Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Shantideva's 'Commitment' and The Superior Person's 'Duration'

Commitment and Duration
While Shantideva emphasizes commitment, the Confucian scholar, the superior person, similarly emphasizes duration. The superior person should be satisfied to continue their work under any circumstances. This is where the superior person finds true happiness. Studying and bringing studies to life through practice is the commitment of the superior person. This commitment is the source of joy for the superior person. Because of this the superior person practices restraint from pursuing desire, restraint from deviation. This simple act of restraint is the root of simplicity. The superior person takes joy from their simple life. Enduring the ebb and flow of life, committed to taking righteousness as a standard for action, the superior person keeps going along the infinite path of spiritual growth. Recognizing a lack, cultivating virtue, continuing the work of a true scholar and teacher, the superior person fulfills their duties. This simplicity is the foundation for constant virtue. The superior person never stops at a point thinking, ‘Now, I have arrived at the goal.’ The superior person lives in simplicity, in order to cultivate themselves. This cultivation leads to greater and greater achievements as a scholar and a growing skill as a teacher.
The superior person, like Shantideva, has given up the profit as their primary motivation, seeking only to do what it is they should do, achieve what it is they are meant to achieve at a given time, seeking to fulfill the mandate that heaven has given them in their life. As Shantideva says:

Just as all the buddhas of the past
Embraced the awakened attitude of mind,
And in the precepts of the bodhisattvas
Step by step abode and trained,

Just so and for the benefit of beings,
I will also have this attitude of mind,
And in those precepts, step by step,
I will abide and train myself.

That this most pure and spotless state of mind
Might be embraced and constantly increase,
The prudent who have cultivated it
Should praise it highly

…In every way, then, I will undertake
Activities befitting such a rank.
And I will do no act to mar
Or compromise this high and faultless lineage.

(Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva. Shambhala. Boston and New York, 1997. p. 52)

The superior person, like the bodhisattva, seeks to continue their work step by step. The superior person takes no short cuts. They take their very life as the grounds for practice, striving to see the depth of each stage in their lives, committed to continuing this process until death. To the superior person this is a great joy and a great relief. Constantly cultivating wisdom for the benefit of all, the superior person lives in peace and fulfills their responsibilities. The superior person is committed to continuing their studies, continuing their work because they are driven by a sense of lacking. This commitment is second nature and the superior person’s work has the power of duration.
The superior person takes righteousness as motivation, using it as a standard to gauge the effectiveness of each action. Looking to benefit others, the superior person acts to nourish that which is deepest within them so that they are at their best for the benefit of others. This deepest most profound aspect of themselves, the key to empathizing with others is the principle of humanity.

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