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The purpose of this meditation is to develop the wish to completely abandon self-cherishing and to only cherish others, and then to meditate on this wish in light of equalising self and others.

I began as usual with some breathing meditation and kept my jumpy mind in one place until it started behaving itself and I started to feel a very light and tranquil feeling.

I then moved on to the main meditation. I recalled my feeling of equanimity towards all living beings, and the fact that all living beings have been my kind mother in the past. I felt a deep affection for all living beings, and then I thought about the disadvantages of self-cherishing. It is like a running sore in my mind that I keep scratching and opening up again so it can never heal. I thought about how cherishing others will divert my attention away from this sore, and give it time to heal completely.

I focused on this idea that by keeping my attention on others, my self-cherishing will diminish and finally fade into the past. I developed the sincere wish for this to happen and I focused on it for the rest of this stage of the meditation.

I then thought about what this means in light of equalising self and others.

Equalising self and others is the half way stage to completing the achievement of exchanging self and others. I thought about how this stage informs and ‘fits into’ exchanging self and others and then returned to my focus on the wish to abandon self-cherishing and cherishing only others.

Dedication

May all living beings exchange self with others – may happiness and world peace spread throughout the world, and may everyone quickly attain attain pure inner peace for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will cherish others and try to do everything for their sake.

The purpose of this meditation is to understand the mind of compassion, meditate on it and then to consider what this means in light of the fact that all living beings are our mother.

I began with some simple breathing meditation – not counting the breaths but just watching as the breath came in and when out, over and over again. After a while my mind was quite calm and stable, and I began the meditation.

I started by thinking about the suffering of others.

In the same way that I experience suffering, so do others. They experience birth, sickness, ageing and death. They experience separation from the people and things they want to be with. They experience contact with situations they would rather avoid. They experience the bitter disappointment of failing to fulfil their wishes.

I experience these sufferings too, and I know just how they feel. All other human beings experience these sufferings and most of them experience these sufferings to a vastly greater degree than I do.

I thought about their sufferings for a while. Mostly their sufferings are not visible to me as I walk past these people in shops or sit next to them on the tube. If is easy (and convenient) to forget the suffering of others. But if I could see a bar chart of their sufferings floating above their heads, I would see the seven sufferings expressed in columns of pain. With some people the highest column would be sickness; with others it would be failure to fulfil their wishes. But one thing is for sure – they would all have this chart, because everyone is trapped in the prison of samsara, experiencing constant suffering.

What is the normal reaction when we contemplate the sufferings of others? Most people would shrug their shoulders with the thought ‘that’s awful, but I have my own suffering to deal with, and in any case, what can I do about ALL that suffering?’

That would be possible for me too, except that I have exchanged self with others.

I have exchanged my own self concern for the concern for others. I don’t care about my own suffering. I care about the suffering of others.

So here I am. I have found the suffering of others to be unbearable, but I cannot turn away from them, because I have taken the decision to love all living beings more than I love myself.

This is where compassion grows. At this point where we do not turn away from the suffering of others, but gaze into it while at the same time remembering our complete cherishing love for other suffering beings – this is where the only possible emotional response is that of compassion. ‘I cannot bear the sufferings of all these kind beings – I must do something about this suffering – I cannot turn away’. I let these concepts roll around in my mind and I felt a deep compassion for all living beings rise up within me. I stayed with this feeling for a while.

After a while I decided to bring in the additional thought that all living beings are my kind mother. This reinforced the feeling of compassion enormously. All these suffering beings, from whom cannot turn away, are my own kind mother, who cared for me with such great kindness for so long. It became even more impossible to contemplate ignoring their suffering. With my cherishing love for my kind mothers and my contemplation of their suffering, I once again felt deep compassion well up in my heart.

In the words of Lama Tayang:

Compassion is the mother of all Buddhas,
Compassion is the most precious treasure of Bodhisattvas,
Compassion is the unseen friend of migrators;
May I be protected by Great Compassion 

It seemed to me that the truth of these words shone through like never before. Compassion is the engine of enlightenment. It is the heart and the power of all our actions to free ourselves and others from the rotten prison of samsara. The contemplation of others’ suffering and the force of my cherishing love seemed like two incredibly powerful forces crashing together, and the explosion created was the release of Universal Compassion.

I meditated on this feeling of compassion for the rest of my time on the cushion, and I felt like there was nothing I could not do to bring an end to the suffering of samsara.

Dedication

May all living beings develop universal love and compassion, and through this realisation quickly follow the path to enlightenment, working for the benefit of others until every living being is free from the suffering of samsara.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to keep this mind of compassion throughout the day, and weave it into all my thoughts and actions.

The purpose of this meditation is to completely exchange our self-cherishing attitude in favour of an attitude which cherishes others, and then to think about this in light of the fact that all living beings are our mother.

I began as usual with some breathing meditation to clear my mind, and then I moved on to the meditation proper.

I began by reviewing the disadvantages of self-cherishing and the advantages of cherishing others. After a while of doing this, it seemed to me that we need to be in a position where we have forgotten about this ‘self’ we used to be obsessed with, rather like we have forgotten about a bad boyfriend from years ago. You know the type – motorbike, tattoos, we know he is bad for us but we want him anyway? Just the kind of boyfriend who will cause us nothing but trouble.

Although we were once completely infatuated with this bad boy, we are now SO glad we didn’t get mixed up with him. We need to get to that place with our ‘self’. Our ‘self’ is the bad boy who leads us into bad ways and lots of trouble. Although we can see the harm it does, we are so obsessed we carry on regardless.

There are so many advantages to cherishing others, and so many problems stemming from self-cherishing that I must definitely abandon this bad boy for the light and happiness of cherishing others.

I thought about how happy I will be when I have finally broken free of this obsession with ‘self’, and I determined to be free by thinking only of cherishing others. I stayed with this intention for a while and focused on it. It was lovely, like I was rising up out of the darkness of self-obsession and into the light and warmth of universal love. I stayed floating in this universal love for a while.

I then brought in the aspect that all living beings are my mother. This added a wider dimension similar to yesterday’s meditation in that all living beings have been very kind to me in the past and continue to be kind to me now. It is entirely appropriate to cherish them completely, and much more useful than silly and harmful self-cherishing. I returned to the notion of floating into complete light and not being tainted by even a hint of self-cherishing, and stayed with it for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings make the transition from self-cherishing to the cherishing of others, and see that this is the path that leads directly to enlightenment. May they travel the path quickly, and attain great enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will shun the bad boy of self-cherishing, and focus on cherishing others.

The purpose of this meditation is to develop the sincere wish to cherish only others and abandon self-cherishing, and then to think about this wish in the light of our refuge practice.

I began by remembering that self-cherishing has deceived me throughout all my lives. It has convinced me that I can be happy through looking after my own interests alone, and ignoring the interests of others. But have I found the happiness I was looking for? No. Now is the time to realise that this simply does not work. Now is the time to abandon self-cherishing altogether and cherish only others. I thought about this and felt a strong wish to abandon my self-cherishing altogether and cherish only others. I know selfish actions cannot bring me happiness. I must abandon them. I stayed with this wish for a while.

I then thought about what this means in the light of my refuge practice. Buddha has abandoned self-cherishing and works solely for the benefit of others. He is blissfully happy all the time. I want to be blissfully happy all the time, so I shall abandon self-cherishing and work solely for the benefit of others. I stayed with this wish for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings exchange self-cherishing for cherishing others, and become Buddhas for the benefit of all. Through the virtues I have collected, may Mark Tole and all other suffering beings receive every benefit, and quickly attain enlightenment.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will cherish others and try to abandon my self-cherishing, and all the deluded actions my self-cherishing tries to convince me are justified.

Meditation 4/13

The purpose of this meditation is to reach a determination to abandon self-cherishing and to cherish others instead, and then to contemplate this in the light of the dangers of lower rebirth.

I began the meditation by remembering who ‘others’ actually are. They are my mothers, who are so kind in so many ways.

We were with friends this New Year’s Eve and we stayed with them for lunch on New Year’s Day. My younger son spontaneously started pointing at all the food, glasses and decorations on the table saying ‘people made that’ and ‘someone made that too’. Even he can see that everything around us is provided by others, by their kindness.

I thought about the previous meditations where I identified that self-cherishing is a dangerous fool’s errand, and cherishing others is the cause of all the happiness in the world. Then I thought of the words from the Prayer of the Stages of the Path: ‘May I … take delight in Holy Dharma’.

I let all these points take their place in my attention for a while and reached a determination to abandon any hope that self-cherishing will give me happiness, and to take delight instead in cherishing others. I focused on this determination and it seemed that my mind became very clear and pure – it was so joyful to know cherishing others is the cause of true happiness. I stayed with this joyous and clear determination for a while.

I then thought about the dangers of lower rebirth. My experiences and environments are the product of my karma, and if I cherish others sincerely and abandon self-cherishing, I will not be creating the karma to experience the lower realms. Again my mind was filled with joy – cherishing others alone is my path! I tried to stay with this wish for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings cherish others and abandon self-cherishing, and thereby become enlightened beings for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

It is the season for resolutions – what better than to resolve to cherish others and abandon self-cherishing?

Meditation 3/13

The purpose of this meditation is to completely change our object of cherishing from ourself to others, and consider this in the light of our precious human life

I began the meditation by recalling a line from the contemplation given by Geshe Kelsang in his Lamrim meditation guide, The New Meditation Handbook:

“After having indulged my self cherishing for so many lives, now is the time to realise that it simply does not work.”

I thought of all the time I have invested in myself – all the effort I have gone to on account of trying to please and satisfy myself. All the trouble, expense, inconvenience and, in some cases, danger I have gone to in attempting to give myself happiness.

It simply has not worked!

Pursuing self interest has had the opposite effect! Now is the time to exchange my object of cherishing from myself to others.

I wondered what is stopping me exchanging self with others? I know intellectually that Geshe-la is right, yet I still carry out acts of self cherishing. I felt like I was in a filthy dark room, and Geshe-la was standing at the doorway filled with light saying ‘this way! come through here!’ and I was cowering in a corner saying ‘I know its better out there, but I’m scared of leaving what I know!’. I imagined walking through the door and being bathed in light – the experience of exchanging self with others. I tried to contrast the two experiences (filthy room/purifying light) in meditation, and developed a very strong wish to achieve this result of exchanging self with others, because it is the way to attain pure happiness.

I then thought about my precious human life, and how this informs my practice of exchanging self with others. My human life gives me the opportunity to perform this practice. Without my human life, I would have no opportunity to learn about this practice, or to make it a part of my life. The practice seemed even more special with this recognition.

I stayed with this recognition of rarity, purifying light and the wish to exchange self with others for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings realise that self-cherishing simply does not work, and through this realisation become perfect Buddhas for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to abandon self-cherishing and cherish only others for the rest of the day (and the rest of my life too, obviously!)

Meditation 1/13

The purpose of this meditation is to completely abandon self-cherishing and to cherish only others.

I began the meditation by thinking about what Geshe-la says in his book, Eight Steps to Happiness:

“Those who are now Buddhas saw the futility of working for their own purpose and decided to work for others instead.”

This simple phrase held so much meaning. Those who are now Buddhas were once just like me now. Just like me they searched for happiness within samsara’s sufferings. Eventually they realised that cherishing others is the way to happiness, and they abandoned self-cherishing. They became Buddhas because of this decision.

I thought that I too shall make this decision. I too will abandon self-cherishing and from now on only cherish others. It felt like I was walking in line with the other beings who are in the process of becoming Buddhas. I was in step with them, progressing with them – we were to become Buddhas. I recalled the Bodhisattva Vows:

“Just  as all the other Sugatas generated the mind of enlightenment, and accomplished all the stages of the Bodhisattva training, so will I too for the sake of all beings, generate the mind of enlightenment, and accomplish all the stages of the Bodhisattva training.”

I kept my mind on the idea that I shall abandon self-cherishing and cherish only others, like the beings walking with me, and together we will become Buddhas. I felt like I was moving towards purity, leaving self-cherishing and all its sufferings behind me. I felt wonderfully optimistic, happy and peaceful. I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings exchange self with others, and attain the state of an enlightened being for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

Geshe-la gives a special practice in Eight Steps to Happiness. He says we should try to see things from other people’s point of view, and imagine as strongly as we can that we are them. I will attempt to do this in my meditation break.

I began the meditation by identifying the object as being a determination to abandon self-cherishing and to cherish only others.

I then considered self-cherishing.  Immediately I remembered my feelings from the meditation a few days ago on self-cherishing.  The darkness of it. The deeply disgusting nature of it. I was immediately filled with a strong repulsion for this selfish mind.

Then I moved on to the feelings I generated in the last meditation where I made the determination to cherish only others, and recalled the light, expansive feeling of peace.

I then brought these two together and recognised that it is not enough to cherish myself and others equally.  That is a partial success which I need to attain before I can move on to the object of this meditation: to abandon self-cherishing altogether and to cherish only others.  I recognised that I cannot possibly tolerate this attitude of self-cherishing in my mind, and that I need to cherish only others.

I got an image of a darkness and a lightness connected, darkenss in the lower left, lightness in the upper right.  I visualised the darkness gathering into a solid form and disconnecting from the lightness, and dropping away, leaving only light.  I was filled with a feeling of freedom and expansive peace.  I stayed with this for a short time.

Then I realised I was making a mistake: this is not the object I am aiming for.  I needed to re-introduce the abandonment of self-cherishing element.

I settled on the image of the black and white masses being connected again.  I then got the notion of disassociating my ‘I’ from the black part, and associating myself with the white part.  I focussed on the idea that I would become the white part completely and choke off the black part.  I settled on this ‘image’ as my summary of the object of meditation, and stayed with it for the rest of the meditation.

We got home last night after the obligatory 10 hour drive.  Alternating between listening to Joyful Path of Good Fortune on my iPod, and a tour de force of 80’s and 90’s rock music.  Made the journey pass easily.  Funny how I never noticed when I first listened to that stuff that everything they talk about is in Lamrim! Death, meaning of life, what love means, the search for happiness, the nature of reality etc.  Lamrim is certainly a light that illuminates my experience and shows how Buddhadharma is the only way to make any sense of it all.

So I meditated in my usual spot in the living room this morning, with the shrine assembled in moments from the nest of tables by the window.  It is all taken down now and my meditation room has reverted to the living room once more: little lad has switched on the telly.  But my little church on the horizon is in my heart now – another companion who shared my journey for a short time.

Modern Buddhism

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