A Linked In writing group member, Afshain Afzal, posed a question regarding my latest blog post. Last week I wrote a blog titled: What is the Greatest Tragedy in Life, and how we should live with meaning and purpose rather than mechanically or even destructively. Afshain’s question had to do with self-sacrifice and helping others who are less fortunate than ourselves. He writes:
“There are lucky people who have options and choices in their lives. Many people are overburdened with their own responsibilities and obligations. Such people are left with hardly any time to think on such lines [about helping others]. We are lucky and not included in this category. One wonders how such people can play their part and contribute to the larger cause of humanity? What is your opinion? Will it suffice for [these people] to perform their duties and obligations properly or can they contribute more?”
I always thought self-sacrifice, charity, and helping others was primarily for those members of society who could “afford” to part with a little extra change or a portion of their salary to help those less fortunate. After all, if the poor could afford to help others, they wouldn’t be poor. This may be true to a certain extent. Certainly the wealthier among us has some obligation to help out those in need. This assumes, however, that helping others or contributing to the “larger cause of humanity” consists primarily of financial assistance. Fortunately, it does not.
Especially in Buddhism, where we help and support each other spiritually and emotionally, rather than financially. If we offer a few kind words of encouragement or praise to a friend, we will find ourselves encouraged. When we help others, we also help ourselves – in more ways than one. I’ve always liked the expression, “think globally, act locally.” Even small acts of kindness go a long way – a cheerful smile for the cashier, a prayer for our neighbor, a $10 bag of groceries for the hungry – every little bit helps. There is no sense getting overwhelmed by the multitude of sufferings in this world, but making time to help others also helps get our mind off our own problems and puts them into perspective. As Nichiren Daishonin states: “If you light a lamp for another, your own way will be lit.”