Thursday, November 4, 2010

Humanity in Buddhism and Original Confucianism: The Bodhisattva's Bodhicitta and the Superior Person's Humanity

Shantideva emphasizes the significance, the importance, the rarity of a human birth from a karmic standpoint. From this human birth we have the most tremendous opportunity. So too, for the superior person, is humanity supremely important. For the superior person, that which is most essential to our existence, our deepest self, our bodhicitta, our awakened mind, is called our humanity. Shantideva recognizes this power within human beings to achieve the greatest possible merit. He emphasizes the importance of making the most of our human lives. The superior person believes that accentuating the inherent goodness within a human being, and bringing it to fruition is to enlarge the Tao. To discover this ultimate goodness, to remain loyal to our deepest self and to empathize with others, from this deep connection we share with others, is to allow bodhicitta to arise. The superior person brings this to fruition within themselves and others, without bringing to fruition that which is unessential. This is the great work of the superior person as it is the great work of the bodhisattva. This is how the superior person endeavors to open the way for humanity, for bodhicitta, to arise thus enlarging the way, enlarging the Tao.
Humanity is also deeply significant because human action is the one of the most effective forces on this earth. To help bring forth the inherent quality of humanity is to engage in a great and noble work, the work of the bodhisattva with its supreme, universal, benefit. We see how effective the action of humanity can intensely influence the world, as with the environment impact of global warming for example, so we can imagine how bringing forth a greater quality of humanity can spread tremendous effective benefit. As human beings this is our natural sphere of influence, humanity is our field.
In order for us to engage in truly effective virtuous action we must understand the nature of humanity. An awareness of our own true deep abiding selves, our true humanity, that which makes us special, is necessary. To become truly identified with this within ourselves, to cultivate and nourish our virtue we must remain loyal to our deep humanity. To truly be aware of the depth of human relationships and the awesome transformative power of virtuous behavior, we must be empathetic. We must act out of loyalty to ourselves, maintaining, nourishing, cultivating virtue, and out of empathy for others. Only from this awareness can we effect true transformation. When we act toward ourselves and others in relationship to ideas, desires, and preconceptions, we act on an ineffective level, wasting our energy on phantasms and illusions. When we scold or argue or chase desires, we fail to become aware of the most effective form our action might take. When we are loyal to our deepest selves, our insight grows and our spiritual energy increases, we tap the tremendous power of virtue, of humanity. When we are empathetic to others we see the obstacles they face in achieving this same connection within themselves. We can use our energy to attempt to ease their difficulties, encouraging them, helping to find the way to overcome such obstacles. The superior person acts thus, bringing to completion that which is most virtuous within themselves and others.
Shantideva understood the significance of humanity and emphasized making the most out of this human life. He similarly emphasized the practical aspects of humanity, loyalty and empathy. Shantideva understood, as in Confucian terms, that to be loyal to one’s humanity meant to be loyal to what is most essential within us. In his terms, Shantideva asks us to try and find our defilements and answers that they are not to be found anywhere. He encourages us to take heart, that these defilements are mere mirages. When we restrain ourselves from identifying with such mirages, we will certainly find that our true humanity is arisen. Practicing such loyalty to our most essential selves we will be better able to fulfill our commitment to others. The bodhisattva commits to doing all he can to benefit all beings. He thus coveys his commitment to the practice of empathy, considering others in all which he does. The bodhisattva’s awareness of the lack of existence of defilements demonstrates his awareness of the essential humanity, the practice of loyalty to one’s self. The bodhisattva’s vow to benefit all beings demonstrates his consideration of others in all his actions, this is his empathy. The bodhisattva’s understanding of these two principles is deep. For the superior person this understanding and its practical implications is the way of humanity. This is the oneness that Confucius himself named as his own principle of action.

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