A positive motivation transforms ordinary actions into something marvelous

Jun 13, 2024


The very first level of practice is to learn the nuts and bolts: What is a negative action? What is a positive action? What is a negative state of mind? What is a positive state of mind? We need to learn to distinguish between them. It’s like when we learn botany: we need to distinguish between the weeds and the herbs.


But we can go more deeply and realize – and this is taught at the more advanced level, the bodhisattva path – as Lama Zopa never stops teaching us: the key factor that determines whether what you think and do and say is virtuous or nonvirtuous is not the action itself but the motivation. This is so important to understand.


So, think in the morning:What am I doing? I’m still alive. How fantastic. I can’t believe it. How amazing. So I’m going to make the most of today: I’m going to try to use my body and speech to be of benefit to others and use my mind to develop my qualities so I can be of use to others.


Then you remind yourself throughout the day: when you have your food – you don’t just shove it in your mouth mindlessly – you do a little blessing and then think,I’m going to eat so I can be healthy, so I can be of benefit to others.”


When you understand the way we create karma, and it’s quite technical, you understand that it’s the motivation that impels us to do an action that determines the character of that action. You could argue that eating is just naturally driven by attachment – we can see that – but if before you put food in the mouth you add just the thought of compassion,I’m going to eat so I can be healthy to help others,straight away, the action of eating becomes virtuous. You drop a virtuous seed in your mind: it’s quite a technical point – but also marvelous!


Motivation is what counts, and we need to keep the long-term view in mind: future lives, not just now. Then everything you do can be transformed; everything you do can be within the framework of a virtuous motivation; everything you do – even if it’s eating, sleeping, and going to the toilet, things that are instinctively self-centered – becomes a virtuous action because you’re thinking,I’m doing this so I can be healthy, so I can help others.Something as simple as that can transform everything we do – because nothing’s set in stone.


Good motivation is so powerful. Right now, everything we do is driven by attachment to maintaining our comfort zone. That’s how we all are right now, so we have to practice – you can’t go off overnight and be the best bodhisattva on the planet, the best surgeon, the best anything. You’re training: keep remembering that.


So, you wake up in the morning, you notice you’re still alive, and you start practicing immediately:Well, there you go: I’m still alive. That’s amazing. My petrol tank of morality hasn’t run out yet. Wow, fantastic. I’m going to make the most of today.You hop out of bed. You do your offerings on your altar – whatever you do. You remember:Why am I doing this? So I can grow my mind, grow my virtuous qualities.”


Then you have your breakfast, and you remember you’re going to eat it so you can be fat and healthy so you can help others. You’re not just mindlessly following attachment; you’ve got to be conscious.


We’re reprogramming our mind. Our mind is the key: what we do with our mind is what creates us. The more conscious we are, the more we create a marvelous person.


You keep leading your life like that, whatever you do. You walk outside, you go shopping.Why am I going shopping? Not just to follow attachment. So I can be healthy, so I can get food, and have clothes, so I can be useful, so I can keep working on my mind, so I can be of benefit to others.”


This motivation makes ordinary things something marvelous. We’re not just following the craving to be comfortable, to eat, sleep, and go to the toilet. Then we won’t just wake up and groan –Oh God, no, not another day!


We’ll make the most of life, remembering with enthusiasm that we’re a work in progress: that every action of our body, speech, and mind counts.


More blog posts

The buddhas and bodhisattvas come where they’re needed

A question came up recently: Since Lama Zopa passed away and there have been prayers for his swift return, is that to be taken in a literal sense? Will he only reincarnate if there's prayer? It’s a really good question, and the answer is completely logical and simple...

Big surprise! Attachment is the main source of our problems

As far as the four noble truths are concerned, the main source of our suffering is attachment: this is what we have to understand. This is surprising: we don’t think like this. This is not Jung's model of the mind, or Freud's. And you don't get attachment from your...

Neuroses are not at the core of our being and therefore can be removed

Let’s talk about the fundamental point that underpins all of Buddha’s teachings from A to Z – all of Buddha's teachings from A to zed, as we say in England and Australia. According to the Buddhist analysis, the neurotic states of mind, the unhappy states of mind, the...

Share this article