After writing about the eight verses I thought I would share my thoughts with you about these teachings. I will write a short commentary on two of the verses at a time. Here are the first two verses:
With the heartfelt desire and determination to attain enlightenment for the welfare of all living beings, who are more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel for accomplishing the supreme goal, may I always cherish them and hold them dear.
Promising to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings is at the start of all Tibetan Buddhist practises. They say the practise must be kept pure in the beginning, the middle and end. This means to do every aspect of the practice ‘purely’ by dedicating it to the benefit of all beings so that the ego does not get involved.
Pure in the beginning is the determination to see through the practice for the benefit of others, Pure in the middle means to hold the thought of others in our minds whilst we do the practise and pure at the end means to dedicate any benefits accomplished by doing the practice to the benefit of all other beings.
The wish fulfilling jewel is a term often used in Tibetan Buddhism, this is the Hindu Chintamanti jewel that is found in the Deva God realm. The Chintamanti jewel is a jewel that fulfils all of your greatest desires and wishes. To say that other beings are more precious than this wish fulfilling jewel is to recognise that it is other people who help us destroy our narrow egotistical view of reality.
Without other people we would never have the chance to overcome the ego, for it is predominately other people who become the objects of the ego’s negative emotions. If we can overcome the ego we will uncover a state of mind beyond suffering, in this enlightened state we can do many things to achieve our own and others benefit. In such a state all of our wishes are fulfilled. So others are as precious to a spiritual practioner as the wish fulfilling jewel. Recognising this we must cherish and hold them dear.
Whenever I am with others may I think of myself as the lowest of all and from the very depths of my heart may I respectfully hold others as supreme.
This verse can be difficult to swallow. I remember once I got so frustrated with this verse that I decided the Dharma was utter nonsense and rejected the teachings outright. But no matter how many times I fight this teaching I always end up humbly coming back to it. If you are in a disturbed frame of mind this verse is difficult but if you are in a peaceful frame of mind it makes perfect sense.
Let’s imagine ourselves in a scenario where a negative frame of mind arises:
‘We have lost our job, our partner has left us for someone else, our business has gone bankrupt, we have lost all of our money, we are tired, we haven’t eaten all day, we are driving our car at rush hour, we are trapped in a traffic jam and then we realise that we forgot to put petrol in our car and the car stops running. Now imagine the guy in the car behind you winds down his window and starts shouting and swearing at you.’
At a time like this we might be totally overwhelmed with anger, hatred, jealousy, self-pity, fear, and rage. If I pulled up in the car next to you and began to recite the verse to you you would probably want to punch me in the face, right? Well if you could embrace it at such a time you could really change your fortune (but doing so, I admit, is almost impossible). If you could train your mind to be peaceful at such a time you could really begin to take control of the mind.
Of course here I have used an extreme example of a negative frame of mind, to begin with just use this verse with simpler problems you might be having with people. However to somebody who is in a state of profound inner peace this verse describes exactly how they feel in their hearts. When you have inner peace you naturally feel love and compassion for others and you logically feel humble around others. A real master of the mind can recall this verse all of the time no matter how negative the situation.
Real accomplishment comes when you can put others before yourself even if negative emotions are arising. you put the wishes of others before you in spite of your feelings of hatred. This is real mastery of the mind and with practise you can subdue the mind quickly and return to peace no matter the situation.
Fundamentals of Buddhism