At the risk of sounding totally wishy-washy, imo, it doesn't really matter. There is a tendency in spirituality, certainly among practitioners with the courage and adjacent hubris to strive for anything of an 'ultimate' sort, to assume that the highest of the highest is what we all should strive for.heart wrote: I have no problem with this except that I personally feel incapable to, among the huge amount of worldly Dharma systems that exist, even guess which are of short term or long term benefit. I certainly can't say if any of them will eventually lead to liberation.
But really, outside the abstraction of system or attainment, on the ground where people laugh and cry, it is, imo not about that at all. It's just about being as happy as you can be, and if you have some sort of bodhisattva spirit, supporting others in being as happy as they can be. And that's not a formula. Usually, it entails being about as happy as you want to be. That more often than not entails a worldly Dharma and there is nothing wrong with that either. Too often, our ideas of the highest happiness can be come a kind of obstruction to compassion because we become less capable of empathising with lesser, worldly, ideas of happiness and less capable of rejoicing in the happiness found in them.
Personally, I think once people direct themselves into a baseline path of harmlessness, they've attained something truly marvellous. The thought of beings not contributing to the sufferings of others, and being a light of harmlessness for others to follow - It's such a beautiful thing it makes me want to cry. That there are beings taking this much further is even more wondrous. If all y'all reading this can set aside our westerly self-modest ideas of being nothing special for a moment, give yourself a pat on the back for being among the most beautiful and luminous of beings around for having started on such a path and rejoice.
I didn't take Bodhisattva vows just to lead others to liberation alone. I took them to support all beings I can in all good endeavours. My path is just a path of goodness in any shape or form, worldly or otherwise. I practise Buddhism because it strikes me as one the most refined expressions of that and it seems to me that if you cultivate good qualities in sufficient measure it will eventually yield and reveal the heart's innermost desire as being the wish for liberation. But if beings' wish for happiness isn't revealed to them as that, then I support and rejoice for them in any good qualities they cultivate and aspire to. For me, we are all together on the same path of goodness, albeit perhaps with different ideas of what is good and how much we want of it. But these differences are quite trivial to our shared aspiration for goodness.
I don't mind sharing that something that helped broaden my view of all this were bardo memories. Believe it or not, there are bodhisattvas there to help guide a lot of beings whom they care for very deeply. And they support and encourage people seeking liberation just as they support and encourage beings who do not even have a conception of such a thing. All without ulterior ideas about eventually leading them to liberation, etc (though they know that if they keep it up the cultivation of virtue, they will eventually refine the minds to wish for it). There's a real family feel to it. And of course, they don't care if they are seen as bodhisattvas, angels or whatever. All are equally illusory displays for our benefit. The 'Mahayana' project of benefiting all beings is friggin huge. Way larger than any so-called 'Buddhism' in this world.
Then you have beings like Guanyin who actually helps anyone who calls on her for aid, regardless of where they are in life and where they are going. If it can help them, she will. I recall someone telling me whenever he prayed for Guanyin to help relieve his dog and himself from the annoyances of mosquitoes in the summer (the dog in particular was greatly annoyed by this), she would answer and make them go away! That's a compassion that doesn't care a jot about worldly or liberating Dharma paths but simply wishes to aid and support beings in any way possible.