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Prostrations to the 35 Buddhas

The Bodhisattva’s Confession of Ethical Downfalls, Page 3

Thangka image of 35 Buddhas
Purification is also helpful for us spiritually and benefits us in future lives.

Transcribed and lightly edited teaching given at Dharma Friendship Foundation in Seattle, Washington, in January 2000.

2. Rejoicing

With “All Buddhas and transcendent destroyers, please give me your attention,” we begin the second section of the prayer, which concerns rejoicing.

Buddhas and transcendent destroyers, please give me your attention: in this life and throughout beginningless lives in all the realms of samsara, whatever root of virtue I have created through even the smallest acts of charity such as giving one mouthful of food to a being born as an animal, whatever root of virtue I have created by keeping pure ethics, whatever root of virtue I have created by abiding in pure conduct, whatever root of virtue I have created by fully ripening sentient beings’ minds, whatever root of virtue I have created by generating bodhicitta, whatever root of virtue I have created of the highest transcendental wisdom.

Just as before, we begin by reminding ourselves that we need to pay attention to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. “In this life and throughout beginningless lives.” This means the same as before, only now we will talk about all the virtues that we and others have done, are doing, and will do. This encompasses all goodness from beginningless time until the enlightenment of all sentient beings, and that’s a very long time! “In all the realms of samsara.” This seems to indicate all the virtues created by beings in samsara, but I think it can be expanded to include the virtues of the arhats and those bodhisattvas who are no longer in samsara, as well as the Buddhas.

“Whatever root of virtue I have created.” This means all roots of virtues, all actions of body, speech, and mind that create positive potential. Now we list the most prominent things we rejoice in. Although it says “whatever root of virtue I have created,” it actually means all roots of virtue that we and everybody else have created. As long as we’re rejoicing, we might as well rejoice in all the goodness in the world, not just our own. Let’s get into it and rejoice from our heart in an all encompassing way.

The next six listings correspond to the six far-reaching attitudes. “Through even the smallest acts of charity such as giving one mouthful of food to a being born as an animal.” This is the far-reaching attitude of generosity. Giving food to an animal is one example, but it includes all the giving we do to all the sentient beings, as well as giving to the Triple Gem. It also includes giving possessions, our body, and our positive potential. We rejoice at all the different kinds of generosity we and others have engaged in.

By talking about giving food to an animal, it’s emphasizing that we include even small generous actions. I think about this when I feed my cats. I rejoice even at this small thing I do while I’m half asleep in the morning. Sometimes when I’m a little more awake, I’ll remember to think while I feed them, “May I alleviate the hunger of all beings,” and when I’m more mindful, I’ll think, “May I eliminate the spiritual hunger of all beings by teaching them the Dharma in accord with their capacities and dispositions.”

I used to wonder why it says, “to a being born as an animal.” Why doesn’t it just say “giving food to an animal?” I have some ideas. Give this some thought. Why do you think it says “to a being born as an animal?”

“Whatever root of virtue I have created by keeping pure ethics.” This refers to positive potential created by the far-reaching attitude of ethical discipline.

“Whatever root of virtue I have created by abiding in pure conduct.” Pure conduct refers to meditating on the four immeasurables: equanimity, love, compassion and joy. Meditating on the four immeasurables cultivates patience and destroys anger, so that’s how it is related to the far-reaching attitude of patience.

“Whatever root of virtue I have created by fully ripening sentient beings’ minds.” This refers to the far-reaching attitude of joyous effort because through our joyous effort, we ripen other people’s minds. What does it mean to ripen somebody else’s mind? It means to prepare their minds, to help them create positive karma by teaching them how to think when doing virtuous actions. It means to encourage them and provide them with opportunities to put positive imprints in their mind. It includes creating conducive situations so that those positive imprints can ripen. It’s helping people to create good karma, and then helping that good karma to ripen by encouraging them to go to teachings and to do retreats and other virtuous activities. A ripened mind is one immersed in virtue, one receptive to the Dharma. A ripe fruit is delicious and to be savored. So is a ripe mind. A ripe mind can easily approach Buddhahood.

“Whatever root of virtue I have created by generating bodhicitta” is the far-reaching attitude of concentration. Concentration and bodhicitta are correlated here because one of the principle things we want to apply concentration to is the generation of bodhicitta.

“Whatever root of virtue I have created of the highest transcendental wisdom” indicates the far-reaching attitude of wisdom. Although we often associate this far-reaching attitude with the wisdom realizing emptiness, it also includes the wisdom knowing conventionalities, especially the functioning of karma and its effects. A third type of wisdom is the wisdom of benefiting sentient beings. That is, in benefiting others, we must not only be compassionate, but also wise. Idiot compassion doesn’t do anyone much good.

Engaging in the six far-reaching attitudes is one of the causes of a precious human life. And, they are the activities of bodhisattvas that lead to full enlightenment. What makes these six attitudes far-reaching? The far-reaching attitude of generosity, for example, isn’t just ordinary giving. It’s giving with the motivation of bodhicitta. It is far-reaching in that it takes us to the other shore, to a Buddha’s nirvana. It doesn’t ripen simply in samsaric happiness.

We purify our far-reaching attitudes by doing them with awareness of the emptiness of the circle of three (or the three spheres). We as the agent are empty of inherent existence; the action of giving is also empty; the recipient is empty as well. While these all lack inherent existence, they exist dependently, like a reflection. They appear but are empty; they are empty yet appear.

3. Dedication

The great masters recommend three types of supreme dedication, three main things for which we should dedicate. One is for the flourishing of the Buddha’s teachings, because the teachings are the source of all benefit and happiness. “May the Buddha’s teachings exist in a pure form. May they flourish.” In terms of Vinaya, flourishing means the continued existence of monastic communities that do the three practices of bi-monthly confession (so jong), the rains retreat (yarne), and the closing of the rains retreat (gaye). In terms of tantra, flourishing means the continued teaching of the Guhyasamaja Tantra. It’s incredibly important that the teachings flourish and that they exist in a pure form. If they degenerate, then what we learn will degenerate and thus we will not be able to practice properly or gain realizations. The flourishing of the teachings is essential.

Second, we dedicate to always be cared for by a fully qualified guru or spiritual teacher and for those teachers to have good health and long lives. We learn the Dharma through teachers. They give us refuge and precepts; they give us oral transmission; they give us teachings which explain the meaning of the Buddha’s word. They encourage us to practice, answer our questions, point out what we need to work on. Thus we should dedicate to always meet qualified teachers, and not just to meet them but to have a good relationship with them, and to practice according to their instructions. Otherwise, we could meet unqualified teachers, or even when we meet qualified ones, we might criticize them instead of appreciating their good qualities. Or, we may meet them and appreciate them, but not be able to have a good relationship. Also we dedicate for their long lives, because we need our teachers to live long so that they can teach and guide us for a long time. So it’s good to dedicate in this way to prevent obstacles and create conducive circumstances.

Our teachers teach us in a variety of ways. They teach us in formal situations such as a Dharma talk, but they also teach us through their example, how they act in every day life. When we offer service to our teacher, we learn many things through the interaction with them. We see how they handle difficult situations; we observe their compassion and skill in handling people. In addition, they may point out our faults to us. For example, we may get feedback on our behavior and attitude while serving our teacher. “Hmm, looks like you’re angry today.” “You took that food very quickly. What was going on in your mind?” They point things out to us as they occur. This doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does we can learn a lot. Of course, sometimes our egos are bruised in the process!

Third, we dedicate for our own and others’ enlightenment. That’s the ultimate dedication which encapsulates them all. For example, dedicating for full enlightenment implies we also dedicate to have precious human lives so we can continue practicing.

The next paragraph starts the third heap, the heap of dedication. We’ve cleared away the negative; we’ve rejoiced at the positive; and now we’re going to dedicate all that virtue in the best way possible. This outline and the progression it leads us through help develop our mind. If we were just to purify, only thinking of our negative actions, our mind could get unbalanced by focusing on our negativity. It might seem to us that we didn’t do anything right, and that’s an unbalanced state of mind. So as soon as we confess and purify, what do we do? We look at all the positive things that we and others have done and we rejoice in them. In the seven limb prayer also, rejoicing follows confession. Dedication comes at the end, so that we can dedicate the positive potential of these activities.

Bringing together all these merits of both myself and others, I now dedicate them to the highest of which there is no higher, to that even above the highest, to the highest of the high, to the higher of the high. Thus I dedicate them completely to the highest, fully accomplished enlightenment.

That should make our hearts really happy. Here it says, “Bringing together all these merits of both myself and others,” but there’s another translation that says, “All these assembled and gathered, then combined together.” “Assembled” refers to all of our own virtues of the three times collected into a group, “gathered” refers to all of other people’s virtues of the three times collected into a group, and “combined together” brings our own and others’ virtues together in order to dedicate them.

When we dedicate our positive potential “to the highest of which there is no higher,” we dedicate to attain the rupakaya, the form body of the Buddha, the highest form, the way the Buddhas manifest to benefit sentient beings. “To that even above the highest” refers to the dharmakaya, the Buddha’s mind. “To the highest of the high” refers to the enjoyment body or the sambhogakaya which is one type of form body. It is the “highest of the high” because the sambhogakaya is higher than the bodhisattvas on the tenth ground who are already high. And “the higher of the high” is the nirmanakaya or emanation body which is higher than the hearer and solitary realizer arhats and the bodhisattvas in the pure grounds. The nirmanakaya form of the Buddha is the form through which ordinary beings like us can contact enlightened beings. The historical Shakyamuni Buddha was a nirmanakaya.

Just as the Buddhas and transcendent destroyers of the past have dedicated, just as the Buddhas and transcendent destroyers of the future will dedicate, and just as the Buddhas and transcendent destroyers of the present are dedicating, in the same way I make this dedication.

Just as all the Buddhas of the three times—the past, present, and future—dedicated, I’m dedicating. Then the question arises, “How did they dedicate? What did they dedicate for?” If we were a Buddha, what would our mind do when we dedicate merit? Think about it.

Many of Zopa Rinpoche’s dedications have been written down, and reading them will give you an idea of how great bodhisattvas dedicate. They dedicate for incredible, tremendous things, “May all sentient beings immediately be cured from their illness and may no one ever fall ill again.” Even if things seem completely impossible, they dedicate for them anyway. “May all wars cease immediately and may all sentient beings defeat the inner enemy, the self-centered mind and the self-grasping ignorance.” “May all hunger everywhere be satisfied and may sentient beings be nourished by the bliss of the samadhi that realizes the ultimate nature.” “May all sentient beings meet perfectly qualified teachers and have all the conducive conditions for Dharma practice. May they practice diligently and joyfully. May they achieve enlightenment as soon as possible.” Really go for it in your dedications.

Buddhas and bodhisattvas aren’t afraid in their dedication. They aren’t timid. We’re kind of shy and dainty. “I don’t want to be too extravagant, so I’ll just dedicate so that I can be healthy.” That’s a small dedication, isn’t it? So that one person can be healthy in one lifetime. Why not “May all sentient beings be healthy for all lifetimes?” In other words, “May they never be born in contaminated bodies under the influence of afflictions and karma.” Not only do we dedicate for the well-being of all sentient beings, but we also dedicate for the success of whatever virtuous projects we and other people are working on. That’s why Zopa Rinpoche always dedicates for the success of the 500-foot Maitreya Buddha statue in India. That needs a lot of prayers because building that kind of statue in India isn’t easy. I dedicate for the establishment and continuation of Sravasti Abbey, so that it and all the monastics and laypeople who go there may enable the pure Buddhadharma to flourish in our world.

We should dedicate for our Dharma center and for the benefit—temporal and ultimate—of all the people who attend teachings in our center, all those who teach there, all those who volunteer service and organize events, and all those who are its benefactors. Also, “May our Dharma center become a place where the pure Dharma is taught and where people feel at home in the Dharma. May the community there always be harmonious, and may people always support each other in practice.” Dedicate for the individuals there and express your appreciation to your Dharma friends. “May all the volunteers be able to practice Dharma without hindrance. May all the benefactors quickly attain enlightenment. May all our teachers’ virtuous projects be successful without any obstacles whatsoever.” Dedicate for the ideal Dharma center and community that you want.

Think of the people from whom you’ve received direct help in the Dharma and dedicate for the benefit of those people. You can also dedicate for your family and for the families of all the Dharma students. Instead of waiting for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries, to dedicate for our families, think of everybody’s family and continuously dedicate for their temporal and ultimate peace and happiness.

Dedicate so that all sentient beings who are miserable may be free from their misery. “May the sick be healed; may the hungry and thirsty find food and drink. May those who are lonely find love and may they open their hearts with love to others. May those who are angry be able to let go of their hatred and resentment.”

How do Buddhas and bodhisattvas dedicate? They see that themselves, as the one who’s dedicating, the positive potential that’s getting dedicated, the enlightenment they’re dedicating for, and the sentient beings who will benefit from this enlightenment as empty of inherent existence. By having this awareness of emptiness when dedicating, our positive potential cannot be destroyed by anger and wrong views. When we dedicate for enlightenment, our positive potential won’t be exhausted until enlightenment is attained, and not even after that! Our positive potential becomes firm and stable then.

Dedicating with an understanding of emptiness is important for it prevents us from regarding our positive potential as inherently existent. Instead, we realize that it’s dependent on causes and conditions, dependent on parts, and dependent on mental labeling. It wouldn’t be positive potential if there weren’t anyone who created it and there weren’t enlightenment that it could bring as a result. It’s only positive potential because it leads to happiness and peace. It’s not inherently positive. Being mindful of the understanding of the interdependence of things is a good way to seal our dedications. That’s one of the ways in which the Buddhas of the past, present, and future dedicate.

Audience: Practically speaking, what does it mean to see our positive potential as inherently existent? What is the disadvantage of doing this?

VTC: When I lived in Singapore, one man requested me to teach him how to meditate. I did, and at the end I said, “Now let’s dedicate our positive potential to benefit all sentient beings.” He looked at me with shock and a little horror and said, “I have so little positive potential. I don’t want to dedicate it and give it away to everybody else.” The way he said this was both sweet and pitiful at the same time. He valued the creation of positive potential, which is good, but he was afraid to share it. Why was that? Because he regarded his positive potential and himself as inherently existent and solid. “Here’s this finite bit of positive potential that is real. It is mine. It is inherently mine and inherently positive, and I don’t want to give it up.”

This is a limited attitude, isn’t it? He was clinging to “I” and “mine,” even when it came to something involving Dharma, such as creating positive potential (merit). With this type of attitude, we don’t fully dedicate, and thus our positive potential won’t ripen in the vast and limitless form that it will when we dedicate it for our own and others’ enlightenment.

Also, if we see our positive potential as inherently existent, it’s easy to become arrogant about it. “I’ve accumulated all this positive potential. It’s on my mindstream.” Such conceit blocks our spiritual progress. We could become egotistical thinking we’re so spiritually advanced. With pride spiritual advancement is difficult.


The next part of the prayer is the rest of the seven limbs.

I confess all my negative actions separately and rejoice in all merits. I implore all the Buddhas to grant my request that I may realize the ultimate, sublime, highest transcendental wisdom.

Actually, of the seven limbs, the first two, prostrations and offerings, we did when we recited the names of the 35 Buddhas and bowed down. Offering is offering of homage and respect to them. Then, we confess all of our negative actions separately. When we say separately, it means every single one of them, not glossing over some of them but identifying each one of them, each individual one of them we’re confessing. We’ve already confessed a lot of things, and here we confess again.

“I rejoice in all merits.” We have already rejoiced in our own and others’ merit or positive potential, but here we rejoice again. There’s no harm in repeating ourselves when we’re saying something virtuous and beneficial!

“I implore all the Buddhas to grant my request.” Implore means that we’re requesting the Buddhas to turn the Dharma wheel which is the antidote to our having abandoned the Dharma in the past. Abandoning the Dharma is a heavy negative action, so it’s important that we continually request teachings. Abandoning Dharma includes many things, for example, losing our refuge. People take refuge and then they abandon the Dharma when they’re attracted to another spiritual tradition and take refuge in it. This happens all the time, especially in the West. Abandoning the Dharma also includes making up our own interpretation or philosophy and then teaching it as if it were the actual Buddhadharma. In other words, we misunderstand the Dharma and teach our wrong beliefs and personal opinions to others as if they were the Buddha’s word. It’s not too hard to do this. For example, there may be some part of the Dharma that we don’t especially like, that doesn’t fit our personal preference, or that we don’t agree with. Then we just say that the Buddha didn’t teach that or even if he did, he didn’t really mean that. It really means this which, of course, matches our opinion and makes us feel more comfortable. We abandon the Dharma when we don’t explain it properly, because we’ve abandoned the real meaning of the Dharma. That’s detrimental to others and to our own practice.

We can see why requesting teachings is the antidote to abandoning the Dharma, because by listening to teachings and then thinking and meditating on them, we’ll learn the correct meaning—the Buddha’s actual intent—and will thus be able to practice it correctly and share it with others. So that’s the meaning of implore.

“Grant my request” is the limb of requesting our teachers and the Buddhas and bodhisattvas not to pass away but to remain until the end of cyclic existence. This is the antidote to negative actions committed in relation to our spiritual mentors. Our spiritual mentors play an important role in our life and in our Dharma practice. They teach us the Dharma, answer our questions, encourage us, and inspire us with their example. Without them, understanding the Dharma would be difficult; we can only get so much from books. We need guidance from a live human being. Because of the help they give us, our Dharma teachers are powerful objects with whom we create karma. We can create much good karma through making offerings, servicing, respecting, helping and just generally having a positive attitude toward our spiritual mentors. Or we can create a heap of negative karma by being critical and angry with them. Asking them not to pass away but to remain reminds us of their importance in our lives. In this way, it helps us to purify those actions created with our spiritual master and to re-establish a conducive and appropriate relationship with them.

Purifying these kinds of negativities is important, because if we don’t, we’ll experience many obstacles in our practice in this and future lives. Either we won’t meet teachers or we’ll meet unqualified teachers. Or, perhaps we’ll meet wrong paths or we won’t appreciate the genuine teachings and teachers when we meet them. Abandoning the Dharma and angrily rejecting our teachers create the cause to have these kinds of obstacles in our Dharma practice. If we think about the state of mind one would have when doing these actions, we can understand why they bring about the results they do. On the other hand, if we regularly recite and contemplate the seven limb prayer, we will stop those obstacles and create causes so that in future lives we can easily meet qualified teachers, have good relations with them, and have good conditions to practice.

We can see the advantage of doing this when we see people around us who don’t seem able to find a teacher or a tradition that suits them. They go from one teacher to the next and one tradition to the next. They somehow can’t meet anything that clicks with them. They definitely have some link with the Dharma but can’t get into any serious practice because the mind can’t settle down on something and stick to it. This is an obstacle in practice, isn’t it?

When we see other people having this difficulty, let’s recall that we could just as easily have that same hindrance. So let’s stop ourselves now from creating the causes to have such hindrances in the future. Let’s aspire and dedicate so that we can meet a fully qualified teacher, an excellent tradition, and a group of practitioners that correspond to our interests and dispositions.

I find it helpful to look at the interferences others have, think about the karma that could have created them, and then determine to abandon those actions myself. “I don’t want to have that kind of result. If I have done actions in the past that would cause this, I really regret them.” Then we do the four opponent powers to purify.

Similarly, rather than being jealous of others’ good opportunities, we should think of what karmic causes they created to have those and then try to create them too. If we want to have the excellent qualities we see in others, then let’s investigate their causes and create them. We won’t become Buddhas simply by praying “May I have wisdom and compassion and be enlightened.” We have to create the causes by purifying and creating positive potential and by cultivating wisdom and compassion now.

Sometimes we see or hear about things going on in the Buddhist community or with our Dharma friends that distress us. Maybe we see people who call themselves Buddhists but they’re doing things that we find off the wall. Or we meet people who have huge mental or physical obstacles in their practice. I’m using other people as an example but the point is we have to look at our own hindrances and to recognize that these came about due to the karma we created. The Wheel of Sharp Weapons and Geshe Lhundrup Sopa’s book Peacock in the Poison Grove go into detail about which kinds of actions lead to which kinds of results. When we see others suffering on the news, think of the kinds of actions that bring those results and think, “I’ve probably done that same thing in past lives. I don’t want to have that hindrance in the future. There’s no reason for me to be arrogant and smug because I have good conditions now because if I have this karma in my mindstream, I could be in a worse condition than these people in a future life. Therefore, I regret anything I’ve done to create those results and now I’m going to try to act constructively so that I can have good conditions to practice in the future.” The point is: instead of looking at things and feeling disheartened or depressed by what others are doing or experiencing, understand it in terms of karma. Then use that understanding to improve your own actions and practice.

For example, there is a big controversy regarding the Karmapa at present, because two boys have been recognized as the reincarnation of the Sixteenth Karmapa. Various people have bad feelings and are criticizing others; there has been some physical fighting as well. Some people’s minds have gotten carried away by the politics of the situation.

Instead of thinking, “These people are Buddhists. How can they act like that?” think, “This is due to karma and who knows if I have those seeds to be like that myself? I’m not so holy and pure that I don’t get involved in politics.” Maybe you’re involved in politics in the office where you work. It’s the same kind of mind, isn’t it? Then think, “I don’t want to do this in my office. I don’t want to do this in Buddhism. I don’t want to get into factions and compete or contest against others. I don’t want to bring that kind of headache to other people and I don’t want to make other people lose faith in me. I confess anything I have done that could make my mind takes an interest in factionalized politics, I don’t want to do that again.” Make a determination to cultivate equanimity and do your own practice rather than get swept away with who’s doing this and that and taking sides in others’ controversies. Generate a heart of love and compassion for all beings, especially those who have this hindrance. In this way, we use the situations we see in the world around us to help us develop the motivation to purify and a strong sense of our own integrity and ethical discipline.

To the sublime kings of the human beings living now, to those of the past, and to those who have yet to appear, to all those whose knowledge is as vast as the infinite ocean, with my hands folded in respect, I go for refuge.

“The sublime kings of the human beings” refers to the Buddhas. It doesn’t mean a political or military king; it means a spiritual king. For example Shakyamuni Buddha was an exceptional human being. Those “living now” are the Buddhas of our present age. “Those of the past, and to those who have yet to appear” refers to the Buddhas of the past and future. “To all those whose knowledge is as vast as the infinite ocean, with my hands folded in respect, I go for refuge.” The Buddhas’ knowledge—their omniscient minds—is as vast as the infinite ocean. We put our palms together in respect and with trust and confidence in them, we go for refuge and entrust our spiritual guidance to them.

This practice is very beautiful and incredibly powerful. As we do it, many things may come up in our mind. We begin to review our life. It’s much better to do this now than six days before we die, or six minutes before we die. We examine our life, purify what needs to be purified, rejoice at what needs to be rejoiced at, apologize to and forgive those who need to be apologized to and forgiven. In this way, we will be at peace with our life, so whatever happens and whenever we should happen to die, we will be peaceful and without regrets.

While doing this practice, sometimes memories of past events will arise. Take this chance to re-evaluate them. Look at them in terms of the Dharma. We can reexamine situations regarding which we might still have a lot of confused emotions. We may not be sure if what we did was right or wrong. Our motivation during that time may not have been clear to us. These things come up when we purify and it’s important to look at them when they arise. It’s a wonderful opportunity to clean up our lives, to make peace with the past, to free ourselves from past psychological baggage, and to go ahead in life with joy.

We might think when painful or confused memories arise that we’re doing something wrong. “My mind is so negative. All I’m doing is thinking about how nasty I was to people when I was 15. I’m not doing the practice right.” This is incorrect. This stuff is supposed to come up, because when it comes up, we have the chance to see it, understand it better, and clear it out. So don’t be alarmed when this happens.

At the end, after prostrating while reciting the Buddhas’ name and the prayer of the three heaps, imagine the 34 Buddhas melt into light and dissolve into Shakyamuni Buddha in front of us. If we’re doing this as part of another practice, such as the Chenresig practice, Lama Chopa (Guru Puja), or Jorcho, then Shakyamuni dissolves back into the central figure of the field of positive potential (merit field). Then Shakyamuni Buddha (or the central figure of the field of positive potential) comes on top of our head. He melts into light and dissolves into us. Think that your body, speech, and mind become inseparable from the Buddha’s enlightened body, speech, and mind. That light of the Buddha permeates your entire body/mind, and think that your body, speech, and mind have been transformed into the Buddha’s body, speech, and mind. Let yourself feel that way. Think, “Now, I’ve purified all my negative karmic imprints. My mind has been transformed.” The more we’re able to think and feel this, the stronger the purification will be.

You may wonder, “But have I really purified all my negative karma?” Probably not! We have a lot of karmic seeds clogging our mindstream, so we have to keep purifying. However, part of the purification is to stop clinging to what Lama Yeshe called our “poor quality view” of ourselves. Instead of hanging onto old views of yourself, “I still have a ton of negative stuff with me. I’m such a negative person,” try to feel what it would be like not to have that self-image. Get into that feeling. Thus we imagine what it would feel like to have purified all negative karmic imprints. We imagine what it would feel like for our mind to have been transformed into a Buddha’s mind, a mind of full wisdom and bodhicitta. This greatly contributes to the actual purification that occurs.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.