If we plant good seeds in the hearts of others, they will have a good impression of us in the next life. Then, both of us will be able to help each other because of the positive karmic affinity formed in the past."
Life is short and filled with suffering. We should vow to form good affinities with all living beings life after life, so as to help ourselves and others
In the Buddha’s time, there was a poor old lady who always avoided the Buddha and his monastic disciples whenever she saw them approaching. And she had never made any offerings to them. In order to give her an opportunity to give and to sow blessings, the Buddha sent Ananda to guide and enlighten her.
Feeling confused and puzzled, Ananda asked the Buddha: "The Buddha has the 32 dignified physical marks. How could there be any living being whom the Buddha is unable to guide and transform?"
The Buddha replied, "The old lady has a karmic affinity with you, and she needs you to guide and help her."
Ananda then walked towards the old lady with skepticism in his mind. Unexpectedly, the elderly woman knelt down before Ananda the moment she saw him, and then followed him to see the Buddha. After that, she joyfully made offerings to the monastic community with a sincere heart.
The monks were curious about the sudden change in the old lady’s attitude, so the Buddha related to them a story fromone of his previous lives:
Two monastic spiritual practitioners met a woman who was crying when they were walking along the road. The monk who was walking in front walked towards the woman and asked her why she was crying. The woman said that she was deeply saddened by the sudden death of her child,shortly after her husband passed away.
The monk then preached about the natural cycle of birth, aging, illness and death to the woman and told her that nothing could be done (to bring her child and husband to life) no matter how she much she cried. After saying that, the monk heaved a sigh before leaving her and continuing his journey.
The monk who was walking behind gave the woman a handkerchief to wipe her tears and comforted her with gentle words and an empathetic heart. He told her that life is full of suffering and that she had to open up her heart (and learn to let go). The woman, who was suffering the pain of losing her loved ones, felt comforted by the words of the second monk and stopped crying.
The Buddhatold Ananda that the two monks were Ananda and him in one of their past lives, and that woman had reincarnated as the old lady in this life. The Buddha did not form a positive affinity with the woman in that lifetime, so it was difficult for him to enlighten her; only Ananda was able to do that.
The karmic consequences we experience in this life are due to the karmic causes we had created in the past. It is not easy to be born asa human. Hence, it would be a pity if we are unable to help ourselves and form positive affinities with people.
We must be aware of the Karmic Law of Cause and Effect, and form ongoing good affinities with others. If we are able to plant “good seeds” in everyone's heart in this life, people will have good impression of us when we meet them in our next lives. Such good affinities will also enable us to help and guide one another.
Do not disregard the Karmic Law of Cause and Effect. Mindfully contemplate the Four Noble Truths and practise the Six Paramitas among people.”
Only by going among people to serve can we form positive affinities with others. If we don't interact with people, we will end our relationships with others. As Tzu Chi volunteers aim to serve as living bodhisattvas, they must actively form good relationships with people in order to help and guide them. While working among people, we should not make a fuss about how much work we have done. Instead, we should be aware of how much we have not done. We will easily break our rapport with others if we refuse to do the work. On the contrary, the more we do, the more good affinities we will form with others.
When the Buddha started expounding the Dharma, the first teaching he delivered was the Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path to the cessation of suffering. In order to understand and experience the truth of suffering, one has to devote oneself to helping those who are suffering. Only when we have witnessed suffering will we count our blessings (and realise how blessed we are). If we are not able to count our blessings, not only will we slacken our efforts, it will also be difficult for us to persevere in our spiritual aspirations.
Tzu Chi started with charity work. It is compulsory for every Tzu Chi volunteer to do home visits (to the needy). We should widen this “door of compassion” to give everyone an opportunity to be involved in charity work, and not break their connections with us. After witnessing suffering, they will appreciate their own blessings, and actively form positive affinities with the masses.
While visiting the homes of the needy, the most important thing is to develop a heart with “equal compassion for all”, and that is to treat all living beings as equal with the enlightened love of a bodhisattva. We must be able to love and care for those in need like our own family, and treat them with gratitude, respect and love.
We must not disregard the Karmic Law of Cause and Effect. We should mindfully contemplate the Four Noble Truths and go among people to practise the Six Paramitas.
When you wish to give to help others, there is no guarantee that they will be willing to receive, and they might even respond with malicious words. This is why we need to uphold the precepts, practise patient endurance, diligence and samadhi at the same time while serving others. If you can withstand the trials and tests of life, and eradicate the afflictions and impurities in your mind, you will be able to cultivate wisdom and turn your mundane life into wisdom-life.
Extracted from Tzu Chi Monthly Vol. 572
Translated by the Tzu Chi Singapore translation team