There’s Not Much Time Left

There’s Not Much Time Left

Date of Advice:
August 2021
Date Posted:
May 2022

An elderly student was finding it increasingly difficult to do their daily commitments due to forgetfulness, lack of focus and difficulties with visualization. Their decline in mental capacity made their practice stressful at times and not joyful as it should be. Rinpoche mentioned that this advice may be helpful for others who had no energy or were distracted by the pleasures of this life.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Boudha Stupa, Nepal, 2017. Photo: Bill Kane.

My most dear, most precious, most kind, wish-fulfilling one,
Yes, one thing is that generally as we get older, many people will be more forgetful due to their age.

Here I would like to suggest that you need to have a strong realization of impermanence and death—not just knowing that death will happen, but knowing that death can happen at any time, even tomorrow, even today, even during this session time, that’s the essence. So that means you have to be careful not to allow distraction; you have to be careful to keep the mind in meditation.

It is said in the Bodhicaryavatara, that tomorrow and the next life, it’s not sure which one will happen first. Then without attempting for tomorrow, it’s worthwhile to attempt for the next life. It’s also mentioned in Bodhicaryavatara that it is not worthwhile to sit or live comfortably, thinking “I won’t die today.” Definitely, death will happen; the time that we won’t be existing will happen. So, the conclusion is to practice Dharma. That means practicing holy Dharma, not worldly dharma.

If you’re doing guru yoga or Vajrasattva or whatever you’re doing, keep on doing that. You should know that is not only to do with this life or the next life—not just for one life, not to be reborn in the lower realms and to get a higher rebirth, not just that—but until the time when we’re free of samsara, liberated from samsara. Until then, we’ll have to be reborn in samsara continuously.

So during all those lives, to be in the lower realms, in the hells, is the most suffering, especially in the hell realms.

It is said in the Letter to a Friend by Nagarjuna,

[86] However much suffering there might be
From being violently stabbed for one day with three hundred sharp spears,
Even the smallest suffering in the hell realms
Has no comparison with that.

[87] Even if you experience unbearable suffering like that
For hundreds of millions of eons,
As long as your nonvirtuous karma has not finished,
Your life won’t be free from suffering.

These verses are just giving an example of that person’s suffering. We experience the unceasing, heaviest suffering for one hundred times ten million eons until our nonvirtuous karma finishes. Until that time, our life won’t be free of suffering.

Saying that, even the very smallest hell suffering is far greater—unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable—than this present suffering of three hundred short spears being put straight through this body. That which is unbelievable suffering becomes so small, almost nothing, or it becomes a very small suffering compared to the smallest suffering of hell.

If we die today, even during this session, we will be born in the lower realms and we will be unable to purify even the smallest hell suffering. It’s like that. The negative karmas collected since beginningless rebirths are so unbelievable, unbelievable. We have to be aware of that. Death can happen even during this session, not only today. This is the reality.

If you think seriously about this, then you will be able to concentrate better, and your concentration can last longer, and you can develop longer and longer concentration. So like that, you have to try more and more.

Distraction happens, but you should try more and more to develop the mind. It’s so important as there’s not much time left; there’s very little time and death can happen at any time. Life can finish at any time, even in this hour; we’re not sure it’s there all the time, again and again.

So we need to be able to develop the practice and to practice correctly. Not just for one second or for a few seconds and then it disappears because the mind is too distracted, not being aware of how meditation is important and purification is important, and how guru yoga is most important, so that’s purification and collection of merits. Guru yoga is so important to receive the blessings of the guru, and that means the blessings of all the buddhas. That’s very, very important, and Vajrasattva is so important. So what I said all the time, think that.

Also read Pabongka’s very strong teaching on impermanence and death. The name of the text is The Heart’s Utmost Need, by Pabongka Rinpoche.

There is also another teaching on impermanence from one very great Amdo lama, but anyway, Pabongka’s is excellent. If you don’t have this one, ask Holly for it. Read it every day; if you can do that it’s good, otherwise read it frequently. And not just reading it, which means not just like a tape recorder making noise, not just that, but also practicing mindfulness meditation.

So beginning with that is very good, it helps us to not waste our time, our life. Life could be for one day or one hour or one minute, anything, and we have to know that we need happiness until we are free from samsara. It could take many eons to be free from samsara, we never know, we’re not sure, so we need happiness in all those lives.

Even the small suffering in this life, even if a small thorn goes in the body, it’s a huge suffering and we cannot bear it. So of course we cannot bear the lower realms’ suffering if we’re born there.

So we have to have the happiness of higher rebirths in all of those lives. Not only that, we need to be free from samsara, we need ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara. And not only that, [we need to attain] the great nirvana, enlightenment for sentient beings, so we can liberate numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to buddhahood, enlightenment.

All that depends on this life, what we do with our body, speech, and mind, what we do with our mind, and that depends on our life today, how we spend our life. It depends on how much time we spend with our mind in Dharma, especially bodhicitta, in order to achieve enlightenment, and that depends on one hour, our life in this one hour, like now, that depends on now.

All your future lives’ happiness up to enlightenment depends on now, whether you keep your mind positive or negative or in bodhicitta, now, even right this second. So you need to change your motivation into bodhicitta and then you can begin the practice.

With much love and prayers ...