Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  How to never be distracted

(5.39) I should prepare for any activity by thinking,
“My body and mind must remain correctly composed”;
And from time to time check carefully to see
What I am actually doing and thinking.

This is helpful advice for us and others.  We all have quite a lot of extra bodily movement that is and looks uncontrolled.  We are normally completely unaware of movement of our arms, hands, head, mouth, eyes.  They just do their thing as we go about our day.  All of these are a reflection of quite extreme movements of mind.  Our mind is running around.

We notice the difference when we are with someone who is gathered and has a mental and physical stillness about them.  It helps us slow down and calm down.  Gen Samten is the master of this.  When you are around him, you can just feel his stillness, both mental and physical.  But it doesn’t feel rigid and unmoving, rather it feels gathered, stable and composed with a dash of suppleness and flexibility.  When he is listening to somebody, for example, you can just tell all of him is listening.  Because he has the power to give his undivided attention, he is able to bring real benefit to others.

Internally, we always need to remain still and calm.  Externally, we need to be gathered without uncontrolled movements, but natural and approachable.  But we need to not go to the other extreme of being unnatural.  This will make people feel uncomfortable and make it difficult for them to relate to us.

Our own actions of body, speech, and mind must be deliberate, controlled, and arising from a clear intention in our mind.  Our actions must have meaning and purpose.  We must try not to lose that.  If we succeed, then we will discover over time that the difference between our meditation session and our meditation break gets smaller and smaller.  We become quite composed.  If we can develop that stillness, we can reduce that gap.  We need to check and look to see what we are doing and how we are acting.  we have to be aware of every moment of our behavior.

(5.40) With all my effort, I should regularly check
That the unsubdued elephant of my mind
Has not broken free but remains bound
To the great pillar of thinking about Dharma.

We think about an awful lot. We have this crazy, untamed mind going everywhere.  Most of our conscious thoughts are quite unnecessary, leaving us with no space at all. Our mind is cluttered, full of conceptual thoughts.  As a result, our mind is particularly unpeaceful.   When our mind is full of conceptuality, it is a breeding ground for delusion and non-virtue.  We plan a lot, and we worry every day, thinking about all sorts of different things.  We wonder – we think about this happening and that happening.  We waste a tremendous amount of mental energy worrying about “what if”.  It seems to never end.  We go through infinite possibilities and we cannot rest.

Why don’t we simply maintain refuge, rely upon our spiritual guide, simply, merely trust?  “But, but, but, …” our mind objects.  No buts.  We over-analyse.  Nothing wrong with analysis, but there is a lot wrong with over analysis.  When we want to get to know someone, we think about their behavior, habits, their history, etc.  Why can’t we just think, “my kind mother,” “deity,” “hero,” “heroine.”  By keeping it simple and letting go of all these distractions, we allow space in our mind, keeping it mind bound to that great pillar of thinking about Dharma.

When Geshe-la opened the temple at Manjushri and he gave three days of teachings on overcoming distractions, he said something quite extraordinary.  He said, “if our mind is always thinking about Dharma, we are never distracted.”  Our mind may wander from one Dharma subject to another, something we should eventually gain control over, but in the meantime as long as our mind is engaged with some truth of Dharma, we are not falling victim to distraction.  When we think deeply about this, nothing could be more important than making this our new habit.


Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  You lookin’ at me?

(5.35) I should never look around
Out of distraction or for no purpose,
But always, with a resolute mind,
Be mindful of my gaze.

(5.36) From time to time, to relax my gaze,
I should look around without distraction;
And if someone appears in my field of vision,
I should acknowledge them and greet them.

(5.37) To avoid dangers or accidents on the path,
I should occasionally look in all directions,
And prevent my mind from becoming distracted
By relying upon conscientiousness.

(5.38) I should practise in the same way
Whenever I go or return.
Understanding the need to behave like this,
I should apply this practice in all situations.

We are the opposite of this, we look around everywhere.  Why?  Why do we look around? What is there going to be of interest or meaning for us?  We need to ask.  The main reason is because our mind is going out to objects of attachment or distraction.  We think there are interesting things out there that we need to engage our mind with.

This advice seems so superficial, but it is not.  If we behave like this it will help us to become more gathered, more restrained, more contained.  We really will be binding our mind.  If we remain mindful of our gaze, no doubt we will become a lot more centered, focused.  If we are mindful of our gaze it is less likely we will develop delusions.  Walking in such a way can be very meditative, if we want it to be.  It can help with our concentration.  The goal here is to have every moment of our day be part of our bodhisattva training.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the much revered Vietnamese monk, has written and taught extensively on the practice of being mindful while walking.  When you think about it, we spend much of our day walking about.  Most of that time, our mind is just wandering from one object of delusion to another without any benefit, and indeed much harm.  If instead, we quite simply become mindful of our gaze, preventing it from wandering around to one thing after another, we will transform much of our day into an opportunity to train our mind.

This does not mean we need to start walking around like a robot afraid to look at anything.  Outwardly, we should remain completely natural, but internally we are practicing mindfulness keeping control of our gaze.  We should of course look out for cars as we cross the street and smile and greet as normal the people we pass while walking, but internally we are always in control.  We simply remain intent on where we are going and single-pointedly head to our next destination.  What matters most is not out outward appearance and behavior, but rather what we are doing with our mind, namely preventing it from “going out” to various objects of attachment and aversion.  Generally speaking, we keep our eyes on the ground where we are walking and head to our destination without being weird or socially awkward about it.

Once we gain some control over our mind and gaze as we walk about, we can then begin extending this practice to while we are driving, while we are in our home walking around, when we are getting ready in the morning, even when we are attending meetings.  We choose what we want to fix our gaze and attention on, and then we remain mindful to not become distracted by other things.  If we train throughout the day in this form of mindfulness, there is no doubt that the strength and power of our mindfulness and concentration will greatly improve during our meditation sessions.


Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  The Dharma of Charlie Brown

Over the next several verses, Shantideva goes on to describe the different types of moral discipline observed by a Bodhisattva:  the moral disciplines of restraint, the moral discipline of gathering virtuous Dharmas, and the moral discipline of benefitting living beings.

One question we can ask ourselves is what is the difference between restraint, practicing virtue, and benefitting others, and the moral discipline of restraint, the moral discipline of practicing virtue, the moral discipline of benefitting others?  There is a difference.  If we’re going to be practicing moral discipline perfectly, we need to know.   We can practice restraint, virtuous Dharmas, benefitting others, but it doesn’t follow that we’re practicing moral discipline.  Moral discipline is defined as a virtuous mental determination to abandon any fault, a bodily or verbal action motivated by such a determination.  In other words, what makes these practices practices of moral discipline is the virtuous wish to abandon a fault.  If our motivation for doing these three things is selfish or deluded, then even if we are practicing restraint, virtue or benefiting others, we are not practicing the moral discipline of these three.  Why does this matter?  Because if we want the karmic result of the practice of moral discipline, namely future higher spiritual rebirths, we need to engage in these three as practices of moral discipline.

Shantideva begins with the moral discipline of restraint, which in Joyful Path Geshe-la said includes any spiritual discipline which avoids or overcomes any fault.

(5.34) First, I should check to see how my mind is;
And, if I see it is polluted with negativity,
I should remain unmoving,
With a mind as impassive as wood.

Before we undertake any action, we must check our motivation.  We need to actively ask ourselves the question “why am I doing this?”  What mind is underlying my activity and behavior?  If we find any negativity there, best simply to stop.  We make our mind remain unmoving, like a block of wood.  In short, we become like Charlie Brown, who Lucy would always refer to as a “Blockhead.”

Why do we do this?  Because when our mind is under the influence of delusion, everything we do will make our situation worse.  In such a situation, it is better to not think at all then act on our delusions.  Delusions are like storm clouds passing through the sky – eventually they fade and pass.  When our mind is suddenly seized by delusions and we are likely to act on them, it is far better to make our mind like a block of wood, free from all conceptual activity, than to act on our delusions.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion about this practice.  One such confusion, sometimes known as the Hashag fallacy, so named after an ancient monk who taught his disciples the path to enlightenment was to make our mind completely blank, free from all conceptual activity.  Geshe-la refutes this view in many of his books.  Virtually all Dharma minds begin as conceptual minds, then through increasingly familiarity with them they eventually transform into direct perceptions of the Dharma truth.  If we don’t first realize the Dharma truth through a conceptual mind, we can never gain a direct perception of its truth.  So just making our mind blank actually blocks our spiritual progress.

Another common confusion about this practice is we think it means we are supposed to repress our delusions, forcibly pretending they are not there.  But we know from our own experience that when we do this, we just shove them under the surface where they grow in strength until eventually they blow in some dramatic fashion.  To avoid suppression, we need to have a good reason why we remain unmoving.  So we recall that if we follow this negative motivation we will just make our situation worse and create the cause of suffering.  Motivated by this, we then make our mind like a block of wood, free from any conceptual activity.

It is important to know how exactly we make our mind like a block of wood.  It is not a forcible holding back of our delusions, like somebody wrestling opponents to the ground so they can’t get up.  Rather, it is more like simply unplugging a computer.  If our computer is under attack from a hacker or a computer virus, sometimes the best defense to limit the damage is to simply unplug the electricity of the computer.  Without electricity, the computer simply has no activity going on whatsoever.  In the same way, when we make our mind like a block of wood, free from all conceptual activity, it is like we pull the electricity (of conceptual thought) and there is simply no activity at all taking place in our mind.  Each time a new thought flares up, we again let it go completely, literally paying it no mind.

Once the storm has passed and our mind once again as a semblance of control, we can then use other methods to root out our delusions, such as applying the various opponents found in the Lamrim.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  I am always in the presence of the Buddhas

(5.31) “I am always in the presence
Of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
Who, with their omniscient gaze,
See everything without obstruction.”

(5.32) By thinking in this way, we can maintain
Sense of shame, respect, and fear,
And repeatedly bring to mind
The good qualities of the Buddhas.

(5.33) When mindfulness is maintained
With the purpose of guarding the mind,
Alertness will naturally arise
And even that which was lost will return.

In the previous verses, Shantideva explained how we are to develop mindfulness.  Here, he explains how we can develop alertness.  The method is simple:  we develop a specific mindfulness recalling we are always in the presence of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.  In dependence upon this, alertness will naturally arise.

We must post the guard of mindfulness at the doorway of our mind, and then not allow delusions to enter.  If anything that even looks like a delusion comes near, alertness will warn us.  If our mindfulness becomes slack we can restore it by remembering the lower realms—this is conscientiousness.  We remind ourselves of the real danger we’re in, for example the danger of lower rebirth.  We generate fear.  On the basis of this, we recall we are in the presence of our Spiritual Guide.

As soon as we recall our Spiritual Guide, we naturally know what is the right thing to do.  We automatically are able to stop doing certain things that we know we shouldn’t do. As soon as we turn to our spiritual guide in whatever aspect we like, naturally a mind of faith will arise which will help us to maintain alertness.  We can think “I don’t want to be like this; I want to be like you.”  It is especially important that we make an effort to turn to the Spiritual Guide when we find ourselves starting to go down the wrong road.  I like to request Dorje Shugden to alert me when delusions are starting to come up.  He is like a security guard that alerts me to danger.  You can also post him, like a guard, around things that give you trouble – like chocolate Bunnies.

The strength of this practice will be a function of three things:  First, faith that he is there.  Wherever you imagine a Buddha, a Buddha actually goes.  We need to train in this conviction all the time, not just when we are in trouble.  Second, the respect we have for him.  We need to realize how much of a difference his teachings have made to our life.  If we do, we will naturally develop respect for him.  Third, faith in his power to help us.  We request him to bestow his blessings to help us overcome our particular difficulties.  The more faith we have the more open we are to receiving his blessings.  The blessings of a Buddha are as powerful as our faith in them.  Infinite faith = infinite power.  Overtime, as our faith and respect grow, so too will the power of this practice.

But we often forget our Spiritual Guide.  One very special way of remembering is to think: [V: 31] “I am always in the presence Of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas Who, with their omniscient gaze, See everything without obstruction.”  I said before it’s very helpful even at the beginning of the day to bring to mind a field of merit which we regard as one with our Spiritual Guide, and to turn to it throughout the whole of the day.

Why don’t we remember or try to remember?  Two main reasons.  First, because when we don’t recall him we feel free then to misbehave—to indulge our attachment in particular.  If there’s no one around we think we can think, speak, and act as we like, and in particular we can indulge in our attachment.  We need to remember that this practice of recalling we are in the presence of the Buddha is for our own good.  We only stop doing the things that harm us.  Second, sometimes we don’t want to invite them in because we feel guilty.  Because we can’t stop ourselves and we feel like we need to be perfect in his presence.  But actually the more screwed up we are the more compassion he feels.  This is when we need to bring him in the most.

We need to avoid the trap of thinking when we misbehave that it’s OK because our Spiritual Guide accepts us completely. But what we’re doing doesn’t make them happy!  It is important that we stop ignoring our Spiritual Guide and holy beings.  We need to bring them to mind again and again and again.  We need to invite the Buddha’s into our lives and allow ourselves to come under their influence.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  How to develop mindfulness.

(5.30) Fortunate ones who follow the instructions they receive,
Maintain respect for their Spiritual Guide,
And generate fear of the lower realms
Can easily develop and maintain mindfulness.

In the previous verses, Shantideva has encouraged us to generate mindfulness of Dharma.  Mindfulness is remembering the Dharma, it is maintaining the continuum of our Dharma realizations for longer and longer periods of time.  It is actually quite easy to practice Dharma, what is hard is remembering to do so.  Hours, days, weeks, months, years and even lifetimes can go by between our “remembering to practice.”  Once we remember, it is fairly easy to know what to do, so our real task is to remember to do so.  Everything else flows naturally from this.  In this verse, Shantideva explains how.

First, we need to realize we are “fortunate ones.”  Do we feel fortunate?  Most of the time we actually feel unlucky and put upon.  But we have found the keys to the prison of samsara, and not only can we escape, we can bring everyone with us.  We have been wandering in the realms of suffering for countless aeons and by such incredible good fortune, we have found a way out.  We can, once and for all, put an end to all problems and sufferings for ourselves and for all those we love.  We have been given perfectly reliable methods for bringing our mind under control, purifying our negative karma, accumulating an infinite amount of merit and fulfilling all our pure wishes.  We have at our fingertips the precious instructions of Tantra with which we can guarantee that we will take rebirth in the pure land at least within the next seven lifetimes.  If we were a dog and we encountered our Kadampa books, we might view them as a chew toy.  We have precious Sangha friends who inspire us to engage in virtue, we have a worldwide network of Dharma centers so anywhere we go in the world we will have access to the same precious Dharma.  Our good fortune is beyond measure.

Second, realizing our good fortune, we must follow the instructions we receive.  Venerable Tharchin explains that if we have a spiritual opportunity and we seize it, we create the causes for an even better opportunity in the future; but if we fail to seize the opportunity, we burn up the karma to have such opportunities and they will become harder and harder to find in the future.  What does it mean to follow the instructions we receive?  It means we actually use the instructions to try change our habits of mind.  We put effort into seeing through the lies of our delusions and instead to think differently.  Delusions are just habits of mind, virtues are as well.  At present, our deluded habits are dominant and our virtuous habits are weak, but with effort we can change this and eventually reach the point where we would have to apply effort to think and act in deluded ways!  Following the instructions does not mean being perfect, it means to try do a little bit better every day until we are able to act perfectly all of the time.

Third, we need to maintain respect for our Spiritual Guide.  What, exactly, does it mean to respect our Spiritual Guide?  Respect, here, does not mean to treat with deference, though that will happen naturally if our mind is respectful.  Rather, respect has two parts.  First, it means we look up to the Spiritual Guide, valuing and trusting what they have to say.  Who among us has accomplished as much good in life as our spiritual guides have?  Think of the great masters, Buddha Shakyamuni, Atisha, Je Tsongkhapa and our own precious Geshe-la.  Buddha Shakyamuni founded the Dharma in this world, Atisha combined the vast and profound path, Je Tsongkhapa united Sutra and Tantra, and Geshe-la has represented the sacred Kadam Dhama for the people of this modern world.  Through their actions, countless people receive incalculable benefit in this and all our future lives.  They show flawless examples of how to behave and how to respond with wisdom and compassion to whatever happens in our life.  The second part of respect is, motivated by gratitude for what our Spiritual Guides have provided us, striving sincerely to fulfill their wishes for us.  What do they wish for us?  They wish for us to be happy and to become a positive force for good in this world.  They wish us to tame our delusions, cultivate our virtues and becomes that magic crystal which heals the communities we live in.

Fourth, we need to generate fear of the lower realms.  We arrogantly assume our present good fortune in the human realm will last forever.  If we think deeply about what the instructions are telling us, we are inexorably led to the conclusion that our real home in samsara is the lower realms, and it is only by a near miracle of good fortune that we have taken rebirth has a human with an opportunity to practice Dharma.  In the Christian teachings, it is presented that at the end of this life we either get to heaven (the pure land) of we will fall into hell, there is no third possibility.  While technically incorrect since it is possible we could take rebirth as an animal, a hungry spirit, a demi-god or a god, or even a human again, statistically speaking our choices are indeed for all practical purposes either we lift ourselves up to the pure land or we will fall into hell.  How can we understand this?  There are approximately 7 billion people on earth.  When you consider all the insects and 8 million other species of animals, it is very conservative to say that there are at least 7 trillion animals.  Using the same proportions, that means there are 7 quadrillion hungry spirits and 7 quintillion hell beings.  Likewise, about 7 million demi-gods, and only 7,000 gods.  If you calculate then the percentages of each type of being, we find that humans only make up 0.00000001% of all beings, and hell beings constitute 99.9% of all beings.  This makes sense when you think about how samsara works.  The cause of lower rebirth is negative karma.  When we are in the lower realms, we essentially engage only in negative actions; when we are in the upper realms we burn up all our virtuous karma and then fall.  So while the wheel of life and the analogy of the house make it seem like beings are evenly distributed among the six realms, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking this is the case.  We stand on the precipice of falling into hell.  The only way this won’t happen is if we get ourselves to the pure land in dependence upon the practice of guarding alertness.

If we contemplate again and again these four main causes, mindfulness will naturally arise within our mind.  Mindfulness, like anything else, is a dependent arising.  If you create the causes and conditions for it, it will definitely arise.  If we have mindfulness, we will easily obtain everything else; if we lose our mindfulness, we will quickly lose everything else.  What could be more important than this?

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Guard your mind or fall.  There is no third option.

(5.28) These legions of thieves of the delusions
Are just waiting for an opportunity
And, when one arises, they will steal my wealth of virtue
And destroy any chance of a fortunate rebirth.

We need an accurate sense of the danger we are in.  If there was one thief on the loose in a big city, we wouldn’t be too worried and we could feel safe.  If there were legions (thousands) of thieves waiting outside our door to pounce at the first opening they have, we would be on constant guard.  In the same way, if we only had one or two delusions in the infinite expanse of our mind, we wouldn’t need to be too worried (though, actually we would).  But if there are legions of delusions waiting for an opportunity to slip through the cracks of our spiritual defenses, we would be on constant guard of our mind.  It’s pretty clear what our situation is – delusions have near total dominion over our mind.  It takes very little to activate our delusions, and if left unchecked they will grow and grow, stealing our virtue.

I really enjoy Christian teachings about the devil, especially from Southern Baptists preachers.  In their description, the devil is merciless and utterly deceitful.  He makes all sorts of false promises, and duped by them we follow his advice only for him to betray us every time.  We become more and more ensnared in his web of lies, he gradually takes over more and more of our behavior, causing us to engage in all sorts of negative and destructive acts.  His sole objective is to lead us to the very pit of the deepest hell.  While Buddhists don’t grasp at their being some being out there doing this, the description of the devil and his ways is a perfect description for how delusions operate.  The Baptist preacher tells us we need to be on constant lookout because Satan is just looking for an opening and is tempting or provoking us at every turn.  If we are not mindful, we will fall into one of his many traps from which we may never escape for what is for all practical purposes eternity.

Delusions know where we are weakest and they will attack us mercilessly.  For some it is anger, for others it is jealousy, for others it is attachment to what others think, for many it is sexual attachment.  One of my favorite stories is the one where the woman tells the monk you either drink with me, have sex with me or I will kill myself.  Thinking drinking was the least bad of the three options, the monk proceeded to drink, got drunk, lost his moral discipline and wound up having sex with the woman.  The result was he committed spiritual suicide.

Delusions are like water.  Water has an incredible ability to relentlessly find the cracks and seep into them.  Water, which we can playfully splash our hands through, nonetheless has the power to carve out great canyons one drop at a time.  In the same way, delusions relentlessly find the cracks within our mind, and they can seep into our virtues.  An individual delusion, in and of itself, never seems like a big deal and we can playfully splash our mind through it, but it nonetheless has the power to carve out great canyons of bad mental habits or pathways one deluded drop at a time, until eventually all the water of our mental continuum flows in deluded ways.

(5.29) Therefore, I will not allow my mindfulness
To stray from the doorway of my mind;
And, if I notice it is about to leave,
I will restore it by recalling the sufferings of the lower realms.

The reason why delusions succeed in deceiving us is each time we think, “it’s no big deal.”  And it’s true, as a one off, no single delusion is that big of a deal.  But each time we allow one delusion to run free, it will be harder to stop the next one.  It does not take long before even if we wanted to stop them we couldn’t.

A good Sangha friend of mine once said, “in every moment, we are either going out of samsara or deeper into it, there is no third possibility.”  In exactly the same way, either we are guarding our mind or we are falling into the lower realms, there is no third possibility.  Sooner or later, if we do not maintain constant mindfulness, our delusions will slowly or quickly drag us down.  All delusions are necessarily bottomless pits.  We often follow our delusions once hoping doing so will bring us happiness.  When it fails to do so, we think next time will be different, so we try again.  We keep repeating this mistake again and again until it becomes too late and we can no longer stop ourselves, just like a drug addict.  We either stop our delusions or they will damn us to the deepest hell.  There is no third possibility.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Without alertness, we can lose everything

(5.26) Even those who have much learning and faith
And who have sincerely applied great effort
Will become defiled by moral downfalls
Through the fault of lacking alertness.

Some practitioners put a tremendous amount of effort into studying and practicing Dharma.  They attend all the teachings they can, even if only by correspondence, they have been working hard for the center and going to all the festivals.  In their daily lives, they strive diligently to put the instructions into practice, be more generous, patiently accept adversity, not retaliate when harmed, etc.  Many practitioners have given up a tremendous amount for the sake of their practice, including their money, their spare time, their careers, their enjoyments including sex, and some even their spouses and children.  (Note, you do no thave to abandon these things to be a Dharma practitioner, but some have done so for the sake of their practice).  There are many sincere practitioners out there doing all of these things, year after year.  As a result, they have accumulated great virtues, tremendous merit, and profound wisdom.

The merit and wisdom accumulated through such effort are, without a doubt, our most prized possessions.  We go to great lengths to protect our external valuables, such as buying insurance for our home, car and physical health, we put locks on doors, use safes, created a banking system, put firewalls on our computers, passwords on our phones, security guards everywhere, police in the streets and armies deployed around the world.  The security industry is one of the largest industries in the world, indeed we can say that the entire “state system” that the world is organized by is itself an outgrowth of the need for security.  Trillions of dollars, millions of people, countless hours are all dedicated to security.  If protecting these external things is worth such effort, what need is there to say of the need for internal security of guarding the mind?  Our inner wealth of merit and realizations are far more valuable than anything external, yet more often than not we do nothing to protect such inner wealth.

A dam has the power to hold back a giant river, but it only takes one small crack for the whole thing to collapse.  For this reason, engineers on dams routinely monitor the integrity of the structure and diligently repair any potential weaknesses.  In the same way, our practice of virtue has the power to hold back the giant river of or delusions and negative karma, but it only takes one small crack for the whole thing to collapse and all our efforts are washed away.  The mind of alertness is our maintenance engineer who keeps a constant lookout for any potential weaknesses.  Without such an engineer, it is just a question of time before all that we have worked to build up in our mind is swept away by the powerful currents of delusion and negative karma coursing through our mental continuum.

(5.27) If I lack alertness, the thieves of the delusions
Will cause my mindfulness to degenerate,
And then steal even the merit I have so diligently gathered
So that I shall fall into the lower realms.

When Geshe-la opened the temple at Manjushri, he essentially gave three days of teachings on overcoming distractions.  He said distractions are like a thief that robs us of our spiritual life.  In the same way, all delusions are like thieves that enter into our mind, cause our mindfulness to degenerate and then steal away all of the merit we have worked so hard to accumulate.

It is said that one moment of anger towards a bodhisattva has the power to burn up aeons worth of merit we have previously accumulated.  Though perhaps to a lesser extent, this is true about anger towards anybody who has been particularly kind to us, such as our parents, teachers and so forth.  When personal computers first came out, they were much more unstable than they are today (hard to believe, but true).  People were advised to save their work every 5 or 10 minutes, because there was always a danger of the computer crashing and losing all of our hard work.  If we failed to do so, we would have to start over again completely from scratch.  In the same way, we work very hard to accumulate virtue and realizations.  But the delusions of our mind can quickly and easily cause our spiritual life to crash and we can lose everything we have worked so hard to accumulate.  Guarding alertness is like saving on our computer, it protects our spiritual work from being lost.  Delusions are like computer viruses which can infect our computer and steal all or passwords or corrupt our spiritual files.  We wouldn’t go on-line without anti-virus software protecting us, so too our mind of alertness is like a firewall keeping out unwanted delusions.