The purpose of our life is to free all sentient beings to enlightenment, therefore, we must purify all our negative karmas. Think about all the beings in the hot and cold hell realms. The fire in the hell realm is seven times hotter than all the fires in the human realm and the fire at the end of time is 60,000 times hotter than the fires in the human realm. The ground in the hell realm is iron that is oneness with fire, and there are so many other horrors, on top of that. We couldn’t stand it for even one second.
Death can happen today, or this morning. Before this happens, we must purify all the defilements that prevent realizations. Therefore, think, “I must do prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas, reciting the buddhas’ names, for the happiness of all sentient beings.”
This a normal motivation. First, think about our own negative karmas and develop strong regret and repentance. Start with the ten non-virtuous actions that have the four results: rebirth in the hell realm, the actual result; the result similar to the cause; the environmental result; and the propensity to do it again.
If we have taken the bodhisattva vows, breaking these is 100,000 times heavier than breaking the pratimoksha vows, and breaking the tantric vows is 100,000 times heavier than breaking bodhisattva vows. Think about how our motivation has been today—from this morning up to now—has it been virtuous or non-virtuous?
Check today’s activities and whether we are seeking just the happiness of this life. Check if our activities are Dharma or not. Even check whether meditating or reciting prayers is Dharma or not—if the subject is Dharma, but the action is not Dharma. This is besides things like anger.
Today, so many of our actions—eating, walking, and sleeping—became nonvirtue. Since birth, every week, month, year, not just in this life but during beginningless rebirths up to now—there are so many negative karmas that we don’t remember, which are not only blocks to achieving realizations and enlightenment but prevent us from being able to enlighten all sentient beings.
Our negative karma is harmful to all sentient beings and it also harm us, by preventing us from achieving ultimate happiness. Because our negative karma blocks realizations, we can’t achieve a good rebirth in the next life; even this life is harmed and we receive many obstacles. We must generate a very strong thought to purify them, right now, as if we have eaten poison without knowing.
Because of that fear, without delaying even one second, we want to purify. Even just that repentance makes the karma very small; it creates powerful, perfect purification. Especially in retreat sessions, use the extensive way of looking at negative karma. Then we will want to purify everything.
Without realizing emptiness, there is no way to be liberated from samsara. Without liberation we can’t liberate others, because that depends on emptiness. So, it is very good to recite the Heart Sutra. In the future, do a retreat on the Heart Sutra from time to time, or in daily life, recite it three times daily. If we recite the Heart Sutra 100,000 times, do not just recite the words—meditate on it. Do two or three sessions a day, and sometimes do a five-day retreat on the Heart Sutra.
In one session focus on the emptiness of the I, in the next session the emptiness of the aggregates. Divide up the subjects. Focus for one minute, then one minute fifteen seconds. When the mind is distracted, analyze and concentrate, finish the prayer, then do it again.
When we get tired, think, “So far I didn’t die by practicing Dharma; I died by creating the cause for the lower realms. If I die through practicing Dharma, it is so worthwhile, especially for others, because this is what causes enlightenment and happiness. If I die through Dharma, then there is no regret!”
All of these are guidelines for our life, to purify our mind and collect extensive merit so we can achieve enlightenment for all sentient beings.
[The student then received the lung (oral transmission) of Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, The Foundation of all Good Qualities, the Thirty-five Buddhas Confession and Vajrasattva mantra. ]
Second letter from Rinpoche:
September 6, 1998
Recite a lam-rim prayer—each time we recite it, this brings us closer to enlightenment and plants those seeds. Every day it brings us closer to our goal of bringing all sentient beings to enlightenment. That is the foundation for the realization, so on the basis of that, meditate on the lam-rim.
After finishing Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, do one meditation every day. Do a little bit on guru devotion until the realization that the guru is Buddha is achieved. Spend from a minimum of fifteen minutes up to one hour, as you like. One meditation can be on emptiness and one can be on renunciation, which is what makes it possible to realize bodhicitta. Practice renunciation of the next life’s samsaric happiness, and renunciation of this life. Begin meditating on the precious human rebirth, up to karma, especially death and impermanence, freeing the mind from the eight worldly dharmas, attachment and clinging to the happiness of this life, until this first realization of the lam-rim is achieved.
After that, spend an hour meditating on the nature of suffering and the evolution of suffering, until that realization is achieved. There isn’t the slightest attraction to samsaric pleasure, even for one second—total freedom is achieved. After that realization then practice bodhicitta every day, no matter how many years it takes.
The definition of renunciation is when we feel that the appearance of this life is so short. If somebody criticizes us or praises us, it makes no difference to us and it is like somebody criticizing us in a dream. The fact that death can happen any time doesn’t disturb our mind; it doesn’t bother us. In our heart is the happiness of future lives, liberation from samsara, the best enlightenment. Everything else is childish. Criticism and praise are the same when not clinging is very stable, for days and weeks. This is the first realization of the lam-rim—seeking liberation day and night spontaneously, without effort.
Being in samsara is like being in the center of a fire. We can’t stand it for even one minute. It is like how a mother feels if her beloved child falls in the fire. This feeling arises spontaneously while eating and walking, day and night. We wish to free all sentient beings.
We have to work at meditating like this. When we are able to see emptiness and dependent arising together, then we have the complete realization of emptiness.
We have the feeling that the I is lost, totally non-existent, but that is not nihilism. That realization of non-inherent existence is something very deep. There is not the slightest thing existing from its own side. There is nothing to hold on to—it is totally non-existent. When we see this emptiness, we can’t differentiate the mind that sees emptiness and the object of emptiness; they are non-dual. That brings unshakable faith that the I definitely exists but only in mere name.
In nihilism there is no appearance, and we think it doesn’t exist. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between nihilism and emptiness. We need to know the subtle difference and details of those two. The conclusion gives us strong faith in the mere existence of the I, dependent arising, and karma. We have more respect for karma.