Helping is what we are here for. It is the reason that human beings exist. Our planet is designed as a training ground for bodhisattvas. This, about planet Earth, is expressed as the development of bodhichitta through the lives of all kingdoms.
Each kingdom gives to others. Doing so, kingdoms assist and sustain the well-being of other forms of life which then fosters the development and well-being of the kingdom that is helping or giving. For human beings it is the same, but we are the youngest kingdom on the planet and, as such, are in a childlike stage of understanding and demonstration of bodhichitta.
What is bodhichitta? The word is Sanskrit and ancient. It is used to describe kind-heartedness. Literally, the word translates as lighted or awakened (bodhi) mind or activity of the mind (chitta). However, in order to understand mind or lighted fairly correctly in their Sanskrit meanings, one must broaden the definitions of both. Lighted (bodhi) is a radiant, clear kind of perception. Bodhi is related to an inner pervasive luminous energy shared by all existence. To use bodhi in this way, then, is to speak of an awakened (“Oh, now I understand.”) state of being. Chitta also must be loosed from hard or small definitions, but such is the case with Sanskrit overall: its terms often refer to full and multi-layered concepts and philosophical or ontological or metaphysical principles. Chitta is the activity of the mind, but mind is not reduced to strictly mental processes nor activity to mental churning. Chitta, in this case, refers to the activities of an awakened, lighted awareness. Bodhichitta, then, is to think, act, speak, create, relate, and live from the light within. Bodhichitta is often translated as altruistic mind or mind of enlightenment – meaning a person oriented toward enlightenment or someone living from creative kindness.
The mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms of Earth are not comprised of people, but they express and live from varying types of maturity and expression of bodhichitta. To do so is to live from the bodhisattva nature innate within all sentient beings. Bodhisattva (Sanskrit) translates as lighted being (sattva), awakened being, a being living from and demonstrating creative kindness in a variety of ways.
The mineral kingdom gives constitution to all that exists on Earth, even to the Earth itself. The mineral kingdom is the source of bones and flesh, of bark and trunk, of salt in the sea, and color in butterfly wings, fur, feather, and shell. It also is the source of all the chemicals in all their forms on Earth. Look around you, in your room, at your food, and at your physical form. Consider the biochemistry that makes the body function or look around at the minerals that comprise walls, floor, equipment, water, an ground. Reflect and see the mineral kingdom involved in all of these. Then, expand the observation and look out your window. Grass, tree, sky, and rain all are composed from the mineral kingdom. Give a few minutes for contemplation of the vast gifts and ceaseless selfless bodhichitta of the mineral kingdom.
The plant kingdom provides sustenance to other kingdoms. It and the mineral kingdom provide all shelter, fuel, and most resources that are used by all other kingdoms. The plant kingdom, due to compost, is the source of soil, in which most of the plant kingdom itself grows. Thus, through giving even in death or completion, the plant kingdom furthers life on Earth as well as for itself.
The animal kingdom is the second youngest kingdom on Earth, human beings being the most recent and youngest. The animal kingdom is still young in its expression of bodhichitta being overall still focused on taking as well as on self-importance. For example, consider grazing and the plethora of animals that graze in the variety of ways that grazing is done. The tops of trees provide grazing to birds, insects, and primates while the ground provides grazing to other kinds of animals including insects. To graze is to take. Consider water consumption by animals all over the planet, except aquatic ones. Consumption is similar in the animal and human kingdoms. Compare this to the the plant kingdom which, though it consumes water and minerals, is implicit in the creation of weather, thus the fall of rain and snow on Earth thereby water is replenished. Animal waste, such as dung or bones, certainly return to the earth some of riches that had been taken and consumed.
The animal kingdom is a source of food for itself as well as for the human kingdom. Predator-prey, then, is a developmental stage of learning to give. Parenting is also. Interestingly, both these behavioral patterns foster a sense of self, the sense of individual. On the plains or savannah, the predator evaluates a herd for the weak individual. In the ocean, a shoal of fish will school into a tight ball of oneness so that an individual is less easily picked off by the shark, dolphin, or marlin. In the sky, the raptors will look for the stray bat in the dusk-ascending flock. The predator is looking for the individual, and the prey understands that separated means easy target. Human beings will use this same technique in schoolyard bullying, in politics, and in war. Then, it is called “divide and conquer.”
Parenting requires mating. Mating has produced combat and supremacy – reinforcing individuality again. Parenting also focuses on the individual of both the parental responsibility as well as the development of an offspring capable of surviving in an individuated way. Parenting and protecting are, of course, expressions of giving however, the level of selflessness (required for giving to be bodhichitta) varies greatly according to species and circumstances. Nonetheless, giving and helping, sustaining and protecting are vibrantly being demonstrated through the animal kingdom. As such, the bodhisattva intention can be recognized in the developing animal kingdom.
As already stated, human beings are the youngest kingdom on Earth. Like a baby, humanity’s attentions are focused on primal biological and survival needs. As a result, human beings express taking far more than giving. Just as an infant cannot feed, protect, or clothe itself, nor survive or live alone, humanity is learning that it, as a whole, also cannot live isolated or unto itself. Humanity is fed through the sacrifice (bodhichitta) of other kingdoms. We exist within the interdependent connectedness of all life on Earth. Yet, the world is experiencing a cycle of political unrest as well as global warming which are directly related to humanity taking. By the same token, when interconnectedness of species, Earth, and action are acknowledged, then humanity takes less. This is like a child learning to share or learning patience and not to interrupt.
Selflessness is within the expression of bodhichitta. As a person cultivates depersonalization or, equally, the value of others and their needs, then humanity as a whole is furthered in maturing bodhichitta. Living from kindness, selflessness, and care for others creates peace in one’s environment, in one’s mind, in one’s circumstances. This, then, flowers such that others experience the wisdom and collective results of living altruistically: everyone is served.