Many of us who have taken the Bodhisattva vow humorously quip, “Whew, if I knew what I was signing up for, I may have made a different choice!” Of course, this is only to acknowledge that the vow is an elective course for one’s life and requires a bit of stretching. The way of the Bodhisattva is an exercise regimen for the heart of compassion. It is a commitment to recognizing opportunities for service to others and offering help even when it is inconvenient or difficult. In other words, the Bodhisattva vow is more than a nice addition to the Buddhist path. It requires work.

This work is none other than cooperating with our natural capacity to love. But we often do not cooperate. Our own personal dramas take all our energy. Paradoxically, it is leaning into the challenges of helping others that we receive the most help for our own issues. Actually, in the midst of being available through beneficial service to others, we notice our own dramas begin to erode. Our emotional clinging dissolves in our vow to place other’s needs before our own. 

Sometimes Buddhist practitioners fall into the trap of disregarding their own needs while serving others. But it is important to remember whatever we require to resolve our own issues is spontaneously given to us through the act of loving others. This selfless service liberates the ‘self’ associated with our emotional distress. We experience liberation through the simple act of offering compassion without any expectation.

So, when you find yourself drowning in a quagmire of your own emotional reactions, remember to listen to a call for love. In offering your kindness, you will receive the gift you offer.