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A Commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.

You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta

For practitioners of great scope, the main point is the method of meditating on or practicing bodhicitta—the determination to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. What does this mean? Bodhicitta is a primary mind associated with two aspirations— the first, its cause, is what we practice to generate bodhicitta, the aspiration to benefit all sentient beings; the second, which accompanies and is similar to bodhicitta, is the aspiration to achieve enlightenment.

So, bodhicitta is a primary mind accompanied by the aspiration for enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. There are three kinds of enlightenment—those of the hearer, solitary realizer and bodhisattva. Bodhicitta aspires to the highest form of enlightenment, that of the bodhisattva—the great, or Mahayana, enlightenment. When we understand that bodhicitta is the aspiration to attain the highest kind of enlightenment and that hearers and solitary realizers do not have it, we should feel strongly motivated to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings because of the many unbearable sufferings they experience within cyclic existence.

We should also recognize that we are impermanent, changing from moment to moment, and must eventually leave this life, as we cannot stay here forever. Furthermore, when we do leave this life, even though we might have accumulated enough wealth and possessions to completely fill the whole Earth, we can take absolutely nothing with us and have to leave it all behind. Even if we have a huge family with hundreds of thousands of relatives, we will have to relinquish them all; not one can accompany us. Even this body, which we have inhabited since we entered our mother’s womb and have taken so much care of all our life, will not help us but will be left behind. Understanding all this should encourage us to practice and try to generate bodhicitta right away.

Of course, generating bodhicitta will not protect us from death, but if we do generate this attitude—or even if we simply practice it—we will not die a normal death; we will die with joy. That’s the difference bodhicitta makes. Normally, as we age, we find it difficult to stand up—we have to haul ourselves up on a stick or push against something solid—and when we sit down we just flop down into the chair. It’s difficult to do anything. But if we have developed bodhicitta, we’ll at least know that death is going to bring us a nice new body and will feel very positive about dying.

I speak from personal experience about the suffering of old age. I tell you, if you went to bed one night and woke up the next morning old, with all its attendant sufferings, you’d find it totally unbearable. However, the special sufferings of old age creep up on us gradually, and those who have had plenty of positive experiences from practicing bodhicitta are quite happy to die because it’s a chance to get rid of their rubbishy old body and move into one in which it will be much easier to practice. People who die without having practiced Dharma feel very afraid.

There are two kinds of bodhicitta—conventional and ultimate. Certain earlier presentations of how to generate it explained how to develop ultimate bodhicitta first and then moved on to conventional bodhicitta, but some recent masters have said that this is incorrect and that instead we should begin with conventional bodhicitta and then practice the ultimate. This is the order of the version presented here; the tradition that put ultimate bodhicitta first was taught for practitioners of extremely sharp intellect.

The training in conventional bodhicitta is explained here principally by way of the technique of equalizing and exchanging self and others. The other method, the sevenfold cause and effect instruction, is partly relevant, but equalizing and exchanging self and others is what is mainly explained. In his Compendium of Training, Shantideva says that our bodhicitta will be much firmer if we develop it by practicing equalizing and exchanging self and others from the outset.

Equalizing self and others

What exactly does equalizing self and others mean? Specifically, what is it that is supposed to be equalized? For example, is it that self and others are equal in being selfless, lacking in self-existence? Although this is true, it’s not what is meant here. Is it that self and others are equal in suffering in cyclic existence? Again, although this is true as well, neither is that our focus here. Perhaps the meaning is that self and others are equal in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering? The answer here is yes, self and others are indeed the same in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering, and this is what we are talking about here.

When we talk about equalizing self and others in order to generate bodhicitta, what we mean by the equality of self and others is that we all want happiness and none of us wants suffering.

Since time without beginning we have harbored the selfish attitude that continually makes us afraid of getting cold, hungry, thirsty and so forth or suffering in other ways. We always worry about what will happen to us. This continual worry is the selfishness that’s called the self-cherishing mind—the tendency to focus on our own happiness while neglecting the welfare and needs of others—and we have been under its influence since beginningless time.

Exchanging self and others means switching these two so that instead of being primarily concerned about our own happiness we become more concerned for that of others, and instead of neglecting others we neglect ourselves and strive for enlightenment for their benefit.

There is a connection between the self-cherishing mind and self-grasping, or grasping at true existence. The self-grasping mind is the actual root, or fundamental cause, of all samsaric suffering but it is very closely followed by the self-cherishing mind, which arises on the basis of self-grasping and itself serves as the basis for all the other delusions.

There are said to be 84,000 delusions, each of which arises as a result of the self-cherishing mind. Motivated by these delusions, we engage in harmful actions such as the ten non-virtuous actions, 9  the five immediate negativities 10 and other kinds of negative activity and, as a karmic consequence of doing so, have to undergo all kinds of unbearable suffering.

Thus the very root, the fundamental cause, of all our delusions, negative minds and suffering is self-grasping, the mind that thinks we are completely self-existent, inherently-existent; that we exist in a way that is totally independent of any causes or conditions, utterly independent of anything.

And if self-grasping is the king, then self-cherishing is his most powerful minister, the one who tries to achieve all kinds of objectives on his behalf. Selfishness itself does not conceive of or believe in the self as existing from its own side because that is not its job. However, the selfish mind does act as a protector or helper for the self that is conceived of by self-grasping as existing from its own side.

In order to get nice things for the self, self-cherishing causes us to develop attachment; to protect the self from harm, self-cherishing causes us to generate anger; in other situations it stimulates jealousy, pride and other delusions. Then, by following these negative minds, we engage in negative actions, create negative karma and suffer. Thus selfishness is just like a minister that the king can order around to get whatever he wants done.

Therefore, we should think repeatedly about how self-cherishing creates all our suffering and problems until we see it as our main enemy. Then, instead of allowing selfishness, whose main aim is our own happiness, to lead us around by the nose, we should switch everything around and start thinking about how we can benefit others, how their happiness is more important than our own.

If we think about it correctly we can easily understand how important others are and how all our happiness and fortune definitely and completely depend on them.

I mentioned before that one way of developing bodhicitta is through the sevenfold cause and effect instruction, which, based on equanimity, is as follows:

(a) recognizing that all beings have been our mother,

(b) recollecting their kindness as mother,

(c) thinking how to repay their kindness,

(d) developing love,

(e) developing compassion,

(f) generating the special intention of benefiting all beings by oneself alone, and then

(g) generating bodhicitta itself.

The only way we can gain these realizations is by depending on others.

Likewise, the only way we can develop the six perfections of generosity, morality, patience, enthusiasm, concentration and wisdom is by depending on others. Take, for example, the practice of generosity, the mind wanting to give away all our possessions and even our body in order to benefit others. Obviously we can do this only in dependence upon others; it is only thanks to them that we can develop a generous mind.

Then there’s morality, which means abandoning the ten non-virtuous actions—killing, stealing, lying and so forth. Abandoning killing means giving up taking the lives of others; we can do this only by depending upon others; again, it is only thanks to them that we can do it. Similarly, we abandon stealing by regarding others as important and therefore not taking their possessions; it is only thanks to others that we can do this, too. The same applies to all other beneficial qualities of mind—we can develop them only through the kindness of others.

We should think, therefore, that we must definitely attain the state of complete enlightenment as soon as possible for the sake of all sentient beings, and for that reason determine to spend all our time from now on working towards that goal without wasting even a moment. We must resolve to practice like this in particular for whatever remains of this life—studying, thinking, meditating and practicing as well as we can—especially this year, this month, this week and particularly this day. We must generate the strong determination to not waste time but spend every moment practicing whatever we have to do to attain enlightenment as quickly as possible.

Meditation on equalizing self and others is done by way of nine reasons, of which six work on the conventional level and three on the ultimate. With respect to the six conventional ones, three relate to self and three to others. This is how we should meditate on the equality of self and others.11

The shortcomings of self-cherishing

The fourth paragraph of the text says,

Banish the one to blame for everything,
Meditate on the great kindness of all beings.

The first line means that we should blame the self-cherishing mind for all our negative experiences. Why? Because every problem and fault we experience is a result of our own selfishness. Therefore we should blame ourselves for every unpleasant experience that befalls us, no matter how bad it is; we should grab hold of our own selfish mind and view it as the culprit.

As the great Shantideva wrote in his Guide,

All the suffering in the world
Comes from the desire for one’s own happiness.12

Every problem we experience comes from wanting and thinking of only our own happiness; all our suffering—everything that goes wrong, every kind of fault, everything fearful or unpleasant and all violence—comes from this selfish mind. Furthermore, it all comes equally from the self-grasping mind that conceives everything to exist from its own side.

Shantideva then compares selfishness to an extremely harmful spirit that continuously harms us.

If all the harm, fear and suffering in the world
Occur due to grasping onto the self,
What use is that great demon to me?13

Thus we’re encouraged to ask ourselves, “Why do I hang on to this selfish mind, which is such a harmful entity?”

As the Indian master Padampa Sangye told the people of Tingri, where he had decided to stay because he felt he could help them, whenever things go wrong we always blame others but we should instead point the finger of blame at ourselves, where the root of all problems lies.14

And, as the mind training text The Wheel-Weapon Mind Training says, if we develop this understanding it is marvelous, because by so doing we identify the real enemy that continuously gives us harm—beginning, middle and end. It says, “So now I’ve identified you, you thief.”15

But self-cherishing is not the ordinary kind of thief, who robs people by beating them up and forcibly taking their possessions. Self-cherishing is the type of thief that sneaks in surreptitiously at night and steals on the sly.

The Wheel-Weapon also says, “So now I’ve understood you for what you are, you unfaithful friend!”16 From the point of view of our own selfishness it seems to be our greatest friend, but in practice it does nothing but trick and deceive us. The selfish mind creates all the suffering we experience in this life, such as people being horrible to us, hitting and attacking us with weapons, but more especially, it is the cause of all the unbearable sufferings we’re going to experience in the lower realms in our future lives.

As Shantideva also said, look at the difference between the buddhas and ordinary worldly people like ourselves.17 Because we have not yet discarded our selfishness, we are still suffering here in cyclic existence, not even free from rebirth in the lower realms. Even arhats, who have completely transcended the suffering of cyclic existence, have reached only a limited degree of perfection because they have not relinquished their selfishness. They have not devoted themselves to benefiting others; therefore they have not been able to achieve the state of full enlightenment.

The Buddha, on the other hand, gave up all selfishness and totally devoted himself to benefiting others. As a result, he reached a state of complete freedom from suffering and to this day remains incredibly beneficial to and highly regarded by many beings. By seeing the difference between him and us, we will understand how important it is also to renounce the selfish mind and totally devote ourselves to benefiting others.

Originally, the Buddha was exactly the same as us. When water is boiling, the water on the top goes to the bottom and the water on the bottom comes up to the top, and it keeps on going round like that. Similarly, in many previous lives we were together with the Buddha—sometimes as best friends, sometimes as worst enemies, all the time changing, changing, changing. Then, unlike us, at a certain point he decided to enter the path by renouncing selfishness and devoting himself to others, and kept on developing spiritually until he attained enlightenment.

The kindness of all sentient beings

Furthermore, Shantideva pointed out that everything good—every form of happiness, all positive qualities and so forth—comes through the kindness of others. Therefore, the mind devoted to their welfare is like a wish-fulfilling jewel, the source of all happiness and everything good and useful in the world. Just as a farmer who possesses an extremely fertile field, where everything he plants always grows, is very happy to have it and cherishes and takes great care of it, we should feel the same way about other sentient beings—that they are extremely valuable, and cherish and take care of them.

It is interesting that, whether we are Buddhist or not, if we think about the great kindness of all beings it will be evident that all our happiness does indeed depend upon them.

It is also said that the buddhas and sentient beings are equally kind. The buddhas’ kindness is obvious—through following their teachings and advice we can attain enlightenment. However, we do so only by meditating on love, compassion, bodhicitta, the six perfections, the four means of taking care of disciples and so forth, and doing these practices obviously depends upon others. Therefore, they and the buddhas are equally kind and it is wrong to dismiss sentient beings while holding the buddhas in great esteem.

This does not mean that we should make prostrations, offerings, prayers and requests to sentient beings to be able to generate realizations and so forth but that they and the buddhas are equally important and kind in the genesis of our happiness and we should therefore appreciate and respect them both equally.

Having understood that all happiness, especially the many qualities we are trying to develop on the Mahayana path to enlightenment, results from the kindness of not just the buddhas but also all sentient beings, from this point on we should always remember how all beings are kind. This is what “meditate on the great kindness of all beings” means.

When we think about self and others, self refers to just the one person whereas others are utterly uncountable. Nevertheless, we normally take tremendous care of that one self and basically ignore most of the others. If we think about the difference in numbers here, it seems disgraceful to ignore the numberless in favor of just the one whereas neglecting the one in favor of the countless others doesn’t seem so bad.

As soon as we start meditating on all beings as most kind, even though we can concentrate on love and compassion—wanting all beings to be happy and free from suffering—for only a very short time, it is still a very powerful way of building up an extraordinary amount of merit. That’s why meditation on qualities such as love and compassion is so valuable.

Of course, it is inevitable and to be expected that we beginners meditating on the kindness of all sentient beings will occasionally create negative karma by getting angry at some of them, therefore we also need to know how to purify immediately any negativity we create.

According to the sevenfold cause and effect instruction, above, when we meditate on the four immeasurables, which include love—wishing all beings to be happy—and compassion—wishing them to be free from suffering—and on bodhicitta—the determination to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings—we start by recognizing all beings as having been our mother, recollecting their kindness and resolving to repay this kindness, and then go on to meditate on love, compassion, the special intention and finally the mind of bodhicitta itself. All these recognitions and qualities arise through the kindness of others because it is only by meditating on others that we can generate them.

Once we have entered the path to enlightenment we develop it further by practicing the six perfections and so forth. Again, each of these depends on the kindness of others. When we finally achieve enlightenment we spend all our time benefiting others because of the strength of our compassion, which cannot bear to see or ignore others’ suffering. So again, even when we become buddha, all our enlightened activity depends upon others and their kindness.

A mother’s kindness

Simply by looking at our present life we can see the kindness of others. From conception we were completely reliant on our mother’s kindness for survival. For the nine months we were in her womb she underwent many difficulties carrying us and then faced the hardships of giving us birth. Then, when we were very small, there was no way we could look after ourselves—we were always in danger of falling or getting hurt in various other ways, and when we got a bit bigger we were again in danger of running into traffic, falling from high places and so forth.

Parents constantly have to think about their children, protect them from danger and work to feed and educate them and so forth. Thus when we were small we completely depended on the kindness of our parents for everything.

This is also true for animals. We can see how ducks and geese, for example, look after their young—and while there is actually very little they can do to protect them from predators they will nevertheless defend them with their lives.

As we get older and go to school, our education depends upon the kindness of our teachers and our fun depends upon the kindness of the other children we play with. Later on, when we get married, start a family, live together and so forth, our enjoyment of all this going smoothly and happily depends upon our partner and the other members of our family. And when we become old and find it difficult to sit or stand and can’t cook or take care of ourselves properly, we again need somebody to look after us.

Thus, it’s clear that from the beginning of our life to its end, even our mundane happiness depends entirely upon the kindness of others, and not only the kindness of other human beings—we use animals’ bodies for food, shoes and clothing and so forth and they keep us company, protect us and help us in our work. Therefore we should also appreciate the kindness of animals.

With respect to other kinds of food, consider how grain used for food starts off in dependence on the kindness of others. Somebody plants the seeds in a field; somebody tills the earth; somebody removes the weeds; many people harvest the crop and make it ready to cook; others mill the flour and make bread; somebody else prepares our rice. Thus everything we eat depends on the kindness of the many others who bring it to us. Furthermore, the roads that bring us our food and help us get from place to place were built by the hard work of many people.

We might think that we paid for all this, but where did we get the money? It came from our job, but we only got that because somebody gave it to us.

Therefore, all we have comes from the kindness of others. We came into this world completely naked, without a stitch of clothing or anything in our hands. All we have accumulated since then has come from others.

We must reflect from our own experience on all the other ways in which others have been kind to us. The more we think about this, the more embarrassed we’ll be at thinking of ourselves as important and precious, and the more we’ll realize that in fact it is others who are important and precious. If we don’t think deeply about all this, it won’t make much sense, but if we want to follow the spiritual path we must develop this awareness. Meditating on the kindness of others is priceless.

Giving and taking

The next line of the text says,

Practice a combination of giving and taking.

This means that we should alternate giving and taking [Tib: tong-len]. I’ve been talking about the kindness of others—the more we think about this the more we’ll realize the extent of their suffering and will come to think that it’s so terrible that we must do something about it. Eventually we’ll feel compelled to take their suffering on ourselves and give them our happiness. This is what giving and taking means—giving happiness to all beings and taking on all their suffering—and we practice it in an attempt to destroy our self-cherishing mind.

We might think that since the suffering of others does not hurt us, why even consider taking it on? In response, the commentary reminds us that even in their dreams all beings want happiness and do not want suffering.

We might also think that while it is true that we all want happiness and freedom from suffering, nevertheless, the best thing is simply to take care of our own happiness and eliminate our own suffering. Moreover, we might wonder whether it is even possible to give happiness to others and alleviate their suffering, arguing that, since each of us has our own individual mind stream, we can of course create happiness in and remove suffering from our own mind, but how can we possibly do this for others? After all, their minds are completely separate from ours; surely they must be responsible for creating their own happiness and eliminating their own suffering?

While it is true that our minds are separate, it still makes sense that one person can help another find happiness and freedom from suffering. For example, a mother and her child are responsible for helping each other find happiness and eliminate problems. Now, we might argue that even though mother and child have different mindstreams, because they are so close and have great affection for one another it’s possible to talk of their doing this but not other sentient beings. The answer is that although it is true that in this life we have only one mother and father and don’t have that special connection with other sentient beings, before this life there was a previous one, and before that there was another, and before that another and so on—in fact, there is no beginning to the lives we have had in cyclic existence.

Furthermore, in many of those lives we were born from a womb, just as we were in this one, and if we think deeply about this we will see that every single living being has been our mother and father and has therefore been extremely kind to us. Through reflecting on the kindness of our present mother and father we should understand that in past lives, when other beings were our parents, they were similarly kind and affectionate towards us. Perhaps they were even kinder, sometimes even giving up their very life for our sake.

Thus all sentient beings have helped us in countless ways and saved us from innumerable harms and have even given their life for us on numberless occasions. However, the selfish mind says that while all this might be true, it happened so long ago that it’s all forgotten by now. Moreover, it also says that many of these beings have actually done their best to harm us as much as they can, so caring for all beings is out of the question.

However, the commentary points out that it is only our own selfishness that is raising these objections and denying the need to think so much about others and describes this way of thinking as a debate between selfishness and the altruistic mind dedicated to benefiting others. It’s like a dramatization, which is actually how to reflect and meditate. It discusses potential objections our mind might raise when we think about these issues, several of which will ring true to our experience. When the selfish mind comes up with these objections we have to find a way to respond.

For instance, when the selfish mind asserts that many other people are intent on harming us, the altruistic mind retorts that this is unreasonable because since beginningless time, over countless lifetimes in cyclic existence, others have been extremely kind to us. We cannot possibly measure how kind they have all been or count how many times they have protected and helped us. They have shown us this kindness since beginningless time and now, because of some minor problem, we’re branding certain people worst enemies undeserving of help. This is completely unreasonable and we should be ashamed of ourselves for even thinking it. Don’t we feel even a little embarrassed by our reaction?

Our ways of thinking and behaving are profoundly ignorant and particularly unpleasant because they completely disregard the untold help we have received and merely remember the little harm. It’s as if our parents, having taken care of us all our life, have become old and sick and gone into hospital and then said just one unpleasant thing to us, and we have reacted with anger and attacked them. If our family and friends would come to know how we have completely forgotten our parents’ kindness and reacted with hatred just because of this one comment they would be disgusted at our behavior.

Moreover, we may wonder why we meditate on the kindness of others and take on their suffering because neither we nor they seem to be affected by this practice. To this we can reply that of course no immediately visible, direct effects arise from such practice, any more than they do when we make offerings, prostrations and so forth to the buddhas, which also bring no immediate result. It is different when we give food or drink to those who are hungry or thirsty because such actions bring immediate benefit. But when we do this, do we really experience no benefit? Do we ourselves derive no benefit at all? We might feel that we do not benefit personally from giving to others in this way, at least not directly or immediately, but that doesn’t mean there’s no result at all. Likewise, if we see no immediate, visible result from practicing morality, does that mean that moral conduct has no benefit at all?

With respect to the karma created by various actions, some actions bring results in this life, some in the next and certain others in a more distant future life. Therefore, the altruistic mind has to respond to the selfish mind’s objection above by saying, “You are rather stupid in failing to recognize that the good you do might not bring immediate results. For example, farmers plant various kinds of seed, some of which ripen that very year, others the following year and some only several years later. The fact that they don’t all bring immediate results doesn’t stop the farmer from planting them.”

Likewise, when we try to generate, meditate on and practice bodhicitta, we don’t necessarily experience immediate, visible results like those of eating when we’re hungry, but nevertheless, the future good results that will eventually ripen are endless.

Just as when we see a high quality crop we can infer that its seeds must have been excellent, in the same way, when we see any good result we can confidently infer that it must have had a good cause. The principle that good results must be preceded by good causes applies to the state of enlightenment itself.

The exalted state of enlightenment—in which all good qualities are fully developed and from which all faults and obscurations are totally absent—is a good result. We can therefore infer that it must have been preceded by many good causes, such as the practice of the six perfections and the four means of taking care of disciples and so forth, and we can speak of all such practices along the path, over an extremely long period of time, as the good causes that bring the great result of enlightenment.

Thus we can see that by using our wisdom and intelligence to understand the difference between right and wrong and gradually working at eliminating wrong, harmful states of mind and actions and developing correct, beneficial ones, over time, we can attain enlightenment. Once we have done so we will be able to benefit many, many beings extensively—ripen on the path those not yet ripened, liberate those not liberated and completely free from all obscurations those not yet free. How will we be able to do that? How do enlightened beings do that? While on the path they gradually develop the mind wanting to benefit others, practice actions beneficial to others and abandon all thoughts and actions harmful to others, thereby gradually acquiring the power to attain the omniscient mind of a buddha.

That is the ultimate result, but the benefits of the actions that bring it are not seen immediately, unlike those of eating and drinking to get rid of hunger and thirst. In response to this, the selfish mind might reply, “That’s OK, ultimately there might be such a result, but for the time being I’m not interested in trying to benefit all sentient beings because it’s evident that however much I look at it, I see little benefit to either my body or my mind.”

However, this thought is also a mistake because, even in the short term, there are many benefits from helping others and not harming them. When we live trying to be as helpful to others as we can and avoiding aggressive, negative mental attitudes and actions towards them, our companions and the people with whom we live really appreciate us because our behavior makes them happy and we in turn enjoy being appreciated, popular and well-liked.

Although the selfish mind does not understand and appreciate all this, the buddhas, bodhisattvas and other holy beings do. Similarly, those of us who are trying to develop, practice and meditate on love, compassion and so forth also understand and appreciate it, as do the people with whom we spend our lives, as I’ve just said. Even strangers with whom we’ve just come into contact will appreciate and take a liking to us. They feel something right away, just as we immediately feel uncomfortable and afraid the moment we encounter a vicious, violent person, even somebody we’ve never seen before, or a scorpion or poisonous snake.

The selfish mind might further object that there’s no point in meditating on love or compassion because there’s no direct personal physical or mental benefit. The reply to this is, “Normally you, the selfish mind, say all sorts of unpleasant things to people—perhaps you should give up doing this because it harms neither their bodies nor their minds; so why bother? Moreover, you are normally so full of malevolent thoughts and covetousness towards others—perhaps you should give these thoughts up as well; since they neither help nor harm anybody directly, physically or mentally, just forget them.” It’s only when you take action on the basis of your ill will or covetousness that you actually harm others physically, so since those attitudes themselves neither harm nor help others directly, why not just drop them?

Such objections can arise when we think deeply about the various disadvantages of the selfish mind and begin to gain experience in this area. One lama explored this issue in his writings and, although it wasn’t in relation to the text we’re studying here, I’ll use what he said to illustrate the following point. Debating with the selfish mind about these things until it has nothing left to say is extremely helpful.

To continue the argument, then, the selfish mind objects: “I don’t want to practice altruism or give up selfishness because doing so has no direct benefit.” The reply to this is that we readily accept the benefits of saving money and other things for our old age but since doing so has no direct or immediate benefit us, why bother? Similarly, if we get a thorn in our foot, our hand removes it; since this does not benefit our hand in any way, why should it bother to help the foot?

If we do not abandon selfishness and devote ourselves to the happiness and welfare of others we will never achieve the perfect happiness of enlightenment and will forever be stuck with changeable, unreliable kinds of happiness.

How to practice giving and taking

The text then goes on to say,

Giving and taking should be practiced alternately.

First we were told to practice a combination of giving and taking; now we’re being told to practice them alternately. Finally,

And you should begin by taking from yourself.

Thus these two lines tell us how to practice giving and taking, the second being for those of us who lack the courage to practice taking in its fullest form—taking on all suffering of all beings—straight away. We build up to it gradually by taking on our own suffering first. How do we do this?

We can start by meditating each morning on taking on, in advance, the suffering we’re going to experience that day. On that basis we gradually build up to taking on the suffering of the next day as well, then the day after that, and so on until we’re able to take on all the suffering of this life and finally, the suffering of all our future lives.

Once we can do this we extend the taking to all our friends and relatives, then gradually build up to include all the people to whom we feel neutral, those who are neither friends nor enemies, and when we’ve mastered that we add in our enemies, those who harm us, thus extending our practice to include all sentient beings. Of course, if we have the courage and strength of mind to practice this most difficult technique from the outset we don’t need to train our mind in the gradual method that begins with taking on our own suffering first.

Briefly, in a simplified way, the meditation on taking is as follows.

Reflect on the six realms of cyclic existence: the hell, hungry ghost, animal, human, demigod and god realms.18

Within the hell realm lie the hot and cold hells. The hot hells have eight levels with progressively increasing suffering, as do the cold hells. After the first level, the second has more suffering, the third still more, and so on. Then there are the surrounding hells like the hell of the shalmali tree, the swamps of rotting corpses and so forth, and then the temporary hells as well. However, the main sufferings that we take from the hell beings are those of the intense heat and cold they endure.

The worst sufferings in all of cyclic existence are those of the hell beings. The hungry ghosts experience slightly less and the animals’ sufferings are somewhat less again. The principal sufferings that the hungry ghosts undergo are those of hunger and thirst; they can go millions of years without finding even a gob of spit to eat.

With respect to the animals, if we look at those who live among us, especially in the West compared to Asia, they seem quite well cared for. Sometimes it can look as if pet dogs and cats, and even livestock, have an enjoyable life. They get a pleasant place to sleep and their food is prepared for them; it’s often better than that of humans in many parts of the world. The animals that live among us—pets, livestock and so forth—are referred to as “scattered animals” and compared to other animals actually suffer less than the majority, who live in the oceans.

Nowadays films give us a glimpse of how sea creatures live in water teeming with different species of fish; thousands, even millions, of different creatures living there together. They have more suffering than most land animals.

The general suffering of animals is that of not being aware and of eating and being eaten by each other. The big ones prey on the smaller ones or sometimes the smaller ones gang up on the big ones and kill and eat them instead. This goes on all the time and causes great suffering.

When taking suffering from humans, think about the three, six or eight sufferings. For example, the eight include the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death; of not being able to get what we want; of being separated from things and people we love; of all sorts of unwanted unpleasant things happening to us; and of our physical and mental aggregates, which are under the control of delusion and karma.

The main suffering of the demigods is that of fighting. Out of jealousy, they constantly fight with the gods, who eat the fruit of a tree whose roots are in the realm of the demigods but ripens in the realm of the gods.

The gods live for millions and millions of years, enjoying themselves greatly, experiencing extraordinary pleasure with their divine friends, but at the end of their lives, a week before they die, they hear a sound like an announcement in space, telling them that they will die on such and such a day. From that point on their splendor fades, they start to smell and their friends no longer want to come anywhere near them. Furthermore, they become aware that they have exhausted their merit and will soon be reborn in the lower realms.

Therefore, in that final week of their lives, they experience dreadful suffering, which is made more intense by seeing that all their pleasure is coming to an end and that they are about to experience great suffering. Moreover, even though a week might not sound like much, a week in the life of a god is like billions of years in the human realm.

The three lower realms are called bad realms because their inhabitants create nothing but bad actions and experience only bad results, while the three upper realms are called good realms because their inhabitants experience good results of good actions.19

When we practice tong-len 20 we begin by imagining the hell realms, thinking about the terrible sufferings the hell beings experience, and visualize taking it all on, completely relieving them of it all. Once we have done this we imagine giving the hell beings all our possessions, happiness and merit, the receipt of which brings each hell being to complete enlightenment. We then gradually work our way up in a similar manner through the other realms.

The way to practice taking is to concentrate on our breath and imagine that the sufferings of the beings in the particular realm we’re focusing on leave through their right nostril and enter us through our right. Visualizing our selfish-cherishing mind as a dense blackness at our heart chakra in the center of our chest, the sufferings we inhale descend dissolve into it, completely destroying this selfish mind.

The way to practice giving is to imagine sending out through our left nostril our entire body and all our possessions, happiness and merit from the past, present and future to each and every sentient being in the realm we’re focusing on. All this enters their left nostril, as a result of which they develop all the realizations on the path and become fully enlightened.

After taking on all the sufferings of the hell beings and using them to harm our selfish mind and then giving them all our happiness and so forth, bringing them to complete enlightenment, we move on to the hungry ghosts. We likewise take all their suffering from their right nostril into our right nostril; it too dissolves into and destroys our self-cherishing mind. We then send out all our happiness, merit and so forth through our left nostril; it enters their left nostril and brings them to enlightenment.

When giving, we should feel as if we’re turning on a light in a dark place. It might have been dark for thousands or even millions of years, but no matter how long the darkness has been there, as soon as we turn on the light it’s immediately dispelled. In the same way, when we send our happiness and merit from our left nostril into the beings in the realm we’re focusing on, even though all their obscurations and so forth might have been there for a long time, they are totally eliminated and those beings are established in the state of complete enlightenment.

Thus, we gradually go through this process with all six types of sentient beings up to the gods, taking on their suffering, using it to destroy our selfish mind.

We can sometimes add another visualization to this practice: after bringing all beings to enlightenment we receive back through our left nostril the blessings of their enlightened body, speech and mind. These blessings completely eliminate our self-grasping mind—which resides in our heart and has always believed that everything exists from its own side, independent of all causes and conditions—like switching on a light instantly dispels darkness from a room or a powerful jet of water immediately sweeps away a pile of dirt.

Meditating like this is a way of taking action. Instead of merely generating the aspirational love that wishes all beings to be happy and the compassion that wishes them all to be free from suffering, by practicing tong-len we’re actively doing something that creates an extremely powerful, positive force within us.

Again, the selfish mind will raise arguments against this practice: “It’s just too tiring and difficult,” “What’s the point? It benefits neither others nor myself” and so forth. The objection that it does not benefit us is easily refuted: it clearly strengthens our love and compassion and when we engage in this practice we can see that it creates a tremendous positive force in our mind.

With respect to the objection that this practice does not help others in any way either, once more the selfish mind is considering that the only way to help others is directly; for example, by giving them food or drink when they are hungry or thirsty. It’s true that tong-len does not benefit others in that way but there are many ways in which we do benefit beings through this meditation, albeit neither directly nor immediately.

Anyway, although helpful, the benefits of giving food to the hungry or drink to the thirsty are very limited. Tong-len, by contrast, is incredibly beneficial because it is only through practicing it and similar meditations that we can become enlightened, and when we do we’ll be able to benefit numberless beings in a single moment. So, looking further ahead, the practice of this meditation offers enormous benefits to both ourselves and others.

With respect to alternating taking and giving, if meditating on taking makes you feel uncomfortable and you can’t handle the idea of taking on the evil actions, bad karma and negativities of others, you can leave that part out and just do the giving. Imagine all your merit, good qualities and so forth leaving you in the form of white light, going to all sentient beings, entering them and purifying them of all their delusions and negative karma. Imagine that all this is completely purified, washed out and cleansed, leaving their body in the form of frogs, scorpions, all kinds of other insects and dirty liquid and completely disappearing into the ground.

Actually, when taking, there’s no reason to feel that you’re being polluted because all the negativity, bad karma and obscurations you take is poured onto your selfish mind, thereby reducing its power. So you shouldn’t feel that it’s polluting you. It’s like peacocks eating poison— it doesn’t harm them but actually enhances the brilliance of the colors in their feathers.

The text continues,

These two should be made to ride on the breath.

The two referred to here are taking and giving. Although the text says “giving [tong] and taking [len],” the actual order in which we practice is taking and giving. We first take on their suffering and then give them happiness because while sentient beings are suffering, happiness is of little immediate use to them. Therefore we take away their suffering first and then give them happiness.

When we have had some experience in this meditation we combine it with our breath. Since we are always breathing, when we breathe in we imagine we’re inhaling all others’ suffering and when we exhale we imagine that we’re sending them all our happiness and so forth on our breath, as described above.

When Khädrub-je, one of Lama Tsongkhapa’s main disciples, praised him for being so helpful to others that even his breath helped them, he was referring to this practice, where high level practitioners can combine even their normal breathing with taking and giving.

Concerning the three objects, three poisons and three virtues,

The three objects are pleasant, unpleasant and neutral objects, the three poisons are attachment, aversion and ignorance and the three virtues are the opposites of the three poisons.

For example, when we come into contact with pleasant objects we experience pleasure and as a result generate attachment to those objects. When we come into contact with unpleasant objects we generate hatred, anger or aversion. And when we come into contact with neutral objects we generate a kind of neutral mental stupidity in relation to them.

It’s the same in our relationships with people. We feel attached to our friends, hatred for our enemies and, towards neutral people, “strangers,” our normal ignorance simply continues unabated. If whenever we notice these delusions arising in our mind we can think to ourselves, “May all the attachment, hatred and ignorance that sentient beings experience ripen on me,” we generate the three virtues.

The instruction to be followed, in short,
Is to be mindful of the practice in general,
By taking these words to heart in all activities.

In brief, the way to practice is to constantly remind ourselves of these instructions in all activities, which we can do by always remembering and reciting the words of Nagarjuna mentioned before,21

May the negativity and suffering of others ripen on me
And may all my virtue and happiness ripen on them.

Just as an old person needs to lean on a stick to move around, similarly, reciting words such as these helps remind us of the main points of the Mahayana mind training and keeps us going. By leaning on these words we can remember to practice taking and giving in all our daily activities.

So far this has been a commentary on the section of the text that explains how to meditate on conventional bodhicitta—how to generate the determination to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. There are two methods for developing bodhicitta: the sevenfold cause and effect instruction and equalizing and exchanging self and others. This has been a brief explanation of the latter, making some basic points about equalizing and exchanging self and others.

Ultimate Bodhicitta

Now let’s look at the next section of the root text.

When stability has been attained, impart the secret teaching:

Stability refers to the method side.22 When we have gained stability in the practices of conventional bodhicitta our teacher can give us the highly secret teaching on ultimate bodhicitta.

Ultimate bodhicitta refers to the direct realization of emptiness, so explaining it means explaining emptiness, which here means that everything is empty of true, or inherent, existence. Nothing is truly existent; everything is empty of true existence. That is the emptiness that we must realize.

Generally speaking, all phenomena that exist can be classified as either mind, which knows objects, or objects, which are known by the mind.

The next line of the text says,

Consider all phenomena as like dreams

When external objects appear to our mind, even though they appear to be truly existent, self-existent, existing from their own side, this is not at all the case. Therefore they are likened to dreams, which also seem to be real at the time but are seen to be unreal on awakening.

Both outer and inner objects are actually empty, but still, everything appears to be truly existent. However, if something were truly existent, if it truly existed the way in which it appears, it would have to be completely independent of anything.

For example, external objects like mountains, trees and forests are simply combinations of different particles or atoms; periods of time, such as years, months, weeks and so forth, are likewise combinations of moments. Therefore, none of these things—external objects, time or anything else—is independent of its constituent particles, periods of time and other factors. To be truly existent they would have to be completely independent of everything else.

When we talk about something being truly existent that means it’s independent of everything else. But since there’s nothing like that, there’s nothing that’s truly existent. The reason that there’s nothing completely independent, or truly existent, is because everything exists in dependence upon other factors.

Take a glass of water, for example. When we think about it, of course we know that it is dependent upon this and that, such as the various causes and conditions that have gone into producing it. If, however, instead of thinking about it we examine how it looks when it first appears to us, we’ll see that it has this vivid appearance, an appearance as if it were totally independent of any causes, conditions or, indeed, anything at all. That is how the glass of water appears—truly existent; completely independent of everything else; totally self-existent (which are just different ways of saying the same thing).

If the glass of water were truly existent the way it appears to be, it would have to be completely independent, but when we think about it we know that it depends on many different factors and is therefore not truly existent, independent or self-existent—and neither is anything else we can think of. Since this applies to everything that exists, all existent phenomena are empty of true existence.

Examine the nature of unborn awareness.

This next line refers to the fact that not only its objects but also the mind itself is empty of true existence. Mind, here, refers to the six kinds of primary consciousness—visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile and mental; all completely lack any true existence.

Where it says “unborn awareness,” awareness refers to consciousness. Consciousness itself is produced in dependence upon causes and conditions and is therefore not truly existent. That means a truly existent consciousness is not produced, so a truly existent consciousness is unborn.

You can understand this by examining its very nature of being completely empty of independent existence. This shows that it is neither truly existent nor produced by or dependent upon truly existent causes and conditions. Thus we have only to examine the nature of the six consciousnesses to understand that they’re unborn.

The remedy itself is released in its own place

This line refers to the fact that the wisdom understanding everything to be empty of true, independent or self-existence is the remedy to all of cyclic existence and everything that produces it.

Place the essence of the path on the nature of the basis of all

This means that because everything is empty of true existence, things are produced only from particular causes and conditions and come into existence depending upon specific factors. If things were not empty—in other words, if everything were truly existent—phenomena could not possibly come into being in dependence upon certain specific causes and conditions.

Moreover, because we can see and explain how each event is produced dependent upon its own specific causes and conditions, we can see that it is also impossible to assert that any event is truly existent.

Therefore, “essence of the path” refers to an understanding of the relationship between emptiness and dependent arising, the knowledge that because everything is empty, the various manifestations of dependent arising—things arising dependent upon various causes and conditions—are possible, and because such arisings occur, everything must be empty.

In the period between sessions, be a creator of illusions.

A creator of illusions is a conjuror who can make illusory objects appear due to a special arrangement of sticks and stones together with mantras and various other substances. When he makes things appear to his audience he also sees them but since he knows that he himself has simply conjured them up he knows that they’re illusory. In the same way, even when we have directly realized emptiness, when we come out of meditation, despite our knowing that nothing exists truly, everything will still appear to be truly existent. We’ll see things as truly existent but will know that in reality, they’re not; due to the force of our experience in meditation we’ll have the certainty in the post-meditation period that nothing exists truly, the way it appears.

I mentioned earlier that the self-cherishing mind completely depends upon the self-grasping mind—the consciousness that conceives or apprehends that everything is truly existent and therefore completely independent.

For example, we can figure out that a cake is not truly existent because we know it cannot be made without ingredients—fruit, butter, flour and so forth—but still, the self-grasping mind sees the cake, like everything else, to be completely truly existent and independent of any causes and conditions. This is in total conflict with the knowledge that everything exists depending upon causes and conditions and in this way, the self-grasping mind completely prevents the arising of any awareness of cause and effect, such as happiness resulting from virtue and suffering from non-virtue.

All the problems we experience in life and, indeed, all our beginningless suffering in cyclic existence, can be traced back to our self-cherishing mind and if we delve even deeper we’ll find that beneath this lies the very root of all our problems, the self-grasping mind.

Those with less experience of Buddhist teachings should try hard to understand this important point—the self-grasping mind that conceives everything as being completely independent is the support for the self-cherishing mind, which produces the various delusions that cause us to create negative actions, which, in turn, lead to our experiencing suffering in cyclic existence.

An alternative translation has

In between meditation sessions, be like a conjuror.

This refers to the period subsequent to the meditation session—how to practice in between meditation sessions—and how even though things are empty, they still appear.

An example of how everything is empty yet still appears is the way our face appears in a mirror. When we see our face in a mirror we know that there’s no actual face in the mirror even though there appears to be one there. There’s a reflection that exists there and it appears to be a face, but we know that the reflection is empty of being a real face. However, despite the fact that it is empty of real face, at the same time all the various features of a face appear.

Notes

9 Three of body (killing, stealing and sexual misconduct), four of speech (lying, slandering, speaking harshly and gossiping) and three of mind (covetousness, ill-will and wrong views).[Return to text]

10 Killing father, mother or an arhat, drawing blood from a buddha and creating a schism in the Sangha community. They are called immediate because those who create such actions are reborn in hell in their very next life. [Return to text]

11 Transforming Adversity Into Joy And Courage, pp. 167–171. This entire book, especially chapters 10–12, augments Geshe Tegchok’s thoughts on the development and practice of bodhicitta. [Return to text]

12 A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, Chapter 8, verse 129 (p. 106, note 297). [Return to text]

13 Ibid. Chapter 8, verse 134 (p. 106, note 300). [Return to text]

14 “You say such clever things to people, but don’t apply them to yourself; People of Tingri, the faults within you are the ones to be exposed.” Dilgo Khyentse. The Hundred Verses of Advice of Padampa Sangye. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2002, verse 89. [Return to text]

15 Peacock in the Poison Grove, p. 83, verse 49: “I seize the thief who ambushed and deceived me.” [Return to text]

16 Ibid. Same verse: “The hypocrite who deceived me disguised as myself.” [Return to text]

17 Op. cit. Chapter 8, verse 130: “Enough of much talk! Note the difference between the fool who seeks his own benefit and the sage who works for the benefit of others.” [Return to text]

18 See the relevant sections of Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand for details of all these.[Return to text]

19 The three upper realms are still fraught with all kinds of samsaric suffering (like the three, six and eight) but are relatively happier than the lower realms, therefore they are called “good.” [Return to text]

20 For a highly detailed description of this practice see Meditation Seven in Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun on the LYWA website. [Return to text]

21 See note 6 above. [Return to text]

22 There are two streams of practice in the Mahayana: method—the development of bodhicitta—and wisdom—the development of the wisdom directly realizing emptiness. Like a bird needs two wings to fly, we need both method and wisdom to reach enlightenment. [Return to text]

 

A teaching on The Three Principal Aspects of the Path by Ven. Denma Lochö Rinpoche at  Jamyang Buddhist Centre, London, in early October 2001.

The Three Principal Aspects of the Path is a text by Lama Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) which covers the entire Buddhist path to enlightenment.

CHAPTERS
Part 1: Renunciation
Part 2: Renunciation
Part 3: Bodhicitta
Part 4: Correct View of Emptiness

Part 3: Bodhicitta

 So then through contemplating the faults of the cycle of existence and then generating a mind which wishes to abandon those faults and the sufferings coming therefrom, one can strive in the practice of generating the mind which cognises selflessness, (whether it be selflessness of persons or selflessness of phenomena, or emptiness, whatever you like to designate that nature of reality). Then through that one can achieve the state of nirvana or the state of cessation.

So this state of cessation then - you may wonder 'can I remain in this state?' But if we contemplate this, what is known as a 'lesser', enlightenment is not the full fruition of one's endeavours towards generating qualities and abandoning negativities within oneself. That is to say one hasn’t brought to a final fruition one’s spiritual path, and with regard to others, one hasn’t brought about any final stages of spiritual practice or endeavour. So this being the case then, one should contemplate remaining in this lesser enlightenment, and then contemplate the qualities of the highest unsurpassable state of enlightenment. So we can look at the difference twofold: With regard to one’s own practice then, one hasn’t reached the limit of one’s spiritual practice. That is to say, from the side of abandonment, one might have removed the grosser delusions, but one still hasn't removed the subtle imprints left by those delusions on one's mental continuum, or mind, that is to say, the obstructions or the stains which prevent the forcing of omniscience or full enlightenment. Then from the side of achieving qualities - even though one has achieved certain qualities through this lesser nirvana, like the direct perception of emptiness and so forth, one still hasn't brought about the qualities of Buddhahood. So if we look at the varying inconceivable qualities of the Buddha's enlightened activity, then we can see that a person staying in a lesser enlightenment is incomparable with somebody who has achieved the state of unsurpassable full awakening, that is to say, has become Buddha.

So that individual, through having achieved the status of Fully Enlightened One, has not only brought about the final result of his or her spiritual endeavour, but also at the same time has brought about the ultimate benefit for all other sentient beings. That is to say, having achieved that state, he or she is able to bring about manifest inconceivable benefit for all other sentient beings, the likes of which is not known or is unable to be performed by any other kind of being. Then through having achieved that state, one has brought about the final fruition of one’s own spiritual practice and has brought about the extreme of being of use, or of benefit, to others. So the cause of giving rise to that spiritual state is bodhicitta. So then we should understand how to generate this mind of bodhicitta, and the way of meditating upon the causes which give rise to the bodhicitta are explained as the 'six cause and one effect' instructions.

'Six cause and one result' instruction

This 'six cause and one result' instruction for developing the mind aspiring to highest enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings (that is to say, the mind of bodhicitta) - let us look at this from the point of view of the resultant state, that is bodhicitta. The direct cause of bodhicitta is this special intent - this thought that 'I myself must engage in this particular effort in order to benefit all sentient beings'. The special intent has as its cause a mind of great compassion. 'Great compassion' is the wish to separate each and every sentient being from not only dissatisfaction, but also the very causes of dissatisfaction. The cause for this mind of great compassion is a mind of great love. So here 'great love' refers to the attitude which wishes all sentient beings to have not only manifest happiness and well-being, but also the causes which will bring about such happiness and well-being. This then has as its cause the wish to repay the kindness of sentient beings. So here when we think about repaying the kindness, we have to remember the kindness which we have been shown in the past - thus we have the fifth cause, that is, remembering the kindness of others. And the kindest person to oneself is one's mother, so the first (or the last in the way that we are here presenting it at the moment) cause is the mind which views all sentient beings as having been one's kind mother in a previous existence.

So then recognising all beings as having been one's mother we have to have a certain attitude towards sentient beings. Because at the moment, if we are honest with ourselves, the way we view others is that we hold those who are our friends or our relatives very close, whereas we put a great distance between ourselves and those who are unkind to us, or are our enemies. So the difference between the way we view friends and enemies is as vast as the ocean. If our friends and relatives have nice experiences, nice things, nice food then we are very happy; if they undergo any kind of difficulty then we feel very sad, we wish to be a friend at that time or to separate them from that dissatisfaction. Then with regard to our enemy, the way we view them is that if they have any good qualities whatsoever or any kind of enjoyment, then our mind-state becomes perturbed, we wish to compete with them, we generate jealousy towards them, we generate covetousness towards the enjoyments which they might possess. And if they have any kind of difficulty whatsoever then we greatly rejoice, and we are praying that it might increase and so forth. So with a mind which is so one-sided, it is almost impossible to bring about this mind which recognises all sentient beings as having been one's kind mother. So initially we need to equalise all sentient beings, we need to view them all in an equal light. And then through having an equal attitude towards all sentient beings, whether they be kind or difficult towards us, then on the basis of that view, we are able to engage in the practices which will bring about this mind striving for full awakening, or the mind of bodhicitta. So then initially we need to make the ground, or the field, within which we are going to plant the causes which will give rise to bodhicitta, or the mind aspiring striving for enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. You may then wonder – isn’t this a case of a numerical miscalculation – surely there are seven causes and one effect? But this is not the case – there are six causes but the six causes are like seeds which need to be planted in a field. So here the ‘field’ is one of an equal view of equanimity towards all sentient beings, then within that field, the causes which will give rise naturally to the mind aspiring to full enlightenment are then planted. So initially one needs to clean out or make ready the field, or the bed, and then slowly plant the seeds serially in that.

Previous lives

In order to develop this mind which views all sentient beings in an equal light, one needs to view one's friends as friends in this lifetime, but then contemplate that in a previous existence they may have been one's worst enemies, and those who caused one a great amount of difficulty and harm. Then with regard to one's enemies, one can contemplate that in a previous existence, these individuals may have been those who were extremely kind to one, having been one's kind parents and so forth. So here then we are talking about previous existences, we are not limiting ourselves to this life in and of itself.

So in order for this to have some weight behind it we need to contemplate the existence of previous lives, and to do this we should utilise the reasoning that is given in the Pramanavarttika: The first moment of awareness of a fetus has a preceding moment which is similar to it. The root text of that book tells us to separate what we know as the ‘body’ and ‘mind’, and then look at the causes of both of them. If we look at the cause of our present physical form, then that is the sperm of the father and the blood of the mother coming together, that is the substantial cause of our human form. But this in and of itself is not enough - there has to be something else added to that in order for a live human being to then develop in the mother's womb and be born - and this is the consciousness which has to enter into that mixture, and then when the three factors are complete, the fetus can start to grow and develop in the mother's womb.

So this first moment of awareness is a consciousness, a mind, and its substantial cause should be one which is concordant with it, that is to say, it should be another moment of consciousness. Now that moment of consciousness doesn’t come from the white substance from the father or the red substance from the mother, but rather comes from what is known as the 'intermediate state being', or the 'bardo being'. So at that point then, the bardo being ceases to be and that consciousness then enters into the white and red mixture. So it is not the case that minds come out of nowhere and then disappear again, rather they come into being through dependence upon a cause, which is a substantial cause which is similar to them. So if we understand that, we trace back our existence - the time we were born, the time when we were in the mother's womb, and then the time of the three (that is to say the white and the red liquids and then the consciousness coming together), the moment before that when we were what is known as an intermediate state being. And then if we trace the intermediate state being's consciousness back to the principal cause of that, which is the person who is passing away, and then if we trace that last moment of a human being's life back to birth, and so on. So we see that there is not an end to one's previous existences. So that's why it is said that consciousness in and of itself doesn't have a beginning but it does have an end, in the sense that when we achieve full enlightenment, at that point, we won't be under the control of the afflictive emotions and karma. So we will be free of being a consciousness which is wandering under the control of others…

So through this we can see not only ourselves having a mind which is without beginning, but all other sentient beings also having a similar mind, also having worn various forms in the past, having acted out various parts of mothers and fathers and so forth in the past. So through this continual contemplation, our initial feeling that 'I think there is a past life, I think there might be a future life' becomes stabilised. Through having stabilised this view, we can see that it is very feasible that those who are close to us now have in past existences been our enemies, and those who are our enemies now have at some point in the past been very kind to us. So through this repeated contemplation we will start to view from our side sentient beings in an equal light. Thus we will develop the view of equanimity to all sentient beings.

Reasonings and views to bring about the mind of equanimity

Developing this mind which views all sentient beings equally, one should strive to develop these reasonings and views within oneself to bring about the field within which we are going to plant the seeds for bodhicitta. So then through having contemplated the reasonings which bring about the correct mind which understands the actual nature of past and future lives, then let us try to bring about this mind of equal view towards all sentient beings.

Neutral person
So in order then to bring this about, we need to have a starting point, or a reference point, and one of the very important pith instructions is to view somebody to whom one has no particular attraction or aversion, an ordinary person which one may have just seen on the street one day, and then view that person in front of oneself with the motivation that 'I am going to develop a mind of equanimity towards that individual'. One begins the contemplation that this individual is one whom I may have known well in a previous existence... Contemplate the reasons why that person has had previous existences, how we may have had relationships with that individual in the past, be it a good relationship or a bad relationship. Then after having meditated upon the various reasonings which we have gone through, the mind of equanimity will start to arise within one's mind, or being.

Then we need to view not only those to whom we have no particular affinity but also those friends which bring about desire, and those enemies which bring about self-grasping, anger and the rest of the destructive emotions. So when we engage in these contemplations, we can do it in either a vast way or an abbreviated way. If we do it in a vast way then - viewing somebody whom we have no particular attachment or aversion to, on either side of that person we can visualise different kinds of friends and different kinds of enemies. Let's say we make a division into three - those to whom we are very attached, very close to, then those whom we are quite close to, and then those whom we have some vague feeling of closeness towards. Then the same with enemies - we can have our very great enemies, then a 'middling' enemy, and then someone who might have said at one time or another something unpleasant to us, a 'slight' enemy.

Slight Enemy
So then viewing first of all the slight enemy, we can contemplate that at the present moment, having engaged in negative actions in the past one is experiencing the negative result of such an action, and that negative result is causing us to have some slight rift between us, to cause some slight unpleasantness between us. Then contemplate how in the past this individual I am visualising, this slight enemy, has been incredibly kind to me, as kind as my mother of this life. Then they have also been a harsh enemy, they haven't always been in this slight enemy situation, but owing to the change of circumstances brought about through the ripening effect of previously accrued negative karma, the experience one is having with that individual is one which is slightly unpleasant. So using the reasonings which we went through earlier, remove that feeling of slight aversion and bring it into a neutral state by contemplating how that individual has been incredibly kind and also quite nasty to one in a previous existence, just like the person to whom one has a neutral feeling.

Slight Friend
And then thirdly, we look to somebody who is quite close to us, someone who may have just said something pleasant to us, somebody whom we feel slightly close to. In the past we have perhaps developed some kind of positive karma, the ripening result of which is that we have had some kind of slightly pleasant encounter with such an individual. Then using the lines of reasoning, we can lessen our desirous attachment towards that person to whom we have a slight affinity.

Then we can go back to contemplating the neutral person in the middle and go on to (if we are doing it in an abbreviated way) view one's harsh enemies of this life, those whom one has a really bad relationship with. And then we can view those to whom we are particularly close, for example our partners or our parents and so forth. So whether we do that using a threefold division of slightly close, mediocrely close and greatly close, or just an abbreviated one of quite close and very close, it doesn't matter, but we should do this serially, using the lines of reasoning upon each of those individuals, and then through utilising those lines of reasoning, bring about an equal view towards all sentient beings. Thus we develop and achieve the mind of equanimity.

Dealing with the individuals who are our worst enemies - we might be in such a predicament that even the thought of them, bringing their appearance to mind, causes us to generate great anger, and the moment when we see them, we generate anger, and the moment they see they us, again they generate anger, and you want to engage in some particular action which will bring harm to that enemy and vice versa. This kind of attitude is one which is quite mistaken because just through seeing such an enemy or them seeing you, through developing anger through seeing that individual's form, what one is doing is continually familiarising oneself with the destructive emotion of anger

…And that this is not something which is beneficial to ourselves. So then we should make the resolve that 'I am not going to, just as habit would dictate, give rise to this mind of anger towards this sworn enemy which I have; rather, I'm going to engage in the practice of developing equanimity towards that individual'. So then using the reasonings which we've gone through, contemplate that this is just the ripening effect of previously accrued negative karma through which we are experiencing - both of us - great difficulties. And this is only a kind of temporary state, in that in the previous existence, this person has been incredibly kind to me, as kind as a mother or a very close friend or a partner, and this is only a kind of temporary state which is just brought about through the interconnectedness of actions and cause and effect. Then, through this, we lessen our aversion towards that enemy and rather bring them into the fold of those towards whom we have an equal view, a mind of equanimity. Then lastly, those individuals whom we are very close to, those whom we are very attached to - these individuals are ones which may be our parents or our partners and so forth. Then we should contemplate in a similar fashion: These individuals are ones whom we enjoy a good relationship with at the moment but this in and of itself is only temporary; at most, its time-limit will be this life only. So again using reasonings which we've gone through: In a previous existence I have been an enemy to this person, they have been very unkind and difficult to me, they have been my parents and so forth. Through this contemplation then, our attachment to that individual lessens and then we finally bring them into the fold of all sentient beings towards whom we've developed this equal view of equanimity.

So it's very important that when engaging in this meditation, we do it in a serious and serial way. 'Serious' in the sense that we engage in the practice, and once we've developed some kind of taste for that practice then we move onto the next part - we don't just do it in a kind of haphazard way. Because if we just make the prayer - 'May I come to view all sentient beings in an equal state, free of anger and attachment, holding some as close and some as far away', and then making the request to the spiritual master to bless one's mind-stream so that this view will come about, then that's as far as it will go - it will just be a prayer. So some days it might go well and other days it might go poorly. But if this is the case, then one has no real chance of developing the causes for bodhicitta because one hasn't really developed the proper field within which these seeds are to be planted. So it cannot be over-emphasised how much one should strive at developing this field and then one should set about planting the seeds within that field. Otherwise, some days one's practice might go well whereas other days it will go very poorly, and thus one's request to the lama to bless one, so that one develops the mind of equanimity, free of anger and attachment, which holds some as close and some as far, will just be mere words.

The recognition of all sentient beings as one's kind mothers

So then having developed this equal view towards all sentient beings, one should then familiarise oneself with this view until it becomes stable within one's mental continuum, or mind, and then one should strive to develop the first of these six causes which is the recognition of all sentient beings as one's kind mothers. So then the meditation scenario is similar to what we've gone through: initially we pick someone with whom we have no particular relationship, then an enemy, then one to whom we have a particularly close affinity, and then use the lines of reasoning which we have gone through previously - that just as I have had beginningless lives, so in the same way the individual whom I'm bringing to mind in front of me has had countless previous existences. Then in those existences, we have not just come out of thin air, but rather we were born from our mother's womb. So as we equally are the same in having had beginningless existences, then we are also the same in that we have also had a beginningless, or countless, number of mothers. So if we put two 'countlesses' together, they kind of fall one on top of the other, so it's very likely that this person in front of oneself has been, at some point, one's kind mother. And then through that kind of contemplation, we come to generate the mind or belief that the individual whom one is visualising, has at some point in the past had the experience of being one's mother, and then we stabilise this belief until this comes a part of our being. And then after that has been stabilised, we move our attention towards our enemies, and then to those to whom we are close and again use the same lines of reasoning – that just as I have had countless previous existences, they too have had countless previous existences, and during those existences, we were not born from nowhere but rather we were born from a mother. So then it is extremely likely that this individual has been my kind mother in a previous existence. And then we continually familiarise oneself with this view that all sentient beings throughout space have had in a previous existence the experience of being our mother. Then when, through familiarisation, this view becomes stable, we can move on to the next part.

Remembering the kindness of one's mother

So then just viewing all sentient beings as having been one's mother in the past is nothing much in and of itself; rather this is just providing the basis for the following two contemplations - that is, remembering the kindness of one's mother and then wishing to repay that kindness. So the word 'mother' when we contemplate that, evokes images of somebody who has been incredibly kind to one, for example young children always cry for their mothers and so forth. So then if we contemplate how our mother of this life has been incredibly kind to us, then the reasoning will follow that, equally, in previous existences how all sentient beings, at the time that we were undergoing the experience of a parental relationship, were equally as kind to us as the mother of this life.

So then if we look at the initial stages when we are a fetus in the womb: the person who was carrying us, our mother-to-be, was very strict in her diet, was very strict in the amount of work she would engage in, would be very careful about going here and there because she didn't want to bring any harm to the child she was carrying. Then at the time of birth, as it says in the scriptures, the bones are moved by the very birth of the child. These days it’s probably less painful than it was in the past because we often hear accounts of mothers dying during childbirth. Then at the time of birth, a child's flesh is very tender and the child can only be held in a very delicate, very soft way, can only be held in very fine cloth and so forth, all of which is provided for by one's kind mother. And then as one starts to grow, our mother continually takes care of us, feeding us with milk from the breast, and clearing away mucus from the nose with her hands, removing excrement and so forth, continually watching over us, and making sure we are not in any kind of minor distress, making sure that we have a full stomach, that we are not on any rough surface and so forth. And then as we start to develop as a child, we learn to crawl, then it is said that the mother is continually looking for hundreds of ways to protect the child from the world, in the sense that in your house there might be a fire and the child might crawl towards the fire or it might crawl out of a door, crawl onto a road where it might be hurt by cars, or might crawl near to the stairs. So every day the mother is continually protecting us from hundreds of dangers or hundreds of difficult situations. Not only giving us a physical protection in the early years, but also then later in life helping us to turn from a child into an adult, aiding us with education, giving money for our education and so forth. All of this is not something that appeared from nowhere but rather something which is brought about solely through the kindness of one's mother. So using the mother of this life as an example, then we should engage in the practice of bringing to mind the kindness which we have been shown.

Wishing to repay such kindness, mind of great love, mind of great compassion

Then through recalling the kindness of one's parent sentient beings, we should not just leave it at that, but rather use that as the starting point to wish to repay such kindness which has been shown to us. We might think that we can repay the kindness of our parent sentient beings by giving some food or some clothing or a place to stay, but that is limited in the sense that it is only something which might be utilised or enjoyed in this life, and this life alone. Rather if we view sentient beings in the sense that sentient beings all, like ourselves, desire to have happiness and the causes of happiness and desire to be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. So if we were really to repay the kindness of parent sentient beings, it would be most beneficial if we could bring about the causes for happiness and their result for our parents, and bring about the removal of suffering and the causes of suffering for our kind parent sentient beings. So in order to do this one needs to develop heart-warming love - wishing them to have happiness and its causes, and compassion - wishing them to be free of suffering. The plight of sentient beings in echoed is Shantideva's book, The Bodhicaryavatara, where it says,

Although desirous of happiness,
through the force of ignorance,
they destroy its causes like an enemy.
Although not wishing dissatisfaction,
they joyfully enter its path.

So what Shantideva is saying is that sentient beings, although desirous of happiness, do not know the causes which bring about happiness, and more often than not, destroy the causes of happiness like they would destroy an enemy because of being blinded by ignorance and confusion. And then through this confusion, they joyfully enter the pathway which will lead to the state of dissatisfaction.

Superior intention

Then through wishing others to have happiness and its cause (which is love), and wishing others to be free of suffering and its causes (which is compassion) one needs to develop, or bring about, the superior intention. So here 'superior intention' refers then to not just leaving the mind of love and compassion as just that - a mind wishing others to have happiness and wishing other to be free of suffering, but rather bringing about the means which will allow them to have the causes of happiness and be free of the causes of dissatisfaction. So 'superior' in that it is superior to all the other kinds of intention which one might develop; this superior intention is the actual cause which brings about the mind aspiring to highest enlightenment. So then if we look at this through the utilisation of an example, we can get some idea of what this mind should be like. If we then view sentient beings as being blind; 'blind' in the sense that the wisdom eye has been blinded by the arrow of ignorance; and not only that, but the kind mother sentient beings are unsure of what to take up and what to abandon, so in that way they are kind of crazy in a sense, or drunk. And then not only that, but they are bereft of a spiritual friend who can advise them of what to take up and what to abandon, thus we can say they are without a guide. And as our kind parent sentient beings have accrued, like ourselves, many positive and negative karmas, then it's very possible that they could very easily fall into the abyss of the lower realms. So they are like a person walking upon a cliff-face. So if an only child were to see his mother in a state of being blinded by a cataract or an arrow of ignorance, without a guide, and kind of temporarily insane, walking atop a high cliff path, then that child would be desperately seeking a way to get to his mother and to rescue her from such a predicament. So in the same way we should train our minds so that we view all sentient beings as that only child views his mother whilst wandering atop the cliff path: blinded by ignorance, bereft of a spiritual friend who can show them what to take up and what to abandon, bereft of a guide to lead them along that path, in immediate danger of falling to the abyss at the bottom of the cliffs i.e. the lower realms, wandering along such a path. We should train our minds to feel like that only child viewing his mother in such a predicament.

Qualities of the Buddha

Having given rise to this superior intent, like the child viewing his mother in such a predicament, we need to contemplate - how can I rescue my kind mother sentient beings? What can I do that will enable me to rescue all these kind mother sentient beings from this perilous predicament? So then we need to search, we need to look around to see who has the ability to bring about the release from suffering of all mother sentient beings. If we search in the hearers and the Solitary Realisers, foe-destroyer camp, then we find that those individual do not have the capacity to bring about such a cessation. If we look in the Bodhisattvas abiding on the grounds, then we find that those superior ones also do not have the ability to liberate all sentient beings from such a predicament. So then through searching, we come to the conclusion that… the only individual we will find who has such an ability is the Fully Enlightened One, the Buddha.

So as is mentioned in the Abhisamayalamkara then, the desire to achieve this state of Buddhahood is one of the two-fold cause which brings about this state. For example as is mentioned in the text, one needs to view all sentient beings and wish to separate them from the suffering which they are undergoing and the causes of that suffering, and then also complement that with the wish that one will achieve this exalted state (that is the state of full enlightenment, or full awakening) to bring about such a cessation, to bring about the removal of these causes of suffering. So then there are two factors which are needed to bring full enlightenment about - the desire to achieve that, and the reason - to liberate all sentient beings from suffering and the causes of suffering.

So then if we contemplate the Buddha – what is it about the Buddha that has the ability to release all sentient beings from suffering? So if we look at the qualities of the Fully Enlightened One, we can look at the qualities of the body, the speech, the mind and the enlightened activity. For example with regard to the physical form of the One Thus Born, then we have the thirty two major and eighty minor marks, the mere sight of which causes liberation. Then we have the inconceivable speech. So it is said that if a hundred people in their own languages ask a hundred different questions, each and every one of them will be satisfied with regard to the answer they receive from one utterance from the enlightened speech of the Fully Awakened One. And with regard to the mind, there is a division of knowledge and love. So with regard to knowledge: in a single instant, the Fully Awakened One knows all actions, all dharmas, of the past, the present and the future simultaneously. And with regard to love: Viewing all sentient beings in an equal fashion, regardless of those beings' views toward the Fully Awakened One, whether they be massaging perfume into one of the hands or cutting the other hand with a sword, then the Buddha himself views all sentient beings as a mother views her only child. And with regard to the enlightened activity - the enlightened activity is one which is completely limitless and spontaneously works to bring about the benefit of sentient beings. So this state of existence, this state of Buddhahood, is that which one strives to achieve so as to be able to bring about the benefit of all sentient beings. This is what is known as the 'king-like' bodhicitta; 'king' in the sense that a king can decree laws and so forth which will bring about benefit to his subjects, so in the same way if one achieves this status, one can bring about the benefit of all sentient beings.

Exchanging self for others

We have gone through the six cause and one effect method of generating the awakened mind, but there is also another method of generating such a mind aspiring to highest enlightenment, which comes through Manjushri and Shantideva and such masters. This is known as 'the equalising and exchanging of self for others'. So it is said that through this contemplation, one necessarily meditates upon the six cause and one effect. However if one contemplates the six cause and one effect method of generating the awakened mind, it doesn't necessarily follow that one engages in the practice of equalising and exchanging self for others, so there is a difference there.

So then the starting point is to develop a mind which views all sentient beings as being equal – equal in the sense of all sentient beings wanting happiness and all sentient beings wising to avoid suffering. What follows then is the meditation of giving and taking, where one visualises taking upon oneself the suffering of others and then giving one’s qualities to others. Although this in and of itself is not the main purpose of this profound meditation technique - the profundity here then comes about through changing one’s attitude

…through contemplating this mistaken attitude and this beneficial attitude, one can truly engage in this particular practice through changing one's attitude towards oneself and others.

The exalted remembering the kindness of sentient beings

In order to develop this mind, one needs remembering the kindness of others in an exalted way. This is to say that one doesn't just dwell upon the kindness which was shown to one in a previous existence where one had the parental relationship with a particular individual, but rather what one dwells upon is that all sentient beings at all times are being useful and kind to us. If we consider our enjoyments, for example the clothes we wear - if we have a nice woollen sweater that keeps us warm, then let us consider where this sweater came from: Initially the wool had to come from a sheep which was kept by a farmer, then there was the sheep-shearer who took the wool, then the wool was cleaned, then the wool was made into spinning wool; then from that wool a sweater was made which was then dyed, then taken to a shop, then sold to us, and then we can enjoy this sweater. So through the kindness of many individuals in the manufacture of our sweater then we are able to enjoy this product.

So in the same way when we eat food, whether it be rice or barley or whatever, then that doesn't just come from nowhere or just come from the cook that has put it on a plate for us. Rather if we consider that a field has to be sown, a field has to be ploughed, then the seed, whether it be rice or barley, has to be sown, then the crop has to be taken care of (watered, fertilised and so forth), then has to be harvested, then the chaff has to be taken away, and then the rice is processed, then it's packaged, then it's taken to a shop, then it's put on the shelf, then we are able to take that from the shelf and then cook it. So all along the way, there are countless kind individuals who are aiding us to enjoy these products, countless individuals involved in their production. So then one contemplates their kindness in aiding us to enjoy various products. So through this contemplation, we develop the exalted remembering the kindness of sentient beings. This is extremely important and without this, it is very difficult to actually engage in the main part of this pith instruction or meditation.

This is the same for any situation in which we find ourselves. For example, now we are all sitting here enjoying the Dharma teaching in this beautiful building. So this building didn't come from nowhere and it certainly didn't come about through our efforts. Rather countless individuals in the past - hundreds or perhaps even thousands - were involved in the planning of this building, the building of the foundations, then of the actual building itself, putting the windows in and whatever - so that now we can just come to this building and enjoy the Dharma teaching which Rinpoche is giving. But if we contemplate that hundreds or thousands of individuals have been instrumental in bringing about this Dharma talk we are now enjoying - it's not just those of us who are assembled here, rather hundreds and thousands of kind mother / father sentient beings have aided us, whether knowingly or not, in the past by having built this court-house.

So all of our enjoyments are brought about through the kindness of sentient beings. Our body came into existence through the combined efforts of our mother and father and the union of the white and red fluids. Then everything we own, every possession which we have, came into existence, came into our possession, through the kindness of sentient beings. In fact everything we can imagine came into being through the kindness of other sentient beings - so thus we should contemplate.

The faults of self-cherishing and the benefits of cherishing others

So then after this contemplation, we need to bring to mind the next step which is contemplating on the faults of self-cherishing and the benefits of cherishing others more than oneself. So it is said that self-cherishing leads one by the head, as it were, into all kinds of dissatisfaction or suffering. So let us understand what is meant by self-cherishing: If we think of certain situations which we might find ourselves in - let us say we want to have some particular object, a table or whatever. Then if we don't have the money to purchase such an item, then really wanting the best for ourselves and thinking that this 'best' will only be achieved through having such an object (in this instance, the table), then we will engage in the practice of stealing. Then, wishing the best for ourselves, we may think that if we kill an enemy we may have greater status or greater peace or whatever - then we may engage in the practice of killing another, purely through wishing to have the best for ourselves. Again for example, we might wish somebody to perform an action for us, and in order to bring that about, we may confuse that person or lie to that person so that they engage in such a negative action, through which we might engage in some temporary benefit.

But in all three of these examples, through wishing the best for ourselves, what we have generated is negative karma, the ripening results of which, that is to say rebirth in the lower realms of existence, are thus to be experienced in the future. Thus it is said that this attitude - wishing the best for oneself, cherishing oneself above everything else - is that which is going to lead one to into all states of dissatisfaction And then cherishing others more than oneself is said to be the basis or the ground of all good qualities. So if we talk from the point of view of generating the various spiritual grounds and paths, whether they be of the greater or the lesser vehicles, all of this comes about through relating with others in a positive way. For example, if we wish to engage in the practice of the various perfections - the perfection of giving then is only possible through the kindness of others. Then if we talk about engaging in the practice of morality, which is the cause of achieving human existence - this is only possible through relations with others. So we can see that all good qualities, all positive karmas, are brought about through viewing one's kind parent sentient beings in a positive light, and thoroughly ridding oneself of wanting the best for oneself, of this self-cherishing attitude.

So these qualities are enumerated in great detail in Shantideva's book The Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (Bodhicaryavatara) where he says that

All happiness and joy in the world comes about through cherishing others,
whereas all suffering in the world comes about through cherishing oneself.

So as we have seen, having this attitude which puts oneself above all others is one which is just going to lead one to engage in negative actions, the ripening results of which are nothing but that which one is trying to escape - the state of dissatisfaction The Bodhicaryavatara gives manifold reasonings for the benefit of cherishing others and how terrible it is to engage in this attitude which holds oneself above others. And in essence it concludes with

What need is there for many words?
Full enlightenment comes about through the attitude of cherishing others,
whereas all states of woe come about through cherishing oneself.

So we can see through this last quotation that the state of Buddhahood with the incredible qualities which are contained therein, comes about solely through cherishing others, whereas all the states of suffering, in their various forms, come about through this self-cherishing attitude.

So if we wish to achieve positive states, positive qualities, then we should engage in this attitude of cherishing others, and if we wish to thoroughly abandon the causes of ddissatisfaction then we should thoroughly understand what is meant by self-cherishing, then contemplate the faults of that and then strive to change that attitude.

So these quintessential instructions - the six cause and one effect, and this equalising and exchanging self for others - these contemplations are to be emphasised, and if one can practice these as much as possible, this will give great impetus for achieving or generating the mind aspiring to highest enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. After having generated this mind, we have the basis for engaging in the Bodhisattva activities and whatever kind of activities we are engaging in, for example the practice of the Secret Mantra and so forth, they will become useful and beneficial, not only to ourselves but to others. If we engage in the practice of the mantras without this basis of bodhicitta, it's not really going to be of much use and can in some instances be rather harmful or detrimental to one. So having this practice as the core of our whole being is one which will bring great benefit to one in one's manifold practices. It is said that if all the wise ones came together and contemplated for aeons and aeons about which is the most beneficial thing for one, they wouldn’t find anything more exalted than this - the mind aspiring to highest enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. So contemplating thus we should try to bring about a change in our mind through these quintessential instructions.