Universal Responsibility
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

We are responsible for the happiness and peace of all the sentient beings around us, including humans, animals and other living beings. How are we responsible for their happiness, peace and success?

If we look at others with negative thoughts, such as ill will, anger, jealousy or a selfish mind, and if we are only concerned about ourselves, with no feeling for their happiness or problems, then our actions and behaviour will also be negative and we will have a negative vibration. Our negative attitude affects others — it makes them unhappy, sad, depressed and unpleasant, and it creates an unhappy, depressed environment. Our negative attitude and disrespectful, harmful behaviour towards others causes anger and negative thoughts to arise in them. This causes them to create negative karma and to harm us, and this destroys any peace and happiness that they have.

If we look at others with loving, compassionate thoughts and if we cherish them with bodhicitta and a positive mind that is patient and peaceful, our positive attitude creates a warm feeling for them. There is respect and other positive behaviour, such as kindness and non-harming, and on top of that, we help them. We give peace and happiness to other sentient beings — we bring peace to their hearts and we bring them happiness and harmonious relationships. If we help others and avoid harming or interfering with others’ wishes, we bring them success. If we have a loving, compassionate mind, we also have a loving, compassionate smile and a kind face, and that brings happiness to others.

Our attitude and behavior towards others can bring either happiness or unhappiness to their lives and to their hearts. Therefore, we are responsible for the happiness, peace and success that others receive in everyday life. All the people, animals and other living beings that we see and don’t see — their happiness, peace and success comes from us and we are responsible for that. In everyday life, if we are at home, in an office, at a Dharma center or in a shop — wherever we are, we should feel responsible for the happiness of all the living beings that are around us. We should keep our mind continuously in this state of feeling responsibility for the happiness of all sentient beings, including human beings, other creatures and insects.

As well as their temporary happiness, we are responsible for their ultimate happiness — the cessation of the entire sufferings and their causes — the sorrowless state and the peerless happiness, full enlightenment. We are responsible for causing the ultimate happiness for these sentient beings, but this responsibility depends on our attitude. We can cause others to create negative karma, to generate anger, a dissatisfied mind, attachment, ignorance, all these things. We can cause others to create negative karma and to reincarnate, to fall down to the lower realms, to continuously experience the sufferings of samsara, or we can cause them to cease anger, the dissatisfied mind, attachment, ignorance and the self-cherishing thought. We can cause them to renounce samsara and to actualise the wisdom realising emptiness and bodhicitta. We can cause them to actualise the path and achieve ultimate happiness, especially peerless happiness, full enlightenment, depending on what we do with our mind. So, there is danger and there is also benefit.

There is great danger because we can cause harm to other sentient beings and there are also great benefits that we can offer them. We have the potential to offer the greatest benefit to other sentient beings, therefore we have this responsibility to help them. We have received a perfect human rebirth and we have the opportunity to practice Dharma. We have met the virtuous friend or, we have met not just one, but many qualified Mahayana virtuous friends, who reveal the path of virtue and the cause of temporary and ultimate happiness — the path to liberation, full enlightenment.

We have met the unmistaken path to peace and especially the graduated path to enlightenment that brings not only temporary happiness but also ultimate happiness, therefore we have the opportunity to help others. By receiving a perfect human rebirth and meeting a virtuous friend and this unmistaken path to peace, we can reveal the path to others and cease all their suffering and its causes, and bring them ultimate happiness, liberation and the highest enlightenment. We have the opportunity to help all sentient beings, therefore, we are responsible for their happiness, especially the ultimate happiness, enlightenment.

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