The main emphasis for the moment should be on the lam-rim (stages of the path to enlightenment). You should aim for the realization of bodhicitta, so therefore you need to train your mind in the middle scope (to develop renunciation of the whole of samsara), and as a basis for that you need to train the mind in the lower scope (to develop renunciation of this life). So, you should start step-by-step developing the realizations of the lam-rim. These realizations could come quite quickly for you. If you are able to attend lam-rim teachings from a qualified master, then experiences on the path could come even during the teachings. Therefore, it would be very beneficial for you to try to attend such teachings when you can. You should use emptiness as your object of concentration.
For the quickest path to enlightenment, so that sentient beings do not have to suffer, after you have studied Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, you should engage in the practice of Highest Yoga Tantra. For this, you have the strongest connection with Most Secret Hayagriva, and this is the deity with which you will have the quickest path to enlightenment. You also have a strong connection with Hevajra and Vajrayogini. (Sometimes it is good to practice a Mother Tantra and a Father Tantra together as a most powerful practice. In this case Most Secret Hayagriva is a Father Tantra, and Vajrayogini is a Mother Tantra.)
Aim for realization of bodhicitta. This is necessary to develop the mind of clear light. Clear light is the only direct cause to achieve the Dharmakaya, which is the cause for enlightenment in this life. Then practice the Six Yogas of Naropa, which is a completion stage practice. First, go for realization of bodhicitta, which means starting with renouncing this life.
For now, please read and meditate on the lam-rim. Realizations might come quickly and it is good therefore to check your understanding with the definitions of renunciation and bodhicitta. Then develop the nine levels of shiné using emptiness as your object. When emptiness and dependent arising support each other, that is the right view. Then, when you have bodhicitta, practice tantra. When the deity and the mandala appear instantly you have achieved the gross generation stage. Then achieve the subtle generation stage, then work on the completion stage. So, progress like this, step by step. Study Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand all the way through. Then, you can soon take the initiations of your deities.
Regarding tantra, just as we can make the same journey using different methods of transportation, so too we can use different methods to travel on the spiritual path. The many skillful methods that are employed by the tantric path make it the quickest path to enlightenment.
In answer to your question, it would be good to study medicine, but it is not the final solution because doctors cannot deal with the cause of suffering, which is the negative thoughts and imprints on the mind, and negative actions. Doctors deal only with conditions, and so treat things by changing the conditions, diet, etc. By changing conditions and giving external medicine, if it cures, it only cures temporarily. As long as there is no education in Dharma, delusions are always there, karma is there, suffering and the cause of suffering are there, and samsara is always there. Then, there is still a continuation of reincarnation, and thus old age, sickness, and suffering.
When you have received the initiation for Most Secret Hayagriva, if you can do the retreat, then you can perform the rituals for this practice. The main thing is to meditate very strongly on bodhicitta. This is the basis for releasing harm from spirits. Due to the truth of the Buddha’s words, knowing some rituals works. Of course, if you have some power, then it helps more. But bodhicitta is especially important. Like we use flour to make many types of food, and we use water to cook many different types of food, so bodhicitta is the most important ingredient for any practice. Then, on top of that, we use tantra. The doctor/medicine alone cannot remove a spirit. If you can deal with spirits then you can help a lot. It doesn’t require medicine.
There was a baby in France that the doctors said would definitely die. Geshe Lama Konchog did a short puja for the baby and the baby lived. Medicine is good, but there are many limitations. If you become famous for your healing then many people will come to you regardless of whether you go on to do more medical training.
I checked about your becoming a nun in the future and it did not seem to be a good thing to do. However, having children would be of great benefit for sentient beings, because your children might be very special beings. However, this is not with your present husband. With your present husband, having children would be negative. Having children with another husband would be very beneficial for sentient beings. The main thing is that you should decide on this. I am just offering my view on what I see for your future. As you have some ability to see the future, you can check carefully whether your present husband is the right person for you to have children with, or you could end up with many problems. I wanted to give you this information so you can check for yourself. If you really can’t tell which way is best, then you should pray to the deity for the best, most beneficial thing for sentient beings.
The way that you responded to your husband’s anger at your being late home after a Dharma talk was very skillful. Your response was that his anger was due to his fear of losing you. As Dharma is something that you want to pursue, his trying to prevent you from doing so is only going to push the two of you apart. Your answer was brilliant. It used logic like senior monks would use on the debate ground in the great Tibetan monasteries. That is how it pacified your husband’s mind so nicely. Normal beings cannot think to speak in that way. Then, they stay unhappy with each other. But you were able to do this, so your husband immediately changed his mind.
The difficulty is that before you met the Dharma, you walked the path of worldly life, and Dharma happened later. If Dharma had come into your life before, then there would be a lot of freedom now.
Regarding your husband, if the situation becomes very difficult, then you can pray for him to meet another partner. This way you don’t need to fight or ask him to leave. He will just naturally go away. But it is completely up to you. I am just saying this to you. I am not saying to leave your husband now; it is just a thought for the future, because you said you wanted to have children, and that would be negative with this husband. So I am just letting you know. Anyway, having children would be beneficial, but not with your husband. This shows how things can change. If his mind changes through prayers to meet somebody else, then this is the happy, peaceful way. Whatever you do, it is up to you. You don’t have to feel upset by this. You can also check for your future, what is best. It looks like the essence of your attitude is good, to benefit sentient beings; there is some great benefit you can offer the world and sentient beings. Whatever decision is to be made in the future, you can take it happily.
Of course, this life is not very long, so whatever is of benefit to the world, to living beings, then normally that is what we would choose to do. One can change things for the better. We have a universal responsibility because all our happiness comes from other sentient beings, and we need to cause them to achieve happiness in their future lives, liberation, and enlightenment. This is what they need so this is what we must do.
Also, we have the opportunity to learn and actualize the path because we have Buddha nature. Because we have a body, it makes it so easy to help others. We can’t ignore this. And there is a lot of happiness that you can cause even for yourself. If you learn and practice more Mahayana Dharma, and practice more bodhicitta, your aim is to benefit all sentient beings. Your concern is not just with a few beings.
I don’t think you need to be upset by any of this, like ordinary people, because you are different from most people. Your mind is like sunshine, it’s not darkness. It just needs to come out from behind the mountain of whatever is blocking it. It is easy for you to have realizations, easier than for most people, which means it is also easier for you to liberate yourself from delusions and karma, to liberate others, and to enlighten yourself and others. Everything is much easier.
Most people think small and, like a dirty cloth, have so many defilements. It is so difficult for them to understand and accept the Dharma, to practice, and to attain liberation and enlightenment. In your case, you don’t have to think in that way. You just need to learn more Dharma, especially thought transformation.
There is the lesser vehicle, then the greater vehicle, then in tantra, everything is viewed as pure: pure mind and pure appearances. Everything is viewed as transcending ordinary appearances. It is like another world.
When a worldly person thinks or does something, everything contradicts the Dharma. If they were to come to a place where people are practicing Dharma, he or she would not fit in and would feel strange. So you see, feeling like you don’t fit into society doesn’t mean that you are wrong.
Even for oneself, after this life, the consciousness has moved on. We want happiness for all future lives, so we need to create the cause for that. On top of that we need to achieve liberation, whereby we won’t experience suffering ever again. So we need to create causes for that. If we want to achieve enlightenment, then we need to create the causes and actualize the path. If we want to help others—to cause not just happiness for this life but for all future lives—that is not possible without Dharma. And then there is liberation and enlightenment. Other beings need all these levels of happiness.
So, you don’t have to worry, just take it easy. This is just for the future, depending on how things go and on your wishes. Especially, aim to accomplish ultimate happiness and peace for every living being. Think that nothing is permanent, that things change due to causes and conditions. And, of course, you know that things are empty.
I would like to tell you two stories about nagas that I worked with. There was a very kind lady who owned a restaurant in Berkeley, California. I was doing a naga puja related to Most Secret Hayagriva called “Liberating from the Naga Harm Landlord.” The lady was sitting downstairs in my house in California, and I was doing the puja upstairs. During the puja she had a vision of the naga continuously coming out of her head. Then when I put the blessed water on her head, the naga completely left. So, this shows that the water that we bless during ritual practice is actually a lot more powerful than we often think.
Another time at a retreat in Taiwan, a naga entered one of the women at the retreat. I asked the naga not to harm her, and then the naga very respectfully requested me to give it refuge. During the retreat the naga said that it had been kicked by one of the protectors that are placed outside the retreat boundary, but still it had managed to enter into this woman. I asked the naga to explain what it was like outside, where it had come from, but the naga didn’t want to talk, because this was the only time it had to practice. This time was so rare and precious that it didn’t want to waste it talking! The naga did say that outside there were so many beings, like a forest, mainly spirit beings. So, I sent a nun and the woman’s friend out to sprinkle some blessed water on them. The naga said that this was very beneficial for these beings, purifying so much negative karma. One day the woman put some blessed water on her head and then she saw the naga come out, turn into Kuan Yin (a deity of compassion), and then fly away.
You would be of great benefit teaching Universal Education. It is a project that my teacher, Lama Yeshe, started and is now being developed. The idea is to teach children the important subjects that are left out in school. I want to include feng shui, yoga, astrology, psychology, and healing as secondary subjects, while meditation and Dharma are the primary subjects. You would be a great teacher. There are always books, but people will be able to see that you actually have those qualities. Otherwise it is only words, and the mind is not there, and people are not inspired. In the future it would be good for you to teach Dharma and meditation to crowds of people. It will be to crowds of people.
Even though things look permanent now, things are dependent arisings, dependent on causes and conditions. Prayer can change karma whichever way we think or wish. The mind can change the world, the individual’s world. Things can change with a negative mind and with a positive mind. Pure prayers can bring so much peace and happiness both ways.
When you are experiencing difficulties, you can think that you are taking and experiencing the karma of any sentient being who wishes for something and doesn’t succeed. Think “I am taking on and experiencing their suffering.” As many sentient beings as you think of, that many eons of negative karma are purified. Sentient beings are countless, so there is that much purification. That becomes the cause of success, up to enlightenment, not just for you but for all sentient beings. Every time you have that thought, it leads to enlightenment. Every time you have the thought to experience the suffering of countless sentient beings, have the attitude of bodhicitta, and then practice, it benefits all sentient beings.
You shouldn’t feel alone. We share your difficulties as if they are ours, like family. Whatever problems you have, you should think it is the same also for us. There are countless buddhas and bodhisattvas, all one family, with you. They see you without even one second’s break. They are with you all the time, and so are we. So, you should not think that you are alone. There are so many other beings on this earth who think in a similar way as you, and who are having similar experiences.
If you don’t think of freeing beings from oceans of samsaric suffering and its causes, delusion and karma, and only think of this life’s short term happiness and pleasures, this is just the same as how ordinary people think. They spend their whole life like this because they don’t know Dharma. Then, this precious human life, with Buddha nature, is blocked and wasted. With that attitude in life, you don’t achieve all the happiness of future lives, liberation, and enlightenment. You don’t complete all the realizations and can’t offer full benefit to others. The vast amounts of benefit that you can offer to sentient beings can’t be accomplished. The happiness that an ordinary being can give is like a drop of water compared to great oceans. Also, you experience great regret of not having developed wisdom and compassion and having missed out on achieving ultimate happiness. The future becomes dark because of suffering and regret.
Even though from the outside your life looks ordinary, your attitude is of Dharma, with bodhicitta, the thought of benefiting others, and a healthy, pure mind free from the pain of attachment, with bodhicitta free from the stain of self-cherishing thought, and wisdom free from seeing things as existing from their own side, but as dependent arisings. Things appear ordinary but in reality everything becomes Dharma. Free from a painful mind, everything becomes Dharma and the cause of happiness. The mind of renunciation brings liberation, the mind of bodhicitta brings enlightenment, and the mind of wisdom brings the antidote to ignorance, like medicine healing the sicknesses of samsara.
Even the negative imprint of the seed of ignorance can be removed by developing wisdom. Then you can be liberated from all the suffering of samsara. This is living life with lam-rim, the steps on the path to enlightenment, even though it appears from the outside as ordinary. Then, with Mahayana Tantra, everything is transcended.
Ordinary people seek only the happiness of this life and this is the cause only for suffering. The next life will be in the lower realms, or, even if, due to good karma, a human life is achieved, there will still be much suffering. Ordinary people’s lives are very confused and dark. Also, there is a lot of guilt, repentance, fear, and worry.
In your case, you have a good heart, so already you can understand and it is easy for your mind to become Dharma and the path. You must rejoice and appreciate your past lives, which mean you can now accept Dharma, and it is easy to understand it. Most people cannot even accept Dharma. So, please enjoy life. You don’t have to worry at all.
Rinpoche gave some teachings on emptiness within his advice, as follows.
Everything exists by mere name, merely imputed by mind. But everything appears to exist not merely labeled by mind. Phenomena appear to be real, existing from their own side. This is totally non-existent and empty. Why does it appear like this? Because our mind is hallucinating.
Other schools of Tibetan Buddhism say that things do not exist because Buddha does not see them, that Buddha sees only emptiness. The valid mind is the only absolute wisdom and the rest is only a hallucination. The other schools have the idea that the absence of a vase is the emptiness of a vase (so when there is an empty room, then there is an absence of a vase, there is no vase in that room, and that is an example of how phenomena are empty). But they posit that things are not non-existent, because things are the basis of samsara and nirvana. Things are neither existent nor non-existent. So, this is how the other schools talk about emptiness. It is an interesting way of explaining, but I think that the subtle expression and point is missing. Lama Tsongkhapa emphasized the necessary interplay of dependent arising and emptiness. He taught about the two truths: conventional truth and ultimate truth.
You have some experience of emptiness, but you don’t know how to express it because you didn’t study the philosophy. You don’t know how to express the subtle points. So, you have to relate your example of the magician making something (say, a pen) appear and then disappear to the pen appearing and believing it to be not merely labeled. It appears and is believed to be not merely labeled by mind, to be real, existing from its own side.
So, there is some substance, and then the magician says a mantra, and that substance appears to be a pen. This is like an inherently existent pen, due to the magician saying the mantra. When the magician stops—the illusion can last only a certain amount of time—then the other people don’t see it. You realize the pen doesn’t have any true existence at all; not even the slightest atom. It is totally empty (of any true existence), but that doesn’t mean that the pen doesn’t exist. The pen exists. You don’t fall into nihilism. You realize that there is a pen. You have an unshakable, stable, certain realization that the pen exists, but it exists in an opposite way to how you believed it existed before. It exists as merely labeled by the mind. Here, you are realizing the conventional truth—how the pen can exist. The cause is the ultimate truth that the pen doesn’t exist from its own side.
The magician can transform a stone into a palace, an elephant, or a beautiful lady or man, something that people are attracted to. Now, most of the audience believes it is real. The magician himself, maybe he also sees it, but he doesn’t believe it. There are people who see it but don’t believe it exists. Then there are others who are not affected by the illusion, who do not see it. There are three levels.
The first level represents sentient beings who have not realized emptiness. They see everything as real and truly existing, even though it is merely labeled by mind. Most of the audience is like that.
The second level represents sentient beings who have realized that things are empty. The way things appear is as merely labeled by mind, not existing at all, totally empty. But at the same time there is an appearance. Even an Arya being, who has wisdom directly realizing emptiness, when he or she is not in equipoise on emptiness, then all phenomena appear as truly existent. This is the case until omniscient mind is achieved, due to subtle imprints left on the mind due to past ignorance. There are two types of imprints. One is like a seed that, when it is removed completely, then nirvana is achieved, but the subtle seed is still left. As long as the subtle seed is left, then the hallucination of the truly existent appearance is produced for any phenomenon: the “I”, action, any object of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, hell, samsara, nirvana, happiness, problem, delusion, even the path to liberation and enlightenment. The moment something is labeled by mind, there is a projection on that name by a subtle negative imprint.
That’s how in daily life everything is merely labeled by mind, for 24 hours. Whenever we talk, even give teachings, for example at college, all the billions of subjects that we learn are merely names, just names we are not aware of. They are constantly labeled, but when they appear, they appear as not merely labeled by mind. So, in life, everything appears real. Friends, enemies, all the usual problems appear as real, but in reality they are empty. There is death and rebirth, but there is no such thing as real death and real rebirth. There is death and rebirth but it is totally empty.
There is no question that these things appear real for ordinary beings. Even for Arya beings, everything appears as a hallucination until enlightenment. Ordinary beings believe they are true, so they are totally trapped like an animal caught in a cage, a fish in a net, a mouse in a trap, or a person in prison. We can’t say how many years it will take them to get out. It is difficult to see. This is how sentient beings are suffering. Not only does suffering have no beginning, but also it is difficult to see the end. This makes us have to work hard, to progress on the path. The higher we progress on the path, the more we are able to help others.
The third level is the enlightened beings. Buddha doesn’t have hallucinations. Buddha is free from the subtle dualistic view, because of having been freed from the subtle imprint on the mind. But Buddha sees our hallucination. So, too, with your clairvoyance, you can see how other beings view things.
In daily practice it is useful to use the magician as an example. Your ignorance is like the magician, and leaving a negative imprint is like the mantra. Inherent existence is a projection of the “I”, action, and object. It is a covering of inherent existence on reality. You are the audience that is deceived by the illusion, and your ignorance is the magician. We can use different techniques to meditate on emptiness.
Regarding other matters, I checked with whom you should have children. Westerners and Tibetans didn’t come out well, maybe a Chinese or Mongolian man. Also, you don’t always need an actual physical partner to have a child. Sometimes there can be devas or protectors involved. Sometimes Dharma protectors give birth to beings. The father of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was one of the protectors. There is also a girl in Lhasa, a relative of Pari Rinpoche, who had a child, but the whole family knew that she had no husband and had never had a physical relationship with a man. The son is now a monk studying at Sera Monastery. So, if there is a special person, then other beings can help, but this is rare.
In order to help others, you need to study texts. You need to combine texts and experience together, which helps to be able to express things in words. Please read more Dharma books and stories of other yogis and enlightened beings. This will help to confirm your experience, and then you are able to help others that other people (hospitals, etc.) can’t help.
If you do retreat, then I am sure that you will get a strong connection with the deity; maybe a lot of experience. This will reinforce your present experience.
There is a grass that grows in China and the holy places of Heruka. From this grass comes smoke in the daytime and flames in the nighttime. It has an incredible scented smell, and if animals eat it, they develop renunciation. There was a student of Lama Yeshe’s near Lhasa in Tibet. He saw an animal eat this grass, and tears came into the animal’s eyes due to the sadness of samsara. Then, the animals have a good rebirth when they die. If you eat this grass, then when you die, you don’t get reborn in the lower realms. When people make bread and add the grass, then when beings eat it they develop bodhicitta and renunciation. When people were sick, they ate this medicine, and received the benefit. In the past, many mantras were written with ink from this grass. I remember the very strong smell of the ink, not like perfume that arouses desire, but a holy smell. My idea is to collect this grass and make pills to heal AIDS and other sicknesses, also to help to transcend the mind.
In Nepal there is one lake. In the middle of the lake there is a black flower. When a person went to get it the person drowned, maybe because of his attachment. Could you check where it grows? Some of the holy sites of Heruka are Bari (connected to the body of Heruka), Mount Kailash (speech), Lapchi (mind), Sipri (body, speech, and mind), and an area near the Chenrezig Potala in China.
To prepare for death, meditate on emptiness as a solution to what makes us circle in the continuity of aggregates from life to life, and experience suffering and its cause. This is caused by ignorance, so to stop that we need to eliminate ignorance. What eliminates ignorance is the wisdom realizing emptiness. To eliminate the aggregates, we need the wisdom that sees emptiness, and then we have liberation from samsara. This way we go through the death process and use death as a way of actually stopping the circle of death and rebirth. First we meditate in the ordinary way on the death process, and then in the tantric way to stop the circle of death and rebirth.
Studying the lam-rim would be terrific. Study lam-rim before tantric deity practice. Also, your healing and helping people is very important. You can help even without other people needing to ask you. Even if sick people go to a very large, expensive hospital, they may not be healed, because many of the diseases come from karma. Your method will help, as there is no method available in the hospital to help with harm from spirits.
There are many causes and conditions for these diseases. By doing something wrong in the past, which means harming others, then sickness arises. That is karma, which is a person’s negative action performed in the past, either from this life or a past life. The main thing, from their side, is to change their minds, abandon the cause of suffering, and practice virtue.
You have said that your wish is to make changes in your life according to this advice as soon as possible. This is the best response. We may not meet for a long time, so this is my advice.