Aspiration prayers are very common in Buddhist cultures. But, why do we need to do these prayers? Why are aspirations so important? In this audio clip from a teaching in Singapore on the King of Aspiration prayer in 2017, Phakchok Rinpoche explains how aspiration functions. We can think of a causal chain. Dharma comes from the buddhas. And buddhas develop from bodhisattvas. Likewise, compassion gives birth to bodhisattvas. Without compassion, bodhisattvas will not exist. But, fortunately, the compassion of countless bodhisattvas combines and manifests in aspiration prayers.

Aspiration: Water Allows Compassion to Grow

Aspiration is like water, and motivation is like the seed. You plant a seed and want to see the plant grow. Water is the aspiration. You need to keep developing, growing your motivation correctly. If you are a really compassionate person, and I am a really compassionate person, but you have aspirations and I don’t, then what is the difference? You can succeed in what you set out to do.

Aspiration is the water that grows compassion into reality. Without aspiration, compassion is sort of stuck—you’re just a good person. Nothing more, and nothing less. But with aspirations, compassion can grow to limitless proportions. Why? Because there are limitless sentient beings, and those sentient beings all have their own issues.

Aspirations: What Type Do We Need?

So what kind of aspirations should we have? Our own aspirations? No, because our own aspirations tend to be very small. We may water only one small seedling. We tend to base our own aspirations on our own suffering and on overcoming our own problems. If we are hungry, we make aspirations to provide food for all beings. And that’s a good thought, of course. But the bodhisattvas make even greater aspirations. They make aspirations that reach all the way to enlightenment. Their aspirations water all the plants wherever space pervades.

And what is enlightenment? It means complete fearlessness. When you face suffering, you can be completely fearless. Suffering doesn’t overcome you, you become very steady and stable. Our happiness becomes very established, not changeable or dependent upon moods. When we make aspirations, we can continue to water and nourish others with our compassion regardless of our own situation.

Steady happiness is different from temporary, exciting happiness that excites us. It is very important for us to understand that short-term happiness is not a worthy aim. It’s nice to eat gourmet food, it’s very fashionable. But in the end, what is the result? Think about it!

In the 21st century, most of us don’t really want to achieve or understand enlightenment very well. Let’s work together to understand, gain confidence, and imagine that enlightenment brings ultimate, steady happiness.

  • This week, take some additional moments to water your practice with aspiration. Remember that we can make aspirations during formal practice, and that is wonderful. But, we can also stop throughout our day to make aspirations.
  • Can you find some time today, this hour, to make aspirations? How do you water the seeds of your motivation? Take a few moments to water your compassion at random intervals during the day.
  • What aspirations bring joy to your life?