At some point some of us come to the realisation that they really want to help others (there are others who just do it, but it’s a different story). The aspiration is urgent. We start out small, by donating to a charity or two. We volunteer. We ask friends and family about causes to support. We give away a bonus. We progress to a giving pledge where we start giving away regularly a chunk of income to causes that we care about. We sign petitions, try activism and research local foodbanks.
As I was completing my Level 2 course in Counselling Skills, as part of one of the assignments was this question:
What is your motivation for helping others?
One has to be very honest with themselves about their motivation. Quite often “helping” is just another form of control or ego/ identity play: “I am a great helper”, “people need me”, “helping others is what I do”. When someone decides to help others, their motivation has to come from a pure place of compassion that is not reliant on outcome. Pure helping is when you get nothing out of it. You do it because there is nothing else for you to do.
In Buddhism, a Bodhisattva vow is a vow of someone who dedicates themselves to the path of service: “May this work produce benefit and illumination for the sake of all living beings.” Ram Dass says: “I help people as a way to work on myself, and I work on myself to help people.”
I aspire to the Bodhisattva’s ideal and want to use my life and human reincarnation to amplify light, serve others by helping them be happier and less lonely. I do this daily by being as self-aware and non-reactive as I can (and failing at it a lot), and by working in a mental health social enterprise. I do this by learning about psychology and counselling. I try and use every helping relationship as an opportunity to work on myself. To see my blind spots, to reveal my deep seated beliefs and values, to learn about what triggers me and why. It is often a rather painful process.
I aspire to help others because what else is there to do? When you are done chasing after material riches, fame or success, helping alleviate suffering remains the only thing worth doing.