Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Lam-rim Topics :
Impermanence and Death
|Life is Short|
|A letter thanking a student for his concern regarding Rinpoche's health and giving advice about the essence of lam-rim practice|
My dear Sam,
Life is very short. We can’t say how short it is—we may die today or tomorrow, so take it easy and don’t worry so much. The main thing is to purify past negative karma and always collect extensive merits by chanting OM MANI PADME HUM and the Seven Medicine Buddhas’ names— doing this is the same as having done Medicine Buddha puja.
Then do lam-rim prayers, such as Calling the Guru from Afar, the short and long one, and other lam-rim prayers. Even if you can’t do other practices, just do this much. This is the best preparation for enlightenment, so that you can soon give happiness to all sentient beings—to the numberless sentient beings, numberless hell beings, numberless pretas, numberless animals, numberless human beings, numberless asuras, numberless suras and the numberless intermediate state beings.
This is the most important thing in the life; there is nothing more important than this. This is benefiting all sentient beings.
Thank you very, very much for your concern for me—to go to mainland China and to receive the doctors’ suggestions, that you thought to do, etc. Hopefully I will still go in the future.
With much love and prayers
PS: When your family was suffering and experiencing problems, I prayed to help and now when I am experiencing suffering, your family is praying to help me, so this is very good. We are one, so that means we are one person in reality, with different bodies—small, big, old, fat, skinny, etc. Thank you.
|How to Use an Hourglass for Dharma Practice|
|Rinpoche advised that centers could sell hourglasses with the following commentary. He said it would be good to have rainbow-colored sand inside the hourglass, so when the grains fall they are layered like a rainbow, not different colored sand grains mixed together.|
This hourglass is to show how life is finishing so fast. Your life has a certain number of hours, minutes, seconds and split seconds; it is finishing so fast. During this time, how much of your life has been used to practice Dharma? How much has been used as the cause of the lower realms, with the heaviest suffering for the longest time, for an unimaginable time, longer than the duration of suffering in the human realm or the deva realms? How much is virtue and how is much non-virtue?
It is good to reflect like this. It is very good to use this for the realization of impermanence and death. It makes you do something worthwhile during this time, during this hour while the sand grains are dropping.
When half the sand grains have dropped, are almost gone, then it is good to reflect how much virtue has been done and how much non-virtue, how much of your life has been wasted and how much of your life has been meaningful.
When all the sand grains have fallen, when it has finished, think how much of your life has been wasted and how much of your life has been made meaningful.
Impermanence and Death
Rinpoche made the following comments on how to make the best use of life.
Impermanence and death don't wait for us –
Every moment, we are so close to death.
Every moment of this life is to prepare for death.
Every moment of this life is to free ourselves from suffering.
Every moment of this life is to achieve peerless happiness.
Every moment of this life is to make the greatest purification.
Every moment of this life is to accumulate extensive merit,
with the thought of impermanence and bodhicitta,
and with the practice of guru yoga,
seeing our own mind as one with the holy mind of the guru
and the deity,
which is the wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness.
This is crazy Zopa's advice for
students and friends,
until enlightenment is achieved.
A student had been teaching two meditation techniques that he had combined, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha visualization and the eight-stage death evolution meditation. He pointed out that in the system of highest yoga tantra, the visualization and absorption of the deity is integrated with the absorptions of the death evolution in the three-kaya practice, but such a three-kaya practice is not a feature of the lower tantra systems.
However, during Shakyamuni Buddha practice there is a simulation of the clear light experience, and he was trying to enhance that by having his students meditate at that point on the eight stages of the death evolution. He had noticed that the experience his students had of the clear light of emptiness was deeper as a result of the death evolution meditation than by other means. So, he had incorporated such a meditation as an aid to deepening the students’ experience.
He said it later occurred to him that he might be fabricating something that neither the Buddha nor his lamas ever intended, so he asked Rinpoche to clarify the point.
With regard to your question about introducing the death evolution for people to understand about the mind and about reincarnation, and for them to understand how this life came from karma, it is true that in the past during the Kopan courses I tried to use many logical reasonings to prove reincarnation. But it seemed that for some people, those reasonings didn’t change their concepts much. However, when I led the death evolution meditation, it had a very strong effect on people. Then they started to change their concrete concepts, their fixed ideas. Many people had very strong experiences. That meditation was stronger than the other meditations on impermanence and death, because those people experienced more clear concentration and a more stable mind.
It is explained in one text that the indestructible seed is secret. However, I used this meditation in the Kopan courses and also in a text called The Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun. That was in very early times, when I was trying to practice a little Dharma and change my mind. I thought it was a very effective meditation, so I used it. It only involves talking about the ordinary base. It does not involve talking about the tantric method, so that is OK. During the early times, it was one of the most interesting subjects of the Kopan courses. It had the greatest effect. But I don’t think I asked any of my gurus about introducing the subject before putting it into The Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun.
There is no problem with leading people through the absorptions. The only problem would be to talk about the extremely subtle consciousness, and its location and those things. But it is OK to talk about the ordinary base.
So, I think that although some lamas might regard this very strictly, others would say it is OK. For sure, Lama Yeshe would say OK. I don’t remember whether I asked him. I think that I did check later, but I don’t really remember the answer now. Maybe I discussed it with Lama and maybe Lama said OK, but I really don’t recall. I think there can be different answers, some very strict and some not.
My point of view is that if something is not beneficial and is dangerous, then it is secret. On the other hand, if something is beneficial and generates more faith in reincarnation and so forth, then it is OK. For example, in the case of people for whom the Prasangika view does not fit, such that if the Prasangika view were taught to them, they would fall into a nihilistic view, then those teachings should be secret for them. Apart from whether or not one has an initiation, if there is a danger of someone losing his or her faith, generating heresy and so forth, that subject becomes secret for that kind of mind. This is normally what I think. So, for the time being you can follow this philosophy, my Mickey Mouse philosophy.
As far as Guru Shakyamuni Buddha absorbing, generally in tantra, for those who have received a highest yoga tantra initiation, the deities absorb from the crown of the head. Without an initiation, then the deity melts into light and is absorbed into the point between the brows, blessing the body, speech, and mind. One should think, “I have received the deity’s blessing.” That is generally how it is explained.
However, in the case of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, I checked with Denma Locho Rinpoche who said that it is OK for people without a great initiation to generate themselves as Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. This is not the case with Medicine Buddha, for example. But because Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is the founder of the Buddha Dharma in this period, one can do it. Thus, absorbing and generating Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is OK.