The previous verses focused on the importance of caring for others, ‘placing ourselves in their shoes’, exchanging ourselves with them and taking their burdens and suffering as our own. This is a process of transformation.
Now we look at why that is so difficult to do, especially when, as Shantideva says, it is the authentic route to our own happiness. For most of us, self cherishing, attachment to our body and emotions plays the greater part in our quest to be happy, but this is misguided and he says will always lead us in the opposite direction.
The following verses remind us that the body is a finite entity and will sooner or later return to the earth. We are asked what it is exactly we are holding onto so tightly? Because if we are able to examine the physicality of our body and its inner workings in an objective way, we will find it is quite ugly; we will see that without a conscious mind to govern its movement and actions, it is literally a composite of inert molecules. The conscious mind is what energises the body. So, if we can see the body as an instrument for the mind, as something to maintain in healthy equilibrium without indulging in excesses, to keeping in good working order; it becomes something we can skilfully use to help others while creating the harmony we are looking for in our own lives.
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