Buddhist monk

“Whatever worldly joy there is arises from wishing for others’ happiness. Whatever worldly suffering there is arises from wishing for your own happiness”

Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds 

Lama Tsongkhapa, in the Lam Rim Chen Mo, emphasises the importance of considering how being self-centered is the door of all degeneration and being other-centered is the basis of all excellence.

This of course is not easy to put into practice as we have spent the majority of our time, in this life, and since beginningless times, self cherishing, instinctively focussing on the well being of the “self”. Yet this has arisen from ignorance of our true nature, identifying with our bodies and our thoughts as if they were “us” and distinguishing this from “others”. The reality however is different as the “self” and “other” are mutually dependent as when you become aware of “self” you naturally, in the same moment, conceive “other”. Likewise when you become aware of “others” you automatically become aware of a “self”!

Shantideva, in Compendium of Trainings, puts it very elegantly in these two verses:

By becoming accustomed to the equality of self and other, the Spirit of Enlightenment becomes firm. Self and other are interdependent. Like this side and the other side of the river, they are false.

The other bank is not in itself “other”; In relation to someone else it is “this bank.” Similarly, “self” does not exist in it’s own right; in relation to someone else it is “other.”

With this understanding of the non existence of “self” and “other” (in effect they are fully interchangeable) we can then see fallacy of thinking “I will not make an effort to dispel the suffering of others as this suffering (of others) does not harm me!”

In this way we start to see how are self cherishing attitude and actions have bound us to cyclical existence. Continually we have wanted to make things just right for us and, through the ignorance set out above, regarding “self” and “other”, we have emphasised our own welfare and in so doing have engaged in improper methods (deeds).

From beginningless times, life after life, year after year and day after day we have put “self” first and not only have we failed to achieve “our” happiness we have more often than not suffered time and time again!

If we truly want lasting happiness we need to be intelligent about it (His Holiness describes it as “intelligent self centeredness”!!) by making a firm determination to think “now I understand the faults of self-cherishing, and the benefits of cherishing others, with great effort, relying on mindfulness and vigilance, I will discontinue the present self-cherishing, my great enemy, and I will not allow any potential self-cherishing to arise.”  

We need to see all aspect of “us”, all our actions and thoughts, as being for “others” by understanding that with the mind of wisdom, the mind that understands dependent relation, “self” and “other” are one and the same!

This article contains my humble opinions and thoughts and should not be mistaken for the wisdom of my teacher, the Venerable Geshe Tsering Palden, or any other fully qualified Buddhist teacher or Guru. My only aim in writing this Blog is to try and train my mind in the path of the Buddha and if, by so doing, I am able to benefit others, I dedicate all merits for the relief of suffering of all sentient beings.

Note: Any error in this text is entirely attributable to me, and only to me, and should never be attributable to the perfect teachings of Dharma. I sincerely apologise for any mistakes.