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Avoiding rebirth in the lower realms

The text turns to reflecting on the impermanence of this life and generating concern for future rebirths. Part of a series of teachings on the Gomchen Lamrim by Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa. Visit Gomchen Lamrim Study Guide for a full list of contemplation points for the series.

  • The meditation on imagining our own death helps us to prepare for death and die well
  • Reflecting on future rebirths and the possibility of being born in a lower realm
  • The purpose of reflecting on possible rebirth in the lower realms is not to make us panic but to help us make wise decisions about what kind of causes we want to create in this life
  • Verses from Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds give guidance on using our opportunity to generate bodhicitta and refrain from destructive actions
  • The causes for taking refuge and meditating to deepen our refuge

Gomchen Lamrim 15: Avoiding a lower rebirth (download)

Contemplation points

  1. Imagine finding out you have a terminal diagnosis. Who would you want to tell and not tell? What would you do to prepare for your death? Who do you need to forgive and what do you need to purify? What do you want to do with the time you have left in this life?
  2. Contemplate the suffering of a hell being, a hungry ghost and an animal. What is the purpose of having an awareness of the suffering of the lower realms?
  3. According to Chapter 2 of Shantideva, what is the danger of not thinking about death? What karma have you created to acquire the pleasures of this life? In light of all this, how do you want to move forward?
  4. We get so distracted with the Eight Worldly Concerns that we don’t remember to contemplate death. What reminders can you employ in your daily life to reflect on the impermanence of your life?
  5. What kinds of things prevent you from your Dharma aspirations? What do you spend time on instead of practicing the Dharma?
  6. Why does thinking about death and the potential for the lower realms lead us to refuge?
  7. What are the three causes of refuge and why might creating these causes lead to deeper refuge?
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.