Dechen Rochard - ‘Being Kind to Oneself Means Being Kind to Others: A Buddhist Approach to Rational Self-Interest, Selflessness, and Altruism’. Delivered at the 2015 HPP/DLC Persons and Community colloquium.
This paper examines the qualities of love, understood to be an active mental state that displaces harmful attitudes within an individual’s own mind-stream. It outlines a Buddhist meditation practice that nurtures the development of loving-kindness for all beings equally, beginning with love for oneself. This beneficial type of self-interest is differentiated from a harmful type known as self-grasping in Buddhist sources. Self-grasping is a naturally-arising, distorted awareness that holds its object to bear its identity independently of any mind perceiving or conceiving it. It is identified as the inner cause of all harmful mental attitudes and hurtful conduct, the source of both personal suffering and problems within the community. Self-grasping can be gradually removed from an individual’s mind-stream by repeatedly engaging in a direct awareness of the absence of its held object, also known as selflessness, which is generated through analytical meditation practice. While this is effective in purifying an individual’s mind-stream, the most far-reaching motivation for meditating on selflessness, as well as practicing generosity, patience, and so on, is an enhanced altruism known as bodhicitta, or the will to enlightenment. This is the most powerful kind of love and compassion possible; it eclipses any limited self-interest and propels an individual to attain personal enlightenment specifically to help all other beings become free from suffering and its inner cause. This gradual process of transforming the mind ensures the well-being of the individual practitioner by means of contributing to the well-being of others.