Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Bear a strong grudge and do battle with your delusions

(4.43) This will be my main objective:
Bearing a strong grudge, to do battle with my delusions.
Although such a grudge appears to be a delusion,
Because it destroys delusions it is not.

(4.44) It would be better for me to be burned to death
Or to have my head cut off
Than to ever allow myself
To come under the influence of delusions.

I love Shantideva.  To not put too fine a point on it, he just kicks our ass.  Reading his words, you can just feel his vajra-like clarity and certainty of purpose.  He does not hold back, he does not coddle.  Why?  Because he is at war.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, the devil taunted him, “do you really want to take on the sins of all beings?  Are you really ready for what that means?”  After a moment’s hesitation, he came to a decision and said unequivocally yes, and he crushed the serpent’s head.  Then, quite literally, a world of suffering came crashing down on him.  He accepted it all because he knew his purpose, and just before death some of his last words were, “forgive them father, for they know not what they do.”  When we read Shantideva, we can’t help but feel he has come out of his own Garden of Gethsemane armed with clarity of purpose.  He has not simply declared war on his own delusions, he has declared war on all the delusions of all living beings – and he is fighting to win.  He is playing for keeps.  He is taking no prisoners.  He is showing no quarter.

We know the path to freedom and happiness involves removing all trace of delusions.  We will be unable to lead anyone along that path in its entirety unless we have travelled it ourselves—unless we have freed ourselves from delusions.  This does not mean we need to overcome all of our delusions before we can provide any help; rather it means we will only be able to actually help people up to the extent that we have actually overcome our delusions within ourselves.  Until we have overcome our own delusions, we will have no power to free even one person from their delusions.  We may have knowledge of this path, but we must travel along it if we are to free others from their delusions.

Therefore, our main job must be to abandon delusions.  This is very easy to forget.   We have a lot of jobs, and things we do.  But we have to ask what is our main objective?  All of our other activities provide us with an opportunity to change our mind and our way of life, finally into those of a Bodhisattva.  Bodhisattvas have incredible influence on the world around them, incredible power to lead others.   They do not go around telling everyone “I am bodhisattva, hear me roar.”  Simply their presence in any community radically reshapes it.  In Eight Steps to Happiness, Geshe-la says that somebody who cherishes others is like a magic crystal the functions to heal any community.  What need is there to say of the power of a Bodhisattva, whose wish is to lead all beings to everlasting freedom.

We ourselves should want such influence and power.  But such power does not come from teaching or from working to flourish the Dharma, but rather from working on our own mind.  We need confidence that we can actively eliminate delusion from our mind, and confidence that once eliminated they will never return.  And we need this experience in the world of living beings.  For centuries, this was primarily a monastic tradition, but not any more.  Even monks and nuns in this tradition live in the world, even if their jobs are working for Dharma centers.  Venerable Tharchin said all it takes is a handful of true spiritual masters in a given country to make that country a source of peace in the world.  We need such Bodhisattvas in Dharma centers, but we also need them in our schools, in our corporations, in our hospitals, in the government, in the military, in the highest reaches of politics, and in the home.  Who will be these bodhisattvas for our country if not us?

We must do both – heal our mind and heal our world.  To do just the external or just the internal is an extreme.  In the past many practitioners have experienced many problems due to an unskillful approach, of either being extreme with their inner practice and no engagement with the world; or being extreme with their outer activities while neglecting inner transformation.  We must get it right with respect to our formal practices, informal practices, our work, our family life and our civic engagement.  We know there is no contradiction within the Dharma.  Our job is to realize there is no contradiction between practicing Dharma and living a modern life.  This is the task Geshe-la has given us.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  I must never turn back

(4.41) If I myself am not free from delusions
When I promise all living beings
Abiding in the ten directions throughout space
That I will liberate them from their delusions,

(4.42) Is it not foolish of me to say such things
While disregarding my own shortcomings?
This being so, I must never turn back
From destroying my own delusions.

We have made a promise to free all living beings from all of their delusions, in this and all their future lives.  This is simultaneously a task of cosmic proportions, yet at the same time fairly straight-forward.  In fact, it is quite simple:  if we eliminate completely delusions and their imprints from our own mind, we will then gain the ability to effortlessly do the rest.  By doing one thing – purifying completely our own mind – we accomplish everything else.

As long as we ourselves are weighed down by the heavy burden of our own delusions, we are, for all practical purposes, useless to others.  A perfect example of this is the subtle, but crucial, distinction between compassion wishing our loved ones were free from suffering and attachment wishing our loved ones were free from suffering.  I am married and have kids.  While intellectually I know the difference between these two, I am not there yet in my mind.  When my wife or kids are suffering, upset, heavily deluded, etc., then I too become upset and deluded.  Either I buy into their deluded view or reaction to things or because I am attached to them being happy (thinking my happiness depends on them being happy), so when they go down, I go down too.  I then get frustrated at them, thinking, “why can’t you be happy?” or I get tired of their negative view of things and bothered that what they do just makes the problems worse.  It is true, I can’t bear to see them suffer, but not because there is pure selfless compassion in my mind, but rather because I am sick of having to deal with their problems.  This makes me useless to them.  I fight with them about them being deluded, I don’t help them find a non-deluded solution to their problems.  I allow myself to get swept away by their negativity, I don’t stay centered in a positive, constructive frame of mind.

In Offering to the Spiritual Guide it says, “I seek your blessings to complete the perfection of effort by striving for complete enlightenment with unwavering compassion; even if I must remain in the fires of the deepest hell for many aeons for the sake of each being.”  Normally, we run away from our own problems, much less other people’s problems.  Normally, we have real aversion to negative, deluded people.  How can we possibly fulfill our bodhichitta wishes if we can’t stand to be around deluded people?  Venerable Tharchin said, “when I die I want to be reborn in hell because that is where all the people be.”  He said, “we need to design our own enlightenment, decide what kind of Buddha we want to be.”  He wants to be a Buddha that is specifically capable of helping people who have fallen into hell.  Amazing.

If we ourselves learn how to overcome our own attachment, anger, jealousy and so forth, then through the force of that experience we will naturally know how to help people do the same.  If we ourselves do not have this experience, then even if we give them a textbook perfect answer to their problems, our advice will lack any power because it is not coming from personal experience.  This is why Kadam Bjorn said the only Dharma we can effectively teach is that which we have personal experience of.  His advice to new teachers was not, “study hard,” his advice was “get out into life and apply the Dharma.  Then share what you’ve learned.”  He would require all of his teachers in his centers to at least have a part-time job on the logic of if we don’t know how to apply the Dharma in the life of our students, then how can we actually help them?

Venerable Tharchin said, “the way we grow our centers is easy.  Our job is to gain authentic realizations.  These realizations are like a beacon of light in the minds of the beings in our community.  Even though they can’t see it, they are naturally drawn to it.”  When I was teaching, time and again I would have the experience where I would make some mistake in life, learn some Dharma lesson, and then within a few months somebody would appear at the center who was making a similar mistake.  I would then just share my own story.  Our own realizations create the causes for those who need such wisdom to appear in our life, then we just share what we have learned.  We continue in this way until we are enlightened, and so is everyone else.

It is also vital that we not be attached to others following our advice or changing.  As paradoxical as it sounds, it makes no difference to the bodhisattva whether people follow her advice or not.  It is because she does not need others to listen that others take on board what she has to say.  They know she has no ulterior or selfish motive, they know the bodhisattva has no need for the other person to change at all, so they can trust the advice as being unconditionally offered.

The more we check, the more clear it becomes the best way we can help others is to quite simply work on overcoming our own delusions.  Kadam Lucy once told Geshe-la, “my main job now is to flourish the Dharma.”  Geshe-la interrupted her and said no, “your job is to practice Dharma.  Everything else flows naturally from that.”

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Hardships? What hardships?

(4.39) If scars inflicted by enemies for no great reason
Are displayed on the body like ornaments,
Why should I not be prepared to endure hardships
In striving sincerely to accomplish the great purpose?

(4.40) If fishermen, hunters, and farmers,
Who think only of their own livelihood,
Endure such sufferings as heat and cold,
Why can I not forbear hardships for the sake of the happiness of all?

Embarassing isn’t it?  Here we are working to bring happiness to all living beings, yet we give up at the slightest hardship.  Yet fishermen, hunters, athletes undergo incredible hardship for nothing.

What’s going on?  What makes us lose sight of our goal?  Why is it that we get side-tracked so easily? At the end of the day it is because we think it matters how we feel?  We think that it is important that we feel good and not bad at any time.  We think our feelings matter, and because they matter we set ourselves on the immediate, not the future.  We lose sight of our goal.  If we check, this is the ultimate in self-cherishing – we are saying that our present feelings are more important than Bodhichitta, our intention to attain Buddhahood for all living beings.  We sacrifice that intention for the sake of our feelings.  Either we have a pleasant feeling and become distracted or we have an unpleasant feeling and we become distracted.  Either way we lose direction.  We forget about our goal.

The only reason why what we feel matters is because we think we matter.  It is our self-cherishing that convinces us that our happiness matters.  It is this delusion that causes us to suffer when something happens to us.  If we didn’t have it, we would say it doesn’t matter when we have bad feelings.  Yes, we have them, but it doesn’t matter.  It is not a problem.  Actually it doesn’t matter if we have a good or bad feeling right now because that is just an effect.  What matters is maintaining a good intention regardless of whether we are experiencing good feelings and bad feelings.  Why don’t we want bad feeling in our mind?  We feel it’s important we not have them in our mind.  Geshe-la and Shantideva say it’s important we feel bad so we can develop renunciation, compassion and bodhichitta.

What exactly are the hardships we have to endure on the spiritual path?  There is only one:  we have to go against the grain of our delusions.  Sometimes we mistakenly think to follow the spiritual path means we have to give up our jobs, our partners, our family and our enjoyments.  We think it means we are not allowed to enjoy things like a going to a good restaurant, seeing a movie, listening to music and going to a party.  We think it means we have to let people abuse us and take advantage of us.  We think it means we need to sacrifice our own wishes and desires so that we can put others first.  We think it means allowing our partner to run off with somebody else, forgoing a high-level career, renouncing wealth and becoming a nobody.  We think it means we need to shave our heads, change our clothes and move into a Dharma center.  We think it means we can no longer go on a regular vacation, but instead have to camp in the rainy Lake District for the rest of our life.  We think it means we have to stop going out with our regular friends and stop going to the pub.  We think it means we can’t go into a Church without saying something like “Jesus was an emanation of Avalokiteshvara.”  We think it means we need to begin every sentence with “Geshe-la says,” and start using all sorts of fancy philosophical sounding words.  We think it means we can no longer enjoy Christmas or Easter with our families without it being awkward.  It can mean all of these things, but it actually means none of these things.

We do not have to give up our family, friends or enjoyments; we need only give up relating to them as objects of attachment.  We can relate to them as objects of love and offering instead.  We can enjoy restaurants, movies, music and parties, not as worldly indulgences but as miraculous teachings of our guru through all of these things.  We do not let others abuse or take advantage of us, not out of self-cherishing but as a wish to protect them from creating negative karma for themselves.  We do not sacrifice our wishes and desires, we change them from being selfish to selfless ones and suddenly find our every wish being fulfilled.  Our partner may leave us for somebody else, but we realize we can be genuinely happy for them because we have discovered the true meaning of love.  We can pursue our full career potential and all the wealth and good reputation in the world, not viewing these things as ends in themselves, but rather as means of fulfilling our bodhichitta wishes in this world.  We don’t have to become ordained or move into a Dharma center, but we can rejoice without guilt or judgment in those who do. We can go on regular vacations too, and if we adopt the “mind of a Festival” while there, we can receive teachings on the Greek isles too.  We do not have to abandon our friends, rather we discover what it means to be a friend.  We can still go to the pub, but just enjoy it in different ways.  We can go to a Church and rejoice in Jesus as just being one amazing guy, even as the Son of God, without needing to put some Buddhist spin on it.  We can quote Geshe-la and use fancy words, but the sign of a true master is they can explain things in terms their grandma would understand.  There is no need for us to feel awkward with our families during the holidays, in fact we can for the first time not be so bothered by their little quirks.

So really, what hardships does the path of wisdom and virtue require of us?  None at all.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Spiritual Seal Team 6

(4.37) If those who engage in violent battles,
Strongly wishing to destroy deluded beings who must suffer death anyway,
Disregard the pain of being wounded by weapons
And do not withdraw until they have accomplished their aim,

(4.38) Then it goes without saying that, even if I have to endure great hardships,
From now on I should not be indolent or faint-hearted
In striving once and for all to destroy this natural foe
That is the constant source of all my suffering.

Normally, as Buddhists, we seek peace.  We do Prayers for World Peace.  We establish World Peace Cafes.  We take heart in knowing “love is the real nuclear bomb that destroys all enemies.”  We are guided by the truth, “without inner peace, outer peace is impossible.”  We condemn war and killing, regardless of who does it, and we encourage compassion for all beings without exception, even the greatest murderers of all time, like Hitler, Stalin and Osama Bin Laden.  The entire Buddhist path has one objective, one bottom line:  total peace and harmony, both outer and inner, for all living beings.

And yet, Shantideva unambiguously calls on us to be inspired by the example of trained killers.  This bothers us.  We aren’t quite sure how to relate to such teachings.  We put down Shantideva and reach for Eight Steps to Happiness instead.  We need to get over it.  We are at war.  The only difference between a soldier and a Bodhisattva is their enemy.  Worldly soldiers destroy outer enemies, Bodhisattvas destroy inner enemies.  Other than this, it is exactly the same.  Are we comfortable with this?  If not, get over it.  I once saw a schematic of the Foundation Program.  It starts with Joyful Path, branches out into Universal Compassion, Heart of Wisdom and Understanding the Mind, and then is reassembled with the capstone of Meaningful to Behold, Geshe-la’s commentary to Shantideva’s Guide.  In other words, the final conclusion of the entire Foundation Program is Shantideva’s presentation of the Dharma.  This is where all of our Foundation Program studies are headed.

Why are we to take soldiers as our example?  They are willing to risk their life for the sake of protecting others.  They disregard the pain, inconveniences and indeed wounds of battle, but instead wear them as badges of honor and signs of their valor.  They do not run away from the sound of battle, but head straight for its heart.  They show comradery and loyalty to their fellow soldiers, knowing nothing builds the bonds of men like battle.  The sight of their own blood does not cause them to cower, but instead fills them with strength to fight on.  They live by creeds like, “strength and honor.”  Why can we not be the same in our fight against delusions?  Why do we resist being inspired by their example?  Their enemy is wrong, their example is perfect.

In modern popular culture, nobody exemplifies military excellence like Seal Team 6Even if one disagrees with how the U.S. government uses its military, few would disagree that it is the most powerful fighting force the world has ever seen.  Within the military, there are regular soldiers and then there are the special forces, such as the Navy Seals.  These are the elite soldiers.  But within the special forces, there is the elite of the elite, Seal Team 6.  What special forces soldiers are to regular foot soldiers, Seal Team 6 is to regular special forces soldiers.  I am not trying to glorify instruments of state-sponsored killing, I am just trying to put things into perspective.  If we are going to take soldiers as our example, we should take only the best.  They literally go through hell to fight for others, they never stop training, they take on the hardest, most dangerous missions, they fight not as individuals but as a unit, they fight anonymously.  Who should we strive to be as Bodhisattva’s?  We should strive to be like them, the fearless best of the best.

The extensive Dorje Shugden sadhana, Melodious Drum Victorious in All Directions, is our battle cry.  In ancient times, when armies would march, they would beat the drums of war to instill fear in their enemies.  Dorje Shugden is our highest general in our war against delusions, and he leads a vast assembled army of protector deities.  Who are the special forces of Dorje Shugden’s army?  They are the 10 youthful and wrathful deities.  They are his Spiritual Seal Team 6.  And who is their commanding officer?  Kache Marpo.  I have a friend, a true spiritual hero, who was in a psychiatric hospital for more than 10 years battling his delusions.  There is no way to understate the war he fought on a minute-by-minute basis with his delusions.  There is also no greater practitioner of Dorje Shugden to be found.  One day, he called me up and he said, “my goal in life is not just to become a Buddha, I want to take my place in Dorje Shugden’s mandala.  I want to be Kache Marpo.”  Enough said.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Don Corleone should be our Yidam

(4.36) Out of anger, worldly people who are filled with pride will not sleep
Until they have destroyed those who cause them even the slightest temporary harm.
In the same way, I will not abandon my efforts
Until this inner foe of mine is directly and definitely destroyed.

I recently watched the Godfather series.  Yes, I was disgusted, but I was also inspired.

In the Godfather, Don Cicco killed Vito Corleone’s father.  The father’s eldest son took to the mountains to plot his revenge, so Don Cicco hunted him down.  Vito’s mother then went to Don Cicco and said, “please show mercy on my youngest son, Vito.  He is weak and witless, he is no threat to you.  Please, let him live.”  Don Cicco said no, reasoning, “Vito is small and weak now, but one day he will grow strong and want his revenge.  I cannot allow that,” and so he tried to have him killed too.  Vito escaped, went to America, and gradually became older and stronger as Don Cicco predicted.  Vito then returned to Sicily and exacted his revenge.  Don Cicco was right, and so is Shantideva.  If we do not mercilessly destroy our delusions when they are weak and witless, they will grow stronger and one day come back to kill us – again and again, in this life and in all our future lives.

Later, Vito became the head of one of the five Mafia families.  But as he grew older, he developed a softer heart and there were certain lines he would not cross.  But in Mafia-world, weakness invites attacks; strength commands respect.  If you show mercy you will be taken down by somebody who won’t.  Eventually, the other families plotted to have Vito killed, and war broke out between the families.  But after Vito’s eldest son, Sonny, was killed, Vito sued for peace.  But in Mafia-world, even when there is a truce between the Mafia families, each side never stops plotting their revenge, the only question is timing.  Vito’s son, Michael Corleone, was using the peace to gather his strength.  The other families were doing the same.  When Vito finally died, Michael knew he either needed to strike first or he would be be taken out.  So he killed the heads of all the other Mafia families, and in this way consolidated himself as the Mafia king-pin for the whole country.  Michael Corleone said, “I don’t need to wipe everybody out, just my enemies.”  He ruthlessly cuts them down without flinching.  This is how we need to be with our delusions.  The five Mafia families are like our five contaminated aggregates.  If we allow even one to remain, they will recreate the others and we will remain trapped in samsara forever.  We cannot flinch, we can show no quarter with our delusions.  Appeals to mercy for our delusions must fall on deaf ears, we cannot stop until they are, Godfather style, utterly destroyed.

Geshe-la said we must become an enemy of our delusions.  We must become victorious over our delusions.  Someone who has attained liberation is called a “Foe Destroyer” because they have destroyed the foes of their delusions.  Many a conqueror of ancient times was not content to merely crush his enemies, but they would not stop until they erased even the memory of the conquered.  Shantideva is encouraging us to do the same.  An enlightened being is called a “Conqueror Buddha.”  They are not content to merely destroy the foes of their delusions, they do not stop until the very imprints of all delusions have been completely erased from the surface of their mind.

It all comes back to recognizing delusions as our enemy, because only when we recognize them as enemies will we treat them as such.  Geshe-la said at a Spring Festival one year, “we must shout at our delusions.”  Do we do this?  Why did Geshe-la encourage us to do this?  One reason is it helps to keep some distance from our delusions. This stops us identifying with them. When we make this separation, we can be hard on our delusions without being hard on ourself.  Also doing this makes us feel powerful, gives us a sense of victory.  We need to feel powerful, we need to feel strong.  We need to be like Don Corleone.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  When it comes to the fight against your delusions, …!

(4.35) How can I ever be happy
While these guardians of the prison of samsara
That torture and torment me in the hells and elsewhere
Dwell like a net of iron in my mind?

In the last post we examined the first reason we don’t declare war on our delusions, namely we are not convinced they are our enemy.  In this, post we look at the second reason, we doubt we can win.

We doubt, “can I really win the fight against my delusions?”  Maybe our delusions are purely evil, but if they are stronger than me isn’t it better to not fight them?  A good rule of thumb in life is don’t pick a fight with somebody you can’t defeat.  As Buddhists, in general we avoid fighting altogether, preferring to find more virtuous ways of resolving our differences, but when we do have to fight, we should make sure our battle is winnable.  This is how people normally operate in the world.

We can win.  It will not be easy, but all it takes to win is an vajra-like determination to never give up no matter how hard it gets and no matter how long it takes.  Delusions are just thoughts, simply wrong ways of thinking.  We have seen from our own experience when we look at our small victories over our delusions that when we shine the light of wisdom on delusions, they are defeated.  They are seen to be wrong, and when we see their lie, their power over us is broken.  It is no different than spam in our email.  Once we see through the lie of the Nigerian businessman promising us his millions if only we send him our bank account information, that email has no power over us at all.  It only has the power to harm us if we believe its lies.  But when we see the lie for what it is, the power is broken.  Delusions are the same.  They only have power over us when we believe them to be true.  When we see through the deception, their power is broken.  They can be defeated.  Each delusion has its own false logic, the only difference being one of scale.  Small attachments or large attachments use the same false logic.  The same is true for frustrations, jealousies, doubts, etc.  If they can be defeated in one instance, the same false logic can be defeated in all instances.  The sword of wisdom is stronger than the enemy of delusion.  If we continue to strengthen the power and depth of this wisdom within our mind, we can defeat deeper and deeper levels of delusion until finally every last one has been slayed.

Just because we declare unconditional total war against our delusions does not mean we fight stupidly without strategy or tactics.  Strategy is the big picture for how we will win the war, tactics is how we win individual battles in that war.  We actually don’t overpower our delusions, we outsmart them.  Our ultimate strategy against our delusions is encirclement followed by decapitation.  We accomplish encirclement with a systematic practice of the Lamrim.  We completely surround the enemy of delusions on all sides with the Lamrim, like in a medieval siege.  Geshe-la explains the Lamrim opposes, directly or indirectly, all delusions.  It is a system of inter-locking virtuous minds that creates a vajra-like cage around our delusions from which they can’t escape.  The Lamrim contains the enemy in an ever tightening noose as our experience with the Lamrim grows.  At the same time, we pursue a strategy of decapitation of the king of all delusions – the self-centered mind.  The self-centered mind is the union of self-cherishing and self-grasping, and this mind is the root and power of all delusions.  In Lord of the Rings, it is the Ring of Power, the one ring to rule them all.  If it is destroyed, all delusions are destroyed with it.  Ultimate Bodhichitta, the union of conventional bodhichitta and the wisdom realizing emptiness, is our Spiritual Hercules that cannot be defeated.

Tactically, we need to pick our battles.  Perhaps we have a wide range of attachments, from chocolate to sex.  Perhaps we are not ready to take on sexual attachment quite yet, but surely we can break our attachment to chocolate.  Perhaps we have a wide range of frustrations, from having to wait in line to the dysfunction of our government.  The point is start with small, winnable battles.  Gain some experience for how wisdom can indeed defeat delusions.  Learn how to request blessings for wisdom and strength to assist you in your fight.  Lock in some definitive victories against small delusions.  This will grow your confidence that it is possible to win.  You then gradually grow in spiritual power, taking on greater and greater foes, until eventually you become a Conqueror Buddha.

Some people mistakenly think being a Buddhist means to be a wuss.  A dear friend of mine was once chastised by his South American bride, “its King-like Bodhichitta, not Smurf-like Bodhichitta.”  A teacher of mine often used to say, “show some backbone.”  She said, “there is nothing weak about being a Buddhist.  Delusions are what make us weak, wisdom makes us strong.”  Rocky Balboa does not fear getting his nose bloodied when he confronts Ivan Drago, and neither should we when we confront our delusions.  The Patriots in the American revolution didn’t stand a chance against the mightiest empire on earth, but they won anyways.  Ghandi was no coward – he stood against the British Empire armed with nothing more than the truth and a home-spun loin cloth.  Shantideva is not weak, and he doesn’t hesitate to kick delusions right where it hurts.  Sadly, when it comes to the language of warfare, sexist language is often the best, so forgive my use of these terms.  But what Shantideva is really telling us – in our modern terms – is when it comes to our fight against our delusions we “need to grow a pair.”

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Delusions are pure evil

(4.34) So how can I remain in samsara joyfully and without fear
While I readily reserve a place in my heart
For this interminable enemy of long duration
That alone is the cause of increasing all my suffering?

I think there are two main reasons why we don’t declare war on our delusions:  we aren’t convinced they are our enemy and we don’t think we can win.  Over the next two posts we will look at each of these in turn.

Are delusions our enemy?  Normally, we actually think they are our friend.  Before the Dharma, we never stopped to question whether things like attachment, aversion and ignorance were wrong.  The movies and poetry extol attachment as the meaning of life.  The movies and the news media lift up on a pedestal those who hate.  Every human endeavor of knowledge seeks to provide an “objective” explanation of reality.  Delusions are not our enemies, they are our gods.  This is why Dharma is so radical.

Shantideva says this enemy of long duration alone is the cause of all our suffering. We don’t feel this is the case.  We blame others, find fault in others and blame them for our suffering. The reality is no one is at fault; only delusion is at fault.  We need to realize this personally where we come to see our delusions as our real enemies, the cause of all our difficulties.  We need to see what difficulties we are having in life, and then trace how delusions are the real cause.  Then we will come and see.  Whenever we suffer, even when it appears that others are to blame, we should try to recognize how delusion alone is to blame.   Then we’ll stop blaming others.

Sometimes people misunderstand the Dharma to mean we can’t be happy or enjoy ourselves.  But this is not so.  Ordinary beings have their four minutes of happiness for their four months of secondary misery.  Dharma practitioners are happy about the fact that they are destroying their inner enemies of delusions.  This makes them happy because they see clearly that their delusions are the cause of their suffering.

Delusions are like a relentless enemy that will never stop.  External enemies you can compromise with and even make your friend, but there is no compromise, nor peace possible with delusions.  The reason for this is clear – it is a faulty logic.  If you have a little bit or a lot of faulty logic, it remains forever faulty.  In external affairs, there are legitimate interests on both sides which can and need to be addressed for peace to occur; but delusions have no legitimate interests.  They deceive us into thinking they do, but closer examination always reveals following their advice is always self-defeating.  While delusions are just thoughts and therefore have no intention, Shantideva correctly “personifies” them with a personality of their own with purely evil intent.  If someone is purely evil, there is only one possible course of action – to destroy them completely.

Language like this makes us uncomfortable.  Buddhists are supposed to be peace-loving.  In our external relations, we renounce combative ways and we like being centered in the nicey-nice.  We are taught to make friends with our enemies.  All this talk of evil and war and battle rattles us a bit.  That’s the point.  Shantideva is our drill sergeant who reminds us sometimes we are faced with a kill or be killed scenario.  It’s not all roses and flowers, sometimes it is trench warfare.  The logic of military planners is entirely correct – they have just identified the wrong enemy.  We should adopt – wholesale – military-like thinking directed against our only true enemy, delusions.