Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to pursue our goals - Master Sheng Yen

Buddhism teaches us not to cling, but it never says, "Don't have compassionate vow," or "don't think of the future," nor does it say "don't do good deeds," or "don't be a decent person."

Yet, the aspirations of the average person are often unrealistic. When we are young, our teachers, family members, or other adults tell us we should aspire to be a good person, to be somebody, or to earn lots of money, or do this or that. Parents, relatives, and other adults, sometimes forget that they were the same when they were young. It was also instilled in them and demanded of them that they be somebody someday, and make the family proud. That's what adults teach children.

How do you make your family proud? By making alot of money. The more, the better. Or, in Taiwan, by becoming a government official. Life will be wonderful with that job. However, no one knows what to do to make the money. No one knows what to do to become a government official. No one knows what it takes to do those jobs or make that money. People only know you should make money, and become a government official. Or they want you to be a great inventor or a pilot.

In fact, kids listen to what adults say. They take adult's goals as their own. Kids don't have their own ambition yet; they have no idea what they want to do when they grow up. Therefore, they develop aspirations that may not come true. Very often they set other goals when entering high school. After entering college, they set new goals again. And when they graduate, their goals change yet again. They change after getting a job, then again after getting married and reaching middle age. They keep changing their goals until they die. Once they are dead, they don't change anymore because it's already too late.

What I am saying is these kinds of goals are unreliable and often far from realistic. I often tell my disciples and young people that it's important to have direction in your life, to know where you are going. Setting up a guiding principle is essential. For instance, I don't want to be a person who's scolded, resented, hated, and disliked by others. I think this goal is feasible. You can also make it your life's goal to serve society, humanity, and all sentient beings. This goal may be broad, but it points in the right direction. Everything you do can be directed toward achieving this goal. Or you can make it your goal to keep working hard your whole life, to try your best until you die. You can resolve to keep working hard. At what? At learning. Improving yourself, your knowledge, your learning, skills and character. This is something that can be achieved. Setting such goals is reliable.

But this kind of goal is not great enough. As buddhists, we should take four great vows. That is, you make a great compassionate vow:

The first great vow: From now until I attain Buddhahood, I, an ordinary sentient being, vow to do whatever I can to help all sentient beings, to offer help, kindness, loving care, compassionate concern, forgiveness, and deliverance to all sentient beings.
The second great vow: I vow to cut off all my vexations. No matter where problems appear in my mind, body, or social environment I will not, due to these problems, feel anguished or annoyed, or get caught up in dilemmas or conflicts. I will face problems and deal with them wisely.

The third great vow: I will help myself and others with the Buddhadharma, which is the wisest and most compassionate teaching.

The fourth great vow: We vow to achieve Buddhahood ourselves. This is a vow we make, not a form of discriminating mind. This vow looks to the future. It is forward - looking in the most profound sense. This kind of vow is great and long - lasting and expansive in its aims.

It is necessary to have this kind of aspiration. You shouldn't say, "When I have a child someday, I want my son to be a great hero." "When I have a child, I want my son to be a pilot." "When I have a child, I want my son to be a monk." Your children are your children. Who knows what will happen to them in the future? This kind of goal is not right. You should make a vow, saying that "When I am a mother, I will do my best to teach my children and to take care of them." Whatever they achieve, that's based on their own merit and karma. I will just strive to take good care of them. This is a vow that a woman should make when she marries and starts a family. If you want to become a monastic, you should make a vow not to violate the rules of monastic deportment. This is achievable. Therefore, this sort of aspiration and vow is a good thing. This has nothing to do with discrimination and clinging.

Limiting our aspirations to wordly achievements often leads to unrealistic goals. Instead make noble and compassionate vows your guiding principle and the goal to which you devote all your actions. 

You can watch this speech on video here:

1 comment:

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