How to Encourage Others
The strength of the BLIAcomes entirely from its members. “Amountain is made of many clods of earth, and a river is made of many drops of water.” The BLIA must constantly work to improve the participation of its current members as it seeks to add new ones. In the following sections, I will give some suggestions on how we can encourage each other and on how encouragement can help us grow.
Language fundamentally is a tool of communication. In recognizing this, we should never forget that when we speak, we communicate emotion as well as ideas. When we use language well, we speak from an emotional and caring part of our nature. If we speak from that center, then our words will smooth relations among people, and they will create situations that make others feel welcome and unafraid. If we speak, however, with an abrupt certainty whose purpose is only to dominate others, none of this will be achieved.
The Dharmapada says, “When our words are not helpful, we harm ourselves and we harm others. When our words are helpful, we help ourselves and others at once.”
When everything we say has loving-kindness and compassion as its source, we will have a wonderful effect on others, and we will find it as easy to accept them as it is to be accepted by them.
Master Gueisong told his disciples, “Take good care of yourselves.” He said that for the sole purpose of helping his disciples discover who they really were. Master Ryokan (1758-1831) completely changed an errant nephew’s behavior through his thoughtful use of language. Master Sen used humor to help a married couple understand one another. Master Koya (903-970) tamed a band of bandits through his compassionate use of language.
There are many examples of using language to express compas- sion in the Buddhist tradition. Sakyamuni Buddha is the first and best example of this, but hundreds of other great masters have followed in his footsteps.
Language can be used overtly to express praise and encour- agement, but encouragement can also be conveyed by the tone of our words. When our basic attitudes are compassionate, our use of language will naturally become very positive. If our basic attitudes are filled with greed, anger and ignorance, then our use of language will likely be quite negative. In fact, language is an excellent barometer of attitudes that may be unconscious in us. If you find yourself using harsh language and frequently arguing with others, it would be good for you to sit down and ask yourself why.
We should all strive to use positive, encouraging language whenever we speak. Positive language builds relationships and helps people grow to their fullest. Language gives others hope and belief. When we use language positively, we can experience a wonderful energy that stimulates us just as much as it does other people. All Buddhists should learn to take joy in the accomplishments of others. Once we learn to express that joy in language, as well as in our hearts, we will have attained a good measure of Prajna wisdom.
To receive, you must give. If you do not give, you cannot receive. If you do not plant, you cannot reap. If we really intend to encourage others, we must start with those who are near, and we must begin without having been asked. When we are generous, we must be careful never to expect anything in return for what we have done, and yet, it is true that generosity eventually returns untold rewards.
The best gift is the Dharma, but there are many other gifts that support this principal one. In the mythology of ancient China, Shennong and Fuxi taught the Chinese people farming, and for that they are still worshiped today in many folk temples. In the Tang dynasty, Master Huineng was given material support to study Buddhism by An Daocheng. Because of that aid, Huineng was able to achieve enlight- enment. Due to a small amount of money, one of the greatest Dragons of Buddhism was found.
Generosity seals friendship, smooths relations between people, and produces other calculable benefits, but beyond that, generosity also produces incalculable results. Sometimes just a bit of help can boost a person to a much higher level of understanding than was possible before.
It is good to help others in material ways, but it is also good to help them spiritually, professionally and emotionally. We can help others with as little as a smile or a greeting. We can help them by showing concern and by sharing our joy.
Rather than go out and look for people to help, it is better to adopt a basic attitude of kindness and friendliness toward everyone. There need be no limits to our sharing, and no restrictions on our concern. Every person we meet will appreciate encouragement and kindness. There is no reason to wait to give these beautiful gifts. None of us should wait to be asked for help. If we have any wisdom at all, it should be obvious that every single day presents us with many oppor- tunities to be kind and compassionate.
Practice Buddhism with all
Amitabha Buddha vowed to help all sentient beings, as did Avalokites- vara Bodhisattva and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. They have placed no limits on their compassion, and neither should we. The great bodhi- sattvas and Buddhas are models for us all. They give every last bit of themselves and ask for nothing in return.
The level of their commitment to sentient beings is difficult for most Buddhists to emulate, but all of us are capable of paying attention to those who are around us. We can help our neighbors, comfort our friends, listen to our colleagues and serve our families. Each of us should begin with the people who are actually around us. All of them need encouragement and comfort. Sometimes we decide to help one person while ignoring another, but remember, the chances are the one you are ignoring needs your help the most.
Helen Keller was blind and deaf, and though her early years of instruc- tion often caused her to cry, by the time she was an adult she had developed her abilities so much she became a great teacher. Without the patient help of her own teacher, she would have remained in a world of darkness. Before Guiji (632-682) met Xuanzang and was instructed by him, he had lost himself to an indulgence in alcohol and sensuality. After Xuanzang helped him, however, he became one of the great masters of Chinese Buddhism. Tiaoshui practiced Chan among beggars, and Yuexi preached to prostitutes in a brothel. None of these people limited their compassion or rejected others because of the way they appeared to most people.
There are twelve major divisions of the Mahayana canon because this world is full of many kinds of people. Buddha taught 84,000 Dharmas because he wanted to include every manner of sentient being in his teachings. Buddhism has something for everyone, and as Buddhists, we have a duty to be certain that we never reject somebody due to the grossly mistaken belief that their “nature” or their situation renders them unfit to learn. All beings possess a Buddha nature. No being could ever reject that nature once it has been seen. This is a core belief of the bodhisattva and a fundamental basis of the bodhisattva vow.
The “skillful means” of the bodhisattva mean that we adapt ourselves to others. We do not wait for them to become like us before offering the hand of friendship. All sentient beings should be perceived as “bodhi friend.” When we find ourselves talking with a soldier, we should try to understand his world, and speak about matters he might enjoy. If we are talking with a teacher, we should try to think like a teacher. If we are speaking with a mother, we should recognize that she has very special concerns that are deeply important to her. When we find ourselves among children, we should relax and let them guide us in play.
This world is full of so many kinds of people. It is our duty as Buddhists to try to take responsibility for each and every one of them. We must be forgiving, helpful and willing to listen to others. If we adopt this kind of an open-hearted attitude, the BLIA will succeed in satisfying the longings of every level of society in every country in the world.
“One stick cannot stand up by itself, but a group of sticks leaning against each other can.”
“One soldier is bound to lose, but a group with elan will always win.” The BLIA has great aims, but we can never succeed in accom- plishing even small goals without the help of many people. We must learn to work together with all kinds of people, and we must always be willing to help others develop their talents.
As a guide for behavior in this regard, I want to mention the four means of embracing. :
- Kind words
If all of us work at manifesting the above four means of embracing, we will make the BLIA grow and flourish, and we will ensure that our highest goals are reached.