Now Shantideva turns to relying upon the power of mindfulness.
(7.68) Just as a seasoned warrior on the battlefront
Approaches the enemy’s weapons with care,
So will I protect myself from the weapons of the delusions
And bind these enemies so that I can destroy them.
(7.69) If someone drops his weapon during a battle,
Out of fear he will immediately pick it up again.
Likewise, if I ever lose the weapon of mindfulness,
I will recall the sufferings of hell and out of fear restore it straightaway.
(7.70) Just as a little poison will spread throughout the body
With the circulation of the blood,
So, given an opportunity,
The delusions will spread throughout my mind.
(7.71) A Dharma practitioner should practise as attentively
As a person would walk if he were forced to carry a jar brimming with oil,
Fearful in the knowledge that, if he spilled just one drop,
The tormentor behind him would slay him with a sword.
(7.72) Therefore, just as I would quickly jump up
If a snake were to crawl into my lap,
So, whenever sleep or laziness threaten,
I will swiftly remove them from my mind.
(7.73) Each time faults such as delusions arise,
I will thoroughly chastise myself
And then focus for a long time
On the determination not to let that happen again.
(7.74) In this way, in all situations
I will acquaint myself with mindfulness –
Sincerely and purely practising Dharma
So that I can protect myself and others from suffering.
I love how Shantideva frequently used military metaphors for our Dharma practice. In truth, the stakes of Dharma practice are much higher than those of warfare since war at most can harm us in this life, whereas delusions can harm us in all our future lives. Further, by keeping us trapped in samsara, delusions prevent us from attaining enlightenment and all those we would otherwise be helping if we attained enlightenment would continue to suffer.
We should have Shantideva levels of fear of our delusions. Normally, we don’t think it is a big deal if we generate a little jealousy, anger, or attachment. So we allow these poisons to course through our mind, growing in strength, until eventually they control us completely. In the end, we need to make a choice: our delusions or enlightenment. We can’t have both, we must choose. One day or another, we must completely eliminate all the delusions from our mind, the only question is when do we start.
I also think it is very important to remember our default in samsara is we are headed to hell. All of us. If we do not purify, we will eventually fall. There is no third possibility. Virtually everyone we know or see on the street will soon be in hell. Hell is the natural abode of samsara. Demographically speaking, only a very small percentage of the beings in samsara are not in hell. Trying to escape hell while remaining in samsara is like trying to escape the gravity of the sun while being close to it.
In Joyful Path the story is told of a person standing in a doorway and he asks his disciple whether he is going in or out. The disciple replies, “it depends on your intention.” The same is true for our remaining in samsara or getting out. We stand in the doorway of a precious human life, whether we go further into samsara or get out depends upon our intention. In reality, even that is not true. If we don’t decide to get out and put in the necessary effort, we will fall deeper in. No one has ever attained liberation or enlightenment by accident. Either they put in the effort or it never happened.
To overcome our laziness, we need to rely on mindfulness remembering the dangers of delusions and remaining in samsara. If somebody thought they were about to starve or their family would be evicted from their home, the would work tirelessly to prevent that from happening. This is how we should be. We should constantly remember, “I am en route to hell, and so is everyone I know or love.” We must think carefully about our samsaric situation if we are to overcome our laziness and increase our effort.
Generally speaking, we’re quite lazy about identifying and opposing our self-grasping and our self-cherishing aren’t we? We’re quite lazy. We allow them to remain in our mind, don’t we? We sometimes even think they are our friend. We think our delusions take care of us and help us so we allow them to remain. All delusions are deceptive. They trick us into thinking they are helping us. It is only when our delusions are really strong and we are really unhappy that we feel any burning desire to get rid of them. But besides then, we are content to go about our day “happy enough.” The only function of delusions is to harm us.