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Seeing only with our eyes

We're all so similar, yet somehow it's easy to cross that line and use other people for our own happiness, in ways we would never want to be used ourselves.

"Far from making myself available for others' happiness, everyone else should be available, from my point of view, for my happiness. If you don't contribute to my happiness, watch out!" Can you relate to this?

What is it about our minds that keeps us from this recognition, that makes it so easy to forget?

One factor is that we mainly encounter others through the medium of sight—through our visual consciousness, our eyes. We mainly see other people, but we mainly feel ourselves, and we remain primarily concerned with our own feelings of warmth, cold, hunger, thirst, breathing, this pleasure, or that pain. We use radically different modes for self and other.

Because we so often use the medium of sight to form our knowledge of others, we see persons in silly categories such as black, white, yellow, and red. Here's one of the first questions that young monks are asked in Tibetan monastic education:

Is a white horse white?

The proper answer is "No, the color of a white horse is white." A horse, like a human, is a sentient being, and beings are not colors. Colors are merely material. Persons are designated in dependence upon mind and body, but they are neither mind nor body, nor even a collection of the two.

Seeing but not feeling others

What we see as other people is merely color and shape. For us, that's the main basis for defining other people. We define ourselves, however, through feeling, and it is crucial whether that feeling is pleasurable or painful. We're seeking pleasure, seeking to get rid of pain, so we're in close touch with our own quest to gain happiness and remove suffering. With other people, since the main medium of perception is different, we tend to be less aware.