Daily Wisdom from the Dalai Lama

The seventh verse summarizes all the practices that we have been discussing. It reads:

In brief, may I offer benefits and joy
To all my mothers, both directly and indirectly,
May I quietly take upon myself
All hurts and pains of my mothers,

This verse presents a specific Buddhist practice known as ‘the practice of giving and taking’ (tonglen), and it is by means of the visualization of giving and taking that we practice equalizing and exchanging ourselves with others.

‘Exchanging ourselves with others’ should not be taken in the literal sense of turning oneself into the other and the other into oneself. This is impossible anyway. What is meant here is a reversal of the attitudes one normally has towards oneself and others. We tend to relate to this so-called ‘self’ as a precious core at the center of our being, something that is really worth taking care of, to the extent that we are willing to overlook the well-being of others. In contrast, our attitudes towards others often resembles indifferences; at best we may have some concern for them, but even this may simply remain at the level of a feeling or an emotion. On the whole we are indifferent towards others’ well-being and do not take it seriously. So the point of this particular practice is to reverse this attitude so that we reduce the intensity of our grasping and the attachment we have to ourselves, and endeavor to consider the well-being of others as significant and important.

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