by Bhante Mahinda
When we get up in the morning, what is it that motivates us to go to work, or to school? Is it money, status, enjoyment…? Why is it that sometimes we don’t feel we have the energy to go about our daily activities, or that the challenges of moving forward in our lives seem overwhelming?
It all comes down to our motivation. Motivation is very important, whether we wish to succeed materially or spiritually. Right motivation drives us to do the right thing, that which is wholesome and skilful, and beneficial to both ourselves and others.
We need right motivation to face the challenges of life, to confront and overcome problems and obstacles. Thus it is important that we consider what can really motivate us to strive hard to succeed in our career, studies or other activities?
When we cultivate metta and sincerely wish for the wellbeing of all sentient beings, we will naturally develop the right motivation. When we are motivated by the thought of benefiting others, and not by a selfish desire to benefit ourselves alone, we will have the energy to continue, no matter what hindrances we may encounter.
For example, when students have respect, love and gratitude for their parents and teachers, they will be motivated to study hard and will have the determination to meet whatever challenges that may arise. Similarly, it is out of love that parents work hard and strive to overcome hardships and difficulties in order to support and care for their children.
This is how loving-kindness provides the right motivation, giving us the energy not only to carry on with our lives, but also to be successful, so as to fulfil our duties and responsibilities to one another. Our purpose in life is linked to our love and care for others. Sometimes people even contemplate suicide when they lose their loved ones, because they no longer see any meaning in their lives.
To prevent such tendencies we need to become aware of the bigger picture. In the infinite cycle of birth and death, we have established a vast network of relationships. Our past parents, children and loved ones are all around us, not only among humans, but also amongst animals and some higher and lower beings as well. Thus we should extend our love and care beyond our immediate family and friends, to wish all beings to be well and happy.
If we contemplate the kindness of our parents and loved ones in this present life, and recognise that others around us have been our kind parents and loved ones in the past, or will be in the future, we will start to broaden our outlook to encompass all living beings. Out of gratitude for their kindness, we will be motivated to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to alleviate the sufferings of others, thus giving deeper meaning and purpose to our lives.
This deeper meaning will not only motivate us to succeed in our worldly lives, but also to develop ourselves spiritually, so that we can benefit others at a different level. At the worldly level our motivation to succeed usually comes with ulterior motives – the expectation of receiving something in return – and this ultimately leads to disappointment and frustration. As we tread the spiritual path, we need to learn to act out of the purity of our hearts, without any expectation of reward or return, by cultivating unconditional compassionate love.
It is out of great loving-kindness and compassion for all sentient beings, that great spiritual teachers like the Buddha make such great effort to search for the truth and to develop the knowledge and skills to enlighten others. Starting with the thought of loving-kindness, we too can develop the motivation to bring benefit and happiness to others, beginning with those around us and extending out to embrace the whole world.