Vows, commitments and modern life:  Don’t get it wrong.

Do not misinterpret. 

We should avoid six mistaken attitudes:  wrong patience, wrong aspiration, wrong experience, wrong compassion, wrong benefit and wrong rejoicing.

Wrong patience.  Wrong patience is patience towards our delusions.  Geshe-la says we should develop the wish to harm our delusions, we should have the wish to permanently eradicate the entire species of our delusions.  This is not a negative mind, it is a wisdom mind.  But it feels quite different than anger.  Anger is directed against living beings and leaves our mind feeling agitated, the wish to eradicate our delusions is directed against our delusions and leaves our mind feeling clear and free.  While it is true we should never be patient with our delusions, allowing them to fester or grow serendipitously within our mind, we must be patient with ourselves still being a deluded being.  A lot of Dharma practitioners know that delusions are our real enemies, but are still unable to prevent delusions from arising within their mind.  They then feel all guilty or neurotic about the fact that delusions are arising.  The typical response is to then repress them, driving them deeper within the mind.  We need to honestly acknowledge and accept that we are still a deluded being, but we never accept the validity of the delusions themselves.  To reuse the spam analogy, we accept the fact that spam will still appear in our inbox and there is nothing we can do at present to stop it completely, but we are never fooled by any of it.

Wrong aspiration.  Wrong aspiration is wanting to emulate people who are concerned exclusively with things of this life because they are rich and powerful and not wanting to emulate a sincere Dharma practitioner, even if they are poor and ugly.  There is nothing wrong with aspiring to have wealth, power, a good reputation and so forth if our reason for wanting these things is genuinely so that we can use them to cause the Dharma to better flourish.  But there is something wrong with wanting these things, viewing them as in and of themselves causes of happiness.  Our entire society is built around wishing to be like the rich, powerful and famous.  The entire economy is built around cultivating this wish in people.  To what end?  People are no more happier than they were in the past, in fact we can argue that people are less happy now than ever before.  Externally, things in the world have never been better; internally, all the trend lines point towards entering a darker age.  I try think, “by keeping the wish to practice the Dharma alive in my mind, I keep that wish alive within my world.  If I never let go of this wish, I will eventually attain enlightenment and be able to, slowly but surely, lead all other beings to the same state.  If I allow this wish to go out in my own mind, then my entire world will be plunged into darkness.  Why?  Because it is all my karmic dream.”

Wrong experience.  This is setting aside the nectar-like happiness of Dharma in favor of following worldly experiences and pleasures.  Every moment of every day we have a choice:  do we work to harvest good results now or do we work to plant good seeds for the future.  We want to experience pleasant things now because we still believe that samsara can offer us some happiness.  But it always leaves us feeling dissatisfied, we never feel like we reach the end of the rainbow.  The truth is this:  by completely forgetting about results in this life and focusing 100% of our attention on planting good causes, we not only lay the seeds for our future happiness but we also come to enjoy every moment of our present life.  If we pursue happiness in this one life, we never find it in this life and we arrive at our future lives empty handed.  If instead we work exclusively for our future lives, we not only enter our future lives rich in merit, we also are able to be happy all of the time in this life.  This is the experience of everyone who has actually done so.  We need not fear nor doubt this.

Wrong compassion.  This is compassion for Buddhas and not for suffering worldly beings.  When I first learned this precept it was at the time when people were still confused about the proper view to have with regards to their resident teachers.  We thought we were supposed to view them as Buddhas, and so didn’t know how to respond or view them when suffering seemed to befall them.  About 10 years ago now, though, Geshe-la clarified that we should view our teachers as Sangha jewels.  They are practitioners, just like us, striving their best to tame their wild minds.  The only difference is they may have been doing so for longer and therefore have some useful experience or insight to share.  When suffering seems to befall them, we can develop compassion for them and pray for them just as we would anybody else.  But what about Geshe-la?  Should we develop compassion for him?  The answer is it depends entirely on our view of him.  If we see him as a kind bodhisattva working tirelessly in this world, then of course there is no problem in generating compassion for him.  If however, we see him as a Buddha, then our compassion for him is misplaced, and in fact a contradiction.  If we see him as a Buddha, then there is no basis for compassion to arise, because we understand he experiences no suffering.  If we think he is experiencing suffering, then it means we don’t really see him as a Buddha.  So what should we think if we view him as a Buddha but he nonetheless appears to be suffering.  First, we can view such an appearance as him taking on the suffering of others and it ripening on him so that others are free from it.  This is no different than the Christian view of the Passion of Christ.  Second, we can use this appearance to generate compassion for all of the beings in this world.  Geshe-la dying is a loss of cosmic proportions for all of the people in this world.  The karma for him to appear directly will have exhausted itself, and so the beings of this world will no longer be able to directly receive his help and advice.  Compassion for all living beings  generated on this basis cultivates within us a burning desire to request the turning of the wheel of Dharma.  This request then creates the causes for new emanation bodies to appear in this world again and again for as long as samsara exists.

Wrong benefit.  This is trying to help others, but in reality making their situation worse.  For example, helping someone commit a non-virtuous action is wrong benefit.  A lot of people mistakenly think cherishing others means giving them whatever they want or helping them, even when their wishes are wrong.  In reality, our love for others actually prevents us from “helping” others in this way because we know that doing so actually hurts them.  It is because we love them that we refuse to help them harm themselves.  It is this love infused with wisdom that gives the bodhisattva the necessary strength and backbone to say no, and to not cooperate with others delusions.

Wrong rejoicing.  This is rejoicing in other’s non-virtue or misfortune.  If we are honest, it is quite common for us to be happy when somebody who causes harm to others themselves experiences misfortune.  How many people rejoiced in Osama Bin Laden being killed?  We should not rejoice in him being killed, but we can rejoice in the fact that those who would have later killed will now be safe.  There is a difference.  Likewise, our entire culture is built around the celebration of violence.  Our movies, our sports, our video games are all centered around rejoicing in non-virtue.  It is very hard to not fall into a similar mindset.  Venerable Tharchin says that when we rejoice in non-virtue, karmically speaking it is no different than ourelves engaging in that non-virtue.  This is extremely dangerous, so we must be careful.  This does not mean we shouldn’t go to the movies, watch sports or play computer games, but it does mean we need to be mindful that when we engage in these leisure activities we are not inadvertently digging our own karmic grave.

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