1 Geshe Jampa Tegchok: The Kindness of Others
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.
We are extremely fortunate to live at a time when the Mahayana mind training teachings abound. There was a time not so long ago when they were much harder to find. Of course, as many lamas point out, all of the Buddha’s teachings are for training the mind, in that mind training can be said to be the subject of the oftquoted verse,
Do not commit any non-virtuous actions,
Perform only virtuous actions,
Subdue your mind thoroughly—
This is the teaching of the Buddha.1
But in the Tibetan tradition, at least, the connotation of mind training is the development of bodhicitta, the determination to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. And of the various methods for the development of bodhicitta, mind training emphasizes the practice of transforming suffering into happiness, using the various problems and obstacles we encounter in life as supports for our spiritual practice and not allowing them to overwhelm us or even slow us down.
Based on a couple of lines from Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, the main Tibetan source of the mind training teachings is Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s Seven-Point Mind Training. Currently there are at least fourteen English-language commentaries on this text by both Tibetan and Western teachers, as detailed in the bibliography of this book, which is another reason that we’re extremely fortunate. However, the availability of these teachings is not enough. We have to put them into practice.
Therefore we are most grateful to the great Geshe Jampa Tegchok for adding his lucid explanation of how to practice mind training. With reference to a special Tibetan commentary,2 he engages us in a debate between our inner selfish voice and our altruistic motivation, which makes this teaching especially personal in helping us take on that greatest of challenges—defeating the false logic of our own selfishness. We are honored to have been able to edit this oral teaching to make it available for worldwide distribution free of charge.
We thank Ven. Steve Carlier for his excellent translation, Ven. Geshe Lhakdor, director of the Tibetan Library of Works and Archives, Dharamsala, for allowing us to use the translation of Pabongka Rinpoche’s edition of the root text found in the LTWA’s Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun, Clive Arrowsmith for his beautiful photography, and Jeff Cox of Snow Lion Publications for sending us Alan Wallace’s teachings for reference.
1. The Dhammapada, Chapter 14.
2. See Chapter 10: Conclusion.
Chapter One: Motivation
The Buddha said that when we meet to teach, listen to or discuss the Dharma it is very important that we have the best possible motivation for doing so. Whether what we do is good or bad depends almost entirely on our reason for doing it—in other words, our motivation. And while this is true in general, it is especially important to have the purest possible motivation when teaching or listening to the particular thought transformation practice we are discussing here. From the side of both teacher and student a virtuous motivation is critical, otherwise they risk putting much effort into something that has no chance of a positive result.
It is extremely negative if the teacher is teaching to enhance his or her reputation, win new followers, receive many offerings or become highly venerated or the student is listening with competitive thoughts or to gain fame, a good reputation, wealth or a big following. The great Indian practitioner and scholar Atisha said that anything done merely for this life is not a Dharma practice. Moreover, while the motivations to avoid rebirth in the three lower realms or achieve complete personal liberation from cyclic existence are not negative, they are still not the best.
When your motivation for giving or listening to teachings, meditating, helping others and so forth is simply to avoid rebirth in the lower realms it is called small scope motivation. When it is longer term and greater than that and aimed at complete liberation from the whole of cyclic existence it is called middle scope motivation.
When your motivation is even greater than that and aimed at benefiting every single sentient being and if, in order to do that, you are determined to achieve the state of full enlightenment—which is completely free of all faults and has all good qualities fully developed to their highest potential—it is the supreme motivation and called that of the great scope. When this is your motivation, every activity in which you engage—giving, listening to or meditating on teachings and so forth— becomes a practice of the great scope and is the best and highest kind of practice you can possibly do.
What about practices associated with deities such as Medicine Buddha, Tara or Saraswati? For example, certain Medicine Buddha practices can help you overcome obstacles and illness and have a long life. Are such practices considered spiritual? It depends on your motivation.
If you genuinely feel that a long life will help you be of greater benefit to others and with that kind of attitude engage in practices for overcoming obstacles, ill health and so forth, they will definitely be spiritual because you will not be doing them merely for this life.
Engaging in such practices after you have recognized that you possess the many characteristics and supportive conditions needed for engaging in meaningful and powerful spiritual practice in this life is completely different from simply doing them for worldly purposes. A life completely free from adverse conditions that prevent such practice provides exceptional opportunities. Therefore, not only should you engage in practices that allow you to keep your life conducive to Dharma practice but you should also abandon any urge to waste it and, instead, feel compelled to use your life to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of Others.
In fact, the kind of life we presently have is so exceptional that even the gods, who appear to have extraordinarily good fortune, actually have nothing like the good fortune that we do because they have no opportunity to practice Dharma.
Therefore, we should use this opportunity to pursue enlightenment for the sake of others because not only is it the very best way of using our life, it’s also because all beings are basically the same as us in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering.
We all want the greatest, longest lasting and best possible happiness; we utterly dislike suffering, problems and even the slightest difficulty. That we abhor even one or two problems let alone many shows that we all want happiness and freedom from suffering, and the best way of getting what we want and avoiding that which we don’t is the practice of Dharma.
We might think that even though it’s important to practice Dharma, it’s not essential to do so just yet because we can always do it in future lives. However, that’s a very mistaken way to think because our present human life has exceptional opportunities and attributes. There are eighteen advantages to this human life—the eight freedoms and the ten richnesses—and a life like this is very difficult to find.
The perfect human rebirth is difficult to find because its causes are very difficult to create. Furthermore, it combines many different characteristics, attributes and qualities that very rarely come together and therefore there’s no certainty that we’ll be able to enjoy this kind of opportunity again in future. Certain things almost never happen3 and this human life is even more difficult to acquire than those. Therefore we should definitely practice Dharma in this very life.
We might also think, “Yes, I should practice Dharma in this life but not right now—maybe next month, next year or some other time in future.” This, too, is a big mistake because there’s no guarantee that we’ll be around that long. Our lifespan is not fixed. If we could be sure of living for, say, a hundred years, it might be reasonable to put things off for a while, but in fact our time of death is totally unfixed. We have no idea at all when we’ll die. Therefore we should resolve to practice immediately.
As long as we’re ignorant of such things it’s quite understandable that we don’t feel responsible for our future but once we do know, it’s vital that we start making our life meaningful. As the Buddha taught, we are our own protector; the responsibility is ours. Nobody else can practice for us. We have to practice and take responsibility for ourselves, especially for our future lives. It’s the same as when we’re ill—the doctor makes the diagnosis and prescribes the appropriate medicine but it’s our responsibility to actually follow the advice given and take the medicine prescribed. Nobody else can do it for us.
Over the centuries many practitioners from all four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism have attained enlightenment in a single lifetime but it’s not easy to do. It takes hard work and great intelligence. Therefore we should expect it to take many lifetimes for us to do so. But if we devote our life to developing qualities such as love and compassion and avoid actions that harm ourselves and others as much as we possibly can there’s reason to hope that in our next life we’ll be able to continue from where we left off. In this way, over a series of lives, we’ll gradually progress to buddhahood.
The Buddha said that all he could do was to teach the path to liberation and enlightenment and that it was then up to us whether or not we reached those states. To do so, therefore, we have to follow his advice and live according to his teachings. There’s no other way. He said, “I can’t pour my wisdom and compassion into your mind, wash away your negativities or remove your suffering by hand, like pulling out a thorn. All I can do is to explain what you have to do to achieve the freedom from suffering, realizations and qualities that I did.”
Therefore, please generate the highest motivation for studying these teachings by thinking, “I must help all sentient beings as much as I possibly can. In order to do so, I must attain enlightenment. Then I will definitely be able to benefit others in the highest possible way.”
Even if you don’t have an extensive understanding of Buddhism, if you generate that kind of motivation you will ensure that your time is not wasted, and as you discover and read more about the Dharma, your understanding will gradually increase.
3The teachings mention such things as stars shining at noon and rice grains thrown against a wall adhering to it. See also Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, p. 319 ff.
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
The subject of this teaching is mind training [Tib: lo-jong],4 which has the connotation of cleansing, or purifying, our mental,verbal and physical actions. Actually, from that point of view, all the Buddha’s teachings are mind training in that they were all given for training the body, speech and mind.
The source of this teaching
This text, the Seven-Point Mind Training, is associated with Atisha, a great scholar and practitioner born in India in the tenth century. He received this teaching from Serlingpa, “The Man (or Teacher) from the Golden Isle,” which refers to Sumatra.
There are two methods for generating and practicing bodhicitta, the sevenfold cause and effect instruction, which, during Atisha’s time, was available in India, and the method of exchanging self and others, which was not. Therefore Atisha had to undertake the difficult, thirteen-month journey from India to Indonesia to receive the teachings on exchanging self and Others.
The text begins5
Homage to great compassion
The term “great compassion” may be understood on two levels: interpretive and definitive. On the interpretive level, it refers to Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion; on the definitive level, it is the mind wanting to free all beings from suffering. This is the compassion that is important at the beginning, like a seed; in the middle, like the moisture and nutrition that make a plant grow; and at the end, like the ripening of the fruit.
The essence of this nectar of secret instruction
Is transmitted from the master from Sumatra, Serlingpa.
These two lines explain the great qualities of the teacher in order to generate confidence in the source of the mind training teachings. They originated with the Buddha himself and have come down to us today through an unbroken lineage of masters, including Serlingpa and Atisha.
Generally speaking, nectar means immortality—here it specifically indicates something that overpowers the various demonic forces that put an end to our life. Thus it actually indicates the Buddha, because the story of the Buddha tells how he overcame those forces. So when the text says “this nectar” it shows that this teaching has come from the Buddha.
He actually taught the method of generating bodhicitta through equalizing and exchanging self and others in a couple of sutras where he described how he had practiced it himself in previous lives. This teaching on exchanging self and others then passed down from master to master until it reached the great Nagarjuna, who wrote in his text, the Precious Garland of the Middle Way,
May the negativity and suffering of others ripen on me
And may all my virtue and happiness ripen on them.6
Buddha Maitreya also taught it in his Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras and Asanga taught it in his seven treatises on the levels, specifically in his Bodhisattva Levels. Moreover, Shantideva taught this subject very clearly in his Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, where he explained exactly what equalizing and exchanging self and others means. Thus this lineage shows that this teaching comes from an authentic source—the Buddha—and is not something newly fabricated.
The root text continues:
You should understand the significance of this instruction
As like a diamond, the sun and a medicinal tree.
This time of the five degenerations will then be transformed
Into the path to the fully awakened state.
This section, an explanation of the greatness of the text, is designed to excite our interest in it. The second line says “like a diamond, the sun and a medicinal tree,” the Tibetan word dorje [Skt: vajra] being translated as “diamond” here. Even a small fragment of diamond is more valuable than gold or other precious substances, so a diamond is said to outshine them all. Similarly, even a small, partial instruction from the Seven-Point Mind Training is exceptionally powerful and very effective for destroying our selfishness, and in that way it surpasses all other kinds of teaching.
Then it says that mind training is like the sun. Of course, when the sun is up and fully visible in the sky it completely illuminates the land, but even before it has actually arisen its light dispels much of the darkness of the night. Similarly, even when we understand or practice only a part of mind training it is already very powerful in overcoming selfishness and the other delusions.
Finally, mind training is likened to a medicinal tree, whose roots, trunk, branches, flowers and leaves are all therapeutic, making the whole tree medicinal. Therefore, while of course the whole tree can cure disease, even one of its leaves or petals is similarly effective, and in the same way, even a partial explanation of this mind training is very powerful in overcoming the negative mind.
Therefore, just as diamonds, the sun and medicinal trees are regarded as important and precious, so, too, is this mind training teaching.
The last two lines of this verse say “This time of the five degenerations will then be transformed into the path to the fully awakened state.” Without going into the time of the five degenerations in detail, it refers to a period such as the present, when people’s minds and activities have degenerated.7 For instance, even though we have used our mind to make incredible technological advances—for example, we have harnessed nuclear power with all its positive uses—we have also used that very same intelligence to create weapons of mass destruction.
Somehow, ours is a time of fear, and in that sense it is degenerate. Nuclear power stations can be very dangerous if they malfunction and nuclear weapons obviously threaten us all. There are many adverse circumstances within our external environment and our own minds and bodies that likewise cause us many problems. At such times it is very easy for practitioners to completely abandon their practice. If we fail to respond to such difficulties properly we will experience only negative consequences.
We’re liable to face many dangerous and harmful situations where not only do we risk giving up even trying to practice Dharma but sometimes things are so bad that we end up killing ourselves. Usually we’re very fond of ourselves—nobody cares for us as much as we do—but when the going gets rough some of us even kill ourselves.
Therefore, instead of just letting things be, we need to find a method that enables us to transform unfavorable conditions into a support for our practice and not let them stop us from doing it altogether.
4 Sometimes translated as thought transformation.
5 In this commentary, the root text is indented and italicized; quotations from other sources are indented but not italicized.
6 Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation, p.162, verse 484.
7 The five degenerations are those of life span, view, delusion, sentient beings and time. See Advice from a Spiritual Friend, pp. 86–87, for a brief description
Chapter Three: The First Point – The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
So far we have looked at the source of this instruction and its qualities. This section shows how the teacher should lead students through the instruction. Because the text explains the practice in seven sections, it is called the Seven-Point Mind Training.
The first of the seven points is stated in the line
First, train in the preliminaries.
While mind training is a practice of the person of great scope, it depends upon the preliminaries, which are practices explained mainly for persons of small and middle scopes. There are four. The practices for a person of small scope are thinking about
(a) the precious human life—how difficult to achieve and valuable it is;
(b) impermanence—in the sense of meditating mindfully on death; and
(c) refuge and karma—the explanation of karma and its results is the advice we should follow after going for refuge.
The practices for a person of middle scope, which are based on the above, are mainly
(d) meditating on the faults and sufferings of cyclic existence.
However, we don’t have time here to discuss all these small and middle scope preliminary practices in detail.8
8For detailed teachings on all three scopes see, for example, The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment and Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand.
Chapter Four: The Second Point – The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
For practitioners of great scope, the main point is the method of meditating on or practicing bodhicitta—the determination to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. What does this mean? Bodhicitta is a primary mind associated with two aspirations— the first, its cause, is what we practice to generate bodhicitta, the aspiration to benefit all sentient beings; the second, which accompanies and is similar to bodhicitta, is the aspiration to achieve enlightenment.
So, bodhicitta is a primary mind accompanied by the aspiration for enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. There are three kinds of enlightenment—those of the hearer, solitary realizer and bodhisattva. Bodhicitta aspires to the highest form of enlightenment, that of the bodhisattva—the great, or Mahayana, enlightenment. When we understand that bodhicitta is the aspiration to attain the highest kind of enlightenment and that hearers and solitary realizers do not have it, we should feel strongly motivated to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings because of the many unbearable sufferings they experience within cyclic existence.
We should also recognize that we are impermanent, changing from moment to moment, and must eventually leave this life, as we cannot stay here forever. Furthermore, when we do leave this life, even though we might have accumulated enough wealth and possessions to completely fill the whole Earth, we can take absolutely nothing with us and have to leave it all behind. Even if we have a huge family with hundreds of thousands of relatives, we will have to relinquish them all; not one can accompany us. Even this body, which we have inhabited since we entered our mother’s womb and have taken so much care of all our life, will not help us but will be left behind. Understanding all this should encourage us to practice and try to generate bodhicitta right away.
Of course, generating bodhicitta will not protect us from death, but if we do generate this attitude—or even if we simply practice it—we will not die a normal death; we will die with joy. That’s the difference bodhicitta makes. Normally, as we age, we find it difficult to stand up—we have to haul ourselves up on a stick or push against something solid—and when we sit down we just flop down into the chair. It’s difficult to do anything. But if we have developed bodhicitta, we’ll at least know that death is going to bring us a nice new body and will feel very positive about dying.
I speak from personal experience about the suffering of old age. I tell you, if you went to bed one night and woke up the next morning old, with all its attendant sufferings, you’d find it totally unbearable. However, the special sufferings of old age creep up on us gradually, and those who have had plenty of positive experiences from practicing bodhicitta are quite happy to die because it’s a chance to get rid of their rubbishy old body and move into one in which it will be much easier to practice. People who die without having practiced Dharma feel very afraid.
There are two kinds of bodhicitta—conventional and ultimate. Certain earlier presentations of how to generate it explained how to develop ultimate bodhicitta first and then moved on to conventional bodhicitta, but some recent masters have said that this is incorrect and that instead we should begin with conventional bodhicitta and then practice the ultimate. This is the order of the version presented here; the tradition that put ultimate bodhicitta first was taught for practitioners of extremely sharp intellect.
The training in conventional bodhicitta is explained here principally by way of the technique of equalizing and exchanging self and others. The other method, the sevenfold cause and effect instruction, is partly relevant, but equalizing and exchanging self and others is what is mainly explained. In his Compendium of Training, Shantideva says that our bodhicitta will be much firmer if we develop it by practicing equalizing and exchanging self and others from the outset.
Equalizing self and others
What exactly does equalizing self and others mean? Specifically, what is it that is supposed to be equalized? For example, is it that self and others are equal in being selfless, lacking in self-existence? Although this is true, it’s not what is meant here. Is it that self and others are equal in suffering in cyclic existence? Again, although this is true as well, neither is that our focus here. Perhaps the meaning is that self and others are equal in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering? The answer here is yes, self and others are indeed the same in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering, and this is what we are talking about here.
When we talk about equalizing self and others in order to generate bodhicitta, what we mean by the equality of self and others is that we all want happiness and none of us wants suffering.
Since time without beginning we have harbored the selfish attitude that continually makes us afraid of getting cold, hungry, thirsty and so forth or suffering in other ways. We always worry about what will happen to us. This continual worry is the selfishness that’s called the self-cherishing mind—the tendency to focus on our own happiness while neglecting the welfare and needs of others—and we have been under its influence since beginningless time.
Exchanging self and others means switching these two so that instead of being primarily concerned about our own happiness we become more concerned for that of others, and instead of neglecting others we neglect ourselves and strive for enlightenment for their benefit.
There is a connection between the self-cherishing mind and self-grasping, or grasping at true existence. The self-grasping mind is the actual root, or fundamental cause, of all samsaric suffering but it is very closely followed by the self-cherishing mind, which arises on the basis of self-grasping and itself serves as the basis for all the other delusions.
There are said to be 84,000 delusions, each of which arises as a result of the self-cherishing mind. Motivated by these delusions, we engage in harmful actions such as the ten non-virtuous actions, 9 the five immediate negativities 10 and other kinds of negative activity and, as a karmic consequence of doing so, have to undergo all kinds of unbearable suffering.
Thus the very root, the fundamental cause, of all our delusions, negative minds and suffering is self-grasping, the mind that thinks we are completely self-existent, inherently-existent; that we exist in a way that is totally independent of any causes or conditions, utterly independent of anything.
And if self-grasping is the king, then self-cherishing is his most powerful minister, the one who tries to achieve all kinds of objectives on his behalf. Selfishness itself does not conceive of or believe in the self as existing from its own side because that is not its job. However, the selfish mind does act as a protector or helper for the self that is conceived of by self-grasping as existing from its own side.
In order to get nice things for the self, self-cherishing causes us to develop attachment; to protect the self from harm, self-cherishing causes us to generate anger; in other situations it stimulates jealousy, pride and other delusions. Then, by following these negative minds, we engage in negative actions, create negative karma and suffer. Thus selfishness is just like a minister that the king can order around to get whatever he wants done.
Therefore, we should think repeatedly about how self-cherishing creates all our suffering and problems until we see it as our main enemy. Then, instead of allowing selfishness, whose main aim is our own happiness, to lead us around by the nose, we should switch everything around and start thinking about how we can benefit others, how their happiness is more important than our own.
If we think about it correctly we can easily understand how important others are and how all our happiness and fortune definitely and completely depend on them.
I mentioned before that one way of developing bodhicitta is through the sevenfold cause and effect instruction, which, based on equanimity, is as follows:
(a) recognizing that all beings have been our mother,
(b) recollecting their kindness as mother,
(c) thinking how to repay their kindness,
(d) developing love,
(e) developing compassion,
(f) generating the special intention of benefiting all beings by oneself alone, and then
(g) generating bodhicitta itself.
The only way we can gain these realizations is by depending on Others.
Likewise, the only way we can develop the six perfections of generosity, morality, patience, enthusiasm, concentration and wisdom is by depending on others. Take, for example, the practice of generosity, the mind wanting to give away all our possessions and even our body in order to benefit others. Obviously we can do this only in dependence upon others; it is only thanks to them that we can develop a generous mind.
Then there’s morality, which means abandoning the ten non-virtuous actions—killing, stealing, lying and so forth. Abandoning killing means giving up taking the lives of others; we can do this only by depending upon others; again, it is only thanks to them that we can do it. Similarly, we abandon stealing by regarding others as important and therefore not taking their possessions; it is only thanks to others that we can do this, too. The same applies to all other beneficial qualities of mind—we can develop them only through the kindness of Others.
We should think, therefore, that we must definitely attain the state of complete enlightenment as soon as possible for the sake of all sentient beings, and for that reason determine to spend all our time from now on working towards that goal without wasting even a moment. We must resolve to practice like this in particular for whatever remains of this life—studying, thinking, meditating and practicing as well as we can—especially this year, this month, this week and particularly this day. We must generate the strong determination to not waste time but spend every moment practicing whatever we have to do to attain enlightenment as quickly as possible.
Meditation on equalizing self and others is done by way of nine reasons, of which six work on the conventional level and three on the ultimate. With respect to the six conventional ones, three relate to self and three to others. This is how we should meditate on the equality of self and others.11
The shortcomings of self-cherishing
The fourth paragraph of the text says,
Banish the one to blame for everything,
Meditate on the great kindness of all beings.
The first line means that we should blame the self-cherishing mind for all our negative experiences. Why? Because every problem and fault we experience is a result of our own selfishness. Therefore we should blame ourselves for every unpleasant experience that befalls us, no matter how bad it is; we should grab hold of our own selfish mind and view it as the culprit.
As the great Shantideva wrote in his Guide,
All the suffering in the world
Comes from the desire for one’s own happiness.12
Every problem we experience comes from wanting and thinking of only our own happiness; all our suffering—everything that goes wrong, every kind of fault, everything fearful or unpleasant and all violence—comes from this selfish mind. Furthermore, it all comes equally from the self-grasping mind that conceives everything to exist from its own side.
Shantideva then compares selfishness to an extremely harmful spirit that continuously harms us.
If all the harm, fear and suffering in the world
Occur due to grasping onto the self,
What use is that great demon to me?13
Thus we’re encouraged to ask ourselves, “Why do I hang on to this selfish mind, which is such a harmful entity?”
As the Indian master Padampa Sangye told the people of Tingri, where he had decided to stay because he felt he could help them, whenever things go wrong we always blame others but we should instead point the finger of blame at ourselves, where the root of all problems lies.14
And, as the mind training text The Wheel-Weapon Mind Training says, if we develop this understanding it is marvelous, because by so doing we identify the real enemy that continuously gives us harm—beginning, middle and end. It says, “So now I’ve identified you, you thief.”15
But self-cherishing is not the ordinary kind of thief, who robs people by beating them up and forcibly taking their possessions. Self-cherishing is the type of thief that sneaks in surreptitiously at night and steals on the sly.
The Wheel-Weapon also says, “So now I’ve understood you for what you are, you unfaithful friend!”16 From the point of view of our own selfishness it seems to be our greatest friend, but in practice it does nothing but trick and deceive us. The selfish mind creates all the suffering we experience in this life, such as people being horrible to us, hitting and attacking us with weapons, but more especially, it is the cause of all the unbearable sufferings we’re going to experience in the lower realms in our future lives.
As Shantideva also said, look at the difference between the buddhas and ordinary worldly people like ourselves.17 Because we have not yet discarded our selfishness, we are still suffering here in cyclic existence, not even free from rebirth in the lower realms. Even arhats, who have completely transcended the suffering of cyclic existence, have reached only a limited degree of perfection because they have not relinquished their selfishness. They have not devoted themselves to benefiting others; therefore they have not been able to achieve the state of full enlightenment.
The Buddha, on the other hand, gave up all selfishness and totally devoted himself to benefiting others. As a result, he reached a state of complete freedom from suffering and to this day remains incredibly beneficial to and highly regarded by many beings. By seeing the difference between him and us, we will understand how important it is also to renounce the selfish mind and totally devote ourselves to benefiting Others.
Originally, the Buddha was exactly the same as us. When water is boiling, the water on the top goes to the bottom and the water on the bottom comes up to the top, and it keeps on going round like that. Similarly, in many previous lives we were together with the Buddha—sometimes as best friends, sometimes as worst enemies, all the time changing, changing, changing. Then, unlike us, at a certain point he decided to enter the path by renouncing selfishness and devoting himself to others, and kept on developing spiritually until he attained enlightenment.