“Another example we should not misinterpret is the verse in a famous Tibetan text which reads, ‘May I have the courage if necessary to spend aeons, innumerable lifetimes, even in the deepest hell realm.’ The point that is being made here is that the level of your courage should be such that if this is required of you as part of the process of working for others’ well-being, then you should have the willingness and commitment to accept it.
A correct understanding of this passage is very important, because otherwise you may use them to reinforce any feelings of self-hatred, thinking that if the self is the embodiment of self-centerdness, one should banish oneself into oblivion. Do not forget that ultimately the motivation behind wishing to follow a spiritual path is to attain supreme happiness, so just as one seeks happiness for oneself one is also seeking happiness for others. Even from a practical point of view, for someone to develop genuine compassion towards others, first he or she must have a basis upon which to cultivate compassion, and that basis is the ability to connect to one’s own feelings and to care for one’s own welfare. If one is not capable of doing that, how can one reach out to others and feel concern for them? Caring for others requires caring for oneself. The practice of tong len, giving and taking, encapsulates the practices of loving-kindness and compassion: the practice of giving emphasizes the practice of loving-kindness, whereas the practice of taking emphasizes he practice of compassion.”