Freedom from the Prison of Samsara

Freedom from the Prison of Samsara

Date of Advice:
January 2021
Date Posted:
July 2021

Rinpoche wrote this letter to a new nun advising the importance of renouncing the eight worldly concerns and meditating on impermanence and death.

Rinpoche in Tibet 2002. Photo: Bob Cayton

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
It’s so important to have compassion and bodhicitta for sentient beings and to be free of the eight worldly dharmas, to be free from attachment to this life, to food, clothing and reputation (this is the most difficult one). The eight worldly dharmas are to dislike not receiving happiness, not having pleasure, to feel discomfort or dislike for a bad reputation and uninteresting things, and to not receiving gifts, like at the birthday time. Then to have attachment to this life, to interesting things, to praise and [a good reputation], to these things.

So how to be free from that is by doing much meditation on impermanence and death, as well as on the eight freedoms and ten richnesses. Each has a benefit and contributes to developing in this life the three great meanings.

Thus each month, each day, each hour, each minute becomes meaningful, we are able to see that we can achieve the three great meanings, that this life is highly meaningful, it doesn’t last long and it’s difficult to get again.

Also, in relation to meditating on impermanence and death, we need to do the nine-round meditation on death: that death is definite, the time of death is uncertain and nothing helps at the time of death except Dharma. Separating from materials, from friends and from this body—these three don’t help. Only Dharma helps at the time of death, in order to be free from the lower realms and to get a perfect human rebirth again, to not fall into the lower nirvana and to attain enlightenment. Nothing else is important, so we have to let go in order to practice Dharma.

With the realization of impermanence we can do this—not just listening, reflecting and meditating, but having this realization all the time, when we are walking, eating, sleeping, etc., then every action becomes pure Dharma.

For us ordinary beings, we think the topics in the lamrim of compassion and bodhicitta are good, but without realization of impermanence and death, renunciation, without giving up attachment, we can’t have those other realizations. We also have more problems, and we tend to follow worldly people which means working with attachment to this life. Then we start to think that to give this up, it seems like being in prison. Our vows become like being in prison and we want to give them up, thinking they are bad. There is no freedom from samsara but we think it is freedom. It’s what we call freedom, but instead we are born in the lower realms, in samara or lower nirvana, and we are not free from that. Being reborn in the lower realms and in samsara, that is what we call free.

So in this way the mind has lost interest in the benefits of this life. We don’t feel it and it just becomes words and then what we think is freedom is totally wrong freedom, it is the prison of samsara forever. Therefore meditation on impermanence is very important.

From the eight worldly dharmas, attachment arises easily and very strongly, and we easily lose our vows. We think that the other person who we are attached to is fantastic. Then our vows are finished anytime. We think this person we are attached to is mind-blowing. We want to have sex immediately and we think that this is the best way. In this way, our life as an ordained person is finished. Then after everything is finished we think, “Ah, I shouldn’t have done that.”

We think it’s a good thing for the self-cherishing mind and attachment and the I, but then our life becomes worse with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sooner or later they don’t love us or they love others, then we hate that person and then we really suffer or even commit suicide. We don’t think about karma or we think that suicide means no more problems, but then there are the lower realms and suffering. Because we make the problem so big, or if it is a spirit harming who made us do that, and then it is so easy to commit suicide.

When the person we decide to be with leaves us, then what? We never think far into the future, only now. That’s attachment and the self-cherishing thought.

So impermanence and death meditation is very important. It protects us from suffering in samsara in general, from negative karma and from suffering of the lower realms. So you need to continue this meditation, not just for one month. Then you need to develop the three principal aspects of the path and then to practice tantra.

So for you, stay with Geshe-la if you can, then there will be less distraction. Then you can go better and better to enlightenment for all sentient beings. That’s how you can use your life for sentient beings.

With much love and prayers ...