Rinpoche's Online Advice Book: Confessing a Mistake

Rinpoche's Online Advice Book: Confessing a Mistake

Date of Advice:
January 2020
Date Posted:
June 2024

Rinpoche sent this advice to a student who confessed that she had made a mistake at one of the centers.

Spring flowers in the LYWA garden, Lincoln, MA, 2016. Photo: Wendy Cook.

My most dear, most precious, most kind, wish-granting one,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. Yes, you explained your life and difficulties. I advise that it’s a very small thing, and it can be totally changed from negative to positive. Because of the mind, there is nothing that can’t be changed.

Please listen to this story about the great yogi Milarepa, who became enlightened in one life, in a brief life of degenerate times, through tantric practice based on the common path. This common path is based on the three principal aspects of the path—renunciation, bodhicitta and right view—and the root of this is correctly following the virtuous friend.

According to Milarepa’s story, after his father died, his mother was badly treated by the aunt and uncle, who took all their wealth. Milarepa’s mother advised Milarepa to practice black magic, so he went to learn black magic. He made a hole in the ground, where he did the practice for seven days. Then rocks fell from the mountain onto the relatives’ house, where they were having a wedding party. Then all the people and the animals died. More animals died than people, because they were in the downstairs part of the house.

Milarepa felt sad after that and then his black magic lama advised him to see the guru Marpa. When Milarepa went to see the guru Marpa he didn’t have anything to offer, so he offered his body, speech and mind in order to receive teachings. Marpa accepted, but in order for Milarepa to be purified, Marpa didn’t gave him any teachings for years. If Milarepa came with other students to receive teachings and Marpa saw him there, then Milarepa would get kicked out. Marpa also beat Milarepa and only scolded him; he never gave him teachings for years.

Also, he advised Milarepa to build a nine-story tower three times. Milarepa had to make it by himself, without any help from anybody else. He built the first tower and then he was advised by Marpa to take away all the stones and return them to their original places. Then again, he had to build the tower and again take the stones back to their place. Then again, for the third time, he had to build the tower. In total he built this nine-story tower three times and he carried all the stones back to the original places twice.

The final tower still exists, but I haven’t seen it. On one pilgrimage to Tibet we came near to the place, but we didn’t see it as there was no time.

Marpa was an enlightened being, I think Heruka, but he appeared as a farmer, with his body covered in dust, He worked in the fields with his wife and appeared as an ordinary being.

After building the tower three times, Milarepa’s back became like an animal skin, and even bluish in color. So Marpa’s secret mother pushed Marpa to give teachings to Milarepa. He accepted and gave teachings and initiations. Marpa was a buddha, so he also manifested the mandala and did everything. Marpa actually wanted Milarepa to become enlightened more quickly, and through bearing more difficulties he could become enlightened quicker.

From this story of Milarepa you can see your own mistakes, the ones you believe you made, are nothing compared to what Milarepa did in his life. So your life can be positive, even if your life in the past was even more negative than it is now. It can be more positive in the future, so you should be happy about this.

It is said that all beings can become enlightened. Why? Because we have buddha nature. It’s not that we are enlightened, but the ultimate nature of mind is pure, even though we falsely apprehend [the I] as real, thinking its nature is truly existent, existing from its own side.

We believe this, but it’s a total hallucination. It doesn’t exist in that way at all. That mind is a false mind, but that doesn’t mean that the I doesn’t exist; it exists very subtly, by being merely labelled the mind. So it does not exist at all from the object’s side, but from the mind’s side. So, empty of existing from its own side as real, that is buddha nature. The mind is not oneness with anger; it is just temporarily obscured. The mind is not oneness with attachment; it’s just temporarily obscured. Also, the mind is not oneness with ignorance; it is temporarily obscured.

The ultimate nature of mind is totally pure. It is called buddha nature and because of that, all beings can become enlightened. Not all at one time but at different times. This means whatever suffering exists, we can be free of that. Of course there is a method to be free of that, and if we use the correct method, we can be free of any suffering, so we should feel great happiness for this.

It is said by the great bodhisattva Shantideva that if something can be mended; if it can be fixed or treated, then what is the use of worry. That means if there is a method, then just do it, instead of spending the life in worry.

Also, if something can’t be changed, for example, wanting the sky to be gold or wanting our house to be gold, if it can’t be managed, then there is no benefit in worrying about that. It’s better just to accept [our situation] and then to be happy, instead of worrying about something we can’t do.

This is great advice. In reality, ultimately, there is no difference between sentient beings and the buddhas. Conventionally, due to the all-obscuring mind, there is the Buddha, who is free of obscurations, but ultimately there is no difference.

So there is practice for you to do. My advice for you is to do Vajrasattva purification, to recite the long Vajrasattva mantra 400,000 times. You can do this in retreat with four sessions per day or even while you are working. During those times you can do some practice and count the mantras, and at other times you can do retreat of three months, one month or two months and in this way you will be able to finish it within a few years. It’s also good to read the commentaries on this practice.

One thing you should know is that life is very short, like lightning. When there is lightning you are able to see everything, then when the lightning is finished everything is gone. Death is like that—we see everything around us and then it is gone. It feels like this when we don’t have realizations. Without realizations like this, then death can happen anytime, and without realizations it seems like everything in life is a problem.

So there is Vajrasattva purification practice for you to do in order to lead you on the path to enlightenment. Then after you become enlightened you can free all sentient beings from suffering and bring them to enlightenment, like that.

You can bring every sentient being to enlightenment, to buddhahood, so you should be very happy to do Vajrasattva. Remember that you are doing this practice for every sentient being—every hell being, every hungry ghost, every animal, every ant, every mosquito, every one of the tiniest insects, everyone. Your retreat is for every human being, black, white, red, brown, whatever, for every sura being, every asura being. So you should be very happy, you should be the happiest. If your whole life is dedicated like that, then your life is for everyone, to bring them to happiness, to stop their suffering.

Also every day you should read the book by Khunu Lama Rinpoche Vast as the Heavens, Deep as the Sea: Verses in Praise of Bodhicitta. I hope in the future to give a commentary on this book, and if possible, you should try to get the commentary on this also. This text is from my guru, the great, great bodhisattva Khunu Lama Rinpoche. So please get this book. If you can’t get it or have difficulties finding it, let me know and I can have it sent to you.

You should try to read as much as you can each day and if possible, read the whole book. If that is too much, then read half or whatever you can manage, and continue on the next day.

If I have further advice, I will send it to you, but please start with this.

With much love and prayers ...