“In what manner should one accommodate and serve sentient beings? To do so, one should think: throughout the realm of dharma and the realm of space, in the ocean like cosmoses in the ten directions, there are infinite kinds of sentient beings. Some are born of eggs, some are born of the womb, of wetness, or of metamorphosis. Some live by earth, some by water, some by fire, wind, space, trees, or flowers.
O countless are their kinds, and infinite are their forms, shapes, bodies, faces, longevities, races, names, dispositions, views, knowledge, desires, inclinations, manners, costumes, and diets. They abide in numerous kinds of dwellings: in towns, villages, cities, and palaces. They comprise the devas, the nagas, the eight-groups, men, non-men, the being without feet.
Some are with form, some are without form, some with or without thoughts, or neither with or without thoughts. To all these infinite kinds of beings, I will render my service, and accommodate them in whatever way is beneficial to them. I will provide them with all they need and serve them as though serving my parents, teachers, or even arhats and tathagatas, all equally without discrimination. To the sick, I will be a good physician. To those who have lost their way, I will show them the right path. To the wanderers in darkness, I will light the light; and to the poor and needy, I will show the treasury.
It is in these ways that a bodhisattva should benefit all sentient beings without discrimination. Why? Because, if a bodhisattva accommodates sentient beings as such, he is then making sincere offerings to all buddhas. If he respects and serves sentient beings, he is paying respect and giving service to all tathagatas. If he makes sentient beings happy, he is making all tathagatas happy. Because of sentient beings, a great compassion is aroused; because of the great compassion, the thought-of-enlightenment is aroused; because of the thought-of-enlightenment, supreme buddhahood is achieved.
This is like unto a great tree in the wilderness of a desert. If its roots are well watered, it will flourish in full foliage, blossom, and bear plentiful fruit. So it is also with the great Tree-of-Bodhi: all sentient beings are its roots, and all the bodhisattvas and tathagatas are its flowers and fruits. If a bodhisattva applies the water of compassion to help sentient beings, the Bodhi-tree will bear the tathagata’s wisdom. Why is this so? Because if a bodhisattva can benfit man with the water of compassion, he will most assuredly attain the supreme enlightenment. Therefore, Bodhi belongs to all sentient beings. Without them no bodhisattva can achieve the supreme buddhahood.”