(2.62) “How can I definitely be freed
From non-virtue, the source of all suffering?”
Throughout the day and the night,
I should think only about this.
We need to be just like this, completely obsessed with ridding our mind of its non-virtue. Instead, we are usually obsessed with engaging in it. We have karmic time bombs within our mind that can go off at any point in time, and we don’t know when. We have right now on our mind the karma to experience every misfortune we see in the world, from poverty, disease, violence, rape, war, public humiliation, loss of position, etc. At a very profound level, we can say every misfortune we see in the world is a warning from our Dharma protector of what awaits us if we do not purify. The red lights are flashing, and we remain oblivious.
Very often we fear purification more than we fear not purifying. This is totally mistaken. It is true, when we engage in purification it can happen that it seems like the amount of misfortune we experience in our life actually increases. Why is this? It is not different from when people engage in detoxification practices to try remove defilements from their body. Sickness, acne, rashes, etc., often occur. But we gladly accept such things knowing we are expelling contaminants from our body. In exactly the same way, when we engage in purification of our negative karma, it can happen that karmic residuals are kicked up, but we should gladly accept such things knowing we are expelling such karma from our mind. Geshe-la explains in Great Treasury of Merit that when we engage in purification, sometimes our purification practice does not remove the totality of the negative seed, and a residual ripens. He says we should happily accept this knowing we just avoiding a karmic future far, far worse.
Every moment of every day and every night our urgent priority should be to purify. When we suddenly find ourselves in financial difficulty, we make it an urgent priority to find a solution to our problem because we know if we don’t, our circumstances can become much worse very quickly. In the same way, if we don’t make purification of our negative karma our top priority, it is just a question of time before it catches up to us and ruins everything else we have worked for hard for. When our relationships with those close to us are troubled in some way, we know we can’t do anything else with them until we have put things back on good footing. In the same way, we have a fundamental relationship problem between our past and present self; and our present and future selves. Our past self has left us a legacy of karmic debts, and if our present self doesn’t pay them off our future self is doomed to an eternity of misery. Our ordinary debts are absolved by our creditors at the time of our death, but our karmic debts enjoy no such forgiveness – we carry them with us into the future until we either purify or the debt is paid with suffering.
We should start with what is most difficult for us, such as certain deluded tendencies similar to the cause, such as strong attachment or anger or non-faith. We each have a delusion that creates for us the most difficulty. For some it is frustration and anger at the endless cascade of troubles we experience in life; for others it is addictive attachment to harmful substances; for others it is paralyzing laziness. If we don’t overcome these deluded habits, they will haunt and torment us forever. Delusions are negative karmic habits of mind. Normally we battle our deluded tendencies, but it is far simpler to purify them with sincere purification practice. The primary force of purification is the power of regret – we see how this negative karma creates problems for us, and we wish to once and for all be free from it. Driven by this wish, we engage in purification. Oftentimes, though, we have more faith in our negative karma than our ability to purify it. The methods for purification are not difficult, and they work. Doubting their effectiveness undermines their power; believing in their effectiveness is their power.
We should never miss an opportunity to engage in purification. As we clean, we should imagine that we are purifying this negative karma from our mind. As we bathe or brush our teeth or even go the bathroom, we should imagine we are removing negative karma from our mind. As we experience difficulties, we should imagine that through this we are burning off all of these deluded tendencies similar to the cause. Since samsara is the nature of suffering, every moment is, in fact, an opportunity to purify.