(4.34) So how can I remain in samsara joyfully and without fear
While I readily reserve a place in my heart
For this interminable enemy of long duration
That alone is the cause of increasing all my suffering?
I think there are two main reasons why we don’t declare war on our delusions: we aren’t convinced they are our enemy and we don’t think we can win. Over the next two posts we will look at each of these in turn.
Are delusions our enemy? Normally, we actually think they are our friend. Before the Dharma, we never stopped to question whether things like attachment, aversion and ignorance were wrong. The movies and poetry extol attachment as the meaning of life. The movies and the news media lift up on a pedestal those who hate. Every human endeavor of knowledge seeks to provide an “objective” explanation of reality. Delusions are not our enemies, they are our gods. This is why Dharma is so radical.
Shantideva says this enemy of long duration alone is the cause of all our suffering. We don’t feel this is the case. We blame others, find fault in others and blame them for our suffering. The reality is no one is at fault; only delusion is at fault. We need to realize this personally where we come to see our delusions as our real enemies, the cause of all our difficulties. We need to see what difficulties we are having in life, and then trace how delusions are the real cause. Then we will come and see. Whenever we suffer, even when it appears that others are to blame, we should try to recognize how delusion alone is to blame. Then we’ll stop blaming others.
Sometimes people misunderstand the Dharma to mean we can’t be happy or enjoy ourselves. But this is not so. Ordinary beings have their four minutes of happiness for their four months of secondary misery. Dharma practitioners are happy about the fact that they are destroying their inner enemies of delusions. This makes them happy because they see clearly that their delusions are the cause of their suffering.
Delusions are like a relentless enemy that will never stop. External enemies you can compromise with and even make your friend, but there is no compromise, nor peace possible with delusions. The reason for this is clear – it is a faulty logic. If you have a little bit or a lot of faulty logic, it remains forever faulty. In external affairs, there are legitimate interests on both sides which can and need to be addressed for peace to occur; but delusions have no legitimate interests. They deceive us into thinking they do, but closer examination always reveals following their advice is always self-defeating. While delusions are just thoughts and therefore have no intention, Shantideva correctly “personifies” them with a personality of their own with purely evil intent. If someone is purely evil, there is only one possible course of action – to destroy them completely.
Language like this makes us uncomfortable. Buddhists are supposed to be peace-loving. In our external relations, we renounce combative ways and we like being centered in the nicey-nice. We are taught to make friends with our enemies. All this talk of evil and war and battle rattles us a bit. That’s the point. Shantideva is our drill sergeant who reminds us sometimes we are faced with a kill or be killed scenario. It’s not all roses and flowers, sometimes it is trench warfare. The logic of military planners is entirely correct – they have just identified the wrong enemy. We should adopt – wholesale – military-like thinking directed against our only true enemy, delusions.