Teachings From the Vajrasattva Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Soquel, CA USA 1999 (Archive #1055)

This book is an edited transcript of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings at a three-month Vajrasattva retreat held at Land of Medicine Buddha, from February 1 to April 30, 1999. The teachings cover many lam-rim topics, purification practices, mantras, pujas and more.

Chapter 47: April 25


Tonight I will continue where I left off...

Think, “No matter what, I must achieve full enlightenment in order to liberate the numberless sentient beings, who are the source of all my past, present and future happiness, from the vast oceans of samsaric suffering, and bring them to full enlightenment. Therefore, I am going to listen to the holy Dharma.”

Please listen to the teachings well by generating at least this abbreviated bodhicitta motivation as well as the proper conduct for listening to teachings according to the traditional practices of the lineage lamas.

[Rinpoche looks through his book...] I hope I can find it this time!

This section describes in particular the hell realm suffering results of each of the ten non-virtuous actions. We have already done the hell sufferings of killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. Today, we’ll look at the results of telling lies.

Rebirth into the Hot Hells

Those who have read Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand and other lam-rim teachings will remember that at the time of death, there’s a process through which you reincarnate in the hell realm. [p. 365 ff.]. Here it mainly mentions the process of being reborn in the lower realms from just before the time of death.

At the time of death, the person who is going to be born in the hot hell realm feels very cold. That’s not due to the climate or any other external factors—it’s not that generally the country is very cold or that the person doesn’t have enough to wear or enough bedding. It’s not a question of that. Of course, even those things are determined by karma, but here, the specific thing is that no matter how many blankets the person is covered with, it doesn’t help. Due to karma, the person feels extremely cold. Due to heavy karma, the person craves strongly for heat and then dies with that craving. Like falling asleep, dreaming and then waking up, similarly, the person dies with that strong craving for heat and then goes to the intermediate stage—like dreaming after falling asleep. Then, after the intermediate state, due to past karma, suddenly a vision, a karmic appearance—an appearance of impure karma, an appearance of the impure mind, the disturbing, obscuring thought— manifests. Suddenly you find yourself in a world in which the whole ground is made of iron that is oneness with fire, depending on which of the different hot hells you are reborn into.

As explained here, those appearances, which are the product of your own impure mind, manifest, including the karmic guardians, who torture you. Whenever I see those big earth-moving machines, it always reminds me of the hell realm. Of course, in our world there’s electricity, gasoline and a person who drives the machine, but in the hell realms, everything works by your karma. Like an earth-moving machine driver, your karma makes mountains move and crush you. In the hell realms, it’s your karma, your mind, that does all these things.

The neighboring (surrounding) hells

There are eight major hot hells and each one has four neighboring hells (sometimes six neighboring hells are enumerated). After you have finished experiencing one of the eight major hot hell sufferings—for example, the first one, the Hell of Continual Resurrection—after that unbelievable length of time, you then have to be born in those neighboring hell realms.

There are four of these [Liberation, pp. 373–374]. One of them is the Plain of Swords. The whole ground is completely covered with swords.

There is nowhere you can step without cutting your feet. Each time you put your foot down it gets cut and each time you lift it up it recovers.

But then you have to step down again and it gets cut once more. This goes on for inconceivable lengths of time.

Finally, when that karma has finished, you have to experience another neighboring hell, the Forest of Trees with Leaves Like Swords, which cuts your body to pieces.

Then you have to experience the Putrid Swamp, which is like being in a septic tank, drowning in sewage filled with worms. It’s extremely filthy, dirty, and you drown in that for incredible, inconceivable lengths of time. Not only that, but the worms have very long, needle-like beaks like a humming bird’s with which they pierce your body and eat your flesh. You have to suffer like that for inconceivable lengths of time.

The next one you have to experience is called the Uncrossable Torrent, which is filled with liquid that is oneness with fire and unbelievably hot. Being here is like drowning in mud that is oneness with fire.

When an earthly volcano erupts, liquid fire comes out; liquid that is oneness with fire runs down the mountain. I usually say that that’s a good example of this neighboring hell realm. In Tibetan it’s called chu-lung rab-me. It’s unbelievably, extremely hot; oneness with fire. The closest example of that is lava that comes from an erupting volcano, which comes down and melts even rocks, which normally other fires can’t melt.

But this fire, the liquid lava oneness with fire, can melt rocks. I thought it was very interesting that this is similar to what’s described in the hell realm, except the one in the hell realm would be unbelievably more hot than the lava of our human world.

Then you come to a tree where you have the vision that your loved ones are at the top of the tree, calling you. You try to go to them, but as you climb up the tree, the branches, which are like swords pointing downwards, cut your body to shreds. Also, karmic copper dogs come and tear at your feet, legs and so forth and birds like eagles, which are also your karmic appearance, pluck out your eye balls with their beaks. While you are climbing up, these terrifying things happen. Then, when you finally reach the top, you again hear your beloved calling you, but now from the bottom of the tree. When you try to climb down to them, the sword-like branches reverse direction, turning upwards, and again cut your body to shreds. In this way you again have to suffer greatly.

There is nobody there making the branches of the trees go up and down. All these things happen due to your karma. Your karma and your delusions do all these things to you, produce all these terrifying appearances that cause you to suffer so much. It’s your karmic appearance, the appearance of your delusions, your disturbing, obscuring thoughts.

Four things that determine karmic weight

In Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo says that if you commit any of the ten non-virtuous actions strongly, you will be reborn in hell [p. 452]. Heavy non-virtuous actions result in rebirth in hell. For example, if you insult somebody with very heavy anger, with strong anger, that’s a heavy non-virtuous action and causes you to be reborn in the hell realms. What makes it heavy is your attitude, the strong anger. So this is just one of the examples that Pabongka mentions [see also p. 455 ff.].

1. Your non-virtuous actions also become heavy if you are ordained, due to the power of the person living in the vow. The higher the vows in which you live, the more powerful a subject you become. Therefore, when you create negative karma, that negative karma is much heavier. Of course, when you create good karma, the merit is unbelievable. The higher the vows in which you live, the greater the profit, the merit, of your daily life’s positive actions. But when you engage in negative karma, that negative karma becomes very heavy. For example, if a fully ordained monk or a fully ordained nun engages in negative karma, it becomes very heavy. This is the power of the subject, the person living in the vows.

2. It also depends on the object with whom you create negative karma. This is the power of the object. For example, if you get angry at or harm a bodhisattva, it’s unbelievably heavy; very, very heavy. This also applies to your parents in this life. If you engage in negative karma with your parents, if you insult them or do any other negative actions, it’s very heavy because the object is powerful. Similarly, buddhas are also powerful objects, and your gurus are the most powerful of all. When you do good actions with your gurus, like offering even the slightest respect, you collect the most extensive merit, but even the smallest disrespect creates very heavy negative karma.

The most powerful object is the virtuous friend from whom you received your Dharma connection. With the recognition of yourself as disciple and the teacher as guru, the moment you take even the oral transmission of a mantra or a verse of teaching, that person becomes the most powerful object in your life. Even if from that person’s side he is not buddha or even a bodhisattva, is just an ordinary being, the moment that that connection has been established, that person becomes the most powerful object in your life, more powerful than all the buddhas.

Therefore, if the object is powerful, non-virtuous actions created in relation to that object become very heavy and result in rebirth in hell.

3. Doing a negative action again and again, engaging in a certain negative karma again and again, doing it so many times, again and again, makes it very heavy. That’s another way in which non-virtuous actions become heavy and result in rebirth in hell.

4. The way an action is done also influences its weight. The way harm is given to other sentient beings, such as torturing animals in a terrible way, a very heavy way, or torturing human beings in a very heavy way, can also make it a very heavy karma. The manner in which negative karma is created—killing or torturing in a very sadistic way—also determines how heavy the karma becomes.

In a commentary on the Seven Point Thought Transformation by Kadampa Geshe Könchog Gyaltsen—or perhaps it was Geshe Chekawa;

I’m not one hundred percent sure, it might have been Chekawa—it seems that I have seen in that commentary that committing one of the ten non-virtuous actions can cause you to be reborn in all eight hot hell realms. Committing one of the ten non-virtues can make you reincarnate in all eight hot hell realms. I will check again, but it seems that’s what I read. In other words, it can become unbelievably heavy.

The cold hells

The hot hells are like that. Now the cold hells. At the time of death, the process is that, even if the weather where you are is extremely cold, if you’re in a very cold place, due to your karma, if you are going to be born in the cold hell realms, you feel unbelievably hot and experience incredible craving for cold, to be cool; you have much craving for the pleasure of feeling cool. Then, with that craving, you die, and then—like after going to sleep, you dream—the intermediate stage happens, and then—like waking from a dream—the karmic appearance of the cold hell manifests.

As Pabongka mentions in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand [pp. 374–376], your body is completely immobilized on ice-cold ground or in an ice mountain, as if your shoes were nailed to the ground. Your body is completely caught. It is completely dark, even on the very first level of the cold hells, and there is unbelievable, unimaginable suffering of cold, with incredibly cold winds blowing. Relating to us, imagine that your naked body were completely buried in and surrounded by ice such that you couldn’t move, and on top of that, it was completely dark and there was an extremely, unbelievably cold wind and snow blowing over you, like in a raging blizzard. In the cold hells, it is unbelievably cold — billions of times colder than anything we could experience in the human world. No matter how cold it is in the human world, in those countries that are supposed to be extremely cold, with ice, freezing winds, and so forth, this unbelievably heaviest cold for humans is great pleasure compared to the cold suffering of the hell realms. The worst cold suffering that humans can experience is nothing compared to that of the cold hells; it’s great pleasure.

It is said in the teachings that when beings in the hot hells experience human fire, it feels cool. For example, when we feel very hot, when a cool breeze blows on us we feel comfortable; we experience the pleasure of feeling cool. No matter how heavy human fire may be for human beings, it feels cool when it touches hot hell beings because their suffering in the hot hells is so unbelievably heavy.

As I normally mention, the fire at the end of time, at the end of the world, is said to be something like sixty or seventy times hotter than the heat energy of all the fires of the present human world put together, and one tiny spark of fire from the hell hot hell realm is said to be seven times hotter than the fire at the end of time. Even a tiny spark of fire from the hot hell realm is that hot.

Anyway, the process by which you get reborn in the cold hell realm, what happens just before you die, is as I’ve just described.

[The eight cold hells are: The Hell of Blisters; the Hell of Burst Blisters; Achu; Gihu; Teeth Clenched, where it’s so cold you can’t part your teeth; Cracking Like an Utpali Flower, where it’s so cold that your body turns blue and cracks into many pieces; Cracking Like a Lotus Flower; and Great Cracking Like a Lotus Flower.]

When Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand describes the duration of the cold hell beings’ lives, how long they have to suffer—they have a fixed length of life—it refers to a standard of measurement from ancient Magadha, the area in which present-day Bodhgaya is located. Even now,  Magadha University is there. In Tibetan, the word is kal—I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I think it’s equivalent to one big sack of grain that one person can carry. Eighty of those big sacks of grain are one pang.

In Tibet, we had huge long wooden boxes that were used to store grain.

If you were to fill one of those boxes with eighty big sacks of grain and once every hundred years remove just one grain from there, the length of time that it would take to completely empty the box is the length of life of the beings in the very first cold hell, the Hell of Blisters. The length of life in the next cold hell, the Hell of Burst Blisters, is twenty times longer. The suffering is that much heavier. Then, the length of life in the third one, Achu, is again twenty times longer than that of the second.

And so it goes on, with the duration of life in each cold hell being twenty times longer than that in the level before.

Rebirth as a preta

The sign that you are going to be reborn as a hungry ghost is that at the time of death you start to hate food; you have strong aversion to food and want to be in a place where there is none. You have a strong craving for that. Some of us have had the experience of being sick with hepatitis or something where we have no appetite at all and even the thought of food nauseates us. If you are going to be reborn a preta, at the time of death you have a very strong dislike for food and a strong craving to be in a place where there is none, where you can’t even see food. You die with that craving. Again, like a person falling asleep and starting to dream, you die and experience the intermediate stage. Then, like waking up, after the intermediate stage, the appearance of the hungry ghost realm is actualized.

Here, you experience inability to find even one spoonful of food or one drop of water, even a sign of water, for hundreds or thousands of years. It also mentions even ten thousand years as the length of time it takes to find any food.

Rebirth as an animal

In terms of being reborn as an animal, I guess it might be similar, I don’t know exactly, but when you die, if you are going to be born animal, then just before death, it seems that some people have a vision of some particular animal, like a beautiful bird, and perhaps get attached to that. A craving mind arises and then after the intermediate stage, the karmic appearance of the animal realm manifests. You reincarnate as an animal —a bird or whatever. It seems that at the time of death, even before reincarnating, before taking the body of the animal, you have this appearance of a certain kind of animal and feel very attached to that body. While still in the human realm with your human body, just before death you somehow get a karmic appearance of a certain animal body and your mind gets attached to having such a body. It seems that at the time of death, some people do get visions of animals. If you think of what happens when a person is going to born in the hot or cold hells or as a hungry ghost, the process of being reborn as an animal seems to be similar to that.

This means a person who is going to be reborn as an animal after having this big, tall human body—say someone who is going to be reborn as a butterfly—has a vision of and great attachment to a butterfly body; the karmic appearance of a butterfly body, with its beautiful colored wings and so forth. Similarly, perhaps, with a spider body, seeing spiders as so beautiful and thinking how wonderful it would be to be like that! Or a tick! Well, there has to be something going on if a person is going to be reborn as a spider or a scorpion—or as a slug, a yellow slug in the rain, where there is a lot of fog. It has happened many times that after having this huge human body, you have become a yellow slug.

Anyway, by thinking of the process by which you get reborn in the hot and cold hells, how the nearest attachment, the nearest delusion, makes you reincarnate there, or as a hungry ghost, there has to be a similar reason for your being reborn as an animal.

How to avoid lower rebirths

But I don’t think that it’s necessarily only at the time of death that this craving and grasping affects your rebirth. During life as well, similar craving and grasping for warmth, for cold, for other sense pleasures, can also become a contribution, a donation, to the suffering of the lower realms. Therefore, you can see how important your motivation is, not only when you meditate, not only at that time, but twenty-four hours a day. Your pure motivation becomes very important. You can see how essential it is that your attitude of life be Dharma. That becomes your most important refuge. Your Dharma attitude becomes your greatest protection from the sufferings of samsara, especially those of the lower realms—those many eons of unimaginable suffering.

Therefore, having renunciation in your mind twenty-four hours a day, having the attitude of renunciation, the detached mind, becomes most essential. Actually, each of the three principal paths—renunciation, bodhicitta and right view—becomes very important, extremely important.

But if your mind cannot develop all three, if you do not have right view, try to develop bodhicitta. If not bodhicitta, then at least renunciation —realizing how sense pleasures, samsaric pleasures, are suffering in nature and with that awareness, keeping your mind in a detached, or free, state. Thus, trying to keep your mind in the lam-rim twenty-four hours a day becomes the most important issue, the most important practice in your life.

The karmic results of telling lies

What happens to the person who has created the negative karma of telling lies is that you get captured by yamas in the form of human beings, who open your mouth and pull your tongue out five hundred pag-tsä [more than 2,000 miles; see p. 396 for details of these measurements].

Being under the control of the karma of having lied, yamas in the shape of human beings, stretch your tongue out five hundred pag-tsä and force you to lick the red hot burning iron ground. They make you lick the oneness-with-iron, extremely hot, blazing iron ground.

Then, thousands of yamas carrying blazing red hot plows that are oneness with the fire—due to your karma, created by your own karma — attach the plows to a very powerful elephant, which is also a creation of your own karma, and plow your tongue, just like farmers in Nepal and India plow their fields with animals like buffalo or cows. Then, pus, blood and worms come out of your tongue. I am not exactly sure what it means, but here the text says “like the deva’s eye”—however, your tongue becomes extremely sensitive, extremely tender, like a young baby’s—I think that’s probably the idea—so the hell being cries, screams, but there’s nobody there who can help you. No matter how much you scream, how much you cry, there’s nobody there to stop your suffering, to come to your aid. All you can do is experience such unbelievable, heavy suffering as the yamas plow your tongue with that blazing plow that is oneness with fire and drawn by that powerful elephant for hundreds of thousands of years—which are years according to hell beings’ time, not human years. Hundred of thousands of hell years is an unbelievable length of time.

After that, I’m not sure, but it seems that your tongue goes back into your mouth when that karma has finished. Then, unbelievably, heavily disturbed and with incredible fear, you run away wherever you can. But again you get caught in the sparks of fire—like dry animal dung but oneness with fire, red hot inside. Due to karma, you get completely buried in this and severely burned and suffer greatly, having no guide, no refuge.

Then, due to your delusion and karma, human-looking yamas carrying swords, hammers and so forth come and, from your brain down to your feet, completely chop you into pieces and then grind you into powder.

The karmic results of slander

The negative karma of slandering is similar to that of telling lies, except that your tongue is drawn out three hundred pag-tsä. Then the yamas, who have no compassion, hold your tongue down and split it. Generally, the hell suffering karma of slandering is the same as that of telling lies.

Then wolves, which are your karmic appearance, your karmic creation, come from all directions and eat your tongue. This experience is very heavy. You try to scream, but because you have no tongue, when you scream there is no sound.

The next one is the karmic result of insulting, speaking harshly, but I think I’ll stop here.

Life in hell

Just to go over the names of the eight major hot hells: The Hell of Continual Resurrection, the Black Line Hell, the Assemble and be Crushed Hell, the Hell of Lamentation, the Hell of Great Lamentation, the Hotter Hell, the Even Hotter Hell and the Hell Without Respite, 530 which is the heaviest hot hell suffering, the heaviest suffering in samsara [as translated in Liberation].

It is helpful to understand the length of life of beings in the first hot hell, the Hell of Continual Resurrection, then you can get an idea of the rest [Liberation, p. 372]. Suddenly, your karmic appearance of this hell realm, Continual Resurrection, manifests; you are born there. Then, due to karma, whenever you and the other beings there see each other, you all become enemies. Whatever you pick up becomes a weapon and you all attack and kill each other. You get killed many hundred times a day with all these weapons, which cut and pierce your body. You fall unconscious, which is called dying. Then, due to karma, you hear a voice from the sky, “May you be alive again.” Then you come back to life and again, other beings cut and pierce your body with all these weapons. So it goes, on and on, many, many times each day, hundred of times a day, until your karma to experience that hell realm has finished.

The length of life of beings in the first hell, the Hell of Continual Resurrection, is [according to Liberation] 1.62 European billion human years. [In trying to come up with this number in English, there was a long, confusing (for us) discussion between Rinpoche and the students.

The terms mentioned in this discussion are among the following: bum, 100,000; sa-ya, 1,000,000; je-wa, 10,000,000; dung-chur, 100,000,000; ter-bum, 1,000,000,000, US billion; ter-bum-chen-po, 10 billion; tragtrig, 100 billion; trag-trig-chen-po, European billion. Adding chen-po (great) multiplies each number by ten. [With thanks to Dr. Martin Willson for this information.] In the next, the Black Line Hell, the length of life is double the first one. And so it goes on like that.

It is said in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand that if you get angry at a bodhisattva, for as many seconds as your anger at that bodhisattva lasts, that many eons you will have to suffer in hell. Also, it is specifically mentioned in Bodhicaryavatara that if you get angry at a bodhisattva, all the merits you have collected by having practiced charity and morality for one thousand eons get destroyed in just one second. That shows how much harm anger can do to your merit.

The main thing I am trying to say here is that—since for as many seconds of anger you feel towards a bodhisattva, that many eons you will have to suffer in the hell realms—then for as many seconds of anger you feel towards a guru, a virtuous friend, of course, the amount of time you will have to suffer in hell will be much, much greater, because your guru is the most powerful object. The number of eons you will have to suffer in hell is inconceivable.

Rebirth in hell through breaking precepts

Also, if you break one of your root tantric vows, then for the number of seconds that pass from that time until you take the vow again, that many eons you will have to be born in the lowest hot hell, the heaviest one, Hell Without Respite, the state of unbearable suffering, where the length of life is an intermediate eon.

As far as receiving tantric root falls is concerned, the second one, being careless in regard to your vows, is easily broken. The vows can be pratimoksha, bodhisattva or tantric vows, or even your refuge vow. If you have the attitude, “Oh! It doesn’t matter,” towards any of these and then go ahead and engage in the action that breaks the vow, if your mind does not care about that vow, then by that, you receive the root fall with the consequences just mentioned.

Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo said that a fully ordained monk who is careless about one of the faults concerning how he’s supposed to wear his shem-tab [the monk’s lower garment], again, thinking, “Oh, it doesn’t matter,” can in that way very easily break this second root vow of tantra.

It’s not even a root pratimoksha vow, like one of the four defeats; it’s nothing like that. It’s not even a remainder or one of those other branches, vices, downfalls. Just feeling careless—no Dharma reason, no special reason, nothing highly beneficial—just being careless and engaging in that, you very easily break a tantric root vow—because the second root vow is not to be careless with any of your vows, precepts.

It is also mentioned in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand that if a fully ordained monk breaks one of the one hundred and twelve faults, he gets reborn in the first hell, the Hell of Continual Resurrection. If he breaks one of the thirty [expiation with forfeiture], he gets reborn in the Black Line Hell. If he breaks one of the four actions to be confessed, he gets reborn in the Assemble and be Crushed Hell. If he breaks one of the thirteen remainders, he gets reborn in the Hotter Hell. And if he breaks one of the four defeats, he gets reborn in the lowest hot hell realm, the Hell Without Respite.

Of course, as I mentioned before, the higher the vows in which you live, the greater the profit. It is incredible, you make the greatest profit, collect the most extensive merit all the time. Whenever you create good karma, you create the most extensive merit—two hundred and fifty three merits for fully ordained monks and three hundred and sixty four for fully ordained nuns. By living in the vows, you collect that much merit all the time, and besides that, whenever you create merit in your everyday life, it increases that much more.

Conversely, if you engage in negative karma, it also becomes that much heavier. Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo said, “If a person living in ordination doesn’t care about broken vows and just leaves them be, the negative karma is much heavier than that created by a non-ordained lay person’s killing one hundred men and one hundred horses”...anyway, animals. If an ordained person breaks vows and carelessly leaves them be without confessing or purifying, thinking it doesn’t matter, the negative karma is heavier than if one non-ordained lay person kills a hundred men and a hundred horses.

If you reflect on these things, analyze them, you can see how purification practices such as the Vajrasattva meditation and the Confession of Downfalls to the Thirty-five Buddhas—reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names with prostrations—are of the utmost need, are unbelievably important. You can see that doing these practices and guarding your vows by knowing what they are is billions of times more important than going to the emergency room. If suddenly you have a heart attack or something, you immediately call an ambulance and rush to hospital.

Doing these practices and guarding your vows by knowing what they are is billions of times more important than that. Even if you die from a heart attack, if you have not created any negative karma, you won’t get reborn in the lower realms. A heart attack alone can’t take you to the lower realms. But if you have negative karma on your mental continuum, if you have broken your vows, even if you have a natural death—no car accident, you’re not shot, nothing like that—you still get reborn in the lower realms.

Therefore, we should rejoice—actually, I don’t have much to rejoice about because I didn’t come for the Vajrasattva retreat—but you should rejoice. Those who have done 100,000 mantras should rejoice and feel great happiness that that much purification practice was done, that you took this opportunity, and those who didn’t finish should also rejoice for the thousands or tens of thousands that were completed. You should feel great happiness and should continue to practice purification in your everyday life and to protect the three levels of vows as much as you possibly can.

Pabongka also mentioned both in his commentary on the Six Session Yoga and in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand that breaking even one of the forty-six branch bodhisattva vows—not one of the root vows, just one of the branches—the negative karma is 100,000 times heavier than breaking a pratimoksha root vow. And breaking one of the branch vows of tantra, one of the eight bombos, the eight heavy negativities—again, not talking about the root tantric falls, just the branches—for example, if you have taken a highest tantra initiation, if whenever you eat and drink you take it without blessing, then as many times as you drink, as many times as you eat, you receive that many bombos, heavy negativities—it is 100,000 times heavier than breaking a bodhisattva root vow. Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo mentioned that in both teachings.

Therefore, by doing the Vajrasattva practice at this time, many negativities of that kind have been purified; unbelievable numbers of such past negativities have been purified. By doing both the Vajrasattva practice and the Thirty-five Buddhas, rainfalls of tantric vices get purified by just one mala of the Vajrasattva mantra. It depends on how you recite it.

Twenty-one repetitions or just one mantra, depending on how it is recited, can purify all four defeats received by a fully ordained monk or nun. If it is recited perfectly, it can purify all that. Similarly, by reciting OM MANI PADME HUM correctly just once, a fully ordained person who has received all four defeats can purify them completely.

Therefore, one thing is to rejoice; the other is to continue to practice.

That’s the conclusion.

I thought to talk about the preta sufferings and some people have asked me to explain the Dzambhala practice for becoming a billionaire...no, a zillionaire!—Dzambhala practice and making charity of water to the hungry ghosts. So maybe not today. For today, maybe that’s enough.

Perhaps tomorrow we can talk about those other practices.


“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may the numberless sentient beings who have been born in the lower realms and are suffering unimaginably right now, including my own family’s previous generations who have passed away, those people whose names I have received, those for whom I have promised to pray, those who rely upon me and those deceased people whose names were mentioned in the dedication all immediately get liberated from all their sufferings in the lower realms and reincarnate in a pure land where they can become enlightened or achieve enlightenment quickly by receiving a perfect human body in all future lifetimes by meeting a perfectly qualified Mahayana guru and the Mahayana teachings.

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, whenever I hear that somebody is sick, just by hearing this, may I be able to cause that sentient being to recover from that illness immediately; just by hearing that another sentient being has died may I be able to cause that sentient being never ever to be reborn in the lower realms or if born there already, may that being be liberated from all those sufferings of the lower realms immediately and reincarnate in a pure land where that being can get enlightened; and may those who have been born in the human world but have no opportunity to practice Dharma achieve a perfect human body immediately and, by meeting a perfectly qualified Mahayana guru and the Mahayana teachings, quickly achieve enlightenment.

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, particularly today, and the merits of the three times collected by buddhas, bodhisattvas and all the rest of the sentient beings, may I, my family members and all the students and benefactors in this organization—especially those who sacrifice their lives serving other sentient beings and the teaching of the Buddha through this organization—have long and healthy lives and may all our wishes succeed immediately according to the holy Dharma.

“Most importantly, may we be able to actualize the steps of the path to enlightenment, especially bodhicitta, in this very lifetime, without even a second’s delay.

“May all those who are sick, whose names were mentioned, immediately get healed, recover from their sicknesses; may the treatment they’re having be most effective.”

As I mentioned the other day, when you do dedications—usually dedications are also requests—you can also visualize the seven Medicine Buddhas. In that way it becomes more powerful. You are not only doing a dedication but you are also making a request. If, when you dedicate, you visualize the Thousand-arm Compassionate Buddha, the seven Medicine Buddhas and Ksitigarbha—at least the seven Medicine Buddhas—your dedication becomes more powerful and therefore more likely to succeed.

“Due to the past, present and future merits collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may the operation that Ann [Bill Kane’s cousin] is to undergo be most effective, give her no harm and may she immediately recover from her sickness. May all other people who are sick—not only those whose names were mentioned in the dedication —be healed immediately, have long and most meaningful lives— not empty long lives but meaningful long lives—by meeting Dharma, developing loving kindness and compassion and actualizing bodhicitta in their minds in this very lifetime.

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may all the businesses of Ellen, who wishes to sponsor Mandala magazine, succeed immediately so that she can do that, and may the rest of her life be most meaningful through her actualizing all the realizations of the lam-rim. Also, may our Taichung Center benefactors’ airline business be most successful as they wish and may their wealth be most meaningful for all sentient beings and the teachings, and may their lives be most meaningful through their actualization of the lam-rim realizations, especially bodhicitta. May all Fay’s wishes succeed immediately and may she be able to overcome all problems, actualize the lam-rim realizations in her mind and be able to spread Dharma of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings in the minds of all sentient beings. May all the work of our great benefactor be most successful as she wishes, be most beneficial for all sentient beings and the teaching of Buddha and may the rest of her life be most beneficial through her actualizing the realizations of the path to enlightenment, especially bodhicitta.

Like that, may all others who support this organization and who rely [on Rinpoche] also have great success, may all their wishes succeed and may all their actions become only Dharma.

“May all virtuous friends, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, have stable lives and may all their holy wishes succeed immediately. May Lama Ösel Rinpoche be able to show the qualities of Lama Tsongkhapa and benefit all sentient beings like the sky by actualizing the path and being learned, and with the three qualities of being learned, strict and good hearted, like Lama Tsongkhapa, show these qualities and benefit sentient beings infinitely by explaining Dharma, writing and debating.”

The Panchen Lama

With respect to Panchen Rinpoche, who was mentioned in the dedication [amongst the names that were read out], the second time I went to Tibet for pilgrimage—when there were seventy-four of us—we took some teachings from Panchen Rinpoche on the prayer to be born in Shambhala and the oral transmission of the Shambhala prayer and a few mantras. Also prayers to be born in America! I’m joking. At the beginning, these teachings were meant to be just for the group. I was not actually planning to take them myself; I was not planning to make a Dharma connection with Rinpoche. I requested teachings just for the group. The reason I didn’t want to begin a Dharma connection was because I was concerned that if in the future there were political problems between His Holiness and Panchen Rinpoche, I didn’t want to have a problem with the different views.

Then we started making a mandala offering, and while it was going on I was thinking. Just before the mandala offering finished, I decided to make a Dharma connection. Just before IDAM GURU RATNA MANDALA KAM NIRYATAYAMI, just before you collapse your fingers, I thought, “Well, if I look at those two lamas as one person, as one being, there’ll be no problem with different views.” So just before IDAM GURU RATNA MANDALA KAM NIRYATAYAMI I decided to make a Dharma connection. Before that, I was worried about getting into difficulties because of different views. Actually, this was the second time I had done this; it happened to me once before.

Anyway, I’m glad that I made a Dharma connection—he’s an unbelievable lama. I had seen Panchen Rinpoche when I was very small, when my two alphabet teachers took me to Tibet. Most people have only one alphabet teacher, but because I was very naughty and kept running away, I had two. Finally, with the second one, I learned to read. We stayed at Tashilhunpo Monastery for seven days, and one day we got in line with all the other people at Dechen Potrang—like His Holiness has the Norbulingka summer palace in Lhasa, Panchen Rinpoche has Dechen Potrang in Shigatse—but I didn’t get to see much. Like many high lamas, Panchen Rinpoche had a very long stick, with some cloth or something at the tip, and the blessing was given through his putting the stick on people’s heads. I didn’t really get to see much, I didn’t have a clear visualization.

It was all over very quickly. You just wait in line and those very tall monks with the huge shoulder pads push you along and through.

Also, some years ago in Nepal, there was a meeting of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, an organization that functions in different countries, and the Chinese communist government brought the Panchen Lama to Kathmandu. At that time, Panchen Rinpoche spoke just a few words in Tibetan and then in Chinese. He said something like, “May the teaching of the Buddha always spread and flourish in all directions.” He stood up and said that. I felt that the Tibetan people were so lucky, so fortunate to have such incredible lamas like that; unbelievable. Panchen Rinpoche was very dynamic, very powerful. Straightforward and totally dedicated to other beings.

Anyway, the second time we went to Tibet, after the teachings, Panchen Rinpoche called me back and explained that he had a project, which was to build in Shigatse a very large Kalachakra mandala that you can enter and walk around in. I don’t know what happened to it.

Rinpoche asked if I could raise funds for this Kalachakra mandala, so I said that if there were some brochures or something, I would try, but I didn’t get any. I asked Panchen Rinpoche for a statue or some relics to put in the 500-foot Maitreya statue in Bodhgaya, and he was going to give me a very precious Yamantaka statue but somehow there was some obstacle to my getting that and instead I received some pieces of the robes of five or six of the previous Panchen Lamas and some small Buddha statues to put into the Maitreya statue.

When I was in Australia in 1989, I had a dream in which Panchen Rinpoche’s holy body was very tall, and he had his robes on—dongka and everything—but was not wearing his zen. He was very tall and I was very small, even in the dream! Panchen Rinpoche was holding my hand and we were walking down the street. I didn’t know that Panchen Rinpoche had just passed away that day, but when I found out, I thought that the dream might mean that I had the karma to meet his incarnation. I thought it might signify that.

When I heard the news that the communists had taken Panchen Rinpoche’s incarnation away, I was very, very concerned, so with my crazy mind, I wrote to His Holiness saying that in Dharamsala there were many protectors and perhaps they could protect the Panchen Lama’s incarnation, but I don’t remember what happened.

Final dedication

Therefore, dedicate for Panchen Rinpoche’s incarnation to have a long, stable life, for all his holy wishes to succeed immediately as his past life intended, for there to be no obstacles to his health and for his wishes to benefit other sentient beings to be immediately fulfilled.

Also dedicate for all of our meditation centers to be able to spread the complete teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa in the minds of all sentient beings by receiving everything they need, and for all the projects in this organization, including those at Land of Medicine Buddha and the FPMT-sponsored Kalachakra initiation in Mexico City to succeed. (I haven’t requested this or mentioned it to His Holiness yet, but I thought it would be very beneficial.) Also dedicate for the very beautiful Serlingpa Retreat Center outside Mexico City and all of Rocio’s and her husband’s other projects, including the stupa they want to build and all their other wishes to benefit others, to succeed immediately, and for them and their family to have long, healthy and most meaningful lives.

Also dedicate for the 500-foot Maitreya statue to succeed immediately by receiving everything required, for all the organizers and staff of the project to be harmonious all the time, for their minds to be united and for them able to be able to do the project without interruption.

Also dedicate for all the FPMT centers and projects, including the statue, to cause all sentient beings to generate bodhicitta in their minds and for not even one sentient being to ever experience war, famine, disease, earthquake, danger from fire or water or any other undesirable thing.

In short, may the Maitreya Buddha statue and all our other centers and projects in the organization cause all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.

“Due to the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, from now on, whatever I do, whatever experiences life brings me—ups and downs, health or sickness, praise or criticism, good reputation or bad, good times or difficulties, problems, including in my Dharma practice, life or death, even suffering in hell—the most important thing is for all these things to become most beneficial for all sentient beings. Therefore, from now on, may all my actions and whatever I experience in life be only most beneficial for all sentient beings and cause them to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.

“May I be able to completely actualize Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching, which unifies sutra and tantra, within my mind and spread these teachings in the minds of all sentient beings. Thus, may Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings flourish forever.”

Next Chapter:

Chapter 48: April 27 »