Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Everything is like a rainbow

(6.25) All the shortcomings there are,
And all the various non-virtues,
Arise through the force of other conditions –
They do not govern themselves.

(6.26) The assembled conditions have no thought
To produce a suffering result;
Nor does the resultant suffering think,
“I was produced from conditions.”

At the core, anger is a response to unpleasant feelings within the mind.  It seeks to blame something outside the mind for what is taking place inside the mind.  Here, Shantideva seeks to pull the rug out from underneath that anger by showing, in fact, there is no object of blame outside the mind.

Every phenomena, internal and external, arises like a rainbow in response to causes and conditions.  I remember once I was in the area that used to be the Creperie at Manjushri.  The Mexican sangha came in with a bunch of bags of groceries.  They proceeded to unpack them and being chopping up all sorts of things, like carrots, cheese, apples and the like.  Other people were washing the lettuce, others making dressing.  Everybody was at their own table doing their own thing.  Then, they started putting it all in a common bowl.  When they were done, a “salad” appeared clearly to everyone’s mind.  But where did the salad itself come from?  What was it?  The lettuce, cheese, carrots and dressing are not the salad, yet when you take them all away there is no salad to be found anywhere.  A “salad” simply appears to everyone’s mind when the causes and conditions come together to see it.  The same is true for all other phenomena.  Nothing is actually there.

When the mind of anger arises, it necessarily has an object it is blaming.  But if we perform a salad-like analysis of this object of blame, we will realize nothing is actually there.  The thing we blame is just an appearance that arises when various causes and conditions come together.  Do we blame the carrots?  No, they too come from various causes and conditions.  There is nothing we can point to and blame for our anger.  When we do this, our anger loses its object to hold on to; without an object, it is impossible for the corresponding mind to arise.

The things that supposedly cause us suffering have no intention to do so; rather it is just a series of causes and conditions that come together.  This is easy to understand when we are talking about inanimate objects of harm, but it is likewise true for animate ones.  The person who harmed us isn’t actually there, the delusions which control him aren’t really there either, all are just the coming together of causes and conditions.  And we shouldn’t forget the most important causes and condition of all – ourself!  If we did not have a body, could it be harmed?  If we did not have delusions, would anything be a problem for us.  So if we blame the other person, then we likewise have to blame our body and our delusions.  To blame our body is to blame our parents, and their parents before them.  To blame our delusions is to blame the entire cultural environment we live in and all our previous lives and everyone we ever encountered.  But if we check these things, they are not there either.  We can search to the end of the universe and never find anything to blame – and if we blame one thing, we have to blame everything equally, so what sense is there is being angry at the person who harmed us?

Nothing governs itself.  Everything is like one giant ocean, with various currents flowing in all directions.  Everything affects everything else.  But if nothing governs itself, how can we say we have free will?  Free will itself arises from causes and conditions.  Delusions render our mind uncontrolled, free will emerges from a mind free from delusions.  We don’t intrinsically have free will, we need to create it within our mind through abandoning our delusions and gaining control over our mind.  Somebody whose mind is wholly consumed with delusions (which is pretty much everyone) has no free will at all.

Fundamentally, though, our “problems” come from our delusions.  Delusions come from the meeting of deluded tendencies similar to the cause with inappropriate attention.  Our inappropriate attention grasps at an object as being inherently pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, then exaggerates these qualities and then ignorantly grasps at these objects actually existing in this way.  If we want to free our mind from all “problems” we have to remove from our mind the causes and conditions which create this appearance.  To do so, we need to purify our deluded karma and abandon inappropriate attention.  Just as a rainbow will not appear without sunlight and rain, so too delusions cannot arise without deluded karma and inappropriate attention.  By removing the causes, the effect never arises.

One thought on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Everything is like a rainbow

  1. Very well said and presented. It’s such an important teaching, practical and helpful. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s