(2.36) Just like an experience in a dream,
Everything I now enjoy
Will become a mere recollection,
For what has passed cannot be seen again.
Virtually every negative action we engage in is motivated by a false belief that the ends justify the means. We are willing to lie because we think, “no harm will be done, and besides I can get something out of it.” We think the same about stealing, divisive speech, hurtful speech, even killing. Sometimes we will engage in some sort of negativity for the sake of our friends, family, company or country. We think what happens really matters, and so it is OK to engage in negativity. And sometimes, this is even true. Whether certain bodily or verbal actions are negative depends in large part on the context. Killing for sadistic pleasure versus killing somebody who if not stopped will kill many others are quite different things. But such exceptions are actually quite rare. Generally speaking, when we engage in negative actions we experience some short-term external gain at a long-term karmic loss. The future karmic loss, almost always, far surpasses the short-term external gain.
But we generally don’t see that. The reason is we believe in the external gain, we are not so sure about the long-term karmic loss. That is why it is useful to realize that there are actually ultimately “no short-term external gains.” In a conventional sense, of course there are, but ultimately there is nothing there to be gained. It’s all mere karmic appearance.
All of these friends and enemies are nothing other than dreams, simple appearances. Is it worth creating the causes for aeons in hell for a hallucination? We think it is worth it because we think they are real. But they are not. They are just dreams. We also think it is worth it because we think now matters, but nothing that happens in this life really matters. The rest of this life is uncertain, whereas our future lives are certain. We need to prepare for them. We also think it is worth it because we think we can get away with it because we are a Dharma practitioner or because we don’t really believe in karma. But there is no escape from our karma, and there is no guarantee we will be protected if we don’t create the causes to receive such protection.
(2.37) Even during this brief life,
Many friends and others have passed away;
But the unbearable results of the evil I have committed for their sake
Still lie ahead of me.
The point of contemplating all of this is to realize that it is not worth it to engage in negative actions on behalf of our friends or enemies. The friends and enemies pass, but the karma we create in their regard remains with us forever. I am not saying our friends and family don’t matter, of course everybody matters and we should care for everyone; rather, I am saying if we truly love and care for them we will not accumulate negative karma for their sake, because if we do we will not be able to provide them lasting benefit. If our negative actions help them temporarily in this life, but as a result we fail to attain enlightenment for their sake, then in the long-run they are infinitely worse off. If instead, we do not engage in negativity for their sake because we are prioritizing attaining enlightenment for their sake, in the short-term they might be marginally worse off, but in the long-run they are much better off.
If we have already engaged in all sorts of negative actions for the sake of our family and friends, or even for the sake of ourself, at some point we will need to admit our mistake. One of the most deadly consequences of pride is it prevents us from admitting our mistakes, and without doing so we can never generate sincere regret nor will we ever take purification practice seriously. Prideful people are loathe to admit their mistakes or that they were wrong. They worry that if they admit they were wrong others will lose faith in them; but they don’t realize people are already losing faith in them because they are unwilling to admit their mistakes which are in fact manifest to all. Likewise, people sometimes worry if they admit their mistakes then they will then become responsible for making compensation to the victims of those mistakes. This sort of miserliness is extremely short-sighted. If we fail to make compensation now, the karmic debt we will incur will be far more costly. If we can’t admit our mistakes, we can’t change our ways. We will then continue to habitually engage in the same negativities and our promises to not commit negative actions will be empty words. In short, pride and purification are opposites. We must choose between the two.