Can The Buddha Help All?

great buddha of kamakura
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Question: The Buddha-to-be, when still a Bodhisattva, once gave up his body to feed a starving tigress and her cubs. Was it out of compassion, or out of the knowledge that he would be reborn? There are many dying of hunger every day. Is the Buddha powerless to help?

Answer: The Bodhisattva sacrificed himself out of both compassion for the tigers, and wisdom that he would be able to continue helping more beings when reborn, with even more merits and experience.

Much as the Buddhas (and Bodhisattvas) wish to help all instantly, for one to be helped, there must be adequate karmic affinity and positive karma. For example, see this story for a case of someone whom the Buddha could not directly help: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2012/01/the-unseen-power-of-karmic-affinities

It is not that the Buddhas (and Bodhisattvas) lack compassion and wisdom to help many who are suffering, but that many lack the ability (e.g. have little karmic affinity and much karmic obstacles) and willingness (e.g. have great stubbornness) to be helped. In the mean time, they are always doing their best to create affinity and nurture creation of positive karma in all. On our part, we can help them do the same.

Among many others, there is an international Buddhist relief organisation that works in some 47 countries that offers unconditional help to the needy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzu_Chi The power of the Buddha can also be manifested by Buddhists who exemplify his teachings. Enlightened beings can manifest amongst volunteers too, when the ones to be helped lack affinity for direct assistance. This is great skilful compassion. And we know in history, that there are indeed many great masters who are manifestations of the enlightened.


  • [..many lack the ability (e.g. have little karmic affinity and much karmic obstacles) and willingness (e.g. stubbornness) to be helped]

    I wonder if we can also consider stubborness to be part of lacking karmic affinity and having much karmic obstacles as well.

    Are the lack of karmic affinity and stubbornness so easily distinguishable? If it is like the relationship between oil and water, then of course there is no room for doubt. But somehow, I doubt so.

    I wish to listen to more views on this.

  • Whether stubbornness, lack of karmic affinity and having karmic obstacles overlaps in part, total or not, this is not as important as ensuring that we ourselves are

    1. not stubborn, by active learning and PRACTICE of the Dharma,

    2. that we actively create greater affinity with the Dharma by direct learning and PRACTICE,

    3. that we actively remove any karmic obstacles by unceasing Dharma learning and PRACTICE…

    4. and to encourage others to do the same.

  • The point is not really about whether they overlap or not, but to point out the need for wider and deeper reflection at what is generally taken as unimportant.

    What mule has mentioned is definitely important with respect to one’s practice. However, without due understanding for karmic affinities and other related components, the urge about ‘practice’ can be perceived as a form of self-imposed spiritual isolation.

    Practicising the Dharma has no fixed form. What’s active and direct, what’s unceasing or not is really something for that individual alone to consider based on his level of understanding at any point in time; with or without having the chance to hear of the Dharma.

    Let us exercise our present level of compassion and wisdom to help such people.

  • Since we can’t see our past lives, there’s no need to wonder about karmic affinities, while creating affinities best we can for one and all.

    Practice can be in groups too. There are many practice groups available for group support.

  • It’s true that we can’t really recall our past lives, at least for the most of our lives. However, past lives accounts recorded in the suttas provides some form of useful reference for us. They can guide us to avoid certain faux pas in our practices.

    It’s not about wondering about karmic affinities, but understanding as much as we can. Without proper understanding, one can continue to justify what’s best according to one’s point of view and not taking into account all other controllable and non-controllable conditions.

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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