Ways Others Are Kind

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Step 3 — Reflecting on
Others' Kindness

Ways others are kind

If your own compassion is to become profoundly deep and strong, it helps to vividly remember the strong relationship you had at the beginning of this life with your mother.

Several of my Tibetan teachers talked about the kindness of our mothers: "How my mother held me close to her flesh, rocking me to and fro on her ten fingers." Little babies and little children, when mothers pull the blanket up to their shoulders and tuck them in, feel "Mmm, how nice!" You might remember that feeling of running into the house to mother for protection. Little kids hug their parents' knees and feel cared for and safe. We are bringing back that childhood feeling.

If you can remember your own mother's kindnesses, if you can remember your deep feelings for her and many specific instances of what she did for you, or if you watch mothers now or have a child of your own, you will see that a mother has to think about her child night and day, especially when it is an infant. If she stops thinking about the child even for an hour, it might die.

Remembering your early relationship with your mother supports the cultivation of your own compassion. By eventually taking her as the model of the helpful friend and applying your intimate knowledge of her closeness to every sentient being, the element of self-centeredness gradually falls away. We usually feel attachment to certain people and not to others, but when we apply this strong feeling to all sentient beings, the attachment fades.

When you recognize how kind someone has been to you, you are using an ordinary worldly attitude to keep you from responses of hatred.

For instance, if someone gave me a grant with a blank check to form a team of translators of Tibetan, I would be more than extremely pleased. If that person later came by and gave me a hard time, I would feel a measure of restraint because of the person's previous kindness. I would make an effort to work things out with the person.

When you reflect on how kind every person has been, there is that restraint to the point where, believe it or not, trained Buddhists will look at a fly or an ant walking across the table and think, "That is someone who bore me in her womb in a former lifetime, who took care of me."