Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Taking the leap to exchange self with others

There is no doubt to move across into others’ world requires a great deal of courage, trust in this Dharma jewel, and a clear understanding of the disadvantages of self-cherishing and the advantages of cherishing others.  From the perspective of our self-cherishing mind, we are having to make a lot of compromises, we are having to make a lot of sacrifices, and those are the last things that self-cherishing wants to make. It hates making any compromises, hates making any sacrifices, doesn’t it?  We feel like we are losing out. We have this strong feeling that we are losing out. Others gain, we lose. According to self-cherishing, that is how it feels, doesn’t it?  Others gain, we lose.  If we are going to overcome this hesitation, we must remind ourselves again and again and again of the faults of self-cherishing and the benefits of cherishing others.  Geshe-la explains this in essentially every book.  We must learn to trust in particular more and more the mind that cherishes others.

Shantideva is here to help us do precisely that.

(8.121) Because we have attachment for our body,
Even a small object of fear frightens us greatly;
So who would not revile as an enemy
Cherishing this body, which is the source of that fear?

It is not the body itself that gives rise to fear, it is the cherishing of our body, the attachment to our body that actually gives rise to fear.   If we did not cherish our body, if we had no attachment to our body, what would we be afraid of?  How much of our self-cherishing arises from grasping at, being attached to, and cherishing this body? How much? 

Shantideva goes on to say:

(8.122) Out of our wish to find remedies
For the body’s hunger, thirst, and sickness,
We kill birds, fish, and other animals
And even resort to attacking people!

(8.123) Sometimes for money or other possessions
We might even kill our father or mother,
Or steal the property of a spiritual community,
And as a consequence burn in the fires of hell.

(8.124) Who with wisdom would cherish oneself
Or grasp at this body?
We should view the self-cherishing mind as a foe
And despise it accordingly.

In verse 115 Shantideva says, “Through the force of familiarity, I generate a mind / That grasps at I with respect to this non-self-existent body.” Let go of it. Just let go. We need to let go of grasping at this body and being so attached to it.  It is not our natural basis of imputation.  We believe it is, instinctively, inherently. “It’s my basis of imputation.” We perceive our body and we think I, we grasp at I, and believe there’s nothing wrong with that. We believe there is nothing wrong with that, yet when we perceive another’s body, and think I something definitely seems wrong with that.  Why?  Look what happens when we cling to our own body and cherish it.  We develop such strong, strong self-cherishing in dependence upon it.  

But when we understand that everything is a projection of our own mind, it is correct, even natural, to impute ‘I’ where we currently impute other, and ‘other’ where we currently impute self.  Everybody looks at themselves and thinks “I,” and everybody looks at us and thinks “other.”  We alone look at everyone and think “others” and look at the self we normally see and think “I.”  Clearly, from a conventional point of view, we are completely mad to think in this way.  Nobody else does!

Stopping cherishing our body will serve to stop, or at least reduce, our self-cherishing.  If we try to stop cherishing our body, will we naturally stop or at least reduce our self-cherishing.  What happens when we cherish our body, we protect our body, we are so concerned for it?  All the other delusions naturally arise.  We must stop.  Stopping cherishing our body is a way of stopping us cherishing ourselves.  Stopping cherishing our body is also a method for reducing our self-grasping too because we normally think we are our body.  If we are trying to stop cherishing this body, aren’t we letting go of part of our samsara? Our body is part of our samsara, is it not?  We try to lose familiarity with our body as our basis. Through this practice of exchanging self with others, we try to lose familiarity with our body as the basis for our I. 

One thought on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Taking the leap to exchange self with others

  1. “Everybody looks at themselves and thinks “I,” and everybody looks at us and thinks “other.” We alone look at everyone and think “others” and look at the self we normally see and think “I.” Clearly, from a conventional point of view, we are completely mad to think in this way. Nobody else does!” Thank you for this Dharma Jewel…. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud!!

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