December 15, 2004

by Norman Fischer | December 15, 2004 at 7:47 PM

December 15, 2004

The Vissudhimagga (The Path of Purification), a fifth century Buddhist classic, says that the development of loving kindness for others requires first the development of lovingkindness toward one's self. It quotes a verse by the Buddha that goes:

I visited all quarters with my mind Nor found I any dearer than myself Self is likewise to every other dear Who loves himself will never harm another

This from the sage who taught "no self" and the "empty nature of all phenomena!"

The Western mind can't see loving self as anything other than selfish- and we are supposed to be "selfless bodhisattvas." The Buddhist teachings on compassion are often taken this way- forget yourself, take care of others. But this isn't possible! Real love of others can only come from loving yourself well- not selfishly, but as the only possible pathway toward loving others. How else to love someone other than through appreciating one's own self as the vehicle of that loving? When you think about this with some clarity it makes perfect sense: to have strong self regard and loving care of the self not for the selfish sake of the self , which is just stupid (because "self" can't even ever be without other, selfishness is just ignorance) but because this is the only way to live together with others in kindness and beauty.

I am always impressed with the Buddha's good common sense and practical way of teaching. One begins to notice after a while how little sense one's conventional views actually make.


Norman Fischer