Caring for Ourselves
What impresses me most at reading Shantideva is not only his emphasis on solitude, but the idea of solitude as part of the clarification which includes living for others: the dissolution of the self in “belonging to everyone” and regarding everyone’s suffering as one’s own. This is really incomprehensible unless one shares something of the deep existential Buddhist concept of suffering as bound up with the arbitrary formation of an illusory ego-self. To be “homeless” is to abandon one’s attachment to a particular ego—and yet to care for one’s own life (in the highest sense) in the service of others. A deep and beautiful idea.
“Be you jealous and afraid of your own self when you see that it is at ease and your fellow is in distress, that it is in high estate and he is brought low, that it is at rest and he is at labor. Make your own self lose its pleasures and bear the sorrow of its fellows.”
June 29, 1968, VII.136