Nyung Nä Teachings at Lawudo (1977)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Lawudo Retreat Centre, Solu Khumbu, Nepal (Archive #467)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave these teachings during a nyung nä retreat at Lawudo Retreat Centre, Solu Khumbu, Nepal, in June 1977. First edit by Ven. Ailsa Cameron; second edit by Sandra Smith.

Please note, these transcripts were created from Ven. Thubten Chodron’s excellent notes; audio recordings do not exist.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche with students at Lawudo Retreat Centre, Nepal, 1977.
1. The Benefits of Nyung Nä
The Four Dharmas of the Practitioner

There are four commitments for the Avalokiteshvara Yoga Method. They are the four dharmas of the practitioner, as described by Gedun Chokyi:

  1. Not to insult others in return if insulted.
  2. Not to get angry if someone is angry with you.
  3. Not to beat others if they beat you; cultivate patience instead.
  4. Not to observe others’ faults in return, e. g. if someone says that you don’t observe your commitments, don’t observe their shortcomings in return.

These four dharmas of the practitioner must be done to bring us closer to Avalokiteshvara's state.

Experiencing Difficulties Exhausts the Karma

During the retreat or the fasting puja, we may have physical problems such as hunger or we may become mentally depressed. Whatever situation or difficulty we might confront, take it as the blessing of Guru Avalokiteshvara and think that it is for purification: “The obscurations of negative karmas I’ve collected since beginningless time is ripening on me by the blessing of Guru Avalokiteshvara. This present difficulty is purification of this karma.”

Sickness or depression is a result of karma from a past life. By experiencing these difficulties now, we exhaust that karma. So when we have such difficulties during retreat, think it is the blessing of Avalokiteshvara and is purifying karma that might drive us to the naraks. Instead of suffering in the lower realms, we experience the karma as a headache or stomach pain. Try to think like this, train the mind like this. Then the difficulty is not a hindrance but is conducive for Dharma practice.

Or think: “The problem I have now is a sign given by Guru Avalokiteshvara to show me that I still have much negativity to purify.” He’s making us to face it. It is a precaution shown by Avalokiteshvara that we still have lots of negative karma to purify.

However, if we are unable to see the difficulties as purification of negative karma or as a sign from Avalokiteshvara, if we get depressed and think: “I can’t purify, I can’t fast today because I have these problems,” that postpones and hinders our Dharma practice. Rather, we should take all the suffering of sentient beings on ourselves by sending our own prosperity and happiness to them. All the time we should train the mind in exchanging self with others. Others are more important than oneself. This training brings us closer to Avalokiteshvara’s state. This is the best method. When reciting “mani” we must be motivated by the thought cherishing others more than ourselves. Think, “I want to make these kind sentient beings free from all suffering and place them in final happiness and bliss by myself alone.” Without distraction, we have the thought to lead each sentient being in the state of enlightenment. This is the essence of actualizing Avalokiteshvara best.

These are the specific commitments of Avalokiteshvara Yoga Method. Now comes the explanation of the general commitments and advantages of the fasting puja. It is beneficial to keep the advantages in mind, then whatever difficulties confront us during the fasting puja, thinking of one or two of the advantages will give inspiration to overcome that laziness.

The advantages are pointed out in the tantras. Since beginningless time until now, we have always collected negative karma, day by day, for many eons. For numberless eons, we have collected such negative karma. Doing one set of fasting puja purifies completely the negative karma collected for 40,000 eons. Not only that, by doing one pair of nyung nä, we are not born in the lower realms, but as a god or a human being.

It’s very good to purify 40,000 eons of negativity by doing one set of nyung nä; though we have a human rebirth, if we think how many negative karmas are created each day in this life, we’re surprised when we try to count them. Even when we try to say manis for a short period, if we don’t watch the mind, we create lots of negativity.
Negative actions of speech depend on the motive. Even if we say one mala of mani, but the mind is attached to possessions and friends, remembering possessions, getting attached and developing covetousness, from that point we have also created negative karma. We receive the benefit of going to hell from that.

Sometimes we develop covetousness for the affluence or reputation of other families, or attachment to friends and relatives, by thinking “They are good to me, they feed me and speak well of me.” Or with enemies we think, “So and so insults me; they are not good at all.” That mind itself is negative; by thinking “They aren’t good to me,” the mind is unpleasant and feels hatred. Feeling that hatred is negative.

Although we are saying manis, that is creating negative karma, and by thinking, “I‘ll rebuke them“ or “I’ll insult them in return if they insult me,” we develop harmful intent and hatred. We get attached to our possessions and friends, and develop longing desire and covetousness. Or, we are jealous of our friends’ reputation and possessions; or pride and arrogance comes. During the time of saying one mala, hatred, attachment and jealousy come continuously, so we create lots of negativity. Generation of these nonvirtuous thoughts itself is cause to be born in the lower realms.

To be born in hell it’s not necessary to have killed hundreds of people, it’s not necessary at all. Those who have not listened to many teachings, or who don’t know about karma say they haven’t created much negative karma because they haven’t killed. Those who don’t know about karma think we need to kill a human being or such. They think since they haven’t done that, they haven’t created negative karma. This is the disadvantage of not knowing what is a virtuous action and what is a nonvirtuous action. Although that person created lots of negativity, they claim, “I don’t have much negative karma.” In fact, it’s as great as the dust of the earth.

If we say even one mala with a noble motivation, then saying mantra is a virtuous action of speech. But if our motivation is to have a long life this life, then reciting manis is not Dharma. By letting the mind wander in delusion while reciting one mala we create negative karma and the action is not Dharma.

Creating negative karma with our body, speech and mind is like continuous rain, and creating virtuous action is extremely rare. The virtuous actions we do create are destroyed by hatred. Because of relatives or external people, the one or two virtuous actions we create are destroyed by hatred as they lack dedication.

Negative actions, like anger toward an enemy for one instant, are extremely difficult to purify. Using harsh words, for example with hatred saying “You‘re blind” is difficult to purify. By speaking like this, then in this life too, we have poor eyesight and have trouble with the eyes. This is a result of using harsh words like this in this and previous lives. According to the object to whom we say “You’re blind,” maturation may be experienced this life as well as in future lives. Not only are we reborn in the lower realms in future lives, but in this life too we become blind. If we say with hatred to our parents or to Sangha, “You’re blind,” then sometimes in this life we experience the result and become blind. Or for 500 lives we are blind.

Creating virtuous actions is extremely difficult, like drawing water uphill. Nonvirtuous actions are like water flowing downhill. To totally obliterate the result of the smallest negative action, like saying “You’re blind” with hatred, is extremely difficult. If while saying one mala we create such negative karma, then actions like walking, sleeping and eating are almost all negative actions, done for the purpose of this life alone. If we were to count the negative actions since birth they would be innumerable.

Four Aspects of Karma

One negative action has four results, for example, the negative action of mind, covetousness of the possessions of others, feeling how wonderful it would be if we were to get the thing we covet, this action gives four results. The maturation result is rebirth in any of the three lower realms. Even when the maturation is exhausted, and due to virtue, we are born as a human being or in the high stages of rebirth, then we are not able to actualize our own purpose, we do not get the things we want, our business always loses, or we don’t have the friends we want. This is the result similar to the cause of covetousness in previous lives.

The environmental result is that even if we are born human, the affluence of the place where we live degenerates. Even if the place had been good before, it becomes unattractive. The result similar to the action is because of covetousness in previous lives, this instinct ripens and again we do it, consequently creating four more results. So, because of covetousness, even though we are born in the lower realms, when we are again born human, we create more covetousness as a result similar to the action. This causes us to be born again in the lower realms, so binds us to samsara.

The second of the three mental nonvirtuous actions, harmful intent, also has four results. Even having the intent of harming someone for one instant has these four. The maturation result is rebirth in hell or any of the three lower realms. Even when we are again born human, the place where we are born has wars. It is full of conflict, a place where people kill each other with weapons or poison. This is the environmental result. The result similar to the cause, the result similar to the experience, is that even when we are born human, we do not enjoy life because of harm by humans, animals and illness. In Solu Khumbu there’s much sickness that’s said to be due to local deities, nagas. We have lots of such afflictions by illness. It is a result of harmful intent we had in previous times. In this life, whatever diseases we have or harms from others such as being poisoned by evil spirits, it is not they who really harm us, but our negative karma created in previous lives. The result similar to the action (habitual karma) is that even if we are born human, we are sadistic. We create further harmful intent which again causes us to be born in the lower realms.

The third nonvirtuous action of mind, disturbed views, is very easy to come up. Although we may feel “I don’t have distorted view,” it’s easy to surface. We don’t see it because we don’t check our mind. For example, if our lama asks us to do a ritual like reading a sutra, if we read the Kangyur and don’t get cured, we may say the rituals are of no avail. This is a distorted view. Or we think, “The butcher’s family has a big house and nice things. He doesn’t get sick; he looks happy and doesn’t have many difficulties. Then, there is a poor family that recites ‘mani’ all the time and makes good offerings to the Three Jewels; they aren’t arrogant and are kind-hearted.” Some people may say there’s a contradiction. “The butcher is successful while the poor family which makes offerings to the Three Jewels has difficulties and sickness. So Dharma doesn’t help us to have happiness of this life. It doesn’t help us to have happiness and avoid suffering.” This is a perverted or distorted view.

If our lama says not to do some actions, like lie or do business with statues, because it will take us to the lower realms, or they say if we don’t make offerings we won’t be happy in this and future lives, we think they are saying this because they are outspoken or just following tradition, or if we believe that making business with statues won’t cause lower rebirth, these thoughts are distorted views.

In the sutras Buddha taught lots about karma and its result. He gave predictions to sentient beings and taught karma. To one benefactor, he said his suffering was due to such and such cause created in previous times. The sutras are full of these stories. Someone may think these things aren’t possible; like from the karma of offering a gold coin to Mahakashyapa Buddha, one person was born with a gold coin in his palm. If we think this isn’t possible, it is due to having distorted view.

The maturation result of distorted view is rebirth in hell. The result similar to the cause as an experience (cause) is that when we are born a human being, we will be completely ignorant about cause and effect and reality, and it will be extremely difficult to understand voidness. The result similar to the cause as an action, because of the instinct laid by distorted views in the past, is again we generate distorted views. The depletion of natural resources in the place where we live is the environmental result.

Purifying Negative Karma

All negative actions, even small ones, have these four results. By doing the fasting puja it purifies all four effects of negativities of 40,000 eons. Usually we are happy if our enemy is killed or if we profit from ripping off tourists. This is the wrong way to generate happiness and this happiness itself is a negative action. Instead, we should feel happy at the chance to do fasting puja. Our whole life, we can feel happy about having this chance.

If we can do twenty-five sets of nyung nä, 80,000 eons of negative karma are purified and if we do fifty sets, [200,000/100 of] eons are purified. If one hundred sets are done, we can purify lots of karma, as arhats have done, and we will be born in Sukhavati pure realm.

Fasting has three aspects—of body, of speech and of mind. Fasting of the body is abstaining from physical actions such as killing, stealing and sexual contact. This includes killing lice, which is easy to do. By doing the fast of the body, we purify physically created negativities from past lives, we are not born in the preta realm, and in this life we don’t receive harm from enemies. In this life also, the body will be agile, healthy and glorious, so what to say of future lives? By abiding in the fast of the body, we achieve the physical body of the Buddha.

Fasting of speech is avoiding lying, divisive words, harsh words and frivolous talk which increases delusions. By abiding in the fast of speech, our negativities of speech are purified. After death, we won’t be born in the lower realms. In this life, people will listen to what we say and will respect our speech. Also, we will achieve the perfect speech of the Buddha, which has sixty attributes.

Fasting of the mind is not being distracted, influenced by delusions, or developing covetousness, harmful intent and distorted views while prostrating or reciting “mani.” To do prostration, first visualize and concentrate on Avalokiteshvara; with this object, we make prostration. If we make prostration without an object, it’s useless, there’s no value or benefit. Prostration or chag means sweep, to sweep away defilements. If we do the fast of the mind and have good concentration, then the mind is sharp in understanding Dharma and we will be closer to realization. We’ll achieve the five wisdoms of the Buddha and the five clear perceptions. This fast purifies negative actions of mind which have been created since beginningless time. If we have difficulties such as hunger, thirst or illness during the fast but continue irrespective, then it purifies the karma to be born in the hot hells which we’ve created since beginningless time. Having tolerance for thirst, hunger etc., if we make prostration, it purifies all negative karma to be born a preta which we’ve created innumerable times.

There are methods, skills to use if we get sleepy while saying the mantra. Taking off some clothes makes us feel cool and fresh. We can sit up straight, making our spine like a wall, or put water on our face or eyes. Contemplation on impermanence and death helps since sleepiness is influenced by interest in this life. If we’re really terrified of death by thinking of the consequences, the three lower realms, then becoming sleepy is very difficult. Another method is to visualize Thousand-arm Avalokiteshvara as big as the tip of the little finger on the tip of the nose. He is facing us and sending rays. If we visualize and concentrate like this, then we don’t get sleepy. Or as the self-generated Avalokiteshvara, we can visualize white rays, cooling in nature. Trying not to get sleepy stops rebirth as an animal, whereas getting sleepy during rituals and teachings causes rebirth as an animal.

Sleep Yoga 

Visualize Two-, Four- or Thousand-arm self-identified Avalokiteshvara. At our heart is HRIH. All of the body dissolves into the HRIH, which dissolves from the bottom to the tip and into clear light. Try to perceive the clear light and think “There is no inherently existing I.” Meditate on voidness. Or, remember our guru and their attributes, and with faith in the guru, go to sleep. We may also reflect on bodhicitta, the kindness of sentient beings and their suffering. If we go to sleep with bodhicitta, our sleep is virtuous.

When we take precepts, think we are receiving them from Thousand-arm Avalokiteshvara or if we can’t visualize Avalokiteshvara, visualize His Holiness the Dalai Lama and recite the mantra(?). This is guru yoga.

[End of discourse]