Abandoning self-cherishing completely is not easy and will take a long time. If we are not happy with ourself, or foolishly neglect our own well-being, we will have neither the confidence nor the energy to effect such a radical spiritual transformation.
If we are excessively self-critical we will turn in on ourself and become discouraged, and this will make it very difficult for us to turn our mind to cherishing others. Although it is necessary to be aware of our faults, we should not hate ourself for them.
Great compassion is a spontaneous wish to release all living beings from the sufferings of samsara. Once we have developed affectionate love for all living beings, if we then contemplate how they are all trapped in samsara, experiencing one problem after another, we will easily develop compassion for them.
We may think that if we do not cherish and look after ourself, then no one else will. This is a mistaken way of thinking. While it is true that we need to look after ourself, we do not need to be motivated by self-cherishing. Taking care of ourself is not self-cherishing. We can take care of our health, have a job, and look after our house and possessions solely out of concern for others’ welfare. If we view our body as an instrument with which we can benefit others, we can feed it, clothe it, wash it, and rest it - all without self-cherishing.
Thinking that human beings alone matter, and that the natural world exists to serve human desires, we have wiped out thousands of animal species and polluted the planet to such an extent that there is great danger it could soon be unfit even for human habitation. If everyone practiced cherishing others, many of the major problems of the world would be solved in a few years.
We often feel that it is someone else who is making us unhappy, and we can become very resentful. If we look at the situation carefully, however, we will find that it is always our own mental attitude that is responsible for our unhappiness. Another person’s actions make us unhappy only if we allow them to stimulate a negative response in us. Criticism, for example, has no power from its own side to hurt us; we are hurt only because of our self-cherishing.
We do not become a better person just by fulfilling our wishes for worldly success; we are as likely to develop the qualities that really matter - such as wisdom, patience, and compassion - through our failures as through our successes.
Even if we did fulfill all the wishes of our self-cherishing there is no guarantee that we would be happy because every samsaric attainment brings with it new problems and invariably leads to new desires. The relentless pursuit of our selfish desires is like drinking salt water to quench our thirst. The more we indulge our desires the greater our thirst.