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Lions Roar : January 2003
IN THE BUDDHIST TRADITION, bodhisattvas are those who, aspiring to enlightenment, make a resolve, “I vow to attain full enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.” That is a pretty incredible vow! It means that we recognize our own liberation is intertwined with the liberation of all beings without exception. It means that, rather than seeing other beings as adversaries, we must see them as colleagues in this endeav- or of freedom. Rather than viewing others with fear or contempt, which arises from a belief in separation, we see them as part of who we ourselves are. Seeing the truth of this fundamen- tal interconnectedness is what is known in the Eightfold Path as right view. The Buddha said, “Just as the dawn is the forerunner and the first indication of the rising sun, so is right view the forerunner and the first indication of wholesome states.” As dawn leads to sunrise, seeing the truth of our interconnectedness leads to the mind-state of loving- kindness that characterizes the bodhisattva. With loving-kindness we become the ally of all beings everywhere. We might think, “That’s impossible. How can I be the ally of those who have hurt me personally, or of those who seem to intentionally hurt others? How can I care about countless beings?” True, the bodhisattva aspiration does seem to be up against some insurmountable odds. A friend expressed this once to me when we were standing in Red Square in Moscow, which was teeming with people. There were exotic-looking gypsies and people who appeared to be step- ping out of another century walking right alongside contemporary business people. Overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and the incredible variety of people, my friend turned to me and said, “I think I’m giving up my bodhisattva vow.” It may seem impossible to genuinely care about all beings everywhere. But developing the 48 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2003 Becoming the Ally of All Beings A teaching on the interconnectedness of all things by Sharon Salzberg PHOTOS BY ROBERT ADAMS