My very dear Sam,
Thank you for your kind letter and confession.
Regarding your question about practice, please recite the Vajra Cutter Sutra 120 times. If you can, let me know when you finish that. The Vajra Cutter Sutra is the Buddha’s unbelievably powerful teaching, to collect most unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable merit—so much merit that it may not even fit in the sky, if it could materialize in form.
Every time we read the sutra, it leaves an imprint on the mind to quickly realize the hallucinations and the hallucinated mind that we have. That hallucinated mind is why we have been suffering from beginningless rebirths up to now, experiencing oceans of samsaric suffering—oceans of hell beings’ sufferings, oceans of hungry ghosts’ sufferings, oceans of animals’ sufferings, oceans of human beings’ sufferings, oceans of suras’ sufferings, oceans of asuras’ sufferings and oceans of intermediate state beings’ sufferings.
If we don’t recognize the hallucinated mind and its hallucinations; if we don’t realize that we are hallucinating and if we can’t see ultimate reality—emptiness, shunyata—then we can never eliminate the root of samsaric suffering, ignorance. We can never eliminate that, and also in the future there will be endless suffering, so we will be reborn and suffer in each realm and die endlessly, without end.
If we don’t realize that, we will never become free, even for one second, from being under the control of delusion and karma, and the resultant suffering of samsara. We will never achieve liberation from samsara, the blissful state of peace, and not only that, we will never achieve the peerless happiness, omniscient mind, to be able to do perfect works for sentient beings and to free them from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to peerless happiness, the state of omniscient mind, full enlightenment.
So reading the Vajra Cutter Sutra is one of the most important things. Each time you read it, this leaves positive imprints, so please read it mindfully.
Also, please read the lam-rim, for example, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, the Lam-rim Chen-mo or the Middle Lam-rim, by Lama Tsongkhapa. Each time you read the lam-rim, this leaves the imprint to generate realizations on the graduated path to enlightenment—the graduated path of the lower capable being, the graduated path of the middle capable being and the graduated path of the higher capable being. So in addition to reciting the Vajra Cutter Sutra, please read the lam-rim, the graduated path to enlightenment. Read whichever book you find, but choose one that has the complete path.
I am also attaching my general daily advice, specifically on lam-rim. The main point is try to have realizations on the lam-rim. Keep going until you have stable realizations, no matter how long it takes.
Please make your life most meaningful with the thought of bodhicitta, day and night.
With much love and prayers...