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Home > Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism > Level 2: Lam-rim (Graded Stage) Material > Developing Bodhicitta through Equalizing and Exchanging One’s Attitudes about Self and Others > Session Two: Developing Distinguished Mahayana Equanimity – The First Four of the Nine Steps

Developing Bodhicitta through Equalizing and Exchanging One’s Attitudes about Self and Others

Alexander Berzin
Kostino, Russia, October 2009

Session Two: Developing Distinguished Mahayana Equanimity – The First Four of the Nine Steps

Unedited Transcript
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We started our discussion of how to generate bodhichitta with a description of the various stages involved. And we saw that the first step is to develop the type of equanimity which is known as “mere equanimity,” with which we avoid having attraction to some, repulsion from others, and the state of ignoring yet others. And we worked already with those whom we feel repulsion toward and those toward whom we feel attraction. And so the third one is a stranger, someone with whom we feel neither attraction nor repulsion, someone that if we saw in the street or anywhere, we would pass them by without paying any attention to them whatsoever. 

And so we think of such a person, if we can imagine a particular one that we know of, and we again go through the procedure as we did before in a similar manner. The feeling arises that if we saw this person we’d pass them by; we wouldn’t even bother to say hello or anything – somebody who waits on us in a restaurant, someone like that. And why is it that we have no concern that this person who waits on us in the restaurant might have tired feet, or anything like that – might have a headache. And we think, “Well, this person doesn’t really mean anything to me. They’ve never…” Well I suppose the person in the restaurant has served us, but in general when we ignore somebody we feel they haven’t done anything particular to help us or to hurt us; and, therefore, why pay attention to them? So they don’t mean anything to me. But this is also not a valid reason. When we analyze past lives, future lives, they might have been of great help to us; they might have been our parent; they could be like that in the future. Even later in this lifetime they could become our closest friend. Every friend that I have started out as a stranger: I didn’t know them. And so if I just walk past this person and ignore them, it would be as foolish as walking past a treasure of gold and ignoring it. 

And then we try to look at this person, regard this person with ourselves, our mind being free of indifference. So let’s try to do that. If you can’t think of someone so much in our usual lives, there are these people who worked in the kitchen here where we just ate. 

[silence] 

I think that overcoming this indifference toward others is especially important when we’re trying to go on the bodhisattva path. If we are walking around the city or travelling on public transport, we see so many people and we usually are quite indifferent to them. We don’t even pay attention to whether they look healthy, whether they look sick, whether they look stressed, whether they might be in trouble. And as a start in our practice we want to try to overcome that indifference, so that we can start to develop sincere concern for everybody and for alleviating the suffering of everybody. If we don’t pay attention and notice everybody, then how could we really sincerely want to help them to overcome their suffering? We’re not even willing to look at it. 

Now we could also of course object and say: “I’m not strong enough yet; it’s too overwhelming; it’s too much for me.” But this is a clear indication that this Mahayana practice is not something that you start with all at once, that this is advanced. And in lam-rim meditation we work with initial scope, and then intermediate scope, and then this Mahayana is the advanced scope of motivation. If we don’t, in these earlier stages of the practices, face all of our own sufferings, our own problems, and start to deal with them, we won’t have the strength to deal with others’. We already need to be fairly stable emotionally before we can really endeavor on a much larger scope of helping others. That doesn’t mean that when we are emotionally unstable that we don’t try to help others at least a little bit. Of course we do, but we have to be a little bit careful in the scope of how much we do. 

I’m thinking of an example that’s used in psychology. There, it’s said in one school of psychology that if we have, for instance, our child teenager is very disruptive and has very negative attitudes toward himself or herself and others, it is very helpful and important to give them an opportunity to do something, to give something to someone else. In the act of actually giving to someone else, even if it’s in terms of taking care of an animal, they build up a sense of self-worth and self-confidence that they do have something worthwhile to give to others. And so this is helpful even at the stage where one is emotionally unstable. But if we really are going to open up in a Mahayana way, we need to be much more stable and mature. 

And the final step in this first stage of our practice, this stage of developing mere equanimity, is that now we imagine these three persons together – the one that we really dislike and don’t want to be with; the one that we’re so attracted to that we want to ignore everybody else and just be with this one; and this stranger that we would ignore – and we try to regard all of them together, without attraction, repulsion or indifference. And the line of reasoning that is used here, to help us to even out our mind toward all of them, is that we think if someone gave us a million rubles yesterday and hit us today, and somebody who hit us yesterday and gave us the million rubles today – what’s the difference? Which one is our friend, which one is our enemy? In fact there’s no difference. It’s just a matter of when each of them was kind and each of them was cruel to us. 

And so it’s the same in terms of everybody when we think in terms of beginningless and endless mental continuums – past and future lives – it’s just a matter of time when each one was kind or cruel to us, or a stranger. And to make things a little bit more graphic, we could imagine sitting down at a table for a meal with these three persons – our dearest friend; a relative that we can’t stand, who’s completely annoying, or someone from work who is like that; and the person who works from the city collecting the garbage – and try to develop an even state of mind of how we would deal with these three people at our table. And here I think it’s quite noticeable how the energy can be drawn to one or the other, and repelled from one, and how somehow we have to get the energy quiet. 

Actually I was reminded during breakfast of how when I mentioned about dealing with the full-blown emotion (as opposed to dealing with the energy) that this guideline actually derives from shamatha (zhi-gnas) meditation. Shamatha is a stilled and settled state of mind – we’re practicing to get perfect concentration. And in dealing with flightiness of mind (rgod-pa), when the mind flies off from the object, first we try to recognize when the mind is going on and on and on with thoughts, and then bring it back. And in the beginning that’s really very difficult because we are not at all accustomed to directing our attention, and we’re so caught up in our thoughts. But once we’re able to do that, both recognize when we have mental wandering and bring our attention back to the object, then a very subtle level that we have to deal with is just this impulsive energy to leave the object before our mind actually does leave it. And it was similar to that, what I was discussing before, in terms of noticing a disturbance in our energy that would take us away from the state of mind that we’re trying to stabilize. 

Okay, so let’s imagine this meal with these three persons, and use that line of reasoning – in terms of the one who gives us a million rubles and the one who beats us up. 

[silence] 

Okay. What we really have to be very careful with here is to avoid a big mistake, which is we look at this meditation really as an exercise to just block our emotions and feelings, and just try to feel nothing, which would then lead to us being very cold and stiff and regarding the disturbing emotions as truly existent monsters and me as the victim that has to be protected, and that I had just better not feel anything. This is a big, big mistake, particularly in terms of Mahayana practice. We’re trying to overcome these disturbing emotions by facing them, rather than running away from them and blocking them. That’s why we allow them to arise in the beginning, so that we can see them and face them; and then we actively apply opponents to overcome them, like these lines of reasoning concerning past and future lives, or just a matter of time of when they’ve helped us, harmed us, or done nothing for us. So, if we do that properly, then we are not rendered by this meditation into a stiff robot who is completely cold toward everyone and stiff, but someone who is open to be able to actually develop positive feelings toward everyone, and that warm-heartedness, affection, etc. will be able to flow toward everybody equally. 

And also this point of applying the guideline from shamatha into these practices is based on Shantideva’s text Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior. Because if we look at his chapter on developing mental stability (bsam-gtan) or concentration, the topic that he discusses in this chapter as the focal object for developing concentration is these practices – equalizing and exchanging self with others. In other words, what do we need to be able to focus on? Not just our breath, but obviously positive attitudes toward others – overcoming selfishness, staying concerned with others – so that our mind doesn’t wander off with extraneous thoughts or get dull. 

Okay. Any question on that, on this development of mere equanimity? 

Question: Could you please describe this state that we need to develop. Because I tried, and what I felt is either attraction or rejection, or something like either.

Alex: Well, we’re trying to develop the state of mind that is free of those three. So how to describe what it feels like when we don’t have that? And the only way that I was able to begin to describe that is in terms of our energy being relaxed. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that this is a very easy state of mind to achieve at that lovely table in which we have these three persons sitting. I mean that’s extremely difficult if you try to imagine that sincerely, or if you were actually in that situation. 

I remember being very challenged in a situation. I was translating for my teacher to a small group of people, many of them complete strangers, one person extremely annoying – asked annoying questions – and my favorite cousin, whom I hadn’t seen in about ten years, came in late and sat down and joined (I was going to meet her after the class). And to be able to sit there and not be disturbed by these three different types of people – in our categories that we were just talking about – and pay attention, and translate with equal concern for everybody in the room was very, very challenging. But I think this is a good example of what we would be striving at in this situation, to continue to pay attention to translating and to not have my energy disturbed by these three different people there, because it’s not fair to ignore the strangers in the room, or be annoyed by the one who’s asking obnoxious questions, or by my cousin. 

So then let’s go on. The next step is called the development of “distinguished Mahayana equanimity” (thun-mong ma-yin-pa’i btang-snyom). This is the type of equanimity that we develop in equalizing and exchanging our attitude of ourselves and others. When we talk about equalizing our attitude toward self and others here, there seems to be two aspects of that. One is having, again, an equal attitude toward all others, but here specifically when we’re trying to help them. And the second aspect is to see that we and others are equal. It’s just a matter of the emphasis here: one aspect or the other aspect. So with this first aspect – that everybody is equal when we’re helping them – the emphasis is not as in the mere equanimity (to overcome our disturbing emotions); but rather to help us, when we are trying to benefit others, not to just have favorites but to actively help everyone, or at least try. 

So this is divided into nine points. Six of them have to do with the relative point of view and three with the deepest point of view. And the six from a relative point of view are divided into three from our own point of view and three from the point of view of others. And so what we’re trying to develop here is when we are helping others that it’s inappropriate to feel that some are close to me and some are distant or far. It’s not appropriate to welcome some and reject others. 

So in terms of from our own point of view, first we think about how, if all limited beings have been our parents and closest friends in previous lives, then it’s inappropriate to consider some as close and some as distant, because it’s only a matter of time of when they were actually my mother, for example. If I haven’t seen my mother in ten minutes or in ten years or in ten lifetimes, she is still my mother. And so that’s the line of reasoning that we use here. So with each being, maybe it’s ten lifetimes that I haven’t seen this one as my mother, or ten thousand, or just ten minutes – still, they’re my mother. So from my point of view, it’s just relative to the amount of time since I’ve seen her, but in this sense they’re all equal. 

If we’re trying to do this in meditation of course we could imagine a whole group of beings, humans – we could also include animals, insects, etc. (that’s much more difficult, but we can do it like that) – but since we’re here in a group of people, we can also do this in terms of looking at each other, without staring impolitely, and realize that everybody in this room has been our mother at some time or another, it’s just a matter of when. We can also of course do this in the metro or any place where there are a group of people, like waiting in line in a store. There are many, many opportunities in our daily life to practice such types of meditation. Okay, let’s try this one. 

[silence] 

By the way, this is a further step in addition to an initial step of recognizing that everybody has been my mother in a previous lifetime. The next step is, well, it’s just a matter of when they were my mother, but they all equally were my mother. 

[silence] 

Let me just remind you that the state of mind that we’re trying to generate here is to, when we’re seeing everybody, not to have a feeling of being particularly close to this one and distant from that other one. And the reason that helps us to reach that state of mind is because everybody has been my mother, and it’s just a matter of time – of when. For those of us whose mothers have already passed away, this becomes a little bit even more relevant – or meaningful, I should say, or easier to relate to – because we wonder where is my mother now, the mother I had in this lifetime: it could be anyone of the appropriate age.

Let’s continue this for a few moments.

[silence] 

Any questions on this? 

Question: When we are trying to regard others as our mothers, is it easier to do with women than with men? And the question is how to deal with that, how to make it easier? 

Alex: Well, if you have trouble doing it with men, how are you going to be able to do it with a mosquito? Obviously we need to think about beginningless and endless mental continuums that are all individual, for each individual; and based on the karma that has been built up, sometimes that mental continuum will have rebirth with one type of physical form or another: sometimes as a human, sometimes as an animal or insect, or any other type of non-human, and either male or female. This is the case with, not only everybody else, but also with myself. Therefore it is illogical to identify the person as being inherently only one life form or one gender permanently, forever, which is established just by its own power independently of this being influenced by all the karmic behavior of this being. 

Remember earlier in our discussion I mentioned that in terms of gaining an understanding and conviction in past and future lives, we need to understand voidness – specifically, or more especially, the voidness of the self and the voidness of cause and effect. So if we have difficulty in viewing men or mosquitoes as having been our mother in a previous lifetime, we need to work more on voidness, obviously, understanding of voidness. And although we could follow, let’s say, a Dharma-lite version of seeing all men as having been my father – or, since Dharma-lite is not considering past lives, that they could act with kindness and take care of me like a father – what are we going to do about our friend the mosquito? So it’s very difficult to deal with these other life forms in the Dharma-lite version. Any dog or cat could be our beloved pet, but not many of us have a pet mosquito that we feed every day our own blood. Interesting idea. 

Now the next point here in developing this Mahayana type of equanimity is that we could have an objection here. We could say that, “Okay, just as these beings maybe have helped me, haven’t they also harmed me?” With that line of reasoning, we can say, “Everybody has harmed me and hated me, therefore it’s appropriate to view everybody as an enemy.” So if we raise that objection then we need to follow the next line of reasoning, which is that although it is true that everybody at some point must have harmed us as well; but, nevertheless, the amount of help that they have given to us far outweighs the amount of harm that they have given to us. Because if we consider the kindness of others – which is a specific meditation that we do which focuses on how others are kind to us even when they’ve not been our mother – we see that so many others are involved in just making it possible for us to live, whether directly or indirectly: the people who grow our food, the people who build the roads and the transports to be able to get the food to where we could buy it, and the people who package it and make the material to package it, and the whole oil industry to be able to allow the transports to go, and the steel industry to build the trucks. 

And one meditation exercise is to just look at everything in the room around us, or everything that we make any use of during the course of a day, and to consider how many beings are involved in actually making that possible. And especially nowadays, in the age of globalization, everything that we make use of during a day is made by people from all over the world. And although they might not have consciously done this in order to benefit me, personally – some worker in a shoe factory in China, for example – but nevertheless it is dependent on their work that I’m able to live and survive. And although their motivation might not have been kindness; nevertheless it’s very kind that they have done all of this work. So if we think in terms of all beings and all lifetimes, the amount of help that they’ve given to us, either directly or indirectly, far outweighs the amount of harm that they’ve given us. 

So in the meditation we just try to think about that and digest that. We could look at others in the room or on the metro with this understanding; but specifically with the attitude that there’s no reason to welcome some as being close – and I’ll help just you – and feel distant to others. So here we’re much more open, actively, to help everybody, not favorites. And the reason for it is this line of reasoning: that the amount of help that everyone has given is far more than the amount of harm. 

[silence] 

Okay. One thing I think is also important to remember is that each particular meditation that we have which is involved with regarding others from one point of view or another point of view, distinguishing one aspect of them in one meditation… Like, for instance, for someone that we’re very attached to, distinguishing that at some point they have been our enemy and hurt us. But in another meditation, directed at the same person, we distinguish that they have been our mother in a previous lifetime. And in another meditation, with the same person, we distinguish that they’ve helped us far more than they’ve ever hurt us. We might get very confused if we think, “Well, how am I supposed to regard this person? Because now you say they’ve hurt me, and now you say they’ve helped me.” 

So again the understanding of voidness here is essential. We’re not just talking about one aspect of the person and this is their solid permanent identity independent of everything else. But distinguishing all these different aspects – which are all valid, correct – is for a specific purpose; and they’re emphasized relative to a different context: the context of overcoming attachment or the context of equalizing our attitude when we’re trying to help everybody. So we focus on one aspect or another relative to the purpose for it, which is to help us overcome some type of disturbing emotion or to generate some type of constructive state of mind toward the person. This is why it’s very important to have a very large understanding of the Dharma. This is why it’s always said we need a huge storehouse of listening to the teachings – having heard many teachings and then thought about them and digested them – so that in any type of situation that we encounter in life, when some sort of disturbing emotion arises or some sort of problematic aspect arises, we know exactly what antidote to apply. And we have great flexibility to be able to apply one opponent or another, even if they require regarding the person in a completely different way each time. All right? 

So we’re not stiff and rigid. We’re very flexible in the way that we deal with people because we have so many, what we would call “skillful means” (thabs-mkhas) that we can use. And for any particular disturbing emotion, it’s very good if we have several ways of dealing with it, because in some situations one method might not be as effective as another. So we need always to have an alternative Plan B and Plan C, not just Plan A. And this is a piece of advice that my teacher Serkong Rinpoche gave in terms of dealing with any situation in life – that we should always have alternative plans, so that if the primary plan doesn’t work, we’re not left completely with nothing and we freak out. So don’t have just one parachute in the plane, have a few of them. 

The third point which is relative to our own point of view for helping us to develop the Mahayana equanimity – with which we don’t feel close to some and far from others when we are involved in trying to help – is to think about death. Death will come for sure, we will definitely die. And the time of our death is completely uncertain: we never know when it will happen. And, for example, if we were a prisoner and we were condemned to be executed tomorrow or after an hour, what point would there be in spending the last moments of our life being angry and plotting how to hurt somebody? This would be an extremely trivial usage of our last moments. But, rather, what would be much more beneficial would be to have positive thoughts toward everyone and to die in a positive state of mind. And the same thing in terms of others – they could die at any moment; everyone is equal in that respect. And the example is, why kick a dying dog? There’s a dog that’s dying – what point is there in kicking it? And so if everybody can die at any time, what’s the point of kicking them or trying to do something harmful to them? Whether this is our last hour alive in this lifetime or not, this is true. So from that point of view of death, then, it also doesn’t make any sense to consider some as especially close and some especially far. Here the emphasis is on being especially far and wanting to hurt someone. 

In our Buddhist practice we have many meditations that focus on death, and here’s another example of one of them. Thinking realistically about death puts everything into a much more relative point of view in terms of what’s important. Here we wouldn’t spend our last hour: I’m going to help this one, I’m going to hurt that one, and do this and that. Just try to develop an open warm attitude toward everyone and die in that state of mind, and “May I in my future lives be able to help everyone equally.” That’s much more beneficial than in my next life I will just help this one and I’ll hurt that one – because I didn’t have enough time to hurt him in this lifetime, so next lifetime I’ll hurt them. This is ridiculous. So let’s work with this line of reasoning about death: that we could die at any time, and if this were our last hour what is the point in plotting to hurt some and only to help others, and having favorites. And the same thing: if it were somebody else’s last hour, what’s the point of trying to hurt them? 

[silence] 

Any questions? 

Question: If I thought that I will die in an hour, it is quite logical and reasonable not to harm others. But how to deal with the thoughts that then I also don’t need to help others? We can think that we don’t need to help others at all because we can die at any moment, we can die at any time. So that could lead us to the conclusion that we don’t need to help others at all. 

Alex: Well I think that here we need to bring in another point, which is “what do we want to happen in our future lives.” Do I want to be able to help others in future lives, which is obviously part of our bodhichitta motivation here. Or do I want to be able to harm others in future lives, which probably would also mean that we are harmed as well. And so in our last moments if we can’t actually help others in an active type of way, we at least pray to be able to continue helping others. And as long as we’re alive we try to build up a beneficial habit of always trying to help others. 

Now I was also thinking in a similar way in this meditation, again from Shantideva’s text, how important it is at the time of our death to die alone, without people around us disturbing our peace of mind by either causing us to be very attached to them and not want to leave, or their crying and being upset. Or I was thinking of one schizophrenic student of mine who was a tremendous disturbance and how I certainly would not want her by the side of my bed while I was dying, acting in a completely crazy way. And certainly far more beneficial is to die in a very peaceful atmosphere, by ourselves, and we’re not disturbed, so we can just purely focus on positive thoughts as we die. But even if we have these other people around us, disturbing us in one way (attraction) or another way (repulsion) – please leave the room – we would try to compose ourselves and just die peacefully with thoughts to benefit others in future lives as well. 

Also, if we die in such a positive state of mind, it indirectly helps others – by our example of dying with our concern just for others not for ourselves, and so on. I’m thinking of the accounts of the doctors who attended, for instance, the late Karmapa during his final days in hospital when he was dying, and similarly with other great lamas. And their only concern was how the doctors were feeling, how they were dealing with the situation, how the nurses were dealing with it, how the people around them were dealing with it. There was no, not even one thought or indication of self-pity and fear and thinking about themselves. And this is a tremendous inspiration to others, just by the way that we die. This is something very important to try to do, not just when we die but, for instance, when we’re at the dentist or if we are having some sort of medical treatment and so on, to be more concerned with perhaps the nervousness or emotional state of the doctor rather than our own fear. 

Okay, anything else? 

Question: We go through these steps of bodhichitta meditation, so when should we change the stages or steps? Should we wait until we reach some feeling, until we will really develop some state of mind, and then we should go to the next stage? Or should we just go from one to the other without waiting to have this experience? 

Alex: That’s a very difficult question to answer. In the traditional approach, when you study, for instance, lam-rim (the graded stages of the path), in theory you wouldn’t even know what the next steps are. So, for instance, I had the great fortune to be able to study lam-rim like that, because I went to India and was taught that by my teacher there before any of the translations of lam-rim were available – before Gampopa’s text was translated, which I think was the first one in English. And although we had read a little bit of lam-rim, a few sentences here and there, in my Tibetan language classes before I went to India, I had no idea what was in the lam-rim. And so I had to deal with each point as it came, without knowing what came next. And that was very, very beneficial – although of course my teacher didn’t wait until I had gained some realization before giving me the next point in the teachings. 

But more usual is that we know the whole scope of the teaching. So that we know each step of the way, so that we have some understanding when we are taught a certain meditation practice – we see what it’s leading to and what will be based on it. That’s part of the general way in which we examine a teaching. The teachings on what’s called the four axioms (rigs-pa bzhi), or four ways of analyzing, which is to see what does this teaching depend on, what is it resting on, what are the stages before it; and what does it lead to, what is its purpose – those are two – the third one is does it make logical sense; and the forth one is does it fit with the nature of things, in general, with the way things are. So, in that context, if we do have an idea of all the stages then we would have what’s known as “glance” or “review” type of meditation of the whole sequence, but we would put the emphasis on one or the other as we progress. 

This is the same type of procedure that’s used when doing the preliminary practices. So let’s say we are engaging in doing a hundred thousand prostrations and refuge and bodhichitta and Vajrasattva and mandala and guru-yoga. Then we would do a little bit of each every day, so we have an idea of the whole scope; but that we would focus on most of our session being with one of these practices, until we have done a hundred thousand, and then we go onto the next one. But we always have in mind the whole scope of the whole “ngondro” (sngon-’gro), the whole set of preliminaries. So it’s a similar procedure [with the steps of this bodhichitta meditation.] 

In review, we have the three points here in terms of our own relative point of view. Everybody has been our mother or extremely kind to us, it’s just a matter of when. And the amount of help they have given us far outweighs the amount of harm. And since we could die at any time and they can die at any time, what’s the point of having favorites – and, particularly, what’s the point of wanting to hurt anyone and feeling distant from them? And we certainly should practice each of these at least to the level at which we remember it, so that we’re able to recall this in various situations in which it would be relevant; and we are able to retain mindfulness (dran-pa) of it, which means actively holding onto it with memory. It’s remembering, that’s what mindfulness is. It’s this “mental glue” of holding onto it. In the situation, particularly, when we’re feeling very distant from somebody, this feeling of “I can’t possibly relate to this person” which, for instance, we might feel when we view somebody from a totally different culture or background or who’s a very different age from our age – let’s say it could be a little baby; or for a young person, an old person. “I can’t relate to this person” – this type of feeling. 

Now the next one, the next set of three, the relative point of view of others. The first of these is that everybody wants to be happy and nobody wants to be unhappy or suffer – nobody wants suffering or pain, even in a dream. And everybody has the feeling that they don’t have enough happiness, they want more. This is true not only of myself, but of absolutely everybody else equally. It’s not that some people want to be happy and not to be unhappy more than others – everybody has that same feeling. And this is something very true; it’s true from the tiniest insect up. The example is usually used that if you put your finger down on the table or on the ground where an ant is walking, the ant will run around it. The ant wants to be happy. It doesn’t want to be blocked. Why does the ant go around? You try to catch an insect and it will run away. This is a clear indication that it wants to be happy and doesn’t want to be unhappy. 

So I think one of the more relevant ways of working with this point is to think how everybody wants to be liked, nobody wants to be disliked, nobody wants to be rejected. Even when we have people with psychological imbalance who feel that: “I am no good; everybody is going to reject me, so I will act even worse so that I’ll ensure that you reject me – I don’t leave it up to any chance.” If one really looks more deeply, they really do want to be accepted. Everybody really, deeply inside, even if they aren’t consciously admitting it, wants to be loved and not hated and rejected or ignored. That includes all these people who work in the metro station in this tiny, tiny little space selling magazines, or something small like that – they want to be liked and not ignored or disliked. These are people that are very good examples to focus on in our practice, how we tend to really ignore such people. And here in Moscow there are so many more of these little tiny shops in the metro station than in many other cities, and how horrible to actually work in one of these. You can hardly move in that space, and there’s no fresh air or clean air, and how isolated you must feel sitting in this tiny little booth with thousands of people walking by and ignoring you. And how many people, if you’re selling underwear, are going to stop in the metro station and buy something from you? I mean, what a horrible job. 

So everybody wants to be happy. Nobody wants to be unhappy. We’re all equal. That’s from the point of view of others – everybody’s equal from that point of view. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, everybody appreciates a smile rather than a frown. Obviously not a stupid smile on your face, like an idiot, in an inappropriate time; but just a kindly face, kindly expression, rather than no expression or a frown. So let’s focus on that. Certainly everybody sitting here in the circle wants to be liked and not disliked, and nobody wants to be ignored. 

[silence] 

So that brings us to the end of our session, and we’ll continue later.