Look Before You Chuck
If we regard our afflictions as something like garbage to be thrown out and gotten rid of, then we won’t look at them very carefully. As soon as we notice an affliction, we will immediately want to get rid of it, won’t we?
Taking this approach our practice will become more and more difficult and problematic. Why? Because our kleshas, the afflictions, are connected to the mind, and it’s impossible to discard the mind.
This is especially relevant for those who aspire to practise the Mahayana and the Secret Mantrayana, because these higher teachings will never be understood if we are only ever trying to discard the afflictions.
It’s very probable that most of us feel that there’s nothing good about the afflictions, and that the good and wholesome stuff lies elsewhere, in emptiness or buddha nature, for example, and that these are what we need to learn, understand and attain.
But it seems that what we wish to learn and understand must be found in the very thing we treat as garbage, at present.
The higher teachings speak of ‘transforming the afflictions’, ‘making the afflictions the path’ and ‘knowing the nature of afflictions’ and so on. But if the afflictions have been thrown out, what is left to be made the path, or to be known?
So, while it is true that the afflictions are the root of cyclic existence and the source of our suffering, they are also the root of liberation and awakening.
When looked at from this perspective, shouldn’t we pay more attention to our afflictions?
Not so very long ago our household trash was seen as utterly valueless, something to be simply discarded. But in the last couple of decades we have started to pay closer attention to what is thrown out, with the recognition that it probably has some value and utility. Similarly, maybe some of us so called practitioners also need to look again at what we are trying to throw out of the mind.
The first step is to recognise exactly what the afflictions are. This is so important. If we approach our studies and practice with this mindset, it is possible that step by step we will come to understand something. But if we go about our studies etc, with the thought that the afflictions are the afflictions, and buddha nature is buddha nature, then in the future when we come to learn real meditation or mahamudra, it will be impossible. Definitely, nothing will be understood. This is because it’s impossible to know buddha nature or emptiness when the afflictions are not known.
Why? Because the views taught in the higher teachings, the more profound views, are talking about the very nature of the afflictions. And if we don’t know the afflictions, we certainly won’t know their nature.
In brief, when we are studying the dharma, we need to look into ourselves. All the dharma teachings we receive, all the texts we read, are explaining nothing other than our own mind.