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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
26 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 3 connections. But we use this understanding as a platform to transform our self-centeredness and the neuroses it leads to. As your capacity to express love and care grows, you don’t stop with your own family but try to reach out further—as much as possible. You learn to strike a balance, avoiding stretching too far so you don’t get hurt in the process. After a while, it doesn’t really matter whether some- one comes into your life with karmic connections from a past life or as a stranger. If you could treat both equally, wouldn’t that be wonderful? But even when you can’t accomplish that, at least recognize there’s a problem. In bodhisattva practice, not being able to treat a stranger with the same care and feelings that you afford to someone close to you is a problem, since they are both sentient beings. When your loving-kindness, compassion, and care are not based on me and mine but rather on seeing your child, spouse, or parents as sentient beings who long to be free and happy, your motivation becomes pure. The purity of your motivation in any relationship depends not on how closely related you are but on your intention. This is how we can become little bodhisattvas, little lamps, in our immediate situations, and light up our own small island. We don’t need to wait for a whole new karmic field to provide us with a situation where we can actively func- tion as a bodhisattva. That might never happen. There’s a saying, “As much as possible, with what you can see, with what you can touch—if you can be effective in that field as a bodhisat- tva, that’s where you will grow.” From that plat- form, we grow and extend ourselves. We strive to make our intentions in our existing relationships more pure and precise, based on nonattachment and genuine love and care, truly respecting the other person as a human being. Then we extend our love, care, kindness, and compassion by the methods of the bodhisattva’s way of life: seeing people, there is a need for dharma, a need to cultivate hearing wisdom, contemplative wis- dom, and meditative wisdom. These wisdoms teach us that as sentient beings, we are endowed with a mind naturally possessing the potential to love and be compassionate. This is how we define ourselves as sentient beings. Love and care are already an innate part of our mind, which shows that we all have buddhanature. Yet at the same time, because of our ignorance and confu- sion, we have unwittingly become self-centered. The overwhelming presence of me and mine is so strong that we have lost many opportunities to truly develop ourselves as bodhisattvas and become enlightened. In order to make any progress toward becom- ing free or benefiting others, we must first reduce this presence of me and mine. The way to do this is not through our old self-centered habits. When we think, “I am a father, therefore I love my child; I love my family; I love this or that person,” we are expressing care, but since we view these people as extensions of ourselves, it’s as if our care is directed toward ourselves. This is a form of self-indulgence. In the practice of the bodhisattva’s way of life, even though there is the same love and care, and the same kind thoughts and feelings, the basis is totally different. We don’t allow the basis for our relationships to be me and mine. Instead, we make sure that the basis is respect for the other person, another sentient being longing for happiness and free- dom from suffering, just like us. This is how we relate even to our own children or family mem- bers, and to others with whom we are karmically linked and have a natural bond. This recognition becomes the basis for extending our care, love, kindness, and compassionate thoughts and feel- ings. We still appreciate the connection and the bond that karma has created. We acknowledge that we more readily experience care and love toward those with whom we have these karmic Because each moment is so similar to the one that just vanished, we make up a continuum, just as we do when watching a movie. SASHAMEYEROWITZ