(4.2) If an ordinary action is undertaken in haste
Or without being well thought out,
It might be appropriate to reconsider,
Even if a promise has been made;
(4.3) But how could I possibly turn back
From something that has been examined
By the wisdom of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,
And that I too have repeatedly examined?
One of my most frequent mistakes is I let my enthusiasm get ahead of my wisdom. I have all sorts of big plans, I will often commit myself to all sorts of projects, only to realize I am unable to complete them all or in fact the projects I have started aren’t worth completing at all. Doing this with respect to ordinary projects is generally a bad habit. It is better to commit to less, but bring it all to completion than to commit to everything and not accomplish anything. Most of the time we can solve this problem with careful sequencing. We put off certain projects until later so we can complete the priority projects now. But sometimes we need to just abandon certain efforts. It is better to admit your mistakes than to continue to repeat them just because at some point you made a commitment to do the wrong thing.
But our bodhichitta commitment, our Bodhisattva vows, can’t be like that. There is a famous joke which says, “Quitting smoking is easy! I’ve done it many times.” Our bodhichitta commitment needs to be different.
The point is this: all the omniscient ones have spent aeons examining what is most beneficial for living beings, and their conclusion is it is the mind of bodhichitta. A Buddha’s mind knows all paths, directly and simultaneously. They can see what is beneficial and what is harmful to living beings. The paths of delusion, the paths we have been travelling up until now, all lead to further suffering. Indeed, just as all roads lead to Rome, all delusions eventually lead us to the deepest hell realm. But the path of bodhichitta leads to permanent freedom for ourself and for all living beings. It will never deceive us, we can follow it with confidence.
The problem is this: the benefits of bodhichitta seem uncertain and far off whereas the supposed benefits of delusion seem certain and near at hand. As a result, we choose delusion every time. This is why it is critical that we become an expert at realizing, as Geshe-la has told us, “all delusions are deceptive.” All delusions promise us some reward or benefit if we follow them. Our attachment tells us that through it we can obtain the object of our attachment, but the more we grasp the more it remains out of our reach. Anger tells us it can destroy our causes of suffering, but all it does is create even more. Jealousy tells us we will be able to keep what we hold dear, but all it does is drive good things away. Ignorance tells us it gives us an “objective” look at reality, but all it does is enmesh us in a web of illusions. Spite tell us we will feel better when we see our enemies suffer, but as Shantideva points out there are special cauldrons in hell for those with such minds. Our miserliness tells us it is guarding our wealth, but it condemns us to future poverty. Our doubts tell us they protect us from believing something that is wrong, but it actually prevents us from believing anything, even what is right. All delusions are deceptive. They promise us happiness, but they only increase our suffering. All we need do is examine our own life and the truth of this will become obvious.
There is nothing about our present happiness that makes it more important than our future happiness. Our happiness of now seems very important, but this happiness used to be a happiness in the future. If we hadn’t cherished our future happiness in the past, we would enjoy no happiness now. In the same way, if we do not now cherish our future happiness, we will know nothing but misery and misfortune. Present happiness is temporary and short-lived, whereas future happiness is forever. Future happiness is more important for the simple reason it is longer in duration. Our attachment to our present happiness causes us to waste our precious opportunity to train in the path of Dharma, an opportunity we are unlikely to find again.
If we are to sustain our bodhisattva path, we need to contemplate again and again how the fruits of bodhichitta are definite (and indeed immediate because we are happy all of the time when this precious jewel pervades our mind), whereas our delusions always lead us astray. Then we won’t be fooled by the false logic of sacrificing our bodhichitta wishes for the sake of temporary elusive gains.
Most of the time, we don’t actually make the decision to abandon our bodhichitta, rather it just gradually fades away serendipitously. Without us noticing, day by day, month by month, year by year the Dharma begins to fade in importance. We still pay lip service to our bodhichitta, and when times of crisis come we rediscover our faith, but the sense that our life has a clear spiritual direction and purpose, the feeling that we are on a mission from which we will never turn, is gone.
We know how precious Bodhichitta is. Over the years we’ve thought a lot about this mind. We’ve come to appreciate the value of this mind so much. We know how precious it is. What is curious is why do we seem so unconcerned about its increase or decrease within our own mind? If someone were to ask us, “how has your Bodhichitta been over the last few months? Has it become stronger or weaker,” most likely we wouldn’t really know, or might not really care. We think it doesn’t matter. It comes back to this. Generally we seem a little unconcerned as to its increase or decrease. If we value Bodhichitta, why do we feel so unconcerned?
One thought on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Why do we feel so unconcerned when our bodhichitta fades?”
“All delusions promise us some reward or benefit if we follow them.” Love that sentence and the subsequent examples. Thank you for this post.