Benefits of Meditation
Buddha gave 84,000 different types of teachings. This is because people have different abilities and not everybody can follow the same path. If you are the type of person who likes to study and pursue different types of knowledge, then meditation might be hard for you, so you can study Buddhist philosophy and use your energy that way.
Our Kagyu lineage is called the practice lineage. We put great emphasis on meditation, diligence, belief, trust and faith, because if you have no belief, it will be difficult to meditate. But if you have belief or trust, and diligence, then this practice lineage is good for you and will bring you speedy results. Through meditation you will experience within yourself everything that you may have learned from texts.
I believe that for ordinary people who have a family, meditation is the right path because, even if you only meditate for thirty minutes or one hour every day, it can enrich your life and your ability to function more effectively in this very stressful world.
Sometimes it is very useful to accept that whatever we are, whatever we go through now, is the result of our previous actions. But for the future, everything is in our own hands. We plant the seeds of our future in this life, in this present moment. We can really change our future, definitely! Sometimes, because they misunderstand the nature of karma, people think that Buddhists aredeterminists or fatalists. They think karma is very solid, very real. However karma, whether positive or negative, is not really fixed. I always give the example of the body and its shadow. As long as the body is solid, it has a shadow. When we realize the empty nature of everything, karma dissolves; it no longer exists. Knowing this is a source of happiness, because whatever bad karma we may have accumulated, it can be changed. Therefore we shouldn't get depressed, feeling that we are sinners without any way out. It doesn't have to be that way. Of course we have made many mistakes, but as long as we can learn from our mistakes, we really have a great potential.
Karma is no excuse for feeling hopeless and for making the same mistakes over and over again. If we improve, it will definitely have a snowball effect on our environment. Buddhism is very practical. If we become wiser, calmer, more stable, our relatives and friends will come to us to take advice. They will listen to us because our judgement is impartial, not based on our own ego and interest. In Tibet, we say that if a man wants to win the respect and esteem of his family, he cannot achieve this by selfish means. His first job will be to make his wife and children happy.
A short meditation course is not going to change your life completely, but if you can start properly and remember the key points of my instructions, then gradually, you will learn how to help yourself when you run into difficulties. If you apply these teachings, they will be of tremendous benefit to you. If you learn to meditate regularly, you will find out how to make your body and mind calm, how to accept yourself and also how to take responsibility for your own actions.
What you really need to remember is how to tame your body, speech and mind. Sometimes, we call it perfecting body, speech and mind. You should know what to do with your physical actions and with your speech. As to the mind, always remember to maintain a positive attitude. If you can just remember to remain a positive human being, it will be much, much easier to tame your body and speech and there will be less chaos around you. If you try to see through a glass filled with muddy water, you won't be able to see anything through it. If you let the dirt settle, the water becomes clear, and you will see through it easily. In the same way, if your mind is always agitated and confused, you will never be able to do anything effective with your body and speech, they are just lost at an emotional level. Through meditation your mind becomes calm and clear, and you will then be able to deal with your life properly.
We should always remember that our true nature is perfect and that whatever we are going through is just a temporary habit. We need to remember that there is this light at the end of the tunnel, so that no matter how difficult what we're going through is, we know there is an end to it. We need to remember our Buddha nature, the perfect essence of our life. If we can do that, then remembering not to misuse our body and our speech becomes easy. However, trying to change this mind will take some time. It's inside work and can only happen through regular practice of meditation. Those of you who can meditate for at least thirty minutes should definitely do so.
However if you find it difficult as beginners, then you should meditate at least fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes more after your job, or whenever is suitable for you. You should then examine whether you have been successful and whether you have been able to transform all your activities into practice. In this way, you will make progress. You need to keep on making this effort again and again. It is not going to be easy but the benefit will outweigh all the time and effort you put into it. You will gradually find that you are becoming a better human being and that you can deal better with situations.
Meditation is a most necessary part of our lives. If you have more or less done and achieved everything, and yet feel you're not really wholesome or fulfilled, then I think it may be the time for you to meditate and find real fulfilment through this inner understanding. I have personally seen with my own eyes the difference between practitioners and non-practitioners. When practitioners are getting old, they never feel lonely. They're prepared for death. They know this is what's going to happen. When death comes, it is an opportunity. Why should they be afraid to die? Their physical form is not functioning any longer, but their mind is sharper than ever.
When we started the traditional three-year retreats, Samye Ling didn't have a good public image. European doctors wondered what we were doing, locking people up. There was a lot of distrust on their side. During the retreat, one young guy who was helping to build Samye Ling got sick. Doctors diagnosed cancer and gave him only two more months to live. He had been in Samye Ling for many years, but he had never bothered to practise, he was just there to work. He then came to me and said, Look, Lama Yeshe, I have wasted all my time. When I was well, I thought I could work and practice later on. Now I'm supposed to have only a couple of months left to live, please could you help me? He joined the retreat and I taught him how to practise. The other retreatants would also take turns looking after him. His faith and practice grew very strong and he was very happy and positive. When he was about to die, I thought he'd better go to the hospital and called a doctor. The doctor discussed it with him and came to the conclusion that he was very happy and serene, and that there was no need for him to go to the hospital. He died peacefully a couple of days later. His family were non-believers, but they all came to thank us for what we had been able to do.
A brain tumour was also diagnosed in another of our retreatants. Once again, we helped by taking care of him in the retreat. He practised and meditated and he became so positive, so happy, that the doctor had to admit, Your patients don't need us, we need them. Each time they come into the hospital, they change the whole atmosphere because they don't come here moaning, suffering and frightened. They are not afraid to die, their state of mind is pure and positive. They are full of joy and ready to go.
As far as I can see through such experiences, actual proper practice does bring benefits. I tell you this because sometimes people try hard and do not notice any change. But even if the results are not immediately visible, the changes happen. It is like planting good seeds. You are weeding and ploughing the field, preparing for the good crop. It can take time, but it will definitely come. So I do hope you will not consider meditation practice as an unnecessary part of your life.
As you can see, there is a very good reason to thinkthat you'd better find thirty minutes to meditate rather than saying, I'm so busy, I can't find the time. When you die, you have to go alone - your husband or wife, your children and friends, your home and all your business won't come with you. They can't protect you. No matter how much they like you or how much you like them, separation comes. You will have to go by yourself. You came by yourself and you will go by yourself. That is the time you need to be well prepared. Meditating and practising is like accumulating true wealth that can never be taken away, even by death itself.
Practice will definitely help us at the moment of death. Many people may not believe in a life after death, but if our mind is just like this body, which disintegrates after death, or like a candle that can just be blown out, why worry about anything? However, if mind were like a candle, then when the body gets old, the mind should also get old. When the body is no longer functioning, the mind should also stop functioning. Nevertheless, if you witness people dying, you will see that they are either serene or very frightened. People who are in a positive frame of mind have the wonderful experience of seeing Christ or angels or Buddhas. People who are in a negative frame of mind are completely frightened and undergo very fearful experiences. At the very moment the body falls apart, the mind gets stronger. If you are the sort of person who doesn't believe in after-life experience, then you should really watch people dying.
In Buddhism, we are told to look forward to death. Death gives us all the possibilities. For a yogi, death is an opportunity, because what happens in your next life is in your hands, and you have the opportunity of liberation. If we have been practising, we recognize without doubt whathappens at the time of death, such as the dissolution of the elements. We can prepare for death with practice and meditation, and we will then be able to die peacefully in a very positive frame of mind. I tell you this because there is no human being in this whole world who will not have to die. One day it will happen to all of us. Therefore, meditating and learning how to calm our mind in order to gain inner wisdom is absolutely essential.
Reference: excerpt from 'Living Dharma' by Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche