Dharma Practice Stopped After Disrobing

Dharma Practice Stopped After Disrobing

Date Posted:
October 2009

A student, an ex-monk, stopped doing all his practices, had children, then wrote after a few years asking for guidance. In that time he had become very disillusioned.

My very dear one,
Thank you very much for your kind letter, which I read. I am sorry for the long delay in replying.

So, it is due to past karma, how things happened in your life, and the conditions that ripened after you were a monk. However, my advice is nothing new, as you know. So, it is important to remember impermanence and death as much as possible. Read Pabongka Rinpoche’s teachings on impermanence. If you can’t finish it all, then read a little bit the next day and each day.

First thing, when you get up, generate your motivation for life, how you are going to live your life. After generating bodhicitta, think: I am going to do all my activities with this motivation. Then, whatever action you do, whether it is prostrations, reciting mantras, but especially all one’s activities, such as sleeping, talking, eating, studying, etc., think I am going to achieve enlightenment for all sentient beings, and pray that all your activities may become only the cause of enlightenment for all sentient beings.

Then, think: Due to all the merits of the three times accumulated over the three times by me, and by the buddhas and bodhisattvas, may I be like Lama Tsongkhapa, by having the same qualities as Lama Tsongkhapa himself, and be able to benefit sentient beings exactly like Lama Tsongkhapa, as vast as the sky and limitless. Make strong prayers like this. After your motivation, then generate bodhicitta by doing the seven techniques of cause and effect, exchanging self and others, equalizing self and others, the faults of self-cherishing, and the qualities of cherishing others, then tonglen. Practice a different one each day. While you are doing this, you can chant the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM, so you get this done.

It is good to make offerings after you have washed and, if possible, to do prostrations while reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names.

Then practice guru yoga. You can do Six-session Guru Yoga, because you have received many highest tantra initiations, so you must do that. It is very important to at least do that. If you can’t do Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, then just do Six-session Guru Yoga, but it is very important to insert a lamrim prayer before the end, before the guru absorbs into you.

Do at least one lamrim prayer every day, such as the Foundation of all Good Qualities, Calling the Guru from Afar (long version), the Three Principles of the Path, etc. You can change it each day, like having a different appetite for the lamrim, so you don’t get bored. This is a very, very essential thing. However many million other preliminary practices you do, reciting at least one lamrim prayer a day is the most important thing. lamrim is what makes one’s life meaningful; it is the path to enlightenment. So, reciting a lamrim prayer is a direct meditation on the lamrim. Just reading a lamrim prayer, mindfully, relating it to your own life, is a direct meditation. lamrim is the essence. It has the whole path to enlightenment in it. So, reading mindfully becomes a direct meditation on the whole path, and it leaves positive imprints of the whole path to enlightenment on your mind, just within those few minutes.

This is much more meaningful than reciting 100 million mantras. It is even more meaningful than seeing Buddha, because just seeing or even meeting Buddha directly doesn’t mean you will become enlightened, because you have to have the realizations. Meditating on the lamrim ceases the defilements and gradually you will have the realizations.

This direct meditation, going through the lamrim prayer, is the most important thing in your daily life, in order to achieve enlightenment, so that then you are able to liberate numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsara’s sufferings and bring them to enlightenment. Each time you meditate on the lamrim by reciting even one lamrim prayer, it brings you one more day closer to enlightenment, and to enlightening all sentient beings.

Every day do a little meditation on guru devotion, for ten or fifteen minutes. You can do longer if you are able. Then, each week, change the lamrim subject that you are focusing on (but still do a little guru devotion meditation every day). For one week, focus more on the perfect human rebirth, next week its usefulness, the next week on the difficulties of finding it again. Keep going like this through the lamrim, up to karma. Then, go back again until you achieve all the realizations. Carry on like this, going back again until you achieve all the realizations. Either do this from your understanding, follow the outlines, or you can read Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand.

Every day, do one short meditation on emptiness. It could be reading and meditating on the Heart Sutra or using some short technique. Six-Session Guru Yoga can be your guru yoga. Within that there is the mandala offering and many important things. You can make it more elaborate if you want to.

Before going to bed practice Vajrasattva. This is very important, with the four remedial powers. Recite the mantra twenty-one times.

Every minute you can, meditate on the lamrim. Try to do everything with the lamrim mind. You already know my advice on this. Try to do everything with a bodhicitta motivation, the thought of benefiting others. Then, whatever you do, try to make it beneficial for others. You can use each moment to meditate on emptiness, on renouncing samsara, on guru devotion, on bodhicitta, etc.

Whatever activity you do, have your mind in the lamrim, as much as you can. That means that your attitude is lamrim, it is virtue, and whatever action you do becomes the cause of liberation. If your mind is in the right view, emptiness, then every activity you do becomes the antidote to samsara, not the cause of samsara. It is ceasing the cause of samsara. If your mind is in bodhicitta, then every activity you do becomes the cause of enlightenment.

By obtaining the guru’s advice, every activity brings you closer to enlightenment—every minute, every second—closer to enlightenment. Anything that is done in connection with the guru brings you closer to enlightenment.

Read Dharma books, the lamrim, and in this way it becomes a meditation when you read. If you have no time to do traditional practice, your life is very busy, with children and family, then your motivation is the most important thing, your attitude being in the lamrim is the main refuge. So, every day, minute, hour, or second, whether you go to the lower realms or enlightenment, samsara or nirvana, happiness or problems, it all depends on your attitude each hour, minute, and second—being able to keep your attitude in Dharma.

This was Buddha’s advice to the king. The king wanted to practice Dharma, but had no time to practice, so Buddha’s advice was: motivation. This is the most important thing to pay attention to, your attitude, making sure your motivation is bodhicitta.

Rejoicing is very easy and very important. You can rejoice in the merits of the three times of numberless sentient beings, as well as the merits of all the bodhisattvas and Buddhas. This is very important: to rejoice in all Buddha’s merits of the three times, also rejoicing in all the qualities and realizations. Then, sooner or later, you will become like them.

Then, dedicate all the merit collected to achieving enlightenment for all sentient beings.
You have a very busy life, so this is the essential Dharma practice, and the most profitable way to practice Dharma. Other than that, it’s up to you; it depends on how much you can do. You can increase your practice little by little.

It is very good if you go over the middle lamrim. This has just been translated by students. Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand—you already know this, but it is good to keep going over it. The Essential Nectar – use this for meditation.

You can also read the middle lamrim and use it as a basis for meditation, relating it to your life.

Since you have created children (not created by God, but created by you), now you have a big responsibility to give your children a good life, to teach them to become better human beings. You and your wife sacrificed your life for the children. So, the children need clear guidance and direction, examples, etc. Especially in the future, if they have bad friends, that can have an effect and can destroy their lives, if they don’t know better. So, it is important that you help to direct their lives so they can benefit the world, bring peace to the world, bring more harmony and happiness into the world. Make sure they don’t harm themselves or others; you need to put effort in here.

You can educate them in developing pure attitudes, being generous and kind, so they can become very kind and generous people. There is a new Universal Education book and you can try to follow that as much as you can. There are the sixteen dharmas and ten divine dharmas. These are methods to teach children and also for ourselves, on how to live one’s life. First, one practices kindness, rejoicing, tolerance, forgiveness (when someone has harmed you), and if you have done something wrong then you apologize, then there is some contentment. I’m not saying you have to be an ascetic meditator, you need some contentment. Otherwise, desire will drive you crazy.

It is also very good to do Chenrezig practice and Medicine Buddha from time to time. This is important.

Whatever number of preliminaries I mentioned to you before to do, keep this in mind, and later you might find time to do them, slowly, otherwise, in the next life. You can reincarnate again and do the rest of the practices.

Regarding your deity commitment, don’t give it up in your heart, and try to do it again, slowly, slowly. Practice whatever your main deity is, try to do it a little more elaborately, then do the other deities’ commitments more quickly. Slowly come back, and try like this.

His Holiness used to say if you are doing something for others and because of this you are unable to do your practices, then it’s OK, but if you are unable to do them because of laziness, then that is your own loss.

With much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

Read a French translation of this advice on Facebook!