So many humans and animals are suffering every day. There are many ways to help them, but it all depends on knowing their situation and understanding the best way to help them. Just being compassionate and skilled is not enough – we also have to be generous in sharing our time, possessing precepts, patience, persistence, concentration, and wisdom. There are eleven ways to help others. This method is not only beneficial to the needy, but also helps us break away from our lonely shell and make our lives more meaningful:
1. Caring for Those Who Are Suffering
We need to care for those who are sick, disabled, or in pain. When we see someone struggling with a heavy burden or a difficult task, we help and share the burden with them.
2. Guiding Those Who Are Confused About How to Help Themselves
For those who are confused by a difficult situation, we offer advice when asked, or at least are willing to listen. If our dog or cat is trapped in the room, we open the door so they can get out. We even apply this principle when a fly flies by the window. The fly doesn’t want to be indoors; he wants out and we open the window so he can come out.
3. Repay Those Who Have Help Us
We need to appreciate the work of all the creatures that make this world go round and try to help those – like our parents – who have done so much for us. This must be done sincerely, not just out of guilt or obligation.
4. Comfort and Protect Those Who Are Frightened
We should try our best to comfort frightened people and animals. If someone wants to go somewhere that could put them at risk, we offer to accompany and protect them. For refugees who have just escaped from the horror, we offer them protection and help them to settle down. Those who are traumatized by war or persecuted especially need our understanding and help to heal their inner wounds.
5. Comforting Those Who Have Just Lost
When someone is sad because of a divorce or the death of a loved one, we try to comfort them with compassion. Don’t ever look down on them and think, “Oh poor boy,” but try to put ourselves in their shoes and feel how they feel.
6. Providing Material Assistance to Those Who Are Poor
It is better if we make donations to donor agencies, but sometimes it is important to also make donations to beggars we see on the streets. We need to overcome our inner reluctance, especially if the homeless beggar looks dirty and unattractive. We don’t even want to look at them, much less smile and treat them with respect. Imagine if the people living on the street were our mothers or children; how could we pass in front of them as emotionless as passing through a pile of trash?
7. Introducing the Dharma to Those Who Cling to Us
We also need to help those who enjoy being with us all the time. We don’t want them to become too dependent. But if they have a strong relationship with us, we can try to help them by teaching them the basic Buddhist ways to achieve happiness and helping others, but only if they are interested. It is not a matter of spreading religion, but of providing help and advice in general. This way we can make our relationship more meaningful.
8. Helping Others According to Their Desires
We must try to help them the way they want. If someone asks us to teach them something, even if it’s something we don’t like; if it is right for them, we should do it and do our best. Like if we go to a restaurant with friends, of course it is not right and selfish if we always push the food we like. We can also follow what they like. As in any relationship, we need to compromise between what we want and what other people want. It doesn’t always have to be about us and what we like.
9. Encourage Those Who Live Upright Lives
We can help by praising those whose lives are upright – people who follow the path and do a good job – while being careful not to overpower them. This is especially true when we are dealing with people who lack self-confidence. If there is someone who is capable but proud, we may praise him in front of others, but not in front of him. We still encourage them to use their abilities to benefit others, but also help them to reduce their pride by pointing out the mistakes they made.
10. Teaching Constructive Behaviors for Those Who Live Destructive Lives
When we meet people who lead extremely destructive and negative lives, we can’t just ignore, reject, or condemn them. Instead of judging people, we should try to show ways to deal with their negative behavior if they are open to change.
11. Use Our Special Abilities, If All Others Fail
Many of us have abilities above ordinary humans. We may be masters of the martial arts, but we don’t display it in front of others. But if we see someone being attacked, we must use our abilities to immobilize the attacker, if there is no other way to stop them.
Video: Matthieu Ricard – “Benefits of Generosity”
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There are so many ways to benefit others. This skill is not only knowing how to help and who needs to be helped with what, but also when to give help and when to hold back so that they can learn to help themselves. Those who are clearly suffering, both physically and mentally, need our immediate care. But help must be given in the right size – not too much and not too little. We need to help the poor get back on their feet, but the best long-term help may be to provide them with the conditions and tools to walk on their own and take care of themselves.