Throat Cancer 

Throat Cancer 

Date Posted:
August 2009

A longtime student and center director contracted throat cancer and wrote to Rinpoche asking for advice. Below are three pieces of advice from Rinpoche, the student’s letters, and an image of Rinpoche wearing gloves the student sent two to three weeks before passing away. By the time they arrived, the student had died. He took ordination just before dying. He had a very auspicious death, and Rinpoche was very happy with his mind when he passed away.

Rinpoche's first Letter, 2006

Dear John,
I have checked and am giving this advice. 

  1.  Yes, it is better to resign as director.
  2.  It is good to take ordination, please request the geshe you know. If Geshe-la can’t do it, then ask one of the Venerable Rinpoches you know.
  3.  Regarding Practice: Do prostrations to the 35 Buddhas (this means visualize them, with your palms at your heart, as you may not be able to do them physically). Try, gradually, to do 50,000, reciting the prayer.
  4.  Also, do Vajrasattva practice.
  5.  Recite the Diamond Cutter Sutra 70 times. If possible, recite it once a day.
  6.  Please do animal liberation regularly, once a week. Think you are also doing it for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, all the gurus, Sanghas, those who do good deeds, those living in morality. Dedicate it to their long life as well as your own.
  7.  Recite some Most Secret Hayagriva mantra.
  8.  Boil gold in water and then drink the water a few times a day. Drink a few glasses a day.

Keep in touch with me as to how you are doing.

Much love and prayers...

Rinpoche's Second Letter, 11 JULY 2006

My very dear John,

  1.  You need to have the puja done called Mamo Trukong—I will do this puja for you.
  2.  You need to liberate 20 animals. Of course, you can do more. Please use the practice I have compiled for correctly liberating animals (taking them around holy objects).
  3.  You need to have the puja done called Chilu (betraying the death). I am going to check who should do this puja.
  4.  You need to do very strong Vajrasattva practice, with a strong visualization of white nectar coming from Vajrasattva, like a waterfall, going inside your body and mind, completely purifying you, washing away (down) all the sickness, spirit harms, negative karma, and defilements. The sickness leaves your body in the form of pus and blood, the spirit harm leaves your body in the form of snakes, frogs, and scorpions, and the negative karma and defilements leave your body in the form of black, dirty liquid.

At the end think that all of this is all piled high like a mountain and it all goes inside the mouth of Yama. Yama is below you, with open mouth and fangs, waiting for your life. Everything goes inside his mouth and it becomes nectar for him, and Yama is fully satisfied. Then, afterwards, Yama's mouth is sealed with a golden crossed vajra (double vajra) and Yama goes down nine stories. This last visualization becomes a technique for having a long life.

Recite Vajrasattva mantra with this visualization 10,000 times. Then, afterwards, go again to have a check-up.

With much love and prayers...

Student's Letter, 10 SEPTEMBER

My dearest, kindest and most precious root Guru,
I pray that this email finds you in the best of health. I would like to let you know of the outcome of my cancer surgery and to kindly request advice from you about what I can do now. I had most of the cancer removed by surgery two and a half weeks ago. However, they were unable to remove all of the cancer. Some cancer was fused onto the aorta, which is one of the main tubes from the heart, just like a black self-cherishing attitude at my heart. There was also some cancer in the lymph nodes around this, which may suggest the cancer has spread elsewhere, although there is no evidence of this at this time.

I left hospital five days ago and am now recovering at home. I am still very weak and have lost almost 50lbs. 

Rinpoche, could you please advise me what practices I can do while recovering. I am looking into options to remove the remaining cancer. Once I have got this information together I would like to be able to ask your advice which would be the most beneficial.

I pray that I can recover soon and then serve you in the best way I can.

Much love

 Rinpoche's Third Letter, 10 SEPTEMBER

My very dear John,
What you should think is not just aim for your sickness to be healed and to have a long life, which is only for this life, but make sure you think it is for the benefit of sentient beings, to serve and practice Dharma for sentient beings. The main motivation should be to free numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment, and to achieve enlightenment you need to actualize the path, so therefore you need to purify defilements and collect extensive merit. Therefore, think, for this reason I will do meditation and recitation.

Recite Chenrezig six-syllable mantra, also the long mantra, but mostly the six-syllable mantra.

Visualize Chenrezig in front of you, recite the long mantra 21 times, or one mala. After that you become Chenrezig and purify the sentient beings in the six realms, particularly all those who have cancer, who experience cancer now, and those who have karma to experience cancer. Think they are completely purified.

So, do as many malas as possible, then after that they all become enlightened, they all become Compassionate Buddha. Mostly recite and think that you are purifying them. In the beginning, visualize Chenrezig on your crown, and very strongly visualize purifying all their sickness, spirit harm, negative karma, and defilements.

The other practice is 21 Taras. Generate very strong refuge to the 21 Taras and recite 21 Tara practice (the long one, also the short one). Also, you can chant Tara mantras.

Recite the mantra healing all sickness (attached) 50 times a day.

Liberate animals every week, buy live ones, worms or anything, take them and circumambulate a stupa as many times as possible. This way you are bringing all these sentient beings to a higher rebirth, by purifying their negative karma and giving them liberation from samsara and enlightenment.

With much love and prayers,
Lama Zopa

Student's response

My Dearest Most Precious Root Guru, Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche,
Thank you so much for manifesting buddhahood to me and so many beings in this, past, and future lives. You have made my life truly meaningful. I have not long to live now. I was most fortunate to be able to take Rabjung vows and now it is even more meaningful.

I pray from the depths of my heart that I will always be close to you during death, the bardo, and all future lives, and that I will always be a close student of yours so that I can benefit all beings.

Huge Love,