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The purpose of this meditation is to think deeply about the benefits of cherishing others, and to reach a firm conclusion that this is what we need to do with our lives. We then think about what this means in terms of Bodhichitta.
I began by thinking about how the thin pleasures of samsara are ultimately meaningless. There is no real happiness or satisfaction in my uncontrolled mind – I need to master my mind and attain freedom from samsara. I decided to meditate with all my effort on cherishing others, and holding that determination in mind, I moved on.
I needed to transition into a more focused state of mind before the main meditation, so I concentrated first on my body, relaxing each part in turn as I breathed in and out. Once my body was relaxed, I turned my attention inwards to my heart, and let my focus rest on the point at the very centre of my heart, where I imagined my Guru sitting on a lotus. I came closer and closer until I felt that we were superimposed upon each other, and then we mixed completely like water mixed with water, our minds completely one. I felt his supreme stillness and mental stability fill my mind, and I rested there, unmoving, for a while…
I then thought about cherishing others. All the happiness in the world comes from cherishing others. I thought about my wishes for this life. I want to have meaningful relationships with others. I don’t want to be a spectator in this life, and find at the end that I was merely watching the years go by. I want to mesh with others – be part of them. I think this will bring true meaning to my life. How should I do this? Self-cherishing is not the basis upon which to do this. Self-cherishing is the path to isolation, not the path to others.
I felt like I could see my cherishing love spread out to others, and through this I could become mixed with them – form deep and meaningful relationships with them, and grow spiritually with them. I know that this is the way to achieve my wishes for this life. I focused on this feeling of cherishing others, and how it will fulfil my wishes, and felt a deep warm glowing feeling of love for others. When this had established, I focused on it for a while…
After that, I wondered what this meant in terms of Bodhichitta.
Bodhichitta is dependent upon its parts. Cherishing others is an essential part of Bodhichitta. It seemed to me that just as you can’t have a wave without water, you cannot have Bodhichitta without the mind which cherishes others. If I can establish a mind which cherishes others constantly, then Bodhichitta will naturally arise in my mind without effort. Cherishing others is the path to Bodhichitta, and with this wonderful thought, I returned to my mind which cherished others completely and enjoyed that blissful feeling for the rest of my meditation.
May all living beings cherish others, and may Bodhichitta arise in their minds, propelling them to perfect and complete enlightenment.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will cherish others with all my heart, and recognise that cherishing others will make my life meaningful, and allow me to die without regrets.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate a strong feeling of cherishing ourselves and others equally, and then to investigate this feeling in light of the advantages of cherishing others.
I began with some breathing meditation. I imagined that to start with on every exhalation, I created a pool of focus and calmness. As I breathed in this pool shrank to nothing as my mind immediately wandered away and got caught up in distractions. Then, on the next exhalation, the pool of calm reappeared. After a while, the pool did not completely disappear. Then, slowly, it reduced less and less until it remained the same size from breath to breath. Then it expanded to fill my mind with calm and peace. I stayed with that feeling for a while before moving on.
I started by remembering that all living beings are my mothers, and that they have been very very kind to me in the past. I also remembered that they continue to be kind to me as the living beings around me today. I thought ‘these kind mother beings all want the same as me – they want to be happy and free from suffering’. I thought about how I should respond to this situation. They have been so kind, and they want the same things I do.
I decided that the only response that made sense was to work for their happiness as I work for my own. I felt like we were all in the same boat. I imagined paddling the boat towards the shores of true happiness; paddling myself and others at the same time. I focused on this feeling of working for the happiness of others and myself equally for the rest of the meditation.
I then wondered about what this means in light of the advantages of cherishing others.
It seemed to me that equalising my cherishing of others with my cherishing of myself was the first real movement in my mind towards enjoying the advantages of cherishing others. It seemed like a huge shift had taken place in my mind, and instead of my universe being one massive star (myself) with lots of dust revolving around it (others), it was more like a binary system, with myself being one massive star and others being its twin. I focused on the feeling of this shift in cherishing for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings come to cherish themselves and others equally, and progress along the mahayana paths to the state of no more learning.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to think of others and maintain the feeling of working equally for others and myself – sharing my cherishing thoughts with other living beings.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop a strong feeling of cherishing all other living beings as much as we cherish ourselves, and then to meditate on this feeling in the light of renunciation – the wish to be completely free from the sufferings of samsara.
I began by remembering the kindness of all living beings and especially the kindness of my mother in this life. I mentally reviewed the contemplation from yesterday and tried to develop the feeling of being very grateful for all her kindness and very humble.
Once I had that feeling I then thought about how I myself, my mother and all other living beings all want the same thing – to be happy and free from suffering. In this respect we are all completely equal. I thought about how everyone suffers. Although they may appear at the moment to have good conditions and happiness, in the long term they have just as much suffering as the rest of us. In one life they may be born into a healthy, wealthy family, but in the next life they are just as likely to be born into a poverty stricken family in a land with no health care provisions. This is the great equality.
I then returned my thoughts to how kind these living beings have been so kind to me in the past, and how, if we are all equal in suffering, I should work to relieve their suffering just as much as I work to relieve my own.
I imagined the ten people closest to me arranged in the ten directions around me as I sat in meditation, and I imagined my concern and cherishing radiating out to them, wanting them to be happy and free from suffering. I felt like we were all together and melting together with my cherishing spreading equally through us all. I imagined all other living beings surrounding us and my cherishing extended to them.
I kept this feeling of cherishing all these living beings and focused on it for a while.
I then thought about what this means in the light of renunciation – the wish to be completely free from the suffering of samsara.
If I want to be free from the sufferings of samsara, I need to turn away from my constant worry and concern for my self. The core of my samsara is my self grasping ignorance – the deluded mind that grasps at an inherently existent self or me. I grasp at it so tightly that there is little room in my mind for thoughts of others (except, perhaps, how they can be used to please me – what a revolting trait). But if I can start to loosen this obsessive concern for myself, I can begin to move away from the root of my samsara, and begin to move towards liberation.
With this recognition of how cherishing myself and others equally relates to renunciation, I returned to my feeling of being equally concerned for the happiness and freedom of all living beings.
May all living beings come to see the great equality of all living beings, move away from their obsessive self-grasping, and make the journey to liberation and enlightenment quickly and smoothly for the sake of all living beings.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to remember the great equality of all living beings, and when I meet people today I will try to think ‘you are a suffering being, just like me, and just like everyone else – may you be free from suffering, and may I do what I can to help you’.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate the beautiful mind of cherishing others, and then to meditate on this thought in the light of our refuge practice.
I began by thinking over a small section of the contemplation given by Geshe Kelsang in the book The New Meditation Handbook. He says that by having a mind that cherishes others, our life can be peaceful, happy, harmonious and meaningful. I thought about these advantages. It seems like a lot of results from just one thought! A bit later Geshe-la says that by cherishing others we will show the best example of pure Dharma practice.
I thought about how wonderful this is. The BEST example of PURE Dharma practice is given simply by cherishing others. Normally to be the BEST at something we have to have very special circumstances. If we want to be the best runner we have to eat special food and train constantly. We also have to have perfect health and be within a certain age range. If we want to be the best in a particular profession, we must have talent and flair to begin with, coupled with years of experience. But to give the BEST example of PURE Dharma practice all we need as a prerequisite is a mind that cherishes others! Black, white, man, woman, old, young, healthy, unhealthy – it doesn’t matter what your background is. EVERYONE can show the best example of Dharma practice by cherishing others.
It seemed so beautiful that this is open to everyone to achieve.
I decided to think about how Je Tsongkhapa feels when he cherishes others. I asked myself – what would it feel like. Immediately I felt a very warm friendly feeling, which delighted in the prospect of helping others. I felt like I could go through my life and be delighted every time I met another person, thinking ‘how wonderful – someone to cherish’! In this way my life would be completely filled with peace, happiness,harmony and meaning. I kept my mind on this feeling for a while – it was very very nice!
Then I decided to think about what this means in the light of my refuge practice. By going for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha I am saying that they are my ultimate source of inspiration and guidance. Buddha has perfect realisations, including the mind of cherishing others. So by going for refuge what I am doing is saying ‘Buddha, you have perfect realisations – I want to have them too. Please help me gain these perfect realisations’. I stayed with this feeling of refuge and cherishing others for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings cherish everyone they meet and think about, and thereby become enlightened beings for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will cherish others, and be delighted to meet each and every person. Those I know I will cherish openly in appropriate ways. Those I do not know I will cherish by putting Je Tsongkhapa at their heart and dedicating the merit to keeping him there throughout all their lives until they attain enlightenment.
The purpose of this meditation is to equalise our cherishing of ourself and our cherishing of others, and then to meditate on this wish in the light of our refuge practice.
I began by thinking about how kind everyone is to me. Remembering my conclusion from yesterday (that all living beings constantly help me by their actions – whatever they may be) I felt a deep wish to repay their kindness. They are all so kind, and they are all the same as me in the most important way – they are suffering in samsara and wish only for happiness. I cannot just cherish myself and ignore these kind people.
I wondered how I can express this wish to cherish others. The answer came that I can’t solve all of everyone’s problems in my current imperfect state, but I can still make a BIG difference. How? Its the little things that can make a big difference to others in my life. I can pay attention to them, smile at them, say a kind word to them, compliment them, tell them what I think they are good at.
For my wife and family, I can listen to them properly. One of my biggest faults is that I do not pay full attention to my family when they talk to me – I am always half thinking about other things. What is the consequence of this? I don’t remember everything they say. What is the consequence of this? I don’t keep track of their actions, thoughts and wishes, and consequently I can’t show an ongoing deep interest in them. This is a huge fault!
I made the determination to definitely pay full attention to my family and work colleagues when they talk about their feelings and wishes.
It reminded me of a cartoon I saw recently joking about how women just want men to listen. A woman is shown kerb-crawling in a car, and a make prostitute dressed in a respectable suit is leaning in through the window saying ‘Oh yeah baby I’ll listen to you… I’ll listen to you all night long’!
I will cherish by paying attention to people properly, and being interested in them.
As I thought about this deeply, it seemed that my interest in myself and my interest in others became more equal, and the difference between myself and others diminished until there was no divide – I was equally interested in others as I was myself.
I meditated on this feeling of equality for a while, and then I wondered what this meant in the light of my refuge practice.
By going for refuge, I commit myself to the service of the Three Jewels, and recognise them as being the example to follow and embody. How is Buddha described in Liberating Prayer?
You who love all beings without exception
Buddha is my object of refuge, and he loves all beings without exception. I too shall love all beings without exception, beginning by doing the little things which make a big difference. I meditated on this thought and it felt like a vast wave of cherishing love was spreading out from my heart (which was Buddha’s heart) reaching all living beings and causing them happiness. It was a beautiful feeling, and I tried to stay with it for the rest of the meditation. When it faded I brought it back by remembering the contemplation, and I repeated the process for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings cherish others as much as they cherish themselves, and solve theirs and others’ problems, and by so doing become enlightened beings.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will listen with full attention to everyone, especially my family, and use the opportunities I have to deepen my interest in and cherishing of others.
The purpose of this meditation is to equalise the cherishing feeling we have for ourselves with the cherishing we feel for others, and then contemplate this feeling in the context of the danger of rebirth in the lower realms.
I began the meditation by thinking about how everyone has the same wish – to be happy and free from suffering. We all have this wish in common. I thought about what it is like to be in a club with other like-minded people. When we are in a club and share the values and aims of others in the club – we feel closer to other members in the group because of this commonality.
I thought about how I am in a club with all living beings. We all want the same things – to be happy and free from suffering. I felt close to all living beings like we were all in the same club. I let this feeling of being close to others fill my mind. I thought about how I need to work for the happiness of others as much as I work for my own happiness. We are all the same – all have the same wishes. I need to cherish others as much as myself. I focused on this feeling for a while.
I then thought about this in the light of the sufferings of the lower realms. We all want to avoid all sufferings. Normally we are only thinking about the sufferings of this life, but we need to think about avoiding the sufferings of the lower realms too. Not only do I need to cherish others as much as myself, but I need to avoid acting in ways which cause them suffering but arguing etc. I kept my mind on this idea of working for others and avoiding conflict with them.
May all living beings come cherish others as much as they cherish themselves, and become Buddhas for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try feel as strong a cherishing feeling for others as I do for myself.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop a wish to cherish others just as much as we cherish ourselves, and then to contemplate this wish in the light of death and impermanence.
I began the meditation by thinking again of the kindness of all my mothers, and how each living being has been my kind mother in the past. I regained some of my feeling of affectionate love from my previous meditations. I then thought about how there is still an great imbalance between how I care for myself and others. I believe that my happiness and freedom are much more important than that of others, despite my warm feelings towards them. This will have to change.
I thought about how we are all in the same position. We are all suffering in samsara, looking for a way out. There is no difference between myself and others in this respect. And also there are so many other living beings. All of them are suffering. I should use my time to free them as I myself wish to be free.
I thought about these points, and I felt a sense of equality in my mind; a sense that everyone as equal worth, and that just as I care for myself as if I were the most precious thing, so I should also care for others in just the same way. I tried to cultivate this feeling for a while.
I then asked what this means in the context of death and impermanence. I thought about how impermanent the appearance of others is to my mind. Some people seem to be in great need, whereas others seem to have it all. But these appearances are deceptive and in a short time these people can exchange places. Who should I care for more? I felt the answer – I shall cherish all living beings equally because they are all equal in their imprisonment in samsara. I felt like there was no separation between myself and others, like we were all one entity. I remained with that feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings come to cherish others as they do themselves, and become Buddhas for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to remain mindful of cherishing others as I do myself, and make a mental note of when I am cherishing others, and when I am not!
The purpose of this meditation is to develop a feeling of cherishing ourself and others equally, in the light of the meaning of our precious human life.
I began the meditation by remembering that the appearances of other living beings are deceptive, and although they look unfamiliar and different, they are, in essence, not other than my own kind mother, who has cared for me more than she cared for herself. I let the feeling of affectionate love rise in my mind towards all living beings.
From there I contemplated that myself and all living beings are equal in the sense that we are all suffering beings, trapped in the prison of samsara. Just as I want to experience happiness and avoid all suffering, so to do all living beings – we are equal in this respect. Finally I considered the fact that there are many other living beings all wishing for happiness and release from suffering, whereas I am only one individual. I work hard for my own happiness, but given who others really are (my kind mothers) and that their wishes and my wishes are the same, I should work equally for their happiness too. How could I do anything else?
As I thought about this, a feeling of ‘equal’ arose in my mind. A thought occurred to me about my children. The three of them are all different, but I love them equally. I care for them equally. I want all three of them to be happy and free from suffering in just the same way. I let this feeling of ‘equal’ extend to all living beings: I cherish myself and all living beings equally. I settled on this thought for a while.
Finally I stepped back from this object and asked – what does this mean in the context of my having a precious human life? My ability to cherish all living beings equally (and the understanding of how to do this and why) are all possible because I now have a precious human life. This life is incredibly rare, and so my ability to cherish myself and others equally is also incredibly rare.
I felt a special quality of rareness add itself to my feeling of ‘equal’, so that it became incredibly special and precious.
All my contemplations seemed to come together: The appearances of others are deceptive, which made their appearances fade away. My cherishing of them is equal to my cherishing of myself, which made any divide between myself and others in terms of cherishing fade away. It seemed to me that there was no difference between myself and others – we were all equal in terms of my cherishing. Equal and inseparable. It felt like all the barriers were down, and I my mind was completely mixed with others.
I felt a very profound smooth, open, outward flowing, peaceful feeling of cherishing all living beings equally, which I remained focused on for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings cherish themselves and others equally, and thereby become enlightened beings for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to remember how rare my opportunity to cherish myself and others equally is, and to do so constantly throughout the day with my thoughts and actions.
I began this meditation by considering my normal view of my place in society and all other living beings. My normal view is that I am more important that all others, and that my freedom and happiness is more important than that of all others. In other words, I cherish myself more than I cherish others. In fact, normally I cherish myself far, far more than others, and completely neglect to even consider the happiness and freedom of others, except for a few people who are very close to me.
This view is ungrateful, illogical and causes me to completely waste my potential as a force for good in the world.
In order to establish my object of meditation, I recalled the conclusions from my previous meditation; that all other living beings have been, and continue to be, very kind to me. I stayed with this recognition for a while and let it make an impression in my mind.
Then I considered that I and all other living beings are equal, in that we are all suffering in samsara. I let my mind dwell on this recognition for a while so that it became familiar.
Then I considered that I am only one living being, whereas there are countless other suffering living beings. Given how kind they have been, and given that we are all essentially equal, how can I work to secure my own freedom and happiness while neglecting the freedom and happiness of others? It is completely untenable. If I act so that I and one other person feel more free or happy, that is twice as worthwhile that if I act for my own benefit alone. If I act so that countless living beings feel more free and happy, that is almost infinitely more worthwhile.
So shall I continue to ignore others and work only for my own freedom and happiness, or shall I recognise the kindness of others, our equality, and how much benefit I can be my sharing my concern for myself and my concern for others equally?
I rolled these thoughts around my mind for a while, and slowly a feeling arose of an equality of cherishing. I did not get a particularly distinct visual image. It was a little difficult to put into words, but was like a white water mark or level which extended everywhere, had the nature of cherishing and applied to all living beings. But it encapsulated a very firm feeling of myself and others being equal, and that I should cherish others as I do myself. I let the feeling fill my mind, and I stayed with it, aware of what it meant, but not doing any more actual thinking.
Part way through my contemplation (in the last paragraph) I realised I was pushing too hard to get my object, so I relaxed my effort and just allowed my mind to gently move through the contemplation and let the feeling of equalising self and others to arise naturally, which it did.
I have settled into a little routine in my holiday cottage. I get up early when the house is still quiet and do my meditation in front of a large sash window. It has a low sill which is perfect for my book and cup of coffee!
For a successful meditation practice, it is important to establish a routine, and I will be talking about how to do this in the near future. Stay tuned!