I saw the following in cyberspace and thought its interesting:
It reminds me of a lesson I witnessed while staying at a Buddhist temple. We just had our lunch and everyone was helping to clear the dining hall. Someone had left his cutlery in the kitchen sink so that he could proceed to wipe the tables. I was sure that he intended to get to it after he had finished wiping the table tops.
While he was away wiping the tables, another person came along to wash her own cutlery. She finished washing her own dishes and walked away, leaving his cutlery that was in the sink unwashed.
All that was happening under the watchful eyes of the abbot. The abbot called out to that nun and she came forth. I was sitting beside the abbot at that time. “Did you see the unwashed dishes in the sink just now?” asked the abbot.
“Yes, I did.” answered the nun.
“Since it requires cleaning too, why didn’t you help to clean it?” Before the nun could answer, the abbot continued. “You had taken the Bodhisattva vows to help all sentient beings and now you witness an opportunity to help another person. Not even a stranger, but a fellow dharma brother who is living in this monastery. You shouldn’t turn a blind eye if you really aspire to be a Bodhisattva, right?” She quickly apologized and return to the sink to clean the unwashed dishes.
When we practice Mahayana Buddhism, we tend to think of lofty ideals and forget our “now”. Practicing Dharma is in our everyday life. We do not have to imagine or wait for an opportunity to donate an eye and limb to prove our “Bodhisattvaness”
The above lesson proved to be invaluable after I returned to the secular world. Many a time, we are tempted to turn a blind eye to things that come along our way. That is laziness and opposite to the quality of zeal / being energetic/right effort. If we vow to save all sentient beings and if we aspire to attain enlightenment for the sake of all other beings; Then how is it possible that we turn a blind eye or refuse to help our mother wash the toilet, wash the dishes, or do the laundry? How is it possible that we expect our roommate or housemate or spouse or partner to do it? Why do we have to wait for the janitor to wipe a coffee spill on the pantry table?
Helping to put a file back in place is so much simpler than attaining jhana, not to mention attaining enlightenment! Likewise for mopping the floor or washing the toilet?
Therefore, before we get ahead of ourselves and fantasize about the lofty quests that await us as a mighty Bodhisattva, look around us first. Does our wife or husband need help with the trash? If we can’t even help lighten the workload of our loved ones, we are just paper Bodhisattva. (our “Bodhisattvaness is limited to that piece of Bodhisattva vows certificate)
When it comes to our Dharma centre or temple, it is also likewise. Let us not strut the temple hall like useless peacocks. Don’t be a paper Bodhisattva. Help in whatever ways we can. Picking up a piece of trash and returning it to the bin is a Bodhisattva deed. Helping to arrange the shoes at the door is also a Bodhisattva deed. Start small, start simple. Get to it and do it.
If we open our eyes, there are many opportunities to be Bodhisattva in the “now”.
May all be well and happy.