Time to rebel!


There seems to be a fair bit of hubris around lately, like it’s catching or something, and some of it is quite dangerous. Deluded pride is more about bending the world to our own will, thinking we are already great and/or know it all. It never works out in the long term — as they say, pride always comes before a fall. And pride is not inspiring.manjushri

With wisdom, on the other hand, we see that WE need to change if we are to find lasting happiness and help others do the same. We need the confidence to change, and this needs to be based on something valid, ie, our spiritual potential and actual good qualities, not dumb stuff or selfish stuff or negative stuff.

Actual self-confidence — or non-deluded pride — is a humble mind, the very opposite of hubris. It is able to accept challenges without freaking out, learn from others, grow from mistakes, and keep us moving and improving. It is also catching because when we meet a truly humble, selfless person we are humbled by their guru-and-lineage-gurus-black-and-whitehumble nature. Their influence can be huge and their inspiration ring down the ages.

Even one strong delusion can be a powerful force for negativity in our world – delusions are weird and scary, and they can spread fast. But a strong, virtuous, sane mind like self-confident humility or compassion is just as powerful and contagious, maybe more so, and can oppose the delusions directly. So being the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi put it, is an effective response to our own and others’ delusions; and, unlike trying to master other people, mastering our own mind is guaranteed to bring about good results now and later.

Carrying on from this article.

Pride in thinking we can destroy our delusions

The second area in which we can increase our self-confidence is called “the pride in thinking we can destroy our delusions.” This is the thought:

I can conquer all my delusions; they will never conquer me. ~ How to Understand the Mind

We are thinking, “I don’t want to stay the same – I want to become unstuck by freeing my mind from the chains of my delusions.” In ordinary psychology, perhaps, we hardly dare imagine that we can change that much – getting rid of all our faults and limitations, as opposed to just some of them. But in Buddhist psychology, as explained a bit here, it is possible to develop a vision that understands we can.

It is impossible to destroy our spiritual potential because this is based on reality, but it is perfectly possible to destroy our delusions because these are based on wrong conceptions that can be righted:

A person under the influence of delusions is not in his right mind, because he is creating terrible suffering for himself and no one in his right mind would create suffering for himself. All delusions are based on a mistaken way of seeing things. When we see things as they really are, our delusions naturally disappear and virtuous minds naturally manifest. ~ How to Transform Your Life 

Bodhisattva warriors

warriorsTry thinking this: “I’m going to destroy, vanquish, and utterly eliminate from my mind every last trace of delusion.” Just try it out. Try the feel of it in your heart-mind. I am going to destroy my delusions. This is how Shantideva says it in his epic Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:

 I will conquer all obstacles,
And none shall conquer me.

That is a big sense of self, right?! But it’s not the big, real, important self as in deluded pride (the self that doesn’t exist).

Thus I, who will become a Conqueror,
Will practice with self-confidence.

A real Conqueror is a Buddha, someone who has awakened from the sleep of mistaken conceptions and appearances, destroying all their delusions permanently.

We need this self-confidence so that when things go wrong, (as they do tend to do), we need never become panic-stricken or downcast.

You know that feeling – if our confidence is weak, then just some little thing crops up, like an annoying email, and we trip up and collapse. It’s like we’re setting out to practice patience and suddenly people are being doubly disagreeable. “Ohh, I can’t do it!” In truth, the opposite is the case. “I, who am going to become a Buddha, will destroy all my delusions.”

Shantideva illustrates how we can put ourselves into that space with the example of a warrior – saying that if a warrior in battle gets a flesh wound and sees their own blood, they are roused to greater acts of courage. Whereas if someone bloodies me with a sword … well, I don’t know what I’d do, but if my brief days of playing school sports are anything to go by, I’d probably slink off the battle field as soon as as I could without being noticed.manjushri-wisdom-sword

The Bodhisattva is like a warrior – they start experiencing obstacles, and they are like, “Great! Bring it on!” More reason to wield the sword of wisdom against the delusions, more reason to be self-confident. 

And in truth, why shouldn’t we be self-confident? We know where the obstacles are coming from = just our own mind. The intriguing thing about the obstacles, the delusions, is that that’s all they are – they’re just delusions. Meaning not only are they just thoughts, without arms or legs as Shantideva says (let alone swords), but they also don’t have truth on their side. They’re actually grounded in ignorance. They are founded on a misperception of reality. Whereas we can become a Buddha, that’s the truth. We can overcome our delusions, that’s the truth. Wisdom, love, compassion, generosity, patience, self-confidence and all the other virtuous minds are based on seeing reality correctly.

The real battle lines are drawn 

It’s not a fight between good versus evil where we are on the sidelines, on tenterhooks, “Who’s going to win the ultimate battle, the dark side, the light side?!” It’s not like that — especially if we are talking about living beings versus living beings because we are all mixed bags of delusions and virtues changing all the time, and from one life to the next, so who could ever possibly win a battle like that?!

The real battle lines are wisdom versus ignorance, and finally, in that war, ignorance doesn’t stand a chance. This is because it is ignorant! It is stupid. It is also stubborn and fairly persuasive while we remain under its influence, but as soon as we start to view it from the perspective of wisdom it doesn’t stand a chance.

curved-knife
By holding in her right hand a curved knife, Buddha Vajrayogini — the wisdom of all Buddhas  — shows her power to cut the continuum of the delusions and obstacles of her followers and of all living beings.

More on this second type of self-confidence in the next article — we are out of time as I know a lot of readers have things to do like march the streets today. That’s cool, I like that people are standing up for what they believe in. Maybe it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway, that our outward action is nurtured and given its meaning by our inner motivations. So even in these, for many people, difficult and scary times, and in the heat of battle, I am trying to remember that my real rebellion is against the delusions or wrong conceptions – never other living beings — and starting with my own.

Feedback from you: How do you stay confident enough to prioritize conquering your delusions, even when things are going badly wrong and the tendency to feel upset and lash out might be strong?

Related articles

Think globally, act locally

What are delusions?

Overcoming discouragement

 

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 35 years' experience, I write about applying Buddhist meditation to our everyday lives. I try to make it accessible to everyone who wants more inner peace, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

14 thoughts on “Time to rebel!”

  1. lovely seeing you today at the center! Thank you for your kind words of wisdom. Your teaching today on seeing our waking life as we see our dreams was a wonderful lesson in letting go of delusions. The road to emptiness is a continual one.
    Sending you love.

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  2. “How do you stay confident enough”

    Bodhisattva practice is one powerful force, it can transform/shape one’s attitude/nature (bhavana) that it soon becomes impossible to not be like bodhisatva. No fight or struggle needed at that point.

    Speaking of practice(s), below is one of my favorite parables.

    “Monks, even if bandits were to savagely sever you, limb by limb, with a double-handled saw, even then, whoever of you harbors ill will at heart would not be upholding my Teaching. Monks, even in such a situation you should train yourselves thus: ‘Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to those very persons, making them as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love — thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.’
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.021x.budd.html

    Replace bandits/saw with one’s day-to-day life 🙂

    One cannot adopt these practices unless they see the genius in them. These are one of the most effective techniques to change one’s personality/attitude/nature (bhavana). Buddha was all about shaping one’s bhavana.

    when one contemplates on their karma, it becomes so obvious that one literally cannot not be confident!

    The concept of karma is buddha’s core , another of my favorite :

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.027.than.html

    “”With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, the monk directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. He discerns, as it has come to be, that ‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the way leading to the cessation of stress… These are mental fermentations… This is the origination of fermentations… This is the cessation of fermentations… This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.'”

    Logically, there is no other choice. How long will we self-abuse ?

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      1. speaking of confidence in practice, Buddha’s mara story is always a good one. I believe it has subtler meaning in that Buddha went beyond discontinuity in his beingness(bhavana). Which is only possible if you “become”. We cannot become unless we “be” it consistently and always.

        In some zen/mahayana , there is the concept of sudden enlightenment which i believe is possible in that someone can get complete insight (“right view”) at somepoint, which can be viewed as a discrete event(“enlightened”), but that itself i do not believe is “the end of the path” (or end of dukkha).

        Every dukkha has its formations/dependencies (“karma”), but just having perfect right view alone (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prajnaparamita) i am not quite sure is sustainable every minute of the day. Unless one “becomes” (the end result of eightfold path). I believe noble eightfoldpath is all about action/karma (one’s dukkha and its end lies solely on them”selves”). I believe it helps to account for all eight parts.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Eightfold_Path

        That said, I do think it becomes much easier for one that perfects the right view
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prajnaparamita

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  3. How do I prioritize conquering my delusions and not living beings? I try to remember it’s what my Guru and my Teachers want, and I take a big breath, and leap, to try to see what it really feels like…

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      1. Sometimes it’s relatively easy, and it feels wonderful – sometimes harder, the negative environment of my mind remains, even though the good intention is there. But it still feels much better than giving in to self-cherishing, and I’m gathering (or hoping!) that’s when the necessary work happens…

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  4. When I click, get error 404 – page not found.

    I want to share it – its just what we need.

    Thanks,

    Kadam Carol Lutker, Resident Teacher

    Maitreya Kadampa Buddhist Center

    Like

    1. Carol, can you try it again a few times? Some people are reporting this error and some are not having this problem. And some people said it worked when they tried it again.

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