Existence is Absurd without Compassion

Reaching out to all beings, I performed virtues and thus honored the Buddhas.
Firmly abiding only in the benefit of beings, I too attained perfections (pāramitā).
With the mind that arose for the benefit of all beings, the mighty Maras were conquered.
Traversing only for the sake of beings, thus, thus, I became the Buddha!

सत्त्वान् प्राप्य मया कृतानि कुशलान्य् आराधितास् तायिनः
प्राप्ताः पारमितश् च सत्त्वसमितेर् एवार्थम् आतिष्ठता।
सत्त्वार्थेन समुद्यतेन मनसा मारस्य भग्नं बलं
सत्त्वैर् एव तथा तथा विरचितं येनास्मि बुद्धः कृतः॥

– Sattvaaraadhana-stavam (verse 7)

In this deeply touching Mahayana discourse (called the ‘Salty River’ in the Bodhisattva-pìṭaka, and composed into verse form by Nagarjuna as ‘In Praise of Worshipping Sentient Beings’, the Buddha elucidates how arousing compassion for all beings and caring for them is the only way to discover our own awakened nature. The fellow beings that share this world with us, with all their sufferings and emotional turmoil, are to be placed in the depths of our hearts on a high pedestal and cared for. The mind of awakening (bodhicitta) can arise only from the deepest compassion to all beings of the world.

Existence is Absurd without CompassionCaring for sentient beings is the only way to honor the Buddhas, because every Buddha started his or her journey from the state of being an ordinary individual. Each of them entered the Way of awakening when he or she was deeply moved by the suffering of all beings. By striving only for the benefit of beings, they gradually reached the selfless perfection of generosity, discipline, patience, perseverance, meditation and wisdom (the six pāramitas). The mind that arose in them for the sake of beings, gave them the power to utterly defeat the maras – the demons of destructive emotions and narrow perceptions. As they conquered the demons of emotions and confusions, this journey of compassion lead them blissfully to realize their own perfect awakening as the Buddhas.

Further, they stayed in the world and benefited countless beings only out of their compassion for the beings. Buddha’s existence itself is absurd if there were no compassion. Thus, indeed there is no better way to honor the Buddhas and to take their teachings to heart than arousing compassion for all beings and striving for their benefit. Further, this great and equanimous compassion for beings transforms our lives and leads us directly to our own Buddhahood.

Our own existence is absurd and utterly meaningless (i.e., Samsara is meaningless) if we remain cocooned in the shell of self-interest. In that case, Samsara is a never-ending struggle of emotions and confusions with uncertain bouts of pain and pleasure. However, when the sprouts of great compassion for all beings without partiality arise in us, and when that combines with a clear understanding of the illusory nature of existence, it turns into the mind of awakening, Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta makes this existence utterly meaningful. When there is Bodhicitta, Samsara turns into the cradle of awakening. Then, this very world turns into a blissful place where absurd behavior of confused beings only leads us to deeper compassion, making the blissful and luminously awakened nature of our own minds shine brilliantly.

Compassion is the entrance to the Way. Compassion is the propelling force all through they Way. Compassion manifests as the fruition of the Way. Existence is absurd without compassion.

Yogi Prabodha Jnana
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