In the last post we outlined the first three steps of the strategy for overcoming our faults. In this post, I will explain the last five steps:
Step 4: Avoid the extremes of repression and expression by learning to accept and overcome. One extreme is repressing our delusions. This is when you pretend, or try to pretend, that you don’t have a delusion (you are really mad or really attached, but deny it). This just pushes delusion into the more subtle levels of mind, where is still functions but is now hidden, so it is actually worse. It will later resurface in some dramatic way. The most dangerous delusions you can suppress are those with respect to your Dharma practice, such as doubts about a particular subject, problems with somebody in the Sangha or with a teacher, and so forth. These are the most dangerous because if left unchecked they will rob you of everything. If uncontrolledly you do this, then afterwards make the request: “please help me to identify my delusions in a way that I can overcome them.” Realize that suppressing itself is the delusion of running away.
The other extreme is expressing the delusion. This is when you follow the direction or advice of the delusion (you give in to it). Normally we do this because we think this ‘gets it out of our system.’ But the relief we feel when we give in is just changing suffering – the reduction of the pain of your uncontrolled desire – you have the object so the desire temporarily subsides. But the reality is it just plants new tendencies to do the same thing, so it will only be harder next time.
The middle way between these two is to accept and overcome. This is when you accept that you have the delusion, and clearly realizing it is a treacherous mind, you decide to confront it head on. We cannot run away from our karma – no matter where we go, our karma goes with us. So there is no getting around our karma, the only way is through it. To accept that we have the delusion in your mind, we need to do two things: accept its existence but not its validity. We accept the fact that a cloud of delusion exists within our mind. Our mind is sick with this delusion. Acceptance primarily prevents repression. We accept that yes, we have a delusion. Just as it is the nature of the body to fart, it is the nature of a contaminated mind to have delusions. We shouldn’t expect it to be any different. On this basis, we accept the existence of our delusions in our mind without judgement. We don’t, however, accept the validity of the delusion itself. Not accepting the validity primarily prevents expression. We recognize delusions for what they are: necessarily deceptive minds. The promise us happiness but only give us problems. It is like spam in our email inbox. We accept that there is spam in our inbox, but we are not fooled by its message. By not accepting the validity of spam messages, we no longer believe what they have to say, and so we cannot be fooled. The power of the spam over us is cut. Just as this is true of spam, it is equally true of delusions. The delusions may be present in our mind, but we know with certainty that they are wrong, so they have no power over us.
Step 5: Cut your 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 you want to eliminate the problems associated with your delusions, stop identifying with them. We are not our delusions, they are simply the cancer in our mind. We are our pure potential (we will talk more about this in the next post). When we cut our identification with our delusions, we do so by saying ‘not me’ with respect to our delusions, and backing up into either our pure potential or our self-generated deity. Kadam Bjorn clearly explained that if you try fight your delusions while you are still identifying with them, the only thing you will do is develop self-hatred and suppress them. If you cut your identification with the delusions and then fight them, you will actually get rid of them.
Step 6: Increase your desire to be free from the delusion. Kadam Bjorn also explained 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 the delusions. Normally we think to not express is to suppress. But this is true only when we our ‘on-net’ desire is to indulge in the delusion. When your desire to be free from the delusion is greater than your desire to have the object of your delusion, then you will have enough power. Otherwise, you will eventually give in (desire realm being) or explode. To increase our desire to be free, we can contemplate how delusions are necessarily deceptive minds. They destroy our inner peace and so make us miserable. Following our delusions moves us deeper into samsara: either we are going deeper into samsara or we are moving out. We want to get out of samsara for ourself (renunciation) or for others (bodhichitta).
Step 7: Apply opponents to decrease the delusion. Every delusion has its own specific opponent, but the following work in all cases. It is better to get deep experience of a couple tools than superficial experience of countless tools. (1) Breathing meditation – imagine you breathe out the delusion and you breathe in your guru’s realization of the opponent. (2) Mantra recitation – you recite the most appropriate mantra making the request that the particular Buddha heal your mind of the particular delusion. (3) Change objects. For example, with anger we want to be free from suffering and we think external condition is the source of our suffering, so we wish to harm it/destroy it. With wisdom, we try recognize that the problem is our own anger and attachment, so we try direct the same energy against our delusions wishing to harm/destroy them instead. With attachment we want to experience happiness and we think that the external condition is the source of our happiness, so we wish to acquire it. Here, with wisdom we try recognize that happiness comes from virtue, so we direct that same desire towards mixing our mind with virtue instead. (4) Use the Lamrim. We directly use the Lamrim as an opponent to our specific delusions. Directly or indirectly the Lamrim is the opponent to all delusions, so just a regular and consistent practice of Lamrim will wear away at all of our delusions simultaneously. But when we have a very strong delusion, we can directly use each of the Lamrim meditations as an opponent (how can meditation 1 help me overcome my attachment, etc.)
Step 8: Eradicate the delusion with the wisdom realizing emptiness. Emptiness essentially explains that none of this is real, it is all a dream, so there is nothing to be attached to and no us for that matter! Ultimately, the wisdom realizing emptiness eradicates all our delusions.