Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Subdue your mind, subdue everything

(5.4) Tigers, lions, elephants, bears,
Snakes, all kinds of enemy,
Guardians of the beings in hell,
Evil spirits, and cannibals –

(5.5) These will all be bound
Simply by binding the mind,
And will all be subdued
Simply by subduing the mind.

If only it were that simple.  It is! “simply by subduing the mind” we can subdue everything.

Everything that exists in the world is nothing more than mere karmic appearances of mind.  If last night we dreamt of tigers, lion, elephants, and so forth, where did they come from?  Where do they do when we wake up?  How were they created?  Who or what created them?  Geshe-la said, “there is no creator other than mind.”

Everybody wants to change the world, sometimes out of a child-like naiveté, sometimes out of purely selfish motives.  Virtually everything we do is aimed, one way or another, at changing the world.  The problem is the method we use will never work.  We try change the external environment to try set everything right only to be surprised when the same problems seem to come back, just with different faces.  Why does this happen?  Because it is the mind that creates the world.  If we try change the world without changing our mind, our mind will just reproject the same problems and patterns, just against a different karmic surface.

A movie projects its image on a blank, white screen.  Because the screen is clear, it can reflect any sort of image.  If we see something we do not like on the screen, but forget where the image is coming from, we might try block the image by covering the screen.  But when we do so, for as long as the movie is still playing, the image will just be reprojected onto this new surface.  In exactly – exactly – the same way, our mind projects all sorts of karmic movies onto the blank, clear-light screen of the clarity of our mind.  Because our mind is clear, it can reflect any sort of image.  If we see something we don’t like in the world, but we forget that the image is coming from our own mind, we might try to change what we see by trying to externally change the world.  But when we do so, for as long as the karma giving rise to that appearance has not exhausted itself, the same image will just be reprojected onto this new external surface.

We see this dynamic all the time.  I know somebody who once lived in L.A., convinced herself that her problem was all the crazy people of California, so she moved as far away as she could to North Carolina.  At first, things seemed better, but before long she found herself with the same sorts of problems she had in L.A., just with different people.  Geshe-la gives the example in Joyful Path that if we try to run away from our problems by moving into some cave, it would not be long before we start to prefer some parts of the cave to others, or like some bird songs and not others.  The reason for this is because our minds of attachment or aversion are not tied to specific objects, rather they are habits of mind that quickly reassert themselves regardless of which objects we have around us.  We all know people with addictive personalities, who finally manage to abandon their dependency on one drug to find themselves dependent on another, or maybe they fixate their attachment from one boyfriend to another, to another, always encountering the same problems again and again.

The bottom line is a deluded, negative mind will project a deluded, negative world.  Two people can experience the same restaurant as a heaven or a hell entirely based on their mental imputations.  Hamlet said, “Things are neither good nor bad, but thinking makes them so.”  When we think about it, this makes perfect sense.  Modern physics tells us all that is really around us is a bunch of electrons, protons and neutrons flying around in different combinations.  And according to Quantum physics, even these things aren’t actually there, but only come into existence when we observe them.  From their own side, these things are neutral at best (actually, from their own side they are nothing).  They are neither good nor bad, but it is how we think about them that makes them so.  Every “problem” we have is created by our own mind relating to these appearances in a “problematic way.”  There is nothing intrinsic about any appearance that makes it a problem, it is our mind that imputes “problem” onto these things.

But just as the mind can impute problem and samsara onto things, it also has the power to impute “perfect condition” or even “pure land.”  Whether we abide in samsara or in the pure land is purely a question of point of view.  Geshe-la says, “a pure mind experiences a pure world, and an impure mind experiences an impure world.”  If we contemplate deeply the meaning of emptiness, we begin to realize we can never change the external world with external methods.  It is like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube that has no solution, no matter how long we try, we will never solve it.  But, if we change our mind – if we change the way we impute the world – we can change everything.

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