Death Can Come at Any Time

Death Can Come at Any Time

Date of Advice:
September 2013
Date Posted:
October 2021

Rinpoche advised the importance of training the mind in lamrim and especially remembering impermanence and death, in this letter to a student who requested life practices. Rinpoche suggested preliminary practices to purify obstacles and collect merit so that lamrim realizations can be actualized.

Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche with International Mahayana Institute Sangha, Bodhgaya, India, 1982. Photo: Dieter Kratzer

My most dear, most kind, most precious wish-fulfilling one, 
I am very sorry for the long delay. Please find my advice for your life practices.

You are most welcome to enlightenment and most welcome to free numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to full enlightenment.

There is nothing more important than to meditate on the lamrim and have realizations. This is most beneficial for sentient beings and that means also for yourself.

I just wanted to add this. One thing that general people do not think about—even scientists or people who are very learned in Buddhist philosophy—is impermanence and death. Death can come any day, any year, any month, or any day or night, any hour. Not just death, but the mind continues and whatever rebirth we will take depends on karma. So for those of us who don’t have realizations, even though we practice Dharma our mind is usually nonvirtuous. We have to think [about impermanence and death] until we are free from samara, which is all suffering.

One important thing is that we have to get out of samsara and then the most important thing is to achieve enlightenment, to be able to liberate numberless sentient beings from each suffering realm and bring them to full enlightenment. This is why we need to practice Dharma.

I am suggesting these preliminary practices [see below] because Lama Tsongkhapa asked Manjushri, “What is the quickest way to achieve enlightenment?” Manjushri said, “First purify obstacles and [collect] extensive merits, then one-pointedly pray to the guru. Next, the actual body of practice is training the mind in the lamrim, the graduated path to enlightenment.” This is how Manjushri answered, so without practicing purification and collecting merits, lamrim realizations cannot happen, the mind cannot change, so for that we need to do preliminary practices.

Start the day off with the daily meditation, which includes the mantras for blessing the speech and the direct meditation on the path to enlightenment. [See The Method to Transform a Suffering Life into Happiness (Including Enlightenment.)]

Golden Light Sutra: Read this every month, six times. There is an elaborate, medium and very short text. If you can, read any of them and continue doing this throughout your life. It’s an unbelievable way to collect merit, and even if just an animal or someone else hears the sutra they collect unbelievable merit and purify negative karma collected from beginningless rebirths. It’s most unbelievably fortunate to be able to recite this and to come to know the Buddha’s teachings. The Golden Light Sutra helps for world peace and for your own country and it becomes healing for all the sick people in your country. So please read the Golden Light Sutra with strong bodhicitta, to free the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, asuras and intermediate state beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering

Nyung nä retreat: You are most welcome to do some nyung näs each year. It is very strong purification and a quick way to purify negative karmas collected since beginningless rebirths and to collect merits and go to the pure land and achieve enlightenment.

Four immeasurable thoughts: 600,000, with meditation.

Tsa tsas: 200,000, either Twenty-one Taras or just Green Tara. I don’t think we have a Twenty-one Taras tsa tsa yet, so it would have to be created. If a mold is made, it shouldn’t be too small, and it should be done well, with good art. It could be created by Peter or Denise Griffin. Another deity can be Secret Vajrapani, but if you just make the Tara tsa tsas that is OK and then at some big gathering you can offer them to people, after painting them gold.

You also need to practice effortful lamrim meditation and continue until you have stable realizations. Then do effortless meditation on the lamrim.

With much love and prayers ...