WHEN IS A PERSON DEAD?
Anybody questions that there is no reincarnation? That it doesn’t exist, or maybe you believe that you don’t exist. [GL] Anyway is there anybody? Yes go on, only one? Two, two handed people, I’m joking, go.
I don’t believe in rebirth, I believe in reincarnation.
You don’t believe in rebirth but you believe in reincarnation? What?
Oh, I see.
I believe in the law of karma, but I don’t believe in rebirth. [GL]
That sounds very sweet (RL, GL) very cute. But anyway most congratulations that you believe in law of karma, most congratulation, that is most important. So you differentiate rebirth and reincarnation. Reincarnation you believe right?
I differentiate between rebirth and karma. Rebirth in conventional sense, dying, being buried and being reborn.
Dying and reborn [noise on tape]. [RL] Rebirth means dying and being reborn? Is that right? I didn’t hear with the extra noise.
He doesn’t believe you die, you are buried and can be reborn again.
Oh I see, yes, I agree with you. Yes, that is true. You die, you’re buried in the ground and again reincarnated. That is correct, yes, that is right. I think a lot of people, I don’t have question with that. Anybody have question with that?
So what is reincarnated?
Your nose. (RL, GL) The rest stays in the ground (RL, GL) in the coffin, just nose. I’m joking.
What is the definition of death? That is the point.
Student: There is no such thing.
There is no death? There is no definition of death? Because?
What is life?
Death has no definition, oh I see.
You had better carry on because you know exactly what I am going to say.
Oh no. [RL, GL] Okay. [GL] Doesn’t mean exactly I know what you think but I will try.
To discuss the definition of death is very important. When that is not clear then there will be unclear information about rebirth. If the death is clear then birth will be clear, and the same—if birth clear, then death is clear; if birth is not clear, then death is not clear. I think that is a very important question. The definition of death in the West, not in the East, but in the West that is a very big question. I’ve heard that it has happened many times the people were put in a coffin, believed to be dead but it’s happened so many times that when they were taken to the graveyard, they made a noise, the person was trying to get out. That happened many times because the doctors were unable to see clearly, unable to judge whether the person was dead or not. Many times they make mistakes like this.
I think also I have heard in Calcutta, West Bengal when a coffin was taken to a cemetery, where many people were gathered at the funeral—it was not burned but was in a coffin—the person was not dead, and recovered from whatever sicknesses or harm he had. I guess probably the heart was not functioning; it stopped for some time.
The heart stopping functioning doesn’t mean the person is dead. One of our students is Doctor Adrian Feldman from Australia. Nowadays, he is one of the elder monks teaching in Mongolia working for the Mongolia center that was established last year. He is teaching there now in Mongolia in a monastery, young Mongolians. Normally, it is believed when the heart stops functioning, I guess, maybe, I am sure there must be certain amount of time, maybe not immediately, there is a heart attack and then gets treatment so there might be certain amount of time—he said that death is usually defined by that. But then he saw a person whose heart was not functioning, but then later, I don’t know after how many hours, after some time, the person again woke up. So he used that reason. Normally it was definition but that reason didn’t cover because he saw, actually saw that person. Must have been quite some time, quite long time ago, he said he actually saw.
I am not sure about a coma, person in a coma whether the heart is functioning or not, huh? Is functioning?
SEEING THE SUFFERING NATURE OF SAMSARA BRINGS REALIZATIONS
Lama Yeshe achieved a very high level of realization within Highest Yoga Tantra, based on the graduate completion stages, both gross and subtle, the isolation of body, isolation of speech and mind, clear light, illusory body, those two. Who has achieved the isolation of the mind, the clear light as well as the illusory body, these very high levels of tantra, who actually received, by having this realization, actually received the label “yogi,” the real meaning of the label yogi, by having this realization.
Of course there is the realization of the three principal paths before that; it is not just tantra. On the basis of the realization of guru devotion, there is a total renunciation, detachment from samsara, by seeing this entire samsara as only in the nature of suffering—like being in the center of the fire. It is not finding the slightest attraction for even one second, for any samsaric enjoyment of human beings or devas—those worldly gods whose wealth is a billion times more than the most developed human country, than the wealthiest people in the world. Many billions of dollars cannot compare to even just the one ornament of a deva. It is much more valuable than a billion dollars. True renunciation is not finding attraction for even one second in any of this, seeing it all in the total nature of suffering. This is besides the lower realm.
In the formless realm there is no suffering of pain or suffering of changes, only pervasive compounded suffering. But if you see even the form or formless realms as totally like being in the center of a fire, only in the nature of suffering, you have total renounced detachment. So then on the basis of that you have unbelievable, unbearable great compassion towards other sentient beings. Because now, here you have discovered your samsara, so much in total nature of suffering, so unbearable, then when you look at others, numberless other sentient beings, they are the same, in samsara, you feel so unbearable, like for example, particularly like the people who have AIDS.
I didn’t see this much among people who have cancer, but somehow a person who has AIDS has a lot of concern to other people who have AIDS. I don’t know why, but it seems more among people who have AIDS; they have a lot of concern to others who have AIDS, I have met so many people, because the person he or he has AIDS, then there is a lot of attention, compassion for other people who have AIDS and want to help, want to go into that society, want to offer service. There is a lot of concern to other people who have AIDS. I didn’t see that much among people who have cancer—they may have but I didn’t see that much, so that I am not sure. Whether it’s because the group who have AIDS feel they are abandoned by society, —which is what some people say— I am not sure. Because you know how you feel when you have AIDS, it is so clear, therefore it is easy to feel how others they feel, so easy to know that, so then you get much compassion to other people who have AIDS.
Anyway, just like that here, you feel incredible compassion, unbearable compassion, when you look at others and see how they are also in samsara. You can’t stand it and so on that basis you achieve the realization of bodhicitta, to free them from all the sufferings and bring them to enlightenment and therefore yourself to achieve enlightenment.
So guru devotion, three principals of the path, the realization of right view, of emptiness, then the realization of the Highest Yoga Tantra stages, the gross and subtle generation stage and the various stages of the completion stage: the isolation of body, the isolation of speech, the isolation of mind and the illusory body.
Lama took the aspect [of illness.] Generally, what appeared externally was developing a very weak heart. It was found out in the hospital in Nepal. The doctors checked about five years before, or quite a number of years ago. Then during that time, we came from Dharamsala. I think from Lama’s side, he didn’t want to come but I kind of requested, so he came to give teaching during the course.
THE EARLY DAYS AT KOPAN
Normally I talked so much on suffering. This time I didn’t get to talk that much. I talked on it, but not in the way I did in early courses [where I went over] all these sufferings. I didn’t talk that way this time, although maybe a bit previously, but not so much as in early times.
During the early days of Kopan Monastery, it was very primitive. When you got to this place, there was an old house, a very nice, very old house built in the British style by a British architect. It was the Nepalese king—not this present one but a previous one—who had built this house for his guru astrologer. Also at the top of the hill there was supposed to be a house, where I think maybe the king came for enjoyment—sort of like a tea house—but a big earthquake happened and the house collapsed. That is why you find many bricks on that ground up on the hill. Some karma happened and a huge earthquake shook Nepal. It might have been at that time that Tengboche Monastery in Solu Kumbu, near Mount Everest, completely collapsed,
The first and second Kopan courses were done in this old house, but by the third and fourth courses the monastery had already been started. It was still a very small monastery. Then the fifth, sixth and I think the seventh courses were done behind the monastery. Between the hill and the monastery there is some flat ground, so a tent was put there, a tent of iron sheeting, maybe the walls were bamboo or grass. There was a lot of hay and grass around people, and at night time people slept on that. You put down grass as a base, and people slept on that. I think Roger, my attendant, slept on grass at those times. The place where we did meditation, people used grass, and put sleeping bags on that grass. Then, there are many fleas—not lice—but many fleas came. [RL]
So, even when we did the fifth, sixth and seventh courses, the conditions were very primitive. People who did the course went under the big tree to eat food, and at the same time the smell of kaka came from down below. It was very primitive, you see. In the teachings about detachment, [I often use the example] of the people sitting under the tree eating their food with all the smells from toilet coming up. It was not like this for just one year, but for quite some time, I don’t know. [Rinpoche confer with Ven. Karin] When did you start to come to Nepal? Was the course held behind the monastery? Already here? Oh, I see, behind the monastery at that time. At that time was the smell of the toilets bad when people were eating and drinking? Lots of smell from down there! So, it was like that. Even some of the guest rooms didn’t have proper doors. Anyway, I don’t know why I am talking about this. I lost the evolution of my talk.
After that, we moved here and put the sheet here. This side of the hill was covered with this sheet, which was very cheap cloth all round on the hill, and then the bamboo was planted all around.
We were talking about Lama Yeshe.
Oh, ah yes that is right. [RL, GL] Thank you very much, I owe you a lot. So, yeah, that’s right. But why I am explaining about Kopan?
Because you used to teach a lot more about suffering. [RL, GL]
Thank you, that’s right. You’re right. Thank you very much again. I think for many years we taught the courses this way, where there were no rooms—right up to the eighth course—behind the temple. We did quite a number. What? [Rinpoche confers] Yes, that’s right. course seven, up to course seven was done behind the temple.
I think, until this was built, until this was actualized, we did the course there for so many years. Now it has become ten star. [RL, GL] Like the hotels are five star, this is now ten star. Compared to how it was for those many years, it has now become a ten star, maybe even a fifteen star course. The whole condition has become unimaginable at the moment compared to all those past courses, with many hardships. People had to do courses with many hardships, but now there is unbelievable luxury and it is so clean. There is a huge difference. Now Kopan has become unrecognizable.
The reason I talked so much about the suffering is that if the people don’t realize suffering they won’t know how important it is to practice Dharma, to meditate. People won’t take it seriously; it would just be a kind of hobby or some trip or something but not a serious thing, not a serious practice. They wouldn’t be seriously looking for liberation. That was my interest in suffering; it was not that I want to suffer. When people’s minds went down, like at sunset when it became dark— each time people’s minds became dark, Lama came and lifted them back up, he made sunshine in their minds. [RL] And then I would talk about suffering again, and their mind would go back down. Then, Lama came again with the sunshine. This is how we did the course in the past. I talk only about the bad parts. [RL]
When the course was done behind the temple in those times, I gave the talk and guided the meditation for the whole day, guiding the meditation, doing the discourse. I did that on many of those previous courses, but then I think I became very lazy. After that I became very lazy. [RL] There were a lot of hardships; it was very primitive, but I think it was very a fortunate time. Because people had to bear a lot of hardships, of course it had a deep effect and was very meaningful.
LAMA YESHE GETS SICK
So, anyway coming back to Lama. I don’t know which meditation course it was that Lama gave Bodhisattva vows. His last teaching was the Bodhisattva vows and I was there at that time. That night, Lama took the aspect of vomiting. I was eating some canned food, some cherries from an Indian can. I had some and I think I may have advertised them to Lama. Like on TV, people eat and show how much they enjoy it. So I may have advertised the cherries, and Lama ate. Anyway that evening, he started to vomit, he took the aspect of vomiting. The next day he went to Delhi, where he stayed in hospital for about a week and then a farm house was found for him near Delhi. He stayed there. Every evening I did puja. There is a very powerful puja for a Dharma protector called Kalarupa, who is the protector to realize impermanence and death and maybe also emptiness. There are four actions: pacifying, increasing, controlling and wrathful. In the tantric meditations, there are different activities you can do that, depending what is needed for success. So this puja is wrathful; it involves hooking the evil beings who have harmed the sentient beings and who have harmed the holy beings.
[Break in taping]
…because that involves concentration, then Lama said he didn’t want to do it, because every time you concentrate the heart stops. His concentration was very intensive, not like our concentration. It was something very deep, very stable—a very deep concentration, and it seemed that during that time the heart doesn’t function. This maybe, when a person does a very deep meditation, such as on the clear light when the extremely subtle gross mind is absorbed
MEDITATION ON DEATH
[Rinpoche confers] Was the death process meditation done? That meditation is very good. Normally that kind of meditation is not done in lam-rim. That subject doesn’t come in a lam-rim course. It is part of tantra; it comes in tantra. Normally, it doesn’t come in lam-rim teachings but I thought that it is very important to know how a person dies, what is happening within the person. In the West a person usually goes through the process and then he dies, and nobody knows—there is nobody who can explain about it. Anyway in the West there are many people, young and old, who remember past and future lives but because society doesn’t believe in this, even though it is your real experience, even though that is your real insight, even though it comes from the quality, the power of your mind. You have that power and clarity of mind to be able to be clear from pollution, from defilements, to have less pollution.
When the mind is much cleared and with more insight, you are able to remember not only coming from your mother’s womb, but also you can remember being in the womb and even before entering the womb. You are able to see past and future—both yours and others—but because society doesn’t have that education, because in general people don’t have that education, that kind of deeper knowledge, they don’t accept there can be such a thing. Ordinary people only accept what they understand, that there is this one life because this is all you see. Therefore, even those who have those experiences are afraid to tell them in society, to the public, because other people will think they are strange, even though that is their actual realization, their actual experience.
But, of course nowadays, in the last thirty years reincarnation and karma have become very common subjects; they are discussed more and more and people talk about them and want to learn about them. Interest is growing, and more people are becoming familiar with reincarnation than not. Every year more people are becoming familiar with this, there is more education on this, so it becomes more and more familiar, and gradually society will start to accept it. If you compare with the people who don’t have this education, or who do but whose education is still very small, it is always increasing. So it’s getting better, a deeper knowledge of mind is happening.
It’s like in a country in which everybody has a goiter, and then if somebody doesn’t have a goiter, everybody thinks it is very strange. What the culture of a particular society is, the people of that society believe; what isn’t part of that society, the people don’t believe. They regard it as very strange, even though it might be the real experience of that person, the real discovery of that person through the power of mind, the clarity of mind.
Generally speaking, your belief depends on when you are born into your new life what comes first, what culture is introduced first. What belief is introduced to you first, your belief follows that. Normally speaking, not everybody. So, you are born in a new life, fresh, then you believe what kind of culture you encounter, what kind of belief you are given by the society, by other people. That doesn’t necessary mean it’s correct. What you have believed so far from birth is not necessary correct. You have to analyze, whatever you believe is what you have been taught by society; it has been influenced by society, but that doesn’t mean that it is correct, not necessarily. It depends on what it is. It depends on whether it accords with reality or not. You are reborn, you have new life, a fresh start, and so you believe what you are given by others. Therefore, you have to analyze, to check.
DEATH MEDITATION: THE CLEAR LIGHT
I’m not sure but it seems that when the meditator meditates on clear light, there are twenty-four absorptions happening at the time of death. This happens when a person is dying, and even the animals, so through the Highest Yoga Tantra meditation it can happen that the meditator experiences those twenty-four absorptions, those visions or appearances, the same as happen at the time of death when the gross mind absorbs, and becomes more and more subtle, then extremely subtle mind, the clear light, is all that is left.
At that time everything stops. While you are meditating, everything stops including the breathing—there is no movement, or barely any. The similar experience to what happens at the death time, the absorptions, happens in meditation with the practitioners, the yogis, who have realization of the gradual completion stage, the second stage, who have experience of the clear light, the illusory body, and the unification [of these two]. They not only have the experience of the absorptions at death but they can use the Highest Yoga Tantra methods to purify ordinary death, to purify the ordinary intermediate state, to purify ordinary rebirth. With the second stage of completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra they actually purify ordinary death, ordinary intermediate state and so on, then they actualize the path-time dharmakaya, the path-time sambhogakaya and the path-time nirmanakaya. Those meditators’ wind is able to manifest into deity’s holy body, and can travel. It manifests into the deity’s holy body and does practice with subtle bodies, then the meditator can travel, like Lama Yeshe did.
In Dharamsala, there is a monk called Lama Gyupa who does the altars and water bowls in the different rooms. He is the caretaker of the different shrine rooms at Tushita Retreat Center. Lama doesn’t tell of his experiences in public, he only tells them if he meets very close friend meditators, then he mentions those experiences, those very Highest Yoga Tantra realizations. He shares the experience, any only by this kind of conversation can you see what kind of highest tantra realizations Lama had. He never showed the aspect in public. Lama practically never showed he was a meditator. He may have manifested as a business person, he may have manifested in many different ways, but he never showed that he was a meditator, that he was a yogi. Common people, even Tibetan people, had no idea that inside was a great yogi; they only believe what appeared on the outside.
Anyway, Lama mentioned to Lama Gyupa—the monk who took care of the shrine rooms, —that without the gross body he could come with his subtle body into his room. This is what yogis who have achieved clear light and the illusory body can do with the subtle body, in the holy body of the deity in which they practice. They can also go to a pure land of a buddha and do practice and make offering. They do practices, then enter back into the old body to do the common things such as eating, giving teachings, giving advice and so forth.
So, there are the base time three kayas, which means death, intermediate stage and rebirth; the path time three kayas, and then the result time three kayas, the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya. Yogis, who achieve this clear light and illusory body, can actually use these realizations as the actual weapon to purify ordinary death, intermediate stage and rebirth, and achieve enlightenment, achieve the result-time three kayas.
THE DEATH PROCESS
I am going to mention the very last extremely subtle mind that is there when you die. There is a central channel at the heart—the heart is not this pumping one but the point half way between the two breasts—and all the gross and subtle minds are absorbed into the extremely subtle consciousness, the extremely subtle mind of death. Externally, it looks completely like there is no sensation there at all, nothing, but the mind is still there. Externally there is no sensation, everything is absorbed; all the heat is absorbed so there is nothing. The body looks completely dead.
Even at that time the consciousness is still there. So, the very last mind is this extremely subtle mind. As from a seed, a sprout comes, like that, from the extremely subtle wind and mind, the gross wind and mind come out. The extremely subtle mind leaves from the indestructible seat and then gross wind and mind after it has left from there. When it manifests into the gross wind and mind, that is the intermediate state being’s body. If you are going to be reborn in the desire realm or form realm (the formless realm doesn’t have an intermediate state) there is intermediate state, generally speaking.
So the extremely subtle mind and wind leaves from the indestructible subtle seed, then the gross wind and mind develop, which is the intermediate state being’s body.
The “door” that the consciousness exits the body from depends on which realm you are destined to reincarnate in. If it comes from the crown then either you go to the formless realm or the pure land of a buddha. The best one is Kalachakra’s pure land, Shambhala, where you can practice tantra and achieve enlightenment there. And especially Vajrayogini’s pure land or Heruka’s pure land, where you will definitely become enlightened. Then Amitabha’s pure land, where you will never get reborn in lower realms from that time. Some lamas, such as my root Guru Trijang Rinpoche, say you can practice tantra and become enlightened in Amitabha’s pure land. In some of the pure land of the deities you can practice tantra and become enlightened.
So, if the consciousness leaves from the crown, either you get reborn in pure land or formless realm. I think, if it leaves from the mouth you are reborn as a preta, if it leaves from the anus then your destination is hell, that person is going to reincarnate in hell. If the consciousness leaves from the urinary passage, through the sex organ, then the rebirth is as an animal. So, depending from where the consciousness exist, the ears, nose, navel and so forth, that indicates the different rebirths.
In the teaching of the Buddha, it is said that the main location of the mind, where the extremely subtle mind abides is at the heart. Because of that, when we get angry the anger doesn’t come from the brain, it arises from here. Similarly, when you get attachment, when you get desire, it doesn’t come down from the brain, it comes from here. When you feel pride, pride comes from here; when you feel jealous of somebody, it comes from here. So your ordinary daily life experiences are harmonious with the text, harmonious with what the Buddha explained. The ordinary real experience of life is harmonious with the text, with what the Buddha says.
I am not sure what I am going to do now, there are also many obstacles tonight, so I am just going to finish the lung, the oral transmission. There is not much left.
THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING REINCARNATION AND DEATH
It is very important have a lot of discussion on reincarnation and karma, on rebirth and death. I think it is very, very important. If you think that there is no reincarnation then you should check. In the past in meditation courses I remember giving this technique, during the discussion about reincarnation, about the mind, I guided this meditation where you take the mind back. You go back to last year and the year before that, you go back more and more and more. You go back to childhood and then you go back mother’s womb and to the time of conception time, checking all the time on the continuity of the mind.
Many people have had experiences with this meditation. I remember one person, who had very stable concentration and was able to concentrate, who was very stable and very precise, this person was able to go back to conception time in his mother’s womb and then he tried to go beyond that. He had a very strong vision, a very strong feeling of being in Tibet. He was in Tibet, he saw the room and the Tibetan tea and the wooden container you use to churn the butter. He could remember the room and the butter, the container to churn the buttered tea—he could see it all so clearly.
For many people who have a clear mind and whose concentration is very stable, just by doing this simple meditation, going back to conception time and then beyond, they get an experience, even during our past courses. Maybe some of you may have had such an experience even this time or something similar. It is possible for some but not everybody. It doesn’t happen for everybody.
THE DALAI LAMA CAN REMEMBER PAST LIVES
If you think there is no reincarnation or if you find it very difficult to understand reincarnation, you should analyze, you should put a lot of questions to yourself. I mean there are many logical reasonings in the philosophical texts, but a very simple question is, what about so many young and old who are able to remember? This is besides the incarnate lamas like His Holiness the Dalai Lama who are able to remember, to recognize past lives’ attendants and belongings. He even mentioned the name of the lama as soon as the lama came to the house to examine the incarnation. It had already been proved by the deity, by the protector, when the lama spent seven days at the special lake in Tibet, the lake of the protector Palden Lhamo. He put up a tent there and looked into the lake. Whatever question you have, it answers. It is exactly like TV, like a Tibetan TV! From the lake, whatever question you have it shows.
I have also been there. I’ve been to Tibet twice. The first time I went, I only spent five days in Lhasa and came back, but the second time I was supposed to be there only one month but took a lot of time. I was looking for some commentary of the secret Compassion Buddha, Gyalwa Gyatso. I had to go to Amdo, a place in lower Tibet, the specific monastery that Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche explained. Trying to get this text took a lot of time, so I spent two months in Tibet.
There is one very special place, you have to go from Lhasa, where there is this lake where many people go to look for their guru’s incarnation. The protector shows where the guru, the lama, has reincarnated—the house, the parents, the child playing. Sometimes the child is protected by a protector, that lama’s previous life Dharma protector. So they see child playing and the protector is also running after that child, [RL] because the protector has commitment from past times to protect this lama.
The people who have come to examine this lake, the Tibetan Government and this Lama Ketsang Rinpoche, not this present incarnation but a previous life of Ketsang Rinpoche, spent seven days every day searching for His Holiness Dali Lama’s reincarnation in the lake, asking questions. Then he saw a house with blue tiles, maybe like Chinese tiles, and the mother and father—everything was shown. So like that, it was already proved, but then they went to family disguised, wearing the mala and carrying a stick from the Dalai Lama’s past life, and the child, the incarnation, came over to the stick, took the mala, and called the lama’s name. He was able to recognize the Lama.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama was in Wisconsin one or two years ago at Geshe Sopa’s Center to give Chenrezig initiation. When he talks about bodhicitta, His Holiness often says, “There is no way I have any realization of bodhicitta but I have so much devotion to bodhicitta. There is no way I have any realization of emptiness but I have such strong faith in the emptiness.” That is normal expression that His Holiness says.
One day when the organizers of Geshe-la’s center had a private interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one of the guys asked him, “You said you don’t have any realization, then for us it’s hopeless. If you say you have no realization, then for us it’s completely hopeless.”
This guy has made such big point so His Holiness had to say something, he had to express something, he couldn’t bear this person thinking it’s all hopeless. It’s a kind of private talk but His Holiness actually said he remembered when the Buddha was in India. His Holiness was around the Buddha, His Holiness was with Buddha. Historically, at the time of the Buddha, there was a bodhisattva, whose name I don’t remember, who the Buddha predicted that in the future in snowland of Tibet, he would become Chenrezig, the Compassion Buddha and guide sentient beings of snowland of Tibet and you would spread the Buddhadharma. I don’t remember exactly, but it was something like, “You will do the four prayers and you will spread Dharma like sun rising in snow land of Tibet.” This was one of the bodhisattvas who was an attendant of the Buddha, surrounding him. So the Buddha had already predicted this. All the Dharma Kings are manifestations of this Bodhisattva, the compassion Buddha. Historically it is like this. Each one preserved the Dharma, spread the Dharma and benefited Tibet much. That is why there is such a special connection with the Compassion Buddha among the Tibetan people.
The Chinese also practiced Compassion Buddha but there is more connection with Amitabha Buddha who is the Guru of Compassion Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, on the crown of the Compassion Buddha. Tibetans also have connection with Amitabha Buddha but mainly Compassion Buddha.
Now of course, His Holiness has been coming so many times all over the West, to many Western countries, giving initiations, teaching, benefiting so many millions and millions of people, guiding the people in the West. The Compassion Buddha is guiding, benefiting so much. That shows us that Western people also have a connection with the Compassion Buddha.
So, historically, it is like this. His Holiness says that he remembers that he was with the Buddha when the Buddha was in India nearly 3,000 years ago. There is no question about high reincarnate lamas who remember, but even common people in the West, many countries in the East and West, young and old, there are so many who can remember past and future lives and can see other people’s past and future lives.
ORDINARY PEOPLE CAN REMEMBER PAST LIVES
There is a book in the library that somebody received, an American, who researched many, many people who can remember their past and future lives. He collected all the stories in one book and did research like that.
Quite a number of years ago in the Punjab there was a girl who could very clearly remember the town and the parents of her previous life. She explained it very clearly to her present life parents. Then one day she took them, she guided them along the road to the village—I don’t know how far it is from her village—to the house of her past life’s parents. They had a picture taken together, the present life and past life parents. Of course, the past life parents were older with more wrinkles, and fatter. In the photo, the girl is standing in the front with a toy or something in her hand. I don’t know how it happened but I had the photo—quite a large photo—for quite a number of years, but then I lost it. I don’t know what happened to it; it was a very precious photo. It was unbelievable what this girl could remember. His Holiness heard this and sent a person to her house.
In the East, in Tibet and Nepal, wherever Buddhism has spread, you see the education about reincarnation. It is a very common understanding. But in the West, in the past, this education has not been in the culture, there is only just one life. I think, however, that many people, even though they may follow the philosophy, the culture of the society that says there is only one life, but in reality if they really question in their heart, I think deep down they are not sure.
FEAR AT THE TIME OF DEATH
Also, another thing that is very interesting to consider it this. If there is no future life, if there is no continuation of life after death, why people who did a lot of negativities, a lot of evil deeds, people who are alcoholics, why do they have so much fear at the time of death? Why is it? I asked some students in the Vajrapani, California who are working in the hospital where people were dying, what kind of people have more fear at the time of death. They replied alcoholics have much more fear when they are dying. So we have to question about that, we have to learn about that, why alcoholics have more fear at the time of death. That is a very interesting point to study.
If there is no reincarnation, if there is no past life, no future life why should they be frightened, why should fear arise? No matter whether you are an alcoholic or not, why should fear arise? there must be some reason why fear arises. In the texts of the Buddha’s teaching, it says that this is a sign of imminent reincarnation in the lower realm. Before you get reborn in the lower realm there is a sign, there is a karmic torture at the time of death before you are reincarnated, your own karma tortures you and you have all kinds of terrifying visions happen. If you have killed many animals or gone fishing and killed many fish, for example, if you did a lot of killing in the life then at the time of death you have very terrifying karmic appearance, your past life karma, where those animals you killed manifest, the crazy visions, the terrifying visions attack them. All around you are the animal that killed this life, eating you, attacking you, all over the body, and you die with so much fear.
This is very important, it is very good when people are dying, to be near them and to learn what kind of fear, what kind of vision that person has. That is very important research. Then you can see what kind of people have more fear when they die and then you can judge, you go back to what kind of life they led. When there is a lot of fear when they are dying, and you research how that person lived during their life, then the next question is that. Then you find out why they have so much fear. This is the way to make research on how to learn about life.
A lay Tibetan person in Dharamsala, when he was dying he screamed so much, and the people around couldn’t do anything, they couldn’t help. They didn’t see any animals attacking him but he saw them, so many goats and sheep attacking him. He screamed so much. The other people around they couldn’t see anything, they couldn’t do anything.
GESHE JAMPA WANGDU
Gen Jampa Wangdu was an old and very successful meditator, who before he escaped from Tibet was meditator for a few years, and then meditated in Dalhousie then came to Dharamsala. He was Geshe Rabten Rinpoche’s disciple. Even before I took teachings from this meditator, he was the best friend of Lama Yeshe and myself. Every time we met at Dharamsala it was the best time, because he always told his life stories, about his practice, and who had achieved realizations among the Tibetan lamas, the monks. You could find out who amongst those meditators living in the mountains had achieved what realization. He brought information to us about other places, about such and such a lama, such and such a Geshe, what realization they had achieved, because when they achieve a realization, either lam-rim or tantric then they report it and many report to His Holiness Dalai Lama, to make an offering of their realization. There are some whose root guru is His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, so they send a report of what kind of realization they have achieved.
This meditator Gen Jampa Wangdu can go to see His Holiness Dalai Lama whenever he wanted. He might also know by his clairvoyance the right time to leave from his cave to visit. It might also be like that, because I remember in Tushita, when I needed him he appeared. He generally stays down below. There are few different places, such as a cave and a big rock, which he lived under for seven years, meditating. One time, there was so much rain the whole place filled with water, but he still kept meditating. There was a small box like that, and all the rest was filled with water, so much rain came. Geshe Rabten Rinpoche heard about this—he and his cook attendant, also a geshe, who was an incredible meditator. You never saw him angry in this life, no matter what bad things you might say to him, he never, never said anything harsh in this life, he was always the same person.
He has many lice, he keep many lice on his body, We talk about tong-len, the special bodhicitta practice for quick enlightenment by taking other sentient beings’ suffering on yourself, and giving one’s own body, happiness and merit to others. He actually does this, not just in meditation, he actually does it. He has so many lice, but if he sees a louse falling out, he picks it up and puts it back, inside. [GL] Like that, he is actually doing tong-len, taking and giving practice, actually giving himself. Like the Buddha, making charity by giving his body completely to the five tigers who were dying of starvation at Namo Buddha, up there in the mountains, one of the holy place where you people go to see. Here, he is giving his body as everyday charity to all the lice. Like that, no matter how much people say bad things, teasing, whatever situation happens, you never see him unhappy or angry. He was famous for that, so very inspiring example of patience.
Anyway, Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, who is my teacher, who began teaching me philosophy first time, when he heard about the situation with Gen Jampa Wangdu, this meditator, Gen Rinpoche carried tools to dig, and he and his assistant went down to drain the water out. Anyway, I think there, in that cave Geshe Jampa Wangdu realized emptiness. It seems so, according to what Geshe Rabten Rinpoche said. One time, when I was taking Mahamudra teachings from Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, Geshe-la told me if you want to ask questions on emptiness ask Gen Jampa Wangdu, he has a very fresh realization of emptiness. Often Geshe Rabten Rinpoche used to praise Gen Jampa Wangdu, saying “He is such a lucky person.”
There are other places where Geshe Gen Jampa Wangdu lived to do meditation. He was one of the most successful meditators in Dharamsala, who achieved very high realizations, even external looking. Before he passed away I took a teaching, the Pill Retreat, where if you are living in the high mountains or very isolated place and it is difficult to find food, it takes so much time if you go to look for food because it is very far away and you waste a lot of time, then you don’t get to meditate, so you live on pills. I think the retreat was twenty-one days. You cut down food every day, you bless the pill and you take the pill, and that helps to get very clear mind and very healthy body; it purifies all the bad things, and very clear mind, it helps particularly with shamatha, calm abiding meditation, perfect concentration. So anyway I have forgotten what I am talking about. [Rinpoche confers with the audience.] Oh yes, good, thank you very much.
So this person, this Tibetan man in Tushita, when you come down the road from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s old place, at Mcleod Ganj where there is the bus station, there is houses down below the road, so this dying person was there, screaming so much. , I think Geshe-la must have known from the cave. When a certain person was suffering so much and needed help, he just appeared, without even being asked. He must see, with clairvoyance. Before coming to Dharamsala, he had achieved calm abiding, shamatha, which has nine levels, the perfect concentration free from attachment, scattering thought (go-pa) and sinking thought (ching.wa), the two obstacles that block perfect concentration. He achieved all that, he totally succeeded. So of course he would have reliable clairvoyance. There are other techniques to achieve clairvoyance but they are unreliable, but this way you have reliable clairvoyance.
Why clairvoyance? So that you can help, you can benefit other people. So, Gen Jampa Wangdu came to give advice to the people and when he checked he saw that many goats and sheep were attacking this man, completely all over him. Gen Jampa Wangdu checked what kind of life he had led. He asked a friend and found out he had been a butcher and had killed many sheep in this life, so that is why he is dying with unbelievable fear like this. If you kill fish, such as if you did a lot of fishing in the life, the same thing happens at the time of death. But that is just preliminary, before you die, this is just preliminary. The actual one is the next life; when you actually get reborn in the lower realm it’s a billion times heavier. Anything, killing flies, mosquitoes, whatever—it is same, so depending what kind of negative karma we have like that. Nobody else tortures you, your karma tortures you; it gives you all these terrifying projections.
I can’t remember many years ago but there was a very rich Tibetan business person, very, very rich. He was from lower part Tibet, from Amdo, and he was a very big benefactor of monasteries. He became rich by selling statues, by selling holy objects. When he was dying, for months he has so many unbelievable difficulties, his stomach was swollen, and the hospital couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink—just a tiny drop water—but despite terrible thirst he couldn’t drink. Doctors could not do anything so he was taken home by his wife. Each step upstairs took a long time, one step there like that, then upstairs. Then he saw ants coming from the windows and there were covering his bed completely. Ants came all over. He screamed so much, “Please chase away the ants!” but other people around couldn’t see one single ant on his bed, but he actually saw them, saw those ants all over. So he had a very hard time before he died. This is a sign of imminent rebirth in the lower realm; this shows what his future life will be.
Even if intellectually you do not believe there is more than one life, why do you have fear at the time of death? That is some guilt, you feel guilty, a feeling of “I wasted my life. I didn’t do anything worthwhile with my life.” No one is telling you but you feel like that. You fear some very heavy thing is going to happen to you. That shows there is some intuitive feeling for a next life, even if it is not an intellectual belief.
If you really check your heart, down there, the sincere answer is “not sure.” That is the very sincere answer. When I spent two months studying English in England some years ago, my teacher was Irish. She brought many articles about the scientist who invented the concept of the atomic bomb, Einstein. She told me the scientist never told lies, and I am very happy of that. She says whatever they discovered they always say “maybe it is like this.” They never say before they have fully discovered something that it is so. They will never tell a lie, or over exaggerate. Anyway when she brought me that, it make me very happy to know they just said what they knew and didn’t tell lies.
However, so I think maybe I’ll stop here. Okay, maybe have a tea and then go to bed. [GL, RL]
This question is very important. What about those who are able to remember, to see past and future lives? Do you ignore them because it’s not your experience? Do you refuse to accept things because it’s not your experience, because you don’t have the capacity? That is totally fooling yourself, so that is a big question. What about many things you don’t remember you did in this life? Do you say you didn’t do them? There are many things you did in childhood you don’t remember now. Other people said you did this and this, but [using this criterion] you shouldn’t accept that because you don’t remember them. Also, you don’t remember coming from the womb, this is just something you believe. Most of us believe “I was born from this mother.” Because you are told you were born from this mother you just believe it, but you don’t remember coming from your mother’s womb. [RL, GL] You don’t coming from your mother’s womb, with a bluish body, with so much pain. [RL] And you don’t remember being in the womb. You just believe what they said, that you are born from her. [If you only accept things that are your experience, then you shouldn’t accept being born either, because you don’t remember. Anyway, there are numberless things.
The conclusion is that there is nobody who has realized that there is no reincarnation, there is nobody. There are those who as part of some major philosophy have assumed there is none, but nobody has actually realized there is no reincarnation. However, there are many people who have realized that there is reincarnation and karma—they are numberless. This is without counting buddhas, those high beings, without counting them, just ordinary beings, they are numberless.
Okay, so maybe have tea.
THE UNCERTAINTY OF WHEN A PERSON IS DEAD
I just want to make sure in case some people still have some questions. In case you still find it difficult, I am saying how to analyze, the way of analyzing. If you don’t know how, to analyze then you think there is no proof.
Before you mentioned “body buried.” Now I understand what you are saying, what you meant, body buried, then reincarnating, you can’t see how that is possible. That is because we don’t differentiate the mind from the body. We don’t see, because body has color, form and shape, like that; it is substantial. The mind is colorless, shapeless and formless; it’s a phenomenon that doesn’t have form, whose nature is clear and knowing. The two are completely different, one is form, substantial, and the other is without form, not substantial.
The definition of mind is clear and knowing, sem-chen rig-pa. That is definition of the mind—that which is formless, clear and can know an object. The body is not in that nature, so therefore what goes to the next life is not the body. The body does not reincarnate, the mind reincarnates. That is how we should think, the body does not reincarnate.
Sorry what is your name? Concentration! [RL, GL] I thought your name was meditation [Student: Constantine.] What you said is true, that the body is buried. Then, how is it possible to reincarnate. It’s true, that is why I said I completely agree with you, that body does not reincarnate. It’s the mind that goes to the next life. These are two completely different phenomena, separate, different phenomena.
I want to tell you this. Not having a head doesn’t mean there is no mind. [GL] There are two people that experienced this in Tibet. My Guru His Holiness Zong Rinpoche, once visited Pagri, where I lived for three years in Tibet and did pujas. Almost every day I went from family to family to do puja, at eight o’clock I went puja, then at four or five o’clock, my stomach filled with delicious food, I went back to the temple, packed up the texts, damaru and bells. Anyway, I did this for three years.
Anyway, when His Holiness Zong Rinpoche was there he saw a person without a head. Rinpoche himself told me. There was no head. There was a hole for food, and when he got hungry he rubbed his stomach like this. So, you see [GL] the family put some tea in the hole. When he felt cold, he made some gesture and they took the body into the sun, then took it into the shade like that. That is what I heard.
Then, I saw in the texts another very high Amdo Lama, Kundak Konchog Tenpa Donme, in Amdo he saw the same thing, a person without a head. If he had no head that means he didn’t have a brain. I saw these two bits of information. This Amdo Lama explained this in a text. So therefore, it disproves that if you don’t have brain you don’t have mind. These people have karma to live even without a head; they have karma to suffer in that way. If you have karma to die, even if you cut your finger you may die. Sometimes, you can die from even some small thing, but if it is your karma to suffer, even though your body is cut in half still you can stay alive for many days and suffer.
For example, there is a Sherpa porter that I know who went as a servant for a Sherpa businessman from Tibet. He carried the things being imported while the businessman went ahead. So much snow fell that he could not go any further, so this Sherpa laid down in the snow for seven days, with no food, with nothing. Then, his feet were all, what do you call it? [Student: frostbite.] Yes, they became like that. I asked what happened and he told me the whole story. The Sherpa businessman didn’t look after him and he was left there for seven days and covered in snow, with no food or drink but he didn’t die. You see, if the karma is heavy to suffer, he has the karma to suffer; but his life lasted and he didn’t die. Anyway, I hope this information is enough.
REFUGE IN THE TRIPLE GEM
Even though the subject of the qualities of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha has been mentioned, maybe the details haven’t been reached yet, to do with the purpose of taking refuge. Actually, it’s gone on so much. Geshe Sopa Rinpoche explained it, he described the whole Wheel of Life, samsara, the suffering of samsara and how we circle in samsara due to the twelve dependently related links. Geshe-la also mentioned the four noble truths.
Why we rely on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is because of suffering, because of true suffering and true cause of suffering. We want to be free from that. No external medicine can stop the true suffering, no external medicine can stop the true cause of suffering. No operation by the doctors can stop true suffering and true cause of suffering. Only by Dharma, only by Dharma, so we rely upon the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Taking refuge means relying on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; that is the foundation. Relying upon the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, which is the taking refuge. Then practicing what the Buddha advised, that which are the teachings, and essence of the teachings is protecting karma, to not harm others. On the basis of not harming others, to benefit others as much as possible, and protect karma.
REMEMBERING THE TRIPLE GEM HELPS AT DEATH
Normally I introduce it like this. When you die, at that time, if you remember a Sangha, an ordained person in whom you have faith and devotion, if you die with that thought of devotion you can never get reborn in the lower realms; you can never get reborn in hell, as a hungry ghost or an animal. This is how the object Sangha is so powerful.
Then, when you are dying, if you remember just the Heart Sutra or a Dharma text, if you die with this thought you never get reborn in hell, the hungry ghost or animal realms. You are saved; it protects you. If you remember a mantra, a Dharma text, that saves you, protects you from getting reborn in the lower realms.
Then, if you remember the Buddha, the name of the Buddha, if you hear the name of the Buddha, if you remember the name of the Buddha when you are dying, you never get reborn in the hell, hungry ghost or animal realms.
Without taking refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, without relying on all three, just by remembering one mantra you don’t get reborn in the hell, hungry ghost or animal realms.
Normally, I make a comparison, like a competition, between this and all the knowledge of science. For example, say you have an incredible knowledge of science, an unbelievable knowledge of science. Now, the day when you are dying, with all that knowledge at your death, what can you do with that? Nothing. There is nothing you can do, but if you remember just one member of the Sangha to whom you have devotion, you don’t get reborn in the lower realms.
REFUGE IN THE TRIPLE GEM FREES FROM SAMSARA
The purpose of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is not only to not to be reborn as a hell being, a hungry ghost or an animal, the purpose of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, of relying upon the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is to be free from the whole entire prison of samsara, bound by karma and delusion, as Geshe-la explained in the three principals of the paths. To be free from the whole entire samsara, in other words, the whole entire suffering, and to be totally free from delusion and karma, the causes of suffering, we need to rely on all three. the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. This is like a very sick patient has to depend on the doctor, the medicine and the nurse. One is not enough; all three are needed. That is the fundamental reason why we need to rely on all three refuges, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Now, on top of that, to liberate numberless sentient beings from the suffering and its causes and bring them to enlightenment, for that you need to achieve enlightenment. Now there is more reason to rely on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for the success of this, so that is the whole thing. That is the purpose of taking refuge.
Refuge is the door for entering the Buddhadharma and it is also foundation for the pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantric vows; this is the foundation. Without the all three refuges, taking vows and precepts cannot happen.
You may already have refuge in the Dharma. As I mentioned the other day, when you took an interest in meditation, to meditate on the path to enlightenment, when you took an interest to learn the Dharma, to meditate on the path to liberation and enlightenment, at that time you have already taken refuge. Having taken an interest in meditation, in meditating on the lam-rim, the path to liberation and enlightenment, you have taken refuge in the Dharma at that time.
It is the Buddha who reveals the Dharma so naturally you depend on the Buddha, you rely on the Buddha. Then, of course, to learn all these things and to practice you need the support of the Sangha, for example and inspiration, you need support of the Sangha, so refuge is taken there from that time.
The ceremony of taking refuge makes the practice certain. By taking the refuge vow, there are refuge precepts that you practice in daily life. Because the Buddha is so kind, so compassionate, even if you don’t want to take all five lay vows, still the Buddha is so kind by making it possible to take the refuge vows, even if you don’t want to take those five lay vows, abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, telling lies and alcohol.
There are refuge precepts to do in everyday life so you collect so much merit. For example, in the morning when you get up, you do three prostrations to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and before you go to bed, you do three prostrations to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.. Before you eat, first you offer to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, lay people do, then you take as blessing to serve others. These are things do you in daily life anyway. You are anyway eating, drinking so many times a day, sleeping, so just by the way you collect so much merit and make your life meaningful. Even though they are small practices they make life so meaningful, they create so much happiness, and the cause of happiness up to enlightenment, including a good rebirth in next life. So the Buddha is so kind to us sentient beings, by still allowing us to take refuge vows, even we cannot take, or don’t want to take those lay vows.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TAKING VOWS
The other thing is what I want to say is this. Now the one thing to understand is that if you make the vow to be butcher, wine seller, prostitute or something, if you make the vow to be like that then you collect negative karma continuously in whole life. If you make the vow for your whole life “until death this is what I am going to do,” if you make that vow you create negative karma your whole life. But if you make vow to abstain from killing, abstain from stealing and so forth, if you make vow in this way, then you collect merit, you collect merit in whole life until you die because you make the vow until you die you are going to do this, to abstain from that negative karma and live in morality.
Therefore taking vow, even refuge vow, makes a huge difference to your life. By taking the vow you collect merit day and night, all the time. In the same way, by taking the vow, abstaining from killing or stealing—all the five vows or any number of them—you are collecting merit, you made the vow up to death so therefore while you are eating, you collect merit all the time by living in that vow. While you are sleeping, how many hours you are sleeping, even if you are sleeping for twenty-four hours you continuously collect merit because you are living in the vow, one vow or five vows, you are collecting merit all the time. For every twenty-four hours you are collecting merit, you are making your life meaningful, the cause of happiness, the cause to achieve liberation from samsara.
Then with bodhicitta motivation, the cause of enlightenment, you are creating cause for enlightenment all the time by living in these vows. So like that even while working, walking on the beach or whatever, you are collecting merit all the time, your life is never empty, never meaningless. Even whether you took one vow or five vows until death time, so like that, all this life is meaningful.
Say a person has taken the vow, the precepts and all he ever does is eat, sleep, make kaka and pipi, eat, sleep, make kaka, pipi—only ever these things—he never does any practice, prostrations or reading Dharma texts, studying or chanting mantras, but his only practice is living in the vows, just the refuge vow, or the five lay vows, and so no question the vows of an ordained monk or nun, the 253 vows of a fully ordained monk or the 360 or something vows of a fully ordained nun. (Of course there is more merit the more vows he can take and keep purely.) But even if all he ever does is those three things, eating, sleeping and making kaka and pipi, if he lives in the vows then he is making merit continuously. Even if he is in a coma for many years he is collecting merit all the time. With the five lay vows, the merit is fivefold, so therefore he is making his life so meaningful all the time.
The merit of keeping the 253 merits of a fully ordained monk all the time is unbelievable. This is an incredible advantage. Then, especially, as mentioned by the bodhisattva Shantideva, in Bodhisattvacaryavatara, if you have taken the bodhisattva vows you continuously collect merit whether you are asleep or whether you even become unconscious. You continuously receive skies of merit, limitless skies of merit all the time, causing happiness, becoming the cause of enlightenment. Even while you are sleeping, even when you are unconsciousness, you are collecting continuously even those times, limitless skies of merit. That makes life unbelievably beneficial and most productive.
If you take the higher tantra vows then there is even much more merit, as explained by Pabongka Rinpoche in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, by the great enlightened being. So now that is one thing to understand, that is one advantage what makes life so meaningful.
The second what that living in the vows makes life so meaningful is this. As mentioned in the sutra texts, if as many sentient beings as there are in the three galaxies, in that many worlds, becomes a Wheel turning king, everyone become the most powerful incomparable king in the world, then offers oceans of butter and Mount Merus of wax to make light offering to all the buddhas, and compare that with a person living in the ordination vows make an offering to the Buddha with butter as small as a mustard seed, and wax the size of a hair, this offering done by the person living in the ordination, creates far more merit, it is far greater, than the three galaxies of worlds filled with sentient beings, each a wheel turning king, each making light offerings of oceans of butter and Mount Merus of wax to all the buddhas. Even those that merit is unbelievable, it is so small when you compare it to one person living in the vows makes a light offering of butter like a tiny mustard seed and wax the size of a hair to the Buddha. Even though the offering is so tiny the merit is unbelievable. This is explained by the Buddha in a sutra text.
In your daily life, by living in the vows, whenever you collect merit by making charity to other people or animals or by making offering to the Triple Gem or making prostrations—whatever virtue you do, it increases so much. The more vow you take, the greater the increase. Whenever you collect merit it increases depending on the number of pratimoksha vows, the number of bodhisattva vows and the tantra vows you have taken. By taking bodhisattva vows, any virtue you do in daily life increases millions of times, and by taking tantra vows it increases much more.
This is the second advantage how it affects your daily life, making it so most productive. More merit means then you are able to overcome all the problems, all the obstacles, and create even more merit and avoid more negative karma. The merit becomes more powerful and the negative karma becomes weaker, and this makes your life very smooth. Whatever you think, all your wishes get fulfilled, now and in future lives. Like that you are able to achieve enlightenment without taking much time, without many difficulties.
THE REFUGE CEREMONY
Those who are taking refuge, please make three prostrations to the Buddha, by thinking this is the actual living Buddha. Make three prostrations, and then again make three prostrations to the Lama who gives refuge. Then, if you can kneel down like when taking the eight Mahayana precepts in the morning. If you can’t kneel down, then you can sit, relax. Put your palms like this in the mudra of prostration.
Then think this motivation. “This time I have received the perfect human body which is extremely rare to find, I have met the Buddhadharma which is extremely rare to meet and I have met a virtuous friend who will reveal the path to enlightenment liberation and enlightenment, who is extremely rare to meet. At this time, while I have all the opportunity to practice Dharma, I must achieve liberation from samsara, I must achieve the great liberation, the non-abiding sorrowless state, the full enlightenment, that which is free forever from suffering. I must achieve this. I must achieve full enlightenment for the benefit of all my kind mother sentient beings. If I don’t do that, I will have to experience the suffering of samsara, the suffering of pain, the suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering, without end.
“Therefore, for this purpose, I am going to take refuge, by relying upon the Buddha, the founder of the actual refuge; then the Dharma, the actual refuge; and the Sangha, the one who helps actualize refuge within my mind.”
If you are only taking refuge think I am only taking the refuge vow, but if you are taking any of the precepts of the five lay vows—one, two, three, four or five, either all five or any number—then think, “I am going to take upasika one vow, two vows,” whatever number you take think like that.
One reason why it is important to take any number of those lay vows is because by taking refuge to the Dharma, there are two things, two precepts, one thing is to be abandoned and one thing is to be practiced. The thing to be abandoned by taking refuge in the Dharma is harming other sentient beings. It involves giving up harming other sentient beings, so therefore in that case it helps if you take from the five lay vows, or if not all the five then any number of that—it helps to do refuge practice, refuge vows, not harming others, so you get done that practice.
Normally, I emphasize at least abstaining from killing, by taking that vow it helps to not harm others, but of course if one can take more than that, then of course, more than that then, it is very exciting. If you are taking any lay vows, any number, think, “I am going to take Upasika vow one, two, three, four or five (whatever number you take) on the basis of taking refuge.”
Then please repeat the precept prayer, the seven-limb prayer.
[Tibetan refuge prayer]
Please mention your name, as in the Mahayana ordination ceremony, before taking refuge. Until I achieve enlightenment [Tibetan giving vows, audience repeats] from now on until I achieve enlightenment I go for refuge in the Buddha.
Now remember meaning of the Buddha, whose holy mind is totally free from all the gross and subtle mistakes of mind and complete in all the qualities of the realizations. So that is Buddha. Remembering the meaning of the Buddha, then rely on the Buddha, billions of times much more than an ordinary doctor, who if even though he can cure but it is only temporarily.
Now taking refuge in the Dharma, relying upon the Dharma, that which is the true path and the true cessation of suffering. That is absolute Dharma. The conventional Dharma is the Tripitaka, the scriptures, which reveals the path. So, like that, take refuge in both.
[Tibetan, giving vows, the audience repeats]
Relying on the Dharma is billions of times more effective than medicine, which even though it can cure, it is only temporarily.
Now, the next one is taking refuge in the Sangha, those who support us. There is absolute Sangha and conventional Sangha. The absolute Sangha—whether a lay person or an ordained person, it doesn’t matter—is somebody who has the realization of the cessation of suffering and the true path. The conventional Sangha is somebody who doesn’t have those realizations, who is ordinary, but who is living in the full ordination purely. Relying upon them both, take refuge.
[Tibetan, giving vows, the audience repeats]
Rely on them a billion times more than a nurse.
[Tibetan, giving vows, the audience repeats]
Now please repeat a second time.
[Tibetan, giving vows, the audience repeats]
Please repeat your name.
[Tibetan, the audience repeats]
Remember the meaning of the Buddha, then with the whole heart reply upon the Buddha. [Tibetan, audience repeats]
The next one is taking refuge in the Dharma.
[Tibetan, the audience repeats]
The next one is taking refuge in the Sangha.
[Tibetan, the audience repeats]
So, at the end of the third repetition [Tibetan]) when I say loudly then you have received the vows and you must develop the thought that you have received the vows, even if you are not taking any of the lay vows, only the refuge vow. Then, from that time on I have become the Lopen. Your Lopen is the master, the teacher who leads the disciple on the path to liberation. How? By revealing the vow, by causing the disciple to practice, that brings the disciple to liberation like that.
[Tibetan, giving vows, the audience repeats]
Please repeat a third time.
[Tibetan, giving vows, the audience repeats]
Say your name.
[Tibetan, giving vows, the audience repeat]
Now think you have received the upasika vows, whatever number of vows you have taken, or if you have taken only refuge vows okay.
[Tibetan, giving vows, the audience repeats]
So now repeat the prayer. Those taking the lay vows please repeat.
As I mentioned the other day, this is a most practical contribution to the world peace. Your living in the vows, precepts, this is your most practical contribution to the world peace, for the happiness, the peace of all the sentient beings, not just in this world. This is what you are offering, this is what you can offer, this is what you are offering towards the sentient beings, so it becomes extremely essential, it becomes most enjoyable way to live the life.
[Tibetan, giving vows, the audience repeats]
If you are kneeling, you can sit down.
HOW TO PRACTICE REFUGE IN THE BUDDHA
Actually, all the instructions are here. By taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha there are three things to be abandoned and three things to be practiced. Then, there are general instructions by the Buddha in our daily life, like those things that I mentioned before.
So, the three things. By taking refuge in the Buddha what you should practice is respect to the Buddha’s statues and the paintings of the Buddha, even if it is a broken statue or even if it is a small piece of a drawing of the Buddha or statue. If you see it on the road or on the floor you touch it on your crown and then put up in a high, clean place, by thinking it is the actual living Buddha you are putting in a high place. Even if you see a small, broken piece from a drawing of the Buddha or a statue—something like that—it doesn’t matter if it’s made of mud, gold, diamonds, whatever, you should show them all equally respect. If there is something that you don’t like, something of bad quality or of poor material such as mud, and if you throw it away, or throw away any broken ones in the garbage, it obscures your mind. It blocks you from developing compassion. It pollutes the mind, it obscures the mind, and it makes it difficult to have realizations on the path to enlightenment. Then, it is very difficult for you to be free from samsara, this is besides achieving enlightenment. So, one must respect holy objects, even if they are broken; you should put them in a high clean place, or fix them.
Then what you should abandon by taking refuge in the Buddha is following the wrong founder. For example, if you meet a wise doctor but while you are taking treatment from the wise doctor, you take treatment from a bad doctor and you get wrong advice and then you see that the wise doctor cannot help you. Like that, it becomes obstacle for the wise doctor to guide you, to heal your sickness. So in the same way, if a wrong founder reveals the wrong path to you, the wrong concept, then it follows that the Buddha cannot guide you. Therefore, you must abandon following the wrong founder.
HOW TO PRACTICE REFUGE IN THE DHARMA
By practicing Dharma, what you should practice is that you must respect Dharma texts, even a torn page from Dharma text, even a few lines you see in the garbage or on the road. You should pick it up and put in the car thinking that this reveals the path, which liberates me from the whole entire oceans of samsaric suffering, brings me to liberation and enlightenment. Then put it in high, clean place—even for a torn page you see in the garbage, it is like that. If there is so much you don’t have place to keep all those torn pages etc. In Tibet and in Solu Khumbu where I was born, they build a square stupa which is under a rock so it was protected from the rain, then they put all the missing pages in this stupa so nothing goes in the garbage. If other people stepped over them they would create so much negative karma and you would create so much negative karma, so these things don’t happen. It protects you from heavy negative karma like that.
You should respect even a torn page torn from a Dharma text like this, so there is no question about a complete Dharma text. You shouldn’t put on the bare ground without any cover, without a cloth cover, without a tablecloth. You can’t just put Dharma texts on the bare ground or on the bed or cushion, without any cloth, without tablecloth or something clean to put on top, to show respect. You cannot put Dharma texts or prayer books page which is Dharma on a meditation cushion or seat without something to support it, to respect it. This is important and I want to emphasis it. You cannot put a mala, even a mala, on a Dharma text.
I mentioned the other day, I saw a mala was put on top of the text during Geshe Sopa’s teaching and I said like this, but didn’t get the idea. [RL] What I am saying it is disrespectful so don’t put the mala on Dharma texts. You can’t even put a statue on Dharma text. You can put a Dharma text on a statue but not a statue on a Dharma text. Sometimes you have statues on the top shelf where you have put Dharma texts. This is the correct way to do it or the other way it to put it at the side.
One time when we visited His Holiness the Dalai Lama there was an Italian student, a very old student with us. He was one of two or three Italian students who were the source for Lama and myself to spread so much Dharma in Italy. These are two or three Italian students became the source for Lama Tsongkhapa Institute, the largest center in Italy, which has now been there so many years. His Holiness the Dalai Lama came a few times to give teachings and initiations and many thousands of people gathered, as well as many other high lamas. His Holiness Ling Rinpoche came I think. I don’t remember but many high lamas came. Zong Rinpoche gave teachings and initiations.
Nowadays, there is a seven year program, studying extensive Buddhist philosophical sutras, and after that tantra, after which they get a degree and become qualified teachers to teach in the organization or the centers, to educate other people also teach outside the organization. The degree is given on the basis of not only intellectual understanding but also meditation experience. They have to meditate on the lam-rim, given the basis is not only intellectual but having one year’s meditation on the lam-rim. The degree is also given on the basis of their behavior during that time, how they have lived their life, because we don’t want any problems in the centers, with behavior, with teachers having problem with behavior. In the past there have been stories, so we don’t want that to happen. Therefore, the teacher degree is given not just on an intellectual understanding but also meditation experience and behavior. So, you see it is very special; there is no others like that, it’s very special degree. Now many centers, many branches happen from this.
Anyway, this student’s name is Pierro. He offered a stupa to His Holiness or he asked him to bless it—I’m not sure—and he put the stupa on top of a Dharma text on His Holiness’ table. His Holiness took the stupa off the text and I think he might have mentioned something about how you cannot put stupas onto Dharma texts. Anyway, he purposely took the stupa from the text.
You can’t put things like malas or glasses on Dharma texts. That is wrong, that is disrespectful. Even if you put a statue, a mala and or some glasses it is disrespectful. But if there is a wind problem, if the wind is blowing and there is danger of the text blowing away, that is a special case. Then, you can put things on it because the Tibetans say that “necessity is more important than the negation.” If there is the danger of the wind blowing the text, you can put things on it, such as a mala or whatever, otherwise you can’t put anything on it. I want to emphasis this at this time in public.
You can’t use a Dharma text as a cushion to sit on, and you certainly can’t put shoes and Dharma text like this. [RL] You can’t put spit on it. I don’t think Western people do that, but it is a custom with Tibetan people, when they turn a page to lick their fingers and turn the page. I didn’t see Western people doing that. There are many Tibetan people who have the habit of doing this, but it is also disrespectful. One time in Darjeeling at Tomo Geshe Rinpoche’s monastery, where I lived nine months when I had TB, His Holiness Ling Rinpoche, His Holiness Dalai Lama’s elder guru, mentioned that when you turn the pages you should not put your spit on the pages, otherwise you will be reborn in the vajra hell. His Holiness Ling Rinpoche said that.
What Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche does is this. Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche is such a great scholar and great yogi, whose qualities are like the limitless sky but yet he is extremely humble, respectful to anybody—wealthy, poor, educated, uneducated. Like His Holiness the Dalai Lama he respects everybody. What he does is he keeps water next to him so when he turn the pages many, many times and the pages stick, he dips his finger in the water to help separate them. That way it is so respectful, it doesn’t create any heavy karma, it doesn’t obscure the mind.
Even if you are marking Dharma texts with orange color highlighter or something, which many people do but not all the time, you should think that you are offering color, like you offer color on the body of a statue. If you think that you are making offering of the color then this isn’t disrespectful.
One time, Jeffrey Hopkins, the well-known American professor, who studied the Buddha’s philosophy extensively and is a very respected teacher, came to Australia to Chenrezig Institute. We now have maybe about fifteen nuns and a very good program happening there, with an excellent geshe, teacher, who is very compassionate and very learned, very kind-hearted, who has been teaching there now many years. So, one time Jeffrey Hopkins came there to give a talk. I wasn’t there at the talk but he gave a teaching on hell.
He explained that he has to mark the dissertations of the students he teaches. When the students do a thesis or a translation or whatever, he has to correct anything that is wrong, which means he puts black lines through words. He said he does this many times, putting lines through what are Dharma texts. So, he told the Chenrezig students that he had created so much negative karma to be reborn in the hot hells, not the first one, being alive again and again, but the second one, the black line hell where karmic guardians draw black lines on your body laid out on the red hot burning iron ground, like a carpenter does on wood, then they cut it exactly like they do with wood. Jeffrey Hopkins said many times he put black lines through the students’ mistakes, and in doing so he created so much negative karma to be born in second hot hell, the black line hell.
Anyway, even when you make a mark on a Dharma text, mark it nicely and think you are offering color, orange, usually. Like His Holiness Ling Rinpoche who puts it separately, you put it at the bottom of the page, you separately mark it like that. However, when you put those colors from the pen, you can think that you are offering color like that and you collect merit. It does not become disrespectful.
If there are many missing pages, then you can put them some respectful place, such as in cave or whatever, in trees or something. You can do it like that. Otherwise, here we have this stupa outside. When we make tsa-tsas, we put them there, also Dharma texts, missing pages and whatever. Instead of throwing them in garbage, we put them in the stupa like that. This way you don’t create negative karma and other people don’t create negative karma. The minimum thing is on the roof or some clean place, then you visualize all those letters as empty or absorbed in syllable AH, absorbed into your heart, then there is just empty paper, and then you offer fire, like that. That is the very least thing that can be done.
HOW TO PRACTICE REFUGE IN THE SANGHA
Now, the Sangha. By taking refuge in the Dharma, what you should abandon is giving harm to others. By taking refuge in the Sangha, what you should practice is that whenever you see Sangha, wearing red or yellow dress, wearing Buddhist robes, you should think, “This is my guide who liberates me from samsara. This is my guide who liberates me from oceans of samsaric suffering.” You should respect them in this way. By thinking of the qualities you can respect them, it doesn’t matter which Buddhist tradition, Hinayana or Mahayana, you just respect them like that. What you should abandon by taking refuge in the Sangha, is following the wrong kind of guide, who leads you on the wrong path, who gives you the wrong practice, the wrong view. If you follow that then the Sangha cannot help you.
HOW TO PRACTICE REFUGE IN GENERAL
Then, the general advice on refuge. In the morning, when you get up, do three prostrations, as I mentioned before, by thinking of the Buddha, or think of the Triple Gem. Then, before you go to bed, do three prostrations to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. If you have a statue of the Buddha or if not you visualize the Buddha, you can think that is all the Guru, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, all the ten directions’ statues, stupas and scriptures, that it is everything. Then you do the prostrations. By doing that, you have done prostration to every single holy object that exists in any universe, in Tibet, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, anywhere, you have prostrated from here, and to all the Buddha Dharma and Sangha. So with this meditation, you prostrate, you collect unbelievable skies of merit.
Before you eat and drink, first make offering to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, then take it as a blessing. Even you don’t know prayer from your heart, you offer and recite OM AH HUM, you bless and offer, then you take it as a blessing. So, these are general refuge precepts, the general advice on refuge.
Then, you should practice compassion towards other sentient beings. Then, you should live your life by relying on holy beings. By relying on the Buddha then you become a buddha; like relying on His Holiness Dalai Lama eventually leads you to have the same quality as His Holiness Dalai Lama. So, relying on holy beings.
Then, you should listen to teachings. This means the when gurus give teachings, whenever you can, you should take the opportunity to listen to the teachings, whether from a teacher you have already made a connection with, a Dharma connection, a Dharma relationship, a Guru-disciple relationship, or from somebody you make a new connection with, making a new Dharma connection. So, one thing is listening to the Dharma.
Then other thing is when you are in danger to create negative karma, such as when anger arises with other sentient beings, then try to control the mind by applying lam-rim meditation, practicing patience and applying the antidotes such as Guru devotion, renunciation, bodhicitta, those techniques. Then there is also tantra to try to control the mind. I don’t remember whether I have remembered everything or not, but that is the general advice. It is written here, so you can study it here. There are also benefits I explained.
On the back here, there is St Francis, a great holy being from Italy, even though he chants Jesus’ name, actually his mind is so pure; he has no attachment clinging to this life, no eight worldly dharma, no self-cherishing thought. He is an actual bodhisattva. Even though externally he used Christian terms and prayer like, but in reality his mind is in realization. Anyway he has those realizations so he is an actual bodhisattva, the same as those Tibetan great meditators such as the Kadampa Geshes, Lama Atisha’s disciples and so forth.
I thought it would be very interesting to put this. I like how he advised here so I put it here. Normally lamas won’t put this, wouldn’t mix things like this, but I like this. I don’t think in this advice there is contradiction with Buddhism. I only made one or two little changes, the rest is as it is. So, I think that’s all.
So, feel great happiness because of all those benefits, as I mentioned before, how much merit you collect from now on until you die, continuously, then, every day whenever you collect merit it increases unbelievable number, unbelievable. As I gave the example before, three thousand galaxies of sentient beings and each one becomes a wheel turning king and makes light offering of oceans of butter and oceans of wax top countless buddhas—that much merit is so small when compared to one person living in ordination with vows making a light offering to Buddha with butter the size of one mustard seed and wax the size of one strand of hair. This one is far, far greater. Every day, when you collect merit, whether you make charity to other sentient beings or whatever you do, the virtue you collect is increased unbelievably. Therefore, rejoice, thinking, “From now on my life becomes most productive; it becomes really meaningful towards all sentient beings. This is the most practical contribution for the peace and happiness of all sentient beings I am giving.” So that is it.
[Rinpoche confers with somebody, unclear]
THE ORAL TRANSMISSION OF THE MEDICINE BUDDHA MANTRA
I did the lung the other day but I think, the monks and nuns were there but I think many of us went out.
This is one of the most powerful practices of purification, reciting the names of the Thirty-Five Buddhas, the confession of downfalls.
It is very good to recite the seven Medicine Buddhas after the Thirty-five Buddhas. When they were bodhisattvas, before they become buddhas, the seven Medicine Buddhas made so many prayers for us sentient beings to have happen that anybody who recites their name mantra, may they have this happiness, that happiness, all this, success. So, when they became buddhas and achieved infinite qualities, one of the qualities is the ten powers. One of the powers is power of prayer, so because of that, because they achieved this, as they made prayer before for all the success for sentient beings who recited the name mantra, therefore the names mantra of the Medicine Buddhas has so much power. By reciting Medicine Buddhas’ name mantra we receive all the Medicine Buddhas’ prayers and whatever we pray for in daily life will succeed. Therefore, the Medicine Buddhas are regarded as so blessed, so precious, especially as the time is becoming more and more degenerated, and everything is becoming more difficult as the time gets more and more degenerated.
No matter how degenerated the time gets, any one of the Medicine Buddhas is very powerful for success and also very powerful for purification, for purifying negativity, broken vows, degenerated vows and precepts. The Medicine Buddhas are very powerful for purification, not only for healing.
Even when animals hear the Medicine Buddhas’ name mantra they never get reborn lower realms, so there is no question for human beings, this is guaranteed. If you recite the Medicine Buddhas’ name mantra you never get reborn in the lower realms. This is a guarantee, so this is very important.
You spend so many thousands of dollars to learn so many exercises, many hundreds of exercises to make the body healthy, you spend so much money for the body to be healthy. You put so much effort. In that case, reciting the Medicine Buddhas’ name mantra, which protects you from reincarnating in the hell, hungry ghost or animal realm, which means you will never be reborn in the lower realms, you have to put all the effort to practice this like that. If you are putting so much effort those other things to be healthy, if you spend so much money to be healthy, to have long life, there is no question this practice of Medicine Buddha is most crucial to practice.
THE VAJRASATTVA MANTRA
Vajrasattva mantra, [Rinpoche recites] and the short one. [Rinpoche recites]
To purify today’s negative karma, to not multiple today’s negative karma, for it not to become double tomorrow, if you going to recite the long one you need to recite it twenty-one times, if you are going to recite the short one—OM VAJRASATTVA HUM—then you have to recite it twenty-eight times to stop any negative karma becoming double the next day. This shows how extremely important it is to practice Vajrasattva, meditation recitation is like this.
It is said by Pabongka Nyingpo if you killed one tiny insect today or committed one small nonvirtue today, then without confessing it at the end of the day, such as within a Vajrasattva practice and so forth, then it increases every day, and after fifteen days then you created same heavy karma as having killed a human being. Even though you haven’t actually killed a human being, the amount of negative karma is same as having killed a human being. Then, one small negative karma done today, after eighteen days by increasing how much it is said to become 131,072 greater. The negative karma get multiplied after eighteen days by that amount. Then it increases, as the months go by, the years go by, it increases and becomes like a mountain, like the size of this Earth as year goes—like multiplying one atom until it become like this Earth, like a mountain. If you don’t confess even one small negative karma, it multiplies every day then become so heavy, such as like this Earth materialized.
Therefore, by doing Vajrasattva at the end of the day before going to bed, even just twenty-one times or the shorter one, twenty-eight times, that not only stops the karma multiplying, becoming double by tomorrow, it purifies this negative karma, it purifies this year’s negative karma, this life’s negative karma, it purifies past lives’ negative karmas, so it is unbelievably powerful. This is how important it is to practice like that; it is so important to practice Vajrasattva.
If you recite one hundred thousand mantras of Vajrasattva then even the very heavy negative karma you have committed gets purified. If you took vows and then broke a root vow, such as killing a human being or telling the big lie of having realization while you don’t, the big lie, or stealing, sexual misconduct or sexual intercourse [if you’ve vowed to celibacy as in monastic ordination]—if you broke those root vows, it has the power to completely purify them. Those heavy negative karma get completely purified by reciting Vajrasattva one hundred thousand times.
That is why so many years ago, maybe before we start these courses, I am not quite sure, Lama started this Vajrasattva retreat for student to do a Vajrasattva retreat. Lama gave the initiation to the very first student—she is now a Doctor, I think PhD—Jan Willis. Lama gave it to her and friend. They were the first students Lama gave Vajrasattva initiation to, and they did the retreat in one of the nearby Nepalese houses. They did it upstairs and the Nepalese lived downstairs. They made fire downstairs and all the smoke went upstairs, filing the room with smoke while they were doing retreat.
That is how the Vajrasattva retreat tradition started in the FPMT, and since then there have been lots of Vajrasattva retreats, which are extremely important and beneficial. So much negative karma—which causes us to be reborn in the lower realms and then to be there for many eons, suffering terribly—gets purified, so it makes it so easy to achieve enlightenment. This is Lama’s kindness. It is Lama Yeshe’s kindness that it is very common in the FPMT to do Vajrasattva retreat practice.
Due to all the three times merit collected by me by others, may myself, all the three time merits collected by me, the buddhas and bodhisattvas and all the sentient beings, all the three time merits collected by me, the three time merits collected by the buddhas, the bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may myself, also my family members and all the rest of all of us here, all the rest of the sentient beings, may we be able to complete pure morality by keeping it pure without mistake and without pride. [Tibetan chanting] May I and all sentient beings, all of us here effortlessly keep pure morality in all the future life times and completely be able to complete the path of morality.
May I achieve Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment which is empty from its own side and lead all the sentient beings who are empty from their own side to that enlightenment which is empty from its own side by myself alone who is also empty from my own side. I dedicate all my merits in the way the three times buddhas and bodhisattvas admire the most, in the same way I dedicate. May Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings, the stainless teaching of unified sutra and tantra, be completely actualized in one’s own mind, in one’s own family members, all the students, benefactors of this organization and especially those who sacrifice their life to this organization. May it be actualized completely in all of our minds within this very lifetime without delay for even a second and may Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings spread in all directions. May they flourish forever. May I be able to cause this by myself. [Tibetan] Then, those who have taken refuge, there is more information here. There is a Mickey Mouse photo. [GL, RL] So anybody who has taken refuge can come up.
[Rinpoche confers, tape unclear. Rinpoche receives thanks from students.]