Purifying the Karma of Harming Others

Purifying the Karma of Harming Others

Date of Advice:
March 2015
Date Posted:
October 2015

A student had terminated several pregnancies and had harmed others. She had killed many insects, eaten meat and used leather extensively in her life. She felt a deep sense of regret and fear that her wrongful past actions would affect her future lives. She asked Rinpoche for advice on how  to purify this negative karma and generate merit, to benefit all sentient beings and make amends to those she had harmed.

My most dear one,
Thank you very much from my heart for your kind letter. I understand all the problems, sadness and difficulties. Everything, the entire problem, all the shortcomings, arise from delusion, the wrong concepts and from attachment, particularly attachment. That’s what the delusions do, they cheat us, they deceive us.

Not only will we have difficulties in this life; that’s nothing. The resultant suffering in the lower realms is most unbelievable and unbearable. For example, one fire spark from the hell realms, how hot is it? It is sixty or sixty-five times hotter than all the power of the fire in the human world put together, which is like air conditioning or a snowflake compared to one single spark of hell fire.

It is mentioned in the teachings, and by His Holiness also, that we feel as if attachment is our supporter, that it is behind us, being good to us. Attachment appears to be helping us, but that is how it totally cheats us. We fully dedicate our life to attachment and become a total slave to that. Anger looks like our protector; it looks as if it destroys our enemy. We fully rely on anger in our life and it cheats us completely.

These delusions not only bring suffering in this life but also rebirth and suffering in the lower realms. It is most unbelievable, most unbelievable, most unbelievable, most unbelievable, most unbelievable. Not only that, it is said that just one negative karma, such as cheating somebody one time or killing somebody one time, causes us to be cheated or killed for five hundred lifetimes. If we kill somebody, as a result of that karma we will be killed by the continuity of the sentient being that we killed in the past for five hundred lifetimes. Depending on how we did the action of killing, we may be killed in an even worse way than what we did. 

It is mentioned in the great holy being Aryadeva’s Four Hundred Stanzas, “If you cheat one sentient being, as a result you will be cheated for five hundred lifetimes.”

In Buddhism whatever suffering you experience is all temporary. It’s not forever. Of course, in Christianity, if you are born in hell it is forever. However, in Buddhism, the mind is not oneness with delusion but is only temporarily obscured by delusion, therefore all the suffering and all the causes of suffering, the delusions, can be ceased. When the delusions are ceased then all the karma, which comes from delusion, is ceased. That’s how you receive everlasting happiness, the blissful state of peace for yourself, and not only that, by ceasing the subtle obscurations, you achieve sang gyä, or buddhahood in Sanskrit, the total elimination of all the obscurations and completion of all the realizations. To do this you have to actualize the right path.

It’s like when you are sick. You have to take the right medicine to recover and not just anything that is called medicine. In the same way, to cease the causes of suffering—delusions and karma, the obscurations—you have to actualize the right path and not just anything that is called spiritual. For that, you have to first engage in listening to a qualified teacher, then reflection and meditation practice in order to actualize the meaning of the path in your heart.

My suggestion to you is that, as you are my student, please practice these two things. One is the direct meditation on lam-rim.1 When you open your eyes in the morning please do this direct meditation in order to transform your life from kaka into gold. Transform it from a life that is the cause of the lower realms’ sufferings and not only that, but even the cause of so many problems in this lifetime, into a life that is creating the cause to go not only to nirvana but also to full enlightenment. By practicing this direct meditation, your whole life becomes the cause of full enlightenment, the total cessation of all the obscurations and cause of all the realizations, and then you are able to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment. At the end of this morning motivation are verses from A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life explaining how to live your life for numberless sentient beings. That is great, great, great, great, thought transformation.

The other thing to do is the Medicine Buddha practice. This is the most powerful way to purify negative karmas collected from beginningless rebirth and also to achieve the success of all your wishes, especially to achieve enlightenment and free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment.

For you particularly I suggest reciting the Sutra of Golden Light every day. Recite this every day, whether you finish it or not. That is another extremely powerful method for purification. It helps to bring all sentient beings to enlightenment and especially it brings so much peace and happiness in this world. It is an antidote to war and to all the other problems in this world, global problems and individual’s problems. For you to recite the Golden Light Sutra is fantastic. It brings you to enlightenment and purifies all your negative karmas. It is also good if you can encourage other people to recite the Golden Light Sutra. Then all the happiness comes and all the problems gradually go.

Some years back there was one nun in our FPMT organization who went to a small city in the countryside in Mongolia where the people were suffering very much. There was a lot of poverty and despair and the place was extremely harsh. People just wanted to leave that place as quickly as possible. She printed many copies of the fourth chapter of the Golden Light Sutra and gave them to the people. Many people came to receive a copy and they were very grateful; they kept it in their house and some recited it. By doing that, gradually the conditions and environment in that city became better and better.

When the nun returned several years later, the city had changed. It had become attractive with parks and places for the people to walk and children to play, and the people were now more affluent and happier. So the local democratic party awarded her a medal for spreading the Dharma. They said because she gave the people the Golden Light Sutra, the benefits described in the sutra happened: the weather was no longer so extreme, the rains came at the right time, the city became affluent and the people happier. This shows how powerful it is to recite the Golden Light Sutra.

Also recite 300,000 Vajrasattva mantras. You can do a little Vajrasattva practice every night and count the mantra, or you can do retreat some place to finish the 300,000 mantras. You can do some retreat —100,000 or 200,000—while you are working and finish that way, or you can do some in retreat and some while you are working. Do as you like.

As much as possible, as it’s mentioned in the morning motivation, do the work for sentient beings to free them from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment. By recognizing all those negative karmas you have done and feeling they are bad, that itself is purification. As much as you do that, it makes the negative karma lighter and the suffering result becomes lighter and lighter, so it’s a very important quality. By recognizing what is wrong and what is right you abandon the cause of suffering and practice the cause of happiness. Thank you very much.

With much love and prayer...


1  See A Direct Meditation on the Graduated Path, Containing all the Important Meanings. See also Daily Meditation, available from FPMT Foundation Store. [Return to text]