It Is Best to Live in Morality

It Is Best to Live in Morality

Date of Advice:
July 2018
Date Posted:
August 2020

A student wrote to Rinpoche about his relationship problems. He had been in a number of relationships that had all ended badly and he had become depressed. He was still looking for true love but didn’t want to get hurt again. Rinpoche responded with this extensive advice on karma using the example of sexual misconduct.

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. First of all, I am terribly, terribly, terribly sorry your letter has been waiting more than one year. I’m so sorry I didn’t reply. Since you still need something, that’s why I am replying, if you still need it.

Here I want to tell you what the Buddha said in the teachings on the ten nonvirtues in regard to sexual misconduct.

The complete action of sexual misconduct needs the base, the sentient being, with whom one has sex, the motivation to have sex, the action and the goal. The goal is when the sexual orgasm happens. So the sexual action has to have these parts to be complete. It is done with the motivation, not just for sex, but with the self-cherishing thought, for our own happiness, our own pleasure. On the basis of that, of course there can be attachment to this life, clinging to this.

This act, when it has the four complete actions [four aspects of karma], first there is the ripened action [ripened result], which is rebirth in the hell realms or as a hungry ghost or animal. We are reborn in one of those realms and then we have to suffer in those realms. In one text it says for one eon, for example in the hells.

Then there are the three suffering results that we experience in this human realm. So due to another good karma we get born as a human being, but in that life we experience the three suffering results. One is the possessed result, which has to do with the place where we live. It will be a very dirty place, a filthy dirty place, unhygienic. Even for us, when we pass through another country or town that is very dirty—even for five minutes if we have to cross such a place or experience that—that is the possessed result. Then there are those who have to live their whole life in that place, or if not their whole life but some part of the life in a place like that.

If you and your wife become combative—if your wife wishes something and you wish something different, thinking different ways, then it is not harmonious but combative, even though you are physically living together—then that is the cause of separation.

There are also the four negative actions of speech—telling lies, gossip, slander and harsh speech, expressing words that hurt others. When we experience slander, this is the result similar to the cause, so for example with our partner.

Here I am saying generally to think that this is the real cause, then the separation happens. This is experiencing the result similar to the cause of sexual misconduct done in the past, not that which will be done in the future. I am talking about the result, so that means the cause, the sexual misconduct, happened in the past, and now you are experiencing the result.

In our life if this happens many times, not just one time, it is the result of past sexual misconduct. The past also means past lives. It could be the life before this one, or it could be a few lifetimes ago, or it could be a million, trillion eons ago.

We have to understand that karma is definite. [See the four outlines of karma.] That means what is created, it is definite that we will experience the result. That means if we create nonvirtue it is definite that we will experience the result, suffering. If we create virtue it is definite that we will experience the result, happiness.

The second thing is that karma is increasing, so that means if we kill one insect, then the result from that is that we will be killed by the continuity of that being, whom we killed in the past. We will be killed by the continuity of that being, even if that being reincarnates in different forms for five hundred lifetimes, but as a result we will still be killed by it. Also it depends on how great the harm was that has been done to others. If it is a lot then it could be even longer than this that we have to experience the result.

It’s the same with virtuous action—instead of killing, the opposite is to not kill. For example, living in the vow to not kill, or if one animal is going to be killed, instead of it being killed we liberate it. The result of that virtuous action is that when we are in danger of being killed, somebody liberates us, and that happens many times, for five hundred lifetimes. Also, saving a living being that is otherwise going to be killed generally causes a long life. If we cause the other sentient being to have a long life, then we will have a long life for five hundred lifetimes. That is the result of one action of causing other sentient beings to have a long life. Here we can understand the unbelievable benefits of liberating one person or animal who is in danger of being killed. If we save that being’s life, what a great benefit we will experience. So if we do this many times, like FPMT’s Singapore center (Amitabha Buddhist Centre), where so far they have liberated two hundred million animals—what incredible karma they have created.

The next thing in regard to karma is that if we haven’t created the karma, then we can’t experience the result, whether the result is happiness or unhappiness. If we have collected negative karma, then we will experience the result of that. That means there is no such thing as experiencing the result of happiness or suffering without having created the cause, at all.

The fourth aspect of karma is that whatever karma has been created never gets lost. So virtue or nonvirtue that is created, whether small or great, the result never gets lost. Even if it takes millions or trillions of eons to experience, it is definite that we will have to experience the result.

Therefore since we don’t like even small discomfort, even in our dreams or in daily life, we should not create even small nonvirtue. Since we like even small pleasure, we should engage in creating even small virtue. It becomes very important to do that.

The last result of sexual misconduct is in regard to creating the result similar to the cause of that negative karma. So even if it was done a billon or trillion eons ago or even much longer than that, numberless eons ago, we experience the result. The fourth result is creating the result similar to the cause, and what this means is that we do the action again in this life. The sexual misconduct, which is the result of that past negative karma done numberless eons ago, is done again. Here I am talking about the particular result of sexual misconduct and that karma. So for example each sexual misconduct action that was done would have its own result of the four suffering results, even if the action was done numberless eons ago or in the life before this one. So each complete action has four suffering results.

In regard to the last one, creating again the result similar to the cause, that means that we engage in sexual misconduct again with the self-cherishing thought, with attachment to this life, so then that again is a complete negative karma and again it produces the four suffering results. So it goes on and on and on. If we don’t do anything, if we don’t practice Dharma, if we don’t purify the negative karma of what we have done in the past, if we don’t practice morality, if we don’t abandon this negative karma, then our suffering in samsara has no end. So we can see, we are making our own samsara and it has no end, it is endless, endless suffering in samsara. That’s how it happens, even from one negative karma, such as sexual misconduct, then there are so many other negative karmas that we create.

It’s unbelievable, terrifying, most terrifying. We create the result similar to the cause and then do the same action again in this life.

Thinking of the past, from beginningless rebirth we have gone through the result of sexual misconduct, experiencing the four results numberless times, and the sufferings. So if we don’t practice Dharma, if we don’t purify negative karma, if we don’t live in morality, abstaining from negative actions, then we are continually creating the result similar to the cause and then doing the negative action again and again. It goes on and on and we create endless samsara. Nobody else is creating our samsara but our own mind. Our negative mind is creating our endless suffering.

So that’s why in Buddhist philosophy, Buddha said that everything came from the mind. That means even hell, the heaviest suffering of hell, up to the peerless happiness, as well as day to day pleasure, even a few minutes or a few seconds of sexual pleasure, even that pleasure, up to enlightenment, the happiness of future lives, all the pleasure of this life, all the samsaric pleasures that we experience while we are in samsara—all that came from our own mind. Ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara, the blissful state of peace forever—even that came from our own mind. Then peerless happiness, the total cessation of all the obscurations and completion of all the realizations, buddhahood—even that came from our own mind. So everything came from our own mind.

This also means that the enemy, friend, stranger also came from our own mind. This came from our attachment, anger and ignorance. The root of samsara is our own wrong concept, the ignorance holding the I and aggregates as real, as it appears to our hallucinating mind, as though it is existing from its own side, truly existent, existing by itself, a real one. This is what we experience and believe in our daily life.

Therefore our mind is the creator of our hell and our mind is the creator of our enlightenment. Our mind is the creator of our samsara; our mind is the creator of our own liberation from samsara; our mind is the creator of everyday problems; and our mind is the creator of everyday pleasure. Depending on how we think [and act]—the wrong way, nonvirtue, or the right way, virtue—from that result there is happiness or suffering. From a healthy mind we experience happiness and from an unhealthy mind we experience suffering.

That’s why the Buddha said,

Do not commit any unwholesome action,
Engage in perfect wholesome action,
Subdue your own mind.
This is the teaching of Buddha.

This is the Buddha’s heart advice, to subdue one’s own mind. This is the practice, this is the Buddha’s teaching and this is the practice. Even if we know by heart all of Buddha’s teachings, more than 100 volumes of the Kangyur, the Buddha’s teachings and the 200 volumes of the Tengyur, the commentaries by the Indian pandits, so even if we know all of these by heart, but if we never subdue our own mind, if we don’t use the teaching that we know to subdue our mind, to develop our mind, we are not practicing Buddhism, we are just learning the words but not practicing. It is similar to putting it into a computer or repeating the words like a tape recorder, but that is not practicing.

What you can do regarding past sexual misconduct is take vows. By taking the eight Mahayana precepts, which are for one day, we live in the vows to not engage in these actions for one day. We should take these precepts with bodhicitta motivation: to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to buddhahood, the peerless state of happiness. For that reason we need to achieve buddhahood, so it is for that reason we are taking the vows.

Then from that we collect more than skies of merit, just by taking the eight Mahayana precepts, not just one vow but taking eight vows with bodhicitta. It’s amazing, amazing, amazing, we collect so much merit, more than skies of merit, so with eight vows then eight times [the merit.] Even if we don’t take them for your whole life; even if we take the vows just for one day.

As well as the eight Mahayana precepts, there are also the pratimoksha vows, the eight precepts. Then there are the lifetime five lay precepts. Even if you can’t take all five (to not kill, steal, lie, engage in sexual misconduct or take intoxicants), you can take four vows or three vows or two vows or if not, then you can just take one vow. I usually say that if you are going to take one, then take the not killing vow, but do whatever you can. Of course there are the higher vows, the ten vows, the 36 vows of the getsul, the 253 vows of gelong, a fully ordained bhikshu or the 363 vows of gelongma, a fully ordained bhikshuni.

The other thing is that the past negative karma which has been done already, numberless times from beginningless rebirth, and there are so many, of course we have already started to experience the four suffering results, and there are still many, numberless, which we haven’t yet experienced, like the [results of] the ten nonvirtues and so forth. One thing is that purification is so important, so we need to live in morality. This is a way of purifying what was done in the past, so we can purify this by living in morality, but also there are many practices of purification that are very powerful.

These include pleasing most the holy mind of the virtuous friend, obtaining the guru’s advice, following the guru’s holy wishes, offering service to the guru, even offering fruit or even a biscuit, nuts or a glass of water to the guru. The guru is the most powerful holy object. This brings us closer to enlightenment, which means it helps to purify the past negative karmas as well.

Then with compassion bearing hardships, working for sentient beings, helping sentient beings. This is also very powerful, it helps and is a quick way to achieve enlightenment, so it is a very powerful way to purify past negative karmas.

Practices such as Vajrasattva are also very powerful. Also, reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas, not only reciting but also prostrating, is a very powerful way to purify past negative karma. Even if we can’t prostrate we can visualize prostrating with both hands together, visualize numberless of your human body or visualize oneself as the deity, and numberless deities then doing prostrations to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha while reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas. This is very powerful practice.

Lama Tsongkhapa did 700,000 prostrations by reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas and then achieved realizations on the path to enlightenment. Realizations of sutra and tantra came like rainfall.

There are many other practices generally for purification. For those who have taken Highest Yoga Tantra initiations and done the deity retreat and fire puja, they can then do self-initiation. This is very powerful. Also, like reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas, it is a remedy, and if it is done with the four powers it is perfect purification. This is mentioned in the Thirty-five Buddhas practice.

If you do Vajrasattva with the remedy of the four powers, it is a very powerful, perfect purification practice.

So if you kill a human being, tell lies (this refers to a big lie, for example, not having any realizations, but pretending you have realizations), take valuable things that are not given by others, engage in sexual misconduct and so forth, by reciting Vajrasattva mantra 100,000 times or 200,000 times or 400,000 times, the karma gets purified completely. For example if you recite the Vajrasattva 100-syllable mantra 21 times at the end of the day, it stops that day’s negative karma, which was done with your body, speech and mind, from becoming double the next day, so it is unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. Then it stops the karma from tripling on the second day. It not only purifies today’s negative karma, but also your past negative karma is purified.

If you recite the short mantra, OM VAJRASATTVA HUM, with the remedy of the four powers, you need to recite it 28 times a day. That stops the negative karma from doubling. So the negative karma created today is not doubled the next day, by doing this mantra.

Also if you recite the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas well just one time with the remedy of the four powers, then as my guru Kyabje Denmo Locho Rinpoche explained, it purifies even the very heavy negative karma, which after death would result in rebirth in the inexhaustible hell realms. This is the last hell realm, with the heaviest suffering. The length of life there is one intermediate eon, that is how long you would have had to suffer. So until the karma is finished, you would have to be born there and to suffer, even if this world ends. Then if there is no more hell there, you would still have to be reborn in another universe that has hell. There are six realms, so this goes on and on until your karma is finished. So that karma gets purified.

There are five heaviest karmas: killing this life’s father or mother, killing an arhat who is free from samsara, drawing blood from a buddha or causing disunity among the Sangha. Even these very heavy negative karmas get purified.

The conclusion is that it is best is to live in morality and to totally abandon the negative karma, such as sexual misconduct. You can do that by taking the eight Mahayana precepts, that is so good. They are for one day, but you can take them as many times as possible, whenever you can, and in this way keep the eight Mahayana precepts.

You need to receive the lineage first from a guru. This is just for the first time that you take them. After that you can take them from the altar, visualizing the Buddha, so you can take them anytime in your life. That is extremely good, to abandon negative karma as much as possible, and not only to abandon negative karma, but to live in the vows. By taking the eight Mahayana precepts, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, as I have already told you, we create so much merit.

The conclusion is, regarding karma the Buddha said : by habituating the mind in nonvirtue, we rely on the negative karma, we use negative karma and in the future we follow negative karma. This is what the Buddha said in the Sutra of the King of Concentration.

It is very powerful if we get habituated in this. Then again and again in this life we do the same action, this is what happens and it continues in future lives, not just in this life, but in future lives. In this way we depend on nonvirtue, and we create nonvirtue again and again, so we have endless suffering of samsara, just from this.

That’s why now you can see the benefits of being a monk or nun, living in a nunnery or monastery, the purpose of that. That is how to live in morality of body, speech and mind, to not engage in nonvirtue, to not harm others or oneself. By living in morality, in virtue, so for that reason living in a monastery and nunnery and not living a household life.

That makes it very easy, the condition, to not engage in the ten nonvirtues and so forth.

In my observation, according to your karma, your main deity is Kalachakra. You can recite the Kalachakra mantra once you receive the initiation. I am not sure when His Holiness the Dalai Lama is next giving the Kalachakra initiation, but when it is, you must attend. I heard that His Holiness Sakya Trizin is giving Kalachakra initiation in Nepal, but it may have already started, in Solu Khumbu in Nepal, in the Himalayan mountains, at Tengboche. I don’t know the details, it may have already happened. 

Also, I think you should do the Thirty-five Buddhas practice, reciting the buddhas’ names and prostrating. That would be best.

The main lamrim for you to focus on is Essence of Refined Gold, and after that Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. Please study these from beginning to end, not jumping like a flea or a turtle, but studying the texts from beginning to end. Study like that four times—Essence of Refined Gold and then Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand.

This is my advice. Please read this again and again, not just one time. As much as possible live your life with bodhicitta mind in everything you do. This is the best life.

With much love and prayers ...