Lo Jong
Teaching by Lama Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
January 10, 2000, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Second preliminary practice is the reality of death that comes suddenly and without warning. This is the reality. Also to remind ourselves death can come any time. That is the reality. One of the questions I asked at the oral exam, I said, "What will you do if you find out that you are going to die within ten days or two weeks? As a Dharma person, what will you do? Or what will I do, and what sort of practice or preparation." We don't have much time left and we have to do things quickly, very quickly. So, again, meditate on death and dying. And this is very important preliminary practice and foundation practice.

And also we experience the death and dying is happening all the time, around us all the time. Normally you turn on television or you read the newspaper, always there's a war going in Chechnya and somewhere in the east part of the world, or right in front of us there's an accident and murders and all these things happening all the time. So we could be one of the casualties, and our friends and family members and parents or grandparents are dying because of old age and sickness and so forth. So we need to learn how to deal with it. This is the reality. We cannot avoid. So that's also one of the foundation of Lo Jong practice.

So, see, the more we have understanding of the preciousness of human rebirth and the death and dying, then that helps our Lo Jong practice. That makes our Lo Jong practice more powerful. See, then we realize, "This is why I would like to train my mind; I would like to practice Lo Jong."

Then the third preliminary practice is the entrapment of karma, entrapment of the karma. And whatever we do, whether virtuous or not, whether we do virtuous practice or non-virtuous practice, there is all this karmic trap and the entrapment of karma. We are creating karma all the time. Whatever we do we never stop creating karma. So of course when we do non-virtuous things we create non-virtuous karma, but when we create virtuous karma, also when we practice virtuous Dharma, we create karma.

A lot of times the Dharma practice doesn't become Dharma. Sometimes it becomes what we call in Sanskrit adamma. Because our motivation is not pure, and so we try to practice Dharma; then our ego takes over and Dharma practice becomes polluted, impure Dharma practice. Then it becomes cause of samsara, what we call "Eight Worldly Dharmas." According Kadampa tradition, we talk about eight worldly Dharmas, so it is not a pure Dharma. Again it's become a kind of cause of samsara, and spiritual or religious practice becomes samsaric cause and its motivation is not pure, or if we don't have an understanding of shunyata, emptiness.

So then the karmic, the chain of karma is still there. And then it goes on, goes on. This whole twelve dependent links [Sanskrit words]. We are in this ring, like a boxing ring, and in this ring we keep boxing all the time, keep punching all the time, kicking all the time. And we got all these bruises everywhere and still kicking and punching. And so as long as we cannot break this karmic chain, we still come back to this samsara. Even we practice Dharma in this life, and next life we still come back to samsara. And the life after next still in samsara, and so it goes on. Cycle is there. So therefore we need to break this cycle, this ongoing cycle, vicious cycle.

Like in life, for example in this life we have so many different cycles. We go through cycle of life, right? People suffer; people suffer due to abuse and poverty and injustice, discrimination, racism and so on and so forth. We go through this cycle of poverty, lack of education and injustice and discrimination. Goes on, cycle, sort of never-ending cycle. We suffer a lot. And also our own mind goes through this cycle. So like that, life after life, life after life we go through this cycle and we're stuck in the samsara again. We're trapped in the samsara. We are like a rat in the cage; like a packrat sitting in the life-cage, and try to get out, and hungry and thirsty and cold and trapped. And same time we suffer. So meditating on karma, how to purify karma, how to break this karmic cycle. So this is the third foundation practice, or preliminary practice.

And the way to do this, the way to break this cycle of samsara and cycle of karma is to meditate and to practice Lo Jong, and practice two kinds of bodhicitta. Right from the beginning of Lo Jong talks about ultimate bodhicitta and conventional bodhicitta, relative bodhicitta. Ultimate bodhicitta, meditation on ultimate bodhicitta is also meditation on shunyata. So the wisdom of shunyata, wisdom of actualizing shunyata, will cut the defilement, purify the defilement, the delusions of the mind. And the mind becomes pure and clear so that we could then break this cycle. Then we are always aware about our mind and our actions of the body and speech, and our mind. So then we create less and less and less karma, and we purify the karmas of the past. So slowly we are purifying the karmas of the past and less and less creating the new karma. So this way then we slowly cut this wheel, and then one point then we'll cut that completely. When you have direct perception of shunyata and experience ultimate bodhicitta, and also relative bodhicitta. Then we can break the cycle of samsara. So this is why we practice Lo Jong.

And then there's the fourth preliminary practice. That is also meditate on the suffering, the intensity of the suffering and inevitability of suffering and dissatisfaction of ourselves and others. So we see sentient beings suffering intensely, always. There's so much war, famine and physical suffering, mental suffering. And these sufferings are inevitable, and it's happening right now, suffering and dissatisfaction. And we are suffering, other people are suffering. And we study, learn how to help, how to liberate, how to give some kind of relief and protection and refuge from this suffering. So in order to give some relief, protection and refuge we need to know what is the suffering. If you don't know suffering you don't know how to help. You don't know how to provide path to cessation of the suffering. So we meditate on it. Then when you see the suffering of myself and all sentient beings and deeply, then it gives you great courage to practice Lo Jong.

We must not pretend that we don't have suffering. Some people say, "Oh, Buddhist people are so pessimistic, always talking about suffering. Four Noble Truths all the time, suffering, suffering, endless suffering. We already have suffering, we don't need to talk about this thing any more." Well, yes we are suffering, there's no doubt. But we also need to talk about. Buddhists are, I'd say they're not pessimistic. Buddhism is realistic, not pessimistic. Realistic -- the sufferings are real. Buddhism is reality. So therefore we talk. So these are the foundation practice, preliminary practice.

So now, we don't have much time, I go into the Lo Jong itself. I go through the text a little bit.

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