Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Have no fear

(2.52) I go for refuge to Arya Vajrapani,
Upon sight of whom all harmful beings,
Such as the messengers of the Lord of Death,
Flee in terror to the four directions.

In the previous posts we discussed the value of generating a healthy fear of our negativity and the lower realms.  The purpose of this fear is to encourage us to go for refuge – to seek our protection.  When a soldier is behind enemy lines, he is in constant danger, but when he comes back to his home base, he is able to feel safe and protected.  In exactly the same way, while the terrors that await us are real, they are no match compared to the infinite power of the Buddhas.

A very close friend of mine once said what I believe to be the best line of Dharma I have ever heard:  “stop telling your Spiritual Guide how big your problems are and start telling your problems how big your Spiritual Guide is!”  Not only are the Buddhas more powerful than our delusions and negativity they are utterly untouchable.  When we are under their protection, we have nothing to fear.  We need to feel their power and have confidence that with their blessings our delusions simply don’t stand a chance.  The enemies of the delusions metaphorically flee in terror in the face of the Buddhas.  The Buddhas are our champios, our defenders,  and our protectors. We need merely put ourself under their care and we will have nothing to fear.

(2.53) Previously I transgressed your advice,
But now, having seen these great dangers,
I go to you for refuge
To quickly dispel my fears.

There are two types of object we have engaged in negative actions towards and therefore two types of power of reliance:  We have engaged in negative actions against living beings.  To correct for that, we generate bodhichitta, which is the exact opposite.  We have also engage in negative actions against holy beings.  To correct for that, we go for refuge, which is the exact opposite.

In the Lamrim teachings, it explains that the mind of refuge has two main causes:  fear and faith.  We generate fear of our negative karma through the power of regret.   We generate faith by turning to the Buddhas seeing them as the solution to our problem of negative karma.  Each Buddha has the ability to bestow certain types of blessings, so we turn to Buddhas who specifically help with purification – Buddhas whose blessings function to purify.

Shantideva is serious about all of this, but we have to ask, are we? How seriously do we take what he’s saying?  Would we take refuge the way he’s doing here?  If we’re experiencing difficulties, suffering, we will sit down and pray to Arya Tara, Medicine Buddha, etc. But how often?  One of the commitments of refuge is to go for refuge again and again.  If we’re only going for refuge once in a while, will we be protected?

Shantideva is calling for help — “a desperate cry.”  Why don’t we? We don’t feel helpless! We don’t invite the holy beings into our daily life because we feel to a great extent that we have control over it without them.  We think, why ask for protection when genuinely from one day to the next we don’t feel any danger?  Generally people read these verses and think there’s something wrong with Shantideva!  We have to realize there’s actually something seriously wrong us.

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