My most dear, most precious most kind, most wish-fulfilling one,
To start to answer, first, maybe you didn’t study the lamrim from beginning to end, or you received teachings but from your side, the study and practice of lamrim from beginning to end didn’t happen. Without this we create the causes of suffering in this and future lives, also we will suffer in the lower realms for eons. Even in the human realms we suffer.
So the whole short entire answer is [the depression is due to] not having put effort into the practice of lamrim; taking teachings from the guru and [not] studying. Whether you have practiced or not, you didn’t use that practice to subdue the mind.
For example, in a monastery, even hearing, studying and debating day and night, but perhaps not inwardly studying and practicing, then the mind becomes worse and develops pride, because of not having any practice. This is an example of a monk in a monastery. Similarly, we can study the Basic Program or the Masters Program but still if we don’t practice and subdue our mind, to generate the feeling of the experience, then the mind is gross like before we met the Dharma. Then problems come over and over again.
We can say many things, but the essence is not having practiced Dharma, not having renunciation of this and future lives, not having strong compassion, bodhicitta and realization of emptiness. If this is not done, not practiced, then problems come like a river. Sorry that I have to say it, but this is the problem.
We can recite a lot of mantras but that is not enough. It is like His Holiness the Dalai Lama says: prayer is not enough. There are many who live with prayer, but do not practice. I have to say, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, there can be prayer and devotion, but no practice.
Of course, prayer has power and [the result] is experienced in this and future lives.
So maybe put effort into studying Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, which is a text that is clear and easy to understand. Study it from beginning to end, but not just reading the sections that you like, such as bodhicitta, and never reading about suffering or the nature of samsara. Then you never get free from your own suffering, then no compassion and of course no bodhicitta, because no renunciation. Many Westerners do like that.
Before in Europe, in Spain, I taught a course on the suffering of the lower realms and there was one old student, who was an animal liberation person, but she could not bear those sessions and she would go out, because she helped animals.
But how do we develop compassion? Not just for those beings in the desire realm where there is the suffering of pain, the suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering. And not just for those in the form realm, where there is the suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering, or in the formless realm which only has pervasive compounding suffering. This is because the mind still has delusion and karma, and then later we will be born in the lower realms. There’s not much chance to create merit while in those [upper] realms, and we are in those realms for a long time, therefore we use the merit we have and then we go to the lower realms where there is much suffering. We have done this numberless times.
To develop compassion for all sentient beings, we need to understand the suffering of samsara. We are unable to bear it and from this we generate compassion, then we actualize bodhicitta. Then everything becomes the cause of enlightenment, even eating, sleeping, doing our job and breathing. It’s amazing, amazing, so beneficial for sentient beings. This is how we go to enlightenment.
So please read Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand five times from beginning to end and study the text. For example, the Lamrim Chenmo, which was written by the great Lama Tsongkhapa, is often read nine times by people and often new understanding comes each time it is read.
Reading the lamrim is the best thing, because it is reading all the Buddha’s teachings. Great! Then we are able to eliminate the two obscurations and go to enlightenment and bring all sentient beings to enlightenment. What else do we need? It’s the best, most beneficial and happiest thing for sentient beings that we can do. This is the most important thing in the life.
Regarding your depression, study lamrim and meditate. That is the antidote to depression. It frees us from all the delusions and depression.
Before in England there was a young man who was depressed for twenty-five years and then he cured himself. He worked in a garden but he worked for others, with the thought of bringing happiness to others, then he cured himself of depression. He learnt by himself, not by doing a course.
If we live our life with bodhicitta, the thought to benefit others and bring them to enlightenment, so then everything we do is for others, even eating food is for others, not only for ourselves. Not only for ourselves but for other sentient beings, even for one other sentient being; that is the best medicine for depression. Bodhicitta is for others’ happiness, temporal and ultimate, for the total cessation of obscurations and completion of all the realizations. This is the happiest thing. It’s incredible, incredible, most enjoyable, even breathing in and out. This is the best thing, when we do that for others.
In terms of effortful lamrim practice, you can go over the outlines again and again. Go through the cycle on each topic five times and then do effortless meditation.
The most meaningful thing to do besides lamrim is to live your life with bodhicitta, as mentioned before, to benefit others.
In the morning do the meditation called The Method to Transform a Suffering Life into Happiness (Including Enlightenment). This transforms your life from kaka into gold, from negative to Dharma and from Dharma to bodhicitta. Then everything is done with bodhicitta.
I have asked many students to do this, changing the motivation to bodhicitta, then the mind becomes wish-fulfilling for sentient beings—besides ourselves, but that happiness for ourselves happens by the way. Our mind becomes wish-fulfilling. Wow, wow, wow! The mind is not only Dharma but wish-fulfilling bodhicitta. Wow, wow! Bringing sentient beings to enlightenment. Wow! To benefit numberless sentient beings. Wow! Each minute the mind is in bodhicitta, goodbye depression.
You must recite Vajrayogini. You didn’t mention that in the list of what you recite. If you don’t want to suffer in samsara, then the quickest way to enlightenment is to be born in the pure land. You must, must, must recite this mantra, don’t miss this. This is not for yourself. This is for every sentient being, for all sentient beings, the way to make life most meaningful and enjoyable.
In Lama Tsongkhapa’s life story you don’t hear much about Vajrasattva practice, so one time in Dharamsala I asked my guru, Kyabje Denma Locho Rinpoche, and when he answered, he answered publicly. He said just one time reciting the Thirty-five Buddha names with the four powers, by doing that well, we purify the five heinous crimes—killing one’s mother or father, killing an arhat, drawing blood from a buddha and creating disunity amongst the Sangha—so all of these get purified. Otherwise, they are the cause of spending eons in the hottest hell, but they get totally purified, totally purified. That is why Lama Tsongkhapa did so many hundreds of thousands of prostrations. I thought he did less but actually he did much more, then realizations come like rainfall.
At nighttime recite the long Vajrasattva mantra twenty-one or twenty-eight or more times. Or recite the short Vajrasattva mantra, OM VAJRASATTVA HUM, twenty-eight times. Otherwise our negative karma increases, doubles, triples like that. It’s so important to do this with the four opponent powers. Not only that, it purifies today’s, yesterday’s and past negative karma. Wow, wow, wow!
If we don’t do Vajrasattva then after fifteen days the negative karma created increases by 18,184 times. That means even if there is no story of having killed a human being, each negative karma of our body, speech and mind increases to be equal to killing a human being. So many! It becomes like killing so many human beings and after eighteen days, our negative karma increases by 100,072 times. It’s so heavy. Then by increasing day by day, by the time we die, one atom becomes like a mountain, so heavy, and then we take rebirth in the hells for eons. This is just for this life, forget about past lives.
So now you can see that Vajrasattva practice done with the four powers has incredible protection. That’s how we protect ourselves from the lower realms. We can’t think there is a God who protects us from negative karma. We have to purify.
You are most welcome to enlightenment, in order to enlighten all sentient beings.
With much love and prayers ...