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Health : Cancer

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche (Last Updated Apr 8, 2014)
Purifying Past Negative Karma
A student diagnosed with breast cancer had an operation that removed only non-cancerous tissue, not the tumor, so she needed another operation immediately. Rinpoche gave this advice on purifying past karma in order to achieve ultimate happiness, the total cessation of suffering.

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling Angela,
It comes out very good if you start reciting this sutra regularly: The Dharani Called “Possessing the Limbs of All the Buddhas." You also need to have the Prajnaparamita read by the Kopan monks. Discuss this with the Kopan manager and if you can't afford it, then it could be combined with others who also need to have it done.

Then for you the Medicine Buddha practice is best. There is a small book that has been translated into English, if you can practice that, reciting the Medicine Buddha mantra and the seven Medicine Buddha’s names, that is extremely good for success, to achieve the peerless happiness, the state of omniscient mind and then the ultimate happiness for sentient beings—to liberate the numberless sentient beings, the numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless human beings, numberless suras, numberless asuras and numberless intermediate state beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them in peerless happiness. To achieve the state of omniscient mind, to achieve the total cessation of suffering and the cause of suffering, which is not outside but inside the mind—the negative mind, wrong concepts, delusions and karma—and the actions motivated by those minds. So to achieve ultimate happiness means to achieve success forever, then you don’t fall back into suffering. The causes are removed and you have totally purified all the delusion and karma, the wrong concepts, the wrong way of thinking, the unsubdued mind.

In reality, the experience of hell is produced by the wrong mind—ignorance and the wrong concepts—and the peerless happiness, the state of omniscient mind, comes from the right concept, from realizations such as compassion towards all the sentient beings and bodhicitta derived from that—to achieve the state of omniscient mind for all sentient beings. Even ultimate happiness, the cessation of suffering, comes from the totally pure mind, the inner, happy mind, the total renunciation of samsara, the opposite of attachment, as well as from the ultimate wisdom realizing emptiness, shunyata, the emptiness of the I.

From the positive mind—which means from non-anger, non-attachment and non-ignorance — from the positive mind and actions, which is Dharma, the result is happiness. From the wrong concept, ignorance of karma—not knowing what is right mind and actions and what is wrong, negative mind and negative actions—the result is suffering. We have ignorance of this, we have attachment to this life, and we have anger. So the mind which has none of these wrong thoughts is pure Dharma, pure mind, happy mind, inner happy mind and satisfied mind. From that there is the result of temporary and ultimate happiness in this life and the next life.

Even this life's problems come from the wrong concept and wrong action. This life's happiness also comes from the right concept, the correct way of thinking, and correct actions, pure actions. From that, inner happiness comes. So even this hour’s happiness, right now, if we think in a positive way, then we have happiness, but if we think in a negative way, then we have suffering. Even the person who got angry towards us in the past, who gave us harm in the past, who we regard as an enemy, maybe first we cherished that person and now we have renounced him. Maybe in the beginning we were attached and now totally the opposite.

In the beginning we thought that person was the same as a holy being, a bodhisattva or buddha, or even just a good human being, then when he gets angry with us, provokes us, harms us, or even tries to kill us, we see him as an enemy. Actually we should see him as the most kind person; this person who is our enemy is our teacher of patience, for us to learn patience. Maybe we do meditation on patience, but here, this person is our practical teacher. We can do the action meditation of patience with him, so we have the opportunity to use him and to see him as most kind—kinder than someone who gives us a hundred thousand dollars. Just giving us a hundred thousand dollars, that alone doesn't help us to be free, to have a happy death or to stop us being reincarnated in the hell realms or as a hungry ghost or animal.

If we practice patience towards the person who is angry at us, who harms us, by thinking how extremely kind he is, then we don’t get reborn in the lower realms as a hell being, hungry ghost or animal. Also the enemy actually gives us the opportunity to create the cause for good rebirth and for our next life to be born as a deva or higher. Then also that person becomes the cause to cease all of our sufferings and to achieve ultimate happiness, full enlightenment, peerless happiness for sentient beings and to be able to free the numberless sentient beings from each realm from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to omniscience, ultimate happiness and full enlightenment.

Even for non-believers, recognizing the real enemy is a great teaching, a great learning for the mind. From this we can see that if we have much influence and power in the world, then we can destroy the whole world by our wrong way of thinking. This has happened in history, with Hitler and so forth—people with much power and influence who kill many millions of people—so we can see the incredible harm that can happen from not practicing patience. If we practice patience then it subdues the anger and the violent mind that harms us and harms the world. By practicing patience, it brings happiness to ourselves and to the world, not only to our country, society, family, husband, wife and children. It brings so much happiness, then more happiness in our relationships, so they become much better, longer lasting. If we have no anger but are patient, that itself is a happy mind.

Due to the kindness of the person we call the enemy, who is teaching us patience, then we are able to give happiness to the whole world. This is unbelievably important, unbelievably important, as everybody wants happiness and does not want suffering—even the insects, even the worms, even the smallest flies.

I would like to mention this to you as an example. In America there are often many children who kill people with guns. It happens again and again, or even a normal person suddenly goes crazy and shoots many people with a gun, though he was not at all crazy before. In reality, of course, they were crazy in their view, according to Dharma practitioners, and of course they were crazy doing something like this, which is so totally wrong. They were following the wrong concept, not Dharma wisdom.

These mass killings happen from time to time in America, but the American government still does not have a really good answer as to why it happens; they still think that everybody should have guns. This is because people have self-cherishing thought; they are thinking just about their own protection, their own life, so they think to allow everybody to have guns. This is what happens all the time and now, even more and more, because it is being reported and glorified in the news, so now it seems many people do it to become famous.

If the scientists or the government or society believed in reincarnation, if they knew what the mind is, that there is continuation, that it does not stop with the body [then they would have the answer.] The body disintegrates, but the mind continues. The nature of the mind is formless, colorless and shapeless and the nature of the body is form, color and shape. The mind continues from past life; there is continuation. Before the first second that the mind took place in the mother's womb, it came from a past life.

There are so many children in the East and West, as well as old people, who through meditation, through karma, through developing the mind in the path, can remember their past lives—their own and others—and who also know future lives. It is not only Tibetan lamas who can remember their past lives.

I had one book about an American professor who went to many countries to look for people—old people and children—who could remember their past lives. He made this book of all the stories of the different people who remembered their past lives. Reincarnation is not known much at the moment, also the subject of karma—whatever we experience, good or bad, in this life is the result of past actions, past motivation, whether negative or positive.

For example, when my mother's incarnation was four years old, he was able to remember his past life family and he didn't feel shy with them, but with other people who my mother didn’t spend time with in her past life, then he felt shy. Then also the little boy, my mother's incarnation, was able to remember my mother's best friend, who was a kind person. When the little boy came to his house he was able to remember the friend’s name and he offered him wine or tea. After that, my mother's best friend grabbed the little boy, my mother's incarnation, and kept him in front of him and cried and cried and cried, because the incarnation remembered him from past life. Like that, there were also many material things the incarnation remembered from his past life, things that he looked for when he came back to Lawudo, the place where I was supposed to be in my past life, that high lamas mentioned.

Another clear story about my mother's incarnation is about a shirt my sister made for the little boy. My mother in the past had kept a small bottle of buttons, because a long time ago we regarded buttons as very precious. It was a very primitive place and in order to get buttons, also spoons, we had to get them from Kathmandu—we could not get them in the mountains, so these things were regarded as very precious. So my mother used to keep all these buttons in a jar, then my sister made a shirt using all the buttons that had been in the jar. She put them on the shirt and gave it to my mother's incarnation. The little boy immediately expressed, “These are my buttons.”

Another example was during the temple inauguration, so the incarnation offered a kata (offering scarf) to everyone who attended the inauguration, except for two people. He didn't offer to his own father or to one monk who lived at Lawudo. He didn't give the kata to his father because in the past life, my mother got very upset with him. We got water from one hermitage, a cave where an ancient great yogi had lived—that was where we got water from, only when there was not enough water at Lawudo—but the incarnation’s father had stopped the water during my mother's life. There was a pipe that went from one side of the mountain to the other, so the father put sand and rocks in the pipe and tried to block it so we couldn't get water. My mother got very upset, so that was why the incarnation didn’t give the kata to him.

The reason why he didn't give a kata to the monk who lived at Lawudo was because my mother used to tell me quietly that he was a very, very angry person. He got very heavily angry, so the little incarnation didn’t give a scarf to him either.

Then also he did exactly what my mother used to do. Whenever she went to the temple, first she would take a blessing from His Holiness the Dalai Lama's throne, then she would go to my very low throne, where I sat, then to the altar and then she would go around the temple seven times. So that is exactly what the incarnation did. He did exactly the same as my mother used to do and at the end he gave a scarf to the prayer wheel that my mother used, that I had made for my mother, then the incarnation grabbed the prayer wheel before he left.

I know there are also Western children who remember their past lives; some were great yogis in the past. There is one boy in Canada who remembers his father's reincarnation, so I know there are people who know about even other people’s reincarnations. They can remember this because of karma and through meditation. As the mind develops, we get higher and higher realizations, so there are many ways. Of course people who don't know meditation, then it is not their experience. Whatever new discovery happens, that meditators experience, we have to accept that it is possible.

For example, if people in America understood the mind, if they recognized what the mind is exactly—that it has continuation, with no beginning or end, that it can even be free from oceans of samsaric suffering and its causes, karma and delusion and wrong concepts, and can achieve the peerless happiness, the state of omniscience, and that there is no end of the mind, it always continues and also about reincarnation and karma—then they would have the answer. The answer is to practice purification of karma, which is the cause that made the little boy or the man kill many people—they appeared normal and then suddenly killed many people. So, because of reincarnation and understanding karma, there is the basis to understand the causes of the actions of body, speech and mind, whether good or bad, and then the result, happiness or suffering, and experiencing that.

Therefore we have to purify those negative actions, what was collected in the past—not only in this life, but in past lives—so we can purify, and by purifying in a perfect way we don’t have to experience the suffering result. Only then is there the ultimate answer, which is to cease the cause of the suffering by actualizing renunciation to samsara and realizing emptiness only, shunyata, the ultimate reality of the I and aggregates and so forth. Then we cease the cause of suffering—delusion and karma, the seed of delusion and karma—and we are free from the oceans of samsaric suffering forever. That is the ultimate happiness.

For example, the negative karma of killing one insect has four suffering results:

1) Ripening result, which means rebirth as a hell being, hungry ghost or animal, and suffering—for how long depends on how heavy the action of killing was. The other three suffering results we experience in the human realm.

2) Possessed result. This means the place where we reincarnate is very dirty or very dusty, a depressing place, not pleasant.

3) Experiencing the result similar to the cause. This means how we treat others, for example, if we kill [another sentient being], then we will experience something similar, so others will kill us. For example, similar to the stories I mentioned before, like the child killing people in America or a normal person suddenly killing many people. For example, we are walking and then somebody shoots us, a person that we didn't know, there is no connection from before that we have harmed this person. In this life we have never met that person but suddenly he shoots us and we die. Getting killed by others actually happens many times. By killing one tiny insect, if we don't purify that karma, then the result is to experience the result similar to the cause, so we will be killed by others for 500 lifetimes. That is the karmic result and it is possible it could even be for more than 500 lifetimes, even longer.

4) Creating the result similar to the cause, because there are imprints left from past lives. Past lives means it is not just from the life before this one, it could be from a billion, zillion, trillion, numberless eons ago. The negative imprints are left on the mental continuum by the past negative karma, so there is habituation, imprints left by negative karma on the mind. If we don’t purify these, then we will do it again in this life—even if we are born as a human being, we do the act of killing again, to other people and animals.

That is why, for example, in a family with two children, one child sees other people fighting and he cries. He doesn’t want to see other people suffering, he wants them to have harmony and peace, but the other child in the same family likes to kill insects and harm people. The children are from the same family, the same parents, but each child has a totally different personality. The real reason is not what scientists may say—the atoms in the body or whatever are the conditions, but the main cause is the continuation of the mind, which carries negative imprints. One child has more positive imprints and therefore more compassion. He doesn't want others to suffer and he wants to help, whereas the other child wants to kill and harm others, so that is because of the continuation of mind. Each mind has the continuation of past negative imprints, so this time their experience is this, they are born like this.

It is the same thing for earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, cyclones etc, also for many people who die every day from disease. There are new diseases that didn’t happen before, that are now appearing, and there are so many dangers happening—all of this is the result of past negative karma, having harmed others, so now others harm us or we experience harm. All of the harms definitely come from the mind, from our karma, but we can purify the mind, the negative karma, the obscurations.

There are many different methods of purification, but the best purification is generating compassion to even one sentient being, besides all sentient beings. The strongest compassion generates the strongest purification and it is a quick way to achieve all the realizations and a quick way to fulfill all the wishes for happiness now and in the future, and to achieve the omniscient mind, full enlightenment for sentient beings, so that is the best one.

Even non-believers know that generating compassion to all living beings is so important; even scientifically it is now mentioned. Doctors, I think at Harvard University, recently checked and said that those who think more of others than themselves in everyday life have less heart disease—they have healthier hearts. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has also been meeting with Buddhist and Western scientists for so many years and it seems that Western scientists have now discovered that it is definitely necessary to have compassion in order to be more healthy. [By generating compassion] less people will die of a heart attack, which is ultimately caused by anger, a violent mind, which disturbs the body. So we can see in reality how compassion brings not only health, but inner happiness and satisfaction. What makes a person happiest is compassion, also renunciation causes a satisfied mind, but even more is compassion. There are so many things to say, sorry this is becoming long.

For example, just recently in the Philippines, there was the situation due to the weather; there was so much suffering and so many people were dying. Definitely all these things, in the West they don’t know the cause, they don't know about mind, so they don't know what causes all these outside things. They call it natural phenomena or instinct, but this just means they don't know why it is caused, why something happens from its own side. They have no explanation. In Buddhism, the explanation is that it came from karma, from the mind. So we can purify that, everybody can. All suffering, even hell, is only temporary; it is not permanent, so everyone can become enlightened. No matter how much they are suffering now, it is only temporary, everything has an end.

So people who get shot, if they had purified past negative karma then they would not get shot. If the person who does the act of shooting had purified their past karma before—if they had purified well with the four opponent powers, then they wouldn't have to do the action of killing. When someone kills another and the doctors realize they are not crazy—that this is just a normal person who suddenly changed and killed someone—they don't understand why. The reason is that all these things come from the mind; it is all to do with the concept, the mind, the way of thinking. This can be very difficult to understand, to accept. Wow, wow, wow, the wrong concept is heavier than a rock, heavier than an iron mountain—the solidity to believe that there is no reincarnation and no karma.

Each individual, however many lives he takes for however many eons, has to understand Dharma, to understand karma, to understand the mind, reincarnation, all these things, and then the second thing is to practice, to change, to abandon the cause of suffering and to practice the cause of happiness, especially ultimate happiness, the cause of enlightenment. Without that, we have to suffer on and on and on; we have to experience the problems on and on and on, with no answer, no solution and on top of that, we keep creating negative karma. From beginningless rebirth and again in this life, we keep creating continuously the cause of suffering, continuing from beginningless rebirth up to now, all day and night, all the time. We keep creating negative karma all the time, constantly, with our body, speech and mind, because of not knowing the mind, not knowing reincarnation and karma, not knowing Dharma and not practicing.

So really all the people in the world are the objects of our compassion. All the people in the world, not only animals, but all these people we can see, are unbelievable, unbelievable, most precious objects of compassion.

For animals it is so difficult to explain this, and so difficult for them to understand the cause of suffering and how to stop that, but generally speaking, for people, who have human bodies, it is easy to understand—they have so much intelligence, they can check up and they can learn. But in reality, most people do not know about this, they do not know what I have been talking about. They are almost like the many worms and ants. It’s so incredible, there’s no way to explain, no opportunity.

Thank you so much. I’m very, very, very sorry I wasted so much of your time reading my long letter. Thank you very, very, very much, thank you so much, I hope you don't get angry because of my long letter. Don't get impatient. Thank you very much. If you want to say something please write, thank you.

You have a precious human body and me too, this means we are trying to enlighten each other. We are trying to help enlighten each other. Thank you so much.

With much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

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