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Precious Human Body - Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche

Dharma Teachings We Should Not Waste this Opportunity - the Precious Human Body by Khenpo
Dharma Teachings We Should Not Waste this Opportunity - the Precious Human Body by Khenpo
Dharma Teachings We Should Not Waste this Opportunity - the Precious Human Body by Khenpo

Dharma Teachings

We Should Not Waste this Opportunity - the Precious Human Body

by Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche

- the Precious Human Body by Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche Having what we call a "precious human

Having what we call a "precious human body" means that one has been born as a human and provided with certain freedoms and assets. Not only must one have the physical preconditions needed for Dharma practice, but also one must have a mind which includes the three different kinds of confidence.

"Freedoms" in this context means that one is not completely preoccupied by other things. If, for example, one is born in realms of existence which contain much suffering, one will be so thoroughly engrossed by those circumstances that there will not be the smallest chance to practice the Dharma or devote time to other positive things.

In this context, the Buddha explained about the eight different realms of existence without freedom for practice. He explained it in a way which corresponds to the way people were thinking at that time. Today, however, we should understand that these realms are not to be seen as specific places, but rather as sorts of experiences beings can have as a result of the ripening of their own karma.

The Eight Freedoms

The first three of the eight states of mind the Buddha explained are the three lower realms of existence: the paranoia realm, the ghost realm, and the animal realm.

Experiencing these kinds of existences, we either suffer so intensely that we are not able to do anything else, or our mind is simply not clear enough to work with the Dharma in any way.

In some sutras the Buddha describes these states of mind in a way that indicates they might be worlds similar to ours. These explanations corresponded to the idea people had about our world at the time and were given especially to the Shravaka practitioners - followers of the vehicle of the "listeners."

Yet, if we think about these paranoia states, we will see that they cannot possibly mean an actual place, since it is said that there is burning metal everywhere. If we question that - asking who is burning the metal and what material is being used for the fire etc. - we see that they cannot literally exist in the way they are described. Rather, it is that every individual being, having the karma for that kind of existence, experiences it as totally real. It is the special way the mind of those beings, being confused and deluded, makes them experience themselves in the middle of a hell.

Still, even if it is not a "real" world in that sense, as long as one has the karma to endure this state, the suffering experienced will not cease. Completely caught by the illusion, one is not able to just change it. One really thinks one is in a hell realm and suffers accordingly. Due to this severe suffering it is not possible to contemplate the meaning of Dharma let alone practice it. Even if one

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Precious Human Body - Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche

wanted to, it would be impossible.

On the other hand, there are states of mind where the experience of happiness and joy is so intense, that one does not come to think about practice. This is the god realm.

There are different levels of gods in the desire, the form, and the formless realm. Within the desire realm there are six different kinds of existence, one of which is called the god realm. A rebirth in this realm is the result of the accumulation of a huge amount of good karma. Due to this good karma, one experiences immense happiness and joy and is entirely distracted by it. One wants to take pleasure in all these states and suffers not the smallest discomfort. Not enduring any kind of distress, one does not consider trying to get out of this state. Being that happy, one thinks this is sufficient and has no motivation to practice the Dharma.

The form realm and the formless realm are the results of meditation. If one is attached to pleasant feelings while doing calm abiding meditation, one can end up being entirely caught by the enjoyment of these states. Remaining in this state of deep meditation one does not feel attracted by outer objects any more, but is completely distracted by inner joy. Not experiencing any unpleasant feelings, mind becomes very peaceful and has no motivation to change.

However, even in the human realm there are states without the opportunity for practicing the Dharma. For instance, being born at a place where people do not have the slightest idea about positive and negative actions, one cannot follow a good path and avoid a bad one. These are the cases of primitive societies, where barbarian types live who might be human beings, but do not always behave as such.

Other people might be born as humans, yet they are so completely caught in their wrong views (those opposing the Dharma) that they are also not able to practice. There are, for example, people who believe that animal sacrifices have to be performed because they are convinced that killing animals can lead to liberation. Wrong views are quite a serious problem, since they not only keep one from practicing the Dharma, but might even lead one to practice a negative path. It is therefore a big obstacle for practice to be caught in wrong views.

Others again are born mentally disabled. They do not have the ability to understand the meaning of Dharma by listening to teachings. Even if such a person gets advice about what should be done and what should be avoided, it does not make sense to him or her. He or she simply cannot understand it. The Tibetan word for such a person is "Kungpa." Even though the term is used for deaf and mute people as well, in this context it mainly means mental disability. The capacity for these people to understand is very limited and they cannot differentiate between good things to do and bad things to be avoided.

Finally, it is possible to be born in an era where no buddhas appear and where the Buddhist teachings are completely unknown.

There are different periods in the evolution of a universe we call "kalpas" or eons. In between the manifestations of historical Buddhas there are the so-called "dark eons" where no Buddha appears. To be born in such a period means that one cannot connect with the Dharma and has consequently no chance to practice. To have the "eight freedoms" means not to be born in one of these eight states.

The Ten Assets

Yet, there are more conditions needed to practice the Dharma. These are the ten kinds of richness or the ten assets. Here, we distinguish two groups of five assets. One depends on oneself, the second depends on others.

- The first condition is that one is a fully equipped human being, intact and functioning well as either a man or a woman.

1

2

- One has to be able to meet a Dharma teacher and ask him or her

for teachings.

3

- Having received the teachings, one has to have the capability to

practice the Dharma.

4

- One must not be physically or mentally disabled to an extent that

prevents Dharma practice.

5

- One must not have committed one of the five extremely negative

actions. As a result of these - wounding a buddha, killing an arhat, killing one's father or mother or splitting the sangha - it would be very difficult to attain any level of realization in this life. These actions are simply too negative.

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Precious Human Body - Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche

Besides these five conditions related to oneself, there are five more conditions related to others:
Besides these five conditions related to oneself, there are five more
conditions related to others:
1 - A historical Buddha must have manifested in this world.
2 - This Buddha must have taught.
3 - The teachings must still be accessible today.
4 - There must still be teachers to pass on those teachings.
5 - The teachers must be able to teach the Dharma appropriately -
that is to say with compassion.
Being born as a human provided with these ten assets is the best
presupposition to practice the Dharma.
The Precious Human Rebirth
Since this kind of rebirth is the most favorable for practicing the
Dharma, it is called the "precious human rebirth." The Tibetan term
"rinpoche" means "precious" or "jewel." It is used here to describe
the human body, since it is in fact very precious and very difficult to
get. Once it is obtained, possessing so many qualities, it is of
inestimable value.
This is why this kind of rebirth is called the "precious human rebirth"
- having a human body which we can use in the right way to attain
enlightenment. The reason for it being so difficult to obtain is that the
main precondition is correct behavior. To be born as a human being,
one has to have avoided the ten negative actions in past lives.
Looking around however, we will see that there are actually not so
many people who have abandoned negative actions. Compared to an
ordinary human body, a "precious" human body is yet more difficult
to obtain. Having the opportunity to practice the Dharma in this life
is not the result of just good conduct, but comes from strong and
consciously made wishes to be reborn in that way, which makes one
able to develop and practice.
Examining how many humans there are compared to animals is easy.
It is possible, for example, and not too difficult, to count the
population of a country. If, on the contrary, one wants to count the
vast amount of animals, it is impossible. They are innumerable. This
gives us an idea of how few human beings there are compared to the
number of animals.
Moreover, looking at how few people meet the eighteen conditions -
the eight freedoms and ten assets to practice the Dharma, we see
how rare this opportunity is. Taking a big city with five million
inhabitants as an example, if only one thousand or ten thousand of
them would practice the Dharma, it would be a lot. Yet this is
probably nowhere near the case. This alone shows us how rare the
precious human body is. Looking at the enormous world population
and considering the number of people who stopped committing the
ten negative actions, not only among Buddhists but among
practitoners of all religions and those who do not follow any religion,
they are few compared to the total number of people living in the
world. If, then, we look at how many people know how to make
wishes for the benefit of all beings, there are also not many.
Considering these facts, we become aware of how fortunate and lucky
we are; being humans we are in a situation where we can practice
the Dharma. So we can understand how extremely rare this chance
is. This should encourage us to lead our lives in a sensible way and
decide not to waste this opportunity, since it is, as mentioned before,
extraordinarily difficult to obtain.
We should be aware how truly powerful our present existence is and
try to use it to attain enlightenment in this life. If we do a good job,
though not necessarily the best, we can become bodhisattvas in this
life. If we do not so well we can become Pratyekabuddhas. (note 1) If
we are not able to do that, we might still practice the path of
accumulation and junction. (note 2) At least we should try not to
waste this life, but instead use it in the best possible way. With this
in mind, we can surely avoid stepping back in our development and
be able to hold our level or develop even further. That shows how
powerful our situation is. We should really appreciate that.
Shantideva explained this using the following example of a master
and a servant. If the master pays fair wages and treats the servant
well, the servant will be happy and do a good job. This in turn helps
the master as well. On the contrary, if the master treats his servant
poorly, the servant will naturally work less, and the master will not
make a profit.

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Precious Human Body - Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche

Similarly, we should treat ourselves well so later we will find ourselves in good physical condition and be able to develop our minds positively.

 

We should not waste any time. Instead, we should practice the Dharma now and do not postpone it, since we can at any time die and lose this opportunity. From the moment of birth we steadily approach death. There is no certainty about when we will die. Death can be caused by all kinds of conditions and we do not know when it will happen. Inevitably, death comes closer every single moment. Due to this fact, this very moment is so important and we should make the best use of our time here and now.

The Three Different Kinds of Confidence

To be able to practice, we need the eighteen conditions defining the precious human body and have to develop the right kind of confidence. This sort of confidence - sometimes called faith or devotion, "dapa" in Tibetan - is again classified into three different kinds of confidence:

1 - the confidence of conviction,

2 - the confidence of wish or aspiration, and

3 - the confidence of openness or of true faith.

1 - The basis of any kind of confidence is conviction. The first kind of

confidence is the most important one, since it is developed through clear argumentation. One should not follow anything with blind faith, but there should be a convincing reason. As a proof to the contrary, one can look at Islam. The Muslims claim that Allah - living in a kind of paradise in a golden house with seven floors - proclaimed that the teachings have to be spread and therefore his followers have to fight a holy war. Everybody taking part in this holy war and killing other people will surely be reborn in paradise. Blindly believing this, without any convincing reason, millions of people can be misled.

The Buddha always gave the advice not to follow a teacher for his charisma but to check his teachings first. By scrutinizing the teachings, one will find out whether they are correct and, if this is the case, one can follow them. If for example, one buys gold, one would also check whether it is really gold. The Dharma has the quality that the more one analyzes it, the more one will be sure that it is right. Yet, the Buddha also stressed the importance of everybody finding this out for themselves.

2

- As one is convinced by the teachings, the second kind of

confidence follows automatically: one wishes to attain enlightenment oneself. One sees that it is the right thing and wants to get there.

3

- The third kind of confidence requires the mastery of the pure

view and the understanding of the qualities of enlightenment. If all these conditions come together, the eighteen conditions for the right kind of rebirth, the mental conditions as well as the three kinds of confidence, this is a perfect situation for truly successful Dharma practice. Hence, one can develop the right motivation, that is to say, to use the Dharma for the benefit of other beings, and encounter no obstacles on the way.

note 1 Prathyekabuddhas, "Self Victorious," claim not to have a teacher and make wishes to become enlightened without a teacher.

 

back to text

note 2 The fife paths: path of accumulation, path of junction, path of seeing, path of cultivation, path of no more learning - a description for the progressive spiritual development until enlightenment.

 

back to text

Reproduced here with kind permission. Talk originally appeared in :

 

Buddhism Today , Vol.3, 1997

Copyright ©1997 Kamtsang Choling USA

 
 

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The four thoughts that turn the mind from Samsara - Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

Dharma Teachings The Four Thoughts That Turn The Mind From Samsara by Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche
Dharma Teachings The Four Thoughts That Turn The Mind From Samsara by Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche
Dharma Teachings The Four Thoughts That Turn The Mind From Samsara by Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

Dharma Teachings

The Four Thoughts That Turn The Mind From Samsara

by Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

That Turn The Mind From Samsara by Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche Every dharma practice is preceded by

Every dharma practice is preceded by certain preparations that serve as a solid basis for correct practice. These preparations are divided into two kinds: the general and the special. The "four thoughts which turn the mind from samsara" belong to the general, or ordinary, preparations.

What does this mean to turn the mind from samsara? It means freeing oneself of every attachment to life in the three realms of samsara. The four thoughts, the four general preparations, allow us to develop this freedom, as we reflect in turn upon the precious human birth, impermanence, karma, and the sufferings of samsara.

The Precious Human Body

One speaks of the "precious human body," referring to the preciousness of a human existence, which is very difficult to obtain. It is valuable because it is endowed with certain freedoms and abilities. Its preciousness is described through three aspects: by comparison with the greater situation, through numerical comparisons, and through analogy.

The first of these aspects describes the so-called "freedoms" which characterize the precious human birth. A human birth is valuable because one has managed to avoid certain other kinds of rebirth, which would confront one with situations completely different from those found in the human realm. Eight different kinds of existence are spoken of here:

1 - Birth in the paranoia states where one constantly experiences the suffering of extreme heat and cold.

2 - Birth in the hungry ghost realms where one constantly

experiences the suffering of hunger and thirst.

3 - Animal birth, where beings have the experience of being hunted

and oppressed, of constantly eating each other and being misused.

4 - Birth in uncivilized lands, where one has no opportunity of

learning something leading to a positive path.

5 - Birth as a god, especially a god with a very long life. As a result

of earlier positive acts a god with longevity experiences happiness

and joy during his life. However, experiencing the results of positive karma in this way means that this karma will eventually be exhausted. After their long lives these gods are reborn in lower and very painful states.

6 - Life as a being with mental disability, where one can neither

understand the meaning of the dharma, nor practice it.

7 - Life with incorrect views when one automatically tends to

accumulate negative actions, and therefore the causes of future suffering.

8 - Birth in a time when no Buddha appears, when there are no

Buddhist teachings, and therefore one receives no help to free oneself from the suffering of samsara.

In these eight kinds of existence, one experiences only suffering. One

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The four thoughts that turn the mind from Samsara - Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

has no experience of freedom in the sense of being able to practice the dharma. Having a precious human body means that one has not only avoided these types of existence, but one is also equipped with certain capabilities. Here, ten aspects are described. Five of these concern us directly.

1- One was born in a human body.

2

- One was born in a region in which the Buddha's teachings are

accessible.

3 - One has intact sensory organs.

4 - One does not have false views.

5 - One has a natural trust in the dharma.

The five further aspects have more to do with our surroundings, our outer environment:

1 - One was born in the times when a Buddha has appeared.

2 - This Buddha has given teachings - something we should not take

for granted, since not all Buddhas necessarily give teachings.

3

- These teachings, if given in the past, have been preserved and

are still accessible.

4

- One grasps and practices these teachings - a very personal

condition, despite being listed with the external aspects. If one finds oneself in the excellent situation described, but does not practice, then having access to the teachings does not really do much good.

5

- One must also have a good heart, and a naturally loving

disposition towards other beings - again, a very personal aspect.

These eight freedoms and ten conditions make up the eighteen conditions which, when they all come together, constitute a "precious human body." If one of these conditions were lacking, one could not call such a human existence "precious."

We have all obtained a human birth that qualifies as precious. This is not easy to obtain; rather, it is extremely difficult and for it to be possible one must have accumulated a huge amount of positive potential, a great amount of positive karma in previous lives. Above all, there is one cause that allows us to be re-born under such precious circumstances: this is the adherence to a discipline. On the one hand, discipline has to do with the various sets of vows we take on the way toward personal liberation. On the other, it has to do with avoiding the ten negative actions. However we formulate it, the quality of discipline is the direct cause for obtaining a precious human life.

There are stories that convey the difficulty of obtaining a precious human life. For instance, imagine a glass house with completely smooth walls. If somebody throws raw peas at the glass walls, most of them will bounce off and fall to the floor. It is most improbable that the peas will stick to the glass. However, if you constantly throw peas at the glass, sooner or later one is bound to stick. The probability that you will obtain a precious human body is much smaller than the probability that a pea will stick. Or imagine that a small ring is floating on the ocean. On the bottom of the ocean there lives a special turtle that surfaces briefly only once every hundred years. The probability of its head surfacing within the ring is pretty slim, but far greater than the chance of obtaining a precious human body.

One can also illustrate the value and the rarity of a human body when one compares the numbers of different kinds of beings. For example, there are pretty exact estimates of how many people live in this country. It is well known. However, if you tried to count how many insects live on just a small piece of land, this would be impossible.

All of us here were born under circumstances that make our human life very precious. We should remember that we have our precious human life because we have accumulated a great amount of positive potential and purified our minds of many obscurations. Right now we are enjoying the results of this but it is important to use these results in the best and most sensible way possible; otherwise we are simply squandering them. It would be as though we had taken a journey specifically to get something, and came back empty-handed. Or as though we had carried an empty bucket to fetch water, and returned with the bucket still empty. In each case, a wasted trip. We also should strive to make the most of our fortunate situation, and not fritter it away.

Making one's life meaningful means using the dharma and practicing the various methods that the Buddha taught. The Buddha gave such a great number of methods that it is not possible for one person to

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The four thoughts that turn the mind from Samsara - Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

practice them all. Therefore, one should practice those methods that correspond to one's capabilities. Dharma
practice them all. Therefore, one should practice those methods that
correspond to one's capabilities.
Dharma practice at its best means practicing like Milarepa and
turning oneself away from all worldly concerns. In today's world,
however, there are only a few people who are capable of practicing
the dharma to this degree. If one is not capable of practicing like
this, one should resolve to practice to the extent that is possible for
one personally. One should do as much as one can. This relates to all
our practices - meditation, accumulation of merit, purification
practices and, of course, the preliminary practices.
One way to continually accumulate positive merit is to make offerings
to the Buddhas. At best, one offers a large amount of things that one
has. When this isn't possible, one can always offer clear water. If this
isn't possible either, one can offer a lot of flowers. Or, failing this,
with a mind full of devotion, one can imagine flowers and offer these
to the Buddhas. In one's mind, one can also offer any flowers that
one sees during the day. By making offerings to the Buddhas in
whatever way possible, one can accumulate positive tendencies in
one's mind.
Another possibility is to be generous to the sangha. One should be as
generous as possible and support the sangha with a respectful mind.
The third possibility is to be generous to all sentient beings. One does
whatever is possible to help them. For instance, when one comes
across a thirsty animal, one gives it water.
These various examples show that it is always possible to practice
useful and meritorious actions on different levels. One should really
try to do this to the extent that one can, so as to strengthen one's
own positive potential and destroy the negativity that burdens the
mind.
As far as virtuous and harmful actions are concerned, one should not
have the attitude that serious, obviously negative actions are to be
avoided, and small negative actions are not to be worried about. A
negative action, whether large or small, is always negative and will
lead to problems and suffering. The result will always be negative
because it corresponds to the original action. Therefore, one should
not just concentrate on the avoidance of the big negative actions but
should also distance oneself from those small actions which one so
easily encounters.
For example, imagine a huge pile of dry grass, as big as a mountain.
If this pile is ignited with even the smallest spark, the entire pile of
grass will go up in flames. In a similar way, even the smallest
negative action can have a very destructive effect.
This also applies to useful actions. One should never think that small
positive acts would have no worth and therefore never even make
the effort to perform them. One can very easily take this point of
view. One thinks that one really isn't able to accomplish positive
actions to any significant degree and, therefore, one never even
makes the attempt. But a positive action will always have a
corresponding result and one should always do what is possible on a
personal level. With respect to practice, one should never think that it
isn't worthwhile to start because one cannot do a significant amount.
One should practice as much as one can, however much that is.
Impermanence
The second of the four thoughts deals with impermanence. There are
many ways for a human life to end before coming to a death from
old age. A butter-lamp consists of a container with butter and a wick.
When such a lamp is filled to the brim with butter and the wick is not
yet lit, this corresponds to the situation of a person that is not yet
born. A butter-lamp that has fully exhausted its fuel corresponds to a
person who has died of old age. Between these two examples there
are a great number of variations. There are in fact many more
conditions that can cause death than there are conditions that
support life. Our life can be compared to a drop of dew on a blade of
grass - it is very fragile and as soon as the sun comes up it
evaporates.
Life is very precious not just because it is very difficult to obtain, but
also because it is very easy to lose. The precious human body brings
many possibilities, but there is one certainty and that is death.
Uncertain, however, is the exact moment when it will come. It
doesn't follow any rules. Children don't necessarily live longer than
their parents. Teachers don't necessarily die before their students.
Even though people actually know this from their own experience,
they seem to think it's normal to believe that children will naturally

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The four thoughts that turn the mind from Samsara - Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

live longer than their parents. However, if you take a look around and take your
live longer than their parents. However, if you take a look around
and take your own experience into consideration, you will conclude
with certainty that these things are not predetermined. Although one
has the good fortune to still be alive, it is absolutely not a matter of
course that this will continue so. The moment of one's own death can
come at any time. That is the problem with life. It is so fragile, so
easy to lose, and so easy to destroy.
At the moment of death one is very alone regardless of how close
one is to one's family, how many brothers or sisters one has, or how
many close and dear friends one has. They cannot accompany or help
one at the moment of death. Even the material things which seem so
important to us, regardless of how much money we save, how big
and attractive our house and our car are, we will not be able to take
any of it with us when we die. This also applies to that which is
closest and most dear to us - our body. Our shadow has
accompanied us throughout our entire life. We do not have to carry it
along or worry whether it is there or not; it is automatically there.
But even our shadow cannot accompany us beyond the point of
death.
The only things that really count at the moment of death are the
tendencies that we have accumulated in our mind. Both the positive
and the harmful impressions will accompany us whether we want
them or not. We cannot just take the positive impressions and leave
the negative ones behind. These tendencies will determine our state
of mind. They determine how we experience our death and the time
afterwards. If we have accumulated a great amount of positive
impressions in our mind, then we will experience the appropriate
result. We will experience a lot of happiness and won't encounter the
suffering that goes along with harmful tendencies. However, if
negative tendencies are dominant in our mind, these will determine
our experience in the sense that we will experience suffering and
pain. We should be aware of this. For our death and that which
follows, nothing other than the way in which we have lived can help
us.
Karma - Cause and Effect
Karma deals with causality. A specific action leads to a specific result.
A positive act will lead to a result of a positive nature, hence, to the
experience of happiness and joy. On the other hand, a negative act
will unavoidably lead to a painful result. It will most certainly cause
suffering. This happens of itself because the result will unavoidably
correspond to the nature of the cause. For example, if you plant a
seed, a certain kind of plant will grow from this. From a rice seed, a
rice plant will grow and not any other kind. Therefore, it is very
important to be careful and to do everything possible, from the
greatest to the seemingly smallest acts, in order to strengthen
positive behavior.
The dominant tendencies in our mind will be the first to ripen. If they
are characterized by negative kinds of behavior, then we will
experience this first and they will be dominant in our lives. We will
then experience suffering and will not be happy. This exacerbates our
problems because we won't manage well in life and will get into more
trouble. If, on the other hand, we strengthen our positive and useful
behavior, then our happiness and joy will increase and become our
prevailing experience. This then reinforces our ability to strengthen
positive behavior.
The four thoughts were not simply "invented" by somebody in order
to deceive you. They are authentic, completely true, and were taught

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The four thoughts that turn the mind from Samsara - Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

by the Buddha Shakyamuni. The Buddha gave these teachings out of his all-knowing wisdom, his loving kindness, and his exceptional ability. Everyone has strong obscurations in his or her mind, of which the main disturbing feelings are attachment, anger and ignorance. On the basis of these disturbing feelings, a great number of other disturbing feelings arise in our minds. These influence our actions and so lead to many other negative activities. In our present situation, disturbing feelings are pretty dominant and lead to physical, verbal, and mental activities through which we accumulate negative karma.

Generally speaking, there are a great number of negative activities, but they are divided into specific categories. Three have to do with our body: killing, stealing, and causing sexual harm. Four have to do with our speech: lying, slander, divisive speech, and idle talk. The three negative actions of our mind are ill will, envy, and the cultivation of false views.

These ten negative actions should be avoided at all cost. In the meantime, one should do the opposite, namely engage in the ten positive actions which are the reverse of the negative actions already mentioned.

There are five negative actions that carry an extreme amount of negative force. They are referred to as "the five extremely harmful actions." These are:

1 - to kill one's own father

2 - to kill one's own mother

3 - to kill an Arhat

4 - to physically injure a Buddha or one who represents the Buddha,

such as one's own teacher - this also applies to the destruction of

representations of the Buddha

5

- to divide the sangha

Carrying out one of these actions means accumulating extreme negative karma. The result of this action ripens especially fast after death, without an intermediate period. As a result of this action, one will immediately find oneself in a state of paranoia. This is why the literal description of these actions is "the five actions with which there is no intermediate state."

There are five further actions that are very similar to these:

1 - to destroy a stupa

2 - to kill an "ordinary" bodhisattva - one who has not yet reached a

level of direct realization

3 - to kill one's own lama

4 - to engage in sexual intercourse with a realized Arhat

5 - to steal from the Three Jewels- Buddha, Dharma, Sangha - for

example, to take back an offering

In general, negative actions don't have a single good quality; they are simply harmful. The Buddha however said that negative actions do have one good aspect, and this is that one can purify oneself from the negativity one has created. This purification is possible through the application of the so-called "four powers" - regret for the action, reparation of its ill effects, resolution not to repeat it, and renewal of our refuge in the Three Jewels. Even with the four powers it is extremely difficult to remove the tendencies that have been created by the five extremely harmful actions. It is also difficult to deal with negative impressions in the case where one has absolutely no trust in the Three Jewels and clings to false views.

The Disadvantages of Samsara

Because of our karma which leads to the ripening of certain experiences, the wheel of conditioned existence continually turns. This is samsara. Actions and karma accumulate, and through this experiences manifest. When positive actions are predominant, one will experience a more or less joyful result. When negative actions predominate, one will mainly experience suffering. In this way, within samsara one differentiates between six different kinds of experiences or states of existence: paranoia realms, ghost states, animal existences, human existence, half-god, and god states.

Regardless of which of these situations one observes, one finds nothing but suffering. Samsara is nothing but suffering because it is simply the result of accumulated actions. We can take a quick look at the six states in order to gain some insight into what it is like to live in each.

The paranoia state is not just a realm into which one is born. It is the name for a state of mind which is further divided into various sub- realms. There are, for example, eighteen different hell realms. In eight of these, beings suffer primarily from intense heat, and in eight

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The four thoughts that turn the mind from Samsara - Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

others, they suffer predominantly from extreme cold. There are two more hell realms similar to
others, they suffer predominantly from extreme cold. There are two
more hell realms similar to these, making a total of eighteen. In all
of these states nothing but heat and cold is experienced.
One could think that there is indeed great suffering in the paranoia
realms but that the other realms may not be so bad. One should
then take a look at what is experienced in the ghost worlds. The
"hungry ghosts" born in these states suffer greatly from hunger and
thirst. In one description of this realm it is said that in a hundred
years time, a hungry ghost will not once hear the word
"nourishment" or "water" and has absolutely no means of obtaining
either. Hungry ghosts are described as having stomachs as big as
mountains and mouths as small as a single hair. It is totally
impossible for them to obtain nourishment to pacify their hunger and
thirst. Even when they do find food or water, in the same moment
they are about to drink or eat it, it is transformed into something
repulsive like blood or pus. This is their prevailing experience.
Once again, one could think that things aren't so bad in the animal
realm. However, when one takes a look at the situation, again one
only finds suffering. It is easy to see how much suffering animals in
water and on land experience, how they are constantly hunted and
misused. These realms are called the three "lower" realms because
suffering is very dominant there and of quite brutal nature. However,
we really don't find anything but suffering in the so-called "higher"
realms either. For example, the predominant problem with the asuras
or half-gods is jealousy. They see the pleasant experiences of the
gods and are envious because their own experiences pale in
comparison. Therefore, they are continually fighting against the gods,
but they never win. They are always the losers and are continually
jealous. This is what conditions their suffering.
However, even the real gods suffer. Although they have a lot of fun
during their lives, they experience a great amount of suffering before
their death because they become aware that they are dying seven
days beforehand. Seven days in a god realm is equal to seven
human years. The gods see where they will be reborn after their
death, and because they have used up all their good karma they will
fall into the lower realms. During the process of decay that occurs as
their death approaches, they recognize certain signs. For example,
the flowers that adorn their bodies begin to wilt and their bodies
begin to smell bad. Thus the suffering pervades the god realm as
well.
Finally, in the human realm one experiences the suffering of birth,
old age, sickness and death.
Hence, regardless of which realm of existence one looks at, one sees
that suffering and samsara are one and the same. One can compare
samsara with sitting on the top of a needle. There is not one moment
without suffering.
The four thoughts that turn the mind from samsara are very
important for us. Many of the old masters have said, "The four
preliminary practices are more profound than the main practice." For
one's own development in dharma practice it is extremely important
to take the time to develop a clear understanding of these
fundamental views. After one has gone through every detail and
understood the explanations of the "precious human body," one can
then fully appreciate it. Next, one goes over "impermanence." When
one has considered this thoroughly, one naturally understands how
karma works, how samsara functions, and the suffering that exists in
the various realms of existence.
When one has developed these fundamental views, one possesses a
solid foundation on which to build one's dharma practice, namely, the
"four special preliminary practices" - prostrations, diamond mind,
mandala offerings, and guru yoga. Upon this firm base, one is able to
let direct realization arise. If one doesn't take time to build a strong
foundation it could be difficult to achieve the desired result of all
these practices. It is like building a house. Without a good foundation,
the house could very easily collapse.
There is a lot more to explain regarding this topic, but I ask you to
keep in your mind what has been said here. Being in samsara means
suffering. We should, however, be glad that we had the karma to be
reborn with a precious human body. This is a fortunate situation
because it means that we have excellent possibilities that are not
found in other realms of existence. We have a certain amount of
freedom insofar as we are able to discriminate between good and
harmful actions. We are able to give up negativity and to concentrate
on positive actions. If we practice being useful through this life, we
will be able to attain a state of liberation from samsara. If, on the

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The four thoughts that turn the mind from Samsara - Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche

other hand, we don't bother with positive actions or practicing the dharma and continue to
other hand, we don't bother with positive actions or practicing the
dharma and continue to act negatively, then we will also get the
corresponding result and we will not be able to free ourselves from
samsara. We will continue with the never-ending cycle of rebirth in
one state of existence or another.
For this reason, we should really be aware of the great opportunity
here and now and do our very best to use it while we can. Take the
time to study dharma and to practice. This is useful and I want to
encourage you to continue doing it. Do not ever be discouraged in
your dharma practice.
Reproduced here with kind permission.
Talk originally appeared in :
Buddhism Today, Vol.5, 1998
Copyright ©1998 Kamtsang Choling USA

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