(5.31) “I am always in the presence
Of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
Who, with their omniscient gaze,
See everything without obstruction.”
(5.32) By thinking in this way, we can maintain
Sense of shame, respect, and fear,
And repeatedly bring to mind
The good qualities of the Buddhas.
(5.33) When mindfulness is maintained
With the purpose of guarding the mind,
Alertness will naturally arise
And even that which was lost will return.
In the previous verses, Shantideva explained how we are to develop mindfulness. Here, he explains how we can develop alertness. The method is simple: we develop a specific mindfulness recalling we are always in the presence of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In dependence upon this, alertness will naturally arise.
We must post the guard of mindfulness at the doorway of our mind, and then not allow delusions to enter. If anything that even looks like a delusion comes near, alertness will warn us. If our mindfulness becomes slack we can restore it by remembering the lower realms—this is conscientiousness. We remind ourselves of the real danger we’re in, for example the danger of lower rebirth. We generate fear. On the basis of this, we recall we are in the presence of our Spiritual Guide.
As soon as we recall our Spiritual Guide, we naturally know what is the right thing to do. We automatically are able to stop doing certain things that we know we shouldn’t do. As soon as we turn to our spiritual guide in whatever aspect we like, naturally a mind of faith will arise which will help us to maintain alertness. We can think “I don’t want to be like this; I want to be like you.” It is especially important that we make an effort to turn to the Spiritual Guide when we find ourselves starting to go down the wrong road. I like to request Dorje Shugden to alert me when delusions are starting to come up. He is like a security guard that alerts me to danger. You can also post him, like a guard, around things that give you trouble – like chocolate Bunnies.
The strength of this practice will be a function of three things: First, faith that he is there. Wherever you imagine a Buddha, a Buddha actually goes. We need to train in this conviction all the time, not just when we are in trouble. Second, the respect we have for him. We need to realize how much of a difference his teachings have made to our life. If we do, we will naturally develop respect for him. Third, faith in his power to help us. We request him to bestow his blessings to help us overcome our particular difficulties. The more faith we have the more open we are to receiving his blessings. The blessings of a Buddha are as powerful as our faith in them. Infinite faith = infinite power. Overtime, as our faith and respect grow, so too will the power of this practice.
But we often forget our Spiritual Guide. One very special way of remembering is to think: [V: 31] “I am always in the presence Of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas Who, with their omniscient gaze, See everything without obstruction.” I said before it’s very helpful even at the beginning of the day to bring to mind a field of merit which we regard as one with our Spiritual Guide, and to turn to it throughout the whole of the day.
Why don’t we remember or try to remember? Two main reasons. First, because when we don’t recall him we feel free then to misbehave—to indulge our attachment in particular. If there’s no one around we think we can think, speak, and act as we like, and in particular we can indulge in our attachment. We need to remember that this practice of recalling we are in the presence of the Buddha is for our own good. We only stop doing the things that harm us. Second, sometimes we don’t want to invite them in because we feel guilty. Because we can’t stop ourselves and we feel like we need to be perfect in his presence. But actually the more screwed up we are the more compassion he feels. This is when we need to bring him in the most.
We need to avoid the trap of thinking when we misbehave that it’s OK because our Spiritual Guide accepts us completely. But what we’re doing doesn’t make them happy! It is important that we stop ignoring our Spiritual Guide and holy beings. We need to bring them to mind again and again and again. We need to invite the Buddha’s into our lives and allow ourselves to come under their influence.