Compassion is the root
[beginning] of the Buddha path.
[the path to Buddhahood].
— Nagarjuna (The Treatise on Perfection of Wisdom)
There is this adage… To ‘be good for goodness’ sake’; instead of being good for pleasing anyone human or ‘divine’, or only for personal benefit… which thus makes one’s goodness not so truly good in itself. However, if we are to be good only to be good, it does not make much sense, as it leads to no larger ultimate purpose. Why be good then? Because doing good for others does good for oneself and others, because it brings happiness. The truth is, when we do good, even if solely to help others, we inevitably, even if unintentionally and indirectly, end up helping ourselves too, as the practice of cultivating Compassion is a key factor for advancing on the path towards True Happiness. To be more kind is to become more aligned to our true nature, the Buddha-nature within. Being goodness is therefore good for one and all.
Is it selfish to do good for oneself, and not so much for others? As a start, we might do good partly or even entirely for ourselves, so as to create positive karma and to avoid creating negative karma, for greater personal worldly happiness. This is natural, and the Buddha did encourage doing so for beginners. Such happiness can facilitate the spiritual life too, when used skilfully. However, he also urged the cultivation of the Four Immeasurables (Loving-kindness, Compassion, Rejoice and Equanimity) for spiritual happiness – which is True Happiness. As we further cultivate these qualities, there will be less self-centredness, as we become more selfless in helping others. With Loving-kindness for all to be well and happy, Compassion for the suffering, Rejoice for the fortunate, and Equanimity which treats all (including oneself) impartially, selfishness will dissolve.
Doing good with ever lesser fixations on self, this is how our karma becomes not just more and more good, but more and more pure. This is the deeper meaning of the third part of the famous Dhammapada verse 183 spoken by the Buddha – ‘To avoid doing all evil, to practise all good, and to purify the mind, these are the teachings of all Buddhas.’ The perfecting of the Four Immeasurables, often abbreviated with Compassion to represent all four, along with the perfecting of Wisdom, culminate as one in Buddhahood. Herein lies the paradox… To attain unconditioned True Happiness for one’self’, one needs to work towards realisation of non-self, through unconditional service to others. This pure motivation is called Bodhicitta — the precious altruistic aspiration to guide all to the True Happiness of Buddhahood, as perfectly expressed by the Buddha!
Just as Buddhas are ‘born’ from Bodhicitta for all,
all should give ‘birth’ to Bodhicitta to be Buddhas.
Reviews of TDE Books (Review by Han Yang)
There are people who will not do good for others because they do not believe in karma. They will not want to waste their time helping others since they believe there is no benefit in doing so. Therefore, relatively speaking, a person who does something good for others with the intention of getting good karma, is better than those who will not bother to do anything good for others. As sentient beings, we have to start somewhere. We may initially help others with the intention of getting good karma…but later may learn to realise it is human nature to help one another. May we all develop compassion and be selfless in helping others.