Purifying the Karma of Killing Many Fish

Purifying the Karma of Killing Many Fish

Date of Advice:
October 2013
Date Posted:
November 2020

Before taking refuge, a student was a commercial fisherman and had killed over 500,000 fish. The student wrote to Rinpoche, who advised several practices for purifying the negative karma of killing. Rinpoche advised how to bless all sentient beings in the ocean with the Namgyalma mantra board, and also recommended many practices for life, including preliminaries and lamrim meditation.

Namgyalma mantra board for blessing the ocean creatures, Caifornia, USA, Sept 2013.

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
It is very kind that Lama Lhundrup gave you preliminaries and that you already did 500,000 prostrations. Wow, that is great, great, great. As you know, Lama Tsongkhapa did 700,000 prostrations by reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas' names, and then realizations came like rainfall.

So we can definitely purify negative karma, especially those people who have met the Buddhadharma. There are so many other purification practices, especially within the Mahayana teachings. There are so many unbelievable methods to purify, especially with bodhicitta, by meditating on bodhicitta. With a bodhicitta motivation we can create more than skies of merit. Also, we should do purification practices with the remedy of the four opponent powers.

Reading the Golden Light Sutra is unbelievable purification, and just hearing four words of the Golden Light Sutra can purify the incredible, unbelievably heavy negative karma of killing one’s father or mother of this life, drawing blood from a buddha, killing an arhat or causing disunity amongst the Sangha. Any of these five actions [five immediate negativities] is the cause, without break of another life, of being reborn in the hell realm. That means not even going to the intermediate state, but immediately being reborn in the inexhaustible hell realm for one intermediate eon, which is the length of our life there. If the karma is not finished then being reborn again in another hell realm in another universe and having to suffer there for a long time. So we can purify even the heaviest negative karma such as this.

Of course, reciting the Vajra Cutter Sutra is also extremely powerful.

Doing nyung näs is another unbelievably powerful way to purify negative karma and a quick way to be reborn in the pure land and achieve enlightenment, so it is very, very good if you can do nyung näs.

I’m just talking here about different examples of ways to purify.

Also, just reciting OM MANI PADME HUM is unbelievable for your purification. Reciting OM MANI PADME HUM came out very good for you to purify the karma of killing all those fish.

If you have a prayer wheel, then with your right hand you can turn the prayer wheel and with your left hand you can count the mantras on a mala. Have a picture of Chenrezig and visualize nectar beams are emitted, constantly purifying you and all sentient beings. After purifying sentient beings, then you, yourself, become Chenrezig.

Recite five malas to purify yourself and then five malas to purify sentient beings. Visualize beams emitted from the prayer wheel and Chenrezig that purify you and all six-realm sentient beings, including the intermediate state beings, then they all become enlightened at the end.

If you have a prayer wheel you can do that visualization while turning the prayer wheel. At FPMT we make prayer wheels with microfiche inside and even if the prayer wheel is small, because it is filled with microfiche the amount of mantras inside is equal to several large prayer wheels, so it’s as if several million prayer wheels are inside that small prayer wheel. That means as you turn the prayer wheel one time, you get the benefit of reciting 100 million mantras; just in that second or minute, you create the merit of having recited 100 million mantras. It’s unbelievable.

So however many mantras are inside the prayer wheel, and however much you turn it, you receive that much merit and purification and then you achieve enlightenment more quickly. Probably Sera, Ganden and Drepung monasteries would not have prayer wheels like this, only the Western students have them.

We met one Chinese family who built several monasteries in Taiwan. They became wealthy by fishing, by killing millions and millions of fish. One of the monasteries they built is on the ocean that connects Taiwan and China. I was thinking of building a prayer wheel that is half in the ocean and half out of the ocean, then from the road on top a trail goes around.

The prayer wheel in the ocean is to help the fish by purifying their negative karma, and it also purifies all the sentient beings in the water, to bring them to enlightenment. I was telling this family about the benefits and they were so surprised. Later they said that because they became wealthy by fishing—they didn’t say how many fish they had killed, but it was probably millions—they were thinking to repay the kindness of the fish, to do something for the fish, so they had in mind to do this project. But I don’t think it has happened yet.

The other thing is, of course, to put the Namgyalma long mantra in the ocean or on top of the Pacific Ocean so that all the numberless sentient beings in the water and even human beings on the water are purified. Anybody who touches the water is purified, so they won’t be reborn in the lower realms and they will receive a higher rebirth. Then maybe hopefully they will meet the Dharma and achieve enlightenment.

I now have three big Namgyalma boards, which we put in the water. Sometimes we go to the beach and throw the boards into the water with ropes, then we hold onto the ropes and recite OM MANI PADME HUM, then each person takes a turn holding the rope and reciting the mantra. Recently I got a very big Namgyalma board, it is so well-decorated, but unfortunately the border and decorations were damaged when we brought it into the water, because it seems it was not made for the water.

Recently we went to the ocean with many people, local students, and Dagri Rinpoche was there. We had a loudspeaker and we put a notice board up at the beginning of the wharf, but maybe we shouldn’t have put the notice up. There were also people fishing on the same wharf, so maybe it was not good for them, but as you know, America is a free country, democratic, so in that sense it should have been OK. Anyway, it seems that some people complained and one police lady who looks after the state parks came and told us that we had to leave. What we were doing with the microphone was chanting mantras and I was also explaining a little about the benefits of the mantra, but it seems using a microphone is illegal. Also if more than twenty-five people gather at the wharf, then a permit is needed, so we found this out later.

This is an unbelievable way to benefit and bless the whole Pacific Ocean. When the mantra goes into the water it purifies all the sentient beings—those the size of mountains, the whales, and those that are so small that you can’t see them with your eyes, only with a microscope, and even the people who touch the water. It’s amazing, amazing, amazing; it saves them from the lower realms so then they receive a higher rebirth. We also make prayers for all the sentient beings to meet Dharma, to receive a perfect human rebirth and to gradually achieve enlightenment, not only liberation from samsara.

This sign explaining the purpose of blessing the ocean with Namgyalma mantras was dictated by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, California, USA, Sept 2013. On the notice that we put up, I wrote down that we were blessing the water and purifying all the sentient beings in the water—all their negative karmas and obscurations collected from beginningless rebirths—and for them to get a higher rebirth and to be free from the suffering of old age, sickness and death, and to achieve the sorrowless state, nirvana and full enlightenment, the peerless happiness. So it was something like this that I wrote down. This was on the sign so that people would understand what we were doing.

The other day I went to the beach with the Sangha from my house, the monks and nuns. We had Ven. Roger, Tsering, Sangpo and Sherab from Kopan and Anet, Kunsang, the Tahitian monk, Namgyal, Holly and Nyima. We also had one more person, a lay person named Mark who cleans the stupa behind the house every month, and takes our dog to the beach every week. So they put the mantra boards on the ocean—not from the wharf like the last time, but they went into the ocean and then the waves came. I asked the Sangha from Land of Medicine Buddha, Ven. Steve and other Sangha, to bring these mantra boards to the ocean every month, so Steve said it has been very good for them to do this. [You can read more and see photos here]

In south India, I don’t know if there is such a large mantra board to put into the ocean, like the one we have in America.

Also in the past, I think three times, we hired a boat and dragged the mantra boards behind the boat as we went around the ocean for one hour, then we had tea and snacks. I invited the local Sangha and center members and geshes. There was Geshe Ngawang Drakpa, Choden Rinpoche came twice and the last time we did it, Jhado Rinpoche came and recited a lot of Namgyalma mantras. He came to the area to give Namgyalma initiation and lead a Namgyalma retreat at Land of Medicine Buddha. So we did that to bless the water and to purify all the sentient beings. Also we recited mantras and blessed bottles of water and poured that in the ocean. We do that every time, except the very last time we carried the water, but then forgot to pour it in the ocean. I think the reason was that it was not sunny, so Sangpo thought it would take more time to put water in the ocean and maybe it was too cold.

I use the water offering practice of Yeshe Karda. That is the best, the most powerful, the best practice to do at the beach or at swimming pools or ponds, but at the beach it is the best practice. You should get this practice. Any monk who goes to the beach can practice this. [Read more and see photos here.]

This is the information for you, some information. After bodhicitta is actualized, then you can spend more time on generation and completion stages, to leave imprints.

As you remember in the lamrim, Lama Atisha mentioned a yogi who practiced generation stage tantra, but fell into the Hinayana, continuum entrance,1 because of his motivation. Due to not having actualized bodhicitta, problems happened, and also if it not done with renunciation, bodhicitta and right view, then we can be reborn in the hell realms. Tantric practice can lead to rebirth in hell. If it is not done with emptiness, then it becomes the cause of samsara.

Thank you very much. You are most welcome to enlightenment, not only nirvana, but for sentient beings—to free them from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to full enlightenment—so thank you very much. Your practice advice is below.

With much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

Practice advice

A lamrim text for you to study is Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand or the Middling Lamrim, but many discussions and debates are left out, so study well from beginning to end and try to understand it first. Then do effortful meditation. In addition you should do a little meditation every day on emptiness. Keep circling through the lamrim outline in this way until you have gained stable realizations.

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

If possible, also do a little bit of meditation each day on the graduated path of the lower capable being, the different levels. Meditate on the perfect human rebirth until you can see from your side how precious this human body is; how it is more precious than a wish-granting jewel, than skies of wish-granting jewels; how this human body is most precious. Meditate for months and years until you feel, without effort, that it is most precious. Continue like that with each meditation and after that meditate on its usefulness, the difficulty in finding it again, etc. Then meditate on impermanence and death, the nine-round meditation, then the suffering of the lower realms, refuge and karma.

After you have these realizations you can train the mind in the path of the middle capable being, particular the sufferings of the deva and human realms, the general sufferings, the six and twelve types of suffering, and the twelve links, until you see samsara like being in the center of a fire or like being in prison, so unbelievable. Then without effort you will have renunciation, wishing 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 you want to achieve enlightenment for every person you see.

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

You need to realize that the real I that appears, that you trust in, is false. Recognize that it is false and then see it as empty. After that, see it as totally empty; it does not exist from the beginning. By training the mind in that you see as a result, what you realize first is ultimate truth and then through that you realize the truth for the all-obscuring mind, that the I exists in mere name. You realize that as a result it is merely labeled by the mind, so you see that the 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, then you have completed the understanding of emptiness. Then continue in that, by training the mind in that, then 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 direct perception of emptiness, which ceases the seed of delusion, then there is no delusion and karma, no suffering, then we achieve nirvana, we achieve the ultimate nature of the mind, free from delusion and karma and with the support of bodhicitta we develop ultimate wisdom, the direct perception of emptiness. With the supporting method of bodhicitta and so forth, we can achieve full enlightenment. We are able to see the subtle obscurations and complete the mind in all the realizations, then we become a perfect guide in order to do perfect works for sentient beings.


1 Usually translated as stream-enterer (Tib: gyün zhug; Wyl: rgyun zhugs.) One of four divisions of Hinayana hearers (Skt: shravaka); the other three are once-returners, non-returners and arhats. [Return to text]