I will explain about training in the Bodhisattva's altruistic attitude. In terms of this explanation we are at the point of offensive engagement. Through the practice of the three trainings of ethics, meditative stabilization and wisdom, the afflictive emotions have been destroyed. So now one has arrived at the point where one has to get rid of the predispositions established by the afflictive emotions. To get rid of them is extremely difficult. What is the reason for getting rid of those predispositions? It is because they prevent one from simultaneously knowing all possible objects of knowledge. Therefore, even a person who has achieved the rank of an Arhat, a Foe-destroyer, and has got out of cyclic existence, has not fully developed the potential of human consciousness.
The question is how to destroy the predispositions. Here, the actual weapon is the same; it is the wisdom which understands emptiness. However, you also need some powerful backing, great merit, and the way to accumulate great merit constantly is through Bodhichitta, altruism. The person accumulating merit, whose motivation is aimed at liberation and not harming others, is concerned mainly with this single being. In the practice of Bodhichitta, one is concerned with all sentient beings. So because sentient beings are limitless in number, when the consciousness is concerned with them, the meritorious power accumulated is limitless. It is one thing to go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Spiritual Community out of concern for oneself, but it is another to go for refuge to them out of concern for all sentient beings. These are extremely different in their force because the objects of observation are so different. For the person whose aim is to achieve liberation from cyclic existence for himself, that liberation will be a mere extinguishment of the afflictive emotions. With a more altruistic motivation, one aims for a Buddhahood which is an extinction of both the afflictive emotions and the obstructions to omniscience. Thus the practices of the second person will be more powerful and will accrue even more powerful merit.
The very nature of the altruistic mind is really precious, marvelous; sometimes we may wonder how the human mind can develop such things. It is fantastic, amazing, to forget oneself, and respect or be concerned with every other being, considering them as dear as oneself. Everybody appreciates such a warm feeling. If someone shows warm feelings to us, how happy we feel. If we can show warm feelings for other people, this is one of the best things in samsara as well as in nirvana.
This is the real source of happiness. If you develop even a small experience it will help you, it will give you peace of mind and inner strength. It will give you the best kind of defence and the best ground for an offensive. It also acts like a teacher, like your best friend, and like your best protector. So it is really something good.
We have already discussed the basic philosophical structure, from which you can draw a conclusion: it is possible to develop such a beautiful mind. The great Indian pandits set out two ways to do this. One is by way of the seven cause and effect quintessential instructions, the other is by way of equalizing self and others. In order to generate such a strong altruistic thought, it is necessary to generate the unusual attitude or high resolve of taking upon oneself the burden of helping others.
In order to induce this unusual attitude it is necessary to have a compassion in which one cannot bear to see the suffering of others without doing something about it. Whether those persons are manifestly suffering or have all the causes and conditions to undergo manifest' suffering, if one does not have a compassion which is a stirring from the depths about that suffering, it will be impossible to induce that great resolve. It is clear from our own experience that it is easier to generate compassion for people who fit in with us, whom we find congenial or pleasant. So prior to generating great compassion, it is necessary to have a technique to place all beings within this class of suitable beings.
Thus, the technique is to train in viewing all sentient beings in the way in which you view the being to whom you feel the closest, whether this be your mother or father, a relative or some other person. In order to recognize beings in this way, it is necessary to view them in an even-minded way. It's helpful here to use your imagination. In front of yourself imagine a person to whom you are very friendly, someone you don't like, and in the middle some neutral person; then examine the type of feeling that you have with respect to these three.
Naturally, when you imagine this your mind feels close towards your friend, distant from, and sometimes angry with, or irritated by your enemy, and towards the neutral person, nothing. We have to investigate this. From the Buddhist viewpoint, there are endless rebirths. Maybe in the past this friend was our worst enemy. Today the other is acting like an enemy, but maybe in the past was one of the people dearest to us. In the future too, there is no reason for the enemy always to remain an enemy, or the friend always to remain a friend. There is no such guarantee, even within this life. Today's friend may change within a short time. This is very clear, from our family experience, and especially among politicians: today a good friend, a good ally, tomorrow the best enemy.
Basically the structure of our lives is not stable, sometimes we're successful, sometimes unsuccessful, things are always changing. Therefore, this feeling towards friends and enemies that is so solid, stable is absolutely wrong. There is no reason for such firmness that is really foolish. Thinking like this will gradually help you to equalize your attitudes to people.
The next step is to think that sooner to later your enemy will be a good friend. So it is better to think of all three persons as being your best friends. We can also investigate the result if we show hatred. It's quite obvious. If we try to develop compassion towards these persons, the result will be good, without doubt. So it is much better to develop an equal; compassionate attitude.
Then experiment, turn towards your neighbour on the left, your neighbour on the right, go on down the row. Then extend it to the whole city, the county, then the country, the European continent, then the entire humanity of this world; finally, to the infinite sentient beings. That is the way to practise this technique.
Another technique is equalizing and exchanging self and others. Investigate which side is more important, oneself or others? You are one, the other is infinite. Both want happiness and do not want suffering. And both have every right to achieve happiness, to overcome suffering, because both are sentient beings, members of the community of sentient beings. If we ask, 'Why do I have the right to be happy?' The ultimate reason is because I want happiness, no other reason. There is a natural feeling of T and on that basis we want happiness, which is a correct view. And on that basis we say we have every right to be happy, that is what we call human rights; it is sentient beings' right. The possibility of overcoming suffering is the same, the only difference is, one is a single being, the others are the majority. The conclusion is quite clear, in the context of all sentient beings, just one is nothing important.
Here is something I myself practise and occasionally express to others: imagine on one side the old selfish T, and on the other side a group of poor needy people. You yourself remain as a neutral or third person. Then judge, which is more important: whether to join this selfish, self-centered, stupid person or these poor, needy, helpless people. If you have a human heart, naturally you will go to their side. Think like this, it will help the altruistic attitude to grow, and then you will realize how bad selfish behaviour is. Actually, up to now you have been behaving like that yourself. But if someone says to you, 'You are a bad person: then you feel very angry. Why? The main reason is that you do not want to be a bad person. It is in your own hands, if you behave like a good person, then you become a good person. If you are a good person, nobody can put you in the category of bad people. Think about this, it helps tremendously to develop altruism.
That is one way of practice. Many of you have probably heard me talk about world peace, or family peace or national peace; the ultimate source of them is altruism, compassion and love. In all major religions, the essential thing is love and kindness. Now, thinking over these different reasons as much as you can will help to develop conviction or determination. With that determination, trying day by day, month by month, year by year, you can improve yourself. With that motivation, every action, whether it is walking, eating, talking, or whatever, accumulates good virtues, limitless virtues.