“Another example, is going to an orphanage and helping needy, poor people, such as giving food, donations and gifts. If at that time, when you meet materially poor people and you wear nice clothes and makeup to look beautiful and so on, that is kind of strange, right? Are you going there to take photos of yourself to look good, or to help and be generous to other people?”
“There is a limit to the praise one can get. If your mind follows along with praise and criticism then you will become upset and unstable. Sometimes you will be praised and others times criticised and so your whole life will not be as you want it exactly. One has to have some mental independence, or ability to stand on one’s own feet. The main point is if we are doing something for personal praise and popularity that is not genuinely virtuous or good.”
“When adversity occurs, or we are at a low point of our lives, we need to understand that at that point, it is like you are at the bottom of a valley, and see it as a great opportunity to accumulate merit. To see that “merit” is like water rushing down the valley that needs to flow to lower ground, so that is the best point to gather the accumulation of merit.”
—17th Karmapa (Day 7, Spring Teachings)
In Day 7 of the Spring Teachings, HH the 17th Karmapa focused on Verses 14 and 15 of 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje’s Good Deeds. A transcript of the teaching (based on the English translation and original Tibetan) is below.
Music? Instant Karma by John Lennon…’Instant Karma is gonna get you, gonna look you right in the face’. For a bit of fun/comedy, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Monty Python and Kevin the Teenager ‘that’s so unfair!
Written and transcribed by Adele Tomlin, 14th April 2022.
TRANSCRIPT DAY 7
17th KARMAPA SPRING TEACHINGS
TAKING PLEASANT SPEECH ONTO THE PATH – VERSE FOURTEEN OF THE ‘GOOD DEEDS’
HOW PRACTITIONERS VIEW PEOPLE WHO HARM THEM OR THOSE WHO MISTAKE PLEASURE FOR HAPPINESS
“Dharma tells us that among the three realms, when doing the worldly Samadhi, we can go from lower to higher realms; from the desire realms to the higher realms. Just before that, the Maras will try and prevent you and they will get together because if you are able to transcend the desire realm they will see what they can do to harm you. The way to respond to that harm is with the Samadhi of loving kindness.
If worldly people think that way, then Bodhisattvas have to have an even vaster way of thinking, because they want to achieve the state beyond nirvana and samsara: the state of omniscience. If you want to achieve the state of Buddhahood and to liberate all beings from suffering, it is possible some beings will try and harm you. So when people get upset and angry, they have to have special compassion and love for them.
When we think about these points, some people in our society have fallen into so much suffering, they mistake what is fake happiness for pleasure. They have high status, power and wealth and they think this is really something to be powerful and rich, but this is just suffering by nature and they think its happiness and are fooled by that. They try to get other people to praise them and look at them highly.
If we think about it, we should feel more compassion for them, not anger. Mikyo Dorje understood this, and because of that, whenever he was speaking to people, whatever it was, praising or not praising them, he would speak starting with a deep understanding. He was always looking to see what would be beneficial. Even when making jokes, the way he spoke was totally different to others. His words were very weighty and amazing. When he spoke to them they felt they had to write it down and it was important. He really hit the main point whether it be worldly or Dharma. There was a lot of weight this speech and meaningful. We have right speech as part of eight-fold path and we should measure that against Mikyo Dorje’s speech.”
DOING THINGS FOR PRAISE IS NOT ACCOMPLISHING VIRTUE – THREE MAIN POINTS
In the 14th Good Deed, it means when doing virtue for others, we should not expect a response. There are three things we need to know.
1) ONE SHOULD NOT PRAISE OTHERS TO GET THEM TO PRAISE AND SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT US
“We should not praise people in order to be praised and liked in return. Such as people giving likes on Facebook or on our photos and posts and so on. This verse was written around 400 years ago, and to understand it better we need to think about present day situation. The main point is we should not praise others to receive praise and compliments from others. For example, if we do good actions now for getting praise or renown, that is not correct. The aim of virtuous acts, should not be solely for that. It is not true virtue.
A good example of this is many people go out and wear really nice, stylish clothes. If you are a monastic, this does not really apply. They go out and take a photo of themselves, and they think about how best to take the photos and take dozens of photos from all different angles to look the best. They want to look nice and their body and clothes look good and they want their legs to look long, and their faces not to look fat. Even after taking the photo, they then edit the photo in an app and make themselves look thin, fairer, more beautiful or younger and so on. They spend some minutes doing this, only then do they post it on the internet. Now they think I have taken a nice photo and wonder how many likes they will get and they wait and see. The photos are totally artificial and so if you met the person, you might not even recognise them! The person in the photo and the actual person looks totally different. One looks amazing but the other does not. If you think about they are doing it to get praise and for others to see them well. The main aim is so people will see them in a good way.
Another example, some might think ‘I will go and see the Jowo statue in Lhasa’ or their root guru who they have not seen for a long time. Or in Tibet, some older women go on a pilgrimage or to a monastery or a retreat cave and do pilgrimage. They do not hold back and put on new clothes and wear them well. When they do that, the reason is because in their minds they have faith in their root guru or the Jowo statue and so they are delighted about doing that and happy about it so they wear new and nice clothes. They are not thinking about getting praise from other people when they wear clothes.
Another example is when people have parties, a celebration or a big event/gala. So if you have to go to that event, then you have to dress up and wear clothes appropriate to it, you cannot wear whatever you want. It might be disrespectful if you did that and they might not like it.
Another example, is going to an orphanage and helping needy and poor people and giving food, donations and gifts. So if at that time, when you meet materially poor people you wear nice clothes and put on makeup. That’s kind of strange right? Are you going there to take photos of yourself or to help and be generous to other people?
In our lives, there are many situations like this, we cannot go through each and every one of them. These days, there are many movie actors and singers some of whom go off to do good things like being generous to the poor. On the one hand, that is great they want to help people out of benevolence and kindness. On the other hand, it could be because they want people to praise them and make them look good in society. It is possible they have such motivation.
When you speak about it in terms of Buddha Dharma, the way we should think is being a practitioner, one should not do things only to get praise and a warm welcome from others, doing it for only that is not good. For example, like studying Buddhist philosophy and doing retreats, these are good acts and we should rejoice at them. However, if others think ‘Oh they are so wonderful and they have such faith in the guru’ or ‘she has spent so many years in retreat’ or ‘he has studied so many texts’ etc. and it has been done for those kinds of reasons so that people praise you and pay attention to you, then it is not good. If you accumulate virtue in that way it is pointless.
When I was young in Tibet, and even these days, there were a lot of older people who actually are illiterate and pretend to read. In terms of Dharma, they do not know much at all. However, the way they act is they spend whatever time in this life they cannot wasting it and recite many Mani mantras as they could. No one else could see that, they would so it for the sake of infinite beings. They would recite millions of mantras. That is the way we should accumulate virtue. The main point is when doing virtue, we must examine our motivation and why we are doing these things? What is the initial intention and think about it carefully? Is it good or bad?”
2) DOING GOOD ACTS FOR OTHERS TO RECEIVE PRAISE IS NOT ACCOMPLISHING VIRTUE
“Are we doing it to benefit others or for people to praise us? It is important to check this. If we have a mistaken motivation and think we have done many virtuous things, then you and others have been deceived by these fake virtues. That is not good. Some people might think I am saying we should never accept praise from others and so on. If you think that, you have missed the main point. What the Kagyu forefathers have said, is ‘what happens automatically is a siddhi’, so do not give it up. What is the main point here? Doing things for praise is not good or excellent activity. However, if people naturally and spontaneously praise and look up to your good works, and at that time, we say ‘oh I am not a worldly person of the eight Dharma, don’t praise me at all!’ and try and block such praise, that is not OK.
That itself becomes one of the eight worldly Dharmas. If you stop them, then it becomes one because you are saying I don’t care about these worldly things. In this life, sometimes people praise us and sometimes criticize us. Out mind goes up and down depending on what and so our mind is not happy or satisfied. There is a limit to the praise, if you do not have a limit to it, if your mind follows praise and criticism then you will upset. Sometimes you will be praised and others times criticised and so your whole life will not be as you want it exactly. So you have to have some independence in your mind, or ability to stand on your own feet. The main point is if we are doing it for personal praise and popularity that is not virtuous or good.”
3) DOING THINGS WITH HOPES OF GETTING SOMETHING BACK IN RETURN IS NOT ACCOMPLISHING VIRTUE
We should not do virtuous things hoping for others to give us good things back or a good reputation
“Mikyo Dorje says that we should not do virtuous acts with the hope for good results or a response. Generally, what is the reason we do virtuous acts? In order to gather the accumulations, but we need to understand how to do that correctly. If we have a lot of attachment and expectation to a good result and return then we don’t be able to accomplish virtue.
For example, if you have some money like 10000 USD, then you give it to someone and hope in the future you will have thousands in return back. Is that really an act of generosity? Of you make a big gift and you think that one day, you might become really rich from it, is that really a good act of virtue? It’s difficult to say it is.
These days, why do problems come about? people only look outside and see all the development and its enticing and they are fooled by them. Accomplishing virtue is an internal quality of the mind. However, as we have such strong imprints of looking outside there is a danger that virtue will also be seen as an external thing. So we think that something will come to us from outside.
For example, if you have an apple tree and plant it so you can grow apples, then one day, the apple tree and you go and look at it every day, and wonder when the fruit will ripen and get attached to that happening. Then one day, then it sprouts, you get even more excited and hopeful and I can’t wait until I can eat an apple and so what will happen? That is the way we normally accumulate virtue.
You like apple trees, and the tree itself, it is not because you wish to eat the apple. You plant it so only you can eat it, you should plant it in a public space and plant it there then one day when the fruit ripens on the tree, and then you can eat it and everyone else can enjoy and use the fruit. Therefore, it should be like that. This is just an example.
When you think one should practice virtue, and think I have not got the result yet and you might think that karmic cause and effect is not true. If you believe in it, then you have to think one day the fruit will ripen, right? You don’t have to look for it every day. They might think if I do good things no there is no choice but to get something good in return. That is not accumulating virtue. If you think I will do something good for him, so that he will do something good for me that is not virtue.”
FIFTEENTH ‘GOOD DEED’: TOTAL TRUST IN KARMIC CAUSE AND EFFECT
“In terms of the outline, this verse is 5) ‘taking suffering as the path’. The meaning of this is, as I have explained before, there were many unfounded accusations against Mikyo Dorje and people who responded inappropriately to his good deeds, and people he had trusted who deceived him and so on. There were times he had physical illnesses and obstacles to his activity. No matter what happened though, the way he thought was ‘I am the tulku and the Karmapa, I am not going to turn away from the three jewels and my intention is only to benefit others’. So what is the reason for this bad karma and situations happening? He never got upset or depressed about it at all, or said that.
What he would say, is that ‘from beginning less samsara we have harmed many sentient beings and this is the karmic ripening of that’. The connection of the cause and result, even if I cannot know this completely right now, if we look at the words of the Bhagavan Buddha, he said this is how it is and had certainty in this. So someone who believes the Buddha’s words, we have to believe it is the result of karma. If we do not respect or believe the Buddha’s words then we might think, ‘oh he knows something, but not what is happening to me’. In particular, if you are someone who has mixed your mind with Dharma and able to practice, whatever happens, illness, adversities and so on, all of that is not adversity. For that person, they are excellent circumstances that bring us to do good actions. Due to the adversity we can practice the Dharma and develop renunciation and so on. There are many examples of this.”
HOW THE NEGATIVE DEEDS OF MILAREPA, DAGPO GAMPOPA AND FIRST KARMAPA LED TO THEIR ATTAINING ENLIGHTENMENT
In Tibet, the greatest of all the Mahasiddhas was Milarepa. When he was younger, he did black magic and killed many people and negative acts. However because of his courage and way of thinking it was different from others, so he thought that the bad deeds he had done became a favourable condition that gave him courage to enter into many hardships. This happened because of the negative acts he had done, that is how he thought.
“Similarly, Gampopa, when he was younger, got married and had a son and daughter and there was an epidemic and they all died. Due to that adverse situation, he developed the wish for liberation from samsara and entered the gate of Dharma and eventually became the founder of the Dagpo Kagyu lineages.
Or if we think about 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa When he was around 15, there was a girl he was in love with, and she dumped him and went off someone else. He got very angry and cast a spell that killed that person. Then he developed a wish for liberation and entered the gate of Dharma, right?”
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE THINKING OF ORDINARY AND GREAT BEINGS
“The difference between great beings and us is that whether they experience difficult or good circumstances, there is no difference to them. Great beings are able to mould and shape it into a good situation. They have the courage and wisdom to do that. We cannot do that, we get lost, and we cannot transform and use it and bring benefit to us.
In particular, previously and even nowadays, people think ‘I am a Dharma practitioner’ has that person actually got belief in karma, cause and effect? Probably not. Forget about the subtle aspects of what should be done or not done, they do not even refrain from the coarse ones. They also say, I guard discipline like me eyes. I am someone who practices what should be done and given up finely. They fool themselves and others. They say I have purified all the results of bad karma. This kind of arrogant, boastful people come about like that. They exaggerate thongs like that. When they do that, someone says something unsuitable or slightly bad about them, or if there is some sort of suffering or illness, or someone he trusts who then deceives them or if they have a lot of wealth that goes bad or gets stolen. Or they find themselves in a situation where they have to escape from a place, and leave behind their belongings and friends and family, when that happens, prior to that they said ‘I am a practitioner, and that is why people say bad things about me. They are staining my good name, so I had to leave’. People will speak like that. In brief, these people are worried they will lose status in this lifetime. They think that their wealth, power and reputation will be lost, so they are scared and have attachment and aversion about it.
They have such attachment to things of this life and they worry about them a lot. If we compare Mikyo Dorje’s way of thinking to them it was totally different. The way he thought was that the reason we talk about weak sentient beings is because they are under the control of their emotions and karmic afflictions. So in terms of power they are very weak. What they do is always harming each other in various ways. In order to bring themselves happiness they spend all their time harming each other.
If we look at the way they do this. It is like a cancer patient who tell them they cannot do anything because the cancer is so advanced and chronic and the doctor tells them that. Then what will happen? They are going to suffer right? So sentient beings from the beginningless time have experienced different sufferings of harming each other and so on, and they are the same as the cancer patient the doctors say there is no hope for recovery. Mikyo Dorje would look at these beings and have even more unbearable compassion for them. What are the signs of this kind of unbearable compassion?
He only lived until he was 48 years old, so that is young for these days. Later he had many illnesses. I do not know exactly what they were but they were very painful. He experienced a lot of suffering. The way he thought about it was because it was due to the harm I have caused others in samsara. Thinking in this way, no matter how much suffering he experienced, he became even more careful about his actions of karma, cause and effect. So for that reason, if we look at that way of acting, the imprint this shows is that when they have that kind of suffering, it is something that is going to give a result of suffering. What if we need to look at the basis of that suffering?
We can see this in the life of Mikyo Dorje. So people thought how could such suffering occur to such a great being like Mikyo Dorje? So when he had such difficult circumstances, people said oh we need to do long-life and repelling rituals to stop the bad circumstances and so on. Actually, Mikyo Dorje said it was not possible it could happen, but they did not really understand the way Mikyo Dorje thought and acted. The reason for this is because the activity of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas primarily depends on the students. So people have different levels of obscurations and misdeeds. Therefore, when different people see the activities of the gurus, some people see it as good and some as not so good. It depends on your karmic obscurations and attachment.”
THE MURDER OF MAUDGALAYANA – ONE OF BUDDHA’S BEST STUDENTS. WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.
“As an example, when we talk about the eight great shravaka disciples of the Buddha, these were his best and well known students. The two most well known were Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana . Shariputra was the greatest in terms of prajna. The one with the greatest power and miracles was Maudgalyāyana . So how did he die in the end? Some non-Buddhist Jain students, some of them beat him with sticks and killed him. He was the greatest in miracles but he was beaten to death.
So how can Buddhists explain this? We have to be able to explain it. Why did he not show a miracle then? The explanation is because he had accumulated the karma of being beaten by others. There are different types of karma. Some that definitely must be experienced. Where the result will definitely ripen. Some is not so certain if it will ripen or not. This was a type that had to be experienced, even the Buddha could not stop it. So when he was being beaten he totally forgot about the miraculous powers. Before you do a miracle you have to do Samadhi meditation but he forgot to show that. Forget about performing it, he could not even think about doing it and so they beat him to death. In brief, even someone like Maudgalyāyana could not stop the ripening of karma. Also, with Buddha he had headaches and thorns in his foot and so on, the liberations stories of Buddha and Bodhisattvas are seen in different ways by different beings depending on their level of karmic obscurations..
In India, some saw the Buddha as good, some saw him as being bad. There were non-Buddhists who did not see him as good. Even though he was a fully awakened Buddha, some people did not see him in a good way. Yet if we say that everyone has to see us in good way, that’s really arrogant speech. Some people had thick and some thin imprints. So the way people see things is different.”
FIVE MAIN POINTS OF TAKING SUFFERING AND NEGATIVE CONDITIONS ONTO THE PATH
“Here is a brief summary of this fifteenth good deed. I think there are five different points:
1) As adversity and suffering have been accumulated since beginningless samsara and so there will be a negative result, we must believe in karmic cause and effect.
The main meaning of this is that as we all know, the essence of Buddhism is karmic cause and effect. We are always talking about this. Why do we experience suffering in this life? The adversity is because of the negative actions we have accumulated in the past. Not only suffering but even the pleasures, happiness, suffering and problems and so on. How do karmic results happen? They are the effect of the actions we have done in the past.
2) Suffering is suffering from the outset. It is not fair and it has been like this not only in this lifetime but also in all lifetimes.
The point of this is there is no fairness in life. It has always been like that in all lifetimes. We normally think ‘Why do I have to suffer like this?’ Why do people scorn me so much? I do not understand? The person I loved left me? Why? Why did my relatives die? How did I get such a horrible sickness why me and not someone else? Why did I lose my job and having so many difficulties with my livelihood and so on? So we think this life is not fair. Some people become rich and some people become beggars. There is no fairness. I have only done good things my entire life and have nothing to be ashamed of. Why do these problems happen to me? Some people are lazy and don’t do anything and we work hard but don’t get wealthy and so on. So in brief, we think life is not honest and is not fair. This is what we think, right?
When we think about this, from one angle, this is a sign of not understanding samsara and not believing in karmic cause and effect. So we have to think where does suffering and happiness come from? That is the first and original question. They are the results of actions we have accumulated in the past. When we say past, what does that mean? It could be yesterday or a previous lifetime. In brief, most of the karma has been accumulated in previous lifetimes. This is a huge amount of time. We cannot even think about the first lifetime. There have been so many uncountable lifetimes, so the karma accumulated is uncountable.
When we think that life is not fair, if we thought about the situations from our many previous lifetimes, it might be possible to think, “there is nothing fairer than this.” This is what we mean by karmic cause and effect. There is nothing truer than karmic cause and effect.
3. Suffering and obstacles occur even for beings such as the Karmapa
“What are the limits of the fairness and rightness of karmic cause and effect? The various incarnations of the Karmapa and, as I said before, even the Bhagavān Buddha also experienced suffering. The Hinayana said that the Buddha’s body was the aggregate of suffering. The Theravada said the Buddha’s body was the truth of suffering, meaning that it also experienced suffering, and met with unhappiness, obstacles, and negative situations. The Buddha experienced headaches and thorns in his feet and so on.
In my opinion, the amount of adversity and hardship experienced by the various Karmapas was more frequent and greater than most ordinary people had. No need to talk about previous Karmapas, we can take myself for an example. I have experienced difficulties and suffering that other people would not experience. I don’t need to talk about that.
Previous Karmapas were caught up in the middle of innumerable political conflicts, obstacles, and political, environmental, and sectarian pressures. Ordinary people could not comprehend or even believe were possible. Yet despite all those challenges and pressures, the Karmapas never felt unable to continue taking steps forward or wanted to give up Dharma activities. What was the main reason for being able to do that? They had courage and prajña unlike anyone else, so they were able to keep moving forward. From another perspective, it was also because they did not see this life as something that should be fair or right. They did not see this life as unfair and never doubted karmic cause and effect.
They saw the difficulties and suffering they experienced now were the result of bad karma from the past.. They were able to move forward with that. The main reason they were able to that was because they had a deep and profound belief in karma, cause and effect. They has absolute certainty that karmic cause and effect was fair, right, and true. Therefore, with that much courage, no matter how difficult events occurred, from deep within, they were able to face it, accept it and deal with it. They never gave up on the path ahead nor even wavered the slightest in their loving kindness toward others and their faith and belief in the Three Jewels. That never happened.
So if we ask what is the difference between how the previous Karmapas? It is not that they never experienced suffering or adversity. It is how they viewed adversity and difficulties. There is a huge distiinction between the Karmapas and ordinary beings. They never blamed, accused, or held grudges against anyone else for bad situations. Even if people threatened their lives, because these people did not understand the bad karma they are committing and did not understand the terrifying karma awaiting them in the future.They are shrouded in ignorance and controlled by their afflictions. “
BEING ‘YOUTHFUL’ ON THE INSIDE
“The Karmapas had even more love and compassion for these people who were controlled by their karma and afflictions. So when people harmed or blamed the Karmapas, forget about resenting it, the Karmapas never even got annoyed. The adversities created by these people became a cause for greater love for the other and increasing their bodhicitta. The reason it became a cause for that was because they believed in karmic cause and effect.
Among the different incarnations of the Karmapa, some appeared rather wrathful and short-tempered. Looking from the outside, they seemed to have strict or untamed characters. But in actuality, they were like a loving mother with a bit of a temper. When such mothers worried about their children doing something bad, so she gets angry and scolds them. That is just the external appearance.
For example, the bodhisattvas like Subhuti and Mañjuśrī, were called “youthful”, why were they called that? Because they had childlike characters that were uncontrived and clean. Whereas adults, if you say something, they become really complicated. Children are not like that and are uncontrived, pure and clean.
WRATHFUL AND PEACEFUL COMPASSION OF A LOVING MOTHER – THE DIFFERENT CHARACTERS OF THE KARMAPAS
“So many of the previous Karmapas who appeared rather angry were like these children on the inside. There were also Karmapas with peaceful characters. They were all like mothers with loving and gentle characters who, no matter how many mistakes their children made, they loved them even the more. They wondered what can I do more to help my child.
Wrathful or peaceful, there was a difference in methods, but in actuality, the Karmapas had the same aims. Whoever we are, there is no one who has not encountered suffering and difficulties. External or internal, physical and so on. It might seem that some people externally never experience any difficulties and others we see as always suffering
If we do not believe in karmic cause and effect, we will see this life as unfair. Why do good people who work hard have nothing and people who do nothing have so much wealth and power and so on? However, if we beliee in previous lifetimes and see that all comes from what we did in those lifetimes, we will see that it is not true that life is unfair. Most of us do not have one hundred percent belief in karmic cause and effect. But to have no belief at all? That is difficult to say. If we have no belief then why would we do anything now? Why do farmers plant fields and work hard to do that? If they did not believe it would bring a crop, they would not plant. They believe it will bring a result.
If we did not think there would be a result, we would not do anything. We do things with expectations and hopes. If we did not, is it possible that we would work for anything? Without karmic cause and effect, there would be no hope or reward from anything we do. However, the main difficulty is when we think about “past and future lifetimes” these stretch out for a very long time. We do not see the previous lifetimes, and do not remember the events of past lives, so we get lazy about it and think its is so long ago, there is no point in thinking about it. It is difficult. For that reason, we have a certain belief in it but no absolute certainty in it.
When we teach the presentation of suffering in the Four Noble Truths, it says that while we are in saṃsāra, there is only suffering, and not even an instant of pleasure. The Buddhist texts talk about many different types of suffering, coarse and subtle, but in our lives the sufferings we experience, such as the eight types of suffering, occur simply because we are in saṃsāra. They will definitely happen to us. No matter how much we try to avoid them, we cannot stop them. That is why we practice the Dharma. That is why we try to reach liberation, isn’t it? If there were no suffering in saṃsāra and there were happiness, why would we have to practice Dharma? Why would we seek liberation? There would be no point. We need to recognise that human life and saṃsāra are suffering from the beginning; it is not only when we experience pain and adversity that we experience suffering.”
4. Whenever we have bad or good situations, how we experience it all depends on the mind.
When difficulties, sufferings, and adversities occur in our lives, the main point is that about how we look at them. So whether it is a hardship or suffering, depends mainly on how the mind thinks about the situation.
For example, there is a cup on the table and it is half-filled with tea, the pessimist will think, I only have half a cup of tea, what shall I do?!” it is the same, when obstacles and difficulties arise, the one who does not think correctly they will say “Why is this happening to me? Why am I being blamed?”. Even thinking when they got Covid, ‘no-one else got it and I got it.’ The optimist will say when the adversity occurs that “This adversity is the karmic result of the previous lives. This is a test in this life. It’s giving me real training in this lifetime. It’s a great opportunity for me to purify my karma from the past.
There are many situations where, if we only think about them for this lifetime, they become huge and important, but when we think about them in terms of many lifetimes, the situations may seem trivial and tiny among all the previous situations faced.
Whether the situation is good or bad primarily depends on the way you think about it. The root of it comes down to the mind. It depends on how your view it. For that reason, you have to take care of your mind. You have to gain control over your mind. You must take interest in paying attention to how you think about things. “
5. When adversity occurs, it is an opportunity to accumulate vast merit
“When adversity occurs or we are in the hardest point of our lives, we need to understand that at that point, it is like you are on low ground, like being at the bottom of a valley, and this is a great opportunity to accumulate merit. it is like water that flows down. “Merit” is like water rushing down the valley that needs to flow to lower ground, so that is the best point to gather the accumulation of merit.
We need to carefully consider how we accumulate merit and not miss that opportunity. When we have adversity, we need to recognize that it is the best opportunity to gather the accumulations to purify obscurations and not to miss it.
When someone causes us harm, we must not harbour malicious thoughts toward the other but keep a benevolent motivation. This will multiply our merit exponentially compared to before. For example, if one could get a small profit from a huge amount of money, then one would do it, right? So it we want to be treated well then we have treat others well. That does not mean praising them necessarily but to think about people benevolently and not maliciously.
When we have adversity, it is an incredible opportunity to train our minds. As the Kadampa Geshe Langri Tangpa said, “Adversity is a spiritual friend.” An authentic spiritual friend or lama means someone who can change, or improve your mind. “
‘BATTLE EXPERIENCE’ IS THE BEST EXPERIENCE
“If you’re a soldier, the best training is having had actual experience in battle. If you have only experienced mock exercises in training, it’s completely different from fighting in battle with experience. If we are always having good times, anyone can look like a good dharma practitioner. Saying Om Mani Padme Hum and Compassion, people can do that. When we encounter adversity, that is when we know whether we believe in karmic cause and effect and that is when we know we have faith in the Three Jewels and the gurus.
When we are suffering then we need to be able to practice. The main point is when we are lying on our deathbeds breathing our last, we need to remember that this is the time when there is nothing else to do but to entrust ourselves to the Three Jewels and the gurus. There is nothing else to do or place to go or person who can help us.
At that time, if we have pure faith and belief and it is unbearable it will make us able to face up to all the terrors and suffering. We need to do the preparations for that now. We cannot leave this until the time when we are dying. If we cannot prepare for it now when things are good, then how will we think about it in the future when we are dying?
Thus, the times when adversities occur are the best opportunities and time for us to improve our practice. It is important not to let the opportunity pass us by. That does not mean we have to go look for it, it will come to you. The day will come, and when it arrives, we should not miss the opportunity. It is better if we do not experience adversity and suffer, but when they happen we should be prepared and not immediately panic or lose courage. Instead, we need to have more courage, and counsel ourselves and not miss that opportunity. This is very important.
The difference between the great beings and us is not whether they also have suffering and problems. The great beings often have greater adversities because they have vaster greater activities. The vaster the activity the more difficulties one will have. The biggest difference is that when the difficulties arise, they rise to the difficulty, and they move forward. When we have problems, we get depressed and crushed by them . To become like great beings, we need to learn how to stand up and move forward too. That is why we need to study the great beings and look at their liberation stories.”
LONG LIFE PRAYER FOR THRANGU RINPOCHE, COMPOSED IN A DREAM
The Gyalwang Karmapa then finished with a transmission of a long life prayer he had composed for Thrangu Rinpoche in 2019. For a video recording of the Tibetan (together with English and Chinese subtitles of the Karmapa’s explanation of the long-life prayer and how it arose in a dream, see here.
The Karmapa also said he included this long-life prayer with all the prayers for sentient beings he made, and among them, he made long-life prayers for the Dalai Lama daily, long-life prayers for the heart sons, and all the great beings of the Karma Kagyu. He recited these daily because, “If these great beings can stay, there will be good times, and that would be very good. If they do not live, we will experience suffering. For this reason we should recite this long-life prayer for Thrangu Rinpoche.”