My very dear Jenny,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I was happy that my last letter gave you inspiration, direction in life, energy, and faith. I’m very impressed, it touched my heart. Your practice remembering the guru in your everyday activities while cleaning, cooking, gardening, even taking care of the family, and doing yoga—that is exactly how one should practice.
When you offer a mandala, you offer not only your belongings but also your own body, speech, and mind to the guru. So, everything is offered to the guru. It is the same for eating, sleeping, washing—everything is practice—then you will have realizations 24 hours a day, stable realizations. You see the guru Buddha by training the mind, looking at it, and studying quotations and reasonings from the Buddha. Every day you live life to fulfill the holy wishes, even breathing in and out, taking care of oneself, keeping the body healthy, all of this. Not only that, but for those who have strong guru devotion, cherishing the guru more than one’s own life, with realizations of the kindness of the guru, every appearance is an appearance of the guru. Of course, good things happen, but anything besides that is purified by the guru’s blessings. This makes you realize how samsara is empty and inspires you to develop on the path.
With guru yoga practice and experiences, your heart is filled with joy and satisfaction and fulfillment. This way you definitely receive constant blessings from the guru and then from that receive realizations of the path—it is so easy like that. Such a practitioner is able to achieve enlightenment in this life, to actualize the three principal paths in this life and the two stages, and to achieve enlightenment even in one brief lifetime in these degenerate times.
For example, the bodhisattva “Always Crying One” (Tartu Ngon) did not practice tantra, just followed the sutra Paramita path, but he cherished his guru more than his life. In order for dust not to rise up and bother his guru, and because there was no water nearby, he let blood from his body spill onto the ground to dampen the dust. During the years when bodhisattva Chöpa was in retreat in the temple, Bodhisattva Always Crying One cleaned outside the monastery. In the Paramita path you have to collect three countless great eons of merit in order to achieve enlightenment, but Bodhisattva Always Crying One was able to complete the first countless great eon of merit within seven years because he cherished his guru more than his own life.
It is great what you are able to practice. Also, I am very impressed by your getting up very early in the morning to do daily practice. That is the best thing to do, and it is good to continue. Then you have more time in the day for other things, practices or whatever. Many Tibetans, monks, and lay people practice in the very early morning and finish before they do other things. If you can keep doing that, it would be extremely good. Otherwise, we are so busy during the day that we cannot take time for practice.
I understand you are very earnest, thinking you won’t be able to keep the commitments that you have taken from initiations, but I would like to advise you that life is very short, especially now in degenerate times, there are many more new diseases, so many conditions for death, obstacles to life, and death can happen any day, at any moment.
Tantric teachings do not exist in every human world—the east, west, and north human worlds. Only the southern continent has the tantric teachings. Even in the pure land, such as Amitabha pure land, some gurus say there are no tantric teachings. Bodhisattvas pray to be born here in the southern continent, practice tantric teachings, and then achieve enlightenment.
We can’t really say if you will have the opportunity to practice Dharma in the next life. Even just whether you will be a human being in the next life is extremely difficult to say. Just like me, in even one day, one hour, our actions are more non-virtuous than virtuous. For us, even when practicing Dharma for one hour, the motivation, even if it is not anger, is normally attachment to this life, and that grasping mind is non-virtue. So any action you do, even reciting prayers, eating walking, sitting, sleeping, doing a job—all this is non-virtue. You can see how difficult it is to be a human being in the next life. We need to practice good karma, virtue, particularly pure morality, so therefore it is better to take this opportunity. We need to know how rare it is to meet the teachings, and the incredible benefits.
Even if you complete the five powerful bhumis by practicing the path of sutra, before you achieve enlightenment you need to receive initiations and actualize the clear light. With the methods to actualize clear light, that mind becomes the direct cause for the Dharmakaya. At the end you need to achieve enlightenment by practicing tantra.
By only practicing the paramitayana path, you have to collect the three countless great eons of merit. That means it takes a long, long time to achieve enlightenment, and so sentient beings have to suffer for a long, long time; they are depending on you, so that is the problem. By practicing tantra, even the lower tantras, then you are able to achieve enlightenment in one life without the need to collect merit for three countless great eons. You are able to complete all those merits within one life, even by practicing the lower tantras. By practicing highest tantra you are able to complete all those merits within a few numbers of years by achieving the illusory body. You are able to achieve enlightenment. Highest tantra has the skilful means to eliminate the gross mind and actualize the extremely subtle mind. It is like an atomic bomb eliminating the defilements, the dualistic view. That is why by practicing highest tantra one can achieve enlightenment in one lifetime—it is the quickest path. There are tantric teachings still existing, which have not degenerated, in this world, and which are experienced not only in the monasteries, but by great high lamas. They are existing through their experiences; the complete teachings are existing, transmitted from Buddha through Lama Tsongkhapa and all those enlightened beings up to present gurus and masters. So you are incredibly fortunate to be able to take initiations and to practice, putting in all your effort so that sentient beings who rely on you can be liberated and freed from oceans of sufferings and brought to enlightenment.
In this fortunate eon there are 1,000 buddhas. Three of the buddhas did not teach tantra in this world. This is the first time that has happened—Shakyamuni Buddha taught the tantra teachings. Maitreya Buddha will not teach tantra. The seventh Buddha, a manifestation of Lama Tsongkhapa, will teach tantra, then the rest of the Buddhas won’t teach tantra, other than the last one, who promised to reveal whatever the previous Buddhas taught, so it is assumed that the last Buddha will teach tantra. It is not that the other Buddhas do not know tantra, but that the sentient beings don’t have the karma to receive the tantric teachings. If we receive all this, it is extremely rare. So, we take the opportunity to receive tantric teachings.
Another point of view I am going to explain to you is how important it is to take initiations and to practice as well as one can. My guru His Holiness Zong Rinpoche, who was ex-abbot of Ganden monastery in Tibet, was a great pandit, a highly attained yogi, appearing as ordinary but in reality he was Heruka. He used to advise, when people said, “I can’t take tantric commitments because by taking tantric commitments then I’ll go to hell” and all these things, that by taking highest yoga tantra initiations, then even if you are born in the hell realms, you will receive a human rebirth after some time, and again meet tantric teachings because of having met them before. Then you will practice tantra and achieve enlightenment.
His Holiness Zong Rinpoche said that by not taking tantric teachings and practicing the lesser vehicle path, you will enter into the Hinayana path, where you achieve the state of an arhat. So a person who, for example, has taken the Guhyasamaja initiation, can be born in the hell realms, then born back in the human realm, then take tantric teachings and achieve enlightenment. All this can happen while another person is not taking tantric initiations and is practicing the Hinayana path. While that being is in the arhat state, the blissful state of peace for oneself, for an incredible number of eons, they get stuck and absorbed in that. The other person takes the Guhyasamaja initiation, is born as a human, meets the tantric teachings, practices, and achieves enlightenment. Rinpoche used to compare them. So, even one practice of Guhyasamaja is so beneficial.
You said in your letter that you find it difficult to practice at home. Maybe that is because you are not getting inspired when you do prayers because maybe you are not meditating. When you don’t meditate, you don’t get inspired and it becomes like a ritual, like mere “blah blah blah.” You need to meditate when you recite the prayers, but also you need to know the meaning of the prayers. If you don’t know the meaning of the prayers then it becomes difficult, and there is no interest. There is a big difference between just reciting the prayer and reciting the prayer with meditation. One is alive, one is dead. I notice the difference myself sometimes when somebody leads prayers without meditation.
The other thing is that it is difficult to practice at home because one thinks that other things are important in life, the pleasures of this life, worldly concerns, attachment. One can find many things to do at home, such as watching TV (I’m watching TV while I’m dictating this). Watching TV like that without thinking is not the best thing. Attachment to this life, grasping at this life’s pleasures, thinking that many things are important, means the practice is put off all the time. The activities of this life are more important than practicing Dharma, and that is how the practice doesn’t get done. It is missed out.
The other thing is lack of lam-rim, lack of awareness of impermanence and death, especially death. Also, not thinking that this human body is so precious, that I have the 18 qualities, they are difficult to find again, and especially not reflecting on impermanence and death, that death can happen even today, any moment. When you don’t think of that, then attachment arises and this life’s pleasures become more important than Dharma practice, which causes all happiness, liberation from samsara, enlightenment, and being able to liberate countless sentient beings from oceans of samsaric sufferings.
When you don’t think of impermanence and death, that death can happen even today, at this moment, then attachment to this life arises. Then all the happiness of all future lives, liberation, enlightenment, and liberating countless sentient beings from oceans of suffering doesn’t happen. If this life is more important (and I don’t mean our very basic needs), pleasure becomes the most important thing. Due to a lack of thinking of Dharma, of impermanence and death, of the nature of the reality of life you are unable to practice Dharma.
There is no problem with practicing Padmasambhava. I make prayers to Padmasambhava. It is extremely important to pray every day to Padmasambhava for the removal of obstacles and for the success of your own Dharma practice, as well as for projects to benefit all sentient beings, especially if you are doing something for Tibet, projects in Tibet, making statues, building hospitals there, and so forth. Especially when things are related to helping the Tibetan people, you need a lot of prayers asking Padmasambhava to help. By the kindness of Padmasambhava, Tibet was purified and Dharma was spread in Tibet. And now Tibetan Buddhism has spread all over the world. If we have tens of thousands of people in the United States who follow the path to enlightenment, making their lives meaningful, that came from Padmasambhava who purified Tibet and pacified the obstacles to spreading Dharma in Tibet.
Your Deity to Achieve Enlightenment:
You can keep the Vajrayogini practice. Also, Cittamani Tara comes out well. Whichever you feel closer to, you can decide: Vajrayogini, Cittamani Tara, or Green Tara. For both Vajrayogini and Cittamani Tara you need to take another great initiation of another deity. Only then are you allowed to receive initiations of these deities and only then can you receive commentaries. The best preliminary for Vajrayogini or Tara Cittamani is Heruka, Guhyasamaja, or Hevajra.
- 10,000 refuge
- 100,000 mandala offerings
- 200,000 prostrations by reciting the 35 Buddhas
- Recite Diamond Cutter Sutra five times each month for six years
- Recite the Arya Sanghata Sutra 200 times
Reading these texts, such as the Sanghata Sutra, is an incredible way to collect merit. You collect much merit from hearing the Arya Sanghata Sutra.
Also, it is very important to do:
- Five months on the lam-rim: on the lower path
- Five months: middle path
- Eight months: bodhicitta
- Five months: emptiness
Then you circle back and start again.
Thank you very much for all your sincere heart. I understand you need help, and the company of Sangha. It would be good if you have some friends, Sangha, to communicate with and practice with.
Much love and prayer...