My most dear, most kind, most precious wish-fulfilling one,
I am sorry for the very long delay in replying to your email. You asked for life practices, but you are already doing Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, prostrations by reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas and also Vajrasattva and the lam-rim prayer. You should continue doing these practices until you die or until you achieve enlightenment. These are essential practices. Also if you can, do the daily morning motivation each day, The Method to Transform a Suffering Life into Happiness (Including Enlightenment).
Regarding your question about low self-esteem, many people have low self-esteem, but it is by not thinking about karma and thinking only about worldly things, so low self-esteem is really a wrong label. It is not thinking about and understanding karma, so it’s like a wrong label. It’s a worldly mind. You think you don’t have what the country or society expects, but in reality the most important thing is Dharma. By understanding karma, you can see this. So I think low self-esteem is a wrong label; it is a more worldly way of thinking.
Regarding success and help for that, there is one mantra, a very secret Ganapati mantra. If you can, recite the mantra every day for wealth. There is inner wealth, which is realizations, and there is outer wealth, which is the material means of living, so it is for both of these, but it should be done with the following bodhicitta motivation.
Think, “For myself to achieve temporal and ultimate happiness, to be free from samsara and to achieve everlasting happiness is not enough. The purpose of my life is to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and to bring them to the peerless happiness—the total cessation of obscurations and completion of all the realizations. For that I need to achieve the state of omniscience as quickly as possible, therefore I am going to recite this Ganapati practice.”
I am also sending you a picture of the deity.
For you the most important thing is the four immeasurables and tong-len. If you want to know more, you can read some different advices I have given on this. I gave a teaching at Root Institute, Bodhgaya, last week, which has a lot on how to do tong-len. [These teachings in January 2017 have been recorded and uploaded to FPMT Video Resources.]
The most important thing is to help any being with our body, speech and mind, to help others, even insects, to help anybody who has any problem, to help in whatever way we can. I was saying in the teachings at Root Institute that to share even an Indian rupee, even an anna [a small currency unit, worth less that a rupee] even if we only have that, we can make charity and share with those in need. In our daily life every single thing, whatever we can do to help others with our body, speech and mind, it is very important in everyday life to help others as much as possible. In that way we create merit, unbelievable, unbelievable merit, especially if it is done with bodhicitta. That is very, very important.
Then making offering—for example, when we eat and drink—making offering to the guru, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. By making offering to the guru it is the highest merit and the greatest purification and therefore the quickest way to enlightenment. [This includes] anything done toward the guru, such as obtaining advice, fulfilling the guru’s holy wishes and these things. Offering to the guru, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha—these are very powerful [objects] to create good karma, and most powerful is the guru. It says this in teachings of sutra and tantra; I’m not just making it up.
Also, taking care of our parents, not with attachment, but by thinking of them as sentient beings. So this life’s kind mother and kind father who took care of us, every single service [for them] is very powerful, good karma. We start to experience the result, happiness, in this life and then for many hundreds of thousands of lives, on and on, for lifetimes.
In Mahayana Buddhism, as you know, all sentient beings are regarded as having been our kind mother. This is in the seven point cause and effect.
In order to have success, first it depends on the cause. Success is the result and it depends on the cause. Therefore if possible, help others to have success; help with whatever we can do, with our body, speech and mind. But there is so much attachment to the parents and that can make us sick.
It’s very important to understand that death can happen any time—any year, any month, any week, any day, even on the same day, even in the next hour, even in the next minute—to ourselves and our parents, because this is the nature of impermanence. This is happening in the world every day. So many old people are dying, young people are dying, middle-aged people are dying, those in the womb are dying, every day. So far the fact that it hasn’t happened to us is unbelievable. We are very lucky, unbelievably lucky. Why? Because even though we have been creating a lot of negative karma, we now have the opportunity by meeting Dharma to purify and to change our life.
For example, Milarepa created a lot of negative karma but was able to purify that. In his early years Milarepa’s family, his uncle and aunt, treated him very badly and took everything, so Milarepa’s mother sent him to learn black magic. Then he did black magic on the day of the wedding, where 36 people were dancing and enjoying themselves and drinking, and under the house there were more than 36 animals, horses. The whole house collapsed, and all the people and animals died.
Milarepa felt bad and he went to seek his guru, Marpa, with nothing. He asked Marpa to give Dharma advice and he offered his body, speech and mind. He asked for shelter and food. Marpa didn’t give him teachings and instead asked him to build a nine-story tower by himself. Marpa asked him to do it alone without any help, without one single person helping, only himself. Then he had to tear it down again, because Marpa asked him to, and he had to put all the stones back. Then Marpa asked him to build it again.
Milarepa did it three times in total. This was purification, to purify all his past bad karma. Then Marpa’s secret mother—who according to ordinary people is his wife—pushed Marpa to give teachings. Marpa was an enlightened being, not an ordinary being, so he manifested a mandala and gave an initiation, then he sent Milarepa to the mountains to do retreat. By following exactly what Marpa advised, Milarepa achieved enlightenment quickly in one brief lifetime of degenerate time.
By meeting Dharma, by purifying and collecting merit, we can create the causes to not be born in lower realms, to be born in the pure land and to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible, for ourselves and our parents. Therefore it’s meaningful to live long. If we didn’t meet Dharma, having a long life means we will just create negative karma and be born in the lower realms and then experience suffering for many eons.
[Without having met Dharma] it is almost as if being born a human being is how to professionally create negative karma with our body, speech and mind. It is as if being born as a human being is just for that. It’s very sad for people who didn’t meet Dharma, so we must practice mindfulness and we must know that anything can happen on any day in our life.
Regarding the general suffering of samsara, once we are in samsara then there is suffering. Whatever we experience is nothing new; we have experienced it numberless times from beginningless rebirths. Whatever pleasure we experience in samsara, we have experienced it before. It is nothing new, we have experienced it numberless times from beginningless rebirths.
We can die at any time, so [we need] that mindfulness. What happens is that without having met Dharma, we are just afraid. That fear has no use then, but after having met Dharma, then the fear brings the mind into Dharma, so then all actions are Dharma. Not only doing prayers to purify and so forth, but even eating, sleeping, walking, doing our job, all these become Dharma, and less and less of our actions become the cause of samsara and the cause of the lower realms.
Thank you very much.
With much love and prayers...
- Mandala offerings: 90,000 times. Begin first with the long one (either three or one) then do the short one, with refuge and bodhicitta. The short one involves seven heaps. You can read the mandala offering commentary. If you can, get a copy or listen to the commentary done in Taiwan in May 2016.
- Nyung nä retreats: do some every year, whatever you can, with the eight Mahayana precepts. Doing one nyung nä correctly liberates us from the lower realms and is a quick way to be born in Amitabha pure land. Nyung nä purifies negative karma collected from beginningless rebirth and collects extensive merits in so many ways. As well as purification, it is a quick way to achieve enlightenment. It is really, really good.
- Four Immeasurable Thoughts: Recite 800 times. Each time we think of these, we create more than skies of merit. This becomes our answer to help every sentient being, not only our parents, to free them from the oceans of samsaric suffering; to free them from suffering and bring them to buddhahood, the cessation of all the mistakes and completion of all the realizations. This also helps our parents as well, but compared to the numberless sentient beings who are suffering, helping our parents is nothing, they are just two or three people. Remember there are numberless sentient beings, so this is the best thing we can do; even thinking [about the four immeasurable thoughts] is the best.
To gain effortful lam-rim experience, meditate on the lam-rim outlines for the path of the three capable beings. Do this cycle three times in total, then do effortless meditation on the lam-rim. You can read Liberation in the Palm of the Hand and the Middling Lam-rim, but the main one for you to use for meditation is The Essential Nectar. The other ones you can read as commentary, but for you the main one is The Essential Nectar. This is a commentary by one of my teachers, Geshe Rabten. It is a very good one, not too elaborate and not too condensed, and very effective for the mind.
Yamantaka and Tara Cittamani. You can take both initiations, when possible, but the main one is Yamantaka. This is to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsara quickly (that means sutra) and quickest (that means tantra). To bring sentient beings to enlightenment quickest, for that you need to be enlightened quickly, so for that purpose you should take these initiations and your main deity is Yamantaka.