Student-Led Meditation: The Six Root Delusions

Anne Moon

“The Six Root Delusions” is from a series of student-led teachings and meditations.

This is a meditation on the six root delusions of samsaric existence within the context of our Vajrasattva practice (Pearl of Wisdom, Book II, page 41).

Begin by sitting and rejoicing: We are alive, here today, we have not died, and all our comforts are provided for due to the kindness of others. We have this precious opportunity to practice and look deeply. Set your motivation to be a bodhisattva, dedicated to liberating all sentient beings. Do not say “to become” because this allows you to say – “Not today, I have other things to do.”

The power of reliance:
Taking refuge and generating the altruistic intention

Visualize about four inches above your head an open white lotus upon which is a moon disc. Vajrasattva is seated upon this. He is white, translucent and adorned with beautiful ornaments and clothes of celestial silk. His two hands are crossed at his heart; the right holds a vajra, the left holds a bell. At his heart is a moon disc with the seed syllable HUM at its center and the letters of Vajrasattva’s hundred-syllable mantra standing clockwise around its edge.

Holding this visualization clearly in your mind, contemplate and recite three times:

I take refuge in the Three Jewels. I will liberate all sentient beings and lead them to enlightenment. Thus, I perfectly generate the mind dedicated to attaining enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

The essential truth of suffering is that neither individual nor social problems are due chiefly to external conditions. Those influences may be very important at times, but our efforts to solve both types of problems by focusing on outer conditions alone are bound to be largely ineffective and superficial. Instead, contemplative insight into the depths of human nature is essential to relieving suffering on a global level. In order to develop compassionate concern for all others, deepen your own wisdom and understanding.

The six subtle and extensive root delusions of samsaric existence are: attachment, anger, pride, ignorance, wrong views and doubt. These can also be called mental distortions or afflictions.

The power of regret

Recollect with deep regret the specific negativities you have created. Then mediate deeply on the meaning of the following:

The negative karma I have accumulated from beginningless time is as extensive as the ocean. Although I know that each negative action leads to countless eons of suffering, it seems that I am constantly striving to create nothing but negative actions. Even though I try to avoid non-virtue and practice positive acts, day and night without respite, negativities and ethical downfalls come to me like rainfall. I lack the ability to purify these faults so that no trace of them remains. With these negative imprints still in my mind, I could suddenly die and find myself falling to an unfortunate rebirth. What can I do? Please Vajrasattva, with your great compassion, guide me from such misery!

Attachment

Attachment is an affliction arising from the false notion that “I” exist, master of my body and mind, and I can grasp and attain what I crave. Attachment snags our attention and embellishes the qualities of the object of our attention. Then we want and crave whatever has snagged our attention.

Attachment is like oil in a cloth, difficult to remove. We crave for and cling to what brings us pleasure. This binds us to samsara and prevents us being sufficiently moved to renounce samsara. The antidote is to meditate on what is ugly or impermanent about your attachments. We can also develop happiness and tranquility in concentrated meditation.

The Buddha compared attachment to a traveler who has gone on her journey with no provisions. She sees a village in the distance and thinks: “Oh, I will get what I need at this village” but on arriving finds the village totally empty, deserted. So she goes looking for another, finds this one empty as well, and so on. The only way out of the suffering of this journey is to let go of the craving. Cling to nothing.

The power of remedial action

From the HUM at Vajrasattva’s heart, light radiates in all directions, requesting the Buddhas to bestow their blessings. They accept the request and send white rays of light and nectar, the essence of which is the knowledge of their body, speech and mind. The light and nectar absorb into the HUM and the letters of the mantra at Vajrasattva’s heart. They then fill his whole body completely, enhancing the magnificence of his appearance and increasing the brilliance of the mantra.

While reciting the mantra, visualize that white rays of light and nectar stream continuously from the HUM and mantra at Vajrasattva’s heart. They flow down through the crown of your head and fill each cell of your body and mind with infinite bliss

As we do this, rather than sinking under the weight of how much we have to do or how deeply in ignorance and delusion we have sunk, instead focus on the awareness of each delusion as a stone lifted off, a chain cut, a window open. The diamond clarity of Vajrasattva, ‘Diamond Being’, cuts to the root of any delusion and leaves us free, clean, open and capable of the next step on the Bodhisattva path.

Recite the mantra at least 3 times:

om vajrasattva samaya manu palaya/ vajrasattva deno patita/ dido may bhawa/ suto kayo may bhawa/ supo kaya may bhaw/ anu rakto may bhawa/ sarwa siddi mempar yatsa/ sarwa karma su tsa may/ tsitam shiryam kuru hum/ ha ha ha ha ho/ bhagawan/ sarwa tatagata/ vajra ma may mu tsa/ vajra bhawa maha samaya sattva/ ah hum pey

Anger

Of all the delusions, anger has the greatest strength to destroy root virtues. It arises when we experience anything or anyone as unpleasant and seek to avoid them. We focus on what we believe has caused us suffering and with hostility work to avoid these things. The entire thing starts in our own heart. Anger and pain arise and we feel the absurd human reaction, which to us feels natural and instinctive, to inflict pain or anger in return. It is essential that we realize the world is not other people. Each one of us is the world and unless we find peace and patience within ourselves we will not find it anywhere. The Buddha compared anger to picking up hot coals with ones own bare hands and trying to throw them at the first person with whom one is angry. Who gets burned first?

The antidote is patience: not the teeth clenching, non-breathing, tension of condescension and intolerance, but a calmness born of understanding. Whenever you are angry ask, “In 100 years, will any of this matter? In 100 years, who will even be here?” It makes no difference if anyone else is angry, upset or wrong. It does not matter at all. The only thing that matters is what we are doing about it.

Visualize as before, reciting the mantra at least 3 times

Pride

Pride is an inflated opinion of yourself, your power, wealth, knowledge, family, money, physical appearance. It is difficult to develop any good qualities or to grow from the teachings when one has pride. Pride is based on a distorted view of self; that we have a “separate” self and that it is better or worse than others. It originates from ignorance and reinforces a false sense of ego.

Do not confuse pride with self-confidence. When our emotions are under control, when our responses to all are mild and equable, then we feel a reliable security in the teachings. This is equanimity, free of bias. Pride is the root of bias.

A simple antidote is to think over some list or some skill you do not have. Watch another skilled practitioner of anything you can not or will not do in this life. Or regard suffering, anywhere; particularly the sufferings for which you can do little or nothing to help. Look at all you have and are, trace each of these to others, their skill and generosity. Finally, regard the sick, aged and dying. What have they to be proud of?

Visualize as before, reciting the mantra at least 3 times

Ignorance

Ignorance is not knowing, not seeing, not understanding. It is like blindness, a blindness born of clinging to the “self”. It is the root of all the other delusions. We live a life buffeted by attachment, hostility and doubt, grasping at an illusive “I”.

The antidote is selflessness and its wisdom. In fact there comes a point in meditation where the three characteristics of existence — suffering, impermanence, selflessness — come crashing home with soul searing force. You experience these so graphically you awake to the utter futility of craving, grasping and resistance. The entity of self evaporates. Ignorance is dispelled and calm abiding remains.

Visualize as before, reciting the mantra at least 3 times

Wrong Views

Wrong views are a more dynamic form of ignorance that misconstrues or grasps at extreme views of existence (everything exists) and nihilism (nothing exists).

Our human minds have a compulsive drive to conceptualize and then cling to the integrity of these concepts. The mind is a gushing well of multiple, swift, turbulent and incessant thoughts, memories, fantasies, associations, desires and ideations. All based on the false notion that “I” exist, so what will become of me?

The antidote is study, time spent with wise practitioners, and unceasing dedicated observation and investigation of whatever arises in the mind, be it pleasant or unpleasant, extreme or dull. Wrong views arise from ignorance. Ignorance arises from clinging to an illusory “I”. Look deeply. No one is there. This is hard to grasp. It runs counter to everything we believe. When we understand what the Dharma teaches, we avoid extremes. We remain humbled by our ignorance and continue — always, continue — on the path.

Visualize as before, reciting the mantra at least 3 times

Doubt

Doubt spins us around, leaves us running in circles, afraid to push and unwilling to pull. We question the Dharma, question our teachers, and question the law of cause and effect. We do this in such a way that it robs us of our conviction to practice and learn. Most damaging of all is doubting one’s abilities to grow and change, doubting one’s spiritual aptitude. This arises in any of us who are unable to love. To commit ourselves to the path we have to understand and love it. When we commit completely and love it, there is no room for skeptical doubt. We do not need to ask, “Was the Buddha really enlightened?” We realize it is not a pertinent question: if we follow the path we are going to find out ourselves. Total commitment means giving our whole being. If we can do that, it means we are able to love. We let everything we say and do be the practice. Again, associate with wise and mature practitioners and learn, always learn. Feed your wonder and curiosity, let skeptical doubt wither and vanish.

Visualize as before, reciting the mantra at least 3 times

Doubt and pride are two sides of the same false “I” — I am better than you are, I am inferior to you. Greed and hate are two sides of the same clinging — I want this and I do not want that. Ignorance and wrong views are two sides of the same darkness — blind and not knowing we are blind and blindly holding wrong views and refusing to turn the light of awareness on them.

The miracle of being awake is not the opposite of being asleep. It is the opposite of being unaware. Knowing suffering means knowing the truth and anyone who wants to rid themselves of this, must inquire within. The only escape is through insight which brings clarity. Every other escape route is blocked!

The power of the promise

Make the following promise to Vajrasattva, specifying the period for which you intend to keep it:

I shall not create these negative actions from now until

Vajrasattva is extremely pleased and says, “My spiritual child of the essence, all of the negativities, obscurations and degenerated vows have now been completely purified.”

With delight, Vajrasattva melts into light and dissolves into you. Your body, speech and mind become inseparably one with Vajrasattva’s holy body, speech and mind. Concentrate on this.

Dedication

Due to this merit may we soon
Attain the enlightened state of Vajrasattva,
That we may be able to liberate
All sentient beings from their sufferings.

May the precious bodhi mind
Not yet born arise and grow.
May that born have no decline,
But increase forever more.