I have asked someone to try and send you advice that I have given in the past to prisoners and also some Dharma books to read. I will also check which books are best for you.
Anyway, the place you are in can look bad both inside and out, but it can be the place of retreat according to Mahayana sutra and tantra, thus allowing you to become free from samsara, to attain liberation and enlightenment. The situation can be good for developing concentration because it is without all the distractions of worldly concern—being attached to pleasure and not wanting suffering; being attached to receiving fame and notoriety and [not wanting a bad reputation]; wanting praise and not wanting blame.
We become free of distractions in this life by practicing Dharma, thereby increasing peace in life. It’s like the example of Milarepa, who generated incredible peace by completely renouncing everything of this life. He became free of attachment, free of grasping at self and free of self-concern. He was free from all that. These are the real enemies and the cause of suffering in this and future lives, in all samsara, and the cause of harm for all sentient beings since beginningless time.
Milarepa did that and actualized bodhicitta through renunciation of this and future lives. He eliminated all the temporal and ultimate obscurations; he became free of those and attained liberation from samsara and total enlightenment. Not only that, on the basis of bodhicitta—the precious thought of enlightenment, which brings all the temporal and ultimate happiness for oneself and the temporal and ultimate happiness for all sentient beings—he practiced tantra, Mahayana tantra not Hinayana tantra, and he became free of ordinary appearance and ordinary concept, and instead of that he experienced pure appearance and concept. At that time, you are the deity, you become a buddha, not a spirit in samsara, overwhelmed by delusion and karma.
By being free of the ordinary or impure concept and mind that causes all the suffering, according to Mahayana tantra, then we achieve the ultimate goal of buddhahood, which means the total cessation of obscurations, gross and subtle, and the completion of all realizations. Due to this, having bodhicitta born of great compassion, Milarepa became famous in the world, even though there were many yogis who were pratimoksha vow holders. Also, he became famous in the West and not just in India and Nepal. His life story, a most inspiring life story, gives inspiration to so many meditators due to his renunciation of attachment to this life and the unbelievable peace that he attained in his life due to enlightenment.
In the early part of his life, after his father died, Milarepa’s family was harmed by relatives and he retaliated with black magic. In that valley, on the nearby hills, in a deep hole he practiced black magic for seven days, then he used it to crush the relatives’ house. Rocks fell while they were having a party, singing and dancing, and they were killed. After this, Milarepa generated deep regret for what he had done. Then he went to his black magic guru who advised him to go and meet Marpa. He had no offerings to make to Marpa, but requested to have food, shelter and teachings; he requested Marpa to give him everything. Marpa accepted, being an enlightened being, free of all obscurations and complete in realizations.
Guru Marpa knew exactly how to subdue Milarepa’s mind and guide him to enlightenment. In the view of general people, it looked like he was only giving punishment. It was difficult for outside people to understand that Marpa was guiding him to enlightenment, but he brought him to enlightenment in a brief lifetime of degenerate times. Marpa didn’t give Milarepa teachings and initiations for years and instead only gave him difficult jobs and scolding. He was asked to build towers, one of which you can still see today, though I didn’t see it when I went on pilgrimage in Tibet. Milarepa wasn’t allowed any porters; he had to do everything himself. First he had to build a tower then tear it down and return the stones to their original place. Then a second time he had to do that—build it, tear it down and return the stones. The third time he had to build it again, but not tear it down.
His guru wanted to give him more hardships in order for him to become enlightened more quickly. This enlightened being, Marpa, looked like a farmer, all dusty from his work in the fields. His wisdom mother pushed Marpa to give initiations and teachings to Milarepa, as she couldn’t bear what was happening. Marpa then manifested a mandala and gave initiation and teachings, then sent him to remote places in Tibet —Mount Kailash, [Tsari and Labchi]—where he generated realizations in the different places. His example gave inspiration to so many people. He followed his guru’s words exactly, without anger or heresy. He was very capable, so he achieved full enlightenment in a brief life of degenerate times.
If you know how to think, you can see everything as retreat. All the suffering, problems, viruses in the world, and other problems such as earthquakes, tsunamis, water, wind and fire problems in the world, all came from sentient beings not taking care of their minds. Instead, they followed anger, attachment and ignorance. The root of samsara is holding the I as truly existent, grasping it as true, as real. That I which suffers in samsara, goes to hell and to enlightenment, is merely labelled by the mind. The I causes all our problems, but in actuality it exists in mere name.
If you are happy, I will send you some books from Nepal, or if it’s difficult to send them from here, I will send them from other places. If OK, then please read my heart advice, from my heart to your heart.
This life is very short, so rather than following wrong concepts, the self-cherishing thoughts, follow the positive mind, the very happy mind, which is free from attachment to this life and to the future lives’ samsara. Follow the unbelievably happy mind which is free from self-cherishing. Bodhicitta only cherishes sentient beings and is the basis for tantra. Then for yourself, living in pure appearance and concept, there will be skies of happiness, free of ordinary, impure subtle wind and mind and living in pure wind and mind. You can achieve unbelievable skies of happiness, unbelievable.
I will check if books can be sent to you, then by reading them you can make your life the creator of happiness all the way to enlightenment. By being in the detention centre, you can make your life into unbelievable happiness. Whether you experience happiness or suffering depends on how you think, the way you think.
The mind is the creator of whether you have happiness or suffering. Like for example, when someone is angry with you and complains, it’s up to your mind. If you call it “harm” then the person becomes the enemy, and you believe in that. If you don’t label in that way, they are the best help and the best friend. Then you see everything as positive. It’s up to you. If you don’t follow anger but instead follow patience, then everything is positive and pure.
I have given you this advice, so you can think about what I have explained. [Happiness] is in your hands. You can achieve happiness in the detention centre. You should know that in Tibet in the past, everything went upside down. Rich people became beggars and beggars became rich. High lamas were imprisoned, but because they could meditate, they generated high realizations. Prison helped them. Happiness is in your hands. This is in your hands. If you don’t liberate yourself, no-one can help. If you work to liberate yourself, others can help, like now, my message, my talk.
With love and prayers ...
Rinpoche later added this advice in relation to not receiving correspondence.
You should be kind, respectful and speak nicely to the people, then people will like you, and then they will give [the messages] to you. That positive mind of loving kindness and compassion for the people around you, anyway, having that is the correct way to live the life. Then by paying respect, with the body paying respect, then other people will be very happy. Then you will get the messages.
Those messages are not harmful. By the power of your mind, you can make the place where you are, which is so terrible looking, like paradise, and you can make your situation extremely happy.
Being nice is not politics; it’s the real meaning of life, how to live a positive life. Only benefiting others and not harming them; only bringing happiness to others brings happiness to us. So that’s the way to enjoy our life and for others to enjoy the life, from our body, speech and mind being very positive and very kind. Life is very short. We cannot say how many years, months, weeks or days we will have; we can’t say. Therefore, it is so important, with the short life that we have, to live it with a good heart toward others. That’s how we live your life very happily and also how we cause everyone to be happy. That’s the purpose of life.
Rinpoche also gave this advice in relation to living in such difficult conditions.
Thinking “This is bad, that is bad, how bad it is,” even those people who are not in prison, but are doing retreat, Buddhist retreat, those who know how to practice have very small desire and are very content in living their life. The main Dharma practice is to give up attachment, from where all the suffering—100,000 million sufferings—and all the problems arise. The absence or presence [of attachment] is what makes us happy and lets us make other people happy and unhappy. It’s what makes us unhappy and makes so many other people, including family, unhappy, with so much suffering.
Try not to follow that. Try to be free from that, away from that. The real way to be free from suffering and the real way to achieve happiness and satisfaction in the life is by letting go of attachment, becoming free from attachment. We need to let go of attachment, the cause of suffering, the cause of all the problems, the cause of all the diseases, such as skin disease, cancer or diabetes—that’s one problem, but there are so many [physical] problems and mental problems. This is the way of doing retreat in the Buddhist tradition, even if we are not in prison but in retreat.
All our problems come from ignorance, holding the I as real while it is not. What exists is in mere name. Not more than that. Nothing more than that. So that is the reality. That, and the self-cherishing thought and the common delusions—ignorance, anger, attachment. So many problems come from attachment. That’s where our life problems come from.
The real meaning of retreat is retreat from these. This is what makes our life unhappy, miserable, crazy, with so much harming of others. Even among other prisoners it causes so many problems, and it causes problems for the family and for the world. From there, it causes problems for this world. Then also mentally from life to life, for sentient beings throughout the six realms, even though their universe is very far away. There are numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless human beings, numberless sura beings, numberless asura beings and numberless intermediate state beings, like that. There are the six-realm suffering, obscured beings.
You don’t live in retreat in luxury, with luxury food and luxury conditions. You live life with small desire and with satisfaction, contentment. You have simple food and simple living, not luxury living. Living this way it is easy to control the mind and to achieve so much peace and happiness. Living this way you achieve incredible peace and happiness in this life by renouncing attachment. You also receive happiness in the future lives by renouncing attachment to samsara, to the samsaric perfections. You achieve unbelievable happiness by renouncing the self-cherishing thought, then you achieve the ultimate happiness, the highest peerless happiness, the total cessation of the obscurations and the completion of realizations, what’s called buddhahood, enlightenment. So like that, through the retreat, through this, it’s easy, so you can develop the mind and achieve all those high levels of peace and happiness.
Even Buddhists, not only people who haven’t met Dharma, who don’t know Dharma, but even Buddhists, many Buddhists, would not know that by renouncing attachment to this life we achieve really incredible, deep peace and happiness in this life. They don’t know that.
For common people, if they renounce attachment, for example in the West, people think renouncing attachment means they won’t have happiness and will only have suffering. That’s the normal understanding that people have. This is what they think, but it is totally wrong. Only people who practice the holy Dharma, the real spiritual [path], know this. Through their experience, they come to know this.
I have a car in America with a label or sign at the front, an advertisement, which says “Less desire, means more happiness and peace in the mind, in the heart.” That’s what you need to learn. By being involved in drugs and so forth, anything, then due to that, many years were spent in prison and this and that. All the problems are caused by attachment and they cease by not following that. If you had let go of attachment before, then you wouldn’t have had to experience all the problems that you’ve had until now. You didn’t need to experience it; it didn’t need to happen.
As an example, Milarepa, a lay person, achieved buddhahood in a brief lifetime of degenerate times. After he was initiated and had been given teachings and advice by his guru, who was a buddha, he went into a cave in the mountains to meditate. He had nothing and he lived only on nettles. Nettles were around, so it was easy. He lived on nettles for years. One day a thief came and since there was nothing to steal, they wanted to cook nettles in the clay pot. They asked where the salt was and where the chilies were.
Milarepa put another nettle in the pot and said, “This is salt.” He didn’t have chili so he put another nettle inside. We can’t stand food without the taste of chili and salt, but he was not in prison, he was in retreat. He had really progressed his mind on the path to enlightenment. Here there was no salt and chili, so from that example, we can understand. He achieved buddhahood, enlightenment, in a brief lifetime of degenerate times, in a few years.