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Be Gentle to Yourself


Buddhists are people who have resolved to be with themselves on a more intimate level. This means two things: to be mindful of one’s own actions and thoughts, and to be gentle to oneself. Vigilant mindfulness allows us to see our own narrowness, apathy, and confusion. We may think we are good enough, but through mindfulness, we find it is not at all true. And this is probably what makes so many Buddhists procrastinate when it comes to practice. Unlike talking high theories or performing rituals and charitable deeds pretentiously, facing one’s own shortcomings does not please vanity or boost morale. However, some people go to the opposite extreme and the result of their vigilant mindfulness troubles them. Probing hard what is beneath their narrowness, apathy, and confusion, they become cynical and unfriendly due to their own self-criticisms.

Without mindfulness and introspection, we cannot ultimately dispel delusion; without gentleness and graciousness, there is only pain left in our practice. Love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and impartiality all arise from a gentle warm heart. To be loving and compassionate is a popular teaching, but this love and compassion should be directed to both others and oneself, and firstly to oneself. Without being loving and compassionate to oneself, it will be hard for one to do so for others. We should honor each momentary experience, value the insights gained through them, and acknowledge our weakness without losing self-esteem. Even if we see our faults, we remain content and appreciative. Doing so is essential to our practice because only by not giving up on ourselves will we not abandon others; only when we esteem our own feelings will we willingly develop empathy for others; only when we believe that we have the potential of attaining enlightenment will we believe that others, too, have such potential and eventually enter the Mahayana path.

Mahayana Buddhists aspire to practice Buddhadharma and attain Buddhahood for the ultimate liberation of all sentient beings. This vast attitude is called bodhichitta in Sanskrit. We have long wandered in samsara and have been well coached by greed, ignorance, and anger. Consequently, the generation of bodhichitta is easier said than done. Nonetheless, we should aspire to do so, even if our aspiration is not quite sincere or even in doubt. Our mind is extremely malleable, and provided we keep training it, things that are false can eventually become true. In time, a contrived aspiration can be transformed to veritable bodhichitta.

In Buddhist practice, bodhichitta is not empty rhetoric. It is based on the four boundless qualities of love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and impartiality, and involves detailed steps to arouse.

from " The Path: A Guide to Happiness"