Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Exchanging self with others makes everything easy

Making the right choice is only a challenge because, as Shantideva has explained, we are holding so rigidly to self and other.  We are holding so rigidly to my suffering and happiness, others’ suffering and happiness.  We have to take the step of — it’s a big one, but we have to make it — regarding others’ suffering and happiness as our own. We have to. By moving into their space, entering into their life, by taking their basis as our own – their happiness and suffering, then, is my own.  How are we going to get to this mental space?  By moving into the place of others, entering their lives, by choosing and regarding their basis as our own.  

Likewise, we need to consider the suffering and the happiness that we experience as that of other’s.  This helps in several different ways:  Normally we think what happens to others does not matter, so if we think that ‘self’ is ‘other’, then what happens to our old “self” will not matter at all.  It will not be a problem.  We can break our identification with our suffering.  It is not our own, and since we are not identifying with it, we do not suffer from it.  Overcoming our suffering then becomes imbued with great meaning.  We feel by overcoming our suffering, we believe we are overcoming the suffering of all living beings.  We feel we are freeing them from their delusions, etc.  When we engage in our Dharma practices from the perspective of having already exchanged self with others, everything we do will create the karma of helping all living beings instead of the karma of just helping oen person.  This practice of exchanging self with others truly is a ‘magical mystery.’

(8.132) Never mind what will happen in future lives;
With employees not providing adequate service
Or employers not giving proper reward,
Even our wishes in this life will remain unfulfilled.

(8.133) By not cherishing others, we lose the excellent qualities of our human life
That allow us to attain happiness both now and in the future;
And if we actually inflict harm on others,
Out of ignorance we shall bring unbearable suffering upon ourself.

(8.134) If all the torment in this world –
All mental fear and physical pain –
Arise from cherishing oneself,
What use is this fearful spirit to us?

(8.135) Without destroying fire,
We cannot stop being burned;
Likewise, without destroying self-cherishing,
We cannot stop experiencing suffering.

For as long as there is self-cherishing in our mind, we are going to suffer.  Suffering ends when we destroy self-cherishing.   Why not self-grasping then?  Isn’t self-grasping the source of all fear, pain, and suffering, and it’s only through destroying self-grasping that our suffering will come to an end?  No, the actual cause of our suffering is self-cherishing.  Self-grasping is just projecting, fabricating an inherently existent self, inherently existent other, inherently existent world. That is all it is doing.  Self-cherishing is what acts on this ignorance, thus creating all the karma for suffering.  It will not even let us meditate on emptiness, will it? Self-grasping does not prevent us from meditating on emptiness, does it?  Self-cherishing prevents us meditating on emptiness.  Self-cherishing functions to protect the I created by self-grasping. Self-cherishing, as we know, is self-grasping’s best friend, protecting its creation. Self-grasping creates an inherently existent I, self-cherishing protects, cherishes that I, faithfully.

It is self-cherishing that gets us in all the trouble.   It is self-cherishing that creates all the problems.  It is through cherishing and protecting the self that is merely created by self-grasping that we bring upon ourself suffering now and in the future.  We destroy self-cherishing, we bring an end to our suffering, we bring an end to all our problems.

(8.136) Therefore, to eliminate my pain
And pacify the suffering of others,
I will give myself completely to others
And consider them as precious as I now consider myself to be.

We try to abandon our self-cherishing, replace it with a mind that cherishes others. We give ourselves completely to others, thinking, “I’m yours.”  We have to feel that with respect to everyone, “I’m yours.”  When we are at work, with our families, at the Dharma Center, etc, “I’m yours.”  That is true love, isn’t it? That is true love. I am yours. When we think, I am yours, with respect to everybody, then we have love, true love for everybody.    I’m yours, whatever I have is yours. This is the kind of love that we need to get.  Geshe-la once said we feel that we belong to others.

Shantideva’s wording here is very precise – I will give myself completely to others.  We quite literally give our “self” to others through exchanging self with others, identifying with them as the basis of imputation for our self.  That’s the degree of giving of ourself we need.  Literally, my “I” is yours. 

If we give ourself completely to others, then what is left of it for us?  Nothing.  It seems here, there is no self, we become selfless. Because we have given it to others. We become self-LESS, we have no self any more, we’ve given it to others completely.  We literally give our ‘self’ to others because we impute ‘self’ onto others.  There is no self we normally see remaining at all, we’ve given it completely. You have it, everybody has it — others now have our self. The pain of my self is eliminated, because self has moved to another place where it cannot be harmed. Isn’t that amazing? The pain of my self is eliminated because self has moved to another place, the place of others, where it cannot be harmed.

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