The Buddha teaches by his personal example that to obtain influence—inspire the spontaneous agreement and aid of others—we ourselves must first practice following: “The best student makes the best teacher.” The consummate student observes what is good and correct in the character and conduct of his teacher. In other words, whether or not he is explicitly taught, he learns by observation and verifies it in his own practice.
We open the possibility for others to be loyal and helpful to us by remaining open and observant, trusting our teacher but testing and confirming the teaching for ourselves. This initiative is the integrity of the student, and it opens the path to attaining influence.
It is essential first to quietly accept the way things are. “What is, is; what ain’t, ain’t.” Don’t argue with what is; simply stay focused on your own practice and make steady progress on the path of truth. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean you endorse or celebrate current circumstances, but that you do not resist them. Acceptance of actual reality is the most fundamental principle in the Buddha’s teaching. He often said, yathā bhūtām: “That’s just the way it is.” Resisting events is like resisting the turning of the earth; you only exhaust yourself in vain.
Any difficult situation can be resolved by following the good within yourself. Using force or cunning only breeds resentment and misfortune. Uprooting all thoughts based on delusion and hatred, dedicating ourselves to the pursuit of truth opens the door to whatever correction is necessary. Our influence blooms when we express integrity, maintain impartiality and look for solutions that benefit everyone.
Influencing others is a delicate and often difficult art, and our model for this is always the Buddha himself. Proceed gently, with balance, staying unattached to results and free of egotistical pretensions. Leading people by following the Buddha always leads to a good result.
Of course, this success is predicated on actually knowing the teaching of the Buddha, and following him with out deviation or compromise with mundane religious values. Do not cling to what is inferior, either in yourself or others. If a person, thought or practice is disharmonious with the principles of Dhamma, quietly let go.
This also applies to trying to plan for some imaginary future instead of simply dealing with the situation as it is. The future never comes; the only chance we have to exert influence is now. What is needed in the moment arises spontaneously out of our allegiance to the Buddha. The way to influence others is to serve as an example by sacrificing your ego and accepting the guidance of the Dhamma.
To fully succeed on the spiritual path one must have both guidance and nourishment. The culture around us often presses us to make aggressive demands on life, but the Buddha offers far wiser counsel. He encourages us to give up the incessant demands of the ego, to deepen our humility and acceptance, and to listen carefully to the instructions of Dhamma.
The image of the sacrificial caldron means that whatever you hold in your mind is your offering to the Creative Power of the universe. The quality of assistance you can receive from the universe is governed by the quality of your offering. If you constantly indulge in the concerns of the ego—fear, desire, control strategies, harshness towards others—you repel the Creative Power and block your own nourishment. But if you consciously let go of your resistance to life, and hold quiet and correct thoughts, you become receptive to the Creative and your continual nourishment is assured.
The wisest thing that you can do now is to still your ego and conscientiously enter into a conversation with the Buddha. Use the same means to influence others or achieve a meritorious goal. Cultivate humility and acceptance, purify your inner thoughts, and concentrate on the good and innocent and true. This is the way to summon the power of the Creative and meet with good fortune in the outer world.