The Importance of a Proper Motivation 

-Patric Zwahlen, BA student from Switzerland

This academic year, we had the great fortune of studying the Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra. Apart from the rich and profound explanations on this subject, I was particularly moved by something Lopon-La emphasized before each class: the importance of approaching the teachings with a virtuous motivation. Despite the daily reminders, I often found myself not paying enough attention to my motivation. In this regard, I would like to briefly review three aspects of motivation that Lopon-La highlighted last year. 

The first aspect emphasized was that motivation determines the direction of any action. Motivation defines whether an activity is virtuous or not and also which result is achieved by a particular action. Therefore, virtuous motivation is essential, especially when studying and practicing dharma. In the context of Mahayana Buddhism, bodhichitta is considered the best motivation. It means that an action of body, speech, or mind is performed with the aspiration to achieve the highest goal of Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. 

The second aspect was that with proper motivation, everything becomes part of one’s practice. Especially during stressful times, one may quickly feel that there is no time for dharma practice because worldly activities consume all the time. However, suppose one acts with the motivation of bodhichitta. In that case, one can accumulate incredible merit even with ordinary activities. There is no longer a gap between one’s practice and everyday life. 

The third aspect of motivation that Lopon-La emphasized concerns the relation of what we hear to our lives. Especially when studying complex subjects such as Buddha nature, the topic may become very abstract and has little to do with one’s own experience. In this regard, proper motivation can be very beneficial. By remembering before each class why one is studying, one reduces the danger of losing the personal connection to those topics. Otherwise, studying a certain subject can become very dry without leaving a more profound impact. 

As we have seen, generating a virtuous motivation is the first thing emphasized daily in philosophy classes, and there are good reasons for doing so. I am immensely grateful to our teachers and translators for repeatedly reminding us of such critical and fundamental points with patience and diligence. 

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