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The path to enlightenment is really very simple – all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others.

Until now we have cherished ourself above all others, and for as long as we continue to do this our suffering will never end. However, if we learn to cherish all beings more than ourself we shall soon enjoy the bliss of enlightenment. The path to enlightenment is really very simple – all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others. All other spiritual realizations will naturally follow from this.

What is Self-cherishing?

Our instinctive view is that we are more important than everyone else, whereas the view of all enlightened beings is that it is others who are more important. Which of these views is more beneficial? In life after life, since beginningless time, we have been slaves to our self-cherishing mind. We have trusted it implicitly and obeyed its every command, believing that the way to solve our problems and find happiness is to put ourself before everyone else. We have worked so hard and for so long for our own sake, but what do we have to show for it? Have we solved all our problems and found the lasting happiness we desire? No. It is clear that pursuing our own selfish interests has deceived us. After having indulged our self-cherishing for so many lives, now is the time to realize that it simply does not work. Now is the time to switch the object of our cherishing from ourself to all living beings.

Countless enlightened beings have discovered that by abandoning self-cherishing and cherishing only others they came to experience true peace and happiness.

Countless enlightened beings have discovered that by abandoning self-cherishing and cherishing only others they came to experience true peace and happiness. If we practise the methods they taught, there is no reason why we should not be able to do the same. We cannot expect to change our mind overnight, but through patiently and consistently practising the instructions on cherishing others, while at the same time accumulating merit, purifying negativity, and receiving blessings, we can gradually replace our ordinary self-cherishing attitude with the sublime attitude of cherishing all living beings.

Abandoning Self-Cherishing

To achieve this we do not need to change our lifestyle, but we do need to change our views and intentions. Our ordinary view is that we are the centre of the universe and that other people and things derive their significance principally from the way in which they affect us. Our car, for example, is important simply because it is ours, and our friends are important because they make us happy. Strangers, on the other hand, do not seem so important because they do not directly affect our happiness, and if a stranger’s car is damaged or stolen we are not that concerned. As we shall see in later chapters, this self-centred view of the world is based on ignorance and does not correspond to reality. This view is the source of all our ordinary, selfish intentions. It is precisely because we think ‘I am important, I need this, I deserve that’ that we engage in negative actions, which result in an endless stream of problems for ourself and others.

Once we view each and every living being as important we shall naturally develop good intentions towards them.

By practising these instructions we can develop a realistic view of the world, based on an understanding of the equality and interdependence of all living beings. Once we view each and every living being as important we shall naturally develop good intentions towards them. Whereas the mind that cherishes only ourself is the basis for all impure, samsaric experience, the mind that cherishes others is the basis for all the good qualities of enlightenment.

Cherishing others is not so difficult – all we need to do is to understand why we should cherish others and then make a firm decision to do so. Through meditating on this decision we shall develop a deep and powerful feeling of cherishing for all beings. We then carry this special feeling into our daily life.

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The New Meditation Handbook

The New Meditation Handbook

Written especially for the modern reader who is trying to incorporate a meditation practice into a busy lifestyle, this book guides us through a sequence of 21 meditations, known as lamrim, that lead to an experience of true inner peace.

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All quotations from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's books copyright The New Kadampa Tradition - International Buddhist Union, all rights reserved worldwide. For more information on Geshe Kelsang's books visit Tharpa Publications.