Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Worldly concerns are the root of our anger

Now Shantideva introduces once again worldly concerns with the phrase:

(6.90) Praise, fame, and good reputation
Will not increase my merit or extend my life,
Nor will they give me strength, freedom from illness,
Or any form of physical pleasure.

We’ve seen already we can easily become angry when faced with the threat of losing our reputation, wealth and so forth.  I would say that the more we seek happiness, wealth, praise, reputation, and the more we try to avoid suffering, poverty, criticism, bad reputation, the more we will suffer from anger, and the more we will find ourselves retaliating.  In many ways, our worldly concerns are at the root of all of our anger.  Therefore, it is of utmost importance that as Dharma practitioners we make effort to destroy such worldly concerns.  

We will never achieve the goals of spiritual training as long as we possess such worldly concerns. In Joyful Path, Geshe-la explains the difference between pure and impure Dharma practice is identified by looking at which life we are practicing for:  this life or our future lives.  Of course Dharma will help us be happy in this life, and there is nothing wrong with that, but for our Dharma practice to be spiritual practice, our motivation must be at least the happiness of future lives.  But even among those who practice only for the sake of this life, there are two types:  those who use the Dharma to oppose their delusions in this life to be happy in this life and those who use the Dharma to secure their worldly desires, such as fame, a good reputation, high status, and even wealth. 

When people quite literally put you on a throne, prostrate at your feet, and are encouraged to view you as an emanation of a Buddha, it is very hard for our pride to not sneak in and corrupt the whole process.  We can even start to do so for seemingly virtuous reasons, thinking it is good that others view us as Buddhas because then they receive greater blessings, but in reality it is our pride that is enjoying it.  Getting sucked into this vortex is extremely dangerous because then the Dharma teacher starts to pretend that they don’t have any delusions or faults.  When they do that with others, it creates a cult-like atmosphere in the Dharma center.  When they do that with themselves, it leads to repression and eventual meltdown of our spiritual life. 

Our whole lives can get wrapped up in our worldly concerns that any threat to them becomes a “justified” cause of anger.  Again, our worldly concerns can hijack our Dharma understanding to justify our grasping at these things – we need wealth and high status so we can spread the Dharma, etc. – but in our heart, it is just worldly concerns leading to ordinary anger. 

Results come from pure Dharma activities.  Pure Dharma activities are when we have a spontaneous realization of ‘it doesn’t matter’ for everything, and the only thing that matters to us is creating good causes for future lives.  I’m not saying that we do not need wealth and a good reputation, but that problems come for ourself, others, and our tradition when our concern for these things is a worldly concern.  We must begin to sort this out right now. We must make strong effort to destroy any worldly concerns that we have so that things can be unblocked and can grow.

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