate relying on other sentient beings. The practices of ethics, generosity, patience, love, compassion, and bodhichitta all totally depend on others. Giving rise to any positive spiritual realizations and qualities is utterly dependent on others. So contemplate the infinite kindness of all mother sentient beings toward you in the past, present, and future, developing a deep sense of appreciation, treasuring them from your heart.

You can also recall that if you wish to please the buddhas, you must cherish and please other sentient beings. When the Buddha was a bodhisattva who first generated bodhichitta, his sole purpose was to benefit all other sentient beings. As he practiced the path, all along he strove to benefit others. And once he attained buddhahood, his whole being was completely dedicated to the welfare of others. So of course it’s your loving and helping others that most pleases the buddhas!

A verse from the Guru Puja that’s helpful for reflecting on the advantages of cherishing others is:

The mind that cherishes mothers and would secure them in bliss
is the door leading to infinite qualities.
Seeing this, I seek your blessings to cherish wandering beings
more than my life, even should they rise up as my enemies.

The mind that cherishes others is grounded in reality. It is characterized by warmth, affection, and loving-kindness for others. It naturally gives rise to other positive emotions and leads you to wisdom. It grants happiness in this life and happiness in future lives. It leads you to the high realizations of a bodhisattva and to the non-abiding nirvana of buddhahood itself! Cherishing others is the source of all good qualities.

To learn more about The Easy Path, click here.

Categories and Tags