Hearing about bodhisattvas’ ability to cherish others more than themselves, we may doubt, “If I abandon all self-interest and only cherish others, I will neglect myself and my suffering will increase.” Cherishing others does not mean ignoring our own needs and caring only for others. If we did that, we would fall into a deplorable state in which benefiting others and practicing the dharma would be nearly impossible. In that case, instead of our helping others, they would need to take care of us!

While one form of self-interest is selfish, stingy, and irritable, another is wise self-interest that understands that benefiting ourselves and helping others need not be contradictory. . . . While one sense of self—self-grasping ignorance—is a troublemaker, stable and realistic self-confidence is necessary to accomplish the path. Bodhisattvas must have exceptionally strong self-confidence to be able to complete all the perfections. Free from arrogance, such self-confidence aspires for what is positive without clinging to it.

Self-confidence is essential to begin, continue, and complete the path to awakening, and our buddhanature is a valid basis on which to generate it. Reflecting on emptiness helps us to recognize our buddhanature, for we see that the defilements are adventitious and can be removed. Compassion for others also builds self-confidence, as does remembering our precious human life, its meaning, purpose, and rarity.

From Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions, by the Dalai Lama and Thubten Chodron. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications. www.wisdompubs.org

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