Karma is Definite

Karma is Definite

Date of Advice:
August 2014
Date Posted:
November 2016

A student had experienced sexual abuse and other difficulties, including an abortion. She asked Rinpoche for advice on how to purify this karma.

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
How are you? I am sorry the answer to your letter took a long time because I have been travelling a lot.

Please understand this, and by now you have been hearing teachings of Buddhism, so of course you would know about karma. Think that whatever happiness you experience comes from past good karma and whatever suffering you experience comes from past negative karma, so this is the result. [The sexual abuse] is the result of past negative karma of sexual misconduct in past lives. You had sexual misconduct with those people in the past; it could be the previous life or it could be a billion, zillion, trillion, numberless eons ago; it could be anytime. If the karma was not purified, then you have to experience it in this life.

You can understand from the outlines of karma, that karma is definite and this means you have to experience the result. If what you experience is a suffering result, that comes from nonvirtue, and if you experience happiness, that result comes from virtue. You have to experience the suffering result if the karma is not purified. Also, virtue can be destroyed if it’s not dedicated to achieve enlightenment, especially by sealing with emptiness. It can be destroyed by arising heresy and anger. Nonvirtue can be purified, especially with the remedy of the four opponent powers, with Vajrasattva and many other methods to purify, therefore nonvirtue can be purified.

The second outline of karma is that karma is expandable. For example, if you commit sexual misconduct one time, the result is that you will be sexually abused by others for five hundred lifetimes. This also depends on how the action is done, how strong and so forth, thus it could even be experienced for a thousand lifetimes. The result is that you have to experience the karma in one life or for many lifetimes, from that one time negative action that you did. So it’s not just for one lifetime that you have to experience it.

You can see it all comes from the mind. The world doesn’t know about Buddhism, karma, even reincarnation and so on, therefore the world thinks that nothing comes from ourselves, it only comes from others. So others are the enemy; others are the object to be killed. But in Buddhism, in reality how others treat us—whether good or bad—is the result of how we treated others in the past. Everything comes from our mind, from our negative mind and positive mind. All good things come from our positive mind and all negative things come from our negative mind. That is why in Buddhism the most essential practice is to subdue our mind.

Buddha said: do not commit any unwholesome actions, engage in perfect wholesome actions and subdue your mind. This is so, so, so, so important. Therefore, there is no one to blame, and why others harmed us is because we harmed others in the past. So our mind is the creator. Unlike in many other religions—Christianity, Hinduism, etc—they think everything is created by God, but in Buddhism it is all created by our mind, the world is created by our mind, our life is created by our mind and our karma. Therefore in Buddhism “taking care” means taking care of our mind. This means the main practice is to always keep the mind in virtue, healthy, positive, ethical and pure, so that is very important.

In other religions in the world they don’t have an explanation like in Buddhism; they don’t emphasize subduing one’s own mind. They see everything doesn’t come from the mind, but only from outside, so then the main emphasis is just changing one’s dress or reciting different words or just changing one’s outer aspect. In Buddhism, hell comes from our negative mind, samsara comes from our negative mind and day-to-day life problems come from our mind. The subtlest obscurations come from our mind, all the interferences to achieve the state of omniscience come from our own mind, and the day-to-day peace and happiness in our life comes from our own mind, from our positive mind. All the future life happiness, good rebirth and so forth comes from our mind, liberation from samsara, nirvana, comes from our mind and ultimate happiness—full enlightenment, the state of omniscience, the total cessation of all the obscurations and completion of all the realizations—comes from our mind. Therefore, taking care of our mind is the most important thing. Therefore, even if we change outside, but do not take care of our mind at all, then that is not practicing Dharma. Practicing Dharma mainly means keeping the mind in Dharma, virtue, pure.

In the lam-rim, the first thing is to have total renunciation of this life. This brings total satisfaction, the real happiness, inner happiness and peace of this life by being free from attachment to this life. The second thing is to be free from attachment to samsara, next life’s samsara, so that means even the human realms, sura, asura, form and formless realms. We are free from attachment to those realms, with no attachment at all, seeing all these three realms are only in the nature of suffering. Then next one is to have no self-cherishing thought, like bodhisattvas who only cherish others, all the numberless sentient beings. They are totally pure, so every action they do, not only meditating and studying Dharma, but also actions of eating, walking, sleeping, doing the job, everything becomes the cause of enlightenment, because of bodhicitta.

When we have realized emptiness of I, aggregates and so forth, all the phenomena, we don’t cling to I, action, object, phenomena, because we realize all these are empty and do not exist from their own side. Therefore there is no belief that all these are real, that they exist from their own side. [We have this belief] until we become enlightened, unless we are in equipoise meditation, having direct realization of emptiness. Otherwise we have this hallucination until we achieve enlightenment, because of having even the subtlest negative imprint that is left by delusion, simultaneously born ignorance, the concept of true existence, so that brings the hallucination that things exist from their own side, when things appear. [We believe this hallucination] until we realize that all things do not exist from their own side, then we don’t believe, even though we have the appearance. It is like seeing the dream while we are dreaming; knowing that this is a dream while we are dreaming. Or after crossing the desert and then looking back and seeing the mirage of water, but knowing that there is no water because we just came from there.

When we become enlightened, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness ceases the seed of ignorance, so the subtle defilements are ceased. Therefore there is no hallucination or outside projection, everything appearing as real. That doesn’t happen, because we see everything as empty, as it is empty from its own side. This is the biggest problem for people in the ordinary world, because they don’t know at all that everything comes from one’s own mind. Therefore making war and so forth, all the fighting back, killing back, all these things happen because of that wrong view.

However, bodhisattvas who have completely renounced I and only cherish others, can sometimes engage in killing others, telling lies, sexual misconduct, stealing, gossiping, slandering, harsh speech—the seven actions of body and speech. The three actions of the mind (covetousness, heresy and ill will) are not permitted, but the seven actions of body and speech, if we have bodhicitta, a totally pure mind, then actually doing those actions becomes good karma, positive actions. For ordinary sentient beings who have self-cherishing thought, those actions are negative, but for bodhisattvas, great saints and especially buddhas, who have no gross delusions and no subtle obscurations—these have completely ceased—and who have fully developed realizations; for buddhas to engage in these seven actions, it is only beneficial for sentient beings. Buddhas can see how to benefit sentient beings, to only bring great benefit to sentient beings, to not harm. But for ordinary beings who don’t have bodhicitta, these actions become harmful.

For example, on a boat there was a bodhisattva captain who was a past life of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. There were five hundred people on the boat and one man, a traitor, was carrying a spear and he wanted to kill the five hundred people. The bodhisattva captain knew that the man wanted to kill those people, and the bodhisattva caption knew that if the man killed them he would be reborn in the hell realms, maybe for eons and have to suffer unbelievably. The bodhisattva caption could not stand that at all, the thought of the man being born in the hell realms, and so he thought if he killed the man who was carrying the spear, then the man would not have to be reborn in the hells. With unbelievable compassion, the captain thought, “Even if I have to be reborn in the hell realms and have to suffer for an unbelievable length of time because of killing this man, at least he won’t have to suffer in the hells.” With the mind of unbelievable compassion he killed the man who was carrying the spear. He was completely happy and dedicated to being reborn in the hells.

Bodhisattvas do not want to achieve nirvana for oneself, wanting to be free forever from the oceans of samsaric sufferings—the suffering of pain and the suffering of change, which is temporal pleasure, but is called the suffering of change and then from where those two come, the all-pervasive compounding suffering, the circling aggregates, which are contaminated by delusion and karma and are caused by delusion and karma—to be free from these three sufferings forever, which is nirvana, the blissful state of peace for oneself. For bodhisattvas, even that kind of happiness for oneself (nirvana) is like used toilet paper with kaka on it. That is said in the teachings but it doesn’t say toilet paper, it says toilet stone, but the meaning is like used toilet paper, something to throw away immediately.

Having the thought to be reborn in hell for sentient beings—wow—to suffer in hell, that is even greater, unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable joy, happiness, more than achieving lower nirvana, even greater joy. It is like in extreme heat, when swans go into a swimming pool, or like elephants going into the water when it is very hot. What happened is that the bodhisattva captain killed the man with unbelievable, unbelievable compassion, so that action became positive. He spent 100,000 eons shorter in samsara, and that means it was much quicker to achieve enlightenment. So it became like that. You have to realize these things if you are not aware.

In Hinayana, these seven actions of body and speech are not allowed or permitted for the Sangha, but in Mahayana if you are a bodhisattva and no question if you are a buddha, you can do these seven actions if they are done with bodhicitta, with unbelievable compassion. Then the person who engages in the negative karma doesn’t have the danger of experiencing suffering in the hells for many lifetimes or eons and so forth. In the Mahayana, these actions can be done with the mind of bodhicitta, and also for buddhas, there are no defilements, no delusions, no subtle defilements. So then it only becomes unbelievably beneficial. These seven actions are permitted and can be unbelievably beneficial for others. You have to know these things

Regarding your question on how to purify, please find attached more details on the practices, but this is what came out:

  • 20,000 migtsema mantra, Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga. Please use my commentary on this practice. You can do it in the form of a retreat, but also you can do it while working—doing the retreat in the early morning, or one or two sessions a day (like morning and night) and during the day at work; or if you can, do more sessions and do it more as a strict retreat.
  • 40,000 tsa-tsas of enlightenment and Namgyalma stupa and Guhyasamaja.

This is my advice.

With much love and prayers...

PS. Without karma, whether virtue or nonvirtue, the result is never experienced, whether small or great suffering. Once karma is created, even numberless of eons ago, the result never gets lost. We have to experience it, whether happiness or suffering, once the karma is created.

As I mentioned, as long as the virtue is not destroyed by rising heresy or anger and also if it’s dedicated toward enlightenment and especially sealed with emptiness, then the result is happiness. As long as the nonvirtue is not purified, use an antidote, such as the Thirty-five Buddhas practice, Vajrasattva and so forth, as well as serving the guru and pleasing the guru, which is most powerful, or working and serving sentient beings with compassion, or bearing hardships for sentient beings.