Do a Good Deed Every Day
A Dharma Teaching by Grandmaster JinBodhi
Compilation by Caral Goh
More than a decade ago, a young couple was returning to their hometown to set up a business. Being practitioners, they asked if I had any instructions for them. Among the many pieces of advice I gave, one was “do a good deed every day.”
The woman pondered this and responded, “Perform a daily kind act? I shall go to the river where many suicides happen. I’ll keep watch and jump to the rescue of anyone in need.”
While I complimented her for her fearless thought and courageous intention, I explained that a daily meritorious deed does not mean performing an exceptional action. On the contrary, the deeds are simple acts in our daily life such as giving a sincere compliment or motivational message to someone. Extending oneself beyond home and workplace to help someone in a timely manner is real happiness. Donation of even a modest amount to an impoverished person is a benevolent act.
Warmth in Your Voice
If you have cultivated compassion in your heart, then attempt to convey gentleness with your body language, voice and eyes. Treat everyone with consistent tenderness.
Some parents speak harshly to their kids. They use threats such as “If you don’t eat, you’ll never grow!” and “If you don’t study hard, you’ll never get a job and you’ll never get married!” Such intimidation tactics traumatize children.
An aggressive demeanor and harsh words destroy happiness. If parents are harsh toward their children, the relationships suffer. Tact and humor are important when interacting with people. Through changes in our behaviors and attitudes, it is possible to bring good cheer and mutual understanding into the family.
Whether you are an elder, a parent, an employee, or a CEO, infusing warmth and concern into your communication is also a daily act of kindness. Many people take close relationships for granted — they assume there is no need for special niceties among family members, colleagues and friends.
Nurturing relationships is like cooking a brilliant dinner. The right cooking skills, which require patience, could turn an ordinary dish into a feast for the senses, while the wrong cooking technique could turn great ingredients into a dish that is difficult to stomach. Likewise, relationships require patience and skill. Be sensitive and regard people with respect, and treat everyone with kindness.
Changes Start With You
I remember a practitioner who shared the story of the transformation in his relationship with his daughter. He related that when his ways of expression became gentler and more approachable, and his temperament calmer, his daughter’s behaviors toward him changed too. No longer fearful of him, she seeks him out and has herself become more caring and friendly. Small positive changes in one’s mannerisms and attitudes can turn the home into a more amiable and loving place. Family members are excited to come back to a safe place, a home filled with affection and warmth.
On the contrary, if a storm is always brewing at home and there is no cohesiveness, family members will turn away from each other and spend time in other places. It is an exhausting situation. The familial emotional bonds become buried beneath hostility.
Children Follow Your Example
School textbooks rarely emphasize the value of being a compassionate and thoughtful person. Many kids are given little explanation as to why they should perform good deeds. If you are a father or mother, it is of paramount importance to educate your child on the necessity of treating others well, of considering the welfare of fellow beings, and of putting time and effort into helping people unconditionally.
There are still many families in which the daughter-in-law does not get along well with her parents-in-law. If a child witnesses friction or disrespect between their parents and grandparents, then they learn that respect is optional or that ill-treatment is permissible. Remember that children are always watching and listening, and they will emulate the speech and behaviors of their parents.
Mothers and fathers must strive to model healthy behaviors. Many parents fail to realize that their own actions are having an adverse impact on their children. The kids will adopt the conduct of their parents and exhibit destructive behaviors in the future. When your son marries, how do you want him to treat you? What if your child is a girl? If she continues to watch your rude actions, she will treat her in-laws in the same ill-mannered way you did.
Parents must learn to be benevolent in order to set the example for their children. When we do not conduct ourselves well or exhibit due respect toward our elders, then in future, our children will return the same treatment to us. Kids who witness hostility within the family are hindered in relationships later on. Thus, it is crucial to learn to be a good person, and to respect and honor one’s parents and elders.
Take the Initiative
Once you understand compassion, do acts of kindness in your daily life: Be friendly to all and treat everyone sincerely, give generously, and help selflessly and unconditionally. Among friends, when the time calls for you to contribute monetarily, give to the best of your ability. When you are called to help in whatever way, do your part without expectations.
Some have the misconception that by not spending money on others and keeping all the wealth for oneself, one’s quality of life will be better. Think again. When you need assistance someday, your friends will be unwilling to help you out. In order to be loved, you have to love others first; if you want happiness and warmth, you must be kind and caring toward all the people around you.
A compassionate person embraces love, empathy, understanding, and broadmindedness. However, in the course of daily work, one may inadvertently bump into negative thoughts. An immensely compassionate person can feel jealousy and anger arising, then quickly calm down and overcome the urge to speak harshly or act rashly. They are able to monitor their emotions and differentiate right from wrong.
Compassion has nothing to do with status in life. Everyone can be compassionate, regardless of their circumstances. Your love and care must be shown through speech or action. Compassion connects people; thebond between people grows through its beauty, its tolerance, its dedication, and its sense of responsibility. When you integrate this truth into your spiritual and physical world every day, your journey begins to transform, elevating you to a more smooth-sailing and auspicious life.