My favorite Buddha is Avalokiteśvara, the Buddha of compassion. You might have noticed Avalokiteśvara before, but didn’t realize that it was him. Avalokiteśvara is often portrayed in statues or illustrations as sitting in a meditation posture with dozens of arms sprouting out from his body. This multitude of arms represents Avalokiteśvara’s great compassion.
Thich Nhat Hanh says that Avalokiteśvara has 1,000 eyes so that he can see all those who suffer across the world and 1,000 arms so that he can reach out to them and alleviate their suffering.
Years back, when I made a trip to Japan, I visited a house that once belonged to Samurai warriors. Inside this house, tucked inside a grand hallway, there was a popular exhibit featuring dozens of statutes portraying Avalokiteśvara. The statues were golden and were laid out against the wall, lined up in rows that reached the ceiling.
The exhibit was a magnificent site to see. I remember standing there, next to my friend, in complete awe of the hundreds of eyes I saw searching for the suffering of the world, and the hundreds of arms that reached out to alleviate that suffering.
The people around me were mostly silent, as the place felt incredibly sacred. Visitors were explicitly asked not to take pictures or video, so we simply stood there witnessing the magnificence, beauty, and holiness of Avalokiteśvara as he washed over us.
It was an experience I never forgot.
The Problem With Empathy
When I first learned of Avalokiteśvara, I was reading a book written by Thich Nhat Hanh. I remember closing the book afterwards and feeling a profound connection with Avalokiteśvara. I remember wishing I could be more like him.
I wanted to be able to see all the suffering of the world and be able to reach out and help alleviate that suffering.
Because ever since I remember, I felt this deep empathy for others but never felt I could do anything to satisfy it.
I often found that my empathy came with a price. When I saw the pain of others, I felt that pain, and so my own pain grew.
It seemed that the more I cared, the more I suffered.
That is, until, I learned the wisdom of Avalokiteśvara.
Be Careful What You Wish For
It is more than 5 years since I first learned of Avalokiteśvara. 5 years since I first wished that I could be more like him. 5 years since I wished for 1,000 eyes to see the world’s suffering and 1,000 arms to help alleviate that suffering.
5 years, and today, through my blog, I literally reach around 1,000 + readers a week. Many of these readers have contacted me directly, telling me about what a profound influence I had on them.
Until recently, I viewed my influence as relatively small. I thought my influence was as big as me motivating someone to write. But as my readers shared their personal stories with me, I was starting to realize that my influence was a whole lot bigger than me just motivating people to have a great writing day.
Some of my readers were facing incredibly difficult life challenges, and my blog was helping them get through it.
As I summoned the courage to write, and live a great life, my readers felt inspired to do the same. As I worked to heal through my old wounds in order to grow and find peace, my readers felt inspired to do the same. As I worked to love myself just as I was and honor my passion, my readers felt inspired to do the same.
It wasn’t a fluke. I was actually seeing those who suffered all around the world and I was literally reaching out to them to help alleviate their suffering.
My wish to become more like Avalokiteśvara had finally come true. Before I even knew it, I had 1,000 eyes to see the suffering of the world and 1,000 arms to reach out and help alleviate that suffering.
We Are All More Influential Than We Realize
So far, the greatest lesson my success at blogging has given me is that we’re all more influential than we give ourselves credit for.
All of us.
You might be thinking that just because I reach hundreds of people each day that I somehow have more influence than you do. But you’d be wrong.
Each of us has the same amount of influence on the world. No more. No less.
The things we say, the things we do, and even the things we think have a direct influence on the people around us. The worst thing you can ever do is to think that you are not influential.
When you choose to inspire, that inspiration spreads like wildfire across the globe, even if you don’t see it. Conversely, if you choose to put someone down, then that put down will spread throughout the world just as fast.
There is no other time when this is more true than today.
As a writer, you have to know that every word you write will have a great influence on all of us. So please write with care and write with love. And when you are finished writing, go out and choose to have a positive influence on those around you.
Because what blogging has taught me is that I’m not the only one with a big heart. Each human being was born with a big heart. It is in our very nature as human beings to want to help those who suffer, to reach out to them and lend a helping hand.
We were all born to become Avalokiteśvara’s.
But we must learn that the 1,000 eyes that see the suffering of the world must always be paired with 1,000 hands to reach out to help alleviate that suffering. What that means is that for every amount of suffering we acknowledge in the world, we must pair it with an equal amount of action to help alleviate that suffering.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your passion today and become an activist.
I used to think that I had to become an activist or a politician to help alleviate the world’s suffering. Today, I realize that it doesn’t matter what role you take on–what matters is how you use that role to help others.
You can have just as much influence on the world following your passion as you can if you became an activist or a politician.
Now, you may lack the motivation, or the knowledge, or the skills, or the money, or the support you need to help others, but I hope that, from now on, you at least know that you’ll never lack the influence.
Write something today with the purpose of helping someone else alleviate their suffering. Then, share this piece on your blog or with someone you know.
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