There Is No Suffering 19

Bodhisattvas diligently strive to help others in four ways, known as the Four Proper Exertions. First, they help others to avoid non-virtuous acts that they have not yet performed. Second, they persuade others to cease performing non-virtuous acts. These first two exertions cultivate loving-kindness and alleviate sentient beings from suffering, which mostly derives from unwholesome acts. Third, bodhisattvas encourage others to engage in wholesome acts not yet performed. Fourth, they urge others to nurture and expand those positive endeavors that they already perform. These latter two exertions practice compassion and bring happiness and joy to sentient beings. Without the existence and continued cultivation of loving-kindness and compassion, one is not on the bodhisattva path.

Qualities of the Bodhisattva

One on the bodhisattva path possesses and continuously cultivates bodhi-mind. Is this an impossible quest? You may think, "How can I think of beings a bodhisattva if I can’ t even help myself? It seems useless to start on the bodhisattva path.” While these are normal thoughts to have, one should not lose heart and abandon the Buddhadharma. In the beginning, intention is important in cultivating bodhi-mind. If your intent is active, persistent, and strengthened with vows, eventually, helping others becomes effortless and natural.

Most people think they can help others only after they have resolved their own problems. If you are starving, you may feel you must first feed yourself in order to help feed others. But this is not necessarily what is meant by the ‘beneficent practice of bodhisattvas.’ Helping others need not be myopically limited to help of the material kind. More importantly, bodhisattvas are inclined to help sentient beings spiritually and psychologically, because all hardships and calamities ultimately originate from our views of self, others, and the world. Therefore, one aspect of the bodhisattva way is to help to instill right understanding in others.