Worth protecting

We talk a lot about the practice of guarding the mind. Shantideva says:

Those who wish to make progress in the trainings
Should be very attentive in guarding their minds,
For, if they do not practise guarding the mind,
They will not be able to complete the trainings.

A crazy, untamed elephant in this world
Cannot inflict such harm
As the sufferings of the deepest hell
Caused by the rampaging elephant of the mind;

But if the elephant of our mind
Is bound tightly on all sides by the rope of mindfulness,
All fears will cease to exist
And all virtues will fall into our hands.

It’s clear what we are guarding the mind from: delusions. But what exactly is it that is being guarded? Inner peace. If we don’t start out with some peace of mind, there’s no point guarding the mind because there’s nothing there worth protecting! I’m making this point because it can be quite easy for the practice of guarding the mind to feel like a battle-ground, a constant fight against delusions that we never manage to win. It only feels like a losing battle if we don’t have a bastion to take refuge in. The point is to feel like we’re inside the fortress walls, and we’re keeping delusions on the outside; if you go outside (away from inner peace) and start running around the battlefield trying to stab at all your enemies, of course it will feel exhausting and inconclusive.

I like to think that inside my ‘wall’ is a still, clear lake – the clarity of my mind. I can sit and enjoy the peace of the still water until something nasty tries to climb over the wall – look out, it’s attachment, some slimy thing with tentacles! Repel boarders! (oops, that’s on a ship, isn’t it? My analogy just went walkabouts) Anyway, when attachment comes along, I don’t go outside the wall by following that train of thought: I cut it off, and prevent it coming in. Then I can enjoy the still waters again.


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