(2.54) If I need to follow the doctor’s advice
When frightened by an ordinary illness,
How much more necessary is it to follow Buddha’s advice
When perpetually afflicted by the many harmful diseases of the delusions?
The more I study Buddha’s teachings, the more I come to the conclusion that we really only have one problem: we have misdiagnosed what our problem is. We spend all of our energy trying to solve the wrong problem, and we completely neglect addressing our real problem.
Yes, of course, we need to try improve our external circumstances, but if we change our circumstances without changing our mind, we will soon find ourselves with exactly the same problems as before, just with different faces. There was a woman once who lived in L.A., and she convinced herself that Californians were the problem. So she packed her bags and moved to North Carolina. At first, she loved it, but within a year she was just as depressed as she was before, lamenting how everyone was awful in North Carolina as well. She may have changed her environment, but she didn’t change her mind. Her mind simply re-projected its problems onto a new canvas of karmic appearance.
If there is a smudge on a movie projector lens, it will project an image on the screen that looks smudged. We wouldn’t go up to the screen and start scrubbing it to try improve the image, instead we would clean the lens. In the same way, if the lens of our mind has the smudge of delusions, it will project an image on reality reflective of that delusion. Changing the external appearance won’t solve the problem, only removing the delusion will.
Universities and libraries are filled with theories, methods and teachings for how to change and manipulate the external environment, but ultimately all such methods will fail to improve human happiness unless they address the real “projector” of the problems, namely our own deluded mind. Buddha’s teachings explain to us how to do so. This does not mean only Buddha’s teachings work. Anything that opposes delusion is, directly or indirectly, Dharma, even if it is not presented in a Buddhist context. The point is if we want to solve our real problem, namely our delusions, then we need to rely upon teachings that explain how to do so.
(2.55) If all the people living in this world
Can be greatly harmed by just one of these delusions,
And if no medicine other than Dharma
Can be found anywhere to cure them,
(2.56) Those who do not act in accordance with the Dharma teachings
Given by Buddha, the all-knowing physician,
Through which all pains of the delusions can be removed,
Are surely foolish and confused.
When any practice is done motivated by a mind of regret, it serves to purify. Non-virtue can only remain in a deluded mental environment. In a mind free from delusion, there can be found no cause of suffering. Our task, therefore, is to cure our mind of the disease of the delusions by taking the medicine of Dharma. Without taking the medicine of Dharma we will not be able to put an end to non-virtue. We will continue to experience all the harmful effects of non-virtue.
Many of us have been with the Dharma for a long time. We have been taking the medicine of Dharma, but perhaps we haven’t been swallowing it, or swallowing it all. We know the taste of the medicine of the Dharma from it being in our mouth. For example, we know the taste of renunciation, “this tastes like renunciation.” We know the tastes of the different medicines of Buddhadharma. But we have to ask ourselves, are we swallowing it? Swallowing so that it is actually curing us of the diseases of the delusions? Why is it self-grasping is still there? Why is self-cherishing still there? Why is attachment still there?
We need to ask ourselves, are we acting in accordance with Dharma teachings, or not? Are we practicing Dharma or not? We know all the Dharma teachings, we know all the delusions, we know their opponents, but we still experience mental and physical suffering.
So how do we stop it? By taking the medicine of the Dharma. By applying these opponents. We know if we are to take the medicine of the Dharma we must be prepared to change. We are resisting like a child that has to swallow some medicine. Every day we’re tasting the medicine of the Dharma. Are we swallowing, are we allowing the instructions to change us? We default to the solutions to the temporary problems which don’t require us to change. If our choice is take a diet pill or start exercising, we choose the pill.