The following is an excerpt from a teaching called “Antidoting the Mantra of Samsara”
What we’re up against here is we are using a technology that isn’t meant for a person who has only lived one life. We’re using a technology that really wasn’t designed, was not given to the world, to cure a superficial problem. It was not given to us to heal a scratch. The technology of Dharma is so extraordinary and so complicated, so deep, so effortful because of what it is supposed to do. What it has to do is a big job. What it has to do is to purify non-virtuous habitual tendency that we have created and is deeply ingrained since time out of mind. We have another problem and that problem is that it’s kind of like we were born on a merry-go-round. Do you know what happens if you’re born on a merry-go-round? You have no understanding that you’re going round and round. The only way you could understand that you were born on a merry-go-round is if the merry-go-round would suddenly stop. But if going round and round were natural for you, it would be invisible to you. And so for us it’s as though we were born on a merry-go-round. We have no way to know how much divisiveness, how much discursive thought, how much conceptualization, how much super-structuring goes on within our mind. We are literally, in many ways, strangers to our own mind. Actually within our minds as ordinary sentient beings there’s a constant dialogue going on inside, a constant inner dialogue. You have to ask yourself, between who and who? But it’s going on, you know. It’s a constant inner dialogue. There is this white noise, this conversation, that’s going on. And you’re answering yourself! That’s the weird part about it.
If you can really calm down and tune into yourself, you’ll see that there’s this constant inner chattering, inner noise. It isn’t even as simple as the one piece that you’re able to hear and pick out. In fact, there’s layer upon layer of it. It’s like many tracks that we seem to be running, so much discursiveness inside of us. So what we are actually engaging in all the time in our ordinary lives is kind of a recital of, or an ongoing mantra of, discursiveness. This chattering, this noise, this continuum that we experience of white noise within our heads—the one that argues, the one that answers, all that stuff that goes on inside—in fact, is layer upon layer upon layer upon layer of delusion, starting with the original belief in self-nature as being inherently real, and from that, all this superstructuring, beginning with reaction, because if one believes in self-nature as inherently real, everything else is other than self.
If there is separation between self and other, there is going to be reaction toward other or we cannot conceptualize any further beyond that, and you know we have. So we are involved in this process of discursiveness and ignorance constantly. We are right now, unless you are listening to me so carefully that there’s no other room for thought anywhere else in your mind, and I don’t think that’s happening. Right now, we are reciting the mantra of suffering. You don’t know that you’re doing that. You don’t have a mala in your hand, but you are right now reciting the mantra of suffering. We are reciting the mantra of samsara.
Even within our minds right now we are creating cause and effect relationships, right now, because it’s impossible for you to be in this room with everyone else here or listening to me or doing anything in your life, without having some kind of reaction to it. And that reaction continues. It becomes deeper and more profound and more habitual and there is structuring and ideation that continues to form from that, continual elaboration. Every single thought that is born within our mindstream is, rather than a thought that continues in a straight line, more like a pebble being dropped into a pond. It goes out in all directions. It continually elaborates, almost on its own volition.
So for the students who ask, “Why wouldn’t one good mantra, or one truly absorbed devotional, purely conceived prostration be as good as 100,000 kind of dull ones?” The reason why is right now, and since time out of mind, we have constantly been reciting the mantra of delusion. So we need a science or a technology that will antidote the depth of that process. You know how complicated we are. You know how that is. You know that we can sit here, open a Dharma book, read a prayer that’s very profound and really concentrate on it pretty well as we’re reading it. Of course if you really learn how to listen to yourself you know that even while you’re doing that, there’s something going on. That monkey in your head is still doing something. But let’s say we could really concentrate. We contemplate, and we think, “Oh, what a beautiful thing this is. This is really something special.” And we’re moved and we are attracted to the Dharma, you know, that sort of thing. We know that we are so complicated that even while we are doing that, at the same time although we choose not to listen to the voice that we don’t like, that other voice is going “Phew, Dharma, what do we care about Dharma! We care about one thing. We care about watching TV and sitting on our fat butts. That’s what we care about!” Or we have all of our other conceptions and ideas about the ways we really want to live. And so, while on the one hand, “Oh, these are the Buddha’s teachings. This is so pure and so perfect. I can see the virtue in it” —and you know really you can, I mean you read the stuff you can see the virtue in it—the other part of you is going “Nah, nah, we don’t want to do this. We want to be happy now!” So even while we’re studying Dharma and practicing Dharma, this business is going on inside of us.
So what we’re looking for is the kind of technology that can stir that pot from the depth, stir it from the depth and provide the purifying agent, or the antidotal agent, which is to put the weight in the opposite pile of what we ordinarily do. What we ordinarily do is have a divided mind and a lot of discursive thought, a lot of reactions, a lot of stuffthat is associated with the belief in self-nature as being inherently real. So we’re constantly continuing that practice. That’s what we do. That’s the Dharma, the worldly Dharma, which we’re practicing now.
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