How awful does this sound? As trained Mahayana practitioners we can’t but be shocked by such a statement. I was.
However, unless and until we have attained an unwavering realization we do have to put ourselves first. Not our egos. Our fundamentals.
I have sometimes seen myself trying to please others to the extent of straying from my own truth. It has nothing to do with the path of the Bodhisattvas, with generosity, or empathy. It comes from a completely different place. A place of lack, a place of need for acceptance, and recognition.
This is easily misunderstood. Because those who are drawn to the altruistic path of Bodhisattvas are naturally more inclined to care for other people, to be gentle and easy going. So for them, putting themselves first sounds like self-centered heresy.
But the thing is: if we do not remain true to what we are and cannot connect with our inner nature before anything else, there is no path and there is no real help we can give. It is not by denying ourselves that we become true Mahayana practitioners.
We have to stand our ground and be self-reliant in order to walk the Bodhisattvas’ path.