(7.8) With some things not yet started
And others half-finished,
The Lord of Death will suddenly strike
And I shall think, “Oh no, this is the end for me!”
(7.9) When I become a victim of the Lord of Death,
My relatives – their eyes red and swollen with sorrow
And their faces flushed with tears –
Will finally give up hope.
(7.10) Tormented by memories of my previous non-virtues
And hearing the sounds of impending hell,
Out of terror I shall cover myself in excrement!
What shall I be able to do in such a pathetic state?
(7.11) If even in this human life I shall experience terror
Like that felt by a fish being cooked alive,
What can be said of the unbearable sufferings of hell
That I shall experience as a consequence of my non-virtuous actions?
(7.12) As a result of the non-virtues I have committed,
I shall be reborn in the hot hells
Where my tender, young flesh will be scalded by hot, molten metals;
So how can I remain at ease under the control of laziness?
(7.13) I wish for higher attainments without having to make any effort,
Permanent freedom without having patiently to endure any pain,
And to remain like a long-life god while living in the jaws of death.
How foolish I am! When death comes, I shall be overwhelmed by suffering!
(7.14) By depending upon this boat-like human form,
We can cross the great ocean of suffering.
Since such a vessel will be hard to find again,
This is no time to sleep, you fool!
When we read such verses, we need to make them personal. These things will happen to me. It is guaranteed I will experience such suffering if I don’t purify and I don’t get out of samsara. Such immense suffering inevitably and inescapably awaits us, yet we’re not prepared to give up our attachment to pleasure and to a comfortable life. We agree that spiritual attainments, freedom, long life, and so forth would be great, wonderful! But in reality, we want these things as long as we do not have to put any effort in to get them.
This is primarily due to our attachment to worldly concerns. Why can we not even be bothered to even try to abandon this laziness of indolence? When we think of the suffering that lies ahead of us. And if we think of the extraordinary happiness that could lie ahead of us, why do we not want to abandon this laziness of indolence? We need to ask ourselves these questions and actually come up with answers – why exactly do we still do almost nothing?
The truth of our spiritual life is it is now or never. With the conditions we have now, we can achieve all the higher attainments, we can achieve permanent freedom, we can make it to the pure land. We can achieve all these things with the conditions that we have. We lack nothing. Wo why do we allow this reluctance or resistance to practice to remain in our mind? Why instead can we not see our laziness as one of our very worst enemies? This inner demon is preventing me from applying myself. It is obstructing my joyful effort that would otherwise naturally give rise to such great results.
In this next verse, Shantideva addresses the laziness of being attracted to meaningless and non-virtuous actions. There are many actions born of attachment that we would consider to be harmless, but they actually are by nature non-virtuous. For example, covetousness is a non-virtuous action. Idle chatter is a non-virtuous action. Perhaps we feel these non-virtuous actions are harmless, but actually they are quite harmful because of the alternative we have. They cause us to do nothing when we could be using our precious human life to do something. Such meaningless and non-virtuous activities cause us to develop the habit of wasting our precious human life. There are so many meaningless activities we distract ourselves with. Why do we do it?
(7.15) Why do I forsake the joy of holy Dharma,
Which is a boundless source of happiness,
Just to seek pleasure in distractions and meaningless pursuits
That are only causes of suffering?
This is worth memorizing. We have to think carefully about this. Perhaps we feel many of our distractions or meaningless pursuits are not causes of suffering. There are so many things that we do to distract ourselves, and we are not hurting anybody by doing them, are we? Rather than focusing on virtue, we turn to other things for our pleasure. We turn to the same things again and again, habitually. This becomes a form of idle chatter. We do not really enjoy those activities, but we also do not want to do anything virtuous, so we turn to these distractions instead. We are not actually getting much pleasure from them, but we would rather do such things than focus upon any virtuous activity. It seems our biggest distractions are our mobile phones, the internet, and television. How much time do we waste with these things? This is our precious human life slipping away. We should try spend a week without these things and we will see how much attachment we have for them. We will also discover how much time letting go of these things frees us up to engage in virtuous activities.
This is not to say our phones, the internet, or television are inherently meaningless. They only become meaningless if we do them with a meaningless mind. But just because in theory they can be transformed into our spiritual practice does not mean we ourselves actually do so. We have to be honest with ourselves. This also does not mean we don’t sometimes need to rest. Of course we need to rest to recharge our batteries, and sometimes doing these things is a good form of rest. The fault lies when we do them beyond resting enough to be able to return to our spiritual practices refreshed.