You Protect Yourself

'Protecting oneself one protects others'
'Protecting others one protects oneself.'
Once the Blessed One told His monks the following story:
'There was once a pair of jugglers who did their acrobatic feats on a bamboo pole. One day the master said to his apprentice: 'Now get on my shoulders and climb up the bamboo pole.' When the apprentice had done so, the master said: 'Now protect me well and I shall protect you. By watching each other in that way, we shall be able to show our skill, we shall make a good profit and you can get down safely from the bamboo pole.' But the apprentice said: 'Not so, master. You! O Master, should protect yourself, and I too shall protect myself. Thus self-protected and self-guarded we shall safely do our feats."
 
'This is the right way,' said the Blessed One and spoke further as follows:
  'It is just as the apprentice said: 'I shall protect myself,' in that way the Foundation of Mindfulness should be practised. 'I shall protect others,' in that way the Foundation of Mindfulness should be practised. 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, by protecting others, protect oneself? By patience and forbearance, by a non-violent and harmless life, by loving kindness and compassion.' (Satipatthana, Samyutta, No:19)
 
'Protecting oneself one protects others'
'Protecting others one protects oneself'
 
These two sentences supplement each other and should not be taken (or quoted) separately.
Nowadays, when social service is so greatly stressed, people may for instance, be tempted to quote, in support of their ideas, only the second sentence. But any such one-sided quotation would misrepresent the Buddha's statement. It has to be remembered that, in our story the Buddha expressly approved the words of the apprentice, which is that one has first to carefully watch one's own steps if one wishes to protect others from harm. He who is sunk in the mire himself cannot help others out of it. In that sense, self-protection is not selfish protection. It is the cultivation of self-control, and ethical and spiritual self-development.
 
Protecting oneself one protects others?the truth of this statement begins at a very simple and practical level. At the material level, this truth is so self-evident that we need not say more than a few words about it. It is obvious that the protection of our own health will go far in protecting the health of our closer or wider environment, especially where contagious diseases are concerned. Caution and circumspection in all our doings and movements will protect others from harm that may come to them through our carelessness and negligence. By careful driving, abstention from alcohol, by self-restraint in situations that might lead to violence?in all these and many other ways we shall protect others by protecting ourselves.
 
We come now to the ethical level of that truth. Moral self-protection will safeguard others, individual and society, against our own unrestrained passions and selfish impulses. If we permit the Three Roots of everything evil, Greed, Hate and Delusion, to take a firm hold in our hearts, then that which grows from those evil roots will spread around like the jungle creeper which suffocates and kills the healthy and noble growth. But if we protect ourselves against these Three Roots of Evil, fellow beings too will be safe from our reckless greed for possession and power, from our unrestrained lust and sensuality, from our envy and jealousy. They will be safe from the disruptive, or even destructive and murderous, consequences of our hate and enmity, from the outburst of our anger, from our spreading an atmosphere of antagonism and quarrelsomeness which may make life unbearable for those around us. But the harmful effects of our greed and hate on others are not limited to cases when they become the passive objects or victims of our hate, or their possession the object of our greed. Greed and hate have an infectious power, which can multiply the evil effects.

 If we ourselves think of nothing else than to crave and grasp, to acquire and possess, to hold and cling, then we may rouse or strengthen these possessive instincts in others too. Our bad example may become the standard of behavior of our environment for instance among our own children, our colleagues, and so on. Our own conduct may induce others to join us in the common satisfaction of rapacious desires; or we may arouse feelings of resentment and competitiveness in others who wish to beat us in the race. If we are full of sensuality we may kindle the fire of lust in others. Our own hate may cause the hate and vengeance of others. It may also happen that we ally ourselves with others or instigate them to common acts of hate and enmity.