My most dear, most kind, most precious, most wish-fulfilling Patrick,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I am very sorry for the long delay in replying. Thank you very much for all your practice done with bodhicitta. Regarding the existing practices you are doing, one big thing that is missing is reciting OM MANI PADME HUM—especially doing this with bodhicitta for numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless human beings, numberless suras, numberless asuras and numberless intermediate state beings; for everyone to be free from the oceans of samsaric suffering as quickly as possible and to achieve full enlightenment, peerless happiness, omniscient mind.
Recite every single OM MANI PADME HUM for every single sentient being, doing one mala or more, your choice. Every mantra you recite is for every sentient being and for yourself to achieve enlightenment, which means to actualize the path, lam-rim, to purify all the defilements and negative karma collected since beginningless time and to collect extensive merits, the cause of dharmakaya and rupakaya. It is especially to develop compassion for all sentient beings forever, to everyone, so no-one is left out; no ant is left out, not one mosquito is left out, not one sentient being is left out; to develop compassion and through compassion to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. This is so important. You don’t want to recite the mantra for your own happiness; you need to recite it for sentient beings’ temporary and ultimate happiness.
The other practice is Medicine Buddha mantra and names. If you can, recite the seven Medicine Buddhas’ names and repeat the name mantra. You can recite 21 times or do one mala. This is unbelievably powerful for success, so we don’t get reborn in the lower realms. This means every success, including even achieving enlightenment for sentient beings, and achieving the causes of happiness and stopping the suffering for sentient beings.
Also, the lam-rim is missing from your prayers, so attached is a new Direct Meditation for your morning motivation. Do this after you wake up in the morning; it has the lam-rim in it.
Regarding the mantra you recite to the ten directions, that one is mainly for travelling, to pacify obstacles made by that, so I don’t think you need to do it every day. You may not need to do it every day.
It’s quite common to do at least 100 prostrations a day by reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas. Lama Tsongkhapa did 700,000 prostrations by reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas and then a rainfall of realizations came. Not only did he see Maitreya Buddha, he saw the Thirty-five Buddhas in his cave, and he also saw the lineage lamas. Even when Lama Tsongkhapa was very old, he still did 100 [prostrations] a day by reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names.
When you lie down during the prostration, don’t be silent. Often Western students recite the name just one time and then when lying down [during the prostration] they are quiet, so you don’t have to do that. When you lie down, keep reciting the name over and over, especially if you have memorized the names. If you haven’t memorized these, then you can record the names of each of the Thirty-five Buddhas and play a tape as you prostrate, but you need to be repeating the names at the same time, and not just listening. If you don’t recite, then it is like someone eating lunch and you don’t eat anything. How can you stop your hunger if someone else eats for you? So please recite the name a number of times as you are going down and up. Normally I think the Western students recite each Buddha’s name three times, but you can do more or just recite straight without counting. So what you count is the prostrations, not the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names. This practice is very, very good to purify negative karma and obscurations collected from beginningless rebirths, and also it is exercise for your health.
If you can do Vajrasattva practice in the evening time, it is better, because then it purifies the negative karma collected since beginningless rebirths, particularly in this life and particularly today, so then you are able to go to bed with a comfortable mind.
In the evening time it would be so good to do one of the prayers from the Eight Prayers to Benefit the Dead. It says these prayers are for the death time, but they are for any time. Recite one a day of each of the eight prayers at the end of the day, after doing Vajrasattva practice.
Maybe if you can, also do one set of prostrations by reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas. Do this one time or you can visualize doing it, putting your hands in the mudra of prostration.
Then do the Vajrasattva mantra 21 times or one mala, but at least do it 21 times. Then recite the King of Prayers. So this means doing a different prayer each day, one-by-one, from the eight great prayers.
When you do the dedication section from Bodhicaryavatara, do it with tong-len practice. If you can, do it with tong-len, giving away all your merit to all those hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, suras, asuras and intermediate state beings. So give away all the good things.
If you can make time, try to do Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga. That is the main practice, as it has the lam-rim in it (The Foundation of All Good Qualities). Reciting this leaves a positive imprint on your mind each time during the recitation, especially if you read it mindfully, so this is very important. If you have already read the lam-rim, then bring it in there, as you read the prayer. Read slowly and think of the meaning; that is very, very good.
If you still have time, read some of the lam-rim every day, such as Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. Read a little each day, depending on how much time you have. You can read it slowly and that still becomes meditation. Anything that you don’t understand, write it down in a notebook and at a later time ask an older student who has studied the lam-rim well, or ask Geshe-la. So, read the lam-rim from beginning to end three times. This is called effortful meditation.
Then do effortless meditation on guru devotion. Try to have the realizations by training the mind and by following the outline, no matter how many weeks or month or years it takes, until you see from your side every guru that you have a Dharma connection with as the Buddha and every buddha is all the gurus. If you see every guru is all the buddhas, without effort, all the time, for weeks, months and years, then that is the realization. So each day do some amount of meditation on guru devotion. In the same day, you can do the meditation renouncing this life, so continue like this, one-by-one, until you have realizations.
Next is meditation on the gradual path of the middle capable being—seeing the suffering of human beings, devas, sura and asura beings; then there is suffering of samsara, the twelve links, the evolution of samsara, all those. Carry on meditating until you see samsara as a prison, like being in the center of a fire, until you have no interest and don’t want to be there even for a minute or a second. You need a stable realization that lasts for weeks, months and years, then after that, you need realization on bodhicitta. Use whichever method is more effective for you—exchanging oneself for others or the seven techniques—so train in both, sometimes using one method and sometimes using the other. Do it like that or you can do more, based on whichever one is more effective for you.
Next is emptiness. You also need to do some meditation on emptiness every day, even for five minutes or for however much time you want—short or long. You can do this by reciting the Heart Sutra or any verses on emptiness and thinking about the meaning. Even use this verse from The King of Logic: “The dependent arising: The I is not truly existing one.” So meditate on that, try to recognize that and then see that is the false I; that is empty.
Meditate on dependent arising and on the Prasangika view—the subtle dependent arising on the valid base, the aggregates. Gathered on that, the mind has a valid mind, merely imputed on the I, existing extremely subtly. It is unbelievably, unbelievably, unbelievably subtle, existing in mere name, merely labeled by the mind, therefore it does not exist at all from its own side. Meditate like that.
A billion times thank you, and please live your life with bodhicitta in every action that you do.
With much love and prayers...