Lion's Roar

A Kinder World Begins with YOU

Be Kind to YOURSELF

You have enlightened nature, says PEMA KHANDRO. If you truly know that, you’ll always be kind to yourself.

WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT daily practice, they usually mean doing silent meditation, a ritual, or mantra recitation. These are important parts of our daily practice, but there is another crucial dimension: it is being kind to our own body-mind. This is a method for connecting with our buddhanature during our daily activities.

There is a beautiful practice in Mahayana Buddhism, described in the Flower Ornament Sutra and Longchenpa’s Guide to Meditation, that says we should use whatever we do as an opportunity to cultivate altruistic, enlightened intent. When we eat food, we wish, “May sentient beings attain the food of meditative stability.” When sitting on a seat, we wish, “May sentient beings attain the Vajra Seat.” When walking, we think, “I am walking to serve all sentient beings.” And even when fastening a belt, we think, “May all sentient beings be fastened to the root of virtue.” In reciting lines like these to ourselves, our kindness and care is expanded and directed outward to others. Buddhist practice, however, also calls us to care for ourselves.

The Tibetan Buddhist yogi Choying Tobden Dorje (1785–1848) taught a deity yoga practice somewhat similar to the one described above. However, the kindness that is generated, in this case, is directed at the self. In this practice, when we are eating, we visualize ourselves presenting food and offerings to the buddhas that live in our body. Likewise, when we are sitting on a seat, we visualize that we are sitting in the celestial palace of a buddha, wherein every sense perception leads us to vivid presence. When we are walking, we visualize that we are circumambulating the three jewels, and—my favorite—when we are bathing ourselves, we visualize that all the deities, buddhas, bodhisattvas, and dakinis are bathing us with nectar.

Such contemplations express an attitude of gentleness, love, and kindness toward ourselves and our body-mind. They are practices of receiving and giving. They are instructions, as buddhanature training, for caring for our body, including its clothing, nourishment, and bathing. This is what it means to bring our everyday life onto the path.

Beyond practices like these, which could be regarded as practices of view, there are two practical daily actions necessary as the basic foundation of our spiritual lives—eating and sleeping well. They may seem prosaic, but these are acts of care and gentleness that tune us into our buddhanature. One teaching that I recite to myself frequently is the Zen saying “When hungry—eat; when tired—sleep.” It sounds simple, but it can be incredibly difficult to honor our body-mind

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