The main reason we do not cherish all living beings is that we are so preoccupied with ourself, and this leaves very little room in our mind to appreciate others.
Why Do We Not Cherish Others?
The main reason we do not cherish all living beings is that we are so preoccupied with ourself, and this leaves very little room in our mind to appreciate others. If we wish to cherish others sincerely we have to reduce our obsessive self-concern. Why is it that we regard ourself as so precious, but not others? It is because we are so familiar with self-cherishing. Since beginningless time we have grasped at a truly existent I. This grasping at I automatically gives rise to self-cherishing, which instinctively feels ‘I am more important than others.’ For ordinary beings, grasping at one’s own I and self-cherishing are like two sides of the same coin: I-grasping grasps at a truly existent I, whereas self-cherishing feels this I to be precious and cherishes it. The fundamental reason for this is our constant familiarity with our self-cherishing, day and night, even during our sleep.
Since we regard our self or I as so very precious and important, we exaggerate our own good qualities and develop an inflated view of ourself
Since we regard our self or I as so very precious and important, we exaggerate our own good qualities and develop an inflated view of ourself. Almost anything can serve as a basis for this arrogant mind, such as our looks, possessions, knowledge, experiences, or status. If we make a witty remark we think ‘I’m so clever!’, or if we have traveled round the world we feel that this automatically makes us a fascinating person. We can even develop pride on the basis of things we ought to be ashamed of, such as our ability to deceive others, or on qualities that we merely imagine we possess. On the other hand we find it very hard to accept our mistakes and shortcomings. We spend so much time contemplating our real or imagined good qualities that we become oblivious to our faults. In reality our mind is full of gross delusions but we ignore them and may even fool ourself into thinking that we do not have such repulsive minds. This is like pretending that there is no dirt in our house after sweeping it under the carpet.
Admiting Our Faults
It is often so painful to admit that we have faults that we make all manner of excuses rather than alter our exalted view of ourself. One of the most common ways of not facing up to our faults is to blame others. For instance, if we have a difficult relationship with someone we naturally conclude that it is entirely their fault – we are unable to accept that it is at least partly ours. Instead of taking responsibility for our actions and making an effort to change our behaviour, we argue with them and insist that it is they who must change. An exaggerated sense of our own importance thus leads to a critical attitude towards other people and makes it almost impossible to avoid conflict. The fact that we are oblivious to our faults does not prevent other people from noticing them and pointing them out, but when they do we feel that they are being unfair. Instead of looking honestly at our own behaviour to see whether or not the criticism is justified, our self-cherishing mind becomes defensive and retaliates by finding faults with them.
Do Not Look for Faults in Others
An exaggerated sense of our own importance thus leads to a critical attitude towards other people and makes it almost impossible to avoid conflict.
Another reason why we do not regard others as precious is that we pay attention to their faults whilst ignoring their good qualities. Unfortunately we have become very skilled in recognizing the faults of others, and we devote a great deal of mental energy to listing them, analyzing them, and even meditating on them! With this critical attitude, if we disagree with our partner or colleagues about something, instead of trying to understand their point of view we repeatedly think of many reasons why we are right and they are wrong. By focusing exclusively on their faults and limitations we become angry and resentful, and rather than cherishing them we develop the wish to harm or discredit them. In this way small disagreements can easily turn into conflicts that simmer for months.
In Advice from Atisha’s Heart it says:
Do not look for faults in others, but look for faults in yourself, and purge them like bad blood.
Do not contemplate your own good qualities, but contemplate the good qualities of others, and respect everyone as a servant would.