My very dear Tibetan friend Tashi,
Thank you very much for your kind email and for your willingness to discuss your life. It is the best thing to have gained faith in Dharma; your lung enabled you to have more faith in the Dharma and that is the best gain from any problem or sickness.
First, there is the need to practice Dharma, for healing and for a better life. The second reason is that when you do meditation or prayer, the problem goes away. The third reason is that you can only benefit through faith in the Dharma and not through other external means. The fourth reason is the ultimate benefit—that Dharma is the cause of liberation forever from all the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change and pervasive, compounding suffering.
The suffering of suffering (Tib: dug ngäl gi dug ngäl) means all human beings’ sufferings, including the suffering of rebirth and all the sufferings of death. There is so much suffering, as explained in the five lam-rim outlines by Lama Tsongkhapa. Of course, that is not something made up by Lama Tsongkhapa, it is according to Buddha’s teachings in the sutras. There is a whole sutra called Suffering in the Womb which explains these.
The five outlines explain all these sufferings, such as all the sicknesses, death, the sufferings of worries, fears, being unable to find desirable objects, meeting with undesirable objects, including enemies and so forth, then after finding desirable objects not getting satisfaction from them. That is the fundamental, continual suffering. So many of this life’s problems, future lives’ problems and the sufferings of the lower realms are based on this, because we cannot get satisfaction from these samsaric pleasures, which are only temporary.
I am not sure how familiar you are with these Dharma terms in English or how much idea you have of Dharma. Here, I am just giving very brief instructions. There is so much suffering in life and that is why Dharma practice becomes extremely urgent. You can see this is not only by having faith, but also psychologically, for valid reasons.
Then there are the sufferings of death, as well as all those sufferings Lama Tsongkhapa explained in the five outlines. As I said, all of these are called the suffering of suffering.
For devas, asuras and suras, there is the most unbearable suffering in their lives when they have the five signs of death. They have the unbelievable suffering of distraction of the sense pleasures. They have 10,000 or even 100,000 times greater sense pleasures than human beings who live even in the most developed countries. The sense pleasures are an unbelievable distraction in life, so it is extremely difficult to remember Dharma practice.
Here is another example. If you come from Nepal or India—maybe not so much nowadays, but in the past —or if you come from a primitive country, when you go to the West, there are unbelievable sense pleasures and distractions of attachment. The countryside in the West is filled with advertisements for objects of attachment, and these are also used to make money.
There is an example from a lam-rim text. Buddha’s heart disciple was Sharipu, the arhat. Sharipu had one disciple, who was a doctor. Whenever this doctor saw his guru, he would immediately get down from his horse and do prostrations; he was very humble. When the doctor died, he was born as a sura in the deva realm. Sharipu went there through his miraculous powers and when he arrived he went to a garden. He saw the doctor approaching the garden with his girlfriend, but even though the doctor saw Sharipu from a distance, he barely lifted his arm in acknowledgment; he just lifted two fingers and then went straight out of the garden with his girlfriend. He was experiencing such unbelievable sense pleasures that it was extremely hard for him to remember Dharma practice. When he experienced these sense pleasures, his mind totally changed from how it was in the human realm. This gives you an idea of how difficult it is to practice Dharma in the deva realm.
There is also other suffering in the sura realms. There is constant fighting and war between the asuras over wealth and maybe they also fight over their wives. It seems like the asuras’ wives are very beautiful and kind. Then when the suras’ bodies are wounded, the part grows again, so they do not die easily.
There are also the hell beings’ sufferings. There are eight major hot hells called:
- Being alive again and again (reviving) (yang sos)
- Thick black lines
- Gathered and crushed
- Crying and screaming (like when we are drowning or being attacked and we shout out for someone to help)
- Hot hell
- Great hot hell
- Inexhaustible hot hell (uninterrupted). This hell has the heaviest suffering of samsara, for the longest time.
The hell beings’ suffering of the first hell is the lightest and for the shortest length of time, then in the second hell it is double this. The third hell is even greater and it goes on like this. The suffering increases and the length of time gets longer and longer. It is really unbearable to be reborn there. How hot is one tiny spark of fire from hell? It is 67 times hotter than all the human fires put together. It is seven times hotter than the fire at the end of the world, which melts even the Rocky Mountains.
In the first hell, the length of life according to human years is 120 billion years (one great trag trig and two great ter bum). [Note: Go to this LWYA page for more information on Tibetan numbers.]
Then there are eight major cold hells:
- Hell having blisters
- Hell having bursting blisters
- Hell of shivering
- Hell of lamentation
- Hell of chattering teeth
- Blue lotus hell
- Breaking lotus hell
- Great lotus hell
There are six neighboring sufferings: one with trees, where our loved ones call us from the top, but when we try to climb up, the branches turn downwards and become knives, cutting up our body. Behind us are dogs that bite us and in front are eagles that attack our eyeballs. There is so much suffering. Then, when we finally reach the top, our loved ones call from the bottom of the tree. When we turn around to climb down, the branches turn upwards, become knives, and again cut through our body. There is unbelievable suffering; all due to karma.
In the next neighboring hell the whole ground is filled with swords, so wherever we step we are cut—when we place our feet on the ground we are cut. We have to experience that until our karma finishes. There are neighboring hells in the hot hells as well, where there is extremely hot water, like lava. There are oceans of lava and beings are born inside that. In the lava there are other animals—sentient beings with tiny beaks, like needles, which they put through their bodies. There are so many sufferings. There is also the hell like being drowned in a septic tank; it is filthy and full of worms that are eating us. These are not the major hells, but the secondary hells. There is also the ordinary hell, which is in the human realm as well.
Then there is the suffering of the hungry ghosts or pretas. They have unbelievable suffering: the heavy suffering of hunger and starvation, of not being able to find even one drop of water for hundreds or thousands of years, and not even a spoonful of food. This is all due to past negative karma, and is the result of miserliness and the shortcomings of attachment. They did not practice giving. If we put all their suffering together—the outer obscuration, the food obscuration, and the inner obscuration, we can understand the details of their unimaginable suffering.
Then there is the suffering of the animal realm. The major sufferings of animals are from being extremely ignorant; they are eaten by other animals or by human beings, and they suffer from hunger and thirst, hot and cold. Some animals that live with human beings are tortured—they may get some food, but they are also tortured and they endure so much suffering, carrying heavy loads or plowing the land, etc.
The pretas also suffer from hot and cold. The place where they live is like a vast sheet of hot copper. For pretas, even the moon becomes very hot and burns them. This is due to their karma. They do not have any beautiful places in which to live. For pretas, what for us is a beautiful garden with fragrant flowers, for them smells bad; it is filthy and dirty. Where we see water, the pretas see pus, blood and dirty things. On the other hand, the devas, who have much more merit than us, see everything as much more beautiful than it appears to us. Their view makes things a hundred thousand times more beautiful than they appear to us. The devas have much greater sense pleasures. Of course, for Buddha, everything appears as the best. Buddha has the most pure and beautiful appearances. But at the same time, Buddha’s holy mind can see what the pretas see, what we human beings see and what the devas see.
These are some teachings for you to think about, study and meditate on. Go through the suffering of each realm, using the lam-rim outline to deepen your understanding, as well as going through the four ripening results.
In the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva, it says that if there is something that you can do, then do it, but if there is nothing you can do, then don’t worry. This means accept it. Basically, if you can’t solve something from the outside but you can solve it through your mind, then that is more successful for now and for the future, for long-term happiness.
As I mentioned at the beginning, you have received the best gain from your sickness—having faith in the Dharma. Even if there are no external means to help with your sickness, there is Dharma. There is a need to practice Dharma, for your healing and for your life. When you do meditation or prayer, the problem goes away.
I checked regarding your lung, and this is what came out as beneficial for you:
- Recite the Padmasambhava prayer Sampa Lhundrup. This is very powerful for bringing success.
- You need to have the gyab-shi puja performed.
What came out best is to really study the lam-rim, to change your karma, so please try that.
With much love and prayers...