This is a post for all those practitioners who tend to get discouraged and give themselves a hard time about not being good enough. I think if you have those tendencies, it’s very easy to practice incorrectly, especially when it comes to the teachings on abandoning self-cherishing.
Yes, we try to be altruistic and think of others before ourselves; but we also have to be happy with ourselves and recognize our good qualities. It’s all too easy to think that decreasing our self-cherishing means that we should find fault with ourselves; it doesn’t. We should not think less of ourselves: we should think of ourselves less. In fact, if we’re reducing our self-cherishing, we should pat ourselves on the back! Yes, we need to recognize our faults and not hide from them, but becoming obsessed with them is just another form of self-cherishing. The point of Buddhist practice is to make us happy, remember?!
In Eight Steps to Happiness, Geshe-la says:
We might also ask, `If I had no self-cherishing, would that not mean that I dislike myself? Surely it is necessary to accept and love myself, for if I cannot love myself how can I love others?’ This is an important point…This [commitment] advises Lojong practitioners to be happy with themselves. If we are excessively self-critical we shall turn in upon ourself and become discouraged, and this will make it very difficult for us to turn our mind to cherishing others. Although it is necessary to be aware of our faults, we should not hate ourself for them.
Hate ourselves? That sounds a bit extreme, but I think it’s worth really checking our mind to see if we have turned in upon ourselves and are focusing exclusively on the negativity in our mind to the exclusion of our pure potential. We can’t grow into a better person if we are holding onto our faults and believing they define us.
In How to Understand the Mind, Geshe-la lists three types of non-deluded pride which help us to be confident and happy practitioners. These are: pride in our potential, pride in our virtuous activities, and pride in being able to overcome our delusions. These types of pride are not about puffing ourselves up, because we’re not thinking ‘I am something special,’ we’re thinking ‘I will be something special.’ I will defeat all my delusions because Buddha said so. And who’s more likely to be right, him or me? When we fail to believe in our potential, we’re basically thinking that we know better than Buddha does! Buddha thinks you’re awesome, so you’d better believe it.
Thanks to Luna Kadampa for inspiring this post.