Preliminary Practices and Effortful Lamrim Meditation

Preliminary Practices and Effortful Lamrim Meditation

Date of Advice:
December 2013
Date Posted:
March 2021

In this letter to a student who had completed many nyung näs, Rinpoche suggested several preliminary practices and gave instructions on how to practice lamrim meditation until effortless realizations are achieved.

My most dear, most precious, most kind, wish-fulfilling one,
I would like to say a billon, zillion times thanks from the heart for doing the twenty-five nyung näs and on top of that, planning to do 108 nyung näs. I am so, so, so, so happy. It’s unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable! It looks like I should send you a trillion, billion, zillion dollars every day, packages of rainfalls of offerings in your room, for all the practices.

Thank you so much. I am very sorry there was such a long delay in replying to you. I’m very, very sorry.

Please find below my advice for your life practice, as well as additional supporting advice for some of the practices that you have. Please live your life with bodhicitta night and day, and with every action that you do.

I am suggesting these preliminary practices because Lama Tsongkhapa asked Manjushri, “What is the quickest way to achieve enlightenment?” Manjushri said, “First purify obstacles and [collect] extensive merits, then one-pointedly pray to the guru. Next, the actual body of practice is training the mind in the lamrim, the graduated path to enlightenment.” This is how Manjushri answered, so without practicing purification and collecting merits, lamrim realizations cannot happen, the mind cannot change, so for that we need to do preliminary practices.

Start the day off with daily meditation, this includes the mantras for blessing the speech and the direct meditation on the path to enlightenment. [See The Method to Transform a Suffering Life into Happiness (Including Enlightenment.)]

Refuge: 300,000

Prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas: 200,000, by reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas practice. This is most powerful and unbelievable for purification, purifying negative karma collected since beginningless time. Lama Tsongkhapa did 700,000 prostrations by reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names and then rainfalls of realizations happened and he achieved enlightenment. He could have achieved enlightenment in this life but he purposely chose to teach with Vinaya, so he became enlightened in the intermediate stage.

Vajrasattva: 200,000 mantras.

Arya Sanghata Sutra: This came out especially good for you to read. It is most powerful for purification and to collect unbelievable merits, the quick way to achieve enlightenment, realizations on the path and even success of this life quickly, by the way.

Sacred Words of Manjushri: (Tib: jam päl zhal lung): You can sometimes read this.

Golden Light Sutra: Try to read this sometimes if you can.

OM MANI PADME HUM recitations: This is a major practice for you. Recite as many as you can and try for one million recitations.

There are incredible benefits of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM, please study the commentaries. In essence the benefits are: 1) purifying negative karma and obscurations collected from beginningless rebirths, and 2) collecting extensive merits—the merit of transcendental wisdom and its causes, the dharmakaya and rupakaya. By being able to collect merit quickly, it makes it quicker to achieve enlightenment and to actualize the realizations of the graduated path and especially great compassion. Also, to receive the blessings of Chenrezig, to be able to generate compassion for all sentient beings and to be able to achieve enlightenment the quickest. So that means being able to free all the sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and the causes—obscurations and negative karma—and to bring them to full enlightenment quickly.

This is a very easy practice. You can recite the mantra in retreat, in session and even when travelling, walking, etc. Your mouth can recite the mantra, you can visualize Chenrezig in front of you and nectar flowing continuously to you, purifying yourself and all sentient beings. Sometimes you can think that you are receiving the qualities of Chenrezig, including the realizations of the three principal aspects of the path, guru devotion, the two stages, and also Chenrezig’s qualities—omniscient mind, perfect power and compassion. Think that you and all sentient beings receive all this.

It’s very, very good if you have a prayer wheel, so when you are sitting, your right hand turns the prayer wheel and your left hand counts the mantras on your mala. If you don’t have a prayer wheel, I will try to get one for you. Please let me know. If the prayer wheel is filled with microfiche, so if it has 100 million mantras inside, then if you turn it just one time, just one rotation, it is the same as having done many years of retreat—you have received the same benefits, unbelievable benefits of having done 100 million recitations in that second. It’s unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable merit. I have one prayer wheel which has three billion mantras inside on microfiche. I try to turn it as much as I can, but sometimes I miss out.

For effortful realizations, first read completely a lamrim text, such as the Lamrim Chenmo, Middle Lamrim or Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. Lama Tsongkhapa’s Middle Lamrim is the same as studying the Lamrim Chenmo. The Middle Lamrim is very good, and then shorter than that is Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, which is simpler. Then smaller than that is Essence of Refined Gold and The Happy Path.

You have to study one lamrim from beginning to end, maybe Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand or the Middle Lamrim, then get a notebook and inside write down anything that you don’t know or understand and then at a later time ask an older student who has studied the lamrim very well, or ask a geshe and check up like that. Then you can discuss any questions you have, and sometimes you can ask me. If I know then I will answer.

Do effortful lamrim meditation on the basis of Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga. It is very good to do this every day, as within it there is also a lamrim prayer, The Foundation of All Good Qualities, so that way you go through the lamrim every day and that leaves imprints on your mind. This practice is very good, not only for purification but also to develop wisdom. This is highly praised as a daily practice in the Lama Tsongkhapa tradition, also by my guru, a top learned lama in Lama Tsongkhapa teachings. Kyabje Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche, and especially any Gelugpa lama.

Then do effortless meditation, no matter how many weeks, months or years it takes, continue until you have stable realizations of guru devotion, until you see the one guru as all the buddhas from your side and one buddha is all the gurus, that you received Dharma connection from. You see that one hundred percent and you are able to see that for a long time, without effort.

If possible, each day also do a little bit of meditation on the graduated path of the lower capable being, the different levels. Meditate on the perfect human rebirth until you see from your side how precious this human body is, more precious than a wish-granting jewel, than skies of wish-granting jewels. This human body is most precious. Continue until you feel this—how it is most precious—for months and years without effort, and go on like that relating to each meditation. After that, meditate on its usefulness, how it is difficult to find again, etc. Then impermanence and death, which has the nine-round meditation, then the sufferings of the lower realms, refuge and karma.

After you have these realizations you can train the mind in the graduated path of the middle capable being, particularly the sufferings of the deva and human realms, the general sufferings, the six and twelve types and the twelve links, until you see that samsara is like being in the center of a fire or like being in prison, it’s so unbelievable. Then without effort you will have renunciation, wanting to be free from samsara, every second without effort.

Then meditate on bodhicitta until the thought to achieve enlightenment arises day and night without effort, and every person that you see, you want to achieve enlightenment for them.

You should meditate on emptiness every day—I’m not sure about the time—by reading the Heart Sutra or different quotations, by reciting and meditating, even if it is a short verse on emptiness.

So you realize the real I—what appears, what you trust in—is false. Recognize it as false and then see it as empty, after that see it is totally empty, it does not exist. From the beginning by training the mind in that, you see this as a result. What you realize first is ultimate truth and through that you realize the truth for the all-obscuring mind—that the I exists in mere name. You realize that as result, the I is merely labeled by the mind, so you see, I exists in mere name and because it exists in mere name that’s why it is empty, so unified emptiness and dependent arising. When you realize that, you have completed the understanding of emptiness.

Continue in that, by training the mind in that you achieve great insight meditation, emptiness with the realization of shinä, calm abiding, deriving rapturous ecstasy of body and mind. By training the mind in that, it leads to the direct perception of emptiness, which ceases the seed of delusion, then there is no delusion and karma, no suffering, and we achieve nirvana, we achieve the ultimate nature of the mind, free from delusion and karma.

With the support of bodhicitta we develop the ultimate wisdom. By developing ultimate wisdom, the direct perception of emptiness, with the supporting method, bodhicitta and so forth, then we can achieve full enlightenment. We are able to cease the subtle obscurations and complete the mind in all the realizations, and then become a perfect guide, to do perfect works for sentient beings.

With much love and prayers ...