My very dear Madeline,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I am very happy you have reduced your smoking, as smoking is very harmful to your body and life. It can cause obstacles to your life, shorten your life, and cause cancer. Not only in the teachings, but even in ordinary life, it is said that smoking is harmful. It is also unbelievably gross.
Doctors understand that smoking is harmful for you. It is barred in many places, such as restaurants, theaters, and shops. The teachings say that the material in cigarettes is impure and that evil beings caused the substances to grow in order to interfere with people’s practice and degenerate the mind. With a bad intention, the evil beings made prayers for tobacco to grow to harm people in their practice of virtue, to degenerate their mind, to get them to engage in nonvirtue, and so that their mind is not free from delusion.
I once saw in a morgue the dead body of a woman who died of lung cancer from smoking, and her lungs were blue. A Tibetan doctor from Dharamsala put her hand into the body and took out her lung, which was all black and blue. So, if you want to die like this, you are most welcome.
It is said in a text composed by Panchen Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen (who also composed the Guru Puja) that when someone asked him to do po-wa practice, he asked first if the person who had just died smoked. He said that if the person smoked he would not be able to do po-wa, because he would not be able to transfer the consciousness through the person’s crown. Since even high lamas can’t transfer the consciousness of a person who smokes to the pure lands, if you want to be free, and especially if you want to go to the pure land at the time of death, don’t smoke.
You don’t have to follow every single thing your boyfriend does. Your mind is not his. Your mind is separate and your body is separate. You are responsible for your own happiness.
Smoking pollutes your whole body, making it impure. It makes it difficult for virtuous thoughts to arise, and it makes it very difficult not to have attachment. Smoking just gives some temporary pleasure, and that’s all. When you die, you don’t take one single benefit from smoking with you. Like an empty reputation in the world, it doesn’t protect you from suffering. It can’t make you achieve a good rebirth in the next life, and besides that, it can’t liberate sentient beings from samsara, and can’t actualize enlightenment.
Here, you are trying to become a champion, to defeat your delusions, especially your attachment. The main thing here is you have to be strong yourself. You can see how people spend their whole life training for the Olympics, practicing dancing on the ice and trying to be champions and defeat other people. When they don’t succeed, they experience unbelievable suffering, because they trained to win for so many years.
But if you can succeed over the enemy, delusion, by avoiding smoking cigarettes, which desire craves and which is your object of desire, that is so fantastic! You create less negative karma, and each time you succeed, it protects you from the lower realms, the most unbelievable, longest suffering in samsara. Not following delusion also causes you to achieve liberation and helps you to reach enlightenment. Each time you create the cause of realizations on the path to enlightenment. By defeating delusion, especially attachment, you will be able to liberate numberless sentient beings from eons of sufferings in samsara and bring them to enlightenment. What better Olympic sport is there than this one? What better champion is there? This way you become the most famous one among all sentient beings, not just in one country or in one world, but among all sentient beings—that is, you become a buddha. Every day you have to have courage. Be brave.
Padmasambhava explained how extremely harmful tobacco smoke is even to the area where you live, besides to the person smoking it, because it degenerates the mind and harms your chakras, winds, and drops. It is very harmful to the development of virtue. When you smoke, you pollute the environment and make the whole area impure. Many other beings, such as nagas and devas, go away, because they cannot bear it. They also harm people, who get very sick, with arthritis and so on, because of the smoke polluting and harming the nagas.
Your smoking also makes people who don’t smoke unhappy. When I am in the same room as someone who is smoking, it’s very unpleasant for me. It is difficult to breathe, and it has such a bad smell. I find it hard, because I feel I have to breathe the smoke, and it goes into my lungs.
At Kopan monastery there was once a caretaker, who helped to buy the land Kopan is built on. He used to take care of and milk the buffalo. Each day at sunrise, he would sit down and smoke. Because my window faced east, the smoke used to come into my room, and I would feel very uncomfortable when I breathed.
Smoking harms not just you, but so many other beings. The teachings say that the smoke from cigarettes destroys whole cities of nagas, like a tornado blowing everything away. This is what happens to them when you smoke.
With much love and prayers...