My very dear Aaron,
I checked and you need to have the puja called chab-trü done by a senior geshe or lama who you have much devotion to. This puja needs to be done at least six times for you, by a geshe or lama or anybody, but not by yaks or yetis.
Then also, when you do washing, first bless the water with dorje-nam-jom-pa (Skt: Vajravidarana) by reciting the mantra. Think dorje-nam-jom-pa is above the water, blessing it. Then when you wash, use the purified water. Think while you are washing that all the pollution, impurities, ignorance, delusion, negative karma, sicknesses and spirit harm are purified, completely gone. So strongly believe that.
It is very good that you are learning philosophy and debate. That is very good. If you can enjoy debating then your study develops, it gets better and better, but if you are not enjoying it, then it is difficult and afterwards you are disappointed.
Overall for it to become Dharma, you have to try to make it Dharma. That means with your motivation, not being attached to this life and especially having renunciation from samsara and bodhicitta. You must have bodhicitta so that your study becomes the cause of enlightenment; this is the most important thing in the life.
And then the other thing—whether you are eating, walking, sleeping, studying, doing your job, etc—whatever you do, do it with bodhicitta as much as possible. That is the most important thing, otherwise it’s the same as people in the West playing football and basketball. They work so hard to become good players and enjoy it, but it’s just to achieve happiness of this life, with attachment to the eight worldly dharmas.
I want to tell you something. Being in the monastery and learning the great teachings of Buddha and Buddhist philosophy in so much detail—yes, you are studying Dharma, but whether it becomes Dharma or not, that is something else, that is due to the motivation for your study. If your motivation is just to become a geshe, just this life to become a geshe, for this life happiness, then it is just like the footballers. If it’s just the same motivation—just for happiness for oneself—then even if you are studying Dharma, it does not become the cause of enlightenment, because it comes from the self-cherishing thought, especially if it’s for the happiness of this life, it does not even become Dharma. So even if your whole life is spent studying in a monastery, it does not become Dharma and then does it not become the cause of happiness in this life nor the cause of future lives’ happiness or even enlightenment.
As Padmasambhava mentioned (I don’t remember the exact words): Even if the form is that of a religious person, still it’s possible to do non-religious activity, non-Dharma activity.
So being in the monastery and studying Dharma, nothing becomes Dharma if one’s motivation is just for the happiness of this life, just for this life’s reputation, trying to achieve that and so forth. Then it does not become Dharma study—even receiving teachings and debate, as well as other things, prayers etc —everything that we do, does not become Dharma.
Eating, walking, sleeping, doing our job and so forth, that also does not become Dharma, so then everything becomes worldly activity, non-virtue. So to practice Dharma really means our motivation, at least renunciation to this life.
Then it comes out very good for you to read the Diamond Cutter Sutra; that will help you. Recite this mantra before reciting sutras, to multiple the merit created by one million times:
TADYATHA DHARE DHARE BENDHARE SVAHA
Somebody from Sera who had studied for 15 years parchen and maybe surget (sorry about spelling) —the monk studied for a long time, but didn’t realize what it means to practice Dharma. Only when he came to Bodhgaya and received teachings; only at that time did he come to know what it meant and he was extremely surprised.
As you know, Dromtönpa was walking around in the forest and one old man was meditating. Dromtönpa asked, “What are you doing?” The man said, “Meditating,” and Dromtönpa said, “It is good that you are meditating, but even better if you can practice Dharma”.
Then another day, the man was reading a text, as he thought maybe that was what Dromtönpa meant, so then Dromtönpa asked, “What are you doing?” The man said, “I am reading a Dharma text,” and Dromtönpa said, “That is good you are reading a Dharma text, but it’s even better if you can practice Dharma.”
Then the old man circumambulated a temple and he thought maybe this is what Dromtönpa meant is Dharma. Then Dromtönpa asked, “What are you doing?” and the man said, “I am circumambulating the temple,” and Dromtönpa said, “That is good that you are circumambulating the temple, but it’s even better if you can practice Dharma.”
Then the old man asked, “What do you mean by practice Dharma?” and Dromtönpa said, “Renounce this life”.
With much love and prayers...