(4.30) If all living beings, including the gods and demi-gods,
Were to rise up against me as one enemy,
They could not lead me to the fires of the deepest hell
And throw me in;
(4.31) But this powerful enemy of the delusions
In an instant can cast me into that fiery place
Where even the ashes of Mount Meru
Would be consumed without a trace.
How do delusions harm us? This is what we need to contemplate deeply. I think we need to dig deep and understand why it is delusions are able to deceive us?
Generally people need to find some release or relief from their suffering. Because we want things to go in a particular way, when they don’t tension builds within us. Our situation is very difficult and we don’t accept it as it is, so tension builds up within us until it becomes unbearable. We need to find some form of release. Why do people take drugs, intoxicants? For that time there’s some relief. Because they cannot bear it. Why do people distract themselves beyond belief, with TV, movies, anything? Because they can’t bear it.
We then turn to samsaric objects to find our release, and to a certain extent they work in temporarily releasing the tension we feel. We then think that these external objects have the power to relieve our tension, and so we relate to them as causes of happiness. This is the origin of attachment. But because we do not challenge the fundamental assumptions of our delusions – namely believing it is our external circumstance which needs to change – the tension builds up again, and so we need to once again find release. And the cycle continues forever.
The need for release from tension is normal, the question is what do we turn to for our release? An ordinary being turns to samsaric objects and the cycle continues indefinitely. A Dharma practitioner turns to renunciation, compassion and the wisdom realizing emptiness. This leads to a permanent release. The Sanskrit translation of “moksha” (of Pratimoksha) is “release.” We need release, we just need to find spiritual means of accomplishing release.
Renunciation. Quite often renunciation is completely misunderstood as denying oneself what one wants. We want samsaric objects, but out of some feeling of we “ought” not because we have received Dharma teachings, we refrain. But if we still want it but hold back, all we really do is suppress our delusions. Renunciation is not suppression, it is seeing through the lies of our delusions to the point where we don’t want their objects anymore. There is a big difference between “shouldn’t” and “don’t want.” One is suppression, the other is renunciation. The mind of renunciation is a mind that lets go, seeing that there is nothing there that can give us any happiness. We release the tension by letting go of the assumption that there is something to be had. In fact, we realize that it is because we are turning to external objects that the cyle of build up and release is perpetuated, so we realize that it is just a cause of great suffering. This doesn’t mean we abandon all objects, it means we stop wanting “objects of attachment.” We can still want “objects of love” or “means to help living beings.” Objects, such as our family or money, in and of themselves are not inherently objects of attachment, they only become so when we relate to them with a mind of attachment. These are important distinctions.
Compassion. Normally we think I have enough problems, how can I think about others? But it is because we think we are important that we think what happens to us is important. If we realize that we don’t matter (at all) then what happens to us doesn’t matter (at all). We are just one person, but others are countless. And they are all trapped within this same cycle of build up and release. Realizing we are not important, we are able to let go and find release.
Wisdom realizing emptiness. This goes further than renunciation. Renunciation realizes that external objects have no power to give us any happiness – everything depends upon our mind – so we let go of turning to them for happiness. The wisdom realizing emptiness understands that there is no external object to begin with – these are all just appearances to mind. There is nothing there to be attached to and nothing to be upset about. This doesn’t mean that nothing matters, it means that nothing external matters because it doesn’t even exist (technically external objects do exist as object conditions, but I leave that technicality aside for purposes of making the point). The only things that matter are the minds that we generate. When we realize everything is created by our mind, we then realize what needs to change is our mind. If we change our mind, we change our world.
These three will bring us a permanent release, one that doesn’t build up again. We are released from this cycle and experience permanent release.