My dear Maria,
How are you? Thank you very much for your kind letter and the information that I met you when you were young. Of course, you are right that I don’t remember.
My advice to you is you’re right, this is just about one time to receive a perfect human body. It’s most unbelievably rare. Most unbelievably rare.
It is mentioned in the teachings that if you throw grain on a window glass it’s difficult for it to stay there. The teachings also talk about a golden ring on the surface of the ocean. Because the ring is made of gold it will not stay on top of the water, it will sink, and of course it is moved about by the waves, so it doesn’t stay in one place all the time. Then there is a turtle who lives in the ocean. If the turtle had eyes, it would be easier for it to see the golden yoke and put its neck through it, but it cannot see, it is blind. If the turtle came to the surface of the ocean every day, it would be easier for it to put its neck through the golden ring, but it doesn’t come every day; it comes up only once every hundred years. So that is how difficult it is for the blind turtle to put its neck through the ring.
The blind turtle putting its neck through the golden ring is like us receiving a perfect human rebirth this time, it is so rare and so precious. We have to realize that it is so precious, unbelievably precious. More precious than mountains of gold. If we don’t have a human body but we have mountains of gold, that cannot help us to receive a good rebirth next life and not be born in the lower realms. Even if we own a golden mountain, that golden mountain cannot help us to do that. So this human rebirth is much more precious than a golden mountain. Therefore, we must, must use this perfect human rebirth to practice Dharma, to stop rebirth in the lower realms and make sure to get a higher rebirth. Death can happen any time and the consciousness continues, so we must be ready any time. It’s more important to make this preparation than to make plans for tomorrow. Sooner or later death will happen without time to go to tomorrow. And it’s not sure when our death will occur; it can occur today.
The next thing is that even if we own gold the size of this earth but don’t have a human rebirth, we cannot achieve liberation from samsara. But if we have a human rebirth, even without possessing the slightest piece of gold we can practice Dharma and achieve liberation from samsara, ultimate happiness—by having a human rebirth and realizing the four noble truths. We can achieve liberation from samsara even if we don’t own a single piece of gold. So, this human rebirth is much more precious than gold the size of this earth.
Now, even if we own skies of gold or diamonds but we don’t have a human rebirth, we cannot achieve full enlightenment with that alone. But even if we don’t own a single piece of gold or diamond, with a human rebirth we can achieve full enlightenment by practicing Dharma, bodhicitta, the Mahayana teachings, the six paramitas—to elaborate, by achieving the five Mahayana paths and ten bhumis.
So, for example, Milarepa didn’t have one single piece of gold or diamond. He didn’t have anything. He just lived on nettles every day with no chili or salt; he lived in a cave and practiced Dharma as his guru Marpa advised and he achieved full enlightenment. Milarepa achieved full enlightenment in one brief lifetime of degenerated time—not just within one lifetime but within one lifetime of degenerated time—because he sacrificed his life to Marpa. He did exactly what Marpa advised in order to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings.
For example, he did very basic purification and collected extensive merits. Marpa didn’t give Milarepa any teachings for years, only scolding him. Marpa let Milarepa build a nine-story tower. You can still see it in Loka, in Tibet. He let Milarepa build it alone and when he finished, he had to take it down again and put all the stones back where they came from. He worked so hard that the skin on his back became thick and bluish colored. Then again, Marpa let him build up the tower and then put the stones back again. Then again he built it. After some time, even when Milarepa came to teachings with other students Marpa would scold him and kick him out. Then, after some time Marpa’s wisdom mother requested him to please now give teachings and instructions to Milarepa. Then Marpa manifested the complete mandala and gave initiation and sent Milarepa to the mountains to meditate. Marpa was not an ordinary sentient being, he was a buddha and he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew that what he told Milarepa to do was the best for him as well as for others.
Milarepa did exactly what Marpa said. He never got angry when he was scolded or beaten. He never got angry or had heresy. Of course now if somebody were treated like Milarepa, that person would call the police and start a court case. The person might even get killed if they behaved like that nowadays. Marpa was a perfect teacher, or guru, and Milarepa was a perfect disciple who had great zeal, a powerful mind and body, and was able to follow his guru’s advice exactly. So that’s incredible, incredible. Milarepa is a great, great inspiration for millions and millions of people for how to practice Dharma, how to follow a guru and how to achieve enlightenment the quickest way. Marpa’s own idea was to give even more hardships to Milarepa so that he could become enlightened even quicker. That was his idea. But he gave teachings and initiations earlier because his secret mother asked.
Even skies of diamonds and gold are nothing compared to the value of this human rebirth, it is so precious. Therefore, even if we own that much gold and diamonds we cannot achieve enlightenment without a human rebirth.
And even if we have a wish-granting jewel, which is the most precious of material objects, if we don’t have a perfect human rebirth we cannot achieve enlightenment in one life. For example, nagas in the animal realm have a wish-granting jewel on their crown all the time but they are not even human beings. So if we have a perfect human rebirth but not the slightest wish-granting jewel, we can achieve enlightenment in just one life by practicing Dharma. Therefore, this human rebirth is unbelievably more precious than a wish-granting jewel. By practicing lower tantra we can achieve enlightenment in one life.
Now, even if we own the sky filled with wish-granting jewels but we don’t have a human rebirth, we cannot achieve enlightenment in one brief lifetime of degenerate times. So this perfect human rebirth is more unbelievably, unbelievably, unbelievably precious than skies filled with wish-granting jewels. Therefore we must practice Highest Yoga Tantra.
It’s so good that you started to recite OM MANI PADME HUM when you were young. OM MANI PADME HUM contains all the Buddha’s teachings. Buddha taught 84,000 teachings as antidotes to the 84,000 delusions that we have. There are more than a hundred volumes in the Kangyur (the Buddha’s words) and more than two hundred volumes in the Tengyur (the commentaries) by the great pandits Nagarjuna, Asanga and so forth. All the essence is there.
OM MANI PADME HUM: HUM is establishing the base in your heart, establishing devotion in your heart. Reciting HUM is like calling out; it’s like saying “Hi” when you call to your mother, then saying “Mum.” Here you say MANI PADME which is the name of Chenrezig. MANI is method, and PADME is wisdom ,so MANI PADME is the unification of those two. It’s the name of Chenrezig like saying “Hi, Mum”.
OM is the three sounds AH, U, MA put together which makes OM. The meaning is that your ordinary body, speech and mind are purified and transformed into the vajra holy body, vajra holy speech and vajra holy mind of Chenrezig. That’s what you are trying to achieve. You call to Chenrezig and then this is what you want to achieve to benefit sentient beings. Not just to benefit a few sentient beings that you like, not only your friends but also all strangers and enemies, all sentient beings without leaving out one insect, one hell being, preta, animal, human being, sura or asura. You want to benefit everyone, to free them from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment.
MANI PADME contains all the Hinayana teachings, all the Mahayana Paramitayana teachings of Sutra and all the Mahayana Vajrayana teachings of Secret Mantra. All three levels of teachings are contained within MANI PADME.
MANI can mean also Chenrezig holding a mala with compassion bringing sentient beings to full enlightenment. “PADME” means from the mud but without the stains of mud, so that means living in samsara but having no stains of samsara. There is no stain of the concept of ignorance holding true existence, so therefore free from samsara and then because of compassion free from lower nirvana.
So OM MANI contains the whole path and when we recite OM MANI PADME HUM we receive the blessing of the heart of all the buddhas. We are reciting the mantra that is the heart of all the buddhas and receiving blessings. All the snow flakes and rain drops and atoms in the drops of water in all the oceans could be counted, but not the benefit of reciting the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM even just one time. It purifies the heavy “negative karmas without break of another life.” That means any of the five heavy negative karmas that cause us to be reborn in the lowest hot hell, the inexhaustible hell realm, immediately in the next life without a break of another life because of other karmas ripening. These negative karmas are killing one’s mother or father of this life, killing an arhat, causing blood to flow from a Buddha, and causing a schism in the Sangha.
If you recite ten malas of OM MANI PADME HUM a day, then if you go swimming in the ocean all the living beings in the ocean are blessed and all the human beings playing in the ocean get blessed. And when you die even the smoke from your body when it’s burned purifies anyone it touches and they don’t get reborn in the lower realms. When your breath touches others it purifies them and they don’t get reborn in the lower realms. And when the wind touches your body and then touches others they don’t get born in lower realms. Anyone you touch, it purifies their negative karma and they don’t get born in the lower realms—even if you just shake hands. So I do remember to do that sometimes, to shake hands, and there are other mantras also which have that benefit. If you do massage it purifies the person you touch. Even if a fly lands on you, it gets purified. If you do ten malas a day or one nyung-nä and you are on a platform and others look at you, their negative karma gets purified. You become meaningful to behold. So OM MANI PADME HUM has incredible benefit. It is so meaningful to recite. Put all your effort into reciting OM MANI PADME HUM.
It’s good if you have a statue or thangka of Chenrezig, then when you recite the mantra nectar comes from that and purifies you. Then Chenrezig absorbs into you and you become Chenrezig. Then you send mantra beams from your heart to the six realms sentient beings. You recite the mantra and they recite the mantra. Then dedicate:
Due to all the merits collected by all the sentient beings and buddhas
May bodhicitta be generated in the minds of all my family members
and all sentient beings without delay of even a second,
And may that which has been generated increase.
Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me
And the three times merits collected by all the sentient beings and buddhas,
Which are merely labeled by the mind,
May the I which is merely labeled by the mind
Achieve the Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment, which is merely labeled by the mind,
And lead all the sentient beings, who are merely labeled by the mind,
To the Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment, which is merely labeled by the mind,
By myself alone, who is merely labeled by the mind.
Then you can do the prayer Request to Chenrezig (Phag pa chän rä zig):
O Arya Avalokiteshvara, treasure of compassion
Together with your retinue, please pay attention to me.
Please quickly free me and all mother and father sentient
Beings of the six realms from the ocean of cyclic existence.
Please enable the profound and extensive peerless
Bodhicitta to quickly grow in our mindstreams.
Please quickly cleanse our delusions and actions accumulated
Since beginningless time, with the water of compassion
And, with your compassionate hand, lead me
And all migrators to the blissful pure land.
May Amitabha and Avalokiteshvara act
As our spiritual friends in all lifetimes,
Show us the excellent unmistaken path, and
Quickly place us in the state of buddhahood.
[This is the chantable version:
O Arya Compassionate-eyed One
Who is the treasure of compassion
I request you please listen to me.
Please guide myself mothers and fathers
In all six realms to be freed quickly
From the great ocean of samsara.
I request that the vast and profound
Peerless awakening mind may grow.
With the tear of your great compassion
Please cleanse all karmas and delusions.
Please lead with your hand of compassion
Me and migrators to fields of bliss.
Please, Amitabha and Chenrezig,
In all my lives be virtuous friends.
Show well the undeceptive pure path
And quickly place us in Buddha’s state.]
You can do this prayer whether you have a statue or picture of Chenrezig or are just visualizing Chenrezig. This is very important.
Then your main study is lam-rim. The main text you should read is Lama Tsongkhapa’s Middling Lam-rim. Read that many times, study it and mark down anything you don’t understand in another book. Then you can ask your questions to any geshes or lamas or elder students who have studied really well. You can read the Essence of Refined Gold as well. It is a commentary to Lama Tsongkhapa’s Hymns of Experience by the Third Dalai Lama. So that time your meditation book is the Middling Lam-rim and the Essence of Refined Gold. Read the Essence of Refined Gold first and then the Middling Lam-rim. This is for your meditation and to actualize the whole path to enlightenment in your heart by studying and meditating on the Middling Lam-rim. After you have studied the Middling Lam-rim a few times, then on the basis of your study you have to meditate, first the effortful meditation and then the effortless meditation in order to have realization.
At the moment do this much. Then for your whole life, whatever you are doing, as much as possible do it with bodhicitta. That means doing all the actions in order to free all sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment. Whatever you do, do it to benefit others. Even getting up, dressing, washing, having breakfast, going out, having a meal—lunch, dinner or whatever—going for a walk, going to work, going shopping, going to the toilet, going to sleep, do everything as much as possible to benefit others. This is the most beautiful thing, doing things as much as possible to benefit other sentient beings. This is my heart advice. Thank you very much. This is the most meaningful, beneficial, healthy way to live your life. This way there are no problems, only benefit—not only temporary benefit but also full enlightenment. Thank you very much.
With much love and prayers...