HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 13 July 2021
Tonight, on the eve of the anniversary of the Lord Buddha’s turning of the first Wheel of Dharma, Khenpo la completed his teaching on the fourth chapter of The Way of the Bodhisattva. Having taught last week on conscientiousness towards both precious human rebirth and the defilements, this week Khenpo’s teaching focused on the conscientiousness of abandoning the defilements.
Khenpo reminded us that our longest running enemy is our defilement – no one can run after us as much as our own defilement mind. We are not talking about one or two lifetimes here but countless lifetimes.
We need, therefore, to ask what is it that enables it to survive for so long or what is it that makes it stronger each time. Without listening to the Dharma, we won’t do the research. So, we need to hear the Dharma then analyse for ourselves. Shantideva said things that cause problems in this life and over a long time have only one sole cause which is the affliction mind. The affliction mind continually resides in our mental continuum.
If someone is causing you major difficulties, you won’t find it easy to be comfortable. For this reason, we spend so much time and effort to make ourselves comfortable even though it only lasts for a short period of time, at best. This proves that we haven’t found the solution and so we need to get rid of the affliction which causes the discomfort. This is unique to the Buddhist approach. As long as you have affliction in your mental continuum you will never feel comfortable whatever or how much you might have. So, we must work to free the affliction mind.
When you discover a particular food or drink is threatening your life then you avoid it immediately. Similarly, we need to realise just how toxic is the affliction mind. Awareness of its toxicity inspires us to stop the affliction mind – this is the main task.
Nagarjuna said conscientiousness is the nectar which leads us to a deathless state. It provides us with the path to gain enlightenment.
When someone threatens your life, you won’t feel comfortable towards that person, and you may do all you can to harm that person to protect your precious life, but the reality is that loss of your life is far less severe than the enormous negative karma incurred by that other person. The enemy who takes or tries to take your life should be the object of your compassion.
So don’t be angry towards an enemy who tries to disturb or take your life. You may think he or she is your enemy, but the moment the affliction mind is there it instantly harms you. So why aren’t we so concerned to consider it as a serious enemy, but we worry about others who may not even end up harming us. We waste so much in this life and yet we are so fortunate to meet the Dharma which gives us new eyes to see which things help and harm us. If a blind person makes a mistake, we accept it because they can’t see but we are the people who have met the Dharma, yet most of us are still doing the wrong things. We must wake up as a Dharma practitioner so that the moment the affliction mind arises, we can then simultaneously understand how it harms us.
At the same time, we need to appreciate that a defilement is not too difficult to defeat. And here there are three things we should do:
First, we should never back down from the defilement.
Second, we need to be obsessive in our efforts to defeat the defilement.
Third, we need to harbour a desire to defeat the defilement.
This can seem like a contradiction when you are Dharma practitioner to have a fighting mood but none of this is driven by the affliction mind but rather it comes from compassion, diligence, and wisdom and so they are the path. When you battle with the defilement, you should always be resolute and think even if they cut my head, I will never surrender to the defilement – we need to have a long-term vision that is not just oriented to this one lifetime.
When we practise Shamatha, we are not providing the condition for increasing the defilement. In this way, Shamatha can create a sense of peace because the defilement is not arising, but you are not free of the defilement itself rather just free of the condition for it to arise and so when the condition arises it returns. Therefore, Vipassana is so important. What is unique here, and essential to understand, is that once you uproot the defilement, or once you burn the seed, it will not return – uprooted defilement has no friend.
We need to appreciate that while the defilement can look very big it is also fragile and so we should not be discouraged from trying to eradicate something which has no strong root or foundation. Once you remove one stone from the foundation it is easy for the whole structure to collapse, so it is not as difficult to defeat the defilement as we might first think.
So how then to uproot the defilement? Once you know the selflessness of both self and phenomena, there is no room for any defilement to arise. When we fail to recognise this reality, the defilement arises which controls everyone.
Once you remove the affliction of self from your mental continuum, there is no place for the defilement to go or stay. This is a good thing because it means it can’t go to another place and then come back to you. Once it is removed it is completely gone so we need to know it is removable.
Only two things that stop us from defeating the defilement: when we are weak-minded and when we lack diligence. We are weak-minded when we overestimate the power of the defilement and think we can’t defeat it. Instead of thinking that way, we need to recall that it was not only one Buddha who attained Buddhahood but rather infinite Buddhas and if they, who started with minds like mine, can defeat the defilement then why can’t I too be successful. So, we always need to keep hold of this optimism and think of the countless Buddhas as when we recite Samantabhadra’s prayer. We also need to understand that once we combine a strong mind with diligence, we will most surely defeat the defilement. And finally, how can the wisdom mind free us from the defilement? For the real remedy for defilement is the wisdom mind. How to analyse? If the defilement is truly existent, where is it located? It’s not located in different organs which come and go and nor is it located in form so when you investigate you cannot find the defilement. It has a lack of existence, yet it can appear as a mirage or a magical show. When you analyse, you will not find that which you have described and once you know the absolute truth then there no substance and so the affliction mind does not arise. So, its eradication is attainable. You shouldn’t be discouraged at all and so you need to strengthen your wisdom.
In conclusion, whenever affliction thought arises, we should be conscientious and then it will have less influence in our body, speech, and mind and in turn our body, speech and mind will become virtuous and comfortable.
We should always be conscious of our role, duty and responsibility which is engaging Bodhicitta as this will eventually lead us to defeat the defilement. But how can we overcome our sickness if we don’t follow the guidance of the doctor? So, if we read and listen to the Dharma but don’t follow the teachings then suffering simply won’t go away. If we do follow the teachings, however, then we will reside in the virtuous and experience great comfort and joy as we make right effort in our quest to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.