A guest article by a modern Buddhist practitioner who works full time as a manager of software engineer teams.
In Buddha’s teachings on training our mind, he says that we need to identify, reduce, and remove our delusions.
This is often unskillfully interpreted to mean that delusions are inherently bad and we should not have them in our mind. As a result of this, when a delusion arises in our mind we develop aversion to it. This is then compounded by grasping at a self that shouldn’t be deluded, but is. We then believe that this deluded self is true and real, and develop discouragement, feeling that we are hopeless and will never be able to improve our mind.
This entire process is summed up in a text I received recently from a Sangha friend asking for advice, which read: “I am getting nervous, and hate when I feel like this”. Unfortunately, this approach to “controlling our mind” usually leads to repressing our delusions. As a result, we aren’t even doing the first step of identifying them because we are pushing them away too fast with aversion.
Our delusions are our greatest teacher
As we are often reminded, the opponent to anger is patient acceptance. In this case, to fix the aversion to having delusions in our mind, we need patient acceptance with the fact that they are arising.
As Geshe Kelsang says in How to Solve Our Human Problems:
When painful feelings arise in our mind, there is no need to panic; we can patiently accept them, experience them, and investigate their nature and where they come from.
We can apply this same advice to our deluded states of mind. If we are getting irritated, great! Frustrated, excellent! Nervous, bring it on! Accept the delusion is there in our mind. Experience it and know exactly how it functions. Investigate it to see how it is distorting reality. Learn precisely how each delusion develops and functions in your mind.
If we approach our delusions in this way, then there is so much to be learned from them. Just like understanding the movements of an army makes them easy to defeat in combat, so understanding how our delusions work in our mind takes away their ability to harm us.
More delusions, please
If we are training in martial arts, then we look forward to sparring because it helps us improve our fighting technique. If we are training our mind, then who are we going to spar with? Delusions! The stronger our delusions, the more opportunity we have to go deeper in our practice. As one of my teachers often says, “Super samsara, super nirvana”!
If we learn to practice like this, then we begin to be able to use our delusions to benefit both ourselves and others. As Geshe-la says in How to Understand the Mind:
Bodhisattvas on the first and second grounds experience ordinary attachment, but this does not disturb their spiritual practice, and they are able to use it as a means of benefiting others. Just as farmers use unpleasant things such as manure to create favorable conditions for growing crops, so Bodhisattvas use their attachment as a means of helping others.
Its worth noting that accepting delusions in our mind doesn’t mean that we allow them to stay there forever. The point is that we are aiming to reduce and abandon them all permanently. What it does mean is that we don’t push them away. Instead we examine them, learn from them, and develop more mental fortitude every day. It may take us years to remove our delusions completely using wisdom, so in the meantime, why not enjoy them?
After writing this article, I am honestly looking forward to the next time I get deluded, and hope that you are as well!
Here is another article on the subject.