Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Transforming delusions into virtues

To enhance our experience of exchanging self with others, Shantideva now goes on to describe a special method where we put ourself in the place of others who may seem to have deluded minds towards us.  Where previously we have learnt to identify with the basis of others, that is their body, now it seems we learn to identify with the basis of others that is their mind.   In dependence upon their mind of jealousy, or their mind of pride, and so forth, we think I. We are imputing I upon that basis, aren’t we? We are bringing to mind their jealousy for example, and thinking I.

It is quite funny.  Normally we dislike people who have such delusions.  Here we learn how to love them. It seems we love them for those faults!  Then no matter what people are like, no matter how deluded their behavior, no matter how they feel towards us, we just love them. We love them. We love them as they are. A jealous person, we love. A proud person, we love. Competitive person, we love.  It is just three examples, but we can take any other delusion and regard a person with that delusion as someone whom we dearly love. Even, or especially, if that deluded behavior is directed towards us.

It is interesting how we normally distance ourselves from jealous, competitive, or prideful people.  Here we are doing completely the opposite — drawing closer and closer to them through identifying with the delusion that they have in their mind, a delusion they have towards us.  The fact is that beings in our world are deluded, aren’t they?  If we cannot like or love deluded beings in our world, then there will be no one to love!  We have to love them not despite their delusions towards us, but because of their delusions towards us.  If we don’t, then there is no one to love otherwise.  And it is worth asking ourselves once again, where do these deluded, childish beings come from in the first place?  Here, Shantideva shows us how to take those people who have deluded minds towards us, and love them for it.

This practice is unusual because generally we’re encouraged to focus on the good qualities of others, and in that way, love them.  That is what we normally do, focus on the good qualities of others, and then naturally a mind of love will arise towards them.  We can’t help it, we naturally will like, even love, people possessing those qualities.  And now Shantideva is giving us a method to love those with apparently bad qualities.  Then, it doesn’t matter how they are – we focus on people’s good qualities, naturally we come to love them; we focus on their bad qualities, naturally we come to love them.  With this wisdom, it doesn’t matter what they’re like anymore, we can love them.

I think what is extraordinary about these meditations is that out of one’s own self-centeredness, naturally delusions such as jealousy, pride, and so forth arise, but when we identify with others’ self-centeredness, their delusions, jealousy, pride, and so forth, naturally virtues arise in us.  If we identify with our delusions, they are delusions; if we identify with others’ delusions, they are virtues.  Interesting how that works.  Jealousy normally thinks, for example, that we want what others have.  If we generate jealousy, we have a delusion.  But the jealousy of somebody else wants them to have what we have, so if we identify with that, we will want them to have what we have.  In other words, we will want to give.  A virtue.  The same is true with all the other delusions (except ignorance).  By identifying with the delusions in somebody else’s mind, it functions to oppose the delusions in our own mind.  Amazing!

By doing these meditations, we find out a lot about ourselves.  We see ourselves from somebody else’s perspective, and this helps us realize how we are and how we should change.

(8.140) Putting myself in the place of those who are lower than, equal to, and higher than me,
And then regarding my former self as “other”,
With my mind free from the crippling conception of doubt
I should meditate on jealousy, competitiveness, and pride.

In Eight Steps to Happiness Geshe-la says that through the force of meditations such as these, we become more open to others’ point of view, more tolerant and more understanding, and we shall naturally treat others with greater respect and consideration.  This will help us improve our communication with others and our knowing how to help others.  We must try to free ourself from doubts, any hesitation, or resistance to these meditations for whatever reason.  We should not worry that if we identify with the delusions of somebody else, we will become a deluded being ourselves.  If we adopt the delusions of others as our own, they are virtues as far as we are concerned.  We must try to increase our faith and, in this way, remove any doubt or hesitation and resistance to engaging in these meditations.  Then we will get some experience, we will gain some glimpse of the incredible meaning behind these meditations that will inspire us more and more to exchange ourself so completely with others, even those whom we find difficult or dislike, or even hate.

We put ourself in the place of those who are lower, equal to, and higher than us.  There are those of course who we consider to be lower than, equal to, or higher than ourselves. not in all respects of course, but in certain respects.  We can divide others into those three categories.  First of all, we put ourself in the place of those whom we regard to be in some respect lower than us (that’s just about everybody since we have so much pride) and then we look back to our former self with jealous thoughts.

3 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Transforming delusions into virtues

  1. Wow, this is like a crystal that purifies delusions! Thank you so much! And do you mind if I share? Such accessible wisdom for Buddhists and non Buddhists alike.

  2. “Loving others because of their delusions” is so radical and yet perfectly logical. If we don’t love them, there will be hardly anyone to love in samsara. Thanks and Love Dennis


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