Based on our stubborn belief in a “self,” we become completely overwhelmed by all kinds of emotions. Again and again, this belief in a self leads to our downfall. We feel deeply attached to ourselves and to those whom we associate with ourselves; along with this attachment to self comes its dark companion—a subtle aversion toward all that we regard as “not me” and “not mine.” We also classify objects—our possessions—as belonging to “me.” They are “ours.” This commonly held assumption is weighed down with emotions. Yet if we take the time to really look into this notion, we might just realize that nothing truly belongs to us. When we depart from this world, everything we know and own must be left behind. We can’t even bring along this body that we’ve cherished so intensely year after year. So what do we truly own and where is the presumed owner—this pampered “I”—for whose sake we argue, fight, crave, yearn, indulge, and so forth? Until these false notions about what we experience have completely dissolved, we will have to acknowledge that we remain sunk deep in delusion.

Now, acknowledging our delusion is a very important step, but just to leave it at that will not suffice. There’s no greater foolishness than to spend one’s lifetime acknowledging that one is deluded and yet doing nothing whatsoever about it. Then, when it’s too late to do anything, we suddenly find ourselves at death’s door, thinking, “What a damn fool I’ve been! I’ve squandered this precious opportunity!” At that moment, all we can do is beat our chest in despair. Throughout the whole of our existence, has there ever been an insight more devastating than this?

To make sure this never happens to us, instead we should take this message to heart—no matter how attractive the objects of the senses may appear to be, they’re simply powerless to provide us with any lasting happiness. This understanding, once it begins to truly sink in, is called “renunciation.”

From A Few Words of Heart-to-Heart Advice by Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche © 2010. Reprinted with permission of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery.

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