Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Retaking our vows with no intention of keeping them

(4.11) Those who repeatedly renew their Bodhisattva vow
Only to go on to incur further downfalls
Will remain for a long time enmeshed in samsara,
Obstructed from attaining higher spiritual grounds.

(4.12) Therefore, I must practise sincerely,
In accordance with the promise I have made.
If, from now on, I make no effort,
I shall be reborn in lower and lower states.

Here, we need to make a clear distinction between the correct and incorrect way of approaching our vows.  The correct way is to “work gradually and skillfully with all the vows, while maintaining the intention to one day keep them all perfectly.”  The incorrect way is to “allow ourself to incur downfalls thinking it doesn’t matter because we can simply retake our vows.”  There is a world of difference between these two approaches.

Deluded tendencies arise in our mind all the time.  The training in moral discipline takes this as a given.  We would not need to train in moral discipline if deluded, negative tendencies did not arise.  Some people, falling on one extreme, relate to their vows as if the arising of a deluded tendency itself is a downfall, and so when it occurs, they immediately repress the tendency.  The result of this is as predictable as it is tragic:  the strength of the deluded tendencies grows and grows until one day the person “cracks” and then binges on their delusions and negative habits.  Spiritual bulimia is not the goal.

The other extreme is whenever a deluded tendency arises we simply give into it, knowing we will be defeated by it anyways.  Usually we rationalize this in one of two ways, either we say, “we are not there yet where we are ready to take on this particular deluded tendency” or we tell ourselves, “this action is not so bad, lighten up.”  If we take this approach, we never really get serious about our practice of moral discipline.

The worst, of course, is intentionally engaging in negativity thinking it doesn’t matter because we can just retake our vows and all will be good.  I call this the Don Corleone method of purification, we go to Confession while our hit men are out killing our enemies.  Purification practices and the restoration of our vows only works if we are sincere about it.  They are not get out of jail free cards. When we practice like this, our underlying intention is to continue to enjoy samsara.  Such a practice will bring no real change.   We will not move forward.  If we carry on like this, Shantideva says we’ll remain for a long time enmeshed in samsara.  We need to sincerely reconstruct the pathways and behavior patterns within our mind.  We need to cherish our vows as a way of doing that, and sincerely work with them all to retrain our mind.  Conclusion: we mustn’t let things slip, as we have done. More importantly, we must never give up.  Through considering the results of letting things slip or of giving up, conscientiousness will naturally arise.  Because we don’t want those results, for ourselves or others.

Geshe-la advises us to “work gradually and skillfully with all our vows, while maintaining the intention to one day keep them all perfectly.”  Our actual commitment – our actual vow – is to never abandon the intention to keep them all perfectly in the future.  This protects us against the extreme of just letting loose and indulging in our negativity whenever it arises.  Working gradually and skillfully with all our vows humbly accepts that the practice of moral discipline is a training, something that we work with over a long period of time gradually learning from our mistakes and doing a little bit better each day, each month, each year, each decade and indeed each lifetime.  This protects us from the extreme of repression, thinking that we are supposed to act perfectly from day one.  I usually do self-initiation three or four times a year.  At such times, I try reflect back on how I am doing with all of my vows.  I will mentally make new commitments where possible to do a little bit better with my vows than I did the last time I retook them.

The key to moral discipline is to move beyond “shouldn’t” to “I don’t want to.”  When we think, “I shouldn’t engage in a certain action” implicit is within us a desire thinking, “but I still want to do so.”  Shouldn’t-based moral discipline generally just leads to repression.  Instead, we need to contemplate the faults of delusions, karma, the benefits of moral discipline, our spiritual goals and the practicalities of what works and what doesn’t, and get to the point where we can “see through the lie” of our delusion.  Our delusion promises us that if we follow it, things will be better.  We instead shine the light of wisdom on this, realize that no, if I follow my delusion it will just make things worse.  Then, we refrain from engaging in the negative action because we simply don’t want to.  We know we will suffer more if we do.  Such moral discipline is sustainable.  Once we have realized this wisdom once, then, every time a deluded tendency arises, we recollect our wisdom that lead us to the decision to commit to certain practices of moral discipline.  We reaffirm that, “no, I don’t want to do that” and then we refrain.  Practicing in this way, our moral discipline and wisdom will improve in tandem, with each reinforcing the other.

Mother’s Day for a Kadampa

As Kadampas who practice the Lamrim, every 21 days is Mother’s Day.  We are all quite familiar with the various contemplations of how all living beings are our mother and how kind they were to us as our mother, therefore we should develop a profound feeling of gratitude towards our mother of this life and all our mothers of our past lives.  Very often though, primarily because we make our meditations intellectual exercises of recalling certain points as opposed to exercises of the heart where we change our feelings, these contemplations on the kindness of our mother no longer really move our mind.  We might recall them, but we don’t internalize them and let them touch our heart.  On actual Mother’s Day, we should take the time to reflect deeply and sincerely upon them so that our heart moves and we genuinely feel gratitude and a wish to repay our mother’s kindness.

I sometimes wonder if ancient Tibetan culture was the same as our modern culture.  In modern culture, particularly in modern psychology, the trend is to blame our mother for all of our problems.  We are encouraged to go back into our childhood and find all the different ways our mother made mistakes and that is “the underlying cause” why we are the way we are today.  We likewise completely take for granted everything our mother has done for us.  As kids, we are completely blind to it.  We think it is “normal” that our mothers do everything for us, and we feel “justified” in getting angry with them when they don’t do it perfectly.  In truth, our mother could have just abandoned us on the street.  She owes us nothing.  Nobody owes us anything.  It is our expectation that they do that actually prevents us from appreciating all that she did for us.  It is the very nature of modern motherhood to give everything you have to your kids only to have them take your kindness for granted, blame you for all of their problems, and want to have nothing to do with you because you are such an embarrassment.  Perhaps it has always been such, which is why the meditation on the kindness of our mothers has always been taught.

On Mother’s Day, I think it is important to not just express our gratefulness, but to sincerely apologize for what a jerk we have been to her over the years.  Explain that when you were a kid, you didn’t understand, and now it is only as an adult (and perhaps a parent yourself) that you are beginning to realize all she did for you.  Apologize for yelling, apologize for disobeying, apologize for being embarrassed by her, apologize for ignoring her, and apologize most of all for taking for granted all that she has done for you.  Explain to her that all of your good qualities now come from her.  My father once said about his mother, “everything good in our family comes from Grandma.  That’s the truth.”  This is a perfect attitude.  It is the truth.  The truth is mother’s really struggle with the fact that everything they do is taken for granted and that they are blamed for everything.  Yes, it is good for them in terms of being able to learn how to give love unconditionally, but it is hard.  All it takes is one honest conversation where you admit you were a real butt with her, and where you express sincere gratitude for everything you previously took for granted.  Such a conversation can heal decades of grief.

Sometimes when we encounter the meditation on the kindness of our mothers we develop all sorts of objections because it is true, our mother did make a lot of mistakes.  My mother had all sorts of serious mental health issues, we had an off and on terrible relationship until eventually she killed herself on my wedding day.  I had all sorts of resentments towards her for years, then I had guilt after her suicide, and now I find it difficult to think anything good about her.  All I see is her many faults and delusions.  Most of us have problems of one kind or another with our mothers.  I personally feel it is vital that we identify the delusions we have towards our parents, in particular our mother, and work through them.  We need to get to the point where our mind is completely healed of all delusions towards them.  This is not only a way of repaying the kindness of our mother, it is a way of healing our own mind.

Our mothers were not perfect, they made many mistakes, and they were full of delusions.  This is also true, and acknowledging that fact is not a denial of their kindness.  We can hold the view that they were emanations of Buddhas who appeared to make the mistakes that they did to give us a chance to grow.  Every child grows up cataloging the many mistakes their parents make and resolves when they are parents they won’t do the same thing; only to find when they do become parents they wind up making all the same mistakes.  The power of osmosis with our parents is the most powerful force shaping our lives and shaping our mind.  It is not enough that we heal our mind of all the delusions we have towards our mother, we also need to look into our mind and identify all the delusions we received from her.  Venerable Tharchin once told me the only reason why the people in our life appear to have delusions is because we ourselves possess the same delusions within our own mind, we therefore project beings who have the same faults.  Our task, therefore, is to identify within ourselves the delusions that appear in others and then root them out completely.  When we do so, he said, several amazing things will happen.  First, your relationship with the person will improve.  Second, you will have less delusions in your own mind.  And third, the faults you see in the other person will gradually “disappear.”  Why?  Because they were never coming from the other person in the first place.  He concluded by saying, this is how Bodhisattva’s ripen and liberate all beings.  When we attain Buddhahood, he said, it appears to us as if everybody attains Buddhahood at the same time with us.  In fact, we see that they have always been so.  If we love our mother, this is essential work.

Mother’s Day, though, is about much more than just our relationship with our own mother of this life, or even recalling the kindness of all our past mothers.  I think on Mother’s Day we need to recall the kindness of our Spiritual Mother, Guru Arya Tara.  Tara promised Atisha long ago that she would care for all Kadampas in the future.  The fact that we have a spiritual life today is due to her kindness.  She gave birth to our spiritual life.  Like all mothers’ kindnesses, we don’t even see it.  She operates unseen, and we take it for granted.  But there is no doubt, it is thanks to her that we have a spiritual life.  She gave birth to it, she has nurtured it, and she cares for us now even if we never think of her.  For some, she appears herself as Vajrayogini, and therefore serves as our Highest Yoga Tantra Yidam.  Tara is one of the Buddhas who often appears early in our spiritual life.  Almost everybody has a very positive experience with encountering her.  But then, over time, we tend to forget about her as we move on to other practices.  But like any mother, she never forgets her spiritual children.  We should remember this, and generate our thanks to her for it.

Finally, I think it is worth recalling that just as all living beings have been our mother, so too we have been the mother of all living beings.  We can correctly view all living beings as our children, and love them as a good mother would.  The contemplations on the kindness a mother shows to her child are not there just to help us develop gratitude towards our mothers, they are also examples of the attitude we should have towards all of our children.  How many of us would be willing to remove the mucus from a stranger’s nose?  Our mother did that for us.  We should love others so much that we would gladly, and without hesitation do the same for others.  Of course, that would never happen, but the mind that is willing to help any living being in any way we can is the real meaning of Mother’s Day.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Don’t interfere with a Bodhisattva

(4.9) And if someone else were to obstruct or hinder
A Bodhisattva’s virtuous actions, even for a moment,
Since he would be undermining the welfare of all living beings,
There would be no end to his lower rebirths.

(4.10) For if I would experience misfortune
As a result of destroying the happiness of just one being,
What can be said of the consequences of destroying
The happiness of all living beings as extensive as space?

These two verses indicate the significance of a Bodhisattva’s deeds.  If they are halted in any way, the welfare of others is affected. It is important to note that our practice can be obstructed by ourself or by others.  First we will discuss others.

We need to be careful to not let others obstruct our practice.  When others create obstacles to our practice and we allow them to do so, they incur very heavy negative karma of indirectly harming all living beings.  This is very important to understand.  Sometimes we think we are cherishing others to not do our practice because it upsets them when we do, but this comes at the expense of all other living beings and causes the other person to incur heavy negative karma.

There are some qualifiers to this.  First, we need to think about things in a long-term perspective.  Sometimes it is better to allow some minor interference in the short run to eliminate much greater interference in the long run.  If you push too hard too quickly you could wind up with less.  Second, we don’t always have to tell the obstructing person what we are doing.  Sometimes they just wouldn’t understand and would create obstacles for us.  If we can avoid saying anything and still do our own thing, that is often the best course of action.  But sometimes we might be forced into a situation where we are faced with a choice:  lie and do Dharma or tell the truth and not do Dharma.  In such a case, we need to not sacrifice a greater virtue on the altar of a lesser virtue.  Under what conditions is this a lie and under what conditions is it not a lie?  It all depends on whether we are driven by delusion or not.  As a general rule though, most of the obstacles we encounter are minor.  If we transform the obstructions the other person throws at us into the path, they will still accumulate negative karma for interfering with our practice, but less so.  And if we are able to transform their obstacles into the path, can we really say they are interfering in fact with our practice?

Even if others do not interfere with our practice, we can wind up interfering with our own practice.  In comparison with conscientiously engaging in the bodhisattva’s path, if we do nothing, then living beings remain in samsara for longer.  This is true for two reasons.  First, we don’t directly lead them out; and second, we don’t help others become bodhisattva’s themselves who would help others still.

Is this meant to make us feel bad?  It seems unfair: here I’ve made a promise, but if I don’t act on it then I am the cause of others having to experience suffering for a longer and longer period of time.  It seems like the Bodhisattva’s path is a high-stakes way of life.  The results are far, far greater in either direction.  Is it better to play it safe and not enter such a life?  The answer is an unequivocal no.  Will we make mistakes?  Of course, many.  But our intention is to learn and do better next time.  Since it is primarily our intention that determines the karma we create, if we maintain a good intention while remaining humbly aware we will make many mistakes along the way, we will accumulate far more virtue from our efforts than non-virtue from our mistakes.  In any case, what is the bigger error, trying and making mistakes or not trying at all and abandoning the bodhisattva’s path?

It is good to have fear of interfering with a bodhisattva.  Generating fear is a good way of identifying the self-cherishing mind.  In these verses Shantideva is helping us to generate fear.  At the same time we have to feel so happy.  Conscientiousness is a happy mind, cherishing virtue. Shantideva’s helping us to generate such conscientiousness through developing some fear.  We need to think about this quite carefully.

Geshe-la says in The Bodhisattva Vow we need to be very skillful in our practice of the Bodhisattva Vows.  If we feel so unhappy and give ourselves a hard time after incurring a downfall, we’re taking the wrong approach.  There is a danger when we contemplate the dangers we can become heavy with our practice, but as Kadam Bjorn said, “there is not a single mind in the Dharma that is heavy or tight.  They are all light and spacious.”  Conscientiousness is not a heavy mind for the simple reason that it is not fooled by the lies of our delusions.  It is confident in its choice of virtue and the inner struggle between wisdom and delusion has been resolved – at least intellectually.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Abandoning bodhichitta is the heaviest of downfalls

(4.7) How someone who abandons bodhichitta
Can then attain liberation
Is beyond ordinary comprehension –
Only the omniscient can know that.

(4.8) For a Bodhisattva, abandoning bodhichitta
Is the heaviest of all downfalls
For, should he or she incur it,
The whole basis of working for others will be lost.

Why is this the heaviest of downfalls?  When we promise to provide a single benefit and renege on that promise, it is a negative action.  Bodhichitta is the promise to provide every conceivable benefit, so it is infinitely worse.  And bodhichitta promises to do this for every living being, which multiplies how negative the action is by the number of living beings.  Seen in this way, if we understand why generating bodhichitta is the most beneficial mind of all, we can likewise understand why abandoning it is the heaviest of downfalls.

What does it mean to abandon our bodhichitta?  It means with respect to any single individual, we abandon the thought:  I need to become a Buddha for this person.  This needs to be our primary motivation with everybody we meet.  If instead, we actively decide, “I will no longer help this person, they are on their own,” then we have abandoned bodhichitta for that person.

We can also abandon bodhichitta if we make the decision that it is just too hard or unrealistic to help everybody, and instead we are going to just worry about ourself and our own liberation.  We essentially abandon the Mahayana paths and instead decide to focus on our individual freedom for the sake of ourself.

While it is not actively abandoning our bodhichitta if it just fades away, if at some point we become aware that our bodhichitta has faded and we make no effort to try restore it, then this choosing to not bother try is likewise an indirect abandoning of our bodhichitta.  Leaving somebody to die when you could otherwise save them is a form of killing.  In the same way, leaving our bodhichitta to die when we could otherwise save it is a form of abandoning bodhichitta.

If we abandon our bodhichitta we’re not just letting others down, we’re letting go of others.   Perhaps we feel it’s not quite true because we do all sorts of temporary things to help others.  But if we stop there with ordinary help, and we give up on trying to help them overcome their true sufferings and true origins, then we may still have ordinary compassion but we no longer have bodhichitta.  Temporary help may be able to provide conditions for others to experience temporary happiness before they head to the lower realms again.  If this is all we are doing, we need to ask ourselves, are we helping in every way we can?

Our neighbor once turned her back for just a few minutes, and five minutes later she found her 3 year old son dead in the pool when he went in after his ball.  Anybody who has been a parent knows it only takes a few moments of neglect for terrible things to happen.  This is why parents are always extremely vigilant, and the welfare of their kids is never far from their mind.  A bodhisattva should be the same way.  If we are negligent, our bodhichitta can quickly or slowly die, but one way or the other it dies all the same.  The welfare of living beings who we have promised to lead to freedom should never be far from our mind.

We should not be satisfied with simply not abandoning our bodhichitta, but we should treasure it as our most precious possession, constantly nurturing it, caring for it, guarding it and protecting it.  The most precious objects in the world are kept under constant surveillance against thieves or whose who might do them harm.  We should be the same with our bodhichitta, keeping it safe under constant surveillance of mindfulness and alertness.  We naturally treat our Buddha images with respect, placing them on our shrine, putting beautiful offerings before them etc.  In the same way, we should treat our precious mind of bodhichitta with the utmost respect and constantly tend to its welfare.

Guest Article: Empathy and exchanging self with others

Below is an article written by dear Dharma friend.  Enjoy.

The one thing the majority of humans crave, whether they know it or not, is understanding. How can I understand the other person? What am I assuming about their reality? What beliefs do I hold that distort my view of their suffering?

Each living being is in their own samsaric nightmare. No one can experience the very personal world of another, and all that encompasses.

When a person experiences intense suffering their needs and wants vary. What we need when we are suffering is very different than what someone else needs when they are suffering. We might mistakenly believe our suffering is like their suffering and provide evidence to support our experience which a person can relate to but it is still worlds apart and very different.

True healing can take place through a genuine exchange of self and other through a profound empathy. This transcends mistaken appearance and conception. When we do this we heal the ‘other’, the part of our mind that appears as other. We have a compassion not for other, but for self because self is seen as all others. Their suffering is our suffering.

Our mind creates separation. We have abandoned ‘others’ in sake of self-cherishing. Abandonment is what all living beings experience in varying degrees. It is a mistakenly perceived distance or lack of connection from others. On a deeper level, we have abandoned our self.

Sometimes, the best way of helping another person is finding out what they need and want. Some people want to draw you into an argument to assert their self. Some people want you to give them the answers. Some people just want you so they can push you away. Some people just want to vent. The appearing gross wants and needs are rarely what the person wants or needs. The underlying stuff is more accurate.

But of course, we think we know what is best. We don’t. Even if we have all the dharma answers, we are still a million miles off.

1. ‘Be’ in their shoes
2. What do ‘I’ as other, specifically want or need?

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  We wouldn’t uninvite somebody to a party.

(4.4) If, having made the bodhichitta promise,
I do not actually put it into practice,
Since I shall be deceiving all these living beings,
What sort of rebirth shall I then take?

(4.5) It is said that someone who, out of miserliness,
Does not give even the smallest ordinary thing
That he or she has dedicated to others
Will be reborn as a hungry spirit.

(4.6) So, if I were to deceive all living beings,
Whom from the depths of my heart I have invited
To be guests at the banquet of enlightenment,
How could I take a fortunate rebirth in the future?

When we generate bodhichitta, we are making a promise to all living beings that we will not stop until we have saved them all.  The fact that they might not be aware of the promise we have made to them changes nothing, the promise has been made.  It is generally bad to promise to come to somebody’s aid and then to let them down.  To abandon our bodhichitta promise is to let everyone down.

It is important here we make a distinction between what our wisdom knows to be good for us and what our delusions think is good for us.  When our wisdom is functioning, we see things clearly and we know what is right.  When our delusions are functioning, we see things in a distorted way and it clouds our wisdom.  It is normal that there will be times when our delusions are the dominant force in our mind, and at such times we may forget our bodhichitta or even regret it.  When this happens, we haven’t gone back on our promise.  If we then recall our wisdom that led us to our bodhichitta promise in the first place, we are able to bring ourselves back to that space of clarity and we know clearly and unequivocally that our delusions are wrong and our wisdom is right.  This is the “training” of a bodhisattva.  Just as when our mind gets distracted in meditation, we need to recall our contemplation and bring our mind back to our object; so too in life when we become distracted by our delusions, we need to recall the wisdom leading to bodhichitta and bring our life back to the bodhisattva’s path.  If we fail to apply effort to do so, out of laziness, attachment or lack of concern for others, then we have gone back on our promise.

We imagined ourself surrounded by all living beings, and for their sake made a promise in front of our spiritual guide and the whole field of merit.   Not acting on this promise is like going right up to a beggar, getting some money out, and not giving it. Except, it’s a million times worse.

Some people really don’t like Shantideva because he uses such powerful rhetoric and he seems to revel in making us afraid.  Being afraid is an uncomfortable feeling, and so we assume such fear is a delusion and to be abandoned.  We got into meditation because we wanted to be happy, not become somebody who has the “fear of God (karma) drilled into them.”  Many people left their Christian upbringings due to all the fire and brimstone, and quickly become disheartened to find similar things in Buddha’s teachings.  It is clear, Shantideva is trying to generate fear in our mind.  He does this again and again.  Why does he use this approach?

The reality is much of the Dharma is about generating correct fears.  It is perfectly appropriate to be afraid of gravity, just as it is appropriate to be afraid of fire.  Such fears protect us.  Being afraid of losing our boyfriend or our money is an incorrect fear because such events are, in and of themselves, neither good nor bad.  It is how we relate to them that makes them so.  Irrational fears of the paranoid person believing people are out to get them when they are not are surely destructive and to be abandoned.  But fear of valid dangers is entirely correct, and a wisdom mind.

The harsh truth is we remain completely oblivious to the danger we are in, and our denial of it won’t protect us.  When we know we are in danger of losing our job, we do everything we can to protect it.  In the same way, we are in danger of becoming forever lost in the slaughterhouse of samsara.  We should be afraid.  We should be very afraid.  This fear protects us from the laziness of wasting our precious human life.  It protects us against being deceived by our delusions into committing negativity.  It protects us from complacency about having a happy life or being satisfied with our own freedom while everyone else drowns.

Many people relate to the Dharma like a hobby or like a club.  They enjoy meeting with their Sangha friends and enjoy the feast of a tsog puja.  There is nothing wrong with that, and in fact it is far better to enjoy the company of our Sangha friends than a party full of drunk people.  But is it good enough?  We can even enjoy making offerings, pujas, etc. but if there’s no fear present, then what will be the results of our practices?  Will they have the power to deliver us from lower rebirth much less propel us to liberation and enlightenment?

We need to get over our aversion to Shantideva invoking fear.  We need to try to understand what kind of fear we’re meant to generate and how important it is, because it comes up again and again.  Of course when reacting to anything with strong self-grasping, self-cherishing, the mind will be unpeaceful.  This is why we need to increase our faith and wisdom.  But unlike others, our mind will become more peaceful.  Fear can be present in our mind, but we’ll feel more and more peaceful as a result.  The causes of refuge are fear and faith.  Without fear, there is no refuge, nor any faith.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Why do we feel so unconcerned when our bodhichitta fades?

(4.2) If an ordinary action is undertaken in haste
Or without being well thought out,
It might be appropriate to reconsider,
Even if a promise has been made;

(4.3) But how could I possibly turn back
From something that has been examined
By the wisdom of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,
And that I too have repeatedly examined?

One of my most frequent mistakes is I let my enthusiasm get ahead of my wisdom.  I have all sorts of big plans, I will often commit myself to all sorts of projects, only to realize I am unable to complete them all or in fact the projects I have started aren’t worth completing at all.  Doing this with respect to ordinary projects is generally a bad habit.  It is better to commit to less, but bring it all to completion than to commit to everything and not accomplish anything.  Most of the time we can solve this problem with careful sequencing.  We put off certain projects until later so we can complete the priority projects now.  But sometimes we need to just abandon certain efforts.  It is better to admit your mistakes than to continue to repeat them just because at some point you made a commitment to do the wrong thing.

But our bodhichitta commitment, our Bodhisattva vows, can’t be like that.  There is a famous joke which says, “Quitting smoking is easy!  I’ve done it many times.”  Our bodhichitta commitment needs to be different.

The point is this:  all the omniscient ones have spent aeons examining what is most beneficial for living beings, and their conclusion is it is the mind of bodhichitta.  A Buddha’s mind knows all paths, directly and simultaneously.  They can see what is beneficial and what is harmful to living beings.  The paths of delusion, the paths we have been travelling up until now, all lead to further suffering.  Indeed, just as all roads lead to Rome, all delusions eventually lead us to the deepest hell realm.  But the path of bodhichitta leads to permanent freedom for ourself and for all living beings.  It will never deceive us, we can follow it with confidence.

The problem is this:  the benefits of bodhichitta seem uncertain and far off whereas the supposed benefits of delusion seem certain and near at hand.  As a result, we choose delusion every time.  This is why it is critical that we become an expert at realizing, as Geshe-la has told us, “all delusions are deceptive.”  All delusions promise us some reward or benefit if we follow them.  Our attachment tells us that through it we can obtain the object of our attachment, but the more we grasp the more it remains out of our reach.  Anger tells us it can destroy our causes of suffering, but all it does is create even more.  Jealousy tells us we will be able to keep what we hold dear, but all it does is drive good things away.  Ignorance tells us it gives us an “objective” look at reality, but all it does is enmesh us in a web of illusions.  Spite tell us we will feel better when we see our enemies suffer, but as Shantideva points out there are special cauldrons in hell for those with such minds.  Our miserliness tells us it is guarding our wealth, but it condemns us to future poverty.  Our doubts tell us they protect us from believing something that is wrong, but it actually prevents us from believing anything, even what is right.  All delusions are deceptive.  They promise us happiness, but they only increase our suffering.  All we need do is examine our own life and the truth of this will become obvious.

There is nothing about our present happiness that makes it more important than our future happiness.  Our happiness of now seems very important, but this happiness used to be a happiness in the future.  If we hadn’t cherished our future happiness in the past, we would enjoy no happiness now.  In the same way, if we do not now cherish our future happiness, we will know nothing but misery and misfortune.  Present happiness is temporary and short-lived, whereas future happiness is forever.  Future happiness is more important for the simple reason it is longer in duration.  Our attachment to our present happiness causes us to waste our precious opportunity to train in the path of Dharma, an opportunity we are unlikely to find again.

If we are to sustain our bodhisattva path, we need to contemplate again and again how the fruits of bodhichitta are definite (and indeed immediate because we are happy all of the time when this precious jewel pervades our mind), whereas our delusions always lead us astray.  Then we won’t be fooled by the false logic of sacrificing our bodhichitta wishes for the sake of temporary elusive gains.

Most of the time, we don’t actually make the decision to abandon our bodhichitta, rather it just gradually fades away serendipitously.  Without us noticing, day by day, month by month, year by year the Dharma begins to fade in importance.  We still pay lip service to our bodhichitta, and when times of crisis come we rediscover our faith, but the sense that our life has a clear spiritual direction and purpose, the feeling that we are on a mission from which we will never turn, is gone.

We know how precious Bodhichitta is.  Over the years we’ve thought a lot about this mind.  We’ve come to appreciate the value of this mind so much.  We know how precious it is.  What is curious is why do we seem so unconcerned about its increase or decrease within our own mind?   If someone were to ask us, “how has your Bodhichitta been over the last few months?  Has it become stronger or weaker,” most likely we wouldn’t really know, or might not really care.  We think it doesn’t matter.  It comes back to this.  Generally we seem a little unconcerned as to its increase or decrease.  If we value Bodhichitta, why do we feel so unconcerned?