The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Faults of Cyclic Existence”
We have been brought up to understand that we are the most powerful country in the world. And we are, of course, the most enlightened people in the world; and we are, of course, the most advanced people in the world; and we are, of course, because we have Estee Lauder, the most beautiful people in the world. We are brought up with all these different beliefs. And whether we swallow them consciously or not, subconsciously they are in there somewhere rattling around, and we have this faith in our way of life. One thing that we can do is to think of ourselves as able to help others. One thing that is very popular in our society is the idea that it is a beneficial thing and a good thing and a virtuous thing and a fulfilling thing to help others. We are always looking for fulfillment. So the idea of compassion is a way to move ourselves into a foundation for meditation and practice. In my own experience (and I don’t claim to be such an experienced teacher), but in my own experience I have found that if I go to a new place that has never heard about the Buddha’s teaching, or if I go to a place that has heard a little bit and wants to hear more, or even if I have gone to students that have studied Buddhism for some time, if I want to touch them or refresh them so that they can continue in a determined way in their practice, or have them open up to the potential of practice and be stabilized to the extent that they can begin to practice earnestly, I can always rely on the idea of compassion to do that.
Westerners are excited by the idea that they might be able to benefit others. They are aware to some extent that the rest of the world is suffering. We don’t like to think about it, but to some extent we are aware that poverty exists, and hunger and sickness. I have found that Westerners are kind people. We are kind people. We want very much to end suffering; we very much want to help others. And there are many people who will practice if they really understand that this meditation will help them bring about the end of suffering for other people, will help them be a helper to others. They will practice for that reason. But strangely they will not practice to end their own suffering. They will continue to try to manipulate the circumstances in their life, or change things around, or try this or try that; but they will not really develop a firm foundation of practice because they themselves are suffering. They are not sufficiently motivated by their own suffering. It is a strangeness in our culture. It is not found in other cultures. But we will practice to benefit others.
This group, the core group of people who have been practicing in this temple for some time, came together because the people of earth were suffering, and the group wished to maintain a 24-hour a day prayer vigil. That is a dynamic of this organization. It came about so quickly and in such a stable way because the people here were greatly moved by the suffering of sentient beings. They knew that this kind of practice—the practice that brings about the end of desire and brings about supreme enlightenment—is ultimately the way to bring about the end of all suffering. For this reason, this family, or group of people, actually came together to practice.
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