Today I went to make an offering to the naga at our local spring. It was a perfect late-summer morning, clear and warm but not humid, with a strong breeze that rippled the water into sparkling diamond patterns.
The river has been high and the tea-colored river water has obscured the spring, tinting the water in the shallows an unusual golden color.
After I made the offering, as I was standing on the limestone shelf that surrounds the spring, I noticed many medium-sized fish approaching me in the sparkling water. I stood very still, and the school of fish gathered around me and hovered in place, staring at me. I was surrounded by shimmering water and glistening fish!
As I stood there, I thought about what His Holiness Karmapa had said this morning, on the first day of his autumn teachings.*
Karmapa's topic is "How to Generate Relative Bodhicitta," the wish for all sentient beings to become enlightened. We are so wrapped up in our own wants and needs, Karmapa said, that it is hard for us to remember to shift our focus to other sentient beings. As an example, he referred to the animal realm: "These are the real owners of our world," and not just those animals we can see, but also those we cannot—such as nagas.
We kill many of these animals, some for fun, some for food. Who is to protect them and serve their interests? And what about the bigger picture of the whole environment, and those it sustains? We must consider these things, Karmapa said (and this was the part of the talk where I noticed he was most animated).
"This is not just big talk, but a critical responsibility that challenges us," he said. It is the responsibility of each individual to benefit each and every other individual, so that we begin a chain reaction of helping each other. If this does not happen now, we have no guarantee that we will have this chance again in the future.
We need to pay attention to "what is really going on in the world, and what sentient beings are being made to experience." We need to consider the happiness of the whole environment. What companies serve sentient beings? (What companies do not?)
The Earth does not discriminate with regard to who lives on it. Cultivation of relative bodhicitta means that we must be ready, willing, and able to take responsibility for the sentient beings who share our world.
So this morning, standing in the spring surrounded by fish, watching the constantly changing patterns and swirling energy in the golden breeze-swept water, I stopped for a moment to consider: What energies am I a part of? What energies am I sending out? Am I really up to this responsibility of caring for and helping all other sentient beings?
I think if I am going to study with Karmapa—and from what I have learned from my other dear teachers—the answer must be yes.
*Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the teachings are being live streamed on the Internet.