Practicing the Bodhisattva Way is the practice to benefit self and others. Bodhisattva Way is the essence of Mahayana Buddhism. It is based on precepts, samadhi, and wisdom of Theravada Buddhism as the foundation. It has the Bodhi mind of the Sangha and laypersons, and Six Paramitas as the core. The goal of practicing Mahayana Buddhism is to accomplish the Bodhisattva Way through the practice of benefiting self and others and ultimately to achieve the perfect state of Buddha-hood.
Before liberation, one’s urgent priority should be letting go of attachments and getting rid of habitual behaviors. Following this direction to practice, one’s self-attachment and habits are reduced, and this will naturally benefit others. At this stage, self-liberation focuses on getting rid of attachments and habitual behaviors. In addition, one must know that getting rid of one percent of attachments will increase one’s mindfulness, merits, and wisdom by one percent. As a result, letting go of one percent of attachments naturally increases the benefit to people and things around by one percent. This occurs naturally not artificially.
People often think that one should completely self-liberate before beginning to benefit others. This is a wrong view. This erroneous view causes one to make mistakes and causes others to make the same mistake. Thus, the hidden attachments and habits cannot be revealed nor eradicated; this is just like putting a stone on the grass to suppress its growth. If one cuts the grass without rooting it out, then when the spring breeze blows, the grass will grow again. In this situation, it will be very difficult to accomplish self-liberation.
One should know that self-liberating and benefiting others are gradual cultivations; they are mutually related to cause and effect. When one gradually achieves self-liberation, at the same time, one will gradually benefit others. Self-liberation and benefiting others are not separate. Those who are self-liberating often seek liberation first; they misunderstand, thinking that they need to obtain liberation and then make a vow to benefit others. This biased view will cause negligence in practice. If one does not begin to eliminate attachments and habitual behaviors, the self attachments and habits will definitely increase day after day. Someday one will sink into oblivion, not even mention how to benefit others?
For those who are not enlightened or fully enlightened, if they seclude themselves and live alone to practice in an enclosed room or hut in order to stay away from others and to have fewer disturbances from the outside environment, even if they can reach the deep samadhi, it will be hard for them to reveal their attachments to self and dharma. They may appear to dwell in the state of no-self and no worries. However, this seclusion certainly causes attachments and habits to be hidden and buried with no way to eliminate them. When the roots of attachments and habits are not cut off, it will wait for a proper time to be revealed. In the future, when these individuals face worldly matters and temptation of fame and wealth, the results will be disastrous.
Lead the public under the guise of Bodhisattva Way; fall into the pit of ignorance and the River of Five Desires; unaware of reincarnating in suffering. This mistake less severely is an entanglement between the master and his disciples will persist through many eons and enter into the cycle of life and death forever. More severely, lose the holy fruit and fall into the three evil realms. How can a practitioner not take it seriously!
So, the idea of self-liberating and benefiting others also implies hard practice for self and others. Avatamsaka Sutra states, “From ancient to present, ten directions and three periods of time are never away from the present thoughts; in boundless land, self and others are not separated by a hair.” Since self and others cannot be separated, self-liberating and benefiting others are not separate from each other; they interact with both cause and effect.
When one completely eradicates attachments and habits, breaks through the Three Gates to reach full enlightenment, and clearly sees the primordial mind, then one can stay secluded in the deep mountain, hut or cliff cave to nurture the Mind. At this time, one should practice more on self-liberating, eliminating illusory views and thoughts to achieve the ultimate state of holy fruit. After attaining full enlightenment, mind fully free and alive, follow the cause and effect to benefit others completely and perfectly without retreating.
From this point on, one has reached liberation. With great compassion, great wisdom, great vows and great convenience, one can ascend to the hall and give a true Dharma teaching, secure the Sangha and educate the public, spread widely the true Dharma to educate and liberate sentient beings. In this period of time, the Bodhisattva Way of benefiting others is the core of practice, In benefiting others, start perfecting merit and wisdom, gradually achieve Buddha-hood.