Do You Yearn To Ease Suffering Of Others?

A few week’s ago my husband, daughter, and I attended a dharma talk at the Green Gulch Zen Center about training to be a bodhisattva, which can be defined as one who is on the path of enlightenment and personal liberation, but who is also committed to easing the suffering of others.

When the monk was describing the bodhisattva path, a little voice inside me piped up with “That’s me!” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, in fact, this describes almost everybody in the Owning Pink community.  We are a Universe of bodhisattvas, supporting and loving each other as we seek enlightenment while dedicating our lives to easing the suffering of others.

So of course, I had to write a post to teach all you fellow bodhisattvas what I learned.

The monk began the dharma talk by holding up a pumpkin and telling a story.

A Pumpkin Story

Once upon a time there were a bunch of squashes fighting, trying to kill each other, screaming hurtful things, scared that there wouldn’t be enough food or water or sunlight.

Then a monk walked into the garden and said, “Why are you all fighting? Can’t you see that you’re all one big squash plant and each of you is connected by the same vine?”

When the pumpkins realized that they were not individual squashes but part of one big collective squash plant, they stopped trying to hurt each other and started cooperating.

So too are we. All beings are interconnected and when we slather each other in hurt, fear, lack mentality, greed, and violence, we hurt the whole squash plant and ultimately, we all suffer.

The Bodhisattva Path

Those who commit to being a bodhisattva choose to forgo nirvana in order to stay in this world and be a healer (in the broadest definition of the word – we all have the potential to be healers).

3 Ways To Ease Suffering In Others

The bodhisattva training teaches three precepts:

  • Presence: Presence is all about restraining yourself from being distracted from what is right in this moment. It’s about refraining from leaning into gain or leaning away from loss. It’s about being with what is without making it right or wrong or telling yourself stories about it. It’s about personal liberation, which you must achieve in order to truly alleviate the suffering of others.
  • Cultivating wholesome qualities and refraining from evil ones. Wholesome qualities worth practicing are things like love, generosity, gentleness, and gratitude. Evil ones are things like killing, stealing, greed, cheating on your spouse, and getting loaded. It’s hard to ease the suffering of others when you’re engaging in practices that cause suffering to yourself and others, but when you practice ethical behavior, you can more effectively serve others and ease their suffering.
  • Service to all beings. This is all about making a commitment to ease the suffering of others, knowing that we are all one big squash plant. This means avoiding the tendency to “like” some people and “dislike” others.  It’s remembering that we are all connected to Source and we are all manifestations of divine love, here on this earth to let our Inner Pilot Lights radiate.

The Three Bodies Of The Buddha

Training in these three precepts requires cultivating what Buddhists call the “trikaya” or the three bodies of the Buddha – the truth body, the bliss body, and the physical body.

The Truth Body

The truth body is the part of you that knows that we are all one, that separateness is an illusion, and that love and unity of our souls is the only true way to relieve suffering.

The Bliss Body

The bliss body is the part of you that grins like a maniac when you are practicing presence, cultivating wholesome qualities and refraining from evil ones, and living your life in service to all beings – because it’s really that f*cking awesome to live like this!

The Physical Body

The physical body is the limiting part of you, the body that can get sick and die, but which allows you the blessing of being in this world to live out your bodhisattva vows, know and teach the truth, and experience bliss.

You don’t need to be a Buddhist to be a bodhisattva. In fact, the zen temple where I listened to this dharma talk has a group of Muslim bodhisattvas that gather together to practice their commitment to easing the suffering of others.

The Visionary Path

After hearing this dharma talk about the bodhisattva way, I realized that, not only am I a bodhisattva-in-training, much of my work revolves around serving other bodhisattvas.

Most of my one-on-one consultation practice is about coaching visionaries who are committed to easing the suffering of others. I’m leading a workshop in Montana this summer called Heal Yourself, Heal The World.  My friend Amy Ahlers and I have co-creatied a program called Visionary Ignition Switch: Fire Up Your Message, Money & Meaning In The World which will be the go-to Business Program For Inspired Visionaries. And we just held a free, amazing webinar training around 10 Red Hot Secrets to fire up your message, money and meaning in the world.

I’m fired up, not just about easing the suffering of others, but about supporting, amplifying, and lifting up others who are committed to healing the world in their own unique, bodhisattva way.

Are You A Bodhisattva?

What do you do to ease the suffering of others?  Do you practice presence? Do you cultivate wholesome qualities? Do you try to serve all beings and acknowledge that we are all one?

One big squash plant,


Related: Are You In Service to What I Serve?

Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.comPink Medicine Revolutionarymotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.

Learn more about Lissa Rankin here.


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Fiona T.
Fiona T.3 years ago

Good article thankyou, nicely written.

Mary B.
Mary B.3 years ago

Ruth, people have physical needs that must be met if they are to be healthy enough to be of any good to others.Unless such a person is supported by an outside agency, they must charge something, or they literally, have nothing to give. The picture you present of a spiritual helper is only YOUR opinion, not a truth, and it plain that you don't like Ms Rankin.Of course you can't live the ideal you propose. Nobody can.So since Lissa isn't living YOUR ideal, SHE'S a hypocrite ?
Thankfully, most people now days are beyond such an anitiquated notion of spiritualism, and untill we have personal stipends to live on so that those who are called to such healing service can indeed focus the majority of their time on others, all healers will have to charge for their services, just like everybody else.This should be obvious.

Wild Thang
Rilde WildeThang3 years ago

There could be a problem of doing it to make yourself happy... or doing it because you are supposed to... or doing it with a me...

Elaine A.
Elaine Al Meqdad3 years ago

As long as your attempts to take on the yearning to help others emotionally is healthy in that you are not drug down emotionally by whatever the issue at hand be. Being there for that person in a supporting and understanding role, yet at the same time, allowing that person to feel that they have arrived at the right decision that is best suitable for them. Your job is to listen, offer a number of possibilities and then allow that individual to seek the course best suited for them, by them.

Mike L.
Mike L.3 years ago

Typo on the ()*

Mike L.
Mike L.3 years ago

Amen, Mary B. I like Wayne Dyer too and he charges too. (They don't get hourly wages so you gotta make your money in one shot like any freelancer.

heather g.
heather g.3 years ago

Thanks for the article, although I don't see the need to curse.... so, Lissa, perhaps you missed something about that presentation.
I enjoyed the story about the squashes and found it a valid comparison of how we humans live. We all breathe the same air - over and over again all around our planet. I'm about 90% there on the Bodhisattva path, but find it difficult to deal with certain situations. eg Last night at a theatre I sat down looking forward to enjoying a play. Suddenly, I man sat alongside me who reeked of cigarette smoke - it virtually oozed out of all his pores. He hadn't bothered to shower or dress in clean clothes - so I moved away very quickly. People near me four rows behind him could also smell the unpleasant cigarette smoke odour. Seems like I'll be happily stuck on 90%.....

Ruth P.
Ruth P.3 years ago

I think people who go around saying "I'm a bodhisattva" generally aren't.

Mary B, if you're a wonderful spiritual person who lives to serve others, you don't go on welfare. And you don't charge $500 for anything. You live in poverty - because you care about other people so much that you can't bear to own things when other people are hungry or need medicine. You don't want to be distracted from your mission. You're ignoring your very real physical needs to comfort others in their suffering.

But very few people actually live like that. I know I couldn't. Thing is, I'm not going around telling everyone what a saint I am, and selling some bizarre spiritual pyramid scheme. Lissa Rankin is a hypocrite, in addition to everything else.

Angela N.
Angela N.3 years ago

cool stuff!

LM Sunshine

Great article, thank you!