Take the example of a large bath tub. You want more warmth, so you begin to bring in with your hands all the warm water toward you. But what happens? It escapes pushing the warm water around and away from you. However, when you push the warm water away with your hands, the warmth circulates bringing more to you. (Try it the next time you have a bath. It actually works!) This example embodies the concept of Benefiting Others, Benefits the Self within Buddhism.
|Original Art by Tim Green aka atoach, available on Flickr.com|
Bai Juyi was taking a walk on a mountainside, deep in the forest. He was lost in thought when he saw something curious. Up in a large tree there was someone with their eyes closed doing meditation.
"Excuse me!" Bai Juyi said, "Don't you think it's a little dangerous to be up there with your eyes closed?"
Bird's Nest Monk replied, "The one who is in danger is you!"
Bai Juyi got the sense that this priest was no ordinary man, so he decided to introduce himself. "You know, I'm just a nobody. It's nice to meet you. They call me Bai Juyi."
"I'm Bird's Nest Monk. I'm also nameless. A pleasure."
"You know, this is a rather rare opportunity. I always wanted to know what Buddhism is all about," Bai Juyi said."In a few words, could you sum it up for me please?"
"Refrain from doing bad deeds and practice various good deeds. In short, 'stop evil; do good.'"
Bai Juyi became bemused. "But even a little kid knows this. Is this all the Buddha teaches?"
Bird's Nest Monk replied, "Even though a three-year-old boy knows it, it's difficult to practice even for an 80-year-old man."
At this Bai Juyi began to think more seriously about Buddhism, and the two carried on a discussion.
Update: Previously, this post originally ran with the names Hakurakuten (Bai Juyi) and Torinosu (Bird's Nest Monk). These are the Japanese names, but I decided to switch them to the original Chinese and English translations for ease of reference.
Sakyamuni Buddha narrowed down all the virtuous acts we could possibly perform into just six categories. He did this to make it easy for us to choose one and perform it to the very best of our ability and with all our hearts. By doing one with the strongest of intentions, you end up doing them all.
But for today let's focus on the first paramita of Generosity.
2.) Peaceful, Friendly Smile -- A friendly facial expression promotes harmony, smooths tensions, makes people feel comfortable in their environment
|Original Photo by mknobil available on Flickr.com|
3.) Kind Words -- A simple, warm "Hello!" can brighten someone's day and also make sure to say positive comments to people who have gone through difficult situations
4.) Physical Labor -- Doing chores, helping someone out for free and volunteering are great examples
6.) Offer Your Seat (position/role/title) -- Giving up an advantage to someone in need like the coveted front seat in a car
7.) Share Food / Shelter -- Offer visitors to your home and those in need of help a place to spend the night and share a meal with them
All seven of the above examples of generosity can be performed everyday, and they are all aimed to awaken the mind of a bodhisattva within us.
A bodhisattva is one who is seeking for true happiness. If you sincerely practice these good deeds with keeping these paramitas in mind, you will be happier and even come closer to knowing the meaning of life. Just give it a try and choose one today -- Generosity, Keeping Your Word, Patience, Making Effort, Self-Reflection, or Wisdom!
But we just can't perform good acts to anyone. Sakyamuni Buddha taught that we should plant seeds in the Three Fields of Fortune.
|Original Photo by irokurcazbah available on Flickr.com|
But by not putting it into practice -- we don't really know it at all.
What goes around really does come around. Everything little thing we do influences our future karma. So we should reflect deeply and choose wisely to plant seeds of happiness with all our decisions in life.
Karma of the Mind
3.) Foolishness -- Not Knowing the Law of Cause and Effect
Karma of the Mouth
5.) Double-Tongue -- Telling one person one thing, and another something else
7.) Bad Mouth -- Using foul language and speaking ill of others
Karma of the Body
10.) Adultery -- Being unfaithful to one's partner
The more of the Ten Bad Deeds we allow ourselves to perform, especially killing, stealing, or adultery, the more we also lose ourselves. And we're committing evils like these all the time with our words and thoughts... and most of that time we're not even noticing!
On the surface level as human beings we seem to be good-natured, but the Buddha's perspective reveals otherwise to us.
However, we can't see anything evil or wrong in our nature at all unless we first perform good deeds like the Six Paramitas with the utmost sincerity and dedication.
Along the way, conceit is the hardest obstruction and distraction while seeking for the truth. It's our own inability to see clearly who we are and what we do.
We must go forward by performing good deeds and listening closely to the teachings of Buddhism. By doing so, we get closer to realizing our true image in the Mirror of Dharma.