Appendix 3 * Exchanging Self and Other.




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“The following passage, also taken from the commentary of Kunzang Pelden, is an explanation of exchanging self and others. A commentary on stanzas 140 and 154 of chapter 8, it explains how one can, by a feat of sympathetic imagination, place oneself in the position of others. In so doing, one gains an appreciation of how one appears in their eyes and of how and why they feel the way they do.”

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* The Exchange of Self and Other.


When you perform the meditation of exchange, take other beings, whether inferiors, superiors, or equals, and consider them as yourself, putting yourself in their position. When you have changed places, meditate without allowing any other thought to come in the way. Put yourself in the position of someone worse off than you and allow yourself to feel envy. Then put yourself in the position of someone on the same level and soak yourself in a sense of competitiveness and rivalry. Finally, taking the place of someone better off, allow yourself to feel pride and condescension.

* The Practice of Envy from the Point of View of Someone Less Well Off (Stanzas 141-146)

In each of these three meditations (following Shantideva’s lead]) whenever the text says “he” or “this person,” the reference is to your own “I” (now regarded as another person). When the text says “you,” it is referring to this other person (better off, equal, or worse off in relation to yourself) with whom you have now identified. You must now systematically generate . . .


the antidotes to pride, rivalry, and jealousy. The reason for doing this is that as soon as even the slightest virtue appears in the mind-stream, these three defilements follow in its trail. They are like demons that sap one’s integrity -- which explains the importance given to their antidotes.

Now, of the eight worldly concerns, honor, possessions, adulation, and happiness are the things that make you proud. So perform the exchange, placing yourself in the position of someone contemptible, someone despised, a beggar or tramp. Imagine that you become the poor person and that the poor person becomes you. Now allow yourself to feel that person’s envy.


Looking up at your former self (your ego, now regarded as someone else), someone talented, think how happy “he” must be, praised and respected by all and sundry. You on the other hand are nothing, nobody, a complete down-and-out, despised and utterly miserable. The person you are looking at is rich, has plenty to eat, clothes to wear, money to spend -- while you have nothing. He is respected for being learned, talented, well disciplines. You, on the other hand, are dismissed as a fool. He enjoys a wealth of every comfort and happiness, you by contrast are a pauper, your mind weighed down with worries, your body racked with disease, suffering and the discomforts f heat and cold.


You have to work like a slave, digging, harvesting grass -- while he can just sit back with nothing to do. As these thoughts pass through your mind, feel your envy. He even has servants and a private horse, on whom he inflicts a great deal of discomfort and suffering. He is not even aware that they are in distress, and there he is, oh so comfortable. And as if that weren’t enough, he get angry and lashes out, whipping and beating them. Put yourself in the position of his poor victims and take their suffering on yourself. If you manage to do this, it is said that you will come to recognize their sorrows. Compassion for them will grow and you will stop hurting them.

Once again, reflect that he is talented, of good family, wealthy, and surrounded by friends. you on the other hand are a complete nobody, well known to be good at nothing.


But, even though you have nothing to show for yourself, you might well ask “him” what reason he has to be so arrogant. After all, the existence or nonexistence of good qualities and the concepts of high and low are all relative. There are no absolute values. Even people who are low-down like you can be found to have something good about them, relatively speaking. Compared with someone with even . . .



greater talent, “he” is not so great. Compared with someone even more disfavored, feeble with age, lame, blind, and so forth, you are much better-off. After all, you can still walk on your own two feet; you can see with your eyes; you are not yet crippled with age. you have at least something.

This stanza, which begins “What! A nobody without distinction?” could be understood in a different sense, namely, that you have it in you to acquire all the excellence of training, since you have all the qualities of the utterly pure “tathagatagarbha,” the essence of Buddhahood, implicit in your nature. Thus you are far from being bereft of good qualities.


If he retorts that you are despicable because your discipline and understanding are a disgrace, or that you have no resources and so forth, this is not because you are evil in yourself, or that you are just inept; it is because your afflictions of desire, ignorance, avarice, and so on are so powerful that you are helpless. And so you should retort, saying:


All right, if you’re such a great and wonderful Bodhisattva, you should help me as much as you can; you should encourage and remedy the poor condition of my discipline, view, and resources. If you do help me, I am even prepared to accept punishment from you -- harsh words and beating -- just like a child at school learning to read and write who has to take a beating from the teacher.


But the fact is that you, the great Bodhisattva, are doing nothing for me; you don’t even give me a scrap of food or something to drink. So why are you passing yourself off as someone so great? You have no right to look down on me, no right to behave so scornfully to me and to people like me. And anyway, even if you “did” have any genuine virtues, if you can’t give me any relief or help, what use are they to me? They’re totally irrelevant.


After all, if you are a Bodhisattva but can stand by without the slightest intention of helping and saving me and those like me, who through the power of our evil karma are on our way to the lower realms like falling into the mouth of a ferocious beast -- if you have no compassion, you are yourself guilty of something completely unspeakable! But not only do you not acknowledge this, you are all the time passing yourself off as someone wonderful? The fact is, however, that you have no qualities at all. In our arrogance, . . .

[p. 192]


you want to put yourself on the same level as the real Bodhisattvas, those beings who are truly skilled and who in their compassion really do carry the burdens of others. Your behavior is totally outrageous!

This how to meditate on envy and resentment as the chief antidote to pride. By appreciating the suffering involved in being a poor and insignificant person, without talents or honor, you come to realize how wrong it is to be arrogant and scornful. It dawns on you how unpleasant it is for someone in a humble position when you are proud and supercilious toward them. You should stop behaving like this and begin to treat people with respect, providing them with sustenance and clothing, and working to help them in practical ways.

* The practice of Jealous Rivalry from the Point of View of an Equal (Stanzas 147-150)

Next you should make the exchange by taking the place of someone similar to, or slightly better than, yourself -- someone with whom you feel competitive, whether in religious or worldly affairs.


Tell yourself that, however good he is in terms of reputation and wealth, you will do better. Whatever possessions he has, and whatever respect he has in other people’s eyes, you will deprive him of them, whether in religious disputation or even by fighting -- and you will make sure you get them all for yourself.


In every way possible, you will advertise far and wide your own spiritual and material gifts, while hushing up whatever talents he has, so that no one will eve see or hear about them.


At the same time, you will cover up whatever faults you have, hiding them from the public gaze, while at the same time gossiping about all the shortcomings of your rival, making quite sure that everyone knows about them. Under the impression that you are beyond reproach, lots of people will congratulate you, while for him it will be just the opposite. From now on, you will be the wealthy one, the center of attention. For him, there will be nothing.


For a long time, and with intense satisfaction, you will gloat over the penalties he will have to suffer for breaking his vows of religion, or because he has misbehaved in worldly life. You will make him an object of scorn and derision, and in public gatherings you will make him despicable in the eyes of others, digging out and exposing all his secret sins.


By using a spirit of rivalry in this way as an antidote to jealousy, you will come to recognize our own faults in being competitive with others. Then you will stop behaving like this and instead do whatever you can t help your rivals with presents and honors.

* The Practice of Pride from the Point of View of Someone Bette-Off (Stanzas 151-154)

Now imagine yourself in the position of someone who is better off, who looks down on you with pride and derision.


(And from this vantage point) think that it has come to your notice that he, this tiresome nonentity, is trying to put himself on a par with you. But what comparison could anyone possibly make between you and him -- whether in learning or intelligence, in good looks, social class, wealth, and possessions? The whole idea is ridiculous. It’s like comparing the earth with the sky!


Hearing everyone talking about your talents, about all your learning and so on, saying how it sets you apart from such an abject individual, all this is extremely gratifying. The thrill of it is so intense that your skin is covered with goose pimples. You should really enjoy the feeling!


If, through his own hard work, and despite the obstacles he has to contend with, he manages to make some headway, you agree that, so long as he abases himself and works subserviently according to your instructions, this low-down wretch will get no more than the merest necessities in return: food to fill his stomach and enough cloths on his back to keep out the wind. But as for any extras, you, being the stronger, will confiscate them and deprive him.


Every kind of pleasure that this inferior might have, you will undermine, and in addition, you will constantly attack him piling on all kinds of unpleasantness.

But why are you being so vicious? Because of all the many hundreds of times that this person (your own ego) has harmed you while you were wandering in samsara. Or again, this stanza could be explained as meaning that you will wear away the satisfaction of this self-cherishing mentality and constantly undermine it, because this self-centered attitude has brought you suffering so many hundreds of times in the hells and other places of samsara. This is how Shantideva shows the fault of not being rid of pride.

In this way, use this meditation on pride as the principal antidote to jealous resentment. When people who are superior to you behave proudly . . .


and insult you with their overweening attitude, you will think to yourself: “Why are these people being so arrogant and offensive?” But instead of being envious and resentful, change places with them. Using the meditation on pride, place yourself in that position of superiority, and ask yourself whether you have the same feelings of pride and condescension. And if you find that you too are proud and condescending and have scorn and contempt for those lower down than yourself, you will be able to look at those who are now behaving arrogantly toward you and think, “Well, yes, I can see why they feel the way they do.” And so you will serve them respectfully, avoiding attitudes of rivalry and contention.