We’re insane not to do purification every day — especially now

Mar 31, 2020

The purification of karma is a powerful practice that Lama Zopa Rinpoche recommends we do daily – as he bluntly puts it: we’re insane not to do so. Why? Because the very nature of the law of karma, of cause and effect, is such that every millisecond of what we think and do and say just naturally programs our mind, sows seeds in our mind that will ripen in the future as our experiences.

Logically, then, our experiences now are the fruit of past seeds. Given that our minds are beginningless, we’re carrying around in our mental bank vaults countless seeds – plenty of positive ones, but many negative ones too. 

The negative ones, of course, ripen as suffering. So, right now, look at the suffering we’re collectively experiencing around the globe.

Karma ripens in four ways. 1. Our actual rebirth; this is called the fully ripened result. Having a human body, we can deduce that that’s the fruit of our past non-killing. 2. The second way it ripens is as our mental tendencies; we can call this actions, or tendencies, similar to the cause – that is, our having done them before. 

The last two are what we’re experiencing now. 3. Experiences similar to the cause – that is, from the habit of past killing some of us are dying young – look at all the people dying from COVID-19 (“Corona Virus Disease 2019). 4. And the fourth is called environmental karma – the very way that the external world impacts upon us. In this case contact with things and people in the world are causing us to get sick; this, too, is the result of killing, and of harming others. The environmental result also includes being surrounded by sick and dying people.

However, as we can see, not everyone will get sick or die during the time of the coronavirus. It seems the main suffering for millions of people is economic: losing jobs, becoming homeless, unable to pay bills. That’s the experience similar to the cause, the third way karma ripens, of past stealing and miserliness.

So, what has purification got to do with all this? Well, each of the four steps in the purification process, known as the Four Opponent Powers, purifies each of the four ways that karma ripens. Remember, this is a psychological process, not a moralistic one. The law of karma plays out in the minds of all sentient beings; it’s what our mind actually does every second. 

1. REGRET. By regretting the actions we’ve done in the past of harming sentient beings, we just naturally purify the karmic result, the third one, called experiences similar to the cause. We need to strongly regret the actions of the past because we are sick of suffering – we know we don’t want suffering!

How does that work? Well, strongly regretting our past killing will particularly purify dying before our time. Usually the result will come in the next life, but if our purification is heartfelt, don’t be surprised if some change can be seen right now: perhaps we’ll get sick, but recover, for example.

2. RELIANCE. By taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, relying upon them; and, crucially, by having compassion for sentient beings, we will purify the environmental result: the physical world won’t harm us; we won’t get sick; our immediate environment will remain pleasant.

3. THE REMEDY. By applying the remedy, that is, by doing the actual practice of reciting Vajrasattva’s mantra, etc. – according to all the lamas one of the most potent remedies – we will purify the fully ripened result, in this case, rebirth in the lower realms.

4. RESOLVE. With the resolve, the determination, not to kill again, clearly we purify the intention, or action, similar to the cause, the habit to kill.

There is no karma that can’t be purified! Phew!

Here’s an audio file of a guided meditation on the four opponent powers and Vajrasattva.

And, of course, never forget to hugely rejoice in all the virtuous karma we must have created that is ripening as all the good things that are happening for us now. Perhaps we’re not getting sick and we’re not running out of money. Rejoice hugely and know it’s the direct result of your own virtue – not just “good luck.” And then, of course, resolve to keep practicing virtue – not killing, not stealing, not being miserly, etc. etc. – so that the good results continue to manifest.

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