Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Delusions are like spam

(7.60) When I find myself assailed by a host of delusions,
I will oppose them in a thousand ways.
Like a lion among a group of foxes,
I will not allow myself to be harmed by delusions.

(7.61) Just as people protect their eyes
When in dangerous situations,
So, whenever there is a danger of the delusions,
I will protect myself from their influence.

(7.62) It would be far better for me to be burned to death
Or to have my head cut off
Than it would be for me ever to submit
To the enemy of the delusions.

This is an expression of the kind of self-confidence that we need in overcoming the delusions.  We need this sort of courage and feel as if we are in a fight for our life.  In truth, it is more than a fight for our life because if we develop a habit of giving in to our delusions, they will harm us not only in this life, but all our future lives.

Here it is important to make a crucial distinction – we cannot overcome our delusions with will-power alone.  Instead, we need to stop wanting to follow them because we realize they are wrong, indeed deceptive.  They promise one thing, but deliver the exact opposite.  Most of our delusions are simply wrong desires fueled by ignorance.  Attachment wants terribly our objects of attachment because we are convinced that they are causes of our happiness, and we want to be happy.  Anger very much wants to harm its object because we are convinced that it is the cause of our suffering.  We are desire realm beings, which means we have no choice but to do what we desire.  We can use our will power for a short period of time to resist the pull of our delusions, but eventually our delusions will win because they remain our dominant desire.  We still want to follow our delusion, so eventually we do.  When we use will power, we simply repress the delusions until they gradually build up in strength until we eventually give in. 

To actually oppose our delusions we need to dismantle their inner logic with wisdom.  When we know somebody is trying to scam us, such as receiving an email from the Nigerian prince who wants to transfer his fortune to us “for safe keeping” is only we send him our bank account numbers, we are not easily tempted.  We know it is a lie, a scam, so we are not fooled.  Indeed, reading the email knowing it is a scam reinforces our desire and determination to not be tricked by others out to fool us.  We need to be exactly the same with our delusions.  When we don’t want to follow them, we won’t, just like the scam email.

There are two ways to expose the lies of our delusions so that we actually don’t want to follow them anymore.  The first is to see the lie of the delusion itself.  All delusions are by nature deceptive.  They promise us happiness, but always leave us more miserable.  We need to go through the specific delusions in our life that come up again and again and see how they have deceived us time after time.  For me, a very common one is hitting “send” when I’m still angry.  Damnit, I want to say something.  My anger gives me the courage to say it.  But every time, it just makes things worse and I always regret doing so and then have to exert a great deal of effort cleaning up the mess my anger created.  Sometimes its jealousy.  Often it is attachment.  Our attachment tells us we will feel better if we give in to it, but then it never works out the way we hoped and we remain forever addicted. 

Second, we need to not want to be under the influence of the delusion itself.  We take the example of wanting to smoke a cigarette when we are trying to quit.  If we just think of things in terms of the harm of the cigarette to our health versus the relief we might feel from smoking, we might conclude the benefits of smoking outweigh the costs of smoking.  Even though we know it is bad for our health, we want to do it anyways.  But if we consider the faults of giving in to the delusion itself, the calculus changes.  Every time we follow what our delusions tell us to do, it grows stronger in our mind.  Venerable Tharchin likens it to feeding the Dragon who will eventually devour us.  If we give in now, we will give in again and again and again in the future and we will never break free.  Yes, the immediate relief of smoking might be better than the harm an individual cigarette will do to us, but it won’t just be once – it will be time and time again, forever until we stop.  If we give in to one delusion, we will give in to others, and pretty soon they will have complete control over us.  Either we gain control over our delusions or they will forever control us – in this life and in all our future lives.  Seen in this larger light, we can then not want to follow the delusion for long-term considerations, not just the immediate circumstances. 

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