I know that according to Buddhism, we all have the potential for enlightenment, and that the reason to pursue this state is to help all living beings become free from suffering. While striving to become a Buddha seems like a noble ambition to me, I don’t really understand how attaining this state would actually enable me to help others. Can you explain?
The main point is that for as long as we’re under the influence of ignorance we have no ability to help others because we ourselves are in a state of suffering. As Geshe Kelsang writes about in his books, ignorance means that we’re relating to a self that doesn’t actually exist, a self that we perceive to be independent of and separate from everyone and everything else. We believe this is who we truly are and so we naturally feel it to be the most important thing in the universe. As a consequence, everything we do is in the aim of serving and protecting this non-existent self! Inevitably, we end up creating deluded states and suffering for ourselves and others. An enlightened being is completely free of ignorance which means he or she is actually in reality. He or she abides in the interdependence of all beings. His or her heart is pervaded by loving-kindness, by compassion, and by wisdom and therefore naturally everything he or she does benefits others. There’s a lot more that could be said on this topic, but just to understand that an enlightened being is in reality and therefore able to connect authentically to others with love, wisdom and compassion, I think indicates just how beneficial the enlightened state is.
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