We all know from the lamrim texts the analogy of ‘this mountain’ and ‘that mountain.’ Everything is relative to our point of view. In the same way, we currently impute self on this body and other on others’ bodies. We reverse that. Reversing this gives rise to a profound love for others, which we will explore over the next several posts.
At present we feel a gap, a large gap between ourselves and others. We know already from what Shantideva said, there exists a relationship between ourselves and others. There is a relationship. We are denying that when we regard ourselves and others as independently existent. We are denying that relationship. In effect we are separating, we are separating others from ourselves, aren’t we? We are grasping at ourselves and others as independently existent. We are separating others from ourselves. We are creating a false distinction. It is unnatural, because there is naturally a relationship between ourselves and others. We are not different in the way we appear to be. We are certainly not separate in the way we appear to be.
When we are training in cherishing others as we do, there is a danger we love, but at a distance. We are afraid of getting close because then attachment arises, aversion arises, relationships get complicated. So we love at a distance, thinking this is maintaining equanimity or something. But is this what Geshe-la does? He has invited all of us to generate the closest possible relationship with him – where we become inseparably one. He has invited us into his heart, and he enters into our heart. Our goal is to eliminate all gaps, all distance. A genuine love, surely, draws as close to others as possible. We seek to close that gap. If we really do love people, we’re closing that gap, we want that gap to close, don’t we? If we have a genuine love for others, we feel close to them. The more we love another person, the closer we want to be.
But we need to make the distinction between wanting to be close to others out of attachment and wanting to be close to others out of love. Failing to make this distinction, we think we should not get close to others. But how can we love them, really love them with all our heart, when we are maintaining this distance? With attachment, we want to be close to others, that’s what attachment does. It pulls objects to us, attractive objects to us, pleasant objects. With love, we perceive beauty in others, others appear beautiful, attractive, and we want to draw close, closer and closer. So on the one hand we can fool ourselves into thinking that it’s just attachment, but on the other hand when we have attachment we can fool ourselves into thinking that it’s love. We need to be clear.
How do we resolve this apparent contradiction, this tension? Shantideva’s answer is we exchange self with others – we literally identify with others as ourselves, and then we love “ourself” with all our heart. Then, no problems. All gaps between ourself and others fall away – completely – but there is no delusion of attachment because we are not trying to draw this inherently existent self we normally see closer to these inherently existent others we normally see.
When we are loving others, we want to reduce the gap that appears between ourselves and others. For as long as there is grasping in our mind, self-grasping, we cannot remove completely that gap. Self-grasping creates that gap. But what is special about this practice of exchanging self with others is we can remove that gap entirely. By letting go of grasping at ourself and others, and changing the basis of imputation of our I onto all others, we close the gap completely. This is a wisdom lineage.
When we have a self-centeredness, and of course there will naturally be a gap between ourself and others. There is me here, trying to love you over there. But with this practice, it seems that self-centeredness ceases, actually ceases. There no longer remains a self-centeredness. What happens to the gap between ourselves and others? We are using our wisdom to become familiar with cherishing others. To deepen our love for others. We are able to draw others closer and closer to us. How? Through choosing others’ bases as our own. This is how we do it. Applying wisdom to bring about an extraordinary love for others where we feel so incredibly close to them, as if there really is no distance anymore, no gap anymore. How do we do that? Through choosing others’ bases as our own. Imputing I upon the bases of others.
Identifying “I” with the bodies of others is a wise mind. Identifying with the body and mind we normally see gives to self-cherishing, self-centeredness, and all its sufferings. Identifying with the bodies and minds of others gives rise to cherishing others, profound love for others, and all the happiness that that brings. Is it not then unnatural not to love? It is unnatural not to love everybody. I think people feel it’s unnatural, which is why people so want, so need to love and be loved. This is our job – to give them the love that they want. But also to receive the love that they want to give. With this practice we really do move more and more and more into the world of others, identifying I with the bodies of others.