Final Q&A with Geshe Michael
Hi this is Michael Roach and I just wanted to say first of all, congratulations for finishing the LamRim course! It was a long course. And I don’t know, we were lucky that all of us had to stay in our houses. I’ve been in my house for maybe almost two months. And I haven’t really gone out, so I’m not even going to the Sedona College to film there so I’m filming this at home. And boy, it’s been a long retreat, and I don’t know about you, but for me it was kind of a good chance to have a retreat. To be honest like you guys I didn’t do perfect. I didn’t meditate all day, I also I ate a lot of ice cream and gained weight; and looked at some Netflix every day, but in general it was a very wonderful time.
And very lucky time that we could have to have this Lam Rim retreat with each other at home. And mainly I would like to thank all of the people who helped–almost a hundred people! Over a hundred people have helped to make this Lam Rim retreat possible. The Big Chief is Tim Lowenhaupt in Sedona, Arizona and executive director of ACI and he worked so so hard, so you guys you should all send him some kind of thanks and congratulations. And he really organized everybody, he had all the ideas for how to do this thing. And he did an amazing job, truly an amazing job! And it’s helped people all over the world. So I’m very very grateful to him. And I’m grateful to all of the people, translators, and other people who worked around the world. As I said, I think it’s over 100 volunteers, who helped make this Lam Rim available around the world. And I got wonderful comments from people, I got wonderful emails from many many people. So thank you for that. Thank you for doing the Lam Rim.
We were lucky I think, that the subject of the Lam Rim was talking about impermanence and death. And it was kind of very very lucky. And many people who lost family, many people who lost friends wrote to me, and they were able to look at the Lam Rim and the Lam Rim helped them to get through their losses and their problems–all around the world. So again I would like to thank ACI and Tim Lowenhaupt and all the other guys who helped. Today my plan is just kind of to wrap up with everything. We had a question-and-answer session earlier, but there’s still a lot of questions left that people sent us. And I thought I would go through, I don’t know, five or six of those questions from around the world.
Then I had a special request mainly from Tim. Could I talk about the special conditions that we need to see emptiness directly. And what’s the best way that we could really have a chance to see emptiness directly, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Because one of the most important experiences during that time is to actually see all the worlds there are, the countless worlds there are, and all the beings on those worlds. And I think if you have that experience, if you have had that experience in your lifetime, then something like this virus–it puts it all in a different perspective. And you are in a different place about it. And so, I think it’d be wonderful if more people could see emptiness directly and have those experiences–it changes your whole life completely. Changes your hard outlook on life if you know this is not the only world around, and we are not the only people experiencing these things. And if you did meet a Buddha, if you knew Buddha’s existed, then that would be really wonderful. So we’ll talk about that, we’ll talk a little bit about practical things you can do to get that experience.
So two parts today. One are questions that we chose from many questions; and I’m sorry we can’t answer all the questions that people sent, but we tried to pick a variety of questions from around the world. And then after that, maybe about halfway through this hour, we’ll start talking about how to increase the chances that you can see emptiness directly, and have this experience of other worlds and enlightened beings directly. Which could change your whole life, and something like the virus would have a different meaning for you.
Okay, here’s the first question. And it says: “a few years ago I had surgery and my uterus was removed, but I was able to save some of my eggs and I have a chance for surrogate parenting. I’m not sure if this is the right thing to do, because it seemed to me that maybe the surgery that I had was sign, that I shouldn’t have children, and I shouldn’t have a family. And perhaps I should just focus on my spiritual development. Also, this whole experience has been very difficult for me psychologically, and emotionally. And what are some seeds, that I can plant to help me heal from this?”
So, you know I was thinking about this answer. And I remember a couple of things. I remember just before I went into my own three year retreat–I think I’ve told this story before–I gave a talk. I think in New York City, and somebody asked me about abortion, you know. And I said: “well, in Buddhist belief, ancient Buddhist belief–teachings by Lord Buddha–it says [Tibetan]–is the definition of killing, which is to kill a human, or human fetus, after conception. So in Buddhism, conception is considered already a being–a living being. And I myself have been involved in an abortion, when I was in college. So for me it was a very important question.
And so I gave a talk like that in New York before I did my own three-year retreat in 2000. And when I came out, I guess it was a year later. I was asked to go back to New York, and talk again. And I remember it was a very beautiful spiritual center in Manhattan. And they had sort of a large place, and they had a nice waiting room. And, you know I was just sitting there in a very comfortable chair, and it was very beautiful with the sunlight coming in and a very beautiful room. And then this young girl just came in the room, and she was going from one door to the other door, and she just came in and I don’t know she was maybe four or five years old. And she danced across the room, it looked like she had a ballet dress on, or something. And it was so beautiful, it was like some kind of mystical experience to be sitting there. And this beautiful–almost like angel–dances across the room. And I was like wow that’s beautiful! And then her mom came in, and her mom saw me and she’s like “wow”, and I’m like “hi” and she said “I have to tell you something Geshe Michael”. I said “What?” And she said “well, you know before you went into your three-year retreat, you gave a talk about abortion. And I was pregnant at that time, and because of you I didn’t have an abortion. And I had this child, the child you just saw is alive, because of of your teaching”.
And that’s the most precious thing in my life. In my whole life, this is the most precious thing, and I just want to thank you for that”. And then I had the thought in my head, you know I said: “well if I haven’t done anything else good in my whole life, that’s one good thing I’ve done.” You know? For sure I’ve made someone really really happy. And my teacher, when I asked him about abortion, he said those things, you know. He said it’s two things. He said, “first of all, it’s a strange kind of killing, because the other person doesn’t have a chance to defend themselves.” You know, if you walk down the street to your neighbor’s house and you try to kill your neighbor, you know at least your neighbor can try to fight you, and defend themselves. But a child in the womb, they cannot defend themselves. And so he said, in his opinion, it was kind of unfair that the other person didn’t get a chance to fight back.
And then he said: “but the worst thing is you are preventing a being from getting a human body.” And I had never heard that before. And he said, “yeah, someone can use that body. Somebody would really need that human body, and if one being can have a human body, if you can cause one being to have a human body, then that’s incredible! That’s the greatest gift you can give to any human, to any person, any living being. Is to help them to get a new body, help them to get a body.” So I was thinking about what he said. I was thinking about those two things when I was reading this question. You know, a lot of people say when something goes wrong, for example, when a child dies or something they think “oh well maybe it’s a sign that I’m not supposed to have a family, and I’m supposed to have a spiritual life instead”. Here it says, “should I focus on my spiritual development instead?” So, I’d say it’s quite the opposite, you know.
My teacher had another student. I remember, he had a student who was kind of angry often, and unhappy, and caused problems a lot, and I kind of watched him. And he kind of helped this student meet a partner, and he kind of encouraged them to get married in a way. And they had a child, and after they had the child I watched this person change completely.. They were already very … they knew all the scriptures, and they knew all the Lam Rim, and they were a very good student. But after they had a child it taught them compassion I think. And I always thought my teacher must have planned the whole thing. So I think, in my opinion, if you choose to have a child and if you think that’s the way that your life will go, that it would be good for you. I think it would be an excellent spiritual practice, I think it would be a very deep spiritual practice. So, you know, it’s very much in the Bodhisattva tradition.
And by the way, Lam Rim retreat number 36 which will be in july, we’re going to be doing it online again, because we can’t travel yet from the US. So, we’re going to be talking about Bodhichitta, and Bodhichitta means the true wish to help all living beings. And if you can see emptiness directly, then your Bodhichitta is a completely different experience. It’s a totally different experience, so we’re going to talk about that. But, in my opinion, if you do have a child … and it’s not for everybody. I haven’t had a child, for example. But if you do have a child, if you have the possibility to have a child, then it might be a very high spiritual practice. It might be a very very good spiritual practice for you. I would think about it carefully, it’s a big big responsibility, but I do think it can open up your heart tremendously. And I would not take it as a sign, just because you had this operation that you shouldn’t have a child. I think if we lived like that we wouldn’t do anything. So, you know, if you wish to have a child then I think be brave and make that your spiritual practice. It’s definitely a spiritual practice you can do.
So what should I do, what are some things I can plant to heal from this operation? And I’ve had this question many times from the same operation. And I can remember, I don’t know, over 20 years ago someone came to me from Ireland. I was teaching in Vienna, and I remember one person came to me, and asked me this question: “how can I heal from this kind of operation, this kind of an experience?” And I encouraged both the husband and the wife, it was a husband and a wife. I encouraged both of them to go to a hospital as a volunteer in a children’s hospital. And nowadays it’s a little more difficult, you probably have to do do some training, you have to get permission. You have to pass some security questions, and things like that. But if you have a chance to work to volunteer in a Children’s Hospital .. and look, you’re probably not going to be the doctor, and you’re not going to even be the nurse … they’re probably going to ask you to clean the floor, or something like that. And they did, they just did it once a week, on the weekend, they were very busy, they had their own business. But on the weekend they always went, and they they volunteered at the children’s hospital and eventually with her eggs, they had another child. They had a second child, and I remember they called her Angel, which was very beautiful.
And so I think that would be a very wonderful thing to volunteer. To do something for children, especially children who are not well. My own teacher … I wanted to clean the bad seeds from the abortion I had in college, and he encouraged me to start a children’s Dharma study group. And we did. And of course the parents … at least one parent was there every time we met, and we did that for 15 years. And it was an amazing group, it was amazing opportunity, and I think it changed my seeds. I think it was some beautiful seeds that I got from that. So that’s how I would deal with your problem.
Here’s another question from Taiwan, and basically this person has been studying Vipassana meditation, and they’ve also been doing Niguma yoga, and then they … because they closed all the meditation studios, they couldn’t go to meditate in a group anymore. And they started doing the online course, and they learned some meditations during the Wheel of Life online course. And they sort of felt like the Vipassana meditations they have been doing were very helpful to them. And they also felt like the meditations they were doing during the Lam Rim, and during the Wheel of Life course were also very helpful to them. So they wondered will these two kinds of practices conflict with each other? Is it okay to do both?
And it’s a kind of a beautiful question, because I studied meditation … I learned meditation in Asia. You know, my first meditation experiences were in Asia, and I was with a bunch of monks. And we had a chance to go.. I don’t know, there were like 50 monks. And we had a chance to go to a meditation course, a 10-day course. And they said the teacher was very good, the teacher was from Burma. And he had been a businessman. And he had studied meditation, and one of the monks, like the boss monk said: “I think, he’s teaching very nice meditation, and I think we should all go.” So, we went, fifty monks. About 50 of us, we went for a 10-day course. And the teacher was Goenka. So, that’s the founder of the Vipassana meditation, and I was fortunate that I guess my first big meditation experience was to study with Goenka for ten days. A typical Vipassana course 10 days, in silence, and no mail and things like that.
And I had a wonderful time, and it really really taught me the value of meditation. And I think most of the monks who came also had an amazing experience. So, you know, and then eventually he passed away. But people are still teaching his system of Vipassana. And so I think it’s wonderful, I think it’s a great introduction to meditation. I think it’s very sweet. And I think it can be very helpful to learn to sit, to learn to focus. I’m thinking about John Brady who’s the head of, as you know, of all the input projects to save the ancient books. And by the way Goenka was also very active in saving ancient books. And John Brady, when I met him, was studying Zen meditation. He had studied with one of the best Zen teachers in the United States, a Japanese teacher, and I always felt like it helped John’s meditation practice a lot. That he had learned to sit, he had learned to focus his mind. And then he came to ACI, he learned the Lam Rim, and he learned the content.
So I would say the Vipassana and Zen oftentimes … or TM (Transcendental Meditation), I think they’re very good, they can be very good for learning to focus your mind. And learning to sit quietly and they’re very very valuable for that. It’s like developing a very good microscope, or a very good telescope–it helps you to build up your instrument. And then you know the Lam Rim teachers, Tsongkhapa and all those guys, they say, well then you have to put something in front of telescope. It’s no good to just keep a telescope in your house, if you don’t have something to look at with the telescope. So, I think all those traditions–Vipassana, Zen, and TM–they can help you develop your telescope–your ability to focus your mind. And then it’s very very important to learn the Lam Rim, so you have something to look at. It’s like stars in the sky. All of those topics, all of those subjects in the Lam Rim, they are like stars in the sky, and they are unbelievable. They are just incredible, so I think it’s a good combination–learn to focus your mind, learn to fix the mind, and then learn the Lam Rim, which will give you something to focus on.
There are some meditation traditions, you know I’ve been to many many yoga classes around the world. When I first started doing yoga, which was exactly 20 years ago, I told my yoga teacher, “I travel a lot, so I don’t know if I can do yoga every day”. And they said “no, no, it’s perfect Geshe Michael, if you’re traveling a lot then every time you go to a new city just look up the nearest yoga studio online, and go take a class. And then you’re going to get this great background in yoga. You’re going to study with good teachers all over the world! And you’ll have a chance to to find the yoga which really fits you.” So I followed that advice, I have taken hundreds of yoga classes from many different places in the world. From some of the best yoga teachers in the world, and from some of the worst yoga teachers in the world also. And what I can say is–there’s a lot of strange meditations. A lot of people teaching yoga never really had training in meditation. And they will teach some kind of meditation, which is often, I think … it doesn’t belong to a strong tradition. So, I think If you have not meditated, or if you don’t already have a good tradition, I think the Lam Rim tradition of meditation is extremely good, and extremely important.
And we’re going to talk about how to use it to see emptiness, because you need that telescope to see emptiness directly. And I don’t think you could get it easily. For example, if you just started to meditate in yoga studios, it’s like a five minute meditation before you do your yoga. It’s not enough, it won’t be enough to use it for the most important things. But you know, I think if you already have a good Vipassana background, I think it can be very helpful. So, use that, develop your telescope, and then you must use it on something important–and you must use it on something that will help you and other people in an ultimate way. And that’s the Lam Rim. I haven’t seen those kinds of stars in other meditation traditions. I haven’t seen those kinds of things to meditate about in other traditions. But the instrument you can sharpen in other traditions, and then bring it to your Lam Rim practice.
Okay here are some questions from Vietnam, three great questions from Vietnam. The Vietnam guys, you are amazing. I know Mr. Binh and a lot of other people are helping out in Vietnam to teach people, and I think it’s amazing how strong the Vietnamese group has become. I think it’s over 10,000 people, and your practice sounds very cool. And every time I go there it’s amazing. Okay, here’s another question.
“You’ve been talking about how everybody wants to become a Buddha, and you’ve been talking about the karma that we have to make to become a Buddha. But in our normal day-to-day life, we have other things we have to do. Like make money for the family, we have to make sure the family’s healthy, we have to take care of our own health. We have relationships that we have to take care of. And my question is, if I have a serious illness, or I get into some financial problem, should I focus on these problems, and fix them first, or should I more focus on becoming a Buddha, and keep that as my main focus. Or is it possible to do both at the same time?”
And I think my answer, especially in the higher teachings–and we’re going to talk about that. In the highest teachings of Buddhism–Vajrayana, the Diamond Way–we are taught to use everything as part of our practice. So, financial problems, viruses around the world, taking care of our family … during the virus, I had a very sad thing happen in my house. We had a dog for many years, and he passed away during the virus time. Not from the virus, but he was just very old, and it was very very sad, extremely sad and very hard for me and Veronica. And so yeah, in the highest teachings of Buddhism, which are called Diamond Way or Vajrayana, those teachings are interesting, because they were started when kind of these big business people and big politicians came to the Buddha. And they said, “can you teach us some kind of Buddhism, that would help us, we don’t have time to become monks, we can’t sit in the forest meditating. We have families to take care of, we have businesses to take care of, we are taking care of whole countries or whole cities.” “Can you teach us some kind of super Buddhism that we can become a Buddha, without becoming a monk–just as a family person, or as a business person, or as a politician.” “Is there a way that we can also become a Buddha?”
And Buddha gave them these incredible teachings, called Vajrayana, or Diamond Way. And I think as you study more and more, you will see, for example, the students who asked the Buddha to teach the Diamond Cutter Sutra, for example there was one who was a big businessman, and there was another one who was a politician. And the Buddha taught what I think is the most precious teaching he ever gave–the Diamond Cutter Sutra–mainly because of these two guys. So yeah, Buddhism is not just for monks and nuns. I don’t know how we started to think like that. I don’t think it was the Buddha’s idea, but the Buddha’s idea was that … especially if you can enter the Diamond Way–the higher teachings–and then taking care of a family, struggling to take care of your finances … you know, this morning I spent a big part of the morning online, learning to order my groceries online, because I’m not allowed to go out.
And so, I have become the grocery shopper in our house, because Veronica can’t do it online. So it’s very funny, and so I’m learning a lot. First I’m studying Chandrakirti, and then I was studying Guna Prabha, and then I did a little bit of Vasubandhu, and then I did online groceries. And they go very well together, okay? They really do go very well together! So don’t ever think that there’s a “normal” life, and there’s a “spiritual” life. That they are separate. You are missing a great opportunity to become a Buddha. Living in the normal world is, maybe, the best opportunity to become a Buddha. Having a family, having a job, it’s probably the best opportunity to become a Buddha. Especially if you can enter the higher teachings–Vajrayana or Diamond Way.
And the next question from Vietnam. It’s something like “how can I get to those higher teachings–the Diamond Way teachings?”
There are three requirements for the secret teachings, and there are a very famous three requirements. And in fact I was just teaching them a few days ago, so it’s fresh in my mind. (1) First one is [Tibetan] which means, you must learn the Lam Rim. You must master the Lam Rim. It’s the same as the 18 courses of ACI, you must start with that. In fact, it’s required. You cannot start the higher teachings, you cannot enter those teachings, unless you mastered the Lam Rim. You must use the Lam Rim to soften your mind, and make it soft and ready to take the higher teachings. That’s the first one.
(2) Second one is called [Tibetan], which means in a secret ceremony devoted to the Diamond Way, people who have been able to finish their Lam Rim studies, or their 18 ACI courses, then they are given four different blessings. There are four different ceremonies, in which they get four seeds planted in their mind. You know, you can say it’s an empowerment, but it has four different parts, and each part of that empowerment will create part of the Buddha. And if you receive those four seeds, then in that lifetime you can become a Buddha. So it’s very important to finish the Lam Rim. Many people came to me and said, “Geshela, I don’t have time to do the 18 courses, I don’t want to do the 18.” “Can I just start with this super Buddhism?” “Can I start with this Diamond Way?” And in a few cases in my life, I thought “well, this person seems special”. “And I’m going to try, I will let this person start the Diamond Way teachings”, which by the way is eighteen other courses. So eighteen more courses in the ACI curriculum. There are eighteen foundation courses, which most of you know about. And then there are eighteen higher courses that require this kind of preparation.
Then I have allowed a few people to do those courses, or to enter those courses without finishing the 18 ACI courses. And you know, I’m 67 years old now, I’ve been teaching for almost 50 years. And I can say that the people who did not prepare with the 18 courses–the 18 ACI [foundation] courses, about nine out of ten people failed. They fail in the Diamond Way courses, so I can say from many years of experience that I’m not helping you, and it’s not going to be good for you if I give you some kind of shortcut. Or I say you don’t have to do the 18 foundation courses. You must do them, and then you will be successful. Then you can start your Diamond Way teachings, and you will be successful.
Now, this person said, “How am I going to get these teachings after I finished the 18 ACI courses?” Well, then you have to, you know, talk to your ACI teacher, you can always write to Tim Lowenhaupt at the ACI headquarters–home office. And there have been many people in many countries, they said, we are ready. For example, in Mexico we have a great ACI group, they studied there 18 courses. And then they contacted the home office, and they said “can we get some Diamond Way courses down here?” Tim arranged it, and they are doing great. These students are really really doing well with the Diamond Way courses. John Brady’s been going down there. Venerable Ellie’s been going down there, Tim’s been going down there. A lot of people have been helping to teach the Diamond Way courses. So, finish your 18 courses, and if you do a good job you’ll have enough good seeds, that Tim will have to send you a good Diamond Way teacher.
Okay, I’m going just do one more question. Let’s see here … Yeah, okay, one last question. This one’s actually from Mexico. So, when we are doing an ACI meditation, then we have these preliminary steps, you know … [Tibetan] it’s called the seven preliminary steps, and personally when people start going through those seven steps.. I kind of lose my way. Like, maybe I’m watching my breath, and my mind starts to wander, and you know, it’s hard for me. For example, in one of those steps, you’re supposed to make an offering to your teacher. So, you know when I follow Geshe Michael on Lam Rim video, and then he’s sitting there for five minutes, and I guess he’s offering to his teacher, I lose it. You know, for four minutes I’m not really thinking about offering to my teacher.
And it reminds me of a teacher I knew about. And he is an amazing teacher, and I’ve also taken many teachings from him. And when he goes on an airplane, you know, they take off and after half an hour, they serve everybody their food. And he travels a lot on airplanes, and I talked to his assistant. And his assistant was laughing. I said, how does he do his food offering? What prayers does he use? Because there are lots of famous prayers that we use to offer our food. And I said, well, what prayers does he like to do? And his assistant laughed. He said “you don’t want to be on an airplane with him, you don’t want to do that. Don’t do it Geshe Michael!” And I’m like: “Why?” And he said, “you know, if it’s a two-hour flight, then after half an hour they bring the food, and he starts his offering prayers–he starts to offer the food. And I’m his assistant, I’m sitting next to him, I also have to focus on the offering prayers. And he will do the offering prayers for one and a half hours. And we won’t eat the food, and the flight attendant will come, and say, “okay, we’re landing now, I have to take the food back, I’m sorry you didn’t like the food?” And you know, my friend said, “I don’t know how he can focus for an hour and a half on just offering this spaghetti or something. I don’t know how he can do it!”
So I guess that’s my answer about when you do your seven preliminaries, if the times not up, you know. If I’m following another teacher, who’s guiding a meditation, then I will just go deeper into the offering. For example, I will start by offering my teacher .. I don’t know, a piece of fruit in my mind. So my teacher likes fruit, and in the mind I will offer an apple. And I will think about it, and make it beautiful and I will offer this apple. And then if the person leading the meditation, is still doing the offering okay … then I will start to do Samantabhadra’s offering–which is you fill the whole sky with roses, and other kinds of flowers, lotus flowers. And I will cover this part of the sky like over Russia. And if I finish that, I will cover the sky over Vietnam, and if I finished then I would go to the sky over Mexico. And then I’ll make different flowers, and so you can always go deeper in a meditation. So, I think that it’s important to not let your mind lose the focus. You know, keep the focus on the offering. Make it deeper and deeper, and more detailed. When I do the Lion’s Dance, and I’m supposed to be thinking about my past life and I finish, you know … I got my past life, I’m thinking about my past life, the person is clear, what they are doing is clear. I’m waiting for the teacher to go on, you know. And I still have time, so then I will go deeper. So, you have to learn how to do that, go deeper. Don’t start daydreaming, don’t start thinking about lunch. Go deeper into the story, then make a whole new scene about the story of this past life. And so like that. You can always go deeper, so don’t let go of the object. And whether it’s an offering, or a past life, and just start to go deeper, and deeper, and deeper.
Okay, so those are the questions, and I’m sorry for all the people … many many people wrote questions, I couldn’t answer all of them, but I’m happy to try. I encourage you to see the Peachtree morning show, five days a week we answer questions of people, who ran in and they ask questions about their life. And i think, it’s a cool thing to do when you’re having breakfast. So we are also having coffee, or some donuts, and we’re talking about people’s questions. So, if you have more questions, perhaps you could send them into the Peachtree show. And slowly we can get to your question.
Geshe Michael’s pratical advice on how to get a better chance to see emptiness directly in this life
Okay, we have about 20 minutes left, right Tim? And let’s talk about how can I increase the odds, how can I get a better chance to see emptiness directly in this life? Like, what are some things I can do to get myself more ready? And I just want to say it’s extremely cool to see emptiness directly. It’s extremely wonderful, it’s the best thing that can happen in your whole life. I can say that I’ve lived a very long life, and I’ve had many many happy cool things in my life. Many, but the coolest thing is to see emptiness directly. There’s nothing else like it. And imagine you’re living in a world, like this world right now, and the virus has spread throughout the world–it’s a very amazing situation.
In the Lam Rim we try hard to get a good death meditation. We try so hard! We try for years and years and years to do death meditation. Because death meditation is supposed to wake me up. And death meditation is supposed to free my heart, and open my heart, and open my mind. And then I will do what’s very important in life. I will do the most important things in life. And we’re all so lucky to have this virus around us. Two months ago, when we were filming Lam Rim, me, and Tim, and Stanley were filming the Lam Rim at the college. The virus had not really reached the United States, but now we are number one. I don’t know, because Americans are so stubborn. They will not stay in their house, and they will not … nobody likes to wear a mask, and so many people have died, and I know people who have died. I usually help to do the prayers for people who died, and I’m busy all day doing prayers for people who died. There’s every day a new email, about someone who passed away. So really, we can say that the virus has been an amazing Lam Rim.
So you and me, Tim and Stanley, and all of us, we did a good Lam Rim course. We did a great two month course, we had lots of great Lam Rim. But the world had a great Lam Rim course at the same time called “virus”. Covid virus, and kind of the whole world I think for the first time in hundreds of years, the whole world was doing death meditation. The whole world was thinking, and it’s still thinking about, “I might die in the next week”. When my groceries came today, I had to clean each one, one-by-one, you know. Each apple, each orange, I had to clean them one-by-one. And so we’re all thinking about death. And imagine that you’re on a world like this, and everyone deep down is afraid. There’s a very very high mental illness right now in the world. Now the doctors have been busy, the medical doctors have been very busy for two or three months, but now I think in every country, the psychiatrists are very busy. The psychologists are very busy, because many many people are depressed. Many many people have had breakdowns.
In America, many many people are fighting in the home. The violence in the home between husband and wife is the highest it’s been ever. And so people are worried, people are tired of quarantine. I’m also tired, me and Tim we’re talking. He went to on a car trip for 45 minutes, I told him “no, no, I went on a car trip for one hour”. And then we’re so excited. Me and Veronica went to a car trip. And in this moment, imagine how it would feel, if you could watch a thousand other planets, you see? Imagine how you would feel on this planet. Where every person is worrying about this virus … imagine, if at the same time you could see a thousand other worlds, and if you knew you would be the teacher on each one. You see, that’s so cool like … imagine you are the Lam Rim teacher in your city, and then imagine that you’re the Lam Rim teacher for your country, and then imagine you are the Lam Rim teacher for a whole world. And then try to imagine you’re a Lam Rim teacher for thousands and thousands of worlds that you can see directly.
And then how would it feel to be free of a single world? How would it feel to … I really enjoy my life on this world, because I have the opportunity to travel constantly. I’ve been to many many countries, I have friends that I love very much in many many countries. I’m so lucky and I’ve learned how delicious the spices of each country are. Each country’s different people are different, and interesting, and fun for me. And we have become close close friends, and imagine that it’s that way for many worlds, you see? Not for one country, or two countries, or 20 countries, or 100 countries, but imagine you’re playing in many worlds, on many planets, imagine that.
And that’s kind of my sales pitch for seeing emptiness directly. You can’t imagine how much fun it is to play on a thousand worlds at the same time. And how much different it is than living in one world, okay? Try to imagine. So, you can do it and you can reach … you can go there. And if you study the Lam Rim well you can go there. We’re going to have a translation class, I guess. Tim, is this showing before the translation class? May 19. Okay, listen to the ancient books, just listen.
So I’d say, the first thing: get excited about seeing emptiness. Emptiness is like a door, that you have to go through to see all this worlds. To experience. I remember I took my teacher to Brazil. And I took him to the great beaches in Rio de Janeiro–Ipanema.. And he was like “oh man, this is so cool”, so just imagine that you could go to to many thousands of worlds. But you just have to go through that door, you just have to see emptiness directly. So here are some things you should do, and I just have about five minutes. I’ll just just make a list of them for you.
(1) Study, study, study, and after that you should study, study, study, after that you should study, study, study, okay? There are 300 thousand great books of this tradition. John Brady is rescuing them, and each one of them is amazing. Each one of them is a passport to a thousand worlds. So, in my opinion if you don’t take advantage of those books, if you don’t learn them, and read them … there’s a lot of new books coming out from the translation group, the mixed nuts translation group. You’ve got to look at them every day, you got to just read a little bit every day, that’s the very first thing you have to do. You have to do that.
(2) If you know Lam Rim, you have to find a great teacher. You have to find a good teacher, okay? You have to find a real tradition. And the Lam Rim is a real tradition, the Lam Rim is the real thing, and if you study it you can reach that goal. Everything is there. The Lam Rim is complete, so just keep studying Lam Rim, go to theknowledgebase.com, go to the old Lam Rims, study study study, listen listen listen. Put it on in your car, put it on at breakfast, put it on when you have some free time and study, okay? So, you’ve got to do that, and you’ve got to have a living teacher. It’s not enough, I don’t know … a book is not enough, videos are not enough, you got to have a connection with a real person. And ACI has a lot of great teachers. And, you know, there will be teachers who can come to where you live, and all of us are very happy to help you.
(3) Next thing I would say is service. You have to take care of people where you live. There are old people everywhere, there are sick people everywhere, there are hungry people everywhere, there are poor people everywhere. And just make it part of your life that you take care of them every day. I don’t know, one hour or something. Drive an old person. I know venerable Ellie, she’s been studying Lam Rim for … I don’t know, 30-40 years. And she still drives old people to the grocery store every week. She gets in her car, and she goes to pick up poor people, and she takes them to the grocery store. And she waits for them while they’re buying their groceries. And here’s this person who’s in charge of a big organization, and you know, she can go teaching all over the world. And she can meditate, she knows all the books, she helped to translate the Diamond Cutter Sutra that we just finished. But still she’s getting in her car every week, and she gives a couple hours to the older people. And she’s busy, she has a lot of things to do, but she serves people. So if you want to see emptiness directly: study, study, study; find a great teacher, and serve people.
(4) And then you can not see emptiness directly unless you are meditating every day. And those of us who are these ACI teachers, DCI teachers, if we’re very honest to you guys, there are times in my life when I stopped meditating. Like, I didn’t meditate for a while, I got lazy, I got busy, I thought I will meditate next week, or something like that. So, everybody who’s studying Lam Rim, everybody, we all have times in our life when we don’t meditate very well or we’re too busy. So what to do? Then get that app, what’s it called? Insight timer. I love it. Probably the name came from a Vipassana group, I don’t know. So, get Insight Timer. I use mine all the time. Get this timer, and set it for 10 minutes and meditate for 10 minutes. If you’re like me, and you had times in your life when you stop meditating for three days, or for three weeks, and then you have to get back on the horse. You have to go back get your Insight Timer app, and set it for ten minutes. And just meditate for ten minutes. Every Sunday increase one minute, okay? Don’t do an hour on the first day, it’s not going to work. If you haven’t been meditating, if you never did meditate, or you’ve stopped meditating … you know, you got busy … then start back. You have to start back at the beginning, start back at ten or fifteen minutes. And then once a week increase it by one minute. And then pretty soon you’re doing an hour. Within, nine or ten months, you’ll be doing an hour every day.
And to be honest, you can not see emptiness directly, if you are not meditating one hour a day. If you cannot meditate deeply for one hour a day, I don’t think you can see emptiness directly. It won’t happen. So, that’s the other thing. I mean, you have to be on the cushion at least one hour a day. Don’t start with one hour a day, because you will quit after three days. So, go to ten minutes, and just pick it up there, and one more minute every week, and you definitely you’ll be able to meditate for an hour.
Lastly, I would say, well a couple things. Eat well. Don’t eat junk, just learn to eat well. Do some yoga, and learn some yoga if you can. I hate yoga, I don’t like to exercise, but it keeps me alive. And it kept me healthy for 67 years. I mean in the last 20 years. So, do some exercise every day. Try to get outside, under the blue sky. Try to get outside, go for walks and take care of your body, because without a body you cannot see emptiness directly. So, those are my suggestions.
(1) Study, study, study, after that study, study, study, study, every day. Study something every day. theknowledgebase.com has 5000 teachings on it, don’t tell me you can’t find something to study. They’re free and they’re in many many languages. Theknowledgebase.com. So, that’s the first thing.
(2) Find a good teacher, and have a relationship with a good teacher.
(3) And then take care of … serve all people, serve sick people, serve poor people, do something every week to serve people.
(4) And then you must meditate regularly.
(5) You must take care of your body. Your body is like a rental car. When you’re born it’s like you went to the airport and you rented a car, and you’re stuck with this car for your whole life. If this car breaks down, you can’t see emptiness directly. It’s not possible. So, you’ve got to take good care of your body.
(6) Eat well, get good sleep, watch a little bit of Netflix, but not much, okay? Set a limit then stop. It’s important to relax. It’s important to rest. Personally, I work hard until 9 o’clock, and then I say, “okay, Geshe Michael you can watch TV.” And I’ll watch Netflix, or something. And so, work hard and then take a rest, you have to take a rest. And that’s all.
(7) And pray to the teachers of the Lam Rim lineage. Take some time, pray ask them for help. That’s how the great Lam Rim of Tsongkhapa was written, he prayed for the help of the Lam Rim teachers in history, and they came to him, and they helped him to see emptiness directly.
Okay. So that’s my advice, I look forward to seeing you at the next online Lam Rim. We were supposed to be doing it in Mexico in July and we can’t go. So we’ll be doing it online, and we’ll get in touch with you, and again I would like to thank the many many many people around the world, who work so hard to make this Lam Rim available to everyone, all of the translators, all of the people helping with the online programs and things like that. It’s amazing, how many people helped and especially I’d like again to thank Tim Lowenhaupt for working so hard to make this happen. Thank you and see you at the next Lam Rim.