Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Using Lamrim to strengthen our conscientiousness

It is said that the Lamrim directly or indirectly opposes all delusions.  I personally find that there is not a single Lamrim meditation that cannot serve as the opponent to any delusion.  Of course, certain Lamrim minds are the most direct and obvious opponents, but it seems to me every Lamrim mind can serve as the opponent to every delusion.

It is not enough to just intellectually realize this is true, we need to make a point of gaining actual experience in using the different Lamrim minds as opponents to the different delusions that arise during the day.  Most Kadampa practitioners meditate on the Lamrim in the form of a 21 meditation, 21 day cycle.  To deepen our experience of this, each day we should make a point of only using the Lamrim meditation for the day as the opponent to each and every delusion that arises during that day.  Of course sometimes, when our delusions are particularly strong, we may need to bring in other meditations to help, but most of the time our delusions are mild and the Lamrim meditation of the day is more than sufficient.  By training in this way, we will come to see the Lamrim as a 21 tool toolbox, and we will become like a master craftsman who can use his tools to accomplish any spiritual goal, or like a skilled physician who knows precisely which medicines can be used to counter which diseases.

Shantideva now shows us how we can use the different Lamrim meditations to increase our conscientiousness.

(4.13) Even though there have been countless Buddhas in the past
Working to benefit all living beings,
Because I have so many karmic obstacles
I have not been a direct object of their care;

We have a precious human life.  In all of our past lives when delusions or negative tendencies arose, we were powerless to stop them.  But now, we have the extraordinary good fortune of having met the Buddhadharma.  We now have perfectly reliable methods for reducing and finally eliminating our deluded tendencies.

We are like somebody who has been bullied their entire life, and they finally meet a qualified martial arts master, who patiently trains them in the methods of combat so that they can defend themselves.  Since beginningless time we have been bullied by our delusions, but we have finally met a qualified master in the arts of combatting delusions.  If we train patiently and consistently in the methods we have been taught, we will not only be able to defend ourselves, we will eventually emerge victorious over all of our delusions.  The only thing required of us is the perseverance to see it through to the end.

(4.14) And, if I remain like this,
Again and again I shall have to experience
Sickness, incarceration, laceration,
And mutilation in the lower realms.

Most of our past lifetimes have been spent in the lower realms.  If we apply no effort to abandon non-virtue or harmful actions, then we will simply go back to where we have spend most of our time.  The lower realms are our real home in samsara, our time in the upper realms is like going on vacation to some fancy beach resort only to have to deplete our karmic savings to pay the bill and return to our regular home in hell.

Because we have a lot of merit ripening right now, we can generate the false impression that we have a mind filled with the kind of potentials that lead to fortunate rebirth and that we will continue to meet the teachings of Buddha.  But this is wrong.  We have a mind filled with negativity.  How can we know this? – we can look at suffering, dreams, tendencies similar to the cause, looking at other living beings, how close we are to madness and overall considering the structural parameters of samsara (lower realms only accumulate non-virtue, upper realms burn up all merit on externals, etc.).  The karmic gradient of samsara is steep, and it is all downward sloping.

For all practical purposes our choice is simple:  either we attain enlightenment or we fall back into lower realms.  There really isn’t much of a middle here.  In this sense, the Christian duality of Heaven or Hell is not far from the truth.  Yes, there are exceptions, but they are temporary.  We ultimately fall back into this choice.  So we first need to accept that this is our situation, and then actually make our choice to get out.

Living in denial of the situation we are in doesn’t change the fact that we are in it.  The sooner we accept that and make a decision, the sooner we get out.  We don’t know how much longer we will have the opportunity to choose before samsara chooses for us.  We have no idea the karma on our mind, and it can go off at anytime.  This is the reality of things.

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