And now Shantideva returns to the attachment we have toward objects of worldly concern, such as possessions, praise, reputation.
(8.17) If people think I have many possessions,
They will respect me and like me;
But if I harbour this kind of pride,
I shall experience terrible fears after I die.
(8.18) O thoroughly confused mind,
For as many objects as you accumulate,
You will have to endure a thousand times more suffering
Because of your attachment to them.
(8.19) Thus, because objects of attachment give rise to fear,
The wise should not become attached,
But remain firm in the understanding
That by their very nature these things are to be left behind.
We have so many possessions. So many. No matter how much space you have, we always find a way to fill it. Venerable Tharchin said objects become possessions when we impute “mine” on them. In reality, we shouldn’t have any possessions, as in our heart everything we have should belong to “others.” We might be temporary custodians of some objects, but from our perspective we are practicing the giving of keeping. If we relate to anything as “ours,” then at the time of death we will feel it being ripped away. The only things we can validly say are “ours” are our indestructible wind, our indestructible mind, and our karma. Everything else is like the child of a barren woman – a non-existent thing belonging to someone who does not exist.
As Kadampas, I think we live, and should be seen to live, humbly, not extravagantly. We avoid the two extremes of materialism and spiritualism. The extreme of materialism thinks that only material things matter. This is an extreme because material things have no power to give us happiness and we eventually need to leave them all behind.
The extreme of spiritualism is when we think material things don’t matter at all. This is an extreme because we need certain physical conditions for our practice or to help sustain others’ practice. Perhaps we do not need these conditions ourselves, but those we want to help do. If they think to adopt a spiritual life means to live in poverty, etc., then nobody will be interested in the spiritual way of life. It is similar to eating meat. Many Buddhists are vegetarians, but we don’t say, “to be Buddhist, you have to be vegetarian.” If we said this, then many people would conclude, “I don’t want to be a Buddhist,” and then they would walk away from the Buddhist path and continue to eat meat. If instead we say, “some eat meat, others don’t, it is your choice,” then they become Buddhist, and some of those who become Buddhist stop eating meat eventually.
The middle way is we should use everything we have for the enlightenment of ourself and of others. Then we can have many things, but we are using them all as means to accomplishing spiritual ends. This enables people to realize the changes that need to be made are internal. Having or not having are equally irrelevant. What matters is our mind. At the same time, we need to have everything around us be attractive, clean, organized, welcoming because we are inviting people into a spiritual way of life. This is especially true for our Dharma centers. It is not a waste of money to have comfortable chairs and a pleasant environment since these things matter for people, especially when they first come into the Dharma.
(8.20) Even if I have acquired many possessions,
Fame, and a good reputation,
None of these things
Can go with me when I die.
Atisha said you have to depart leaving everything behind so do not be attached to anything. Many people might not have strong attachment to things, but they might be attached to their reputation or their legacy or how they are remembered. We have to leave that behind too. None of these things go with us when we die, so we shouldn’t be attached to any of them.