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The purpose of this meditation is to generate a very strong fear of rebirth in the lower realms, and then to meditate on this wish in the light of our refuge practice.
I began the meditation by thinking about how the causes to be reborn in hell are easily created. Swatting a mosquito out of anger is the cause of taking a lower rebirth, so it is easy to create these causes.
I imagined six travelators moving towards six doors. When I die I will find myself on one of these travelators moving towards a doorway to one of the six realms. The three doors on the right were to the higher realms – the ones on the left, the lower realms.
Only one being was travelling on the rightmost one, to the God realm. Two or three were on the next one, to the Demi-God realm. A few more going towards the next door, to the Human realm. Lots going to the Animal realm. Huge numbers going to the realm of Hungry Ghosts. But most shocking was the number on the travelator to the Hell realm. It was packed with millions of beings. I could hear the screams as they passed through the door. Then I realised I was on that travelator too. I passed though the door and felt cold fear in my blood. Then I imagined every fibre of my being was suddenly wracked in pain as I crossed the threshold. It was so intense I was paralysed – I could not move or think – I could not do anything. Every microsecond of experience was saturated with pain.
I took a step back and reminded myself that this is not real, but it will be unless I obtain protection from rebirth in the lower realms.
I then thought of my refuge practice. Refuge practice is the actual protection from rebirth in the lower realms. I felt like I was running for my life towards the Three Jewels, to throw myself at their feet and beg them to help me. I felt like I needed to go completely for refuge and purify my negative karma as quickly as possible.
Will it be enough to purify all my negative karma before I die? I don’t know. All I can do is go for refuge as strongly as possible, purify as strongly as possible and see where it gets me. Then I realised that there is nothing to worry about. As Shantideva says, if there is something you can do about a problem, there is no reason to be upset. If I go as strongly as possible for refuge, I can do no more – why worry?
I felt a calmness and tranquility, but also a feeling of being ‘clamped’ to the Three Jewels, so strong was my wish for protection. I stayed with this feeling of being clamped to the Three Jewels for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings use fear of rebirth in the lower realms to generate a sincere and strong wish to go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and by so doing become enlightened beings for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will remain mindful of the sufferings of the lower realms and remember also that I could die at any moment, and these experiences (which I normally assume are in the very distant future) could come to me tomorrow, or even today.
The purpose of this meditation is to encourage us to develop the wish to liberate ourselves from the sufferings of future lives.
I began the meditation by recalling what Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says in his recent book, Modern Buddhism. He recounts the words of the Buddha: ‘You should know sufferings’. When Buddha said this, he was referring to the sufferings of future lives. Knowing the sufferings of future lives, we will generate a strong wish to liberate ourself from them. This practical advice is important for everyone, because if we have this strong wish, we will use our human life for the happiness and freedom of future lives.
I contemplated the sufferings of beings in general in the six realms of samsara. Animals suffer ignorance and incredible abuse, used as they are for food, labour and entertainment. I thought of a deer with its leg trapped in a rock. Its fellow deer would just look on uncomprehendingly. The deer will slowly starve to death in the midst of food – how tragic. Hungry ghosts suffer thirst and hunger for aeons, where the only water is tears. The bodies of hell beings in the hot hells become inseparable from fire so that the only way others can distinguish them from fire is by their agonised screams. Those reborn as gods suffer mental pain despite their good conditions. And finally humans experience many sufferings including birth, sickness, ageing and death.
I thought through all these sufferings – especially the sufferings of animals, and gradually developed a wish to rise above the sufferings of samsara. I wanted to become separate from this never ending cycle of suffering.
I recognised that this was the wish to attain liberation from samsara, and I kept this feeing of wishing to be free for the rest of the meditation. I slowly gathered more and more momentum in the wish until it seemed that I wanted to leave samsara with every fibre of my being. I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings develop renunciation, the wish to liberate themselves from the sufferings of future lives, and through this wish go on to attain enlightenment.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to maintain the continuum of renunciation, and recognise in all my experiences the inherent suffering within them.
The purpose of this meditation is to generate a feeling of joy that we have relieved the suffering from all living beings, and that we ourselves have become free from suffering.
I began the meditation by considering my previous meditations. I recalled that all living beings have been very kind to me in the past, and I remembered my feelings of affectionate love for them. I then recalled that they are all unhappy and experiencing various degrees of suffering. I remembered my wish that they should all be free from their suffering – my Compassion.
I then turned to the matter at hand – what am I going to do about it?
I brought all living beings into my view, and I strongly imagined all their sufferings and problems rising out of them in the shape of black smoke. This smoke came over to me and I took it into my own heart. The living beings were free from their crushing suffering. They felt true relief from their suffering, and I felt it too. I focussed on the black smoke and felt it dissolving into my heart where is destroyed my self-cherishing mind: the cause of all my own suffering.
I repeated this process specifically for the beings of the realms of samsara. With each in-breath I took their suffering.
I brought out the black smoke of suffering of blazing heat from the beings in the hot hells.
I brought out the black smoke of suffering of freezing cold from the beings in the cold hells.
I brought out the black smoke of suffering of hunger and thirst from all the hungry ghosts in their wastelands.
I brought out the black smoke of suffering of fear and confusion from all animals.
I brought out the black smoke of suffering of not finding satisfaction from all human beings.
I brought out the black smoke of suffering of anger and jealousy from all demi gods.
I brought out the black smoke of suffering of not being able to find permanent peace from all gods.
I brought out the suffering of all beings in the bardo, so that their next rebirth would be in a pure land.
I brought all these sufferings out and into my heart, and understood that these beings were free from suffering. Free from their suffering now, and free from all future suffering, because the black smoke is all their current suffering and the causes of their future suffering. I took the lot. It dissolved into my heart and destroyed my self-cherishing mind.
We were all free from suffering. We were all free to stretch and flourish.
I let this knowledge grow and grow in my mind, along with my cherishing love for these beings. I felt a vast and profound joy rising in my mind, filling my mind. I stayed with this feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings engage in the practice of taking, and through their accumulation of merit come to be able to take on the actual suffering of others by achieving enlightenment quickly.
May Andrea be reborn in a pure land, and attain enlightenment quickly for the sake of all living beings.
Practice in the meditation break
I will mount taking and giving on the breath and take all the sufferings and problems of others into my heart, and destroy my self-cherishing mind.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop the sincere and spontaneous wish to abandon samsara and attain permanent liberation from suffering.
I began the meditation by thinking about the various sufferings we face as humans. The sufferings involved in birth, ageing, sickness and death. Also the sufferings of being parted from what we like, having to encounter what we do not like, and the failure to satisfy our wishes.
I thought specifically about the sufferings of birth – the pain of our body growing inside the womb; the crushing feeling as we get bigger, and the discomfort and pain of being born. Then the pain of being outside our protective womb, the harshness of the outside world. And also the fear and confusion of not understanding what is happening.
I looked at this as an example of all the sufferings I experience, and realised that all these sufferings have one cause – my human rebirth in samsara. The only way these sufferings will end is if I can break out of samsara, and attain liberation.
I pictured myself stepping out of samsara, and rising up and away from the Wheel of Life, to stand by Buddha on his cloud. I was completely free from all suffering, and looked down on the six realms of samsara laid out before me. It felt very peaceful and tranquil. I focused on this feeling and the recognition that I need to attain renunciation for samsara before this can happen.
May all living beings recognise the true cause of their suffering and develop renunciation for samsara, and attain enlightenment for the sake of all living beings.
Practice in the meditation break
I will try to make a note of my sufferings today, from gross physical and mental pain to subtle aches and itches. I will try to remember that these are just examples of the unbearable sufferings in other parts of samsara, and develop sincere and continuous renunciation for samsara.