LAMRIM CHENMO (3)




THE PATHS OF THREE TYPES OF PERSONS


THE WAY TO TAKE THE ESSENCE OF THIS LIFE ENDOWED WITH FREEDOM


This has two points:
generating certainty with regard to the general presentation of the path,
and the actual way of taking its essence.

GENERATING CERTAINTY WITH REGARD TO THE GENERAL PRESENTATION OF THE PATH

This has two points:
How all the Buddha’s teachings are contained in the paths of the three types of persons,
and the reason for gradual guidance from the perspective of the three types of persons.


HOW ALL THE BUDDHA’s TEACHINGS ARE CONTAINED IN THE PATHS OF THE THREE TYPES OF PERSONS

Everything the Buddha did was only for the welfare of sentient beings, from generating the mind of enlightenment in the beginning, [41] through collecting the accumulations in the middle, to manifesting complete buddhahood at the end.

Thus all his Dharma teachings too are only for accomplishing the welfare of sentient beings. That being so, the goal to be accomplished is the welfare of sentient beings, which has two levels: the temporary one of higher states and the ultimate one of definite goodness.

All the teachings that pertain to accomplishing the first level are included in the cycle of Dharma teachings for the person of genuine lesser spiritual capacity or that is shared in common with the person of lesser capacity. Special persons of lesser capacity do not act primarily for the rewards of this life. Instead, they pursue the excellence of high rebirth in future lives and try to achieve the causes of that.

Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (v.3) says:

Whoever pursues by any means,
the happiness of samsara only,
just for his own benefit,
should be known as the least of beings.

There are two kinds of definite goodness: (1) the liberation that is a mere release from samsara and (2) omniscience. All the teachings that pertain to the vehicles of sravakas and pratyekabuddhas are included in the cycle of Dharma teachings for persons of genuine medium capacity or the teachings that are shared in common with persons of medium capacity. Persons of medium spiritual capacity develop disenchantment with samsara as a whole and make liberation from samsara their goal for their own welfare. Therefore they engage in its method, the three trainings.

Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (v.4) says:

One who pursues only personal peace –
turning away from the happiness of samsara
and desisting from evil deeds –
is called a “person of medium capacity”.

There are two means of attaining omniscience: the great vehicles of the secret Mantrayana and the Paramitayana.

These two are contained in the cycle of Dharma teachings for persons of great capacity. Since persons of great capacity are under the influence of great compassion, they make enlightenment their goal in order to bring all the suffering of sentient beings to an end.

Therefore they train in the six perfections, the two stages, and so forth. Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (v.5) says:

One who through his own suffering
yearns to bring to an end completely
all the suffering of other beings [42]
is said to be a superior being.

As stated above, the means by which these beings attain enlightenment are twofold: the perfections and secret mantra.

The classification of three types of persons is determined in many texts, such as the Compendium of Ascertainments (Vinicayasamgrahani) and the Treasury of Abidharma Autocommentary (Abhidharmakosabhasya). Although persons of lesser capacity include both those who devote themselves to this life and those who devote themselves to future lives, this is about the latter. One should consider them as engaging in the unmistaken means to higher states.

The reason for gradual guidance from the perspective of the three types of persons

This has two points: the purpose of guidance in accordance with the paths of the three types of persons, and the reason for such gradual guidance.

The purpose of guidance in accordance with the paths of three types beings, since the path of persons of great capacity contains within it the paths of the two types of beings, Master Asvaghosa says that these two these two are parts of the Mahayana path.

So here it is not a matter of guidance for the path of persons of lesser capacity who make only the happiness of samsara their goal, nor for the path of persons of medium capacity who make only liberation from samasara for their own sake their goal.

Rather, we should consider certain paths common to those two to be preliminary practices leading to the path of persons of great capacity and take them to be part of the training in the path of persons of great capacity.


THE REASON FOR SUCH GRADUAL GUIDANCE

This has two points: the actual reason and the purpose.


THE ACTUAL REASON

The gateway for entering the Mahayana is to generate bodhicitta – the mind directed toward supreme enlightenment. Once it has arisen in the mindstream, according to Entering the Bodhisattva Way (1.9),

The instant they give rise to bodhicitta,
the wretched bound in the prison of cyclic existence
are declared children of the sugatas

A person who has gained the title of “bodhisattva” is admitted to the ranks of Mahayana beings. If their bodhicitta deteriorates, they depart from the Mahayana. This being so, those who wish to enter the Mahayana must exert themselves in many ways to generate that mind. However, to generate it, they first need to meditate on the benefits of generating that mind, so that delight in those benefits will increase, and do the seven-limb practice together with going for refuge. That is what is taught in the Compendium of Trainings and in Entering the Bodhisattva Way. [43]

If we summarise the benefits set forth in this way, there are two: temporary and ultimate benefits. The former are twofold: one will not fall to lower rebirths and one will be born in the fortunate rebirths. Once this mind has arisen, the causes of miserable existences accumulated previously are purified, and the continuity of accumulating them in the future is severed.

The causes of fortunate rebirths accumulated previously, being conjoined with it, increase extensively, and the ones newly created, being motivated by it, become unlimited. Eventually the final goals of liberation and omniscience are accomplished with ease through relying on this mind.

But if one does not first have an uncontrived wish to gain the temporary and ultimate benefits, then although one may say, “Since those benefits arise from generating bodhicitta, I must make effort to generate that mind,” those will be mere words. This is very clear if we examine our own mindstreams.

So to first develop the wish to attain those two benefits, higher states and definite goodness, one must develop the attitudes common to persons of lesser and medium capacity. Once one has developed the wish to gain those two benefits, then to cultivate that beneficial mind one needs to develop its root, love and compassion.

When you are thinking about how you yourself are wandering in cyclic existence, deprived of happiness and oppressed by suffering, if the hairs on your body do not rise up and stand on end, then there is no way the inability to bear how other sentient beings are deprived of happiness and oppressed by suffering can come about.

Entering the Bodhisattva Way (1.24) says:

If those beings have never before
felt such an attitude for their own sake,
not even dreamt of it in their dreams,
how could it arise for the sake of others?

Therefore, in the training of persons of lesser capacity, you contemplate how the harm of suffering of the lower rebirths befalls you, and in the training of persons of medium capacity, you contemplate how even in higher rebirths there is suffering and no peace of happiness.

Then drawing on your own experience, you contemplate how this applies to sentient beings we have become dear to you. Meditating in this way becomes the cause of love and compassion to arise, from which bodhicitta is born. Therefore training in the contemplations shared with persons of lesser and medium capacity is the means of generating uncontrived bodhicitta.

Likewise, making effort in many means of purification and accumulation – such as contemplating going for refuge, actions and their effects, and so forth, in the context of the two lower levels of training – also constitutes a method for training the mindstream in preliminary practices for bodhicitta. [44] Since they are part of the seven-limb practice along with going for refuge, these contemplations common to persons of lesser and medium capacity should also be understood as methods for generating that mind.

Here the guru indicates how the Dharma teachings of persons of lesser and medium capacity become stages that lead to the arising of bodhicitta, and how the discipline also gains certainty in this regard. Through recalling those points with each practice, thoroughly cherish this training. If you fail to do this, the path of persons of great capacity and the individual paths become disconnected.

Since you do not gain certainty with regard to bodhicitta until you reach the reach the actual path of persons of great capacity, this would be an obstacles to the arising of that mind or a deterioration of that great purpose in the meantime. Therefore you should persevere in this.

Training in this way, try to bring about the arising of uncontrived bodhicitta in your mindstream as much as possible. Then, to make that mind stable, go for refuge in the way that is unique to the Mahayana and perform the ritual of aspiring bodhicitta. Having taken hold of aspiring bodhicitta by means of the ritual, practice its trainings.

Repeatedly develop the wish to train in the bodhisattva conduct – the six perfections, the four ways of gathering disciples, and so forth. Once the desire to train in it has come forth from the depths of your heart, take the pure vow of engaging bodhicitta.

Even at the risk of your life, do not become tainted by a root downfall. Also, try you best not to become sullied by small and medium contaminations or misdeeds either. However, if you still become tainted by one of these, purify it well by means of the countermeasures for infractions as instructed.

Then train in the six perfections in general and especially in meditative stabilisation, the nature of samatha, so as to make the mind serviceable for focusing on whatever virtuous object you wish. The statement in Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment that you train in samatha in order to develop clairvoyance is only an example.

Atisa himself states on other occasions that it also serves to develop special insight. Therefore you should develop samatha for that purpose too. Then, to cut the fetters of apprehending the two selves, ascertain the meaning of emptiness by means of the view, nurture if by way of flawless meditation, and accomplish special insight, the essence of wisdom.

Accordingly, except for the accomplishment of samatha and special insight, everything, up to and including training in the vow of engaging bodhicitta, constitutes the training in ethics. Commentary on the Difficult Points of Lamp for the Path (Bodhimargapradipapanjika) says that samatha is the training in concentration and special insight is the training in wisdom. [45]

Furthermore, everything up to including samatha constitutes the method aspect,
the accumulation of merit, the path based on conventional truths, and the stages of the vast path, whereas the generation of the three special types of wisdom constitutes the wisdom aspect,
the accumulation of wisdom, that which is based on ultimate truths, and the stages of the profound path.

Therefore you need to develop great certainty regarding their order and enumeration, as well as the fact that enlightenment cannot be attained by means of method and wisdom separately.

Having thus trained your mindstream by means of the common paths, you must definitely enter the Mantrayana, for once you have entered it, you will quickly complete the two accumulations.

If you cannot manage more than the path of the perfections, or owing to having weak potential you so not want to, you should just work on developing these very stages of the path further.

When engaging in the Mantrayana, since proper reliance on a spiritual teacher is given great emphasis in all the vehicles generally, and particularly in secret mantra, you should make it even more preeminent than before. Then, having ripened your mindstream by means of an empowerment that comes from a pure class of tantra, guard the commitments and vows you obtained at that time even at the cost of your life.

Especially if a root downfall occurs, even if you take them again, this will damage your mindstream, and it will become difficult to develop excellent qualities. Therefore make every effort not to become tainted by one. Also do you best to avoid becoming tainted even by a secondary infraction, though if you do, do not be indifferent about it but purify it through confession and restraint.

Be guided as appropriate in the yoga and signs in accordance with the lower classes of tantra or in the yoga of the generation stage in accordance with the highest class of tantra. Then based on that, train as appropriate in the yoga without signs in accordance with the lower classes of tantra or in the yoga of the completion stage according to the highest class of tantra.

Such is the structure of the presentation of the path set forth in Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, and the lamrim guides students in the same way.




THE PURPOSE

If the Dharma teachings of persons of lesser and medium capacity are the preliminary practices of persons of great capacity, it should indeed be acceptable to consider them the stages of the path of persons of great capacity. So why use the phrase “the stages of the path in common with persons of lesser and medium capacity?”

There are two major purposes for making this division into three levels of beings and guiding them accordingly. First, it undermines the conceit of someone who, without even having given rise to the mental attitudes common to persons of lesser and medium capacity, claims to be a person of great capacity. [46] Second, there is the following great benefit in their threefold categorisation as the highest states and for liberation, there is no problem with teaching great or intermediate disciples how to train in those two levels of contemplation because this will give rise to excellent qualities.

However, if a lesser being begins training with the more advanced levels, the more advanced attitudes will not arise, and since they have neglected the lower levels, nothing at all will arise. Moreover, some fortunate persons with higher capacity who have been taught the common path and already trained in it, whether in this life or in a previous one, will quickly develop excellent qualities. Having developed the lower ones, they can easily be guided through the higher levels. Thus their path will not be prolonged.

The need to develop the mind gradually is exemplified using the analogy of a skilled jeweller gradually cleaning precious stones, as stated in the Questions of King Dharanisvara Sutra (Dharanisvararajapariprcchasutra). The protector Nagarjuna also taught about leading in stages through the paths of higher states and definite goodness [in Precious Garland (Ratnavali) 1.3]:

First the qualities of higher states,
then those of definite goodness come forth.
Therefore, once you achieve higher states,
definite goodness will come by stages.

Arya Asanga also said:

So that the side of virtue may be gradually accomplished in full,
a bodhisattva initially gives easy teachings to sentient beings who have immature wisdom and makes them follow simple advice and instructions.
Once he knows that they have developed intermediate wisdom,
he gives them intermediate teachings and makes them follow intermediate advice and instructions.
When he knows that they have developed extensive wisdom,
he teaches them the profound Dharma and makes them follow more subtle advice and instructions.
His beneficial activities flow down on those sentient beings progressively.

Aryadeva, in his Lamp That Combines the Practices (Caryamelapakapradipa), establishes that having trained in the contemplation of the Paramitayana, one then needs to gradually engage in the Mantrayana. [47] Summarising the meaning of this he says:

When sentient beings who are beginners
engage in the ultimate purpose,
the method, so the Buddha said,
resembles the steps of a flight of stairs.


THE ACTUAL WAY OF TAKING ITS ESSENCE

This has three points:
training the mind in the stages of the path shared in common with persons of lesser capacity, training the mind in the stages of the path shared in common with persons of medium capacity,
and training the mind in the stages of the path unique to persons of great capacity.



THE STAGES SHARED WITH PERSONS OF LESSER CAPACITY


8 – DEATH AND FUTURE LIVES


TRAINING THE MIND IN THE STAGES OF THE PATH SHARED IN COMMON WITH PERSONS OF LESSER CAPACITY

This has three points:
the actual training in the attitude of persons of lesser capacity,
the measure of that attitude having arisen,
and clearing up misconceptions about that.


THE ACTUAL TRAINING IN THE ATTITUDE OF PERSONS OF LESSER CAPACITY


This has two points:
generating an attitude of concern for future lives,
and relying on the methods for gaining happiness in future lives.


GENERATING AN ATTITUDE OF CONCERN FOR FUTURE LIVES

This has two points:
the contemplation recollecting death and that one will not remain in this life for long,
and the contemplation of what will happen in future lives in terms of the happiness and sufferings of the two types of persons.


THE CONTEMPLATION RECOLLECTING DEATH AND THAT ONE WILL NOT REMAIN IN THIS LIFE FOR LONG

This has four points:
the fault of not cultivating mindfulness of death,
the benefits of cultivating mindfulness of death,
what kind of mindfulness of death should be generated,
and how to cultivate mindfulness of death.


THE FAULTS OF NOT CULTIVATING MINDFULNESS OF DEATH

Although we all have the thought that at the end of our life will come our death, each day we think, “I will not die today” and “Today too I will not die”. In this way, right up to when we are about to die, our mind holds on to the idea that we are not going to die.

If you do not take to heart an antidote to this, if your mind is obscured by such an idea and you think that you will remain in this life, then you will keep thinking about ways of achieving happiness and eliminating suffering in this life only, thinking, “I need such and such…“

A mind analysing meaningful goals such as future lives, liberation and omniscience will not arise. Thus no opportunity will be created for engaging in Dharma.

Even if you engage in hearing, thinking, and meditating for a hundred years, whatever virtue you do will have little power because it is done for the sake of this life alone. Since you will engage in them in conjunction with faulty behaviour, bad actions, and downfalls, it will be rare for them not to be mixed with the causes of lower rebirths.

Even suppose you were to practice with your focus on the next life, you will not be able to stop the laziness of procrastination that thinks, “I will do it later”. A great joyous effort at practicing properly will not come about, as you while away your time with drowsiness, pointless chatter, and distractions of food, drink, and the like.

Not only that, through putting great effort into the excellences of this life, [48] the mental afflictions and faulty behaviour inducted by them increase, and you turn your back on the nectar of Dharma. Since that leads to the lower rebirths, what could be more inappropriate than that? Four Hundred Stanzas (1.1) states:

When someone sleeps as though at ease,
as though the ruler of the three worlds,
the Lord of Death, did not exist,
what else could be more awful than that?

And Entering the Bodhisattva Way (2.34) says:

Everything must be left behind;
not understanding that this is so,
I did bad actions of all kinds
for the sake of friends and foes.


THE BENEFITS OF CULTIVATING MINDFULNESS OF DEATH

If a genuine mind recollecting death arises, as with most people when they are convinced they will die in the next few days, then even in those with only a little understanding of Dharma, upon seeing that they will be unaccompanied by friends and relatives, their craving for them will naturally be reversed, and they will want to extract the essence of their life by way of giving and so on; and upon seeing that all efforts made for the sake of which worldly concerns as material gain, honour, and so on are futile, they will desist from faulty behaviour.

In such a way, they will accumulate the good karmas of going for refuge, ethics, and so forth, by means of which they will ascend to a holy state and lead sentient beings there too. What is there more meaningful than this this?

That is why it is also praised with many analogies. The Great Final Nirvana Sutra (Mahaparinirvanasutra) says:

Among all plowings of the fields, the plowings in autumn is the best.
Among all footprints, the elephant’s footprints are the best.
Among all perceptions, those of impermanence and death are the best:
they eliminate all the desire, ignorance, and pride of the three realms.

Similarly it is praised as, among other things, a hammer that destroys all mental afflictions and all faulty behaviours at once and as a gateway to the spontaneous accomplishment of all that is virtuous and excellent.

In brief, the time for accomplishing the goals of beings is only at this time when we have gained a special human body. We mostly remain in lower rebirths, and even if we make it to fortunate rebirths just once, they are predominantly places lacking freedom, [49] so that we do not find an opportunity to accomplish the Dharma.

If we gain a body suited to accomplishing the Dharma and still do not accomplish it properly, it is because of this thought of “I am not going to die yet”. Therefore this mind that holds to the position of not dying is the door to all manner of degeneration, whereas mindfulness of death is the door to all excellence.

Therefore do not think, “This is a practice for those who do not have other profound Dharma to meditate on” or “Although it is something to meditate on, it should be meditated on a bit in the beginning, but is not suitable to be practiced continuously”. Meditate on it until you gain certainty from the depths of your heart that it is necessary in the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.


WHAT KIND OF MINDFULNESS OF DEATH SHOULD BE GENERATED

The fear born from anxiety about separating from relatives and the like is the fear of death of those who are not trained in the path. So this is not what is to be generated here. What kind of fear is to be generated? Every physical form taken up through the power of karma and mental affliction does not pass beyond death.

This why – even through you may fear it – you cannot prevent death for the time being. Indeed, you should be afraid of death if you have not stopped the causes of lower rebirths or accomplished the causes for higher states and definite goodness. If you consider your fear about this, there is something you can accomplish so as not to be afraid at the time of dying.

But if you have not accomplished that goal, then you will be tormented by remorse at the time of death out of fear of not being liberated from the cycle of existence in general and of falling to a lower rebirth in particular.


HOW TO CULTIVATE MINDFULNESS OF DEATH

You should meditate on this by way of the three root contemplations, the nine reasons, the three decisions. Here, the three root contemplations are
the contemplation that it is certain that we will die,
the contemplation that it is uncertain when we will die,
and the contemplation that at the time of death nothing except the Dharma will be of benefit.


THE CONTEMPLATION THAT IT IS CERTAIN THAT WE WILL DIE

This has three points:
the contemplation that the Lord of Death will certainly come and there is no way to prevent this,
the contemplation that our lifespan cannot be increased by diminishes incessantly,
and the contemplation that we die without having had much time to practice Dharma while alive.


THE CONTEMPLATION THAT THE LORD OF DEATH WILL CERTAINLY COME AND THERE IS NO WAY TO PREVENT THIS

The Collection of Indicative Verses says that whatever body you have taken up, and wherever you reside, you will be overcome by death at any time. As stated in the Advice to the King Sutra (Rajavavadakasutra), it will come to pass in that way and cannot be averted by fleeing swiftly away or by force, wealth, material substances, mantras, or medicine.

Geshe Kamapa instructed, “You should fear death now, [50] but at the moment of death you must not be apprehensive. We however, do it the other way round: we are not afraid now, but at the moment of death we dig our fingernails into our chests”.


THE CONTEMPLATION THAT OUR LIFESPAN CANNOT BE INCREASED BUT DIMINISHES INCESSANTLY

As the Descent into the Womb Sutra (Garbhavakrantisutra) says, attaining a lifespan of a hundred years seems to be the limit of what is possible. However, even if you reach that, the years until then are consumed with the passing of month after month, day after day, day and night. As they too are consumed with the passing of morning and so on, it seems that much of your lifespan has already finished, and the remainder also diminishes incessantly without anything being added.

Entering the Bodhisattva Way (2.40) says:

Day and night, without respite,
this life decreases constantly.
If nothing comes to add to it,
then how could one like me not die?

In addition, you would contemplate this using many analogies, such as a weaver gradually weaving a cloth, animals for slaughter approaching the slaughterhouse step by step, cattle being led without freedom to their destination by a herder, and so forth. This is also taught with numerous analogies in the Sutra of Extensive Play (Lalitavistarasutra):

The three existences are impermanent, like autumn clouds;
the birth and death of beings are like a dance performance;
the course of a being’s life is like a flash of lighting;
it goes fast, like a steep mountain waterfall.

For someone with certainty arising from inner contemplation, there are no external things that do not demonstrate impermanence. Since this is so, as has been taught, certainty arises if we consider it repeatedly from many angles. There is no benefit in thinking we have contemplated something several times but still not certainty has arisen.

As Geshe Kamapa said, “You say ‘Nothing has come about through my contemplation’. But when did you contemplate? During the day you indulge in distractions; at night you sleep. Don’t lie!”

It is not just that death destroys us at the end of our life and we have to go to the next world. Up until then, also, there is not even a moment when we are not proceeding towards it as our life diminishes. Therefore, ever since we entered the womb, we have been going straight toward a future life without remaining still even for a mere instant.

This being so, our intervening life also wastes away as we are led toward death by its harbingers, disease and aging. So do not rejoice in the view that while alive [51] you abide without moving toward a future life. Had you just fallen from a high cliff and were tumbling through the sky, it would not be time to rejoice simply because you had yet to crash to the ground.

Commentary on Four Hundred Stanzas (Catuhsatakatika) says:

Hero of humanity, beginning from that first night
of entering a womb in this world –
one starts to proceed day by day,
without pausing a step, toward the Lord of Death.


THE CONTEMPLATION THAT WE DIE WITHOUT HAVING HAD MUCH TIME TO PRACTICE DHARMA WHILE ALIVE


Even if we do live for so long, it is inappropriate to think we have time. As state in the Descent into the Womb Sutra, in the beginning, during the first ten years of childhood, it does not occur to us to practice the Dharma, and at the end, during the last twenty years of old age, we do not have the energy to practice the Dharma. During the time in between, sleep snatches away one half, while illness and the like also consumes a lot of time. So there are only a few occasions remaining to practice the Dharma.

Since it is like this, at the time of death all the excellences of this life will only be an object of recollection – like the recollection of a happy experience in a dream after we wake up. Contemplate: “Why delight in the beguiling pleasures of this life if the enemy – death – will certainly come?” With this thought in mind, resolve that you definitely need to practice the Dharma, and reiterate this innermost resolution many times. From Garland of Birth Stories:

Alas, afflicted worldly beings,
your stay is not stable, there is no joy.
Even this water lily’s splendour
will soon be but a memory.


THE CONTEMPLATION THAT IT IS UNCERTAIN WHEN WE DIE

It is certain that death will come sometime between now and a hundred years from now, and within that period it is not certain on which day it will be. Therefore on any day like today, you cannot be certain that you will or will not die.

Even so, your mind should be biased towards the idea of death and you should generate the awareness that thinks “I will die today”.

For if the mind is biased towards the idea of not dying, giving rise to the thoughts “I will not die today,” then you will constantly prepare for continuing in this life and neglect preparing for future lives.

Owing to this, if you are seized by the Lord of Death in the meantime, you will have to die in anguish. But if you prepare to die every day, you will accomplish much that is meaningful for the future – so that even if you do not die, it is good to have done those things, and if your do die, it was all the more necessary. [52]

This topic has three points: the contemplation that the lifespan in this world is uncertain, so the time of death is uncertain; the contemplation that there are many conditions that lead to death and few conditions that promote life; and the contemplation that the body is extremely vulnerable and the time of death therefore uncertain.


THE CONTEMPLATION THAT THE LIFESPAN IN THIS WORLD IS UNCERTAIN, SO THE TIME OF DEATH IS UNCERTAIN

In general the lifespan of the inhabitants of the northern continents (Uttarakuru) is certain, and that of most inhabitants of the other continents is mainly certain, though whether the full extent of each individual’ s lifespan is reached is not so certain. But the lifespan of the inhabitants of this world (Jambudvipa) is extremely uncertain. At the beginning of an eon it reaches an immeasurable number of years, and at the end it reaches a maximum of ten years.

However, nowadays it does not seem certain whether death will occur in old age, in youth, or somewhere in between. The Treasury of Abhidharma (3.78) says:

Here it’s uncertain;
at the end, ten years;
at the beginning, beyond measure.

You should take to heart the fact that your gurus, friends, and so forth have died from sudden internal or external causes of death before reaching the limits of their lifespans. Think over and over again, “I too am subject to this”.


THE CONTEMPLATION THAT THE CAUSES OF DEATH ARE MANY AND THE CAUSES OF LIFE ARE FEW

There are many harmful influences – animate as well as inanimate – that can affect this life. Think deeply about how it is threatened by human beings and nonhuman evil spirits, how certain kinds of animals endanger one’s body and life by harming it in many ways, and how both internal illnesses and external elements can cause harm.

Furthermore, your body must be formed from the four elements, and since these also harm each other by becoming out of balance if they expand or diminish, they will cause illnesses and deprive you of your life. They exist together with you, so even though your body and life appear to be stable, they cannot be relied on. The Great Final Nirvana Sutra says:

The discernment of death is that this life, constantly surrounded by hostile enemies, deteriorates each moment and that there is nothing that increases it.

Precious Garland (4.17) states: [53]

We live amid the conditions that cause death,
like a butter lamp in a tumultuous gale.

Apart from that, life itself is involved in the reality of death so that many conditions for life are unreliable. From Precious Garland (3.79):

There are many conditions for death,
while those for living are only few,
and even they may well be deadly.
Therefore always practice the Dharma.


THE CONTEMPLATION THAT THE BODY IS EXTREMELY VULNERABLE, SO THE TIME OF DEATH IS UNCERTAIN

The body is as vulnerable as a water bubble, therefore any little thing, such as a thorn piercing it, may be responsible for destroying life without the need for major harm. In this way, it very easily succumbs to all the causes of death. Letter to a Friend (v. 57) says:

If not even ashes are left behind
when such bodies as the ground, Mount Meru, and the oceans
are incinerated by the seven blazing suns,
then what need to mention extremely vulnerable humans?

Contemplating in this way, reiterate many times your heartfelt resolve to practice the Dharma from this very moment, for it is uncertain when your body and life will be overcome by death, and you cannot assume that you will still have time. As Sri Jaganmitra Ananda said in Letter to King Candra (Candrarajalekha):

Lord of the Earth! As long as this borrowed body
stays happy without sickness and without decline,
take up the essence of this very life.
Become undaunted by sickness, death, and decline.
One day when faced with sickness, old age, and decline,
you may remember, but what can you do then?

Among the three root contemplations, the contemplation about the uncertainty of the time of death is the most important, so you should put effort into it.

THE CONTEMPLATION THAT AT THE TIME OF DEATH NOTHING EXCEPT THE DHARMA WILL BE OF BENEFIT

When you see that you must go to another life, although you may be surrounded by very loving and distressed friends or relatives at that time, you cannot take even one of them with you. Whatever heaps of marvellous riches you have gained, you cannot take along even a tiny particle of them.

Indeed, if you have to leave behind even the flesh and bones you were born with, what need to talk of anything else? Now you should contemplate. “There will certainly come a time when all the wonderful things of this life leave me, just as I leave them, and I will proceed to another life. This may even happen today”.

Repeatedly make the decision to practice the Dharma and avoid falling under the influence of your body, your friends, your possessions, and so forth. Although this decision arises only with great difficulty, try hard to develop it because it is the foundation of the path. In the words of Potowa: [54]

For me, “exclusion and appearance” consists in this very meditation on impermanence.
Dispelling all the appearances of this life – and aware that I will go to another life alone
without anything, I think, “I must do nothing that is not Dharma,” and nonattachment to
this life first arises. Until this attitude arises in one’s mind, the path to all the Dharma
remain blocked.

And Dolpa said:

If, incidentally, you accumulate the collections
and purify the obstructions, make requests to the
deities and your guru, and contemplate insistently
with perseverance, then even that which you think
will not come about for a hundred years will come
about effortlessly, for conditioned things do not
remain static.

When someone asked Kamapa about moving to another topic, he said, “Repeat the previous one!” When asked about the remaining ones, he said, “There is nothing beyond it”.

Thus, if you understand the way to practice reliance on a spiritual teacher, the freedoms and endowments, and impermanence in the context of the scriptures and their commentaries, and if you then nurture that understanding, you will easily find the intention of the Victor. In this way you will also understand them in other contexts.


THE CONTEMPLATION OF WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN FUTURE LIVES IN TERMS OF THE HAPPINESS AND SUFFERING OF THE TWO TYPES OF PERSONS

Since it is certain that you will die soon, you have no time to tarry in this life. And after death you will not become non-existent; you must take rebirth. Since apart from the two there is no other place of birth, you will be born in either the fortunate rebirths or the lower rebirths. In addition, since you are not under your own control but under the control of something else – your karma – you will be reborn according to the virtuous and non-virtuous karma that impels you.

Contemplate the suffering of the lower rebirths and ask yourself, “What will become of me if I am reborn in the lower rebirths?” Nagarjuna said [in the Hundred Verses on Wisdom (Prajnasataka)]:

Every day recollect the hells, which are
fiercely hot and bitterly cold.
Remember too the hungry ghosts,
emaciated by hunger and thirst.

Observe the animals and recollect
their numerous sufferings of confusion.
Relinquish their causes,
engage in causes of happiness.

Once you have gained what is hard to gain,
a human body in this world,
endeavour to cut the cause of lower rebirths!

Meditation on the sufferings of cyclic existence in general, and on the sufferings of the lower rebirths in particular, is a crucial point. [55] For if you contemplate how you yourself fall into the ocean of suffering, despair will reverse your pride and arrogance. Seeing that suffering is the result of non-virtue, you will be very careful to avoid bad actions and downfalls.

Since you do not want suffering but want happiness, once you realise that happiness is the result of virtue, you will also enjoy accomplishing virtue. In proportion to your own experience, compassion for others will arises, and out of aversion for cyclic existence, you will strive for liberation. For fear of suffering, you will fervently go for refuge and so forth.

These excellent qualities of suffering that comprise many important points of the practice are stated in Entering the Bodhisattva Way in terms of suffering already arisen in one’s own mindstream, though they are equally applicable to suffering one is yet to experience.

Contemplating the sufferings of the lower rebirths has three points: contemplating the sufferings of hell beings, of animals, and of hungry ghosts.


CONTEMPLATING THE SUFFERINGS OF HELL BEINGS

This has four points: the great hells of sentient beings, the neighbouring hells, the cold hells, and the occasional hells.

[…]

You need to understand that the cause giving rise to such suffering is your own faulty behaviour alone. Strive with all your might not to be tainted by even the slightest faulty action. The same text says (v.88):

The seeds of these non-virtuous effects
are your faulty behaviour of body, speech, and mind.
With all your skill make every effort
not to commit even the slightest negative deed.

CONTEMPLATING THE SUFFERINGS OF ANIMALS

The weaker animals are killed by more powerful ones. Having become the chattel of gods and humans, they are not under their own control but under the control of others and lack freedom, which is why they are killed, beaten, and harmed. Levels of Yogic Practice explains that since they occupy the same territory as humans and gods, they have no other place to stay. The Treasury of Abhidharma Autocommentary explains that their primary abode is the vast ocean and that other species evolved from there. They are born in darkness in the water, and there they age and die. Worn out by heavy burdens, they are put to plow, shorn, driven, and killed miserably by many different methods of slaughter. They are tormented by hunger and thirst, sun and wind. They are persecuted by hunters and the like in many ways and are constantly terrified. So you should feel saddened and repulsed when thinking of the many ways in which they suffer.


CONTEMPLATING THE SUFFERING OF HUNGRY GHOSTS

Those dominated by miserliness will be born as hungry ghosts. […]

You should meditate while evaluating such experiences until a change of heart occurs […].

As you think about this now, with your good rebirth, you can purify whatever non-virtue you have accumulated previously and lessen what you might engage in later on. Your intense aspirational prayers will direct the virtue accumulated previously, thereby multiplying it, and open up many avenues for engaging in them anew.

Every day there will be some new way to make your freedom meaningful. If you do not think about this now, then once you have fallen into the lower rebirths, you will not find a refuge that protects you from those fears even if you look for it. At that time you will lack the power of mind to adopt what should be done and discard what should not be done. This is explained in Entering the Bodhisattva Way.



(Continued on Lamrim Chenmo (4) page of this website)