I am writing to you because I am totally desperate. Here is my story:
I have been a Buddhist since March 1999 and I have always had a profound respect for the life of sentient beings, for example, I don’t kill flies or mosquitoes. I felt, while reading your article in Bouddhisme Actualites, that you could help me.
A few years ago I was struck by a terrible illness that the psychiatrist called psychotic episodes (deluded states). I was caught up in an infernal spiral that culminated in the murder of my parents. I struck my mother twice with a knife and my father four times. It is the tragedy of my life, since I adored my parents. I was helpless, as the illness was stronger than me, and I am moreover convinced that negative forces came into play. I spent a year in prison and then it was recognized that I was not responsible for my actions and the case was dismissed. Today, a treatment that I am following has stabilized me and I am well, and my permanent release is approaching. I have to learn to live with this on my conscience and it isn’t always easy. My great preoccupation, and what I have read in a Buddhist book, is that the gravest murder is killing one’s mother or father, or one’s spiritual master, and this leads directly to hell without going via the bardo (without means of liberation).
I don’t want to have to go to hell. I am a good person and I want to do good. For this, I need to follow the Dharma path which leads to enlightenment and which is the opposite of hell. Please guide me so that I can get out of this situation that prevents me from living normally. I am counting on you for a reply.
My very dear one,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I am very sorry for the long delay. I understand how difficult your life has been. I would like to say first—don’t worry, you can still achieve enlightenment even though you have done these very heavy karmas.
There are five uninterrupted negative karmas, also called negative karma without a break from another life. These five uninterrupted negative karmas are: having killed one’s father and mother, causing blood to flow from a Buddha, causing disunity in the Sangha, and killing an arhat.
So, it means one goes straight from this life to another without going through the intermediate state. The only other time one is reborn without first going through the intermediate state is when one is reborn into the formless realm, which is the highest deva realm. Without a break refers to not going to the intermediate state.
When negative karma is not very heavy, it is not necessary to have to experience it immediately, so one experiences it in the next rebirth. It is the same with virtuous karma that is very strong—one experiences it in the next life, in a good rebirth. If one’s negative karma is not purified, then one has to experience it after some time, it could be after two or three lifetimes or even after a zillion, trillion eons.
However it is said in the Guhyasamaja Root Tantra:
If sentient beings commit an action
As grave as the five heinous crimes
He [still] can attain the superior Vajra Vehicle,
But who from within disregards his master
Shall never attain, even if exerted.
That means having given up your guru, criticized the guru, or having heresy or broken samaya with one’s guru. It is not possible to explain how heavy the negative karma is from these things. One who criticizes, hurts, or belittles one’s guru from the heart will not achieve anything in this life; even if one practices one won’t achieve anything.
Therefore, you don’t need to worry. Even with this negative karma you have done, still you can achieve enlightenment in this life, if you practice. This also means to have correct devotion to one’s virtuous friend. Therefore, you should be happy. Also, for this reason, it is extremely important now to purify these defilements and negative karmas. It is very important to purify not just this negative karma, but also many other negative karmas such as killing, stealing, telling lies, sexual misconduct, etc, also the negative karma of one’s body, speech, and mind, the 10 non-virtuous actions, as well as so many other negative karmas that one has created in one day, from birth up until now, and from beginningless rebirths. This means one must practice now to purify all the negative karmas, otherwise one will have to experience all the suffering results endlessly for each negative karma one has created.
So, my suggestion for you is first to protect yourself before you die. Otherwise, there is a chance of experiencing so many eons in the lower realms and the unending heavy suffering. So, this is the immediate thing to do, because the nature of life is impermanent and death can come at any time, and then it is possible to be reborn in the lower realms, with no opportunity to practice Dharma, because one would be totally consumed by the unbelievably heavy suffering, which is so much heavier than any suffering in the human realm.
Whenever we have a human body, it is an incredible opportunity to have all happiness up until enlightenment. This is because we have the opportunity to practice. An example is when we have stomach pain, we can’t meditate, it’s so difficult, unbearable. This is nothing compared to the suffering in the lower realms, this pain compared to that is great bliss. It is said that all the energy of all the fire on earth, if you combine it all together, that inconceivable fire is like cool air compared to how hot just one spark of fire is from the hell realms. So, you can imagine the unbelievable suffering in the hell realms, and how difficult it would be to practice Dharma. In the hell realms one has no opportunity to practice Dharma. Therefore, one has no opportunity to be liberated from the sufferings and the causes of suffering.
Now you can see why it is so important to immediately start practicing now, while one has the opportunity, so that one can again have a high rebirth, especially now when one is able to practice Dharma, when one has all the circumstances and the opportunity.
Now, it is vital to practice purification, to purify all these heavy negative karmas, also to purify the habit so one does not do it again, otherwise one will have to experience the suffering results of those negative karmas again and again. So, you need to purify now.
The result of the completed negative action of killing has four suffering results:
- ripened results
- results similar to the cause
- actions similar to the cause
- environmental results
An example of the results of great non-virtue that has been created will be rebirth in the lower realms, as a hell being, animal, or hungry ghost. Or if one is reborn as a human, one has a short life, with much sickness, or one is killed. The environmental results would be being born in a very fearful and dangerous place, where there are wars and diseases, where animals and insects cause diseases or kill people, also a place where there are earthquakes, the food does not have protein, or it causes sickness or death.
Experiencing the result similar to the cause would be dying in the mother’s womb, dying untimely, having a very short life, and receiving harm to your life from others, and actually committing the action of killing again. This is the result of the past negative karma of killing.
Another example of karma is how in one family one child is very compassionate, and feels very unhappy if he sees any living being harmed, and feels so happy when beings do not receive harm. Another child in the same family always likes to kill beings, likes to fish, and enjoys killing insects and other beings. The cause of this is due to past karma, past habits, killing others in a past life, and the habit of doing that. The other compassionate child’s behavior is also due to past karma and the habits created in a past life.
One solution for you, right now, is to abstain from harming others again, and to take vows. This is the most effective method to abstain from creating this negative karma again. You can take the five lay vows for life or the eight Mahayana precepts for one day. The eight Mahayana vows are usually just taken for one day, not for a lifetime. But you can take the five lay vows until death. The five lay vows are abstaining from killing, stealing, lying, etc. Also, you can take the eight vows for life. If you feel you cannot take all the five vows, then you can take just four, three, two, or even just one vow, if that is all you can do. Take as many as you can, according to your capacity.
For every good karma, also, there are four results of happiness, such as rebirth in the deva realm, etc. Experiencing results similar to the cause is the opposite to the negative karmas I listed above, for instance, living in a harmonious, peaceful place, with good food, where people and animals don’t harm you, the food and medicine doesn’t have any bad effects, and you do not receive harm from others. This means you will have a happy, long, and healthy life and in your next life you again practice morality, abstaining from killing, etc, therefore creating more good karma and the result—happiness.
You see, from this, you can create unending happiness. Taking vows and living according to the vows is very important practice. It creates an unbelievable preparation for one to have happiness and all the causes of happiness in one’s future lives and later to achieve liberation from samsara and enlightenment.
Definitely, if you can do this, it will make a huge difference in your life, not only this life, but future lives. The difference will be like the sky and earth. Also, in this way you help others to develop their mind on the path and to create the causes of happiness.
Regarding practice, it is very important to purify. This is what comes out very important for you to do:
Recite 500,000 Vajrasattva mantras (long mantra).
- You can do 100,000 mantras in a group, with someone leading it. This makes it easier. Also, in a group you can have discussions, and in this way help each other and inspire each other. Any practice that you do in a group is actually 100 times more powerful than when you do it alone.
- You can do the other 300,000 recitations either partly in retreat and partly while you are doing your job or not in retreat, by doing one or two sessions a day and counting like that. If you discuss with other Sangha and older students they can help you and explain how you can do this. Also, there are commentaries on the practice that you should study.
Then, it is very good if you can go to Nalanda Monastery and stay there for a little bit, to learn from and discuss with the monks. This will inspire you and may be very good for you. Also, they can help you to do the Vajrasattva practice.
I am sending you some books, please read them and study them:
If you are able to, get my book from the teachings on Vajrasattva; this may be very helpful for you. After reading these books, you can study Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by Pabongka Rinpoche and the Lam-rim Chen-mo. You can visit Nalanda Monastery and the monks at Nalanda can help you if you have questions.
So, I hope you can understand. I am talking from my heart, giving my heart advice to your heart. I hope you will take this seriously, will use my advice, and that you will take this into your heart. This will make the time that I have spent meaningful as well.
With much love and prayers,
PS. Life is to be enjoyed, to be happy, but for that you need to know Dharma, need to know about karma, and need to practice the good heart.
PPS. In Buddhism it is said that even a mosquito can achieve enlightenment, because it has Buddha nature, so therefore for human beings there is no question, because we have the opportunity to learn, we have a human body, we are able to understand the meaning of the Buddhadharma, and are able to practice. It is an unbelievable, extraordinary opportunity to have this potential. Every sentient being has the potential to reach enlightenment. However, just being unhappy and not doing anything meaningful with one’s life is just torturing yourself. There is no use, so you should learn and practice, as I have mentioned. This will bring light into your life, so please illuminate yourself, enlighten yourself, liberate yourself. Don’t keep yourself in darkness.