Being Used by Others

Master Jingzong; English translation by Foyuan, edited by Fojin

If you tell someone that he is “being used by others,” he may feel humiliated and cheated, and consider himself a pushover who is not worthy of respect and lacks a mind of his own. But the phrase “being used by others” is merely a game of semantics which the conceited and illusory ego plays and gets trapped in.

There is nothing wrong with “being used by others.” We don’t suffer any losses as a result. The question is whether this takes place knowingly or unwittingly, or is carried out with malicious or positive intentions. However, the most important consideration is whether or not it is done for a good cause.

When a young college graduate hurries into the job market eagerly looking for an employer, he is just like a human billboard wearing a placard that says, “USE ME!” He panics if he cannot find anyone willing to hire him. How he then wishes he could be used by someone! He would definitely not mind being used. That phrase does not even exist as far as he is concerned since he actively seeks to be of use to others.

Every person and object is born to be used by others. The value of each existence can only be realized and increased when it is being utilized for the benefit of sentient beings. A person is worthless if he is not engaged in anything useful in his entire life. Likewise, an object not in use is good-for-nothing. Each has lost the meaning of its existence.

If a broom is never used to clean even an inch of the floor but just left to decay and rot, it will find it difficult to accept such a life. However, if it is used to sweep the floor, it feels happy no matter how dirty or tired it gets since it has found its purpose. The same broom, when used not for cleaning but for fighting, will be unhappy since it is not being used properly.

As a Buddhist, I would be most honored if others make use of me to further the harmony of society and help purify people’s minds. Better still, to help sentient beings to be freed from the cycle of life and death and achieve enlightenment. It is exactly what a Bodhisattva aspires to: to benefit oneself and others. Propagating the Dharma is letting the public understand the teachings of the Buddha and apply them to benefit beings.

Buddhism attaches no taboo to being utilized by anyone, whether from the ruling class or from among common people, as long as it is in a proper manner compatible with the essence of the Dharma. Using Buddhism as a front for economic gains and such like are unethical employments of the Dharma. So are the various unfair means of accumulating wealth and seeking fame to aggrandize individuals within the Buddhist community.

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