My very dear Catherine,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I am sorry for the delay in replying.
Yes, you are right, it is your mother’s karma that people criticize her. Maybe in the past she criticized others, maybe also she told lies to others.
In regards to how you can help, one thought that came to me is this: when people criticize your mother, actually this is an incredible practice for you. Of course, the people who criticize her are a most precious opportunity for your mother, in her life, like a wish-granting jewel, if she can use it. Your wish is that people only praise your mother and not criticize, but here I will explain why this is actually so important and how you can use it.
First, you take all this criticism on yourself, what people are saying about your mother, and give it to your ego, the self-cherishing thought, and totally eliminate it, like a bomb. Remember that the self-cherishing thought is the enemy, that it is the self-cherishing thought that did not allow you to achieve enlightenment in the past, from beginningless rebirths, did not allow you to even achieve liberation from samsara, and did not allow you to achieve any realizations of the lam-rim.
The self-cherishing thought has only cheated and deceived you, caused all problems, obstacles, and sufferings. Think: as long as this self-cherishing thought abides in my heart, it will cause me harm in the future. As long as this self-cherishing thought abides in my heart there is no end to suffering, no enlightenment, no liberation, no attainments, constant suffering in samsara, and constant experience of obstacles. Every time there is criticism, do this meditation, then the self-cherishing thought is destroyed.
The object that the self-cherishing thought cherishes—the object “I,” the “real I” that is cherished by the self-cherishing thought, real in the sense of existing from its own side, not merely labeled by the mind, the “I” that exists—is what is merely labeled by the mind. This is the false “I,” which appears to be not merely labeled by the mind. That is destroyed; you see it is completely, totally empty. Try to see that, stay in that state, and feel that whenever you can.
Then you give your happiness, all the merits of the three times, past, present, and future, all the resulting happiness, including enlightenment, to these people. They receive everything: the whole path to enlightenment, and they get enlightened and become the deity.
Your mother can do the same thing; this is a very good practice. You are using the other people’s criticism as a path to achieve enlightenment. This means you are using the other people’s criticism also as a path to achieve liberation, freedom forever from the ocean of samsaric suffering and its causes—karma and delusions. That means using the criticism becomes a method for liberating sentient beings from the oceans of sufferings in each realm, all the hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, and asuras, and bringing them to full enlightenment.
The benefits are unbelievable, there are limitless skies of benefits and advantages that you achieve and that your mother achieves. It also purifies past negative karma; even if you did not think this, this is what happens.
This practice is the best psychology, the most useful psychology. It is the most important teaching, the teaching of bodhicitta. This is the best, most important practice. You are using the other people’s criticism, making the best use of it, and making it most beneficial for yourself.
Western psychology mainly tries to make a person feel comfortable now. The aim is to bring comfort to the person now, whether the explanation is right or wrong. That is the main goal, that they hope will happen. Here, what I am saying, means that day to day, moment by moment, you have peace in your heart. Your mind is so unbelievably happy, and you realize that that person (who is criticizing) is the most precious, most kind person for you. He or she is the most precious and kind because you achieve liberation and enlightenment from that person, because you are able to complete the paramita of patience and generate compassion and bodhicitta. He or she who criticizes you or is angry with you is the only one who causes you to achieve the whole Mahayana path, the five paths, ten bhumis, and higher goals, even the lower path has unbelievable qualities. The eighth and ninth bhumis have qualities we cannot comprehend, it is beyond our concept. It is like buddhahood for us; those bodhisattvas are like Buddha to our limited mind.
Buddha’s holy body, holy speech, and holy mind have limitless skies of qualities, so he or she who criticizes is the one who causes you to achieve all these paths and bhumis, all these incredible qualities, and all Buddha’s qualities within you. You see how they are most precious, most kind to you. They liberate you and make you collect unbelievable merit, so that helps you also to realize emptiness and be free from samsara, by ceasing the causes: karma and delusion, and the root—ignorance.
Doing these practices protects you from getting angry, so this protects you from creating negative karma, from harming others, and then causing others to get angry at you so that they create negative karma with their body, speech, and mind towards you.
It does all this; it is unbelievable. It stops you from going to the lower realms and bringing others to the lower realms—this is unbelievable. To understand this you need to think about the most unimaginable sufferings of the hell realm, hungry ghost realm, and animal realm. It is most unbearable, especially the hell realm. Thought transformation, especially bodhicitta, protects not only you, but also so many sentient beings, even in this life. You protect so many sentient beings from being reborn in the lower realms and experiencing oceans of unbelievable, heavy sufferings.
It says in the teachings: how hot is one tiny spark of fire in the hell realms? If you put all the fire in the human realm together, that is like a snowflake falling or cool air compared to one tiny spark of fire in the hell realms. It is unbearable. That is just one spark, so the rest of the hot hell is inconceivably hot, such as the burning ground and the burning iron house. Imagine an extremely large container with liquid iron and being cooked inside. Now you can imagine.
By practicing thought transformation, especially bodhicitta, you protect yourself and so many sentient beings from this most unbearable suffering in the lower realms, especially in the hells. This is extremely important to think about. If you can, read the lam-rim teachings on the sufferings of the lower realms, or other teachings in other texts. When you read them, try to remember them, to have some idea, so that you know, when you practice Dharma, especially thought transformation and bodhicitta, how it protects you every day, you and so many sentient beings, family members, and other people. You protect so many sentient beings in this life from being reborn in the lower realms and experiencing all those unbearable sufferings.
The other way to think is that when you see people in this life who get angry or criticize you or your mother, think that they are most precious, like wish-fulfilling jewels. In fact, they are more precious than that. In reality, a wish-fulfilling jewel is nothing, it is just something you can find and see how precious it is. But this situation, when you use thought transformation practice, brings you to enlightenment and enables you to liberate numberless sentient beings from the oceans of suffering and bring them to enlightenment. Even wish-fulfilling jewels cannot do that. You cannot generate compassion towards a wish-fulfilling jewel; a wish-fulfilling jewel does not have a suffering mind and does not have anger.
Please try to practice like this. Please also find attached the practices that you should focus on in this life. It is very important, every day, to meditate on the lam-rim, also, to recite one lam-rim prayer every day, reading it slowly, going over the meaning (such as the Foundation of all Good Qualities, the Three Principles of the Path, etc). You need to actualize the lam-rim, no matter how long it takes. Please put your effort into this.
Please practice as much as you can— life is not long, the nature of this life is impermanent, and death can happen at any time. This is the foundation of Buddha’s teachings, and this was the last advice Buddha gave before showing the aspect of passing away.
What makes your life most meaningful is meditation on the lam-rim, then to live your life with a bodhicitta motivation. This is the best.
With much love and prayers...