This is the parable of two bamboo acrobats which Buddha addresses to his monks to outline the importance of mindfulness practice. The story vividly describes the role between the master and his assistance on how they should support each other to put on a good show.
Once upon a time, monks, a bamboo acrobat, setting himself upon his bamboo pole, addressed his assistant. “come my dear and stand upon my shoulders.” as he climbed up the bamboo pole, “Okay, master” the assistant replied to the bamboo acrobat and as instructed started climbing up the bamboo pole where she then stood on the master’s shoulders.
So then the bamboo acrobat said to his assistant. “You look after me, my dear and I’ll look after you. Thus with us looking after one another, guarding one another, we’ll show off our craft, receive some reward and safely climb down the bamboo pole.”
After hearing this, the assistant said to the bamboo acrobat. “That will not do at all, master! You look after yourself and I will look after myself. Thus with each of us looking after ourselves, guarding ourselves, we’ll show off our craft, receive some reward and safely climb down the bamboo pole. That’s the right way to do it!”
Then Buddha said to the monks “Monks, the establishing of mindfulness is to be practiced with the thought, ‘I’ll watch after myself.’ The establishing of mindfulness is to be practiced with the thought, ‘I’ll watch after others.’ When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself.
“And how do you watch after others when watching after yourself? Through cultivating good practice, through developing it, through pursuing it. This is how you watch after others when watching after yourself.
“And how do you watch after yourself when watching after others? Through endurance, through harmlessness, through a mind of goodwill and through sympathy. This is how you watch after yourself when watching after others.