Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  A terrible reckoning awaits if we do not start to change

(4.48) Therefore, having considered this well,
I will strive sincerely to practise these precepts as they have been explained.
If a sick person does not listen to the doctor’s advice,
How can he expect to be cured? 

Shantideva’s advice in this chapter can be summarized into three things.  First, cherish virtue.  We cherish what virtue we have in our mind, such as Bodhichitta, our bodhisattva vows, etc.  We need to feel that they really do matter.  Second, to abandon non-virtue.  We realize that negative actions only harm us, and so we naturally want to stop engaging in them and to purify our old negativities.  And third, to abandon delusions.  The cause of all our negativities is our delusions.  They are our real enemy that needs to be destroyed.

My friend Taro who was in a psychiatric hospital for many years told me once, “I have turned my psychotic mind wishing to harm against my delusions.  As a result, I now have enormous power to overcome my delusions.”  We need to be like this.  We need to take sadistic glee in torturing our delusions and trying to destroy them and undermine them in every way possible.  Very often the best way to torture our delusions is to simply not believe them.  When we do, they lose all their power over us.  We don’t need to resist our delusions, we rather need to see through their lies.  Then, we will naturally not want to follow them, any more than we intentionally allow ourselves to be fooled.  The ultimate way to eliminate our delusions is to realize their emptiness.  Then, they dissolve back into the emptiness from which they came and we can purify completely the causes that give rise to them.

But at the end of the day, progress on the spiritual path comes down to one thing:  are we actually applying effort to go against the grain of our delusions?  If all the Dharma we have studied for so many years remains theoretical, and we don’t actually use it to think differently, then it is essentially useless.  As Geshe-la explains in Joyful Path, there are many Dharma scholars in hell.  Every moment of every day is an opportunity to train our mind because at present everything that appears to us gives rise to one delusion or another.  If we check our mind, every time we look at any person we generate some delusion, whether it be attachment for the hot babe, a judgmental attitude towards somebody, a feeling of superiority over somebody, frustration at how stupid everyone is, impatience that these people are getting in our way, friend, enemy, stranger, the list goes on and on.  Each time these delusions arise we have an opportunity to train our mind to think differently.

The opportunities exist, the question is whether we are seizing them or not.  Life passes very quickly.  Every old person you speak with says the same thing:  it all goes so quickly.  It will be no different for us.  Only the young delude themselves into thinking they have enough time.  I started practicing Dharma 22 years ago, and it has gone in a flash and I have very little to show for it for the simple reason that I remain complacent about the delusions in my mind.  I lazily allow them to remain, I arrogantly think I have no need to purify my negative karma, I fool myself into thinking because I “know” the Dharma that it is enough.  But delusions still maintain their dominion over me.  When will I finally rise up and say enough is enough?

Having a terrible sickness is not so bad if we know there is a cure.  Having a cure and not taking it is the peak of stupidity.  But if we are honest, we must admit to ourselves that we stand on this peak.  We have been given everything:  a flawless Dharma, a fully qualified Spiritual Guide, a worldwide network of Sangha friends, an all-powerful Dharma protector who can arrange all the outer and inner conditions necessary for our swiftest possible enlightenment and endless opportunities to practice.  Yet we do close to nothing.  We don’t like to hear this.  We like to think we do a lot, but do we really live our life as someone who stands on the precipice of the lower realms?  Are we filled with a heart-cracking fear of the negative karma that remains on our mind?  Do we view our life in this world as being like the lamb chewing grass oblivious to the fact that they are simply waiting their turn to enter the slaughterhouse?  If not, then we haven’t been listening and a terrible reckoning awaits us.

This concludes the fourth chapter of Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, entitled Relying upon Conscientiousness”.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Strategy for how to overcome our delusions, part 2

We continue with our discussion for how to actually overcome our delusions.  The first three steps were explained in the previous post.

Step 4:  “Choose” our strategy for dealing with the delusion.  I say ‘choose’ because normally we just respond reflexively.  Here we make an intentional decision to not do the wrong thing and to do the right thing.  In confronting our delusions, we usually fall into one of two extremes.  The first is the extreme of repression.  This is when we pretend, or try to pretend, that we don’t have a delusion (in reality we are very upset or really attached, but we deny it, even sometimes to ourselves).  The other extreme is expression.  This is when we follow the direction or advice of the delusion (in short, we give in to it).  Popular psychology recognizes the extreme of repression as harmful because it just causes us to push our delusions under the surface where they grow in strength until eventually they blow in some dramatic fashion.  Popular psychology’s prescription is to express our feelings – to let it all out, to get it out of our system.  They say we need to be in touch with our feelings and they think if we feel or think something, it is somehow important and valid.  Temporarily, it seems as if expression works.  When we give in to our attachment, the pain associated with being deprived our objects of desire is pacified and we feel better.  When we give into our anger and rage against other people, we feel as if we are getting the anger out of us and that we are standing up for ourself, so we feel better.  But in the long-term, by following the delusion and assenting to its validity, we are just feeding the beast that will ultimately devour us.  Every time we give into our delusions, they come back stronger the next time and it is even harder to overcome them later.  It is no different than a heroin addict.  The withdraw is terrible, and giving in will make the pain go away.  But it also guarantees it will come back again stronger next time.  Because we gave in before, we now have the habit to give in again.  It eventually reaches the point where we no longer even try, we will have surrendered ourself completely to our delusions.  We become their willing slave.  The middle way between these two extremes is to “accept and overcome.”  We accept the fact that the delusion is present within our mind (we accept that we are indeed sick with the delusions), but we clearly realize it is a treacherous mind, and we decide to confront it head on.  Kadam Morten said, “we accept the existence of the delusion, but not its validity.”  Yes, delusion is present within my mind, but I know it is a lie trying to deceive me.

Step 5:  Cut our identification with the delusion.  Other people’s delusions are not a problem for us because we don’t identify with them.  Our delusions are a problem because we do identify with them.  If we want to eliminate the problems associated with our delusions, we need to stop identifying with them.  Geshe-la explains in Eight Steps to Happiness that we are not our delusions, rather they are like clouds passing through the sky of our mind.  We cut our identification with our delusions by saying ‘not me.’  We can see them as clouds but we are the sky.  We can feel like we take a step back into the clear light Dharmakaya or as our self-generated deity.  We are the Dharmakaya or the deity, not the delusion.  Kadam Bjorn said if we try oppose our delusions while we are still identifying with them, then our wisdom wishing to be free from our delusions turns into self-guilt, which is in fact self-hatred.  He said because we haven’t actually “let go” of the delusion, when we apply the opponents all we really do is repress them and they will pop up again later.

Step 6.  Increase our desire to be free from the delusion.  Kadam Bjorn also said that our ability to overcome our delusions is not so much how well we know the opponents, but rather how strong is our desire to be free from them.  When our desire to be free from the delusion is greater than our desire to have the object of our delusion, then we will have enough power.  Otherwise, we will eventually give in (because we are a desire realm being) or explode in a form of spiritual bulimia.  To increase our desire to be free, we can contemplate that Geshe-la said “all delusions are necessarily deceptive minds.”  They destroy our inner peace and so make us miserable.  A good friend of mine once said:  either we are going deeper into samsara or we are moving out, there is no third possibility.  Following our delusions moves us deeper into samsara.  We want to get out of samsara for ourself (renunciation) or for others (bodhichitta).

Step 7:  Apply opponents to decrease the delusion.  The first thing we need to realize is that delusions have as much power as we give them.  We give them power by believing them to be true.  When we identify that they are deceptive, we are no longer fooled by them, even though they continue to arise in our mind.  Then, they have no power over us.  Once we have reduced their power in this way, we can then apply the various opponents explained in the Dharma.  Really, any Dharma mind can be used to overcome virtually any delusion.  But every delusion has its own principal opponent.  The principal opponents of anger are love and patient acceptance.  The opponents to attachment are selfless love and non-attachment or renunciation.  The opponent to jealousy is rejoicing, being happy for the other person.  The opponent to doubt is faith and wisdom.  The opponent to ignorance is the wisdom realizing emptiness.  When we apply opponents it is important we do so without any expectation for results.  If the causes are created, eventually our delusions will be reduced.

Step 8:  We eradicate the delusion with the wisdom realizing emptiness.  We eliminate our delusions entirely by realizing that ourselves, the delusion and the object of our delusion do not exist from their own side.  But in particular, Shantideva focuses on realizing the emptiness of our delusions.  At the end of the day, a delusion is just a thought in your mind.  Just as you can forget a phone number, so too you can forget your delusions.  Why has Shantideva launched into the true nature of delusions here?  We can know they can be defeated because they don’t truly exist.  Geshe-la says in How to Understand the Mind that just as the child of a barren woman cannot have problems because the child does not exist at all, so too the self that we normally see cannot have problems because such a self does not exist at all!

 

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Strategy for how to overcome delusions, part 1

(4.45) An ordinary enemy who is expelled from a country
Will go to another and remain there,
Only to return when he has regained his strength;
But the enemy of the delusions is not like that.

(4.46) O delusions, delusions, where will you go
When banished by the eye of wisdom and expelled from my mind?
And from where will you return to harm me again?
But, being weak-minded, I am reduced to making no effort!

(4.47) The delusions are not in the objects, in the sense powers, between them, or elsewhere;
So from where can they cause harm to all living beings?
Because they are just like illusions, I should banish fear from my heart and strive to attain wisdom.
Why bring the sufferings of hell and so forth upon myself for no reason?

We need to have a comprehensive strategy for overcoming our delusions.  It is not enough to just know delusions are our mortal enemy.  Our wish to overcome them will never be strong enough if we do not think it is possible to do.  When we know such a method exists and we understand how to employ it our wish to overcome our delusions will be conjoined with a confidence knowing how to do it.

How the strategy works will be explained over the next two posts.  It all starts with having a problem of some kind.  We can take as an example an urge to smoke, but we can apply the same strategy to any other object of attachment, or indeed any delusion.

Step 1:  Analyze the nature and the cause of the problem.  We normally think our problem is something external, such as not having our object of attachment.  But the nature of the problem is not something external, rather our problem is the unpleasant feelings arising within our mind.  We identify clearly that the cause of our problem is not something external, rather it is the delusion of attachment within our own mind.  Just as identifying the object of negation is the most important step in meditating on emptiness, so too identifying the exact nature of our problem is the most important step in overcoming our delusions.  If we do not see clearly the difference between the outer problem and the inner problem of our mind, we will continue to grasp at the outer problem as being our problem.  When we think this, we will conclude it is the external circumstance that needs to change.  If instead, we realize clearly that our problem is our own deluded reaction to the external situation, then we will conclude it is our mind that needs to change.  This does not mean we don’t also try change the external situation, but we do so understanding external methods solve external problems; internal methods solve internal problems.

Step 2:  Ask ourself the question:  what kind of being am I?  If we are a worldly being, interested only in external happiness, then this strategy won’t work for us.  If we instead are a spiritual being, interested in gaining spiritual realizations, then everything works.  We can change what kind of being we are through the practice of Lamrim, whose main function is to change our desire.  The meditations on the initial scope change our desires from being worldly ones to spiritual ones concerned with the welfare of future lives, in particular avoiding lower rebirth.  The meditations on the intermediate scope change our desires to not being satisfied with avoiding a lower rebirth, but wishing to escape from any form of samsaric rebirth.  The meditations on the great scope change our desires to not be satisfied with merely saving ourselves, but we must also save all our kind mothers.  In general, the quickest way to change our desire is to recall death by asking ourself the question:  “Do I want to arrive at my death and realize that I could now be getting out of samsara but am not because I wasn’t motivated enough to overcome this attachment before?”

Step 3:  Make requests to Dorje Shugden.  Gen Togden explained this practice to me.  He said every time a delusion arises in our mind, we should request Dorje Shugden, “with respect to this delusion arising in my mind, please arrange whatever is best.”  After we make this request, there are two possibilities.  The first is Dorje Shugden blesses our mind with the wisdom to see through the lies of the delusion and it ceases to have a hold over us.  In this case, it is the end of the story.  If, however, the delusion persists in our mind, then it means that Dorje Shugden wants us to train in overcoming this delusion.  A wise and skilled teacher does not just make everything easy, rather they push their students to make progress.  Dorje Shugden knows our mind and knows exactly what we need to work on.  If the delusion remains, it is because we need to work on this particular aspect of our mind.  Either way, we accept with infinite faith that this is perfect for our practice, so you are happy.  We are happy because we are a spiritual being, and what we want is to practice.

 

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.