Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  We have to choose, we cannot have both

(2.57) If it is necessary to exercise caution
When near a small, ordinary precipice,
How much more necessary is it when near the fathomless pits of hell
Into which I could fall for a very long time?

I had a dream once where I was in a seemingly beautiful place.  There were these beautiful women flirting with me, encouraging me to follow them for some fun.  I of course eagerly did so, and then all of a sudden I found myself stepping out over a ledge and began falling into fiery pits all around me.  As I did so, the beautiful women removed their masks – they were in fact demons – and as I was beginning to fall, they said “gotcha!” and then I woke up.  This is our very predicament, the only difference being when we wake up we will not find ourselves in our bed, but rather we will find ourselves having fallen into the lower realms.

Modern people like to think they are too sophisticated to believe in seemingly superstitious things like hell.  But we need only look to other parts of the world to realize what is possible – famine, war, genocide, mass rape, extreme poverty, terrible cold, scorching heat, terrible darkness.  Karma changes very quickly.  Most of us are only one paycheck away from finding ourselves on the street.  Wars break out, governments collapse, sea levels rise, heat waves destroy crops, new diseases emerge, we develop cancer, we become maimed in a car accident.  These are daily occurances, and they can happen to us at any time.

The lower realms are not far away places, they are simply terrible dreams that begin at death from which we don’t wake up.

(2.58) It is unwise to indulge in pleasures,
Thinking, “At least I shall not die today”;
For without doubt the time will come
When I shall become nothing.

(2.59) Who will grant me fearlessness?
How can I be freed from these fears?
If I shall inevitably become nothing,
How can I continue to indulge?

Most of us pursue a dual strategy of trying to get both the best of Dharma and the best of samsara.   We do this because we think by doing so we can get the best of both worlds.  But we need to check, are we getting the best of neither?  Is that how we feel — that we are getting the best of both worlds?   Is it enough to just get through this life OK?  What will we do when we die?

We have enormous inner tension because we are trying to hang on to both samsara and the Dharma.  We are holding on to contradictory desires.  We still have a taste for samsara’s pleasures.  We feel we can enjoy Dharma and enjoy samsara.  People say all the time that it is hard.  The only reason why it is hard is because we are trying to hold on to contradictory desires.

We have a choice, either let go of the Dharma and have all of the sufferings of samsara come crashing down on us or let go of samsara and go from joy to joy to enlightenment.   To let go of samsara we simply need to identify the deception.  When we know we are holding a burning pan, we have no difficulty letting go.  It is the same with samsara.  We just need to see samsara for what it is and we will have no difficulty letting go of it entirely.

The choice is ours.

One thought on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  We have to choose, we cannot have both

  1. I guess the next step, or as part of this step of choosing, is to not take “time off” from Dharma by indulging in samara’s “pleasures”. Certainly, we can rest. But I need to stop grasping onto samsara’s enjoyments as a reward for engaging in Dharma. Dharma is of course its own reward. And there is never a need to take a break from Dharma. We can mix Dharma in with everything we do. Thanks for this lovely post, Ryan. Love, Gary

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