Cultivators must develop the Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind. With these Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind, one will be able to teach and transform living beings, helping them to escape suffering and attain happiness. If a cultivator lacks these Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind, his practice will run counter to the Way. Even if he cultivated for eighty thousand great eons, he would still be 84,000 miles away from the Buddhas’ Way.
The Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind are basic requisites for every cultivator. They are kindness, compassion, joy, and giving. Unlimited means having no limit; it means not giving up halfway, not setting a limit for oneself. One should not be satisfied with a small achievement and think it’s enough. Actually, one can never have enough of the qualities of kindness, compassion, joy, and giving－the more the better. We should develop and expand them until we achieve their ultimate perfection.
1. Kindness makes others happy. Have we made living beings happy? If not, then we have not perfected our kindness. We should strive to feel “great kindness towards those with whom we have no affinities.” Not only should we sympathize with people who are going through hard times, we should feel for animals caught in unfortunate circumstances. In times of misfortune, we should extend a hand to help living beings out of the ocean of suffering. This is our duty as Buddhists. We cannot look on with total unconcern, for that would go against the Buddhist spirit of saving the world. Buddhism is based upon kindness and compassion, using a wide variety of expedient means to teach living beings.
2. Compassion eradicates suffering. Are we able to eradicate the suffering of living beings? If not, then we have not practiced compassion to the utmost. We should have the attitude of great compassion, which is to regard ourselves as being one with all. With this attitude, if we see others drowning, it’s as if we ourselves were drowning. Seeing others hungry is equivalent to being hungry ourselves. Compassion is Buddhism’s primary emphasis. Compassion refers to a sympathetic heart, which coincides with the Confucian idea of “caring about the destiny of humankind.” This shows that all sages think alike. Their philosophies follow the same line of thought and do not go beyond the sympathetic mind. Buddhism advocates kindness and compassion while Confucianism promotes loyalty and forgiveness. These are actually one and the same. This is the essence of all religions. Anything that didn’t agree with it would be the deviant teachings of externalists.
3. Joy refers to a happy state of mind. Are we happy in studying the Buddhadharma? Or are we worried or afflicted or in a bad mood? If it’s the latter, we must correct ourselves immediately and stop such states from developing further. We are mistaken if we think it’s okay to keep our bad habits and get caught up in our emotions and desires. We had better not continue in this mistaken way, or else the consequences will be unthinkable.
4. As for giving, do we wish to give? If so, is our wish great or small, temporary or permanent? Giving involves wanting to make living beings happy, to alleviate their suffering, and to help those in need. This process will generate boundless happiness within us, but we should not get attached to it. After we have done these things, we should forget about them. If we get attached and cannot forget what we have done, then we aren’t practicing the vows and conduct of a Bodhisattva. If our aspiration is to practice kindness without seeking anything in return, we can be considered genuine Buddhists.
A talk given on April 26, 1984