Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Practice Advice :
- Retreat Advice (1)
- Retreat Advice (2)
- Calm Abiding (Shi-nä) Retreat
- Lam-rim Retreat
- Long Retreat
- Cancer or Aids Retreat
- Obstacles to Retreat
- Completion of a Retreat
Retreat Advice (1)
|Rinpoche gave this advice regarding what a retreat place is really for.|
A retreat place is not for gaining power, like black magic, it’s not for a honeymoon or holiday. Also, it is not a place to be spaced out. The whole purpose is to subdue the mind and to actualize the lam-rim, up to enlightenment. It is a place for a holiday from negative karma, from the three poisonous minds, and the self-cherishing thought, a holiday from the self-grasping of the person and phenomena, a holiday from the wrong concepts: non-devotional thought towards the guru up to the subtle dual view of white, increasing, attainment.
|During lunchtime at one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings on “The Wheel of Sharp Weapons,” Rinpoche made the following comments on the value of retreat.|
You should always remember retreat means making war on delusions. You have to always remember this – this is inner war, but this is a one-time war. Once you defeat delusion by eliminating the cause, the seed of delusion, by actualizing the remedy, the path, it doesn’t come back again; once the seed is removed, delusion never comes back, so this is just a one-time war. The outside, external wars are endless, because you have to fight them again and again.
In Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacaryavatara, he mentions that the outside enemy never ends, never finishes, however much you are able to kill him or her. Shantideva used the example that if the whole earth is covered by thorns, there is not enough leather to cover the whole earth with leather, but if you have leather under your foot, it’s like the whole earth is covered by leather. Shantideva said that the meaning of this is that once the inner enemy, the delusions are destroyed, all the outside enemies are destroyed.
|Rinpoche sent the following advice to a very dedicated student, about to do seven months’ retreat. The student had been working for more than seven years in the FPMT International Office.|
1. Do some nyung-näs while you are there. You can finish the 20 that are left, out of the 100 you are doing.
2. Recite each of the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names 100 times daily. You can recite them 35 times in each session, with three sessions.
3. Do some Vajrasattva practice.
4. Recite Chenrezig mantra: one million or three million.
5. Meditate on the lam-rim.
6. Every day, do tsog offering. You can combine this with Vajrayogini sadhana or Lama Chöpa, or short tsog offering.
7. Do one session of the Thirty-five Buddhas in the evening, lam-rim, and the Thirty-five Buddhas in between. In the afternoon, do your other commitments.
First thing in the morning, make prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas, then do Lama Chöpa, which counts as one six-session yoga, without chanting, performing it with meditation. Then, in the evening, do a short self-initiation, the one I wrote.
Regarding which deity to base the short self-initiation on, eat 100 potatoes then decide which deity (I’m joking). Sometimes you can base it on Heruka or Yamantaka. Vajrayogini doesn't have the vajra master initiation, and it is said that without the vajra master initiation, one doesn't restore broken vows. Trijang Rinpoche said you need this. So, purification happens with Vajrayogini definitely, but you need to do the vajra master initiation. Also, Cittamani Tara has incredible blessings (Trijang Rinpoche has told me this) and because of this you are purified. Sometimes you can do the tsog with the Vajrayogini self-initiation.
After finishing the lam-rim prayer of Lama Chöpa, and before the guru absorbs into you, do analytical meditation on guru devotion. After that, do fixed meditation, holding the feeling. Do the first session every day like this, using the outlines of guru devotion. Whatever you do not finish, do it the next day, and like this, go through the outlines. Then, focus on the perfect human rebirth and impermanence, going through all the lam-rim, but mainly focusing on perfect human rebirth and impermanence and death. So, the first session can be lam-rim with guru devotion, and the second session can be renunciation, from lower capable beings up to karma. Carry on like this for the first month.
Then, in the next month, continue with guru devotion but practice the meditations of the medium capable being, the three types of suffering and suffering of the devas and humans.
In the third month, meditate on bodhicitta.
In the fourth month, meditate on emptiness.
In the fifth month, practice tong-len with mani mantras. Practice the short tong-len while counting manis (you can do Nagarjuna’s prayer, the tong-len verse in Lama Chöpa, or the more extensive tong-len meditation). While meditating on the lam-rim, recite manis. You can always do that, and can still count them. When practicing tong-len take on:
1) All the suffering
2) The causes: delusion and karma
3) The imprints: the negative imprints, including the subtle imprints
4) The unpleasant conditions
1) Yourself and your body
2) The three time merits
3) The results, up to enlightenment, to all the hell beings.
All becomes a pure land, they cease all defilements and achieve all attainments, including enlightenment. After taking their suffering, they achieve all qualities of cessation.
When they attain all the perfect qualities, you can chant OM MANI PADME HUM at any time. Also, during the lam-rim meditation, you can chant OM MANI PADME HUM. Light from Chenrezig purifies all beings. Also, recite praises to Chenrezig, then recite malas. You can recite the long mantra 21 times, then OM MANI PADME HUM. After one or two malas, Chenrezig absorbs into you, then becomes emptiness. This emptiness is the emptiness of Chenrezig's holy mind. Then you become Chenrezig and beams from your heart go out and purify the six realms. You can do this in the same way as in nyung-näs. So, one session should be just on Chenrezig.
If you are turning a prayer wheel, you can use the prayer wheel to purify yourself. Beams are emitted from the prayer wheel and suck all of your negative karma and defilements each time you turn it. Then, purify sentient beings in the same way. Use different Chenrezig prayers—there are many that I want to translate. These move the mind. Also, you can chant the Songtsen Gampo prayer that I translated, then the one that Jampa Chokyi translated, which purifies the six realms. You can also chant the eight verses.
The lam-rim sessions can also be performed with Chenrezig practice.
After eating lunch, you can recite the Heart Sutra, which becomes a meditation on emptiness. You don't have to recite the long version, but meditate on emptiness or the Heart Sutra, spending one day on meditation on the emptiness of the “I”/aggregates, the next day on the five sense objects, the next on the 12 links, etc.
Also, when you recite the lam-rim prayer, meditate on emptiness. It doesn't have to be the long one, it can be the short one, for two minutes. Also, you can practice the Dharmakaya meditation.
Then, if there is extra time, do more meditation on emptiness. After five months, do Vajrayogini retreat and nyung-näs.
|A student was going to be ordained and then do a six-month retreat. He wrote to Rinpoche asking which retreat to do.|
My very dear Colin,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. This is my advice for you as to what practices to do:
100,000 mandala offerings
100,000 prostrations to the 35 Buddhas
Combine this with lam-rim meditation.
In one day, perhaps do half a day of prostrations and then half a day of mandala offerings, or you can spend more on one or the other. Then, also do lam-rim meditations.
First, in the morning, do Lama Chöpa combined with Jorcho.
In the evening before bed, read the King of Prayers and do protector practices.
If you can, read the Sutra of Golden Light as many times as you can, or a few pages each day. Recite it and make strong prayers for world peace, to stop war, famine, disease, sickness, and dangers of fire, earth, wind, and water.
I have just written some advice for someone else in retreat, mainly about how to think, and how to keep one’s mind in the lam-rim. When that is finished I will send it to you so you can also use it.
With much love and prayers...
|Rinpoche sent the following letter to a group of students who had been studying Buddhism for some years and were about to undertake a nine-month retreat.|
Dear most precious one, you who are not a seeker of liberation for yourself but a seeker of enlightenment for all sentient beings.
I am extremely happy with what you are doing because you are practicing the heart of the eighty four thousand teachings of the Buddha (the lam-rim), not just what’s “called” meditation or just only “one” meditation technique from the path.
What you are doing is putting into practice and trying to actualize what you have learned all these years. What you are doing is the real, ultimate solution for world peace, not only global peace but also for all countless universes, for all sentient beings. First one gets rid of one’s own delusions, so countless sentient beings don’t receive harm from you, only receive peace and happiness, and are liberated from the oceans of samsaric sufferings caused by delusions and karma by your revealing the path to them through your experience.
Doing retreat means you’re making war with your inner enemy—delusions, to conquer them, which have defeated you from beginningless samsaric rebirths, from time without beginning. All other enemies (external enemies) cannot last as long as that.
Therefore, it is extremely worthwhile spending time with your precious human life to make war with the inner enemies, to defeat them, no matter how difficult it is, no matter how many lifetimes or eons it takes.
Once defeated (including the seed of delusions) then that’s it, they never come back because there is no cause, because the imprint (seed) is eliminated. Therefore, this is the one time to make war with Dharma practice (the antidote to delusions), to destroy the delusions, even though it may take many lifetimes, even eons. We have this just one time to work on them with our Dharma practice.
With external enemies, even if you kill them, other beings become your enemy, and that same being will become your enemy and harm you, again and again, in other lives, without end! As long as you have the inner enemy, delusions, the external enemy will never end. If one is in harmony with other beings and offers service to them, all of them will offer benefit and happiness to you. If one devotes oneself to a delusion, it will harm you and will continue to cause suffering again and again in the future.
Even if suras, asuras, and all living beings rise up as an enemy toward me, they can’t lead me into the fire of the inexhaustible hell realm. Doing retreat is also a blessing for the area in which you live, especially if you are meditating on bodhicitta and also when you perform tantric practices.
Each of the eighty four thousand teachings taught by Buddha, every single word of the Dharma, the whole Kangyur and Tengyur, including OM MANI PADME HUM is to tame the mind, to take care of the mind. The mind enables us to achieve enlightenment and to experience hell, to experience samsara and to experience liberation, to experience peace and happiness in our daily lives and problems in our daily lives.
Whatever you experienced in the past and whatever you are experiencing now—forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and memories, including imagining the future, all of it comes from the mind. All the mountains that you can see around here came from the mind, from karma; the colours and forms, the shape of the rocks, and the mind which labels this and that—all come from the mind.
For success, one needs morality, samaya, and a good heart. Perform your practice with a good heart, and live your life with a good heart based on developing guru devotion.
In the Six Session Guru Yoga it says:
Please grant me blessings to see that achieving all the common and sublime attainments is by correctly devoting to the virtuous friend. Give up even one’s own body and life to accomplish what only pleases you.
In the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion it says:
Do everything that pleases the guru. Abandon all the things that displease him!
Why? By pleasing him or her one will achieve the sublime transcendental wisdom of omniscience.
Please enjoy these offerings and the picture of Tara for long life. But don’t have a concept of a permanent life. Death can come any day, at any moment.
There is also a photo of Mickey Mouse for you, with prayers for success in your practice.
Any experiences, any development in the heart (or actual realization), even a strong experience of lam-rim, is a great development, a great progression for the FPMT organization.
With much love and prayers...
|Rinpoche sent the following advice to a student who was doing retreat.|
My very dear Carolyn,
I hope you are well. It is a great opportunity to be able to do retreat, please do it with bodhicitta. However, the best one is to do it with the thought of impermanence and death. At the beginning of each session think: “ I may die today, even in the session, today, or by the end of the week.”
Please dedicate the merits to His Holiness' long life and for all his holy wishes to succeed. Please also make dedications for all the obstacles to receiving funding for the Maitreya Project to be removed, as well as all the obstacles to receiving funding for all the FPMT projects, and that may all the projects that I have planned for the FPMT be successful. If you can, dedicate at the beginning and end of each session. Also, dedicate the merits so that the projects may illuminate the world, that all sentient beings’ sufferings may end, and that sentient beings may achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.
Regarding your question, there are two methods:
1) According to the fifth Dalai Lama, recite 400,000 of the main deity’s mantra. Then you don't need to recite the entourage mantras.
2) The normal way, because we are in degenerate times, is to recite 400,000 of the main deity’s mantra, or, if you cannot do that or do not have enough time, then it is OK to recite 100,000 of the main deity’s mantra, then 10,000 of the entourage mantra, and 50,000 (half the number you recite of the main deity’s mantra) for the mother.
I checked and, according to my observations, you should recite 10,000 entourage mantras—this would be the best. For the main deity’s mantra, you decide according to your time (ie 400,000 or 100,000).
With much love and prayers...
|Rinpoche received an e-mail from a group of practitioners who had completed a Vajrasattva retreat. They wrote offering Rinpoche all the merits from their retreat and dedicating them to all his wishes being fulfilled. Rinpoche wrote the following response.|
My very dear Vajrasattva retreatants,
Thank you very much for your kind email.
The fact that you have been able to complete the Vajrasattva retreat is amazing. Even just being able to do one session, let alone completing it, is incredible. So many sentient beings in the world do not have this opportunity, even many Buddhists (Buddhists are just a small group compared to other religions). Most beings do not have this opportunity, and don’t even know about such a purification practice, that can purify even broken tantric vows, and is so powerful that it can purify even the heaviest negative karma. So, the fact that you have all completed it is incredible.
Especially, it is wonderful that you have performed the retreat with bodhicitta. That makes it incredibly powerful. Even reciting one Vajrasattva mantra can purify the karma of a fully ordained monk having broken all four root vows. Even one recitation is so powerful.
The fact that you have practiced Vajrasattva with the thought of emptiness makes the practice perfect.
If you rejoice in this, your merits increase, they double, which is great! Every time you rejoice you double your merits. It is like having done the retreat twice.
So, thank you very much. I will dedicate the merits for your quick enlightenment, and thank you very much for every single breath and every single passing bead of your mala. Even if you recited a mantra mentally or in your sleep, thank you very much.
With much love and prayers...
|Intent on Retreat
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a nun who was intent on doing retreat, despite Rinpoche’s suggestion that it may be better for her to offer service at that point.|
Just being in a cave… What is retreat for? It is to realize the three principles, and to create merit and purify. This is what is required for realization.
Look at Marpa and Milarepa. Marpa spent so much time scolding Milarepa and so forth, but then when Milarepa’s mother took him away to another lama, and Milarepa went into a hole to do retreat, there was nothing! No signs, zero! Then, the lama asked whether Milarepa had received permission from Marpa to come to him and do that retreat.
Rinpoche gave the following advice on fire pujas.
The secret Mahayana Vajrayana teachings include the “offering burning” practice (Tibetan: jin.sek). Every item offered in burning pujas is good for some purpose. There are various substances that are offered to the deity during the fire puja. Each substance has potential power to affect your life. You offer grains to pacify sicknesses and to give strength; for long life you offer crepe grass; to purify pollutions you offer kusha grass; and for wealth you offer butter. Like this, all the substances offered are to actualize different potentials and types of success.
Normally, the burning pujas are offered at the end of great nearing retreats, three-year retreats, or short retreats of the enlightened being deities. These retreats are done with mantra recitation that brings you closer to the deity. The burning puja is offered to restore parts of the practice that were left out, or mantras that have been incorrectly recited or mixed up, performed with unclear concentration. It also generally purifies defilements and negative karma.
In general, there are four types of burning puja:
1. Pacifying. This is to pacify sicknesses, spirit harms, and to purify negative karma and defilements.
2. Increasing. This prolongs life, increases merit, wealth, realizations, and wisdom attainments.
3. Controlling. This gives you control over sentient beings so that they will listen to you and you can bring them into the right path, not only bringing them temporal happiness but also ultimate happiness, total liberation from suffering and its causes, to great liberation, full enlightenment, and peerless happiness. Having control over them is in order to benefit them. Also, by having control over evil beings, they stop continuously harming others and will listen to you. By having control over wealth, you can use it to benefit other beings and the teachings of the Buddha, as well as to create conducive conditions for your own practice.
4. Wrathful. This is used when other methods don't work and only wrathful action can benefit. If evil beings are giving harm to sentient beings and the teachings of Buddha, wrathful actions can stop them. If you have realizations and power, it is possible to split the consciousness from that being and transfer it to a pure land, where there is not even the word "suffering," as in suffering of rebirth, old age, sickness, relationship problems, AIDS, cancer, tsunamis, and so forth.
Of course, these wrathful fire pujas cannot be done without a motivation of strong compassion, by one living in pure morality and tantric samaya. Anyone who doesn't have pure morality cannot have pure tantric samaya. Morality is based on the fundamental virtues: abstaining from killing, stealing, telling lies, slander, hurting with words, heresy, etc. This is the very first Dharma to practice—abstinence from these negative actions that harm oneself and others. Living in morality brings happiness to oneself and others—not only temporal happiness but also liberation from suffering and all its causes.
Wrathful action needs a very stable divine pride and clarity of oneself as a deity. It cannot be done in the aspect of an ordinary being—your ordinary self is viewed as an enlightened being, a deity; the pure "I" labelled on the pure aggregates is actualized by purifying the impure aggregates and the impure "I."
Then, of course, if you have the realization of the clear light and illusory body that is very powerful. The most qualified being is the fully enlightened one, who has all the qualities.
So, offering the fire burning puja is done for these reasons.