“Thus have I heard (evam maya shrutam)…”
The teaching that follows is neither a personal opinion nor an ‘original’ presentation. On the contrary, although committed to conveying these teachings in the context of place, time, and circumstance, it is the aspiration of all members of the Jonang lineage to be faithful to the authentic tradition, and to present the teachings without deviation or unwarranted innovation.
All living entities, from the humblest ant to the most sophisticated being, want happiness. All want to avoid suffering. Obviously, although this is a universal aspiration, most of us —if not all— fail miserably. We don’t know how to attain happiness and avoid suffering. Therefore, the teachings of every genuine tradition seek to instill in us the lesson that all suffering is the result of unskillful actions (thoughts, words, and deeds), and all happiness is the result of wholesome actions. We are then given rules of conduct, that we may cultivate virtue, and therefore merit; and that we may avoid error, and thus reduce our karmic debt.
But this will not lead to ultimate, permanent happiness —at best, it will lead to a temporary diminution or cessation of material suffering. Happiness is something positive. It is love. And love is service. The Dharma thus teaches that all suffering comes from trying to be happy separately from others, and all real happiness comes from contributing to the happiness of others.
Throughout this and countless lives (for those who accept transmigration), we are and have been intimately related to all other living entities —we have been their servants, their masters, their children, their parents, their friends, and their lovers. They have served us in so many ways, and provided for our livelihood and comfort. They have fed us, clothed us, and housed us. They have given us education and work. They have extended us every kindness.
Our so-called enemies have given us the opportunity to learn and to grow. Those who have harmed us have reinforced our determination. Those who have deceived us have deepened our insight. Those who have hurt us have reduced our karmic obstacles. Those who have abandoned us have taught us to be less dependent. Those who have made us stumble have strengthened our ability. Those who have denounced us and betrayed us have increased our wisdom and concentration. Those who have made us suffer have also made us firm and resolute.
At the very least, all other living entities have provided the conditions and the raw materials necessary for our continued existence. Whether we accept rebirth or not, and whether we are friends or enemies now, it matters little. Our fate is intertwined with the fate of all other beings. More importantly, there is only one of each of us, while living entities are innumerable. Thus, their collective happiness is necessarily more important, of more consequence, than our individual happiness.
Whether we call this totality the Absolute, God, the Universe, or ‘the living entities of the six realms’, we are less important than the whole; we are the servants of the whole. It is others who are to be cherished, as we are not the center of existence, the supremely and exclusively significant self that our minds make us out to be. We are part of the whole. If the whole is happy, we will also be happy.
- Generate compassion (the desire that they be free from suffering) for all living entities, cultivating the feeling that it would be wonderful to free others from suffering.
- Expand compassion progressively, beyond those who are close to you, both physically and emotionally, to include those who are furthest away.
- Extend compassion first to those who are now suffering more than you suffer, then to those who suffer as you suffer, and finally to those who are now suffering less than you suffer, but who have not yet attained perfect happiness.
- Repeat silently, with full conviction:
May what I’m about to do yield favorable results.
May it give me the capacity to benefit others.
May it help me overcome ignorance and limitation.
May it clear away all obstacles on the path.
May it lead me to the union of wisdom and compassion.
The purpose of the Aspiration is to establish the proper attitude and intention for all Dharma-related study, meditation, and practice.
When anything of value remains under our control, we are responsible for its maintenance and protection. Conversely, when we give away valuables, we are no longer required to protect them, and are indeed incapable of misusing them or causing them to deteriorate.
In the same way, when we accumulate merit by undertaking virtuous acts, such as completing any Dharma practice, if we dedicate that merit to the wellbeing of others, we guarantee that the beneficial results will be permanent.
- Generate compassion for all living entities (the desire that they be free from suffering) and loving kindness (the desire that they embrace all happiness).
- Expand compassion and loving kindness progressively, beyond those who are close to you, both physically and emotionally, to include those who are furthest away.
- Extend compassion and loving kindness, first to those who are now suffering more than you suffer, then to those who suffer as you suffer, and finally to those who are now suffering less than you suffer, but who have not yet attained perfect happiness.
- Repeat silently, with full conviction:
By the merit accrued through all my virtuous acts:
May all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all embrace happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all abide in peace, free from self-grasping.
May all attain the union of wisdom and compassion.
The purpose of Dedication is to prevent the deterioration of merit through its dedication to the welfare of all living entities.