Just an Illusion

In buddhist gatherings you will often overhear someone say, “Oh, forget it! Anyway, everything is just an illusion”. They might briefly reflect at some difficulty that they created in the past and affirm now, “Oh, it was all just illusory”. Or like sour grapes, “Oh, who cares anyway!.” I feel some concern to hear this in this way because the illusory might become a handy trashcan, dumping place for a misplaced sense of responsibility.

I can appreciate from one point of view the wish to avoid inner stress but on the other hand it demonstrates a lack of practical knowledge. The very dynamic that is a healing of the view that takes the impermanent to be permanent is set aside in order to continue bad behavior and blame it on the mythical “illusory”!

When you affirm that something is an illusion with poor motivation or lack of skills that leads to the intellectual correct view, this is practicing a defective process that depends upon defective components and produces defective results. It also develops poor habits in a number of ways. This wrong calculating method is like old days, maybe India side, when I had a lousy calculator. I would press 2 + 2 and wouldn’t come out 4.

If you’re adding up 422343 and 64365845 on your calculator, you trust that whatever number come up must be the number because you not able to do in the head. Any defective method of identifying illusion only become apparent when you get down to deeper contemplation. As you get to more sophisticated or subtler levels in contemplations that require discernment of energetic distinctions for transformation, it will prove your energetic display or result is wrong that not apparent on more casual levels. However we are capable of correcting errors at simple levels such as 2 and 2 should be 4 (in casual display of your knowledge) and when it comes up 3 or 5 or 87, then you have a clear indication that there is something wrong so that you can apply the antidote.

However, we should not indulge more than we can tolerate by becoming afraid to think, or act because, “Oh my gosh, everything I’m producing is dysfunctional.” We cannot be afraid to live life just because we have just discovered that our mind is not enlightened. However, once we do gain that realization, the next thought that should arise is, “I’m going to really watch my step because I now realize I am working from mental distortions.”

“Even more awful, distortions are coming from the outside world combined with my own distorted thinking and that is producing something that I cannot exactly trust.” This is when reliance on values of valid objects of refuge such as the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings of the path to enlightenment) and the Sangha (the community of enlightened practitioners) becomes more sophisticated and important for practitioners.

Reliance on the Three Jewels of refuge becomes like the main mast of a ship in a storm at sea. In the high wind a practitioner will hang on to the main pole of reliance so they don’t get thrown overboard and become lost at sea even though they are not yet in the safe port of the enlightened state.


  1. I appreciate this teaching and what it says about not being afraid to act or think because of distorted thinking and about the importance of refuge/reliance. Thank you Rinpoche.


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