Universal Responsibility

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[ By Lama Zopa Rinpoche, edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Ailsa Cameron ]

When we feel compassion for a person or an animal, we wish that being to be free from suffering. When our compassion is strong, we don’t simply wish for this but actually do something about it. We ourselves take responsibility for freeing that being from their suffering. By having compassion we at least stop giving harm to them.

In a couple, if at least one person has compassion, the other has more peace. If the wife has compassion and practices the good heart even though her husband doesn’t, she doesn’t retaliate even if he is a bad-tempered, selfish person. Therefore, he has more peace. Not receiving harm from her is peace that he receives from her. So, she is responsible for his peace. Even his mind can then gradually change. Because of her example as someone who continuously practices compassion and the good heart, he can also gradually transform his mind into the good heart. As he follows her example, he can slowly practice the good heart. When both of them practice the good heart, there will be incredible harmony and peace in their lives.

The peace and happiness of a wife depends on her husband and his peace and happiness depends on her. Their happiness is dependent on each other. They have responsibility for each other as how their life is going to turn out depends on the other person.

When we practice compassion, since we don’t give harm to the people around us, that is peace that they receive from us. In the same way, when we practice compassion, since the many millions of people in our country don’t receive harm from us, that is peace that they receive from us. Not only that, but when we practice compassion, since all the human beings and animals in the whole world don’t receive harm from us, that is peace that they receive from us. Since all sentient beings don’t receive harm from us, that is peace that they receive from us.

All other sentient beings receive peace not only by our stopping giving harm, but also by receiving help from us. When our compassion is strong, we do something; we ourselves take responsibility for freeing others from their sufferings. At the very least we don’t give harm to others, which means all sentient beings then receive peace and happiness from us.

If each of us practices compassion for the one person (or however many people there are in our family), they don’t receive harm from us, which means they receive peace. In addition, all the many millions of people and animals in our country and in the world don’t receive harm from us, which means they receive peace. Not receiving harm itself is peace that they receive from us. On top of this, we then take responsibility for doing something to free them from their sufferings. So, all sentient beings don’t receive harm from us, and they receive peace and happiness from us. All this peace and happiness that sentient beings receive from us is dependent on us.

Therefore, each of us is completely responsible for everyone’s happiness, starting with our family, the people and animals closest to us, and extending to all sentient beings. Each of us is completely responsible for pacifying all the sufferings of all sentient beings and for bringing them happiness. It is completely in our hands. If we don’t develop our mind, if we don’t transform our mind from self-cherishing thought to the thought of cherishing others, we will continuously give harm to other sentient beings. The actions that come out of self-cherishing thought directly or indirectly harm other sentient beings, starting with the people and animals closest to us and extending from there to all sentient beings. Their receiving harm is dependent upon us. If we act with self-cherishing thought, all sentient beings directly or indirectly receive harm from us, and from life to life.

If we transform our mind into the altruism that cherishes other sentient beings, all sentient beings won’t receive harm from us; they will receive peace and happiness. Whether or not we cause happiness to every other sentient being is completely in our own hands. It depends on our mind, on the kind of attitude we generate.

Our own happiness and comfort in daily life are dependent on the kindness of others. Even the happiness that comes from receiving praise or a compliment is dependent on the kindness of others. Our happiness is dependent on the attitudes and actions of others. It is the same with the people and animals around us. All the happiness and comfort of the people we live with at home and work with in the office is dependent on us. When we smile at them, they’re happy. When we look at them with compassion and a loving smile, it makes them happy; it brings them happiness and comfort. If we respect them, it makes them happy; it brings them happiness and comfort. The happiness of the people and animals around us is dependent on our own attitude toward them, on whether we have a negative or a positive attitude.

Our attitude to others manifests even in our physical appearance. According to the attitude we have toward others, our physical appearance is pleasant or unpleasant. If our attitude is negative, if we are angry or have a dissatisfied, self-centered mind only concerned about seeking our own happiness, that uptight mind manifests in an unpleasant appearance and an unpleasant vibration. Other people can feel that we aren’t kind and warm-hearted; we don’t have a good vibration. As our heart is closed toward others, other people don’t find it easy to communicate with us; they can’t make a connection. If we live our life with negative attitudes, since our actions are disrespectful and careless toward other sentient beings, we harm others. Our attitude disturbs the minds of others, making them unhappy.

The day-to-day happiness and comfort of the people and animals around us is dependent on our own attitude. We are responsible for the happiness of all sentient beings, starting with the people and animals around us. We can see very clearly how each of us has this universal responsibility.

 

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