If we understand the disadvantages of cherishing ourself, it is fairly easy to understand the advantages of cherishing others. First of all, what does it mean to cherish others? It means to consider their happiness and freedom to be something important. Their happiness is something we ourselves value as important. A parent naturally considers the happiness of their children to be important and when they make decisions they take into account the happiness of the child. The fact that we don’t experience that happiness directly is irrelevant, their happiness in and of itself is important to us. The meditation on cherishing others is quite simple: we consider the benefits of cherishing others, and realizing them we make the decision to cherish others’ happiness and freedom as being important to us. The perfection of this meditation is understanding how cherishing others is a critical foundation for the minds of great compassion and bodhichitta, so we strive to develop cherishing love so that we can develop bodhichitta and eventually become a Buddha. The ultimate perfection of this meditation is when we meditate on the perfection of cherishing others combined with an understanding of emptiness.
So what are the benefits of cherishing others? First, it helps improve all of our daily relations with others. There is hardly a single relationship problem we encounter that does not come from our thinking about ourselves, and virtually every relationship problem can be resolved by valuing the happiness of the other person as likewise being important. If we are putting others first, what basis is there for conflict in our life? We might object that this will make us everyone’s favorite doormat. But this is not the case. We help others because we want to, not because they are manipulating us to do so. Besides, if we do find that somebody is taking advantage of us, then we can recognize it is not good for them to do so, so as part of our cherishing of others we don’t let them do this. Our relations with others are not inherently fixed, but rather depend on how we mentally view them. If I mentally construct my relations as a battle between the interests of myself and the interests of others, then I am naturally in conflict with others all of the time. But if I change my mental lens to viewing my relationships as an opportunity to train in cherishing others, then all of my relations become “win-win”. I win because I advance spiritually, and the other person wins because we are helping fulfill their wishes.
Second, cherishing others is the root of all happiness. Just as all negative actions arise from considering our own happiness as more important than others, all virtuous actions arise from considering the happiness of others to be supremely important. Karmically speaking, all experiences of happiness arise from past virtuous actions. All virtuous actions depend upon the mind that cherishes others. So cherishing others is quite literally the root of all happiness. An understanding of emptiness helps us realize why this is so. Since all beings are empty, meaning they are creations of our own mind, waves on the ocean of our own mind, aspects or parts of our own mind, then in reality there is no difference between ourselves and others. Ryan and others are just different parts of the same whole, my true self. What sense is there is cherishing only one small part of myself called Ryan? That is like cherishing my left pinky, but neglecting the rest of my body. When we understand emptiness, we understand who we really are (namely the unity of all living beings) and so cherishing others is really just an expansion of cherishing of our true self. We must be careful to not misunderstand this point. Self-cherishing is bad because the object it cherishes is the self of our self-grasping ignorance, for example the ignorance that thinks I am just Ryan. There is no fault, however, in cherishing our true self (which is the ocean of all living beings). So while we might say cherishing others is just a more expansive way of cherishing our true self, the meaning here is not self-cherishing. If I help improve the waves around me, I help improve the quality of the ocean itself, so both they and I benefit. When we understand emptiness, the happiness of any living being is our own happiness, so the more we make others happy the more we make our true selves happy.
Third, cherishing others is also the root of great compassion and bodhichitta. As will be explained in subsequent meditations, when we consider the happiness and freedom of others as important and then we consider how others suffer, we naturally generate a mind of compassion for others. When we have compassion for others, our desire to free them from their suffering will eventually grow so intense that we will be compelled to get up and do something about it. When we combine this with the wisdom that understands the best way we can help others is by becoming a Buddha for them so that we can lead them to enlightenment, then we naturally generate bodhichitta. Bodhichitta is the main cause of enlightenment, and if we generate and maintain this mind we will inevitably become a Buddha. Once we become a Buddha, we will have the power, wisdom, compassion and skilfull means necessary to lead each and every living being to the same state. Seen in this light, we can validly say that cherishing others literally is the source of all happiness for ourself and all living beings, not only in this life but in all of our future lives. Again, emptiness helps us understand why this is so. If all beings are the ocean of our mind, then cherishing ourself as somehow more important than others is not in accordance with how things really are, so it only stands to follow that the more we try to cherish ourself the more we will create turbulence in the ocean of our mind – we create a samsara. But cherishing others is in perfect accordance with how things are – it is the natural and logical conclusion of understanding that ourself and others are equally empty. By aligning our actions with how things are, we naturally bring harmony to the ocean of our mind, the waves subside until eventually they become perfectly still. We then let go of any residual grasping at self and others and the clarity of the ocean of our mind will continue to improve until eventually it becomes omniscient clear light. We will have become a Buddha.