Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: If you’re not enjoying yourself, you have no effort

The success of our spiritual training depends upon effort. Effort is not, as we will see, just engaging in the training itself but the enjoyment of it, delighting in it, even.  If we are delighting in it then we will maintain an enthusiasm for it, and we will always look forward then to opportunities to train in formal and informal ways.  We will come to enjoy formal training, such as studying, meditating, teaching, doing puja, and so forth. We look forward to such opportunities.  But we will also appreciate too any opportunities that arise during our daily activities to train. For example, we can appreciate the opportunity to train in being of service to others, showing a good example to others, and so forth. In general, our main job is to bring lamrim into our daily life. With effort, we’ll happily take every opportunity to do so.

We know too well that when we go to practice – whether it is our daily meditations, attending classes or pujas, going to festivals, or even just looking at our daily life through a lens of Dharma – we sometimes meet with resistance in our mind.  Sometimes we have obstacles and sometimes we just don’t want to do Dharma things.  Over these next verses, we will be looking at the obstacle of laziness that prevents us from joyfully putting effort into our training.  

The old Kadampas used to say that our main job is to help others as much as possible and harm our delusions as much as possible.  Shantideva’s Guide is our primary manual for how to do so.  He is ruthless with our delusions.  If we are not careful to differentiate between ourselves and our delusions, we can feel like Shantideva is attacking us or judging us.  In reality, he is trying to free us from the tyranny of our delusions.  In the last chapter, he trashed our anger.  In this chapter, he eviscerates our laziness.  Just wait until Chapter 8, when he takes on our attachment – especially our sexual attachment!  It is important that it feels like our delusions are being bashed, not us.   It is hard to feel joy in our practice if it is an exercise in self-flagellation.  Over the next several posts we will discuss this obstacle of laziness that we have in our mind that is opposing our efforts. And we will as well discuss the four powers that we can use to strengthen and increase our effort.

(7.1) With the practice of patience I should train in effort
Because the fruit of enlightenment depends upon it.
Just as a candle flame cannot move without wind,
So the collections of wisdom and merit cannot grow without effort.

It is important to further explore the link between patience and effort.  Patience gives us freedom to enjoy ourselves.  We will see through our practice of patience that we can enjoy ourselves even whilst in samsara. How does patience then give us such freedom?  At present there is an imbalance in our mind. Mainly our attachment on one hand, and aversion, anger, hatred on the other. A severe imbalance. We know the stronger the one, the stronger the other.  If we weaken our aversion, anger, hatred, and so forth, through the practice of patient acceptance, it will weaken our self-cherishing and self-grasping.   Without a doubt, this will make our mind a lot more peaceful.  And the more peaceful we are feeling, the more we are able to enjoy what we are doing.  In this way, patient acceptance gives us freedom to enjoy.

When things are difficult for us, we generally cannot enjoy ourselves.  All day long, we face one difficult situation after another.   We must be careful because we can be pushing things away all day long. From when the alarm goes off in the morning until we go to bed at night, we are pushing away things that we don’t like.  This prevents our enjoyment.  We end our day feeling that we haven’t enjoyed ourselves throughout the whole of that day. We feel difficulties come along and they end our enjoyment. They bring our enjoyment to an end. There are difficulties. Why?

We can ask ourselves now. Why is our enjoyment either prevented or stopped?  It is because we are not accepting difficulties with a patient mind.  What is definite is without acceptance, there can be no enjoyment. Without such acceptance, how can there be any enjoyment? It is only when we accept, when we have a patient acceptance that we can then enjoy or continue to enjoy.

With acceptance we can enjoy whatever happens or comes our way.  Normally if we are enjoying ourselves doing what we wish and somebody comes to us with a problem or with something for us to do, we think, “oh no.”  There is a mind of rejection.  Now, if we were to welcome the person with a problem, without any resistance, then we can maintain the peaceful, happy mind that we had whilst we were enjoying ourself. Now we can enjoy being with and helping others.  That is patience.  What we need to understand is patience gives us the freedom to enjoy ourselves, whatever we may be doing.

We reject things because we don’t know how to use them to accomplish our goals.  We easily accept things that we do know how to use to accomplish our goals.  Because our goals are presently largely worldly, there are some things we can use and some things we need to push away.  If our goals our primarily spiritual, where we genuinely want to train our mind to become a Buddha, then we can use everything.  Because we can use everything, we can accept everything with a peaceful mind.  Because we can accept everything with a peaceful mind, we can enjoy everything, all day long, without break. 

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