For the Benefit of All Beings

When we understand that our journey on the Path is for the benefit of all, it transforms us.  It also uplifts all beings in a rippling effect from those touched by our lives, to all those they influence, and so forth, endlessly. 

Good will is the cement that holds the dharma together.  It isn’t the topic of many Buddhist scriptures, but it’s a basic assumption that underlies all of the teachings.  

If we meditate just for ourselves, the benefits will be minimal.  Yes, the stress level will come down, and we’ll be better at focusing on our tasks.  These are important and can improve our lives materially.  But we’d be missing most of what mindfulness practice has to offer. 

I know people who’ve meditated for decades but skipped important aspects of the Eightfold Path, which includes conduct based on kindness as well as understanding what causes and what can liberate us from suffering.  Kind intention is a key part of how the Path frees us from mental and emotional habits that make life unpleasant.

I recently had a prolonged encounter with a 7-inch centipede determined to occupy my motel bathroom, in a story that I’m sure will grow over the years.  When my wife told it to her mother, the response was puzzled.   “Why didn’t you just kill it?” she asked.  The answer wouldn’t fit into a phone call. 

First, the critter was big, and fast, and really scary looking.  But our reaction to it was conditioned by years of not wanting to cause any being unnecessary harm.  Ultimately, we slapped over it a waste basket with a rim around the bottom, effectively imprisoning it until after our departure.  We warned the motel staff as we checked out.

To live fully, we need to listen not just to our logical minds, but also to our hearts, and they need to be ruled by good will.  When they are, we feel happier.  It’s hard, probably impossible, to be unhappy at the same time we are feeling generous.  Practicing metta fills our hearts with a growing joy.  It also guides us to engage with this world in a way that benefits us without collateral damage to others.  Even to scary centipedes.

When metta guides our meditation itself, it enables us to face and let go of difficult memories or mental activities that are revealed when the mind relaxes.  This begins a healing that’s truly transformative.  Day by day, as we continue to practice and live with a heart guided by lovingkindness, the world is better for us and for all beings.

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