If we exchange self with others in the way Shantideva explains, several things will happen. We will close the gaps between ourselves and others. We know that is what people want in their heart, it’s what they need, actually – to remove all the gaps. If they can give and receive love then they will come to know themselves. Then that fear of separation will go, the attachment will go, and as the love grows, pure love grows, they will feel more and more close not just to one person, to two people, but to everybody.
In this way, we are able to show the inner aspects of being a Kadampa. It is our inner aspect of pure love that draws others to us. Then, people will be drawn very much into the Buddhadharma so that they too can learn to give love and to receive love without any sense of separation with others. It is so unusual for people to be able to receive pure love from somebody else. A genuine selfless, unconditional, inseparable love is so unusual in this world, but actually receiving such love is even more rare still. We can do that. We can be that beacon of love in the life of others. And then really things can take off for them, can’t they? If they feel that they can receive our unconditional love.
Kadam Bjorn said the way we really feel the love of our spiritual guide for us is by turning around and loving others as he loves us. Then, his love not only pours into us, but through us to others. We become a conduit for his love into our own karmic world. Once people get pulled into the orbit of this, they never want to leave. Indeed, they want to learn how to do it themselves. On the basis of such a foundation, we can really then set an example that inspires others to enter the Buddhadharma. And that attraction comes from how we are. Geshe-la describes in Eight Steps to Happiness that we transform ourselves into a magic crystal that has the power to gradually purify the whole world, indeed the entire universe. Finally, that separation between themselves and the whole universe will disappear, and they will experience the purest, the purest kind of happiness imaginable. Wonderful.
The mind that wants to be with all beings all the time will take us to enlightenment. This wish to be with and cherish others all the time is a mind that will take us all the way to enlightenment. The wish to be with others all the time is a mind that wishes to be with them so we can love and care for them. For us, we find our happiness in the action of loving them. The more we love them, the more our mind is virtuous and the happier we are. Our goal is to love them more and more, deeper and deeper, until our love is brought to full fruition. This wish to be with others all the time is informed by a wisdom of how it is possible. As Venerable Tharchin explains, when we see how the path is doable, effort becomes effortless. This joyful mind of love will take us all the way to enlightenment.
Very often when we are busy and feeling overwhelmed and over-worked, when people come to us asking for help, we think “oh no, not another demand on my time.” We wish they wouldn’t ask. We wish they could take care of themselves. They are just adding one more burden onto us, and we wish we didn’t have to help. This is exactly wrong, and a missed opportunity. The correct mind should be, “I would want to help you, I would want to be there for you, but unfortunately I can’t right now.” But inside we think the reason why we can’t is because we are not yet a Buddha. This wanting to be there for others combined with a realization of why we can’t be there with them then is just a whisker away from the precious mind of bodhichitta. We then think, I must become a Buddha so that I can be with you all the time, so that I can love you all the time. Therefore, I will train in the stages of the path to be able to do so.
Shantideva’s explanation of exchanging self with others in Chapter 8 of his Guide is not just to help us generate the precious mind of bodhichitta, but because this explanation creates the perfect mental environment for being able to meditate on emptiness in Chapter 9. His presentation of exchanging self with others completely breaks down our conception of self, and helps lay the foundation for viewing everything validly as part of ourselves. This is like shattering the concrete of our ignorance before removing it completely with the wisdom realizing emptiness.