#21: Cherishing ourselves and others equally

2 June 2010 - 10:18am Comments Off

Since the moment we were born we have been cherishing ourselves. Just look at babies – don’t they get whatever they want? When babies are hungry, they don’t care if it’s 4am in the morning, or whether you have to appease them throughout the night and day.

When we grow up, we continue to take things for granted as if the world owes us merely for existing. We expect others to like us. We hate those who point out our mistakes. When we make mistakes, we expect others to look the other way. When others make mistakes, we are reluctant to forgive. When we win, we expect others to clap their hands. When others win, we are slow to praise.

We often justify our selfishness by seeing it as self-preservation, and that it is because we cherish ourselves that we look after ourselves at all. There is no denying we need to look after ourselves. This does not take a lot of effort and creates no problems. What goes wrong is when we become attached to our being, until self-preservation becomes self-preoccupation. From a needy person, we degenerate into a wanting person. Ironically, this actually creates problems which threaten our very survival.

Gandhi once said: “There is enough sufficiency in the world for man’s needs, but not for man’s greed.”

The focus of the materialistic world generally promotes the importance of the inpidual: consumerism and commercialism depend on the ‘I’ customer – the ‘I’ business is good business.


Why Are We All Equally Important?

Our lives would have been miserable if we did not receive kindness from all living beings in these present and past lives. Everyone is just like us. They too share our same wish: to find lasting happiness and to be free from suffering. We are only one person, while billions of others inhabit our planet. We are just a tiny drop in the sea of other living beings. How can we neglect the welfare of others?

Thinking like this opens up our mind to cherishing others. However, we need to contemplate on our fault of thinking only about ourselves, that our happiness is most important. This is an outdated and ancient habit inherited from the past that is the root of all our bad experiences in this life.

The perversity of a self-cherishing mind is that it can eventually lead to one’s self-destruction. People become angry or despondent within themselves, and commit suicide when their wishes are not fulfilled. This is because of strong attachment to their own happiness. All negative reactions arise from ‘self-cherishing’.

What defines a self-cherishing mind? The mind that thinks, ‘I must have my way’, ‘My happiness is more important than your happiness’. This is the world of ‘I, me, mine’ created by our selfish mind. However, it is important to realise that we all share a common humanity. It is vital to acknowledge that we all aspire towards the same end: happiness. In order to reach our common goal therefore, we must accept that our happiness is dependent on others, and others’ happiness is dependent on us. We are all interdependent – all of us – and so with this in mind, we come to realise that the self-cherishing mind is a useless tool, and that it is much more useful instead to contemplate the idea that we are all equally important, as this is the best way to cultivate compassion for all beings.

NEXT: The Art of Switcheroo – Exchanging Self with Others

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