“Protecting oneself, one protects others; protecting others, one protects oneself.
And how does one, in protecting oneself, protect others? By the repeated and frequent practice of meditation. And how does one, in protecting others, protect oneself? By patience and forbearance, by a non-violent and harmless life, by loving-kindness and compassion.
‘I shall protect myself’, in that way the Attendings with Mindfulness should be practised; ‘I shall protect others’, in that way the Attendings with Mindfulness should be practised.
Protecting oneself, one protects others; protecting others, one protects oneself.” (S.V,168)
The Buddha often emphasized the importance of developing one’s own mind, not only for one’s own benefit, but for the benefit of others as well. Many people think that working on oneself is selfish, but it is essentially more selfish to try to change other people when we have not done the work on ourselves.
If we are not spiritually developed, we are a possible danger to ourselves and others through not knowing how to control our own mind. Then our ignorance, which often manifests in strong emotional reactions, not only causes harm to ourselves but also affects others, if not directly, then indirectly by occupying our energies and resources.
The development of mindfulness thus has multiple benefits for both ourselves and others.
This reflection by Ajahn Thiradhammo is from the book, Treasures of the Buddha’s Teachings, (pdf) p. 161. (See “Sources” in book for translation citations and permissions.)