July 5th Shantideva Discussion & Meditation


Questions:

1.) What are some of the common excuses that we use to avoid practicing Dharma? What kinds of obstacles do we create for our practice?

2.) Shantideva gives three reasons why it would be reasonable to make efforts in applying antidotes to negativity. List the three and explore one in greater detail.

Meditation:

Reflect on verse 27 — “Even if I do not know what is causing me confusion, What is there dwelling inside me?” What does this mean to you?

Posted by Dina Li

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2 thoughts on “July 5th Shantideva Discussion & Meditation

  1. 1.) What are some of the common excuses that we use to avoid practicing Dharma? What kinds of obstacles do we create for our practice?

    Geshe Chonyi discusses some of these on pages 165 through 170 of his commentary (“Transcript of the Oral Commentary to Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds” by Geshe Thubten Chonyi). The first corresponds to Chapter 4, verses 13 and 14 from the Bodhicharyavatara:

    “Although for the benefit of every creature
    Countless Buddhas have passed by,
    Yet I was not an object of their care
    Because of my own mistakes”

    “And if I continue to act like this,
    Again and again shall I undergo
    (Suffering) in unhappy realms, sickness, bondage,
    Laceration and the shedding of blood”

    Geshe Chonyi explains that we make the excuse of thinking that it’s OK if we don’t create virtue because our gurus, the buddhas and bodhisattvas will basically come and save us from the consequences of our lack of virtue. When I read this, I get the image in my mind of some superhero, like Superman, swooping down into the lower realms to pluck us out of that rebirth and whisk us off to a better rebirth, even though we didn’t create virtue to merit it. This is obviously an incorrect view of how these things really work, as Geshe Chonyi further explains:

    “Countless buddhas have come and gone for the benefit of all sentient beings. Somehow, we did not come under their care. Although countless buddhas have passed, “I was not an object of their care.” Why? As mentioned in the root text – “Because of my own mistakes” –this is because of the fault of having accumulated negativities. This verse is not saying that the buddhas have no power. The buddhas have power, but there must also be conditions from our side. Though the buddhas have power, due to our own faults, we did not come under their care”.

    Geshe Chonyi’s main advice is that we need to strive conscientiously not to be stained by the faults in the first place. For example, another excuse is that we think that it’s OK to create negativities now, because we can always stop creating negativities later. However, as long as we continue to create negativities, we will be stained by downfalls and not become objects of protection by the buddhas.

    Another excuse that we make is that we think we expect to have long lives, giving us plenty of time to practice the Dharma. So of course we think we can always practice tomorrow, or next week, or sometime later, when in fact that may not be the case as Shantideva states in Chapter 4, verse 16:

    “Although today I am healthy
    Well nourished and unafflicted
    Life is momentary and deceptive:
    The body is like an object on loan for but a minute.”

    A similar excuse that we make is that we think we will always take a good rebirth, and we can therefore practice Dharma at that time, in our future lives. (The ultimate form of procrastination.) Geshe Chonyi explains on page 170 of his commentary that it is incorrect to think that way “because if we continue our present behavior of committing negative actions and not cultivating virtue, we will not get a human rebirth again.”

    2.) Shantideva gives three reasons why it would be reasonable to make efforts in applying antidotes to negativity. List the three and explore one in greater detail.

    This is explained in Geshe Chonyi’s commentary on pages 176 – 178:

    • Understanding that we have a precious and rare human rebirth full of leisure and endowments NOW, and if we don’t make an effort in virtue, we will experience suffering in the forms of regret, grief and fear at the time of our death because we have wasted this opportunity.
    • If instead of practicing virtue we engage in non-virtue or negativities all the time, we will be reborn in hell realms where we will experience unbearable suffering.
    • We have a precious and rare human rebirth now because of our merit from previous lives. In addition to this, we possess the wisdom to distinguish right from wrong. To be led again to the hell realms after having this great opportunity would be stupid. Shantideva compares this to being under a spell or losing one’s wits.

    These three correspond to Chapter 4, verses 23 through 27 of the Bodhicharyavatara:

    “So if, when having found leisure such as this,
    I do not attune myself to what is wholesome,
    There could be no greater deception
    And there could be no greater folly.

    And if, having understood this,
    I still foolishly continue to be slothful,
    When the hour of death arrives
    Tremendous grief will rear its head.

    Then if my body blazes for a long time,
    In the unbearable flames of hell,
    Inevitably my mind will be tormented
    By the fires of unendurable remorse

    Having found by some coincidence
    This beneficial state that is so hard to find,
    If now while able to discriminate
    I once again am led into the hells,

    Then as though I were hypnotized by a spell
    I shall reduce this mind to nothing.
    Even I do not know what is causing me confusion;
    What is there dwelling within me?”

    This gets to the meditation questions. Personally I think the answer to what is dwelling within us is ignorance. If we are confused, it’s because of our ignorance. Geshe Chonyi advises reflecting on what is causing our confusion over and over in order to get to the bottom of it.

  2. Hi, Lisa — thanks for your carefully thought-out responses!! To supplement what you wrote, for Question 1 — similarly, people might think it’s okay to commit nonvirtuous actions because the negative karma can be purified, however, as Rinpoche explained, this just sets you back to square one, you waste time & energy starting all over again on the path.

    For those of us coming from an atheistic background in particular, it take some time to get used to the idea that there are countless Buddhas and bodhisattvas and that they can help us. In the prayers, we make fervent requests beseeching them to pay attention to us and care for us. We can end up wallowing in self-pity if we’re not mindful. We need to balance our supplications with the realization that we alone are responsible for deciding whether to act in a virtuous or non-virtuous manner and hence, in determining our future. The Buddhas can’t help us if we’re not willing to help ourselves by following the path.

    Procrastination — my personal weakness (!) — as you said, we need to remember that death may come at any time, so there’s not even a second to waste. We’re in the emergency room of samsara.

    Another type of obstacle is low self-esteem — thinking that oh Dharma practice is to hard, it’s for others, I can’t meditate, it’s too difficult etc. etc. and then giving up and feeling bad about oneself or blaming the teachings.

    Maybe another obstacle is practicing without the correct motivation (i.e., for selfish reasons) and seeing one’s practice as something very concrete and solid divorced from the flow of everyday life.

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