Sometimes, you get people who make up nonsense in their own mind (called papanca) and then take that to be reality and then proceed to enforce and impose that nonsense on those around them. Now it’s called nonsense because it’s not based on the truth – it’s fabricated (made up) – so it’s based on delusion. Why? Because their so called “reality” doesn’t hold up to the facts.
But they still insist that it’s real!
And because of this fabricated nonsense from their head – they get angry and start falsely accusing others of things that they didn’t do – all the while thinking that they are being some white knight saviour! So they see themselves that they are the rescuers in all this – so they rationalise to themselves – I’m the good guy/girl in all this – I’m trying to save others – therefore, I’m allowed to attack others with hatred and anger in order to save this person or these people. Uhm… no.
Buddhism is the path of wisdom. Not the path of delusions.
These people have good intentions but lack the wisdom to be able to regulate their emotions, which have taken over their mind as a result of these false mental scenarios that they’ve conjured up in their minds. In other words, they have compassion but without wisdom. In Buddhism, compassion is always coupled with wisdom in a mutually supportive relationship.
In these situations, you need to look for the objective evidence – to find the truth of the matter – because you need to always base things upon the truth:
- If you fail to find the objective evidence – then it’s false accusations – it’s lies fabricated upon delusion. So you can call nonsense out for what it is – nonsense, false speech. Call out the false for being false. And call out the true for being true. Just bringing the false out into the open reveals it for what it is.
- If you do find objective evidence – then you need to make sure this truth is relevant/beneficial and that the details are correct (as the Buddha taught in the Abhaya Sutta). If true – then maybe you have something to go off on, to add to your own knowledge or amend it or to question your own assumptions.
So, as the Kalama Sutta says – don’t just go by second hand reports or specious reasoning or rumors or inference etc… you need to find the primary source evidence as it is – without adding anything or taking away anything.
Worked Example of a Good Doctor
It’s like a good doctor – the doctor needs to assess the patient based on the objective evidence – the signs and the symptoms and the results from the comprehensive examination (objective testing) – in order to out certain things as well as to confirm certain things. This is called EBM or Evidence Based Medicine.
This is so as to form a complete clinical picture of what’s going on with the patient (as the Buddha taught in the example of the blind men and the elephant) – a holistic picture – not a partial, incomplete picture. A doctor can’t really just take 1 minor symptom that the patient gives them – and then start conjuring up nonsense diagnoses about the patient just based on their subjective feelings!
Why not? Because that would be malpractice! They need evidence for their diagnoses!
If a doctor misdiagnoses the patient, then the wrong treatment will be given – which can cause harm to the patient.
For example, a patient comes in saying, “I’ve got an ulcer doc, just give me ulcer medicine to get rid of this pain”. So without questioning the patient more deeply about the nature of his symptoms or performing some relevant tests – the doctor just takes this patient’s symptoms at face value and just quickly writes them a prescription for ulcer medicine – and off they go.
But what if the chest pain that they are feeling is not from an ulcer? This is what happened to former President Bill Clinton. The symptoms “felt” like they were just an ulcer – so the chest pain deluded him into thinking that it was just an ulcer. But in reality, it was a heart attack!
In reality, chest pain can be caused by a number of different things – cancer, gall stones, ulcer, pneumothorax (collapsed lung) etc… it’s the doctor’s job to find out the exact cause so that the cause can be treated properly. If you give a heart attack patient just ulcer medication, without working them up properly, they can die!
This is why truthfulness is so highly valued in Buddhism – you need to base your life on the truth – the relevant truth that has all the correct details and is beneficial to the situation. Not on delusions and falseness.
If instead, you base your life – your actions, speech and thoughts on your delusions, this is what happens:
“Delusion itself is unskillful. Whatever a deluded person fabricates by means of body, speech, or intellect, that too is unskillful.
So a deluded person fabricates (makes up) nonsense in their head.
Whatever suffering a deluded person — his mind overcome with delusion, his mind consumed — wrongly inflicts on another person through beating or imprisonment or confiscation or placing blame or banishment, [with the thought,] ‘I have power. I want power,’ that too is unskillful. Thus it is that many evil, unskillful qualities — born of delusion, caused by delusion, originated through delusion, conditioned by delusion — come into play.
So the delusion consumes their mind! To the point where they starting inflicting punishment onto others causing others to suffer – blaming others with false accusations of things that they didn’t do – to the point of physical punishment – beating them up, banishing them or sending them off to prison or confiscating things from them.
Whilst they are inflicting this suffering on others, they’re on a power trip! So they are enjoying attacking others – because it makes them feel morally superior! So they have this arrogance.
Because this deluded person is thinking:
- “I am superior to you because I know what’s going on! (despite having only false or incomplete information)” and
- “I am superior to you because I am being compassionate – my deluded compassion therefore allows me to attack you with hatred and attack you relentlessly”
So they are using their delusions to justify a moral superiority – which gives them a moral power trip – and so, justifies in their mind that it’s okay to attack others.
“And a person like this is called one who speaks at the wrong time, speaks what is unfactual, speaks what is irrelevant, speaks contrary to the Dhamma, speaks contrary to the Vinaya.
Because of having wrongly inflicted suffering on another person through beating or imprisonment or confiscation or placing blame or banishment, [with the thought,] ‘I have power. I want power.’
When told what is factual, he denies it and doesn’t acknowledge it.
When told what is unfactual, he doesn’t make an ardent effort to untangle it [to see], ‘This is unfactual. This is baseless.‘
That’s why a person like this is called one who speaks at the wrong time, speaks what is unfactual, speaks what is irrelevant, speaks contrary to the Dhamma, speaks contrary to the Vinaya.
“A person like this — his mind overcome with evil, unskillful qualities born of greed… born of aversion… born of delusion, his mind consumed — dwells in suffering right in the here-&-now — feeling threatened, turbulent, feverish — and at the break-up of the body, after death, can expect a bad destination.
“Just as a sal tree, a birch, or an aspen, when smothered & surrounded by three parasitic vines, falls into misfortune, falls into disaster, falls into misfortune & disaster, in the same way, a person like this — his mind overcome with evil, unskillful qualities born of greed… born of aversion… born of delusion, his mind consumed — dwells in suffering right in the here-&-now — feeling threatened, turbulent, feverish — and at the break-up of the body, after death, can expect a bad destination.
So in this passage of the Mula Sutta, the Buddha was talking about delusions – he was ALSO was talking about:
- Greed (the desire to get) and
- Aversion (anger/hatred – the desire to get rid of) as well.
So in the above passages, you can substitute delusion with greed and hatred as well. Together – greed, hatred and delusion – comprise the 3 poisons.
Greed, Hatred and Delusion are like a Parasitic Vine that takes over your mind and consumes you!
Here, the Buddha likens the 3 poisons to 3 parasitic vines on you which smother you from all around and overcome you and consume you they will – and your life and relationships fall into ruin because you did not acknowledge the truth when you got called out on it nor correct yourself.
It sort of reminds me of Master Yoda speaking about what happened to Darth Vader when he turned to the Dark Side of the Force:
Let me paraphrase Yoda:
Yes!… A Sramana’s strength flooows from the Truth.
But beware of the Dark Side.
Greed. Hatred. Delusions – the dark side are they.
Easily they flow. Quick to join you in a fight.
If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny…
Consume you it will! As it did, Obi Wan’s apprentice.
A Sramana is a Truth Seeker.
So whenever you have let your delusions take over you:
- If you act or think or speak out of your delusions – and
- Become hateful or greedy because of these delusions of yours
You need to be mindful of what’s happening because they can wrap all around you slowly and unknowingly, insidiously – sucking the goodness and life out of you. So whereas once, you were a strong and beautiful tree, this tree has now been taken over by parasitic vines, sucking the strength, beauty and life out of it.
How do you cut those poisonous, parasitic vines off? With wisdom, with truthfulness, with skill and finding the objective evidence – getting to the heart of the matter – getting to the truth of the matter. Such that no matter what anyone says – you know the truth for yourself!
Once you find out the truth, then you can cut those parasitic vines off and untangle the mess that all your delusions created, the mess that your anger and hatred created and the mess that your greed created. This way, the tree of you can become strong and beautiful again!
Source for the quoted Sutta text:
Mula Sutta: Roots” (AN 3.69), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 3 July 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.069.than.html .