My friend Dan and I have been having an e-mail conversation about a couple of worthwhile books (Awaken the Buddha Within, by Lama Surya Das and The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle). One point in that dialog had to do with a Buddhist priniciple that one of our purposes is to alleviate suffering in all sentient beings. Or maybe not -- maybe it is really just to work on our own enlightenment, and the rest will follow.
It is easy to find quotes from Buddhist sages that reinforce our lessons and points of view. So I like to see them from other sources too, and try to relate them:
Man can no longer live his life for himself alone. We realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all this life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe. -- Albert Schweitzer
This ties into the the duty/purpose of alleviating suffering in the world we were talking about. I think it is a reflection of our maturity in the world. We see that we do not live by and for ourselves. Nor for our families, or our clans/tribes, or for our countries. We do not even live for our God (don’t get me started). We live with and for everyone and everything, and it is all interrelated.
Don’t worry about the need to work on your own enlightenment first — yes it is essential, but it will come naturally once the seed has been planted, as surely as the mighty oak exists within the fallen acorn. And if that seed hasn't yet germinated inside someone, they will look at you kinda funny ;-)
So what motivates our action in this world? Today. Right now. Loving kindness, compassion, and a genuine desire to alleviate suffering of all sentient beings. Just think if that was the motivation of each one of our decisions, every day, in everything we do. Karmic explosion!