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Look closely, too, at how you fuel the kleshas with your thoughts. Just look at any thought and ask: Where did this thought come from? Where is it right now? And then, “Where did it go?” If you can find anything solid to hold on to when you look at the arising, dwelling, and passing of a thought, I’d like to be the first to know.

We build up fantasy worlds in our minds, causing the kleshas to escalate. Then, like awakening from a dream, we discover this fantasy has no substance and the kleshas have no basis.

My friend’s father has Alzheimer’s disease. Previously he was a very angry man. But since he lost his memory, he’s changed. Because he can’t remember what he was angry about, he can’t fuel his bitterness. When he becomes irritated, he just can’t make it stick. Without his story lines, the causes for anger dissolve.

Of course we don’t always feel up to working so attentively with our kleshas. As Shantideva says, our minds sometimes seem feeble and lazy. But take heart: we don’t have to gear up for a big struggle. The enemy is a mirage!


This is how I should reflect and labor,
Taking up the precepts just set forth.
What invalid in need of medicine
Ignored his doctor’s words and gained his health?

Just as a sick person won’t get well without following her doctor’s advice, we won’t be helped by these teachings unless we put them into practice. This is not academic study; we could study the Bodhicaryavatara daily, and still keep strengthening our kleshas. These teachings are a way of life. To awaken bodhicitta, nurture it, and have it flourish, take Shantideva’s words very personally and use them whenever you find yourself getting hooked and carried away.

Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun whose root teacher was the renowned meditation master Chögyam Trungpa. Since his death in 1987, she has studied with Trungpa Rinpoche’s son, Sakyong Mipham, and with her current principal teacher, Dzigar Kongtrul. Pema Chödrön is resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, the first Tibetan monastery in North America established for Westerners. Her many popular books include The Places that Scare You, When Things Fall Apart, and Start Where You Are.

No Time to Lose, Pema Chödrön, Shambhala Sun, January 2006.

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