#22: The art of switcheroo

9 June 2010 - 5:39pm Comments Off

It would be too easy to play switcheroo with these kids...but it's not the kind of switch we're talking about!


Exchanging Self with Others

If you think that changing ourselves is as easy as changing our costumes in a play, forget it. On the other hand, if we are determined to turn over a new leaf and become the truly beautiful person we really are, a little effort and patience on our part will go a very long way.

By now, if we have been practising, we should have developed some measure of the unbiased mind of equanimity. We should also have a certain degree of respect and care towards others: considering others’ needs is just as important as considering our own.

If we have not gained some experience of the above qualities, if we are still very selective in terms of the people we like, if we do not feel a closeness or affection for people similar to that of a mother-child relationship, this switcheroo act with others will not be real or contain any sort of genuine meaning.

As a starting point, to direct our attention, switching the focus from ourselves and transfer it onto others is a good start. However, it is still superficial and does not have the power to move us away completely from the deep-seated familiarity we have of cherishing ourselves exclusively. We need to feel for others as though we are them, as if we are in their shoes.

What Do We Mean by Exchanging Self with Others?

It is not, in the literal sense, about swapping places with someone else – this would only lead to a lot of confusion! Rather, it is a bit like being an actor who studies a character in order to play the personality well. Unlike the real mind training, this may lead to receiving an Oscar for the actor, but will not lead him to receiving the most precious prize of all – the Bodhi-mind, which is what this practice is all about.

What we really exchange is the object of our cherishing. Presently, the object we love most and cherish most is our self. When we perform the switcheroo, the object of cherishing becomes all other living beings. Yes, this includes even cockroaches and no, this is not Fear Factor – the participants squish and eat them, whereas we train to treat them with compassion.

The wrong kind of switcheroo has taken place!

We need to practise exchanging self with others in order to overcome our self-cherishing mind. The root of all our suffering and the door to all our problems arise from the self-cherishing mind, whereas the mind that cherishes others is the source of all goodness and happiness. What are the benefits of possessing a compassionate, altruistic mind? Quite simply, it relieves us of jealousy, hatred, fears, miserliness and all the other bad attitudes which invariably leave us and those around us feeling miserable.

What a beautiful mind to have that can even extend its compassion to enemies! This is a powerful and realistic way to make enemies disappear. Even Casanova couldn’t love the women he despised.

All other methods are harmful and destructive. Such methods may temporarily remove enemies either physically or by suppression, but more enemies are created in the process. What’s even more worrying is that the enemies we think we have removed by unskillful methods will keep coming back in our dreams and in future lives.

How can we train ourselves to be able to do that?

NEXT: The Power of Familiarity

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