Ultimate stages of the path: The perfection of giving

According to the normal sequence of the 21 lamrim meditations, the next meditations would be tranquil abiding and superior seeing, but for purposes of this series of blog posts, I will do each of the six perfections in order, with tranquil abiding and superior seeing being treated in the context of the perfections of concentration and wisdom.  The six perfections are the perfection of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom.  By the bodhisattva training in the six perfections, they create the causes necessary to become a Buddha.  What makes the practices of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom “perfections” is if they are practiced with a motivation of bodhichitta.

There are four types of giving:  giving material things, giving fearlessness, giving Dharma and giving love.  Giving material things is the giving of material things to another to make the other person happy.  Doing this creates the cause for future wealth.  Giving fearlessness is anytime we protect or free somebody from some danger so that they don’t have to be afraid.  Doing this creates the cause for ourselves to always be protected and it creates the cause for future power.  Giving Dharma is any giving of Dharma (such as through teaching, giving good advice or showing a good example) out of a love for others, understanding the Dharma functions to free their minds.  Giving love is any act of body, speech or mind that actively works for the happiness of somebody else.  This creates the cause for others to naturally love you in the future and for you to be charismatic, attractive and pure.

To make these practices perfections, we consider how the specific benefits that flow from each type of giving are helpful for our swiftly attaining enlightenment for the sake of all.  The perfection of giving is, motivated by a wish to have these benefits for the sake of others, we engage in the action of giving.  Giving material things creates the cause for wealth.  The Bodhisattva wants wealth in the future so that they have more resources with which they can help others.  Giving fearlessness creates the cause for power.  The Bodhisattva wants power so as to be able to have the power to fulfill their bodhichitta wishes for others.  Giving Dharma creates the cause for receiving Dharma teachings and wisdom.  The Bodhisattva wants teachings and wisdom in the future so that they can continue to make progress along the path.  This is actually the most important type of giving because if we have the fruit of the other three types of giving but not the fruit that grows from the giving of Dharma then eventually we will exhaust our merit and fall back again deeper into samsara.  But if we have the fruit of the giving of Dharma, then we can eventually gather the other types of fruit from giving through relearning their corresponding practice.  Ideally, we would have all four fruits, which would enable us to use the fruit of the other three types of giving to better engage in the practice of giving Dharma.  Giving love creates the cause to be loved.  Bodhisattvas wants others to love them so that others are naturally drawn to them after which the Bodhisattva can give Dharma.  We engage in the perfection of giving when, seeing how these benefits help us accomplish our bodhichitta wishes, we engage in any of the four types of giving.  The ultimate perfection of giving is engaging in the perfection of giving conjoined with an understanding of emptiness.

Here it is useful to consider the emptiness of the three spheres as they relate to the perfection of giving.  The three spheres are ourselves, the person we are giving to and the giving itself.  It has been discussed at length in previous posts how both self and others are empty, just different waves on the same ocean of the mind.  For the emptiness of the actual giving, we can consider “when one wave gives something to another wave, does that something ever leave the ocean?  No.”  And, “just as the tides come in and out, so too do the fruits of our actions – whatever we give out eventually comes back in.”  The ultimate perfection of giving is when, understanding this dynamic, we engage in any of the four types of giving.  Such karma is completely pure, and the fruits of such actions ripen directly in the form of the Pure Land you are building for others.  Unbelievable!

Ultimate stages of the path: Bodhichitta

Bodhichitta is the final mind that emerges from the vast path.  It is a mind that spontaneously wishes to become a Buddha, a being capable of actually removing all of the suffering of all living beings and of bestowing upon them the everlasting happiness of enlightenment.  The primary wish of a Bodhisattva, a being who possesses bodhichitta, is to free all beings.  To fulfill that wish, the Bodhisattva seeks to transform themselves into a Buddha.

The meditation on generating bodhichitta proceeds very simply.  We recall the joy we developed with the meditations on taking and giving and we think to ourselves how wonderful it would be to actually be able to do that.  We then consider how only a fully enlightened Buddha can do this – a being who has removed completely the two obstructions of delusions and contaminated karma, a being with an omniscient mind that realizes directly the ultimate truth of emptiness, a being with an equal love and compassion for all living beings without exception, one that has the skillful means to guide each being on the path of self-enlightenment.  Wanting to do this and seeing only a Buddha can, we naturally arrive at the conclusion, “I must become a Buddha for the benefit of all.”  This is the mind of bodhichitta.  The perfection of this meditation is training in it motivated by a wish to generate bodhichitta which is the substantial cause of the final enlightenment.  The ultimate perfection of this meditation is engaging in the perfection of this motivation combined with an understanding that oneself, the bodhisattva’s deeds, and the final result of full enlightenment for all are all empty creations of mind.

The mind of a Buddha is a mind that creates a pure world which functions to free all living beings.  The mind of a Bodhisattva is a mind that creates a Buddha, namely bodhichitta.   When we realize emptiness with a bodhichitta mind, we develop the power to actually create pure worlds out of emptiness.  This is extremely profound.  Up until now, our mind of self-cherishing has been creating a samsara filled with suffering sentient beings.  Now, our mind of bodhichitta realizing emptiness begins to create a pure world filled with liberated and enlightened beings.  We then train in improving our experience and skill at doing this until we complete our task of attaining enlightenment ourselves.  From one perspective, our enlightenment then gradually radiates out like a giant supernova of purity until our light fills the whole universe, but from another perspective ourselves and all living beings attain enlightenment simultaneously, fully and all at once.  We will have become a Buddha and all of our creation will likewise be Buddhas abiding in pure lands, engaging in pure deeds and enjoying pure enjoyments forever.  We will have collectively transcended grasping at good and bad for its alternative that everything is equally pure.

Ultimate stages of the path: Giving

This meditation completes the cycle of four:  great compassion, taking, wishing love and giving.  These four meditations are not sequential, rather they are cumulative meaning the four parts together combine into one mind that engages in taking and giving.  This mind is the union of the substantial and circumstantial causes of bodhichitta.  Just as the minds of great compassion and wishing love are two sides of the same mind, so too taking and giving are two sides of the same action.

The mind of giving actively works to fulfill the wish of wishing love, namely to bestow the supreme happiness of full enlightenment.  It is generated as follows:  first we develop cherishing love as described before.  We then consider how all living beings lack the blissful peace and contentment of enlightenment.  From this, we naturally develop the strong wish to work to bestow this state on all.  We then ask how?  Through giving all of our good karma, wisdom and happiness to others.  It is a mind that is willing to give up one’s own happiness so that others can enjoy it.  At the ultimate level, a Buddha generates the mind of enlightenment and then gives it to all living beings so they too can have it.  Just as Jesus handed out a piece of bread that can break apart infinitely without ever being diminished, so too a Buddha hands the bread of the mind of enlightenment infinitely to each and every living being without its own mind of enlightenment ever being diminished.  With a mind of wishing love we imagine we do exactly that.  We imagine our mind transforms into a wishfulfilling jewel which radiates out infinite wisdom light rays into the minds of all living beings of the three times directly and simultaneously bestowing upon them the supreme omniscient bliss of full enlightenment.  We imagine we give all our hard earned good karma, realizations and enjoyments to others so that others can enjoy it.  We do this with a mind of sheer delight to be able to do so.

The perfection of this mind is doing this understanding it to be the main cause of bodhichitta.  The ultimate perfection of this mind is the perfection of this mind combined with an understanding of emptiness.  Other living beings are nothing more than karmically created appearances that are so sophisticated as to include dream like minds of their own.  Since these are all empty, and thus creations of our own mind, we are ultimately responsible for every aspect of them – including their lack of the ultimate happiness of enlightenment.  Understanding how we are karmically responsible for their lack of true happiness, we assume personal responsibility for rectifying our mistake by giving to others all of the happiness, wisdom and good karma we have managed to accumulate.  The amazing thing about this meditation is it is by actually feeling like we are actually giving away our happiness that we do not lose it but instead multiply it as we experience it within the empty minds of others.  Our world becomes more filled by the ocean of eternal joy and we all can partake of it without diminishing the enjoyment of anybody else.  We feel like by engaging in the action of giving we are karmically reconstructing the beings of our dream, releasing them into the inexhaustible pool of full enlightenment.  We then meditate on a feeling of joy to be doing this.

These four meditations together then combine to transform into the single mind that engages in taking and giving mounted upon the breath.  The mind that engages in taking and giving is a mind that motivated by great compassion and wishing love engages in the actions of taking and giving.  It is one mind engaging in one action that has two aspects, like the two wings of the bird of enlightenment, namely great compassion/taking and wishing love/giving.  When we mount these two upon the breath, when we inhale we engage in compassionate taking and when we exhale we engaging in loving giving.  Mounting the two upon the breath functions to infuse the subtle energy winds of our subtle body with the subtle essence of the mind that engages in taking and giving.  If we purify our subtle energy winds, it will be impossible for anything other than pure minds and appearances to arise.  Again, it is somewhat Tantric in that mounting the two upon the breath is a meditation with the subtle levels of our mind.  The actual object of meditation is enjoying the feeling of knowing you are actually freeing all beings and bestowing upon them the ultimate happiness of full enlightenment.

Ultimate stages of the path: Wishing love

This meditation is exactly the same as the meditation on great compassion, except this time we develop great love (or wishing love).  There are three types of love, affectionate love, cherishing love and wishing love.  Affectionate love is when you feel warm in your heart, affectionate towards others and you are naturally delighted to see or think about someone.  I think of this as “Grandma love”, it is the joy my Grandma feels everytime she sees one of us.  Or it is also 4 year old love, the love and delight our kids feel as they come running towards us for a hug when we come home from work.  Cherishing love, as explained before, is a love that considers the happiness of others to be something important, or precious, to us.  We value the happiness of others as important to us, something worth working for and prioritizing in our life.  I think of this as a parent’s love.  The happiness of my kids is very important to me and I make my decisions based on what is best for my whole family, even if that sometimes means at the expense of my own narrow interests.  Wishing love is beyond these.  Wishing love sees that others lack true happiness and commits itself to doing whatever it takes to bestow upon others true happiness.  Great compassion is “great” because it (1) concerns all living beings and (2) concerns all three types of suffering (manifest, changing and pervasive).  In the same way, (great) wishing love is concerned for all living beings and its wish is that all beings experience the eternal, perfected happiness of full enlightenment, not merely worldly happiness.  I think of this as a qualified Spiritual Guide’s love.  Only a qualified spiritual guide loves all beings without exception and wishes for them the pure and everlasting happiness of enlightenment.  Even our parents do not wish this for us, and if we have Dharma parents they may wish this for us but not for all living beings.

Just as great compassion is an essential foundation of our bodhichitta, so too is wishing love.  These two, one wishing to free all beings from all suffering the other wishing to bestow upon all beings all happiness, are two aspects of the bodhisattva’s basic wish for others.  This two-sided wish is the substantial cause of our bodhichitta.  In science, we divide causes into necessary and sufficient.  In the Dharma, we divide causes into substantial and circumstantial.  The substantial cause is the thing that transforms into the next thing, like an acorn into an oak tree.  The circumstantial causes are what facilitate that transformation.  In the context of generating bodhichitta, great compassion and wishing love are the substantial cause of our bodhichitta and the practice of taking and giving (and a few extra contemplations) are the circumstantial causes which transform our principal bodhisattva wish into a qualified bodhichitta.  Engaging in the meditation on wishing love understanding the essential role it plays in our generating bodhichitta is the perfection of wishing love.  The ultimate perfection of wishing love is engaging in the perfection of wishing love conjoined with an understanding of emptiness.

We generate wishing love as follows:  first we generating cherishing love in the ways described before, then we consider how living beings do not experience a true, pure, everlasting, uncontaminated happiness.  This is actually easier to understand than most people realize.  The worldly happiness we normally experience, such as that derived from eating ice cream or getting a good job, is happiness but it is not true, pure, everlasting, uncontaminated happiness.  It is not true happiness because it is actually what we call “changing suffering,” meaning it is really just the temporary reduction of our suffering of a lack of something, like the relief we feel after drinking water when we are really thirsty.  A true cause of happiness would be something where the more we have of the cause, the more it produces its intended effect, namely happiness.  Some water brings us initial relief, but if we keep drinking water more and more, eventually doing so will change into suffering.  The same is true for all forms of worldly happiness, such as food, sex, intoxicants, etc.  It is not pure because it concerns a happiness of this life alone, whereas pure happiness looks to our happiness in all our future lives.  It is not everlasting because it fluctuates and eventually dissipates, not remaining unchangingly perfect for eternity.  And it is not uncontaminated happiness because we grasp at it as a happiness that exists from its own side, somehow separate from us and existing independently of our mind.  Wishing love wishes that all beings could experience true, pure, everlasting, uncontaminated happiness.  Seeing that they don’t, we naturally generate the wish that they did.   Wishing love even goes one step further than this by wishing that beings enjoy the bliss of full enlightenment.  The bliss of full enlightenment is an inner peace so qualified, it is blissful.  But it is combined with the deep inner satisfaction that comes with being a vehicle for the eventual ripening and liberating of all living beings, “the main gateway for those seeking liberation.” This is wishing love.

Unobservable wishing love, like unobservable great compassion, is wishing love combined with an understanding that living beings are mere karmic appearances of our mind, they are the beings of our dream, they are waves on the ocean of our mind, they are our karmically created children.  As before, the karmic ripples of our past actions coalesce together into the forms of the beings of this world chasing after contaminated, worldly happiness and lacking the eternal bliss of full enlightenment.  Why are they like this?  Because we have karmically constructed them in this way.  Our contaminated, virtuous actions, such as giving flowers to somebody on their birthday, create the causes for others to engage in similar virtuous actions towards us in the future.  When they do so, they in turn create the causes for their own happiness and they create the tendencies to engage in similar actions again (thus setting the stage for even more happiness later).  Thus, from an ultimate point of view, just as we are responsible for all the suffering of all the empty beings of our dream, so too we are responsible for all of their worldly happiness.  This is good, but there is even better – the bliss of full enlightenment.  There is nothing wrong with wishing for people to be happy in this world, we just need to not stop there.  We need to karmically reconstruct the beings of our dream to be ones experiencing the eternal bliss of full enlightenment.  Wishing this is unobservable wishing love and the object of our meditation.

Ultimate stages of the path: Taking

When we engage in the meditation on taking, motivated by the great compassion we generated in the previous meditation, we imagine we take other’s suffering upon ourselves.  This meditation has limitless benefits.  First, it makes our compassion practical by giving it a means to fulfill its wish to free all living beings from their suffering.  Second, it destroys our self-cherishing mind completely because only a mind that cherishes others more than ourselves would be willing to take on others suffering.  Third, it creates the causes to be able to actually take on others suffering in the future, not just in our imagination.  In this sense, the meditation is tantric in nature in that by bringing the result into the path it functions to ripen that result. Fourth, it functions to ripen our bodhichitta because we see how amazing it is to be a Buddha who has the ability to do this, and so we therefore naturally wish to become one.  Fifth, it dramatically increases our faith because it takes a leap of faith to willingly take on the suffering of all living beings since our natural fear is we will be crushed by such a thing, but then by doing so we realize that far from being crushed we become liberated ourselves.  Sixth, it is an extremely powerful method of purification because taking their suffering upon ourselves motivated by compassion is exactly karmically opposite of all of the negative, harmful actions we have engaged in against living beings since beginningless time, so it neutralizes virtually all of the negative karma we have with respect to whose suffering we take on.   Seventh, it provides us with a universal method for transforming adverse conditions into the path because we can imagine every problem we encounter is us having actually taken on and are now working through the negative karma of others.  So instead of us suffering from adversity, we joyfully and courageously look at our difficulties as us working through others’ suffering so they do not have to.  Eighth, it deepens significantly our understanding of emptiness by helping us realize how samsara and nirvana are karmically created appearances.

The meditation itself is very simple.  First we generate cherishing love for all living beings (or a group of beings), then we consider their suffering.  On this basis, we generate compassion for them, wishing to free them from their suffering.  We then ask how can we do so?  Through the practice of taking.  With a mind that is willing to suffer ourselves so that others do not have to, we then imagine that we take on all of the suffering, delusions and negative karma of all living beings in the form of a black smoke which gathers from them into our root mind.  We imagine that we direct all this universal suffering against our own self-cherishing mind, like evil turning in on itself destroying itself.  This destroys completely our self-cherishing mind and we generate a feeling of profound joy strongly believing that we have actually freed all living beings from their suffering and that we have completely destroyed our own self-cherishing mind, the root of all suffering.  We then meditate on this feeling of joy.  The perfection of this meditation is engaging in the meditation understanding how it is a powerful cause for becoming a Buddha ourselves.  The ultimate perfection of this meditation is engaging in the perfection of this meditation combined with an understanding of how ourselves, others, our act of taking and the final results of our meditation are all empty.

It has already been described how others are the beings of our karmic dream, but it is worth repeating.  If we dream of somebody in a wheelchair, who put them there?  We did.  Is there anyone there really in a wheel chair?  No.  So does it matter that they are in one?  Yes, it does, because they conventionally appear to suffer.  In the same way, when we see somebody in the waking world (which is just a different level of dream) in a wheelchair, we can ask the same questions, who put them there, is there anyone really there and does it matter.  Through the force of the ripples of our past karmic actions, we have constructed a dream world full of dream-like beings who experience all sorts of different forms of suffering within the dream.  Ultimately, there is no one really there experiencing anything, but conventionally what is there is the appearance of suffering sentient beings.  Understanding their emptiness, we feel a profound feeling of personal responsibility – we put them in their suffering situation and therefore it is our responsibility to free them from it.  How?  By undoing all that we did to them, directly or indirectly.  We do this by taking upon ourselves all of their suffering, delusions and negative karma.   Just as we can karmically construct them to be suffering sentient beings through our deluded actions, we can karmically construct them to be liberated beings through our compassionate wisdom action of taking.

Sometimes people mistakenly think that we are not really liberating beings from their suffering by engaging in the practice of taking, it is just our imagination.  In reality, the extent to which we engage in the practice of taking conjoined with an understanding of emptiness is the extent to which we actually free others from their suffering, delusions and negative karma.  But this occurs with a karmic lag.  All karmic appearances have a certain duration to them resulting from the intensity of the original action.  Right now, the karma for the appearance of a world of suffering is ripening, and these appearances all have a certain duration to them.  But through engaging in the practice of taking and engaging in the mental action of strongly believing we have undone the harm we have inflicted upon them, we plant new karmic seeds on our mind.  Over time, the seeds which produce the appearance of suffering will exhaust themselves and the seeds which produce the appearance of liberated beings will ripen.  Then beings will appear to us as having been liberated through our practice of taking.  Some people object by saying, “well that must be nice for you to see them as liberated, but they still see themselves as suffering so what good does your view do?”  The answer to this objection is quite profound.  As ordinary beings, we still grasp at a duality between view and action.  We view things in a particular way, and on that basis we act.  For a Buddha, their pure view IS their pure action, and their pure action IS maintaining pure view.  They do not maintain pure view because it is objectively true (nothing is), rather they maintain this view because doing so functions to ripen others into pure beings.  Thus, the duality between pure view and compassionate action collapses into one and the same.  Thus, there is no contradiction between saying a Buddha sees all beings as having already been liberated (in fact, as having always been enlightened) and saying Buddhas work tirelessly to free all beings from all suffering.  If we can understand the profundity of this, our practice of taking and even more so our practice of self-generation take on profoundly different meanings.

Even if we don’t understand fully, we should apply effort to improve our understanding of how compassion, taking, emptiness and karma interrelate.  Doing so will greatly deepen our wisdom and our enthusiasm for such practices.

Ultimate stages of the path: Great compassion

The next four meditations are about gaining imaginative experience of what it is like to be a Buddha.  On the basis of cherishing the happiness of all living beings, we geneate great compassion for them – a mind that actively wishes to free others from their suffering.  We then imagine doing so as a Buddha would through the practice of taking.  Then, again on the basis of cherishing all living beings, we generate wishing love for them – a mind that actively wishes to bestow pure and eternal happiness on all living beings.  We then imagine doing so as a Buddha would through the practice of giving.  Seeing how amazing it is and understanding how Buddhas work makes us extremely motivated to become a Buddha ourselves.  Thus, if we do these meditations well, we will find it effortless to generate bodhichitta itself.  The perfection of these meditations is engaging in them understanding how they are the essential building blocks of the bodhichitta mind.  The ultimate perfection of these meditations is engaging in them conjoined with an understanding of emptiness.

In the previous meditations we built up the mind of exchanging self with others – a mind that cherishes only others.  Again, to cherish means to consider something to be important or valuable.  Practically, it means something worth working for.  To engage in the meditation on great compassion, we simply re-generate our cherishing love for others and then consider how they suffer.  If we did our meditations on cherishing love and our meditations on suffering well, by simply combining the two the mind of great compassion will effortlessly develop in our mind, like the next domino falling in a chain.  We consider how living beings are trapped in a cycle of delusion and contaminated karma that throws them again and again into the lower realms.  We can consider how they experience manifest, changing and pervasive suffering.  We can recall manifest suffering is some form of pain as we normally think of it, changing suffering is contaminated pleasure as we normally think of it (it is called changing suffering because the more we try secure contaminated pleasure the more it turns into pain), and pervasive suffering is the suffering that comes from identifying with contaminated aggregates (we suffer from human problems becuse we identify with a human body and mind, animals suffering from animal problems because they identify with animal bodies and minds, etc.).  We can consider how until living beings free themselves by travelling the path, there is no escape for them.  Since we consider their happiness to be valuable, something worth working for, we will naturally develop the mind of great compassion actively wishing to do something to free them from their suffering.

Ultimate compassion, or unobservable compassion as it is referred to in Ocean of Nectar, is a compassion combined with an understanding of emptiness.  It can be developed as follows:  First, we recall how we are responsible for all of the suffering of all living beings (analogy of tapping water or considering how our enaging in negative actions towards others creates the karma for others to engage in negative actions towards us which then condems them to suffering).  Second, we consider how each being is actually a wave on the ocean of our mind – they are not separate from us but are in fact parts of us.  So just as my right hand cares for my left foot, so too the Ryan wave should care for all the other waves.  If we understand we are the ocean, and not just an individual wave, then great compassion becomes an obvious – wanting to free all of our self from suffering is exactly the same as wishing for all living beings to be free from suffering.  Third, we can consider how others are mere karmic appearances generated by our mind.  Others suffer because we dream them that way.  Our uncontrolled mind dreams a world of uncontrolled suffering for all.  We must stop dreaming such a world.

Great compassion means we generate this mind (1) for all living beings without exception and (2) with respect to all three types of suffering, manifest, changing and pervasive.  Anything less than this is compassion but not great compassion.  For example, if we wish our children were free from manifest suffering, it is compassion – and therefore very good – but it is not great compassion because we do not wish the same for others and we are not taking into consideration the three types of suffering.  But we need to be careful to not make the best (great compassion) the enemy of the good (anything less than great compassion).  Sometimes people intellectually understand what great compassion is, realize that the compassion they generate is less than that, and then mistakenly think that it is not good (and even bad) to feel more limited compassion for a more limited number of beings.  So they wind up denying the compassion they do feel becasue they cannot yet feel that same compassion for all living beings for all of their suffering.  This is a huge mistake, and one that is commonly made.  Great compassion is built up on the basis of growing our less than great compassion.  So we need to start smaller, generate a real taste for genuine compassion towards anyone for any of their suffering, such as victims of rape warfare or our children in Middle School, and then gradually build up this mind for more beings and for more types of suffering.

To grow our compassion in a qualified way, we need to avoid the extremes of abstract compassion and grasping at the feeling of compassion.  If by expandng the scope of our compassion too far we lose the feeling and start intellectualizing about what are still for us abstract concepts of “all living beings” and “pervasive suffering” then we have fallen into the extreme of abstract compassion.  If we start to grasp at the feeling of heart felt compassion, thinking it is our object of contemplation, then we have fallen into the extreme of grasping at the feeling of compassion.  This is more subtle.  The feeling of compassion is a natural by-product of holding the two minds of cherishing love and a wisdom understanding their suffering at the same time.  When these two minds are held together, compassion naturally arises like a candle from a flame.  But if we grasp at the flame and thereby drop the candle we will hold neither.

Ultimate stages of the path: Exchanging self with others

The last several meditations have as their goal to bring us to the final conclusion to exchange ourself with others.  This is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful meditations on the path.  If we do it right, it changes everything.  To exchange self with others according to Sutra means to change the object of our cherishing from self to only others.  Practically, this means that I value only their happiness and my every action is aimed at securing their happiness.  When we equalized self and others, we tried to cherish all beings as much as we cherish ourself, but we still hung on to cherishing ourself.  In the last two meditations we looked at the disadvantages of self-cherishing and the advantages of cherishing others.  This meditation is the final conclusion of the previous ones – I should therefore cherish only others.  The perfection of this meditation is understanding how this determination to cherish only others is the frame of the house that supports the roof of our great compassion, which has as its peak our bodhichitta.  The ultimate perfection of this meditation is cherishing only others understanding that they, ourself and our cherishing are all empty.

Shantideva says that all happiness in this world comes from our cherishing others and all suffering comes from cherishing ourself.    How can we understand this from the point of view of emptiness?  We can understand this literally!  If I cherish myself, I engage in negative actions, setting the stage for my own future suffering.  It also creates the karma for others to engage in negative actions towards me in the future, setting the stage for their suffering.  Since others are mere karmic projections of mind, waves on the ocean of my mind, with no independent existence form their own side, the only conclusion is I am responsible for all the suffering in this world, both my own and that of others.  Likewise, when I cherish others, I engage in virtuous actions, setting the stage for my own future happiness.  It creates the virtuous karma for others to engage in virtuous actions towards me, setting the stage for their happiness.

We can think of this like a giant body of water.  Imagine at the beginning the water is perfectly calm.  If I begin tapping on the water, trying to raise my own wave and knock down those around me, it will send out shock waves in all directions.  Some of these waves will reverberate back to me (eventually all of them will), but most of the waves will start interacting with the other waves, crashing into each other in all sorts of different ways.  If I didn’t know how all of the waves started, I would ignorantly think that there are all sorts of waves doing all sorts of different things to each other and it has nothing to do with me.  But if I do understand how it started, I realize that it was my tapping which created all of the interactions of all of the waves.  I am responsible for all suffering.  Likewise, if I realize my error, and instead start cherishing only others, my corresponding virtuous actions will create anti-waves, waves that are the opposite of the selfish, destructive waves I have been sending out since beginningless time.  An anti-wave neutralizes the negative waves, thus calming the waters of our mind.  We keep going until the waters become completely still, peaceful and blissful – we will have gathered all phenomena into the bliss of the Dharmakaya.  The mind of bodhichitta is exactly opposite of all of the negative minds I have ever generated, and its corresponding action – generating oneself as a Buddha so that we may lead all others to the same state – is one single action that (if done powerfully enough) has the power to neutralize directly, simultaneously and effectively instantly all of the negative waves I have sent out since beginningless time – all living beings can be freed from the suffering I have inflicted upon them in an instant.  The conventional shape of this “great wave” is the self-generation meditation and the ultimate shape of this “great wave” is meaning clear light of completion stage.  Shantideva also said all the Buddhas cherish only others whereas samsaric beings cherish themselves, just look at the difference!

According to Tantra, we engage in this meditation by not simply changing the object of our cherishing to only others, but by literally changing the basis of imputation of our I to be only others.  We impute I on all others, and we impute other on our former self.  We naturally cherish whoever we think we are.  If we think we are all living beings, we will naturally cherish them and work for their happiness.  This will come effortlessly for us, just as it is currently effortless to cherish ourselves.  Just as we naturally currently view others through the lens of how they can help us and serve our needs, in the same way when we impute our I onto all others and look back at our former self as “other”, we will naturally view our former self through the lens of how it can help the new us and serve our needs.  What would we want our former self to do for the new us?  We would want him to stop harming us and to only help us.  We would want him to work very hard to fulfill our wishes and accomplish our needs.  Really, the best thing he could do for us is become a Buddha that then leads us to enlightenment!  When we look back at our old self and see the difference between what we would want and need him to do and what he is actually doing, we will know what to do in all situations and we will be extremely motivated to do it.  To put it in modern terms, we will realize what a “douche bag” we have been and we will really want to change!  😉

We may find it unfair to cherish only others and to view ourselves as merely a tool to serve the needs of others, but is this not just correcting for the unfairness we have doled out since beginningless time?  We owe it to others to make up for all the harm we have done them.  Besides, since the self we normally see does not exist at all, what point is there in cherishing it?  We may find it dangerous to cherish only others because then who will look after ourselves.  But we will still need to take care of ourselves – in fact, we will need to transform ourselves into a Buddha – the only thing that changes is the reason why we care for and grow ourselves.  We do so to be of greater service to others.  So we need not worry.

These meditations are extremely powerful, and if we do them sincerely it will change everything for us.  We will enter into high gear and race towards enlightenment.