As part of our #MeditationHacks series, a Mahayana Buddhist who is encouraged to practice for the benefit of all sentient being feels like they are only practicing for their own benefit. Venerable Thubten Chodron answers.
I’m part of a Mahayana Buddhist dharma center where we are encouraged to practice for the benefit of all sentient beings. I like the idea of practicing to benefit everyone, but even after many years, I feel like I’m still practicing for my own benefit so I’ll suffer less. Is that a problem?
Thubten Chodron: The Mahayana intention is to attain buddhahood in order to benefit all sentient beings most effectively. It is based on great compassion—the wish that everyone be free from suffering and its causes—and great love, the wish that everyone have happiness and its causes. These are noble states of mind, ones that take years if not lifetimes to cultivate and make stable.
It takes time to uproot our self-centeredness, because the attitude of looking out for ourselves first is deeply ingrained in our minds. Fortunately, it’s not an innate quality and can be gradually abandoned as we cultivate its antidotes. Seeing the disadvantages of self-centeredness opens our hearts to cherishing others. Doing this is a slow, but worthwhile process. It takes time to transform our minds, but however long it takes, we can take comfort in knowing we are going in a wonderful direction.
Seeing the disadvantages of self-centeredness opens our hearts to cherishing others. Doing this is a slow, but worthwhile process.
Initially our reason to mediate will be primarily for our own benefit, so that we’ll suffer less. That’s normal. But slowly, slowly, as we open our hearts to others’ kindness and see that they are just like us—that we all want happiness and freedom from misery—our perspective will broaden to include more and more sentient beings.
As we experience the benefit of generating love, compassion, and altruism—the joy and freedom in our hearts—we will be inspired to continue. Each day we generate these feelings—even when they are a bit contrived—we are planting seeds of virtue in our mindstream. Please be patient and give yourself credit for the small steps you are taking to go in this most wonderful direction.
Read more from our #MeditationHacks series…
Your Partner Disapproves?
A new meditator’s spouse disapproves of their newfound practice. Susan Piver, founder of The Open Heart Project, answers.
Other Ways to Practice?
Vipassana teacher Konda Mason answers the question: “Is it OK if I find other ways to be meditative besides sitting on a cushion following my breath?”
Not Enlightened Yet?
Author and musician Miguel Chen comforts a practitioner who doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to enlightenment.
Buddhist Traditions: Which Way to Go?
Rev. angel Kyodo williams, founder of the Center for Transformative Change, advises on what to do when confronted with too many choices.
Author and psychoanalyst, Pilar Jennings, offers advice to a practitioner who continues to feel unworthy and unloved.
Sleepy Mind, Monkey Mind?
Anita Feng, teacher for the Blue Heron Zen Community in Seattle, helps a practitioner navigate the path between drowsiness and daydreaming.
Is Meditation Painful?
Buddhist teacher Mushim Patricia Ikeda suggest alternatives when meditation becomes too painful.
Don’t Like Meditating?
Lila Kate Wheeler, author and trainer at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, answers what to do if you don’t like to meditate.
Practicing for Myself?
A Mahayana Buddhist who is encouraged to practice for the benefit of all sentient being feels like they are only practicing for their own benefit. Venerable Thubten Chodron answers.
Meditation Leading to an Unstable Mind?
Josh Bartok, a Zen teacher, suggest what to do if meditating leads to an unstable mind.
Still a Schmuck?
A reader asks Sylvia Boorstein: “What’s the point of practice if it’s not making me a better person?”
Overwhelmed by Emotions?
Author and lay Zen teacher Susan Moon is asked: “Should I stop meditating when emotions begin to overwhelm me?”
Practicing on Your Own?
An isolated practitioner asks dharma teacher Mitchell Ratner where to look for community.