Thoughts. Experiences. Inspiration.

The relationship between our prayers and commitments

May 17, 2014 2

I have received many messages from concerned friends over the last couple of days asking me to take Rinpoche to the hospital. I really appreciate everyone for their concern which I know arises from a good motivation and a wish for Rinpoche to extend his life, to continue benefiting sentient beings.


At the same time, I would also like to use this opportunity to expound upon a few things when it comes to the matter of a lama manifesting illness and/or refusing to seek treatment. It is not for lack of finances or effort that Rinpoche is not going to see a doctor for a check-up. Rather, when a spiritual guide manifests illness, there are a few things that we as students should reflect upon:

  1. Do we believe Rinpoche has full control over his life? If we trust our lama to guide our minds (which is most precious) to enlightenment, why do we not trust him to have full control over his body?
  2. What do we believe is our lama’s purpose for having taken this rebirth? To serve himself, or to serve the Dharma? If the lama’s purpose is to serve all sentient beings, such a motivation can only arise from compassion. Thus, if the purpose is not being met, is it compassionate of the lama to remain and foster our comfort zones by remaining? Is it compassionate of our lama to deprive sentient beings in other realms the possibility of meeting with the Dharma, by staying here with us?
  3. On what basis do we make such a request? Do we ask because it is the right thing to do? Or ask because we have the results in our practice to back up such a request? Do we ask because we have nothing else to say, so we say something anyway, hoping to fill the silence or hoping to assuage our egos that “well, at least I asked”?

This post is not to put anyone down, but rather to help us make the best request possible since we are going to do it anyway.

So we are not doing any of the above three things, so we are not fulfilling them for now (impermanence means we can always change). Does that mean we should stop requesting? That rituals like tenshug (long life puja) are ineffective? No – requests are very, very important. After all, Buddha Shakyamuni only turned the wheel of Dharma for the first time because a request was made to him to teach. What it means is that our body, speech and mind must match our requests. I believe it was Zong Rinpoche who said that when our prayers are not matched by our practice and mind transformation, that is when Dharma is not ‘wet’ with practice.

Rinpoche gave a great teaching two nights ago about the relationship between our commitments and our sadhana (daily prayers). When we recite our sadhana, yes the prayers ARE very effective for purifying our karma and generating merits. However, our prayers are even more powerful when combined with the fulfillment of our commitments and our intact samaya.

Think you do not work in the Dharma and therefore you have no commitments? Nuh uh. We often forget that as Buddhists, our most basic commitment to our lama is not the assignments and Dharma work he gives us. It is actually our 10 refuge vows which all of us have received, regardless of whether we serve a lama directly.

Thus when we break our refuge vows, we break our commitments and each time we break our commitments, the efficacy of our prayers is lessened. When we are lazy, when we are complacent with our practice, when we are rude, when we push our responsibilities on to others, when we hurt others with our speech – our daily prayers and whatever mantras we recite become less powerful. Why? Because you simply do not create the mind for the blessings of the Buddha to enter perfectly and easily to help you. It is like eating meat and reciting OM MANI PADME HUM – how can such holy words designed to bring you to enlightenment, pass through the same mouth as the corpse of another sentient being?

(Again, this explains why Rinpoche does not give initiations. On the most basic level, many of us break our refuge vows every single day. If we cannot even hold those commitments, what is there left to say about tantric commitments?)

Note I say lessened but not disappeared. Virtuous deeds never go to waste because prayers are the encapsulation of the Buddha’s holy energy, so they do have effect. When we connect with our yidams through our practices, we always generate merits but HOW MUCH merits we generate is how much our prayers and supplications are matched by our practice off the meditation cushion.

Rinpoche also reminded us just who we are supplicating…Manjushri. Manjushri, who holds to his heart a scriptural text symbolic of his seeing all things as they are, who has full clairvoyance, who we take refuge in – we think we can fool Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom, with the excuses we make when we are too lazy to do our sadhana? Hence Rinpoche’s line which I found so amusing – “I mean, why do you lie as though Kalarupa will believe you?!”

So perhaps the results of our prayers will not come to fruition in this lifetime because there is a lack of conducive conditions; perhaps they will come to fruition in future lifetimes. Whatever it may be, our prayers will not have the maximum effect that they could have, if they were combined with us holding our commitments. With our commitments, they could be 100% effective; without our commitments, Rinpoche said 50, maybe 70%?

I thought I would write about this because people are so kindly requesting Rinpoche to go to the hospital. If we are going to make the effort to make such a request, why not go all the way with it when it requires just a little bit more effort, for much greater results?

Reflections and Teachings

2 Comments → “The relationship between our prayers and commitments”

  1. wisdomoftheday 10 years ago   Reply

    Dear Pastor Jean Ai, your writing is very precious and very helpful as always. I thank you from the deepest of my heart.

  2. Grace Leong 8 years ago   Reply

    Dear Pastor Jean Ai
    Thank you for the explanation. It is put forth in a very logical manner and certainly hard to debate on the facts . In our forever acquiring habits , we can’t help but always want to ask for more and yet reluctant and lazy to do more to get more. Basically want things the easy way out . I guess this bad habit is the cause to disaster in our practice.
    But we cannot stop requesting for the Guru to continue to live on to turn the wheel of Dharma; it seems even more wrong to keep quiet and hope for the best (when deep down we know that won’t happen with no efforts ) !!
    We have to always request and I wish to do so sincerely even though I am a very poor representation of a student to my Guru.
    I do pray that Rinpoche will have a swift and complete recovery and continue to turn the wheel of Dharma to benefit many beings !!

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