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Gomchen Lamrim review: Equanimity and equalizing self and others

Gomchen Lamrim review: Equanimity and equalizing self and others

Part of a series of teachings on the Gomchen Lamrim by Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa. Visit Gomchen Lamrim Study Guide for a full list of contemplation points for the series.

  • The origin story of the method of equalizing and exchanging self and others
  • Meditation on equanimity from the 7 point cause and effect method
  • Meditation on equanimity from the equalizing and exchanging self and other method
  • Similarities and differences between these two methods for developing equanimity

Gomchen Lamrim review: Equanimity and equalizing self and others (download)

Contemplation points

Generating equanimity for the 7 Point Cause and Effect Method

  1. Bring to mind in the space in front of you, a friend, an enemy (someone you might shrink away from), and a stranger. With these three in front of you, ask yourself:
    • Why do I feel attachment to my friend?
    • Why do I have aversion towards the person I find difficult?
    • Why am I apathetic towards the stranger?
  2. As you watch these reasons pop up, look a bit deeper: On what basis does your mind consider someone good, bad or neutral? Are qualities coming from the side of the person or are we making judgments from MY perspective?
  3. Now reflect on how these categories of friend, enemy and stranger are not as fixed as we think they might be. You can think about how one person might be difficult in the morning and then a friend in the afternoon, and then a stranger the next day. Think of an example of this in your personal life and ask yourself, “Who is that friend/enemy/stranger?”
  4. From doing this meditation, even briefly, we can see that it’s our mind, our personal judgements that are creating these categories and putting people into them. Actually, that blocks us from relating to each and every sentient being in an open-hearted way. Try and imagine what it might be like to stop discriminating these groups of beings based on your own opinions, wants, and needs. How would they appear and how would it feel in your own heart?
  5. Let yourself just rest in the feeling of open-hearted concern for all beings.

Generating equanimity for the Equalizing and Exchanging Self and Other Method

  1. We start by looking at reasons for equalizing self and other from our own perspective:
    • All sentient beings have been kind to us in the past, present, and future. Think about today. The fact that you can be here or that you woke up in a warm bed and had food to eat. All that came from the kindness of sentient beings. Even if they didn’t do it specifically for you, we are benefitting every moment from their kindness. Take a moment to connect with that feeling of being surrounded by kindness.
    • The harm that others have done to us is so much less than the amount of benefit that they’ve given to us. If our mind starts to find fault or resist the idea that beings have been kind, we can check up with our experience. Have more beings been kind or harmed us? And this is just one day. Look in your own experience to see if others have been kinder or caused you more harm.
    • We’re all equal in that we’re all going to die. It doesn’t make any sense to hold grudges. It doesn’t make us or them happy. There’s no need to discriminate.
    • Others have been more kind to us than even the kindness we have shown ourselves. Often kindness towards ourselves is self-indulgence or has created negative karma, unlike the kindness we’ve received from all sentient beings.
  2. Next we look at reasons for equalizing self and other from others’ perspective:
    • Not only have others been kind, they all just want to be happy and not to suffer. Make specific example from your personal life of how we are all the same in this way.
    • Imagine if ten beggars came up to you, all reaching out to you for help and support. Would it make any sense for you to discriminate between these ten or can we see that all these beggars are equal in their wish for happiness and to avoid suffering? Develop that sincere wish to benefit them equally.
    • We can also bring to mind before us ten patients, all suffering from different ailments. Again, do we want to discriminate between these ten? Or can we again connect with the sense that they are equal in needing help, wanting to be free from suffering?
    • Here we can come to the conclusion that we’re really just the same as everyone else. Our happiness and suffering are not any more important than theirs.
  3. We can expand our minds further and try to see things in the perspective of the Buddha:
    • Imagine how the Buddha would look at the people we label friend, enemy, and stranger. Would the Buddha see them in the same way or would he look at all of them with the same open-hearted concern and love?
    • If the Buddha doesn’t see them that way, perhaps they are not friend, enemy or stranger from their own side. What if things were the way we think they are: friends were always friends, enemies always enemies, etc. Is that a realistic point of view?
    • From reflecting on this, we can see that just as there is no inherent friend, enemy, and stranger out there, we are also not inherently me or you. Self and other are mutually dependent. We are not extra special in the Buddha’s eyes. When we see that this is just coming from our habit to label me vs. you and relate to each other in that way, we can see clearly that our happiness and suffering is not more important than that of other beings. We are all the same in that.
Venerable Thubten Damcho

Ven. Damcho (Ruby Xuequn Pan) met the Dharma through the Buddhist Students’ Group at Princeton University. After graduating in 2006, she returned to Singapore and took refuge at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See (KMSPKS) Monastery in 2007, where she served as a Sunday School teacher. Struck by the aspiration to ordain, she attended a novitiate retreat in the Theravada tradition in 2007, and attended an 8-Precepts retreat in Bodhgaya and a Nyung Ne retreat in Kathmandu in 2008. Inspired after meeting Ven. Chodron in Singapore in 2008 and attending the one-month course at Kopan Monastery in 2009, Ven. Damcho visited Sravasti Abbey for 2 weeks in 2010. She was shocked to discover that monastics did not live in blissful retreat, but worked extremely hard! Confused about her aspirations, she took refuge in her job in the Singapore civil service, where she served as a high school English teacher and a public policy analyst. Offering service as Ven. Chodron’s attendant in Indonesia in 2012 was a wake-up call. After attending the Exploring Monastic Life Program, Ven. Damcho quickly moved to the Abbey to train as an Anagarika in December 2012. She ordained on October 2, 2013 and is the Abbey’s current video manager. Ven. Damcho also manages Ven. Chodron’s schedule and website, helps with editing and publicity for Venerable’s books, and supports the care of the forest and vegetable garden.

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