Giving What People Want and Need and Not What We Want to Give

Last night, I visited a patient suffering from tuberculosis.  Counselled him and chanted Om Mani Padme Hum with him and his family members.  It’s been awhile since I chanted Om.  He is a long time chanter of it, so I explained in brief to him, the significance of this Mantra, and chanted Om Mani Padme Hum with him and his family members.

I had wanted to chant seven rounds of the small beads I was wearing, as I didn’t want to tire him out.  In the end, we must have chanted for 30 minutes to 45 minutes or so, so we reached around 8 and left at 9.  Ended with a recitation of the Heart Sutra.

In Buddhism, we give what is suitable and appropriate for the recipient and not simply shove what we prefer down people’s throat! 😉

This reminds me of the teaching in 《觀世音菩薩普門品》 “The Chapter on Universal Doors (Methods) of Guan Yin (Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva)”.

Below is an excerpt:


Inexhaustible Aspiration* Bodhisattva addresses the Buddha: “World Honoured One, how does Guan Yin Bodhisattva traverse this Saha World, how does he speak (teach) the Dharma to the beings? Through what means is this possible?”

子。若有國土眾生應以佛身得度者。 觀世音菩薩。即現佛身而為說法。

The Buddha tells Inexhaustible Aspiration Bodhisattva: “Good man, if there are such beings in the land that requires a Buddha to liberate, Guan Yin Bodhisattva, would manifest as a Buddha and teach the Dharma.”

… requires a pratyeka Buddha …
… requires a Śrāvaka …
… a brahma …
…  a Śakra …
… a Īśvaradeva …
… a maheśvara …
應以天大將軍身 得度者。即現天大將軍身而為說法。
… deva general …
… Vaiśravaṇa (a yakṣa king) …
… a king …
應以長者身得度者。即現長者身而為 說法。
… an elder …
… a householder …
… a minister …
… a brahmin …
應以比丘比丘尼優婆塞 優婆夷身得度者。即現比丘比丘尼優婆塞優婆夷身而為說法。
… a bhikshu, bhikshuni, lay person..
… a lady …
應以童男童女身得度者。即現童男童女 身而為說法。
… a child …
應以天龍  夜叉  乾闥婆  阿修羅  迦樓羅  緊那羅  摩睺羅伽  人非人等身得度者。即皆現之而為說法。
… a nāga, yakṣa, gandharva, asura, garuḍa, Kiṃnara, Mahoraga, human, human-like beings …
… a vajra-wielding being …


The list is often summarised as

In whatever forms is required to teach in order to liberate the recipient, one shall manifest in that form to teach.

While we are not necessarily capable of manifesting in various forms externally, we can follow the spirit of it and share what is conducive, suitable and needed for others to progress, to practise, to move even if one step closer towards Nibbāna … or Nirvāṇa if you will!

PS: The keyword is what is required for them to learn, practise and be liberated, and not simply what people want.


* 無盡意菩薩 – I translate as “Inexhaustible Aspiration Bodhisattva”, as he is named due to his great aspiration to aspire towards attainment of inexhaustible (unlimited) merits of Buddhahood, in order to guide, teach and liberate the inexhaustible number of sentient beings in this world.


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