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Tibetans, the Bodhisattva ideal, and regarding myself " lowest among all"

Hi Everyone!

I know this is mostly a Vipassana forum, but I'd love everyone's perspective on some things I've been pondering.

Recently, I've been fascinated by the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the bodhisattva ideal. Specifically, books like A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life and the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and works by Lama Zopa Rinpoche have been inspiring. And there are several pleasant and powerful chantings by Tibetan monks on Youtube I've been listening to. Here and here and here are a few examples.

Here is a teaching I find admirable:

Eight Verses of Training the Mind by Geshe Langri Thangpa
  1. By thinking of all sentient beings
    As more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel
    For accomplishing the highest aim,
    I will always hold them dear.
  2. Whenever I’m in the company of others,
    I will regard myself as the lowest among all,
    And from the depths of my heart
    Cherish others as supreme.
  3. In my every action, I will watch my mind,
    And the moment destructive emotions arise,
    I will confront them strongly and avert them,
    Since they will hurt both me and others.
  4. Whenever I see ill-natured beings,
    Or those overwhelmed by heavy misdeeds or suffering,
    I will cherish them as something rare,
    As though I’d found a priceless treasure.
  5. Whenever someone out of envy
    Does me wrong by attacking or belittling me,
    I will take defeat upon myself,
    And give the victory to others.
  6. Even when someone I have helped,
    Or in whom I have placed great hopes
    Mistreats me very unjustly,
    I will view that person as a true spiritual teacher.
  7. In brief, directly or indirectly,
    I will offer help and happiness to all my mothers,
    And secretly take upon myself
    All their hurt and suffering.
  8. I will learn to keep all these practices
    Untainted by thoughts of the eight worldly concerns.
    May I recognize all things as like illusions,
    And, without attachment, gain freedom from bondage.
A few questions for everyone:

What role has the bodhisattva ideal played in your life?

"Whenever I’m in the company of others, I will regard myself as the lowest among all, And from the depths of my heart, Cherish others as supreme."

What are your thoughts on this? Has anybody practiced this to some extent? The purpose it seems is to diminish pride in terms of being superior to others. But feeling inferior to others is also pride. In some way, is feeling lower than others "better" or a more skillful means than feeling higher than others? Feeling lower than others...does this naturally lead to realizing there is no self in a way feeling higher than others cannot?

Are there any Tibetan retreat centers or monastaries or teachers you've found particularly inspiring? Are there any good affordable (or free) retreats in any of the Tibetan traditions?

I've been shying away from technical Buddhist teachings and books for a while. I just like being inspired nowadays, and I tend to tire of dry teachings quickly. Has anybody been through a phase like this? It's clearly like a mental block or something...what's up with this mind?

Thanks for everyone's thoughts and advice!

One of the first books recommended to me when I took my Boddhisattva vows at Tashi Choling in Ashland, Oregon was "The Great Path of Awakening" by Jamgon Kongtrul. I consider it the best commentary on having a moral code you can have, and very clearly explained.

I highly recommend it.

While some of it took real effort at the beginning to try to follow the teachings, all of it now makes such perfect sense after fruition. These practices definitely lay the ground work for what is to come, and I truly believe that a "fake it till you make it" approach in this regard slows your continuing accumulation of karma in this life - a very real bonus. 

I have practiced in Ashland, OR, and at Land of Medicine Buddha and at the Vajrayana Foundation. All are great in their own ways. I have definitely always been drawn the the "wet" approaches, and now work with a Zen teacher. 

This is the root text of the teaching I am referring to:

It doesn't suggest regarding yourself as the "lowest", at least in the translations I am familiar with.

Hi Chi,

Here's what H.H. Dalai Lama has to say... 

I love the Dalai Lama, don't you? ; )

"Moving on to another line of the verse, I think it is important to understand the expression "May I see myself lower than all others" in the right context. Certainly it is not saying that you should engage in thoughts that would lead to lower self-esteem, or that you should lose all sense of hope and feel dejected, thinking, "I'm the lowest of all. I have no capacity, I cannot do anything and have no power." This is not the kind of consideration of lowness that is being referred to here. The regarding of oneself as lower than others really has to be understood in relative terms. Generally speaking, human beings are superior to animals. We are equipped with the ability to judge between right and wrong and to think in terms of the future and so on. However, one could also argue that in other respects human beings are inferior to animals. For example, animals may not have the ability to judge between right and wrong in a moral sense, and they might not have the ability to see the long-term consequences of their actions, but within the animal realm there is at least a certain sense of order. If you look at the African savannah, for example, predators prey on other animals only out of necessity when they are hungry. When they are not hungry, you can see them coexisting quite peacefully. But we human beings, despite our ability to judge between right and wrong, sometimes act out of pure greed. Sometimes we engage in actions purely out of indulgence--we kill out of a sense of "sport," say, when we go hunting or fishing. So, in a sense, one could argue that human beings have proven to be inferior to animals. It is in such relativistic terms that we can regard ourselves as lower than others. One of the reasons for using the word "lower" is to emphasize that normally when we give in to ordinary emotions of anger, hatred, strong attachment, and greed, we do so without any sense of restraint. Often we are totally oblivious to the impact our behavior has on other sentient beings. But by deliberately cultivating the thought of regarding others as superior and worthy of your reverence, you provide yourself with a restraining factor. Then, when emotions arise, they will not be so powerful as to cause you to disregard the impact of your actions upon other sentient beings. It is on these grounds that recognition of others as superior to yourself is suggested."

RE: Tibetans, the Bodhisattva ideal, and regarding myself " lowest among al
5/5/16 6:13 PM as a reply to Krissy Trede.
Krissy, thank you for digging up the quote by the wonderful HH Dalai Lama. It completely clarifies the verse.

Where did you find it?

My pleasure Chi. 

I just had a sense... and there it was : )