Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Owning others’ faults as our own

(8.162) If others do something wrong,
I will transform it into a fault of my own;
But if I cause even the slightest harm to others,
I will declare it openly in the presence of many.

Of all the words of Shantideva, these in particular really stood out for me as extraordinary, most challenging. Basically what we are saying here is if we make a mistake, we own up to it as our own and not blame others for it.  And if others make a mistake, we take responsibility for them having done so.  Sorry, it is my fault.  We perceive faults every day, don’t we? Mistakes are made again and again by others.  We are the one who is perceiving fault, so are we not the one responsible for the faulty behavior we perceive?  We think we are seeing what is actually there. Where do these faulty people come from?  Why do people appear to have such faults and delusions?  They are reflections of our own faulty mind.

Gen Tharchin says we need to own others’ faults as our own.  A natural consequence of this is we need to take personal responsibility for removing the faults we perceive in others.  A senior teacher who has frequent contact with Geshe-la once said that very often when they would describe something that has gone wrong, Geshe-la says in all sincerity, “oh I am sorry.”  Due to our mistakes … he is sorry! This is something that we have to do, and maybe as a start we can at least utter the words … when somebody close to us makes some mistake … “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Even psychologists now are increasingly realizing that the faults we see in others are often just our own faults projected onto others.  Trump assumed everybody lied, cheated, and stole.  Perhaps that had more to do with his own mind projecting that onto others because that is what he himself does.  We tend to do the same – we assume others think and act like us.  We “see” this because these are the mental glasses through which we look at the world.

(8.163) I should spread the fame of others farther,
So that it completely outshines my own;
And, regarding myself as a lowly servant,
Employ myself in the service of all.

(8.164) Being full of faults, I should not praise myself
Just because of some superficial good quality.
I will not let even a few people know
Of any good qualities I might possess.

Do we do this?  Or do we do the opposite?  We need to check and see, and ask ourselves why.  Such humility is so important.  In Eight Steps to Happiness, Geshe-la says we need to practice humility because there is no inherently existent I.  Geshe-la goes on to say we should view our self or I as the lowest of all, as something we need to neglect or forget. And he says in this way our self-cherishing will become weaker, and our love for others will increase.  We can forget the observed object of our self-cherishing because it is nonexistent, whereas the observed object of the mind that cherishes others does exist.  I am not important at all.

An objection may arise if we think this way, how can we prevent ourself from feeling worthless? When we read this perhaps we think if we were really to adopt such an attitude it would be impossible to develop or maintain any self-respect, any self-confidence?

The reality is the exact opposite.  The reason why we cherish ourself is because we are insecure and needy.  Our self-cherishing makes us feel insecure and needy, it never has enough.  It takes enormous self-confidence to cherish others and praise them above us, and when we do put others up, we naturally feel even better about ourself.  When we take responsibility for the mistakes of our employees, for example, others respect us more for us.  It takes strength and confidence to do so, combined with a humility that is ready to learn.  Our self-cherishing will squeal and want to blame others, but that erodes everything.

(8.165) In short, may the harm I have caused others
For the sake of myself
Return and ripen upon me
For the sake of others.

(8.166) I should not be domineering
Or act in self-righteous ways
Rather, I should be like a newly-wed
Who is bashful, timid, and restrained.

We can follow the example of Venerable Geshe-la.  On one hand, he is restrained, almost shy, unimposing and soft.  He is not brash and overbearing.  On the other hand, he is very strong, powerful, confident, unimpeachable and he has huge spiritual ambitions.  Yet, he is not arrogant.  What an amazing combination of qualities.

Our job is to marry all of these qualities.  One important thing is we need to remain completely approachable.  People should not be intimidated by us.  That is the worst.  We also need to make people feel completely accepted as they are, without being judged at all for what they do or think.  Otherwise, they will not open up and come to us for help with their problems.  At the same time, we need to command respect, where people naturally practice consideration and respectfulness, especially towards the Dharma.  We also need to inspire confidence that we are not some wilting flower or doormat, but that we are unshakable and strong and we have our life together.   We also need to be persuasive, without being a salesman.  We respect the freedom of others to make their own choices, and we give them the information they need to be able to make the right choices.  We want people to want to come under our influence.  To do this, they must feel that we only have their best interests at heart, with no hidden agenda, and that we do not seek to control them at all.  We want to help them gain control of themselves.  We want to encourage people to grow into greater and greater responsibility, not just follow.  To do this, we have to give people the chance to make mistakes and learn from them – that too takes confidence, both in them and in ourselves.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: How to practice taking and giving

(8.160) I am happy but others are sad;
I have a high position but others are lowly;
I benefit myself but not others –
Why am I not jealous of myself?

(8.161) I must give my happiness to others
And take their suffering upon myself instead.

This is one of the many references to the practice of taking and giving.  It is a natural extension of our exchanging self with others. We would rather it be us who suffers than them.  We would rather that they be happy rather than we ourselves. If others are suffering, then we take it from them, and if we are experiencing any happiness, then we give it to others.

How do we take the suffering of others? How do we give our happiness to others?  In exactly the way it is described in the Meditation Handbook, or as it is explained in Universal Compassion for how to mount taking and giving upon the breath during our daily activities.  Due to our identifying so strongly with others’ suffering and happiness of course we want to relieve them from suffering and give them whatever happiness we have.  

We can also do so practically.  We need to ask ourselves how practically can we give our happiness to others?  How practically can we take away others suffering?  There are countless examples that come up in our daily life:  for example, we can give to others our portion of cake, we can take upon ourself the hardest tasks of work, we can let others go first in line, we can carry their groceries for them, etc., etc., etc.  If we look for opportunities, we will find them.  By training in these small practical examples throughout our day and life, it will eventually become habit for us to do so.

Once again, training in exchanging self with others will greatly accelerate our motivation to engage in this practice.  What do our delusions normally want?  They want the best for ourself and they want to pass all burdens onto others.  If we impute “self” onto others and “others” onto ourself, then we train in being as “selfish” as possible.  We will naturally take anything good from “others” and give it to our “self.”  This swap of imputation of self and others completely disorients our self-cherishing mind.  It’s a way of tricking our self-cherishing into destroying itself.

I should constantly examine my behaviour for faults
By asking, “Why am I acting in this way?”

Why do we act the way we do?  We act out of habit. We have a lot of habits. Many of our actions are habitual.  The question is are they habits arisen from self-cherishing, or are they habits arisen from cherishing others.  Most of our habits are coming from self-centeredness, aren’t they?  We do not possess many virtuous habits — thoughts, speaking, and so forth.  We are training in virtue because it does not come naturally, we have to apply effort.  It has not become habitual yet.  But delusions come effortlessly.  They are habitual.  It is important that we constantly examine our behavior, as Shantideva suggests, so that we become aware of how we are acting.  Then, we can change.  Through applying enough effort, cherishing others will eventually become our habit.  Gen-la Losang said what is natural is simply what is familiar.  By changing our habits to be virtuous, cherishing others will become natural for us.  Then, enlightenment will come easily and quickly.    

Is it enough to just have our actions not harm others?  Perhaps we should ask ourself with respect to our actions, “do they help anyone?” There is a difference, isn’t there?  Our current behavior may not harm anyone, but does it help anyone?  Surely we have to reach a point where all of our actions are directly or indirectly helping others.  

Is it that hard to examine our own behavior?  We do it all the time with respect to other’s behavior, which has no value. Once again, exchanging self with others comes to the rescue.  If we impute “others” onto ourself, then we can use our natural ability to examine the behavior of “others” to become aware of our own faults.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: It’s all about gaining familiarity

In the remaining verses I feel Shantideva is saying essentially just one thing, and that is, practice.  We need to actually do this meditation to get a feel for it, otherwise it isjust an interesting intellectual exercise.  We should practice in meditation as has been described, and practice out of meditation too, until we complete this exchange of self with others. Just keep practicing.

Countless times in samsaric rebirths,
This self-cherishing attitude has caused me harm.

(8.155) O mind, because you wish to benefit yourself,
All the hard work you have done
For countless aeons in samsara
Has resulted only in suffering.

(8.156) Therefore, I will definitely engage
In working for the benefit of others;
And because Buddha’s teachings are non-deceptive,
I shall experience excellent results in the future.

(8.157) If in the past I had practised
Exchanging myself with others,
I would not now be in this situation –
Devoid of the excellent happiness and bliss of Buddhahood.

(8.158) Just as I am familiar with developing the thought “I”, “I”,
When perceiving my body, which arose from others’ sperm and blood,
So should I become familiar with developing the thought “I”, “I”,
When perceiving others’ bodies.

It is simple, really.  We just need to keep thinking I, I, with respect to others’ bodies and minds.  That is it.  Just keep thinking “me” when observing others’ bodies.  In order to bring about some deeper experience of this practice, simply think I, I, with respect to others.  “I” is just a thought.  Other than the thought, there is no I. We will see later on, in the next chapter, other than the thought “I” there is no I.   We think the I is one with our body and mind, which is why when somebody points at our body we feel they are pointing at us.  But we also think that our I is somehow separate from our body and mind, because we say, ‘my body’ and ‘my mind’ as if there was some independent part-possessor.  If our I were inherently existent, this is completely impossible, but this is exactly what we think.  In reality, our I is not one with its basis, nor is it entirely separate from it.  It is just the opposite of what we think.  When we see this, then there is no problem imputing our I onto the basis of others.  Until we realize this, we will feel anchored and fixed to this body, and we will remain self-centered.

We believe that others’, the self of others, exists within their body, too, don’t we? We conceive an inherently existent other within their bodies.  We naturally conceive an inherently existent other within the bodies of others.  They are inherently others, so they cannot be me!   This is also a mistaken belief.  There is no other there. There is no other there within their body.  Other, like I, is just mere imputation.  So we can impute “I” on others and “others” on ourself.

Once we realize it is possible, afterwards, it is just an issue of training and familiarity.  All we need to do is become more and more familiar with imputing “I” upon this different basis, the body or bodies of others. Thinking I whenever we observe or perceive others’ bodies.  Just keep doing it. Think “I” when perceiving others — so we can do that at all times, when we are with others and when we are just thinking about them, just keep thinking I, I, I.  Eventually, they become a basis of imputation, and this body eventually will cease to be for us the basis of imputing I, it will become the basis of imputing other.

It is clear if we cannot exchange self with others in this way, we won’t achieve much success in the Tantric practice of generation stage.   In generation stage we try to become familiar with the thought “I” when perceiving the body of the deity, the body of Vajrayogini for example.  Right now, the body of Vajrayogini is not our body, it seems to us to be a different body.  We feel it is someone else’s body.  But we know through training in generation stage, Vajrayogini’s body gradually comes to feel to be our body.    Our training in exchanging self with others is an excellent preparation for our ability to engage in our tantric practice.  In fact, it is part of our self-generation practice, because when we self-generate as the deity, we generate ourselves as all living beings in the aspect of Vajrayogini.

(8.159) Examining myself thoroughly
To make sure I am working for others,
I will take whatever I possess
And use it to benefit them.

Venerable Tharchin explains for as long as we impute ‘mine’ on any object within our possession, we continuously burn up our merit.  If instead we impute, ‘belongs to others’ on the objects within our possession, and we view ourself as the guardian of these things until we hand them over to others, then we do not burn our merit.  If we use these things for the sake of others, then we accumulate merit by having them.  In this light, it doesn’t matter what we have, it matters entirely what our imputation is.  This is equally true of ourself, our human body and mind, our time, everything.

If we have exchanged self with others, this practice becomes automatic.  If when regarding ourself, we think “others,” then naturally everything we own or possesses belongs to “others.”  With one simple switch of imputation, we are able to automatically give away everything we have to others without changing a thing.  Likewise, if we impute I onto others, then everything they have is felt by us to be “ours,” so there is no basis for jealousy or attachment to arise.  We already have everything.  Like magic, this one practice inverts all of our delusions into virtues.  

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Looking down on our former self

Lastly, Shantideva explains how to change places with someone whom we regard to be superior to us in some way.  This one is particularly interesting.

(8.151) “It is said that this deluded being
Is vying to be my equal,
But how can he compare with me in learning or wisdom,
Or in looks, status, or wealth?

(8.152) “When others hear of my good qualities
As they are proclaimed to the world,
May they experience so much delight
That their hair pores tingle with excitement.

(8.153) “And as for whatever he owns,
Since he is supposed to be working for us,
We will allow him just what he needs
And take the remainder by force for ourselves.

(8.154) “Thus, may his happiness decline,
While we continue to burden him with our problems.”

With this meditation we become happy, very happy, to be the servant of others.  We want to become merely the servant of others, all others.  We are ready to do whatever we can for others to the best of our ability without ever becoming discouraged, unhappy, worried.  It seems to me that we worry and become discouraged because we are not accepting our weaknesses.  Just as we can acknowledge our strengths without being proud, so too we can accept our weaknesses without becoming discouraged.  If we don’t learn how to do this, how can we improve?  Our self-cherishing and our pride will not allow us to look at and accept our own weaknesses.  We have strengths, each one of us, but also weaknesses.  We do not need to become unhappy or discouraged when we become aware of them.  At present we struggle with this due to a non-acceptance of where we are at.  This is why there is so much concealment and why there is so much pretension.   Why we hide our faults from others.

In an earlier post, we talked about how important it is that we take down our barriers if we are to help others to take down their own barriers.  We need to remove concealment and pretension and be perfectly open with others.  Of course, if we have a good reason, as Geshe-la described in the Bodhisattva Vow, if we have a very good reason, there can be an apparent concealment, but generally we don’t have a good reason.  In general, we should try to be as transparent as possible.  Kadam Morten said there are two types of spiritual guide, those that show the final result and those that show the path of how to get there.   We are not very good at many things, and we are not very important.  We can either be unhappy about that, or happy, can’t we?  We can either be discouraged or encouraged by this.  There are many things that I’m not very good at.  I have many weaknesses, and that’s OK. I am no one important.  This meditation helps us to develop this kind of acceptance.  

In particular, I think this meditation helps us develop consideration for others.  We are generally so self-absorbed that we are only thinking about our own experience of things, and then we find it intolerable when anybody who does not respect or take into consideration our views or needs.  In such situations, we feel the need to ‘fight to defend our justified position.’  Kadam Bjorn said there is not a single Dharma mind that feels ‘justified.’  If we ever find ourself feeling justified, then we can know for sure we are already wrong.  When we have consideration for others, we make sure that our own behavior does not disturb others, especially their spiritual practice.  For example, if there is a new person present in the center, we think about how our behavior might be interpreted by the other person and we make sure that we do not do anything that might put them off.  We refrain from talking to them about things they are not ready to accept or judging them for what they do.

We should also show consideration for one another.  People’s lives are difficult, and they want to be able to come to the center or come home after a long day at work and find a place of peace where they can recharge their batteries and get themselves reset for the week ahead.  We should also think about why people are coming to our Dharma centers, namely to listen to classes and so forth.  Our questions may seem important to us, but perhaps they are not important to others. 

We should also show consideration for the Buddhas.  Sometimes we think, the Buddhas love me unconditionally so I can do whatever I want and they will always love me.  This is true.  But this does not mean they are happy with everything we do.  If we respect others, we naturally show consideration for them and watch our behavior to make sure it is correct.  When we are in the gompa we should recall that we are in the living presence of all the Buddhas. 

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Developing competitiveness with ourself

We can now put ourselves in the place of someone we regard to be equal to us, and we look back at our former self with competitive thoughts.

(8.147) “This Bodhisattva is regarded as my equal,
But so that I might outshine him
I will acquire wealth and reputation,
And defeat him in debate.

(8.148) “I will proclaim my own good qualities to the whole world
By whatever means I can,
But I will make sure that no one ever hears
Of any good qualities he might possess.

(8.149) “I will hide my own faults but make his known.
I will be venerated by others but ensure that he is not.
I will acquire a great deal of material wealth
And encourage others to honour me, but not him.

(8.150) “For a long time, I will take pleasure
In seeing him be humiliated.
I will make him the laughing stock of all
And an object of ridicule and blame.

Again, there are two main ways we can take this meditation:  We learn a lot about ourself – we see ourselves from the point of view of the other person, and this helps us realize how we act so that we can change.  We can also see how we ourselves have such competitive thoughts towards others.  The conclusion is we need to accept defeat and offer others the victory.

When we engage in this meditation, we try consider our self to be within others, then we be ‘as competitive as possible’ towards our old self.  What does this mean?  We want our new ‘self’ to win and we want ‘him’ (our old self) to lose.  From the perspective of our old self, we want to accept defeat and offer the victory.  We want to spread our ‘own’ reputation far and wide and make sure that everybody knows only good things about ‘us.’  We want to hide ‘others’ qualities and successes, so that nobody knows about them.  As a bodhisattva, we want to be humble, and if possible, help people anonymously.  Then our motivation is free from many worldly concerns.  We want our ‘self’ to be considered higher and for ‘him’ to be considered the lowest of all.   As a bodhisattva, we want to be humble, and view ourselves as a servant of all.  We will take great pleasure in seeing ‘him’ humiliated and we will do everything so that he alone is blamed for all problems.  As a bodhisattva, we know that what is bad for our delusions is good for us.  We also want to take on others’ suffering and burdens so that they do not have to have them.

We might object, but why would we want to put ourselves down in this way, why would we want to overburden our old self and harm his reputation. The only limitation on this is for our own ‘selfish’ ends (in other words, our new self, all living beings).  We want our former self to have a good reputation and not be overburdened to the extent that it is necessary so he can better serve us.  Smart slave owners adequately fed their slaves, and so forth, for the exclusive purpose of extracting more labor and service out of them, because otherwise they would be too weak to do anything for the slave owner.  In fact, we are so cunningly ‘selfish’ in wanting to use this other person, that we want to make him into a Buddha so that he can serve us eternally!  So far from destroying the other person, we will try maximize him as a resource.  In this light, we will take great joy in smashing his delusions because we know what is bad for his delusions is good for “us.”

It seems strange at first to identify with these kind of thoughts.  If we had such thoughts from the perspective of our old self, they would be absolutely awful delusions, which would completely destroy our inner peace.  But when we have these thoughts from the perspective of others, they are actually virtues within our mind – humility, taking and giving, accepting defeat and offering the victory, etc.  In this sense, the totally selfish way of looking at things is perfectly correct, we are just completely wrong about who we are and who we are not! 

I think we are naturally quite competitive, or at least I am.  We can always find something in others that will bring them down a notch or two.  Even if we do not say it to them, we think it to help us maintain our prideful view of ourselves.  Even if we become aware of others good qualities that are similar to our own, we will find something, won’t we, some bad quality that is not as good as our own, that will mean that we are still competitive or superior. When someone is praising another individual, we may think “yes they’re right,” we may even say “yes you’re right, but…”  There’s always a but there in our mind. 

Generally when we are speaking with others, we are competitive.  Usually, the conclusion we are trying to reach in every conversation is how wonderful we are.  And even just speaking to others, in a conversation, it seems we are in competition with them?  We are trying to assert our view over theirs, trying to speak over them, trying to “one up them” in everything they say.  We always have to be the precious, the important one.  Of course, that’s the function of self-cherishing, isn’t it?  We find it difficult to accept defeat and to offer the victory.  Even when we are speaking with someone, let alone in other cases, it is so difficult to accept defeat and to offer the victory to others.

In this meditation, something quite unusual happens.  If we do it right, it has the effect of wanting to accept defeat and wanting to offer the victory.  Through this meditation we work hard for others’ gain so that they win.  We work hard for our loss.  That is what happens, isn’t it?   We work hard for the loss for our self-cherishing.   It is like using our competitive streak against our delusions.  Others always win, we lose.  From our side, we want to be defeated and we want the other person to always win.  We strive, through this meditation, to accomplish the greatest possible results for others, with no concern for our own.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Seeing our pride and heartlessness

(8.141) “He is honoured, but I am not.
I do not have the wealth he has.
He is praised, but I am despised.
He is happy, but I suffer.

(8.142) “I have much heavy work to do,
While he remains comfortably at rest.
His reputation has spread throughout the world,
But all I am known for is my lack of good qualities.

(8.143) “But what do you mean, “I have no good qualities?”
I have many such qualities.
In comparison with many, he is inferior,
While there are many to whom I am superior.

(8.144) “My morals, views, and so on degenerate
Through the force of my delusions, not because I want them to.
You, Bodhisattva, should help us regenerate them in any way that you can,
And willingly forbear any hardships you might encounter in doing so.

(8.145) “But he does nothing to help us,
So why does he make us feel so insignificant?
What use are his so-called good qualities to us?
He never uses them for our benefit!

(8.146) “Not only does he have no compassion
For beings such as us dwelling within the jaws of the lower realms;
Externally he displays pride in his own good qualities
And prefers to contend with the wise.

We come to understand a lot more about the person or people we feel superior to through this meditation.  But as well, we come to understand a lot more about ourselves, don’t we?   We discover things that generally we do not look at, we don’t bother to look at.  This meditation uncovers faults that we need to remove.  In this meditation they become so clear to us.  This meditation makes us want to help someone who we normally consider to be inferior.  In particular, we want to help them improve their good qualities, through praising them encouraging them and so on.  I think we develop a wish to help them without, without pride.  We help others humbly.

We can see clearly the pride that we have by putting ourself in the place of others and looking back to our former self.  We can observe the pride that we have, and it is embarrassing, isn’t it?  Embarrassing.  Awful.  We have it, and this meditation makes it so obvious to us.  We have a lot of pride.  Who really do we think we are?  We have an air of superiority.  “if you really are a Mahayanist, behave like one.  You think you’re a Mahayanist, you think you’re a spiritual practitioner, behave like one.”  Pride is one of our biggest obstacles, preventing any real spiritual growth, preventing us from helping others effectively.  The trouble is we are too proud to look at the pride that we have, aren’t we?  We all have pride, but we do not want to look at it. It is like we are too proud to look at it and to admit to it.  In this meditation we have to admit to it. “I have pride. It’s true.”

This meditation helps us to reduce and eliminate our pride, and it encourages us to work humbly to improve others’ good fortune, to improve others’ good qualities and so forth.  We can acknowledge our strengths.  Perhaps in this meditation we recognize that we do have some strengths, we do have some good qualities.  We can acknowledge those and develop a strong wish to use our strengths for the benefit of others.  We wish to use whatever good qualities we have in the service of others.

When we have pride, we feel easily slighted.  When others do not share our view of ourself, we feel like they are putting us down.  Actually, it is we have artificially inflated view of ourselves. 

Generally speaking, the world is a reflection of our own mind, so if we find ourselves surrounded by prideful and jealous people, what does that say about the quality of our own mind?  Where are all these prideful and jealous people coming from?  When we have pride, we make ourselves completely unteachable.  In fact, we see no reason to be helped because we are already faultless.  This stops all progress.  Geshe-la said we can help anybody except those with pride.  When somebody is humble and admits that it is their own mind which is impure, then everything can change.  Without this, nothing can change.  A bodhisattva understands that there are no faulty beings because in fact there is nobody there.  Venerable Tharchin said we need to take personal responsibility to remove the faults we perceive in others because they are coming from none other than our own mind.

Another way we can look at this meditation is what does the jealousy of the other person want?  If our ‘self’ is at others, if it is selfish, what does it want?  It wants all good things to be transferred to it.  If we assume the delusion of the other person, we want all good things to transfer to others.  The delusions of others are virtues within our own mind.  This is because we have everything backwards.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Transforming delusions into virtues

To enhance our experience of exchanging self with others, Shantideva now goes on to describe a special method where we put ourself in the place of others who may seem to have deluded minds towards us.  Where previously we have learnt to identify with the basis of others, that is their body, now it seems we learn to identify with the basis of others that is their mind.   In dependence upon their mind of jealousy, or their mind of pride, and so forth, we think I. We are imputing I upon that basis, aren’t we? We are bringing to mind their jealousy for example, and thinking I.

It is quite funny.  Normally we dislike people who have such delusions.  Here we learn how to love them. It seems we love them for those faults!  Then no matter what people are like, no matter how deluded their behavior, no matter how they feel towards us, we just love them. We love them. We love them as they are. A jealous person, we love. A proud person, we love. Competitive person, we love.  It is just three examples, but we can take any other delusion and regard a person with that delusion as someone whom we dearly love. Even, or especially, if that deluded behavior is directed towards us.

It is interesting how we normally distance ourselves from jealous, competitive, or prideful people.  Here we are doing completely the opposite — drawing closer and closer to them through identifying with the delusion that they have in their mind, a delusion they have towards us.  The fact is that beings in our world are deluded, aren’t they?  If we cannot like or love deluded beings in our world, then there will be no one to love!  We have to love them not despite their delusions towards us, but because of their delusions towards us.  If we don’t, then there is no one to love otherwise.  And it is worth asking ourselves once again, where do these deluded, childish beings come from in the first place?  Here, Shantideva shows us how to take those people who have deluded minds towards us, and love them for it.

This practice is unusual because generally we’re encouraged to focus on the good qualities of others, and in that way, love them.  That is what we normally do, focus on the good qualities of others, and then naturally a mind of love will arise towards them.  We can’t help it, we naturally will like, even love, people possessing those qualities.  And now Shantideva is giving us a method to love those with apparently bad qualities.  Then, it doesn’t matter how they are – we focus on people’s good qualities, naturally we come to love them; we focus on their bad qualities, naturally we come to love them.  With this wisdom, it doesn’t matter what they’re like anymore, we can love them.

I think what is extraordinary about these meditations is that out of one’s own self-centeredness, naturally delusions such as jealousy, pride, and so forth arise, but when we identify with others’ self-centeredness, their delusions, jealousy, pride, and so forth, naturally virtues arise in us.  If we identify with our delusions, they are delusions; if we identify with others’ delusions, they are virtues.  Interesting how that works.  Jealousy normally thinks, for example, that we want what others have.  If we generate jealousy, we have a delusion.  But the jealousy of somebody else wants them to have what we have, so if we identify with that, we will want them to have what we have.  In other words, we will want to give.  A virtue.  The same is true with all the other delusions (except ignorance).  By identifying with the delusions in somebody else’s mind, it functions to oppose the delusions in our own mind.  Amazing!

By doing these meditations, we find out a lot about ourselves.  We see ourselves from somebody else’s perspective, and this helps us realize how we are and how we should change.

(8.140) Putting myself in the place of those who are lower than, equal to, and higher than me,
And then regarding my former self as “other”,
With my mind free from the crippling conception of doubt
I should meditate on jealousy, competitiveness, and pride.

In Eight Steps to Happiness Geshe-la says that through the force of meditations such as these, we become more open to others’ point of view, more tolerant and more understanding, and we shall naturally treat others with greater respect and consideration.  This will help us improve our communication with others and our knowing how to help others.  We must try to free ourself from doubts, any hesitation, or resistance to these meditations for whatever reason.  We should not worry that if we identify with the delusions of somebody else, we will become a deluded being ourselves.  If we adopt the delusions of others as our own, they are virtues as far as we are concerned.  We must try to increase our faith and, in this way, remove any doubt or hesitation and resistance to engaging in these meditations.  Then we will get some experience, we will gain some glimpse of the incredible meaning behind these meditations that will inspire us more and more to exchange ourself so completely with others, even those whom we find difficult or dislike, or even hate.

We put ourself in the place of those who are lower, equal to, and higher than us.  There are those of course who we consider to be lower than, equal to, or higher than ourselves. not in all respects of course, but in certain respects.  We can divide others into those three categories.  First of all, we put ourself in the place of those whom we regard to be in some respect lower than us (that’s just about everybody since we have so much pride) and then we look back to our former self with jealous thoughts.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: What I have is yours

As a summary to the previous verses, Shantideva says:

(8.137) I completely dedicate myself to the happiness of others.
From now on, mind, you must understand this clearly
And not think of anything
Other than benefiting all living beings.

(8.138) Because my eyes and so forth are now at the disposal of others,
I should not use them for my own purpose;
Nor should I use them in any way
That is contrary to the welfare of others.

(8.139) Being principally concerned for others,
I will take anything
That I regard as belonging to myself
And use it to benefit them.

What I have is yours. That is what we must feel. What I have is yours.  In these three verses we give away everything.  My mind in the first of these verses, my body in the second, my everything in the third. My mind, my body, my everything.  It sounds like a love song, doesn’t it?  It is.  I have given myself to others, therefore we should think, I am yours, and what I have belongs to others, what I have is yours.  We ourself, our possessions, are the property of others.  We have given ourselves to others. What we have is the property of others. We have given what we have to others. Perhaps our self-cherishing is squirming right now. 

What happens then when we have given our self to others in this way? What happens to our normal sense of I? What happens to our sense of I as possessor?  This meditation really is liberating in the sense that we actually lose our “self.”  But perhaps it is more accurate to think that it is enlightening, in the sense that we lose ourself in others.  We don’t just lose ourself, we lose ourself in others.

The best thing we have to give to others is our own experience of Dharma.  Worldly things help people at most in this life, but the Dharma will help them in all their future lives.  If we do not have Dharma to give, we need to gain experience of it so that we have something to share.  If we do not have anybody to give the Dharma to, then we need to make connections with people and in the meantime build up the Dharma within our mind.  Naturally, as we gain experience of Dharma, people will appear to receive help from us.   Geshe-la also encourages us to improve our ability to communicate with others and to improve our appearance.  Part of cherishing others is appearing pleasant to others. 

We can also give our time to our Dharma center by working for it.  By giving our time to the center, we give our time to all living beings.  We complain about not having enough time, but that is because we have been selfish with our time.  The cause of receiving is giving, so the more you give your time to others, the more time you will have.  It’s karma.  Mentally you can do this when you go about your job, or any other time you are serving others.  Do not view it as ‘your time’, but instead a practice of you giving your time.  Giving is a mental act.  Giving time to the center gives time to all living beings, and as a result we create the karma to have all the time we need to get whatever done.  Time is infinitely compressible, there is literally no limit to what can be done.  To gain infinite time in every moment, in every moment give your time to infinite beings.  Its magic!

People must feel that we are there for them. A Bodhisattva has a sincere wish to be there for everyone at all times.  When they become Buddha they know that they can be with people, all people, at all times.  People must feel that we are there for them, people need Bodhisattvas, they need Buddhas in their life.  It is by generating this mind that wishes to be with all beings all of the time that will take us there.  We think, “I would like to be with everyone all of the time, but I currently can’t.”  But if I become a Buddha, then I can be.  This wish will take us to enlightenment.  Our spiritual guide is with us all the time because previously he had the wish to be with us all the time.  We can do the same for those we have the karma to help.

That is what happens when you’re in love.  You want to be with each other as much as possible.   Do the people in our life have that feeling from us.  Do they feel that we want to be with them all of the time, or do they feel like we have no time for them?  There is nothing worse than the feeling that ‘we bother others.’  Sadly, I sometimes make my kids feel this because I am always so busy.  Every time one of my daughters asks something of me, she said, ‘sorry for bothering you, etc.’  Breaks my heart that I have made her feel that she is a bother.  The only thing that is bothersome is the fact that she says this.  We need to put everybody at ease around us.  One of the unique characteristics of Je Tsonkghapa is he makes everybody feel completely at ease and comfortable when they are with him.  As followers of Je Tsongkhapa’s doctrine, we need to do the same.

It is true that we need to interact with people and become a part of their lives, but we need to be careful to not ourselves become ordinary by doing so.   As the saying goes, we need to be in this world, but not ‘of’ this world.  We are here to help, but we are always aware of the bigger picture.  It is true we need to make a connection with people, but if they see us as ordinary and no different than everybody else, then there will be no way they can make any changes.  This is a skill to learn, to be able to be with everybody, have them feel completely comfortable with us, yet be different, going in a different direction, looking for different things.

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.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: The keys to the universe

(8.129) All the happiness there is in this world
Arises from wishing others to be happy,
And all the suffering there is in this world
Arises from wishing ourself to be happy.

If this is only one verse from this chapter worth memorizing, it is this one.  Venerable Tharchin said this verse is the key to the universe and the fulfillment of our every wish.  We are simply confused about what is the cause of happiness.  In fact, we have it exactly backwards.  We can’t just choose to cherish others, we have to have reasons for doing so.  This verse provides all the reasons we need.  When we find ourselves in difficult situations, we can recite this verse like a mantra.  It will be like an inner spiritual guide that always reveals to us the correct path out of whatever difficult circumstance we find ourselves in. 

There are two main levels we can understand this:  At the conventional level, we can understand that through cherishing ourself we engage in negative actions and our mind is not peaceful, so it is the cause of all our unhappiness, and the same for positive actions arising from cherishing others.  But at a an ultimate level, literally all suffering in the whole world comes from our cherishing ourself, because the self-centered mind projects a world of suffering.  And literally all happiness in the whole world comes from our cherishing of others, because it will project a world of happiness.

Geshe-la explains in Eight Steps to Happiness that attaining enlightenment is really very simple, we need only change the object of our cherishing from self to others, then everything else will flow naturally from this.  This verse provides the core reason why we make this change.  Again, we should memorize it and repeat it like a mantra as we go about our day, especially in difficult circumstances.

(8.130) But what need is there to speak at length?
The childish work only for themselves,
Whereas the Buddhas work only for others –
Just look at the difference between them!

We know this, at least intellectually and actually from experience to some extent, we know the truth of these words.  In dependence upon our understanding and experience of this, we need to show an example to others that our happiness comes from working for others.  This is one of the most important examples we need to show as Kadampas.  It is important that we are to be seen to be happy working for others.  There are many, many people in this world now already showing this example.  Now is the time for Kadampa Buddhists to show this example out in the world.  Our tradition has broken out of the monasteries and the mountain caves, and it now lives in our homes, our places of work, and in the towns and nations we live in.

Kadampa practitioners must be seen in the world, taking responsibility in the world. Working hard in this world.  Seeking little gain for themselves other than a happy mind. We are taking responsibility, working hard, and seeking little gain other than a happy mind.  Because we seek no gain, because we are not concerned for our own happiness, we don’t experience problems like everybody else, and we’re able to maintain a peaceful happy mind, unlike anybody else.  As Kadampas, I think two of the most important examples that we must set are, (1) having no external enemies, and (2) seeking and finding happiness from a different source.  In this context, that means seeking happiness from the virtue of cherishing others and working for their happiness. That is the source of our happiness.

This next verse is great:

(8.131) If we do not exchange our happiness
For the suffering of others,
We shall not attain the state of a Buddha
And even in samsara there will be no happiness.

Imagine if we put on our publicity:  learn how to exchange your happiness for others’ suffering.  Nobody would come.  Self-cherishing would not normally think that was a good deal, would it?  Your suffering, for my happiness.  Generally, we think as long as we are happy, then it doesn’t matter if others in the world are suffering.  We think as long as we are happy, it doesn’t matter if other people in the world are suffering. If we continue to think like this, we will never be truly happy.  When we exchange self with others, we think, as long as other people are happy, it does not matter if I suffer.  If we think like this, we will eventually experience true happiness, the happiness of a Buddha.  Somehow we have to reach the stage where we feel that it is better that I suffer rather than others suffer. It is better. It is better that I suffer rather than others. It is better that others are happy rather than myself being happy. It is better.  This is a big mind.  Mothers have it for their children.  Bodhisattvas have it for everybody.

And we have to take this attitude right now into our work as bodhisattvas in this world.   We have opportunities to practice this day after day after day.  For example, if I can relieve the suffering of just one person, even if I have to undergo some hardship myself, then I will do so because it is better that they are happy.  Even if I have to undergo some hardship myself, if I can relieve the suffering of another or others, so be it. If I can make even one person happy, then even if I have to forsake my own happiness, so be it.  If we are enjoying ourself and somebody comes to ask us to help them in some way, are we bothered by this or delighted with the opportunity?  Our response depends on who we are cherishing.  We encounter this situation again and again and again. How many times have we had to make that choice?  Hundreds … is it me or them? And have we always made the right choice?