Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Multi-tasking is for fools

(5.43) I should undertake what I intend and have decided to do,
Without being distracted by other things;
And, with my thoughts focused on that practice,
For now, I should do just that.

(5.44) In this way, I shall do everything well;
Otherwise, I shall accomplish neither one thing nor the other.
With this skilful practice, there can be no increase
In secondary delusions, such as non-alertness.

In the modern world, people look up to those who can “multi-task.”  The people who can do many different things simultaneously.  Modern people wrongly think this makes us more productive.  The reality is quite different.  The ability to multi-task is not a quality, rather it is a modern disease.

First, it is actually impossible for the mind to do two things at once.  A single mind can only have a single object.  At best, multi-taskers are switching their focus from one object to another and back again as they do their work.  Second, switching our focus back and forth results in “transition costs” as our mind has to re-figure out where we left off last time we were working on a particular project, whereas staying focused on a project through to completion avoids that cost.  Third, most things of worth required sustained focus over an extended period of time to bring about the substantial change we are after.  As Geshe-la says, water can never boil if we keep turning the heat on and off.  Fourth, and most importantly, if we never learn to focus like a laser on our daily activities, what hope do we have of doing so during our meditation practices.  If in life we train our mind to flit from one object to another, it is certain we will do the same while in meditation.

Meditation is, by definition, the familiarizing of our mind with virtue.  The fundamental function of concentration is we become whatever we focus on.  If we focus on sex and violence, we will become a lustful and violent person.  If we focus on wisdom and compassion, we will become a wise and compassionate person.  The more fully we absorb our mind in our object, the more complete will be this inner transformation.  If we never are able to focus our mind because it is constantly jumping from one thing to another, we will never absorb our mind into its object and no spiritual transformation can take place.

According to Tantra, all of our contaminated karma is stored on our very subtle mind.  If we succeed in making manifest our very subtle mind and then we meditate on its emptiness, we will directly and simultaneously uproot all of our contaminated karma accumulated since beginningless time.  Realizing the emptiness of our very subtle mind is the very purpose of our tantric practice, and through this realization we can remove all delusions and their imprints and thereby become a Buddha in a matter of years, or even months.  The method for making manifest our very subtle mind is to cause all of our inner winds to gather, dissolve and absorb into our indestructible drop at our heart.  Once all of our winds are gathered in this way, our very subtle mind of clear light will naturally become manifest.  The most important thing to know about inner winds is the mind is located at the object of cognition and it is carried to its object on our inner winds.  If our mind conceives the moon, our mind quite literally is at the moon, and our inner winds went there with it.  If our mind wanders to any object other than our indestructible drop at our heart, our winds will go there, and our very subtle mind will never be made manifest.  It is impossible to realize the emptiness of an object we do not first cognize conventionally.  Therefore, without learning to focus our mind, enlightenment quite literally is impossible.

With this skilful practice of doing everything with single-pointed focus, there can be no increase in secondary delusions, such as non-alertness.  When we are doing our jobs and fulfilling our responsibilities, we should try to just concentrate on one thing.  It is especially important that we do this when it comes to our formal practices.  How many of us can get through a whole sadhana without thinking of other things?  Sometimes we use our puja time to think about other things because it is the only time we have to do it.

But the reality is the more we focus on our puja, the more we will be tapping into the Spiritual Guide’s mind and he will bless us with the best ideas when we need them.  If we rely wholeheartedly upon our Spiritual Guide, he’ll bless us to take into consideration what is neccessary at any time, and then we don’t have to worry.  There is a scene in the first Star Wars where the Jedi is in a fierce light-saber battle with Darth Maul, and then a barrier separates the two.  The Jedi then kneels down, closes his eyes and waits and springs into action when ‘the force’ tells him to.  We need to be just like that.  But we still worry a lot, thinking there are things we need to think about.  But why?   The deeper one’s reliance, the less one worries because we feel ourselves guided in all our activities by the Spiritual Guide.

In everything we do we should focus on what we are doing.  And what are we doing?  We are focusing on allowing the Spiritual Guide to work through us without getting in the way.  If we do this, the Spiritual Guide will literally enter into us and we will become an extension of him.  It will be as if he is in us and he is really here.  He can accomplish all that he can accomplish through us.  We become an instrument and he does everything.

Ironically, if we can learn to do one thing, namely focus on faithful reliance in everything we do, we can effortlessly accomplish all other activities.  If we become whatever we focus our mind on, and what we focus our mind on is the Spiritual Guide as the synthesis of all the Buddhas, we will quite literally become one with (or an extension of) all the Buddhas.  Such is the power of a focused mind.

2 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Multi-tasking is for fools

  1. Thank you kadam Ryan for being focused on your very meaningful task of bringing Buddha’s wisdom right into my mind.

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