Below you’ll also find an excerpt from Geshe Michael’s new book The Karma of Love which discusses the same theme.
When I first brought up the idea of planting seeds for companionship by giving companionship to an elderly person, was there anything at all about the idea that bothered you?”
Jim doesn’t need to think very long. “Well yes,” he says, “there was…and to be honest I still think about it sometimes.”
“And it was…”
“It was, frankly, that the whole system seemed to have a pretty serious flaw to it. I mean, ever since I was a kid, my parents and teachers talked about doing good things for others—but they always added that I should do so for unselfish reasons, that the purest kind of giving was when you didn’t expect something back for yourself. But the whole Diamond Cutter thing seems aimed at getting something back.
In some ways it seems really selfish.”
“Exactly,” I nod. “It does seem selfish. It seems like helping other people is reduced to some kind of business deal: I’ll visit you so you won’t be lonely, but only because I want to find a wife.”
Jim nods enthusiastically; he almost seems relieved that I’ve brought it up myself, and that he’s not alone. People all over the world approach me with the same question, which in a way is comforting. People all over the world are concerned that their giving should be pure, and not just one more exercise in selfishness.
“Alright,” I say. “Let me ask you some questions— follow this line of thinking.” He nods again.
“You go to the nursing home: you visit Mrs. Miller, keep her from feeling lonely. “And this plants seeds in your mind. If you plant them the right way—understand how to plant them the right way—then on a visit to the bookstore…”
“…Amy comes right up next to me and starts going through the very same books, on the very same shelf—like, I’ve made myself a partner who’s as wild about American history as I am…is that amazing, or what?”
“Right,” I smile, happy that he appreciates how miraculous it is when any seed breaks open and begins to grow. “And then three months later…”
“…we’re getting married, and you’re my best man!”
“Right,” I smile again. “But then there’s the thing with Steve…”Steve is a mutual friend on two counts—the three of us surf, or used to surf, together pretty often; and we also like jamming together on our guitars.
“Yeah, well Steve comes up to me at the wedding and wants to know my secret; like, how did I get this amazing woman—where do I buy my clothes, what kind of workout do I do, whether I’ve found some new cologne that works better than the others when you’re trying to approach a girl in a bar.”
“And, well—you know. I teach him about the seed thing, and…” Jim actually grimaces, like he’s about to describe how some guy started hitting on his wife in the line for popcorn at the local movie theater. “…And then he actually starts visiting Mrs. Miller, rather than finding his own old lady to keep company!”
“…And he plants the seeds, and that’s how he met Francis,” he concludes. “Right,” I say. “And what you don’t know”—here I get this weird little hesitation, like I’m about to tell my best friend that his wife’s been cheating on him—“is that he’s got James Johnson taking care of her garden, and Eric Sitmanbuying her groceries.”
Jim looks a little shocked, but he rolls with it okay. “Well!” he hrrumphs. I can see that Mrs. Miller is going to get a lot more attention from him this week than last.
“But do you see what’s happening?” I ask. “You have the courage to try something completely new, to find the woman you want. You score big, and then the rest of us are like, Wow! What’s this guy doing? I mean…” I falter a bit.
“Yeah, I know,” says Jim. “Like, you were all probably wondering why a loser who couldn’t get a single decent girl to go out with him for three years suddenly has this beautiful, sensitive, intelligent wife.”
Time to shift subjects. “Well yes, but…Jim, do you realize that because you had an open mind, because you were willing to try the seeds, we’ve got like six friends who are enjoying great relationships? You were the pioneer, the example, and everybody else is following you!”
Jim starts to perk up, to look proud—obviously he hasn’t thought of it this way before.
I jump on the opportunity. “And look, anyone who uses the seeds to make something good happen in their life is being the same kind of example, sort of a role model for everybody else around them. You use the seeds and then something amazingly beautiful comes to you, and everyone else sees what’s happening and starts to try the seeds too.
“Before you know it, you’re at the epicenter of this big explosion of happiness. Your friends copy you, their friends copy them, and pretty soon…”
“Pretty soon,” growls Jim, “visiting Mrs. Miller is gonna be like taking a trip to 31 Flavors. They’re gonna be handing out numbers for half-hour slots to plant your seeds. One guy to take care of her garden, another who buys her groceries, someone else handling all her doctor’s appointments, somebody else hogging all the trips to see a movie.” He looks genuinely put out; nobody would guess that the center of his jealousy is 85 years old.
I grab his shoulder. “Yeah, you can look at it that way,” I say, “but that’s just planting jealousy seeds. And then Amy is on your case every time you say ‘Good Morning’ to anyone who’s not a guy. You’ve got to realize something, Jim. You say you’re tired of feeling like you’re locked up in a fortress, but you’ve already got a way that you could plant seeds for the opposite.
“Just take a few minutes once a day—I would suggest while you’re wrapping up your day, and getting ready for bed—to think about the revolution you’ve started; we call this Coffee Meditation. I mean,this thing could get big. You have no idea how fast being a really good example—a successful example—spreads a new idea.
“You don’t need to go around preaching about the seeds, trying to convince people to pay more attention to elderly people who are lonely. Amy is a living testament to your new worldview, the view that the world is coming from seeds in your own mind—seeds that you put there purposely.
“Just using the seeds to achieve your dreams—just trying a method which finally works, every single time—is going to change the lives of hundreds of people around you. They’ll give it a try too, and it will work, and it will bring them happiness. “Look at it this way, try to look at it this way, and the one action of trying to help one old lady becomes at the same time an act of service towards hundreds of people around you.
“And that’s not selfish. It’s the opposite of selfish. It’s the most unselfish thing you will ever do. And doesn’t that feel right, isn’t that the way you always thought it would be?
That the action you take to serve the world also turns out to be the same action you take to find your own happiness?”
Jim nods, in a sort of wonder. It feels good to save the world. The seeds to drop the walls were right there, all along.