The biggest obstacle to the development of compassion and wisdom is anger and hatred. It is said that in a single burst of anger, one loses all the merits accumulated from charity, discipline, offerings to the Buddha and other wholesome deeds.
The Four Immeasurable States of Mind
The Buddha said, "Hatred ceases only by love; hatred never ceases by hatred. This is an eternal law." In order for us to cease our anger and hatred, the Buddha urged us to cherish the Four Immeasurable States of Mind: (1) Kindness Kindness is the sincere wish for the welfare of all sentient beings. This will eradicate greed and bring forth peace of mind. In most cases, it doesn't take more than a sincere smile. (2) Compassion Compassion is the sincere wish to remove the sufferings of all sentient beings. It can eliminate hatred and violence, and bring forth mental concentration. Kind words, care and charity are the common expressions of compassion. (3) Appreciative joy Appreciative joy is the sincere mind that rejoices over the success and prosperity of others. It can dispel jealousy and generate happy acquiescence. A sincere congratulatory expression and a supporting mind are the basic elements of appreciative joy. (4) Equanimity Equanimity is defined as the state of mind free of affection and dislike. It can dissipate the effects of suffering and bring forth peacefulness through the ups and downs of our life. Whether it is gain or loss, praise or blame, and success or failure, no longer can it affect us. Buddha's Vow As a noble prince of a kingdom, the Buddha forsook the palatial life of luxuries to cultivate the Way. After six years of painful practices, the Buddha was resolved to make his final search for the way to Enlightenment. At the root of a Bodhi tree, he sat cross-legged with half-closed eyes looking through the tip of his nose. He then made a heaven-startling and earth-shaking vow as follows: Though my blood may dry up... My flesh may decay... My bones may turn to dust... Yet I will never leave this place... Until I find the way for Enlightenment. Following this vow was a spiritual struggle of immeasurable intensity. Wandering thoughts and temptations of devils besieged the prince. However, having determined to search for the truth transcending all human sufferings, he rejected every single one of them. Finally, he attained Enlightenment by fully understanding the Four Noble Truths. It is clear that the power of resolve of the Buddha can help eliminate all the impurities of the mind, thus dispelling the darkness of ignorance.
The vow of the Buddha becomes our light of faith. It separates us from any doubt in the Path. It is said in the Flower Adornment Sutra that faith is the source of the Path. To start our journey in seeking Enlightenment, we can make the Four Universal Vows that the Bodhisattvas made:
Sentient beings are boundless... I vow to save them all... Afflictions are endless... I vow to extinguish them all... Dharma doors are measureless... I vow to learn them all... The Buddha's path is unsurpassed... I vow to realize it. Through these powerful vows, we can develop a strong will and practice with vigor and progress. These vows help us lighten up on our own personal joys and sorrows. We begin to shift the focus from the vicissitudes of our life to the well-being of sentient beings. We have more respect and sympathy for others. By applying the Buddha's teachings in daily activities, we will become better fathers or mothers, husbands or wives, sons or daughters in the families. We will also become better employers or employees in the workplaces as well as better citizens in the society. Life becomes more joyful and fulfilling.