75. Bodhicitta in Aspiration II — Exchanging Oneself and Others
Longchen Nyingtik Meditation 75
Take refuge and arouse bodhicitta.
Visualize in front of you a sentient being who elicits compassion in you, for instance, a terminally ill patient, or a tortured hell being. Think that you offer him or her all your happiness, your beloved body, your possessions, and your roots of virtue, just as if you were taking off your own clothes and putting them on him or her, filling him or her with joy and happiness. Then, you take in all his or her suffering upon yourself, and doing so, you exchange your happiness with his or her misery and afflictions, in the manner of exchanging clothes.
When you become more familiar with this visualization, sync it with your breath: When you exhale, visualize you give away your happiness and merit to sentient beings; when you inhale, visualize you take on the sufferings of sentient beings.
Start this meditation on giving happiness and taking suffering with one being, and then extend it to include all living beings, for many rounds, day and night, with unflagging enthusiasm.
This is a pivotal practice! At the outset, you may not feel a thing, but after practicing for some time, you will get the hang of it. The belief in an existent self (self-grasping) is in fact a misguided and deranged attachment. Today scientists have done experiments that revealed the tenacity of human grasping. In one experiment a person was instructed to imagine intensely a prosthetic hand as his own hand, to which he gradually identified with and developed an attachment. When this prosthetic hand was chopped off with a knife, this person would feel acute pain and start screaming.
Since attachment can be trained to arise even toward an inanimate object, then a training of regarding all sentient beings as they were “I” shouldn’t be difficult. With due practice, the time will come that when seeing sentient beings tortured by suffering, you will feel unbearably painful and tears well up in your eyes naturally. Conversely, if you have little or no training in bodhicitta, the scene of sentient beings being mutilated won’t stir you up a bit. Worse, you may want to take part in it. Therefore, we must assiduously practice the exchange of self and others.
Dedicate the merit of your practice to all sentient beings.