Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Don Corleone should be our Yidam

(4.36) Out of anger, worldly people who are filled with pride will not sleep
Until they have destroyed those who cause them even the slightest temporary harm.
In the same way, I will not abandon my efforts
Until this inner foe of mine is directly and definitely destroyed.

I recently watched the Godfather series.  Yes, I was disgusted, but I was also inspired.

In the Godfather, Don Cicco killed Vito Corleone’s father.  The father’s eldest son took to the mountains to plot his revenge, so Don Cicco hunted him down.  Vito’s mother then went to Don Cicco and said, “please show mercy on my youngest son, Vito.  He is weak and witless, he is no threat to you.  Please, let him live.”  Don Cicco said no, reasoning, “Vito is small and weak now, but one day he will grow strong and want his revenge.  I cannot allow that,” and so he tried to have him killed too.  Vito escaped, went to America, and gradually became older and stronger as Don Cicco predicted.  Vito then returned to Sicily and exacted his revenge.  Don Cicco was right, and so is Shantideva.  If we do not mercilessly destroy our delusions when they are weak and witless, they will grow stronger and one day come back to kill us – again and again, in this life and in all our future lives.

Later, Vito became the head of one of the five Mafia families.  But as he grew older, he developed a softer heart and there were certain lines he would not cross.  But in Mafia-world, weakness invites attacks; strength commands respect.  If you show mercy you will be taken down by somebody who won’t.  Eventually, the other families plotted to have Vito killed, and war broke out between the families.  But after Vito’s eldest son, Sonny, was killed, Vito sued for peace.  But in Mafia-world, even when there is a truce between the Mafia families, each side never stops plotting their revenge, the only question is timing.  Vito’s son, Michael Corleone, was using the peace to gather his strength.  The other families were doing the same.  When Vito finally died, Michael knew he either needed to strike first or he would be be taken out.  So he killed the heads of all the other Mafia families, and in this way consolidated himself as the Mafia king-pin for the whole country.  Michael Corleone said, “I don’t need to wipe everybody out, just my enemies.”  He ruthlessly cuts them down without flinching.  This is how we need to be with our delusions.  The five Mafia families are like our five contaminated aggregates.  If we allow even one to remain, they will recreate the others and we will remain trapped in samsara forever.  We cannot flinch, we can show no quarter with our delusions.  Appeals to mercy for our delusions must fall on deaf ears, we cannot stop until they are, Godfather style, utterly destroyed.

Geshe-la said we must become an enemy of our delusions.  We must become victorious over our delusions.  Someone who has attained liberation is called a “Foe Destroyer” because they have destroyed the foes of their delusions.  Many a conqueror of ancient times was not content to merely crush his enemies, but they would not stop until they erased even the memory of the conquered.  Shantideva is encouraging us to do the same.  An enlightened being is called a “Conqueror Buddha.”  They are not content to merely destroy the foes of their delusions, they do not stop until the very imprints of all delusions have been completely erased from the surface of their mind.

It all comes back to recognizing delusions as our enemy, because only when we recognize them as enemies will we treat them as such.  Geshe-la said at a Spring Festival one year, “we must shout at our delusions.”  Do we do this?  Why did Geshe-la encourage us to do this?  One reason is it helps to keep some distance from our delusions. This stops us identifying with them. When we make this separation, we can be hard on our delusions without being hard on ourself.  Also doing this makes us feel powerful, gives us a sense of victory.  We need to feel powerful, we need to feel strong.  We need to be like Don Corleone.

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