From my viewpoint, Buddhism is not about getting enlightened—it’s about being kind. If I have a chance at the time of my death to take an accounting of what I’ve done, I won’t be asking how enlightened I’ve become, I’ll be asking how much kindness I’ve shown to others.
This is how the Buddha began, who set out walking the earth not in quest of enlightenment but in search of a means to end the suffering he saw all about him. If I ever hope to realize a generous, loving, merciful, nonviolent human society, I too must carry on the daily practice of generosity, love, mercy and nonviolence that the Buddha set in motion. This is the practical and ordinary work of the bodhisattva.
And yet the capacity for kindness is an invariable consequence of enlightenment, for enlightenment and compassion are not merely mutually reinforcing but one and the same, two movements of one understanding. And that understanding is the direct knowing that nowhere does there exist a single separate self.