An Excerpt from Circling the Sacred Mountain: A Spiritual Adventure Through the Himalayas by Robert Thurman

While leading a band of pilgrims on a journey to Tibet, Robert Thurman presents his commentary on an ancient text that describes the bane of self-centeredness and the blessings of compassion and altruism. Here is an excerpt on the spiritual practice of you.

"Let's start at the beginning. What is meant by mind reform? In general, all the steps toward enlightenment are mind reforms. This mind of ours must be cultivated and transformed. There are methods of doing so.

"Why is this practice called a blade wheel? A blade wheel is a weapon for doing battle with an enemy, like those little metal stars called shiken that ninjas use, with eight or twelve blades sticking out. This blade wheel hits our real enemy, which is out own inner habit of self-preoccupation, It causes damage—serious, blessed damage to narcissism, vanity, the self-habit. A blade wheel is a very fierce image for mind reform. A fierce form of the surgical blade of critical wisdom. My root teacher, Geshe Wangya, presented it to me as the bottom line. And that was after he'd been teaching me for a couple years, often giving me hell, scolding me, and exposing the self-preoccupation and self-addiction habits underlying all my other bad habits.

"The Panchen Lama says: 'In the world there are two kinds of enemies, the physical enemy and the invisible enemy—the only real demon. The invisible demon enters our mindstream and harms us from within.' It doesn't openly attack from the front. The physical enemy outside is easy to identify as an enemy. But for all of us—from our infinite stream of lives—the chief enemy who has been forcing us into one suffering after another is this self-preoccupation habit, which we have had since we were animals, lizards, or whatever other kinds. The usual enemy shoots arrows at us, but unless they hit our vital points they do not cause great harm. But this inner spiritual enemy, our self-cherishing habit cultivated and preserved from former lives, destroys us invisibly from within, like a worm eats wood from within. We have to deal with it accordingly, since it works from this very dangerous point at the center of our heart, from the very center of our self-perception." (126-7)

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