- Refuge recitations: 150,000
- Prostrations by reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas: 50,000
- Mandala offerings: 100,000
- Vajrasattva mantras: 100,000
- Water bowl offerings: 50,000
If you are able to come to Nepal, there are students who come to the Kopan nunnery from Singapore and so on. They do one thousand water bowl offerings a day, so you can join them and then offer together as a group. Even if many people are doing the water bowl offerings, you can still offer them together. You can each count the total number of the bowls offered and in this way complete them faster. Also, someone can guide the practice.
Group water bowl retreats are also arranged in the West and at different centers, similar to what Kopan nunnery does, and in this way it gets them done. Otherwise you can do it alone. This may purify more because it is harder and it takes longer, therefore it purifies so many obscurations and collects so much merit. When it is very easy because it’s done with many people, maybe there’s not as much purification.
One of the benefits of offering water is that the mind becomes soft and actualizes bodhicitta—the wetness of bodhicitta—thus we generate loving kindness, compassion and bodhicitta. It is mainly for that.
- Arya Sanghata Sutra recitations: Read the Arya Sanghata Sutra each week for your whole life. This is to collect the most unbelievable, unbelievable merits, so that is to help everything.
To gain effortful lam-rim experience:
What makes your life most meaningful is the lam-rim. I suggest the main text for you to use is Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. If you haven’t studied this text already, then study it from beginning to end, reading through it four times. That itself is lam-rim meditation if you read it slowly and relate it to your own life.
As you read, if there’s anything you don’t understand you can mark the text—not with black ink, but with orange or yellow color. Mark it respectfully, thinking this is the holy Dharma, which has two aspects—one aspect is the realizations and one aspect is the text, the letters, which explain the realizations.
Holy Dharma has two realizations, in case of realizing the absolute Dharma—the cessation of all the obscurations, the sufferings, and the true path to that, which leads to the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness. These two are ultimate Dharma.
When you mark the text, you have to think that you are offering color with respect, like offering to a statue. Otherwise if you are just marking the text with a black line on top of the letter, it creates the negative karma to be born in hell, such as the second hell, called the black line hell. Therefore, it’s important when you mark the text not to do it in a disrespectful manner.
The other thing is that you can buy a notebook and write nicely in that anything you don’t understand. Then you can meet with a geshe or elder student who has studied the lam-rim well and you can ask the questions. In this way, you can learn. Or you can telephone and get the answers from someone who has studied the lam-rim very well.
Study Liberation in the Palm of your Hand four times and after that go through the lam-rim outline using Liberation as a basis. Cycle through the lam-rim outline completely three times.
After that, try to achieve the realization of correctly following the virtuous friend with thought and action, on the basis of the outline in the lam-rim. Every day, more or less meditate on that. The time depends on yourself. Do this until you achieve the effortless realization of correctly following the virtuous friend.
After that, do the meditation on the graduated path of the lower capable being, up to karma. Particularly [focus] on the perfect human rebirth. Try to get the realization that your perfect human body is much more precious than skies filled with wish-granting jewels, so you realize the importance.
Even if we have skies filled with wish-granting jewels, that alone can’t help us to be free from the lower realms. That alone can’t help us to be free from samsara, free from lower nirvana, and we can’t achieve buddhahood from wish-granting jewels. With this perfect human body, even if we don’t have a tiny piece of a wish-granting jewel, we can achieve all of this up to enlightenment.
Milarepa achieved full enlightenment in this brief lifetime of degenerate times, even though he was a lay person and didn’t become a monk. This was even after he killed about thirty-seven people through black magic. He also killed many more animals that were under the house at the same time. This happened because he felt very sad and it was the advice of his mother because they were badly treated by their uncle and aunt. After he killed all those people he felt bad and went to see his guru Marpa because the lama who taught him black magic suggested he go to see Marpa.
Marpa didn’t give him any teachings for years, he just let Milarepa build a nine-storey tower three times, by himself alone. After Milarepa built the first tower, he had to tear it down and carry all the stones back to where he found them, so his backside became bluish and hard. Also his guru Marpa, who was a buddha, always scolded him and maybe even beat him. Even when Milarepa came with other disciples to attend teachings from Marpa, when Marpa saw him, he scolded him and kicked him out. However, from Milarepa’s side, he never arose heresy or anger, he was always devotional and followed exactly what was advised by his guru Marpa.
Finally, Marpa did give Milarepa initiations and teachings and then he went to the different mountains where he was advised to meditate by Marpa. He did exactly what was advised and he achieved buddhahood—the total cessation of all the obscurations and completion of all the realizations—in one brief lifetime of degenerate time. This is just a brief example of how Milarepa achieved enlightenment in a brief lifetime of degenerate time. There are many others [who also achieved enlightenment in one lifetime.] This is what you should understand; this is the essence of how to achieve enlightenment quickest in this brief lifetime of degenerate time.
Besides the perfect human rebirth, its usefulness, meditate on this longer if you can, then if you achieve realizations you can proceed to the next subject, so like that continue through the lam-rim.
When you have realizations of the path of the lower capable being, you can then train the mind mainly in the path of the middle capable being. After that realization then train in bodhicitta. There are two techniques: the seven-point Mahayana cause and effect, and equalizing and exchanging oneself and others. You can do both, but whichever technique is more effective you can do that more often until you achieve effortful realization.
Then train the mind in emptiness. You should do some meditation on emptiness every day, for ten or fifteen minutes or whatever time you have. This is very important, so please study the teachings on emptiness, besides lam-rim, philosophy, also take teachings, learn and read and try to understand the teachings. This is to leave imprints as much as possible on the mind.
If we have enough merit then we can have realizations even in this life; if not, then in the next life. Therefore it is very important to listen to teachings as much as possible in this life and to study and read any teachings on sutra and tantra, the Buddha’s teachings. In this way it leaves imprints on the mind and even if we don’t have realizations in this life, in the next life we will become a pandit. We can expect that. What we heard in this life, through that we can have realizations quickly.
Please use the outline of Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand or Essential Nectar for your daily meditation. This should be your pocket guide book on the lam-rim. In that way, it is so simple. After becoming familiar with the lam-rim then you need your personal deity of Highest Yoga Tantra, and in this way, you are practicing to achieve enlightenment in the quickest way.