One of the most important things to understand about spiritual power is that it does not exist in a vacuum. Dharma instructions have power in a dependent-relationship with the delusions they oppose. This is very important to realize, but not difficult to understand. If at a given moment of time we are not suffering from a particular delusion, the Dharma instructions that are that delusion’s opponent will actually have no power within our mind even if we generate the opponent perfectly. But if, for example, our mind is infected with jealousy, the teachings on rejoicing suddenly have great power within our mind. It is for this reason that when we listen to or read Dharma instructions we are encouraged to maintain the recognitions that we are sick and that the Dharma is the medicine.
Practically speaking, what does this mean? It means whenever we listen to or read Dharma instructions we should do so with our biggest delusions/problems in mind. Then, when we hear or understand the instructions we will connect the Dharma we are learning with the sickness in our mind. By doing so, we will then receive special blessings which will enable us to see how we can use the instructions to heal our own mind. That is spiritual power.
In Universal Compassion, Geshe Chekhawa encourages us to “purify our greatest delusion first.” In this vein, I encourage you to read this series of posts with your greatest delusion in mind. If we are working on our greatest delusion and we are looking at the instructions from the perspective of spiritual power, then we supercharge the power of the Dharma within our mind.
What does Geshe Chekhawa mean? He means we should identify what we consider to be our biggest delusion, the one that creates the most problems for us, and then to focus all of our efforts on overcoming this delusion. By focusing in a sustained way on a single problem, we can make definite headway and progress in overcoming it. If we are scattered in our approach, it will be difficult to make any progress because our delusions are so strong and we are not applying enough effort to win. By actually making progress against our biggest delusion, several things happen: We will significantly improve the quality of our life by weakening one of the principal causes of our difficulties. We will indirectly weaken all our other delusions, because our delusions are often interrelated to one another. We gain confidence that if we can overcome or weaken our biggest delusion, then we should be able to do the others. I had a student in Geneva who would each year have a sit down with me and we would discuss what would be the main delusion she was going to work on overcoming in the coming year. Then, she would view the entire year as a spiritual project of working on overcoming that delusion, and she would apply everything she learned towards that end. I find this way of practicing perfect.
So how do we know what is our biggest delusion? It is the one that causes us the most problems and that we have the most difficulty in overcoming. For some of us it is attachment, where we are convinced that our happiness depends on something external, such as a good reputation, being with a certain somebody, or perhaps attachment to some harmful substance like cigarettes or alcohol. For some of us it is anger, where we are constantly frustrated with how things are and we wish things were otherwise. We wind up lashing out at those we love and making everyone around us fear us and want to get away from us. We see fault in everyone, and our mind is never at peace. For some of us it is deluded doubt or holding wrong views. Without control our mind manufactures a variety of ‘yes, buts’ which prevent us from ever fully engaging in our spiritual life and so we don’t get anywhere. Or we hear instructions and our mind automatically misinterprets them or remains focused on how they can be taken wrong instead of how they can be taken right. For some of us it is our self-cherishing. We are so busy thinking about our own happiness and well-being that we are reluctant to do anything to help others. We have before us the opportunity to become fully qualified spiritual guides for the benefit of countless living beings, but we allow our petty self-concern to hold us back from fulfilling our potential. For some of us it is discouragement. Everything just seems too hard, and we don’t believe that we are able to make any spiritual progress, so we feel it is hopeless to even try. We are constantly judging ourselves and we feel we are never good enough. We each have our own delusion, so we need to try identify what we perceive our greatest one to be.
For the rest of this series of posts, we are going to discuss how to systematically attack and hopefully destroy this delusion. When we receive an empowerment, we should feel as if our guru is giving us each one a personal deity that is specifically empowered to help us overcome our own specific biggest delusion. When we receive empowerments, it is important to develop a specific desire to receive a such a personalized Buddha who is specifically empowered to help us overcome our own personal biggest delusion. Then, we when you learn how to engage in the practice of that deity, you should view it as a method for overcoming this specific delusion. We can do this with any deity and with respect to any delusion. I will try explain how we can engage in the common parts of every sadhana form the perspective of increasing our spiritual power to overcome our biggest delusion. We can then engage in whatever is our daily practice from this perspective.
Specifically, we need to learn how to cultivate the essential ingredients of the spiritual power we need to overcome our greatest delusion. These ingredients are: a pure spiritual motivation, faith in the guru-deity, self-confidence, the concentration of great bliss, and a correct understanding of emptiness. We will learn all of these in this series of posts. Through continual training in these methods, we can eventually weaken and finally destroy this greatest of our delusions. It is just a question of persistent effort in putting into practice the methods that we have learned.