Gomchen Lamrim review: The causes for taking refuge
Gomchen Lamrim review: The causes for taking refuge
- The importance of thinking about the possibility of an unfortunate rebirth
- Guided meditation on the causes for taking refuge and the qualities of the Three Jewels
- Start by contemplating the words of Je Rinpoche:
Since it is certain that you will die soon, you cannot remain in this life. Furthermore, you will be reborn in either a happy place or a miserable place because there is no birthplace other than these two types of beings. Since you are controlled by your karma and cannot choose where you will be reborn, you will be reborn in the manner in which your virtuous and non-virtuous karma impel you to be reborn. This being the case, contemplate the suffering of the miserable realms, thinking, ‘how would it be if I were born in a miserable realm?’
- Contemplate the suffering of the realms (as a metaphor, if that’s more beneficial for your mind)
- Hell realms: The hells are characterized by the suffering of intense heat or intense cold. Imagine having a mind that is completely overwhelmed with rage. Angry words are heard, having a feeling of being under constant threat. Imagine how it would feel to experience constant physical pain, your mind filled with rage, terror, trapped in this state with no way out, no relief. Imagine having a body as big as a mountain and every atom experiences excruciating suffering. Realize that you must experience these sufferings until the force of the karma is exhausted. Feeling how unbearable it is, generate compassion for all the living beings who are undergoing such intense misery. Open your heart to everyone experiencing this right now.
- Hungry ghost realm: It’s a rebirth characterized by intense craving, but no satisfaction. Physical sufferings of hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and fatigue overwhelm the mind from seeking and seeking and seeking satisfaction. And the mind is filled with fear. Imagine being born with a body with a huge, insatiable belly and a tiny throat that can’t allow anything in. Being in an arid place of famine where you couldn’t find anything to go in anyway. The addictive, craving mind, unable to fill its desire, even for survival. How would it feel? Realize that you must experience these sufferings until the force of the karma is exhausted. Feeling how unbearable it is, generate compassion for all the living beings who are undergoing such intense misery. Open your heart to everyone experiencing this right now.
- Animal realm: This birth is characterized by overwhelming, undiscriminating ignorance and stupidity. These beings experience being eaten by others, usually eaten alive. Having to kill and eat others in order to stay alive. Again, suffering from heat and cold, hunger and thirst. Exploited by humans and made to work. A victim of human environmental degradation. Try this on in different forms (sea creature, cockroach, jackal, Abbey turkey). How does it feel to be a mouse with an owl swooping down, catching you in its claws? How does it feel to be so ignorant that you don’t know you are eating another living being? Realize that you must experience these sufferings until the force of the karma is exhausted. Feeling how unbearable that is, generate compassion for all the living beings who are undergoing such intense misery. Open your heart to everyone experiencing this right now.
- Human realm: Imagine being reborn as a human being but without the full set of eight freedoms and ten fortunes of a precious human rebirth… Imagine being born as a human being, being destitute, not having enough to eat or adequate shelter. Imagine being born as a human being in a place where there is constant and continual warfare, overwhelmed by fear, struggling to survive. Imagine being born as a human being with defective senses or mental development, or in a place where there is no possibility for education. Imagine being born as a human being, reasonably healthy, but with no access to the Dharma: no books in your language, no teachers, no practice community, no support whatsoever. Realize that you must experience these sufferings until the force of your karma is exhausted. Feeling how unbearable that is, generate compassion for all the living beings who are undergoing such intense misery. Open your heart to everyone experiencing this right now.
- With that in mind, let’s reflect on the qualities of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha:
- The Buddha is the completely purified and fully developed one, the one who is free of all fear, skilled in the methods to free others, whose compassion encompasses every living being.
- Reflect on what we know are the good qualities of the Dharma: it protects us from suffering, it is the path to liberation and full awakening. Think, how does it protect us from suffering?
- Reflect on the good qualities of the Sangha: the arya beings who have direct realization of the Buddha’s teaching on the nature of reality and whose progress on the path inspires us and encourages us. Think of their good qualities and take refuge…
- Je Rinpoche guides us to complete our meditation by reflecting in this way:
After you have ascertained these things and entrust yourself to the three jewels with a single-pointed focus, develop this certainty from the depths of your heart, for once you are able to do this, they cannot fail to protect you. This is so because there are two causes of your being protected: an external cause and an internal cause. The teacher, the Buddha, has already fully realized the external factor, but you suffer because you have not yet developed the internal factor in trusting yourself to the refuge. Therefore, know that the Buddha, moved by his great compassion, assists you even if you do not request his help. He is not lazy at this and he, the unrivaled and auspicious refuge, abides as your personal protector.
Venerable Thubten Chonyi
Ven. Thubten Chonyi is a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She has studied with Sravasti Abbey founder and abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron since 1996. She lives and trains at the Abbey, where she received novice ordination in 2008. She took full ordination at Fo Guang Shan in Taiwan in 2011. Ven. Chonyi regularly teaches Buddhism and meditation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane and, occasionally, in other locations as well.