The Solution Is Dharma Practice

The Solution Is Dharma Practice

Date of Advice:
July 2021
Date Posted:
January 2024

A student wrote that her relatives had recently passed away and her beloved cat now had cancer. She had been studying with two geshes, however, she still felt sad and low in energy, and asked Rinpoche for practices to help tame the mind and give meaning to her life.

Mantra calligraphy by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
First, I want to thank you from my heart for your work recently, taking responsibility for organizing the big retreat. People found it beneficial for their minds, and also, at that time I gave teachings. So I’m extremely happy.

It’s very good that you have taken the opportunity to learn from Geshe Namdak. It’s extremely, extremely worthwhile. He studied for many years at Sera and I think he has studied well, it seems, so it’s very worthwhile for him to teach, to educate the students, including the Western students. I think that’s very, very, very good, unbelievable.

You won’t get mistaken ideas or misunderstanding of different things because he studied for a long time and received many teachings from His Holiness. Therefore, the decision and opportunity you have taken is very, very worthwhile. I’m so happy with that. 

Also, [you are receiving] lojong teachings from Geshe Zopa. Your relatives died and your cat got sick. You know that happens to everybody in this world. After conception, the person’s consciousness goes into the mother’s womb and then that being dies after that. After a few seconds or even after they are fully developed, the body dies. Or they come out [of the mother’s womb], but they die during childhood, in middle age, in old age, or even in one day. People die at any time in their life and in one day many people in the world die. You know that.

Just like us, they too haven’t realized that all six-realm sentient beings—not only those in this world—have been our mother, father, brother, sister, all that. They have all been our enemy, friend and stranger from beginningless rebirths, not just one time. Ordinary people think their father and mother are just for this one life, but all sentient beings have been our parents numberless times since beginningless rebirths.

Of course, their kindness—wow, wow, wow—their kindness. Just briefly, as advised by Kyabje Khunu Lama Rinpoche, they are kind in giving us this body, in particular the human body that allows us to practice Dharma—wow, wow, wow—and to learn Dharma. Wow, wow, wow, what an incredible thing.

We have been given this opportunity to practice Dharma, to never be reborn in the lower realms and to get a higher rebirth, and not only that, by understanding karma and taking refuge, and by learning the three higher trainings, we can become free from samsara and achieve nirvana, liberation from samsara, forever. Wow, wow, wow. Not just for a weekend, for a holiday, for a month or a few weeks, not like that, it’s forever. Wow, wow, wow.

Then bodhicitta. We begin with compassion for all sentient beings, loving kindness and compassion for all the sentient beings, then [we develop] bodhicitta, we practice the six paramitas and achieve enlightenment. Then we become a perfect guide, liberating numberless sentient beings from the lower realms, and not only that, freeing them from the entire oceans of suffering of samsara, and not only that, bringing them to peerless happiness, buddhahood. Wow, wow, wow! 

Lama khyen, lama khyen.

That came from the kindness of our parents. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. It’s amazing, amazing, amazing, what we can do for ourselves and what we can do for others. Wow, wow, wow, wow. Amazing, amazing, amazing. They protected our life from danger hundreds of times, from so many hundreds of life dangers every day. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow—the kindness. They bore so many hardships for our life—wow, wow, wow—and they gave us education in the path of the world. They even gave us education from beginningless rebirths, numberless times. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!

When we see animals take care of their babies, how they sacrifice their life, dedicate their life, we can’t imagine. And people who take care of their children, how much they sacrifice—wow, wow, wow.

At the airport one time I watched a family with several children and in five minutes I saw how the children cried. One said he wanted this and another one wanted that; it never finished , and there was no peace for the parents. Even after five minutes I got bored, but the parents do this from life to life, for years and years, they sacrifice their life.

We have to relate everything to ourselves. Just as the mother animal takes care of its child, they have also been doing this for us numberless times in our past lives. Everyone has been close to our heart, just like this life’s parents. We feel everyone close to our heart and like that, we feel close to them. Relating to ourselves, in the end we see the real, unbelievable kindness of all the animals and human beings. They bore hardships, protected our life from danger and so forth.

We have to know that even this world will finish; it will become empty. I think there are 80,000 eons, something like that, but I have to check how long the evolution takes—how long it lasts and how long it takes to decay, and then how the whole world disappears and is empty. I think each time it’s 80,000 eons. Therefore, everybody has to die, not only your parents, not only your father, not only your aunt, like that.

The Buddha’s basic teaching is impermanence and death. The first Dharma is renunciation of this life by thinking about impermanence and death. Normally our lives are under the control of the wrong concepts about impermanence. We think that we’re going to live for a long time, and then our Dharma practice is delayed. Although we wish to practice Dharma and we recognize that, it gets delayed. We think that first we have to do the things for this life, for this life’s pleasure, happiness. We try to get that work done, to achieve that. It always goes like that, so then we don’t learn or practice Dharma.

It goes on like that for as long as the life continues, wasted. We’re not just wasting our life, we’re also using the pleasures of this life to collect negative karma, and that results in our rebirth in the lower realms, the hells and so forth. That’s how it looks. We’re not just wasting the life, [we’re also collecting negative karma.] Therefore impermanence and death is a very, very, very important teaching. If we can defeat the concept of permanence and a permanent life, then we can win.

It is not only definite that death is going to happen, but also, the actual time of death can happen at any time of the day or night. It can happen any day, any time. While we are doing something, then death happens. We start something, but don’t finish. While we’re eating, we die. We don’t finish our meal, or while we’re in the bathroom, we die.

There are some students who died already. One Chinese nun died in the bathroom at the Shiné Land [Land of Calm Abiding, an FPMT retreat center]. There’s also one Malaysian student who wanted to be a nun so much, but Khadro-la didn’t really give an inspiring answer. Khadro-la told her to be careful or something; anyway, she died in the bathroom. Another Iranian student, an old student, an extremely kind lady, a mother, died in the bathroom in England. I think she slipped.

Even if we start something, we’re not able to finish and we die. This is very, very important. It’s not for causing fear, that is not the point. The point is to understand that the solution is to practice Dharma right away. That’s the answer, to practice Dharma correctly.

That means correctly devoting to the virtuous friend by looking at the guru as a buddha, by realizing the guru is a buddha, using logic and quotations. Then renunciation, bodhicitta, right view—that’s the common path. The uncommon path is the two stages of tantra. It is very, very important to practice lamrim, and that includes the preliminary practices as well, and then to have lamrim realizations, to purify [negativities] and collect merit.

Correctly devoting to the virtuous friend is the root of the path to enlightenment, the whole entire path. Of course, when you recite OM MANI PADME HUM, or anything else that you do, you can dedicate the merits for your family members who have died, and of course, for all the sentient beings. You can dedicate the merits, of course. That includes dedicating for your parents too. Dedicate for them as well, to help them not to be born in the lower realms, to be free from samsara and to achieve enlightenment. What they need is merit and dedication, so that they can achieve enlightenment. What they need is that.

Thank you very much.

In terms of practice, the main lamrim text for you is Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. As you know, Buddha taught 84,000 teachings, Buddhadharma, which includes the Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle path, as well as the Greater Vehicle path, sutra, and the tantra path.

There are three ways of liberating sentient beings from samsara and bringing them to enlightenment. These are contained in the lamrim, the graduated path to enlightenment. There is the graduated path of the three capable beings: the graduated path of the lower capable being in general, the graduated path of the middle capable being in general, and the graduated path of the higher capable being.

Those are combined into the teachings, as Lama Tsongkhapa mentioned in the Three Principal Aspects of the Path.

In the Kagyü and Nyingma tradition, there is lo dog nam zhi, the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind to the Dharma, and away from the four wrong concepts, and in the Sakya tradition there is zhen pa zhi drä, Parting from the Four Clingings.

If we divide renunciation into two it becomes four points, but Lama Tsongkhapa made three. If renunciation of both this life and future lives is combined into one aspect, then it becomes three.

The first thing is to study [lamrim] from the beginning to the end. All the instructions are there. Then what comes after that are the meditation instructions. You must do this mindfully, so that everything becomes a meditation.

The whole idea is to bring us closer to the lamrim and to bring the realizations of the path to enlightenment within our mind, so our mind becomes the path to enlightenment for all sentient beings—not just for us, but for the numberless hell beings, the numberless hungry ghosts, the numberless animals, the numberless humans, the numberless suras, the numberless asuras and the numberless intermediate state beings. There are numberless beings in each realm.

Think we’re doing this for everyone; that is important. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Before it was just for oneself, but when we think about any other sentient being—one, two, three, four or five—how much we are suffering becomes less and less and less important. Our own suffering is nothing; it totally disappears. It’s more important to think more and more about the numberless sentient beings.

When you do effortful meditation, the first topic is correctly devoting to the virtuous friend, looking at the guru as a buddha, seeing a buddha by looking at the guru from our own side using quotations and logic. We are not expecting that from the guru’s side—it’s not that we do nothing and expect it from the guru’s side. From our own side we are able to see that. We see hell is created by the mind from our side and enlightenment has to come from our heart, from our mind. Our mind is the creator; everything comes from the mind.

Study Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand four times. Then for two months, do effortful meditation on correctly following the virtuous friend. When you do the lamrim meditation you can use the outlines in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand and in The Essential Nectar.

This doesn’t mean you can’t read other lamrim texts. You can read others, then bring your mind back to the outline; that’s how you do it. By reading other lamrim texts that are beneficial for your mind, which are not clarified in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, but are clarified in the others, you can integrate them into that.  

Do effortful meditation following the lamrim outline and repeat that four times. Then do effortless meditation. Thank you very much.

Preliminary practices
  • Dorje Khadro fire puja: 70,000. This is a golden Dharma of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings. It’s very profound and most beneficial.
  • Prostrations by reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas: 300,000. 

Lama Tsongkhapa did so many hundred thousand prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas, then he received realizations like rainfall. In Lama Tsongkhapa’s lineage, some people do one thousand per day in the morning. Some people do three hundred prostrations per day and it’s also very common to do one hundred. It’s an unbelievable practice and a most unbelievable way to collect merit and to purify. If you read about the benefits of the practice of prostration, then you will understand.

This is mentioned as one of the powerful ways to collect extensive merit. The more merit you collect, the easier it is to achieve realizations of the path to enlightenment and to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. That means each mandala offering benefits numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless humans, numberless suras, numberless asuras, numberless intermediate state beings.

That means, as the scientists have found there are 30,000 different kinds of ants, therefore every mandala is for each ant, for each mosquito, for each tiny fly, for those animals in the ocean that we can’t see with the eyes, only with machines, for those that are large like mountains, whales, those in the oceans, in the ground and in the bushes, even those living in people’s and animals’ bodies, all those tiny sentient beings that we can’t see easily with the eyes.

So one mandala is for everyone, you can’t imagine. [By doing this you can attain] wisdom and achieve all the happiness up to enlightenment. This is most incredible, incredible, most unbelievable, most unbelievable, most unbelievable. Even more than that, you will enjoy your life giving happiness to all the sentient beings. Wow, wow, wow, wow.

You can do some in the form of retreat, or if you are working, you can do the preliminary practices in the morning and in the evening, depending on your time. Sometimes you can do retreat and sometimes you can do the practices in a looser way, while you are going to work. Then you will finish over time. That’s incredible, incredible, incredible. What brings more happiness than this! To achieve happiness for sentient beings and to benefit them. Wow, wow, wow.

If you can, read the Golden Light Sutra once each week. More is good, but at least read it once a week. There are the elaborate, middle-length and short versions. I think they are all are in English. You can recite this sutra until your deathtime.

I want to tell you that you are most welcome to enlightenment for sentient beings. Goodbye to samsara and the oceans of samsaric suffering. Thank you very much.

With much love and prayers ...