We now start Chapter Eight, Relying upon Mental Stabilization.
Now it is time for our attachment to come under attack. Are you ready?
Chapter 8 has two parts: The first part is technically on concentration, but the part is actually on overcoming attachment. The second part, which we will do next year, is on exchanging self with others. Why is the chapter on attachment when its subject is concentration? The primary obstacle to pure concentration is our attachment. Our mind goes to whatever it considers to be a cause of happiness. Because at present, we think our happiness lies in samsaric objects, we are naturally drawn to them during meditation. Because we do not think there is any happiness in our meditation objects, our mind doesn’t remain centered in them. The only way to change this is to do the work inside our mind to change our assessment of the various objects. We do this all the time, where our opinion of an object changes from bad to good or from good to bad. We need to do the same thing here.
What is freedom? Normally we say freedom is the ability to choose without obstruction. There are two types of freedom, outer and inner. Outer freedom is what we normally think of as freedom, we can do what we wish externally. Inner freedom is freedom of the mind, where we can choose our reaction to things, and remain calm and happy all the time, regardless of what happens.
The principal obstacle to our inner freedom is our attachment. Attachment is when we believe that our happiness depends on something external. That some external object is the cause of our happiness. This makes us unfree because there are two possibilities: We do not have the object of our attachment, and therefore we cannot be happy. Or we have the object of our attachment, and we either fear losing it or it doesn’t live up to our expectations for it of giving us the happiness we seek. A good example is when I spent my wedding night in the Queen Victoria hotel in Paris. There was some super rich lady who was not even content there. She certainly could not be content anywhere else.
In chapter 8 we will look at our two biggest delusions: sexual attachment and self-cherishing. Shantideva knows us. The more we overcome these delusions, the more freedom we gain of being able to be happy all the time, regardless of our external circumstance.
Before I dive in, I want to saw a few words about dealing with delusions, in particular the attitude we should adopt when delusions arise in our mind.
Step 1: identify that we are deluded. The sign a delusion has arisen in our mind is our mind is not at peace. Normally when our mind is not at peace we go looking in the external to try find out why, but in reality we need to look inside our mind to see what is wrong. We can make requests, please help me to identify the delusion in my mind.
Step 2: Acknowledge and overcome the delusion. Normally we fall into the extreme of expression. We believe our delusion to be true and we believe it when it tells us if we follow it we will be better off. In reality, this just makes matters worse because it destroys our inner peace further and it creates the tendencies similar to the cause to have similar delusions again in the future. The other extreme we fall into is suppression. This is especially the case if we are a Dharma practitioner and we know we are ‘not allowed’ to express our delusions. Here we pretend, either to others externally or to ourselves internally that we are not deluded. Those who are really good at acting tend to be the best suppressors. We pretend because of our pride. We cannot admit to ourself or to others that we are deluded. We think we are better than we are. We pretend because we do not really want to abandon our delusions. We know if we admit the problem, we will have to apply the solution. We prefer to deny that we have a problem, just like a drug addict. We also suppress when we still ‘want’ to follow the delusion in our heart, but know we ‘shouldn’t.’ In such a situation, when we do not express, we necessarily suppress.
The middle way is to accept the existence of the delusion within your mind, but not accept its validity. We need to accept that for as long as we are still in samsara, we will continue to ‘fart’ delusions. We use this fact to increase our desire to stop identifying with contaminated mental aggregates. We also accept that we have a lot of karmic inertia in our mind, so just because we know better doesn’t mean we are able to have no delusions arise within our mind.
One powerful way to accept the existence of the delusion is to break our identification with them. I am not deluded, rather there is delusion within my mind. The key to disempowering the delusion is to recognize it as a lie. It promises us much, but it delivers the exact opposite. We need to make this very personal and realize how our personal delusions betray us and torture us. Then we will not be fooled by them. What we never do is accept the validity of the delusion itself. Even if the delusion overpowers us, we should never assent to its lies. Shantideva said it would be better to have our head cut off than to ever bow down to our delusions.
2 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Understanding Inner Freedom”
It would be nice to have zoom live classes with you. You could even charge money to support NKT
Your clarity is welcoming and makes me feel wanted. Dharma Community.
You are always in my heart.
Scott and Joan
Thank you for your kind words. Sangha is our real family, in life after life.