(4.23) If, having found the freedom and endowment of a human life,
I do not strive to practise Dharma,
There can be no greater self-deception,
There can be no greater folly.
This is definitely worth memorizing. We have much work to do, purifying and transforming our mind. Yet we do nothing. We have fallen into a hole, and it is only by digging ourselves out that we will be able to get out. We have to stop fooling ourselves that everything is going to be alright. Then we will stop taking this human rebirth like a holiday. We will actually work to progress. It’s not fair to say we do nothing. We do try, we do some. But the question is “do we do enough?” We say, “don’t worry, be happy, just try” to counter our discouragement not as an excuse to do even less when we are already being lazy doing little. Sometimes we need to be knocked out of our comfort zone. Sometimes we need to be told, “it’s time to step it up.”
Our usual excuse for why we don’t is we are just too busy. We have too many other commitments and engagements. Besides the fact that these commitments and engagements will amount to little or nothing on our death bed, this excuse completely misses the point. All situations are equally empty, so all situations are equally transformable into the path. Whether we spend all of our time on retreat, working for a Dharma center or changing diapers while working full time, it’s all the same. There is absolutely nothing about our busy, modern lives that prevents us from dedicating every second of every day to training our mind, purifying our negative karma, cherishing others and striving to attain enlightenment. We actually hide behind our busy lives as an excuse for our mental laziness.
The truly ridiculous thing about such laziness is it is self-defeating. Going through life enslaved by our delusions is exhausting, stressful, and miserable. We worry, fight, grasp and then collapse at the end of the day. Even when we try enjoy ourselves, we find it difficult to let go of our worries without the assistance of some form of intoxicant. Because we listen faithfully to the bad advice of our delusions, our every action only serves to make our problems even worse. The bottom line is wisdom works not just to escape from samsara but also to navigate through it. The bottom line is virtuous, peaceful minds are happy minds, so if we want a happy life we should constantly strive to mix our mind with virtue. It is not like we need to choose between happiness in this life and happiness in our future lives. Our actual choice is between being miserable in this life and worse in the next versus being happy in this life and happier in the next. Why choose the former?
Are we intentionally deceiving ourselves? It’s a big step to take to admit to ourselves that we’re deceiving ourselves. We have heard the instructions, but why are we not checking them out to see if they are in fact true? Certainly it would be good to know, in case they are true. Why do we not look? There is a step we have to take from knowledge to acceptance. Even once we have intellectual knowledge, we still haven’t accepted it as truth. So it is not moving our mind. We need to meditate on this information again and again until our mind moves and we realize we need to act. If we are not acting now, we need to do this. If we are acting now, we still need to do this so that we never stop.
Venerable Tharchin says, “if you do not seize the opportunities you have, the karma creating them will gradually exhaust itself and it will be nearly impossible for find such opportunities again. But if you seize the opportunities you have, you will create the causes to have even better opportunities in the future.” It is time we stopped making excuses. It is time we stop fooling ourselves that our spiritual training is just some hobby. Normally we take something seriously when our life depends on it. All of our future lives depend upon whether we seize our spiritual opportunity. What are we waiting for?
Perhaps we think it is all too hard. The Dharma just asks too much of us. But what is the alternative? Do we honestly think remaining in samsara forever will be any easier? It is far harder to remain in samsara than it is to get out of it once and for all. And once again, what is harder, constantly dealing with all of the problems our delusions create for us or enjoying the good fortune that our wisdom and virtue creates for us? Even in this life, wisdom and virtue are simply easier because they work whereas delusions never do.
If security came to us and said, “terrorists have put a bomb in the building, we have to get out now,” would we hesitate? Would we say we can’t be bothered, or maybe later? The Buddhas are telling us there are countless karmic bombs in our mind, and we have to get them out right now. Why do we hesitate? A bomb can only kill us in this one life, but our negative karma will kill us again and again until we say “enough is enough.”