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Orienting The Mind Towards Service

Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 2:52 am
by CicadaCanto
Some of my time is spent in service to others. The details of that are irrelevant to this post.

Q: My question is how to best orient one's mind towards service?

I am curious what others say.

The natural response is love and compassion. Or perhaps the paramitas. That is all legitimate.

There are times when what is dealing with is particularly damaging. In these cases some detachment and a bit of mind seeing the illusory nature of the situation is in order.

And there are other times when having one's mind and body in a particularly unified and relaxed state is critical because of the fatigue of one's mind-body.

I have no perfect answer. It is not easy. Even after a long time.

Re: Orienting The Mind Towards Service

Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:08 am
by Vasana
As you said, it's not easy, even over time. That's why it's called training. The only thing for us to do as practitioners is to continuously reorient ourselves towards the view, meditation and conduct when it slips away and train again and again until it's naturally sustained. I'm not sure there's any other way than repetition. Norbu Rinpoche uses an analogy of driving a car. To begin with you need to pay close attention to not be distracted but in time, it becomes second nature and you're able to drive while listening to music, speaking with others etc. I think it's the same with orienting the mind towards service & bodhichitta. Only with deliberately sustained attention on the topic can we ever expect for it to one day become effortless and unconditioned.

Lojong & Tonglen are a bit more specific than the general idea of compassion. Rather than just practising tonglen for just half an hour here and there, focusing an entire day or longer can really drive home the importance and make compassion a mental and bodily way of abiding. Reading texts like the Bodhicaryavatara &The 37 practices of a Bodhisattva, contemplating the 4 thoughts and contemplating the manifold sufferings of different kinds of beings occurring right now can help orient the mind to dharma/service.
By thinking of all sentient beings
As more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel
For accomplishing the highest aim,
I will always hold them dear.

Whenever I’m in the company of others,
I will regard myself as the lowest among all,
And from the depths of my heart
Cherish others as supreme.

In my every action, I will watch my mind,
And the moment destructive emotions arise,
I will confront them strongly and avert them,
Since they will hurt both me and others.

Whenever I see ill-natured beings,
Or those overwhelmed by heavy misdeeds or suffering,
I will cherish them as something rare,
As though I’d found a priceless treasure.

Whenever someone out of envy
Does me wrong by attacking or belittling me,
I will take defeat upon myself,
And give the victory to others.

Even when someone I have helped,
Or in whom I have placed great hopes
Mistreats me very unjustly,
I will view that person as a true spiritual teacher.

In brief, directly or indirectly,
I will offer help and happiness to all my mothers,
And secretly take upon myself
All their hurt and suffering.

I will learn to keep all these practices
Untainted by thoughts of the eight worldly concerns.
May I recognize all things as like illusions,
And, without attachment, gain freedom from bondage.
- Eight Verses of Training the Mind by Geshe Langri Thangpa

Re: Orienting The Mind Towards Service

Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 12:09 pm
by narhwal90
My usual practice as a Nichiren is recitation & chanting which I do before going to do the service, the particular focus in the prayers on being awake so as to be of service. The goal is to have a relaxed and composed mind, accepting whatever arises. In such a state its easier to speak, or sincerely greet as the case may be. Opportunities to act and be helpful in unrelated or unexpected ways are more easily perceived in that state. Going in with an open and seeking mind about what is to be done is helpful; eg ordering the chairs, sweeping the floor or picking up trash helps the other volunteers. Or if you have particular skills- repairing, crafts, etc opportunities to apply them as part of the service may be more easilily perceived.

Re: Orienting The Mind Towards Service

Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:50 pm
by Dan74
CicadaCanto wrote:Some of my time is spent in service to others. The details of that are irrelevant to this post.

Q: My question is how to best orient one's mind towards service?

I am curious what others say.

The natural response is love and compassion. Or perhaps the paramitas. That is all legitimate.

There are times when what is dealing with is particularly damaging. In these cases some detachment and a bit of mind seeing the illusory nature of the situation is in order.

And there are other times when having one's mind and body in a particularly unified and relaxed state is critical because of the fatigue of one's mind-body.

I have no perfect answer. It is not easy. Even after a long time.
Hello CicadaCanto :hi:

I guess any advice would have to consider what your obstacles are and you are not very clear about them.

You mention times when service is damaging to you. I'm interpreting this to mean it affects you emotionally in an adverse way. Detachment is the typical response, but I wonder if it is the way to go, especially as a Buddhist. Of course, you don't want to overwhelm you to the extent that you cannot carry out your day-to-day life. But to serve in these situations bringing as much engagement and equanimity as you can master, so that you are involved but not swallowed up, feeling but also seeing the big picture, that's got to be good practice.

The other thing you mention is 'having one's mind and body in a particularly unified and relaxed state' . I'm taking this to mean you find yourself drained and without the energy or the will to really get involved in the situation. This indicates to me that in some ways you are working against yourself in this service you do. Maybe your expectations aren't being met, or you do it for wrong reasons, or you are fighting your aversions, distaste for some aspects of it. These are pretty deep matters and merit a careful honest look.

FWIW, I've dealt with the same issues before, but of course the causes were likely a bit different. They are not easy to overcome, IME, but like with everything, the important thing is that we are going in the right direction.

Not sure how relevant any of these suggestions are, but in any case wishing you all the best with it.

_/|\_

Re: Orienting The Mind Towards Service

Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 12:30 pm
by joy&peace
Beautiful, Vasana.

Dear Cicada,

One thing which is emphasized a lot is attaining Buddha-nature before seeking to help others.