Afflictions, our real enemy

33 Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature

Part of an ongoing series of teachings (retreat and Friday) based on the book Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature, the third volume in The Library of Wisdom and Compassion series by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thubten Chodron.

  • Applying the antidotes regularly and skillfully
  • Using afflictions such as craving or arrogance to overcome afflictions
  • Example of living with a transformed mind
  • Chief cause of our problems comes from our own minds
  • Explanation of verses from Engaging in the Bhodisattvas’s Deeds
  • How afflictions have enslaved us, harmed us and lead us to unfortunate rebirths
  • Afflictions have no beginning and will not go away without counteracting them
  • Afflictions are like butchers and tormentors
  • Why we need to fight the afflictions with courage, vigilance and wisdom
  • Compassion acting as a general antidote to afflictions

Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature 33: Afflictions, Our Real Enemy (download)

Contemplation points

  1. Why is it that lessening our afflictions is so difficult when we first start to practice? What can we do to overcome those difficulties?
  2. Which affliction is the strongest and most frequent in your mind? Contemplate its disadvantages in this life and for your spiritual path. What is the temporary antidote to that affliction? Remember situations when that affliction was strong and contemplate its antidote. See if the force of the affliction subsides even a little. When it does, rejoice.
  3. Make some examples of ways you can use the presence of an affliction to encourage you to practice the Dharma.
  4. Freedom from attachment is not apathy. What is it? Describe it in your own words.
  5. The Buddha “pointed us back to our own minds, asking us to examine our thoughts and emotions to see how they create both internal unhappiness as well as disharmony in our relationships and in society.” Take some time with this and contemplate from your own experience how the afflictions are your real enemy.
  6. Why do we fall for the same nonsensical stories that our minds make up; that make us have the same afflictions arise, and cause us misery? Shantideva says our afflictions have no arms or legs, and no courage or wisdom. How is it they trap and enslave us? Spend some time with this.
  7. Read and contemplate the verses in the text from Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’ Deeds one by one, speaking to yourself just as Shantideva speaks to himself. Remember the afflictions are not who you are; they are not in the very nature of your mind and can be eliminated. Cultivate antipathy toward the afflictions and generate strong determination to become familiar with the antidotes to them through having a daily Dharma practice.
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.