Lingtrul Rinpoche on Karma & Practice:
Also when you practice the Dharma it can be that sometimes be that people, they practice for maybe 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, and some people sort of say, “Look nothing’s ever happened for me. Nothing seems to have improved. You know for example, here I am trying to be a Buddhist, you know, and things go wrong. I’ve lost my money, my house got burned down, my arms and legs are getting broken, all these things are happening. So where’s the blessings of the Dharma, I’m not a happy person.” So we sort of maybe think sometimes, “Wow, the Dharma’s completely useless. Life isn’t the way I expected even though I’m trying to practice the Dharma.” Well it’s not that case. We don’t know what our karmic continuity might hold for us. Although things are happening a little bit now, we really don’t know what could have happened if we weren’t involved with that perspective of trying to be a virtuous individual, by relying on the Dharma to try to get ourselves out of the suffering, and trying to attain liberation. A good example might be this, let’s say you know, I’m a Tibetan. I’ve come to the country of Canada and arriving here I borrow 1000 dollars from every one of you. And that’s fine, you lend me the money and there’s a relationship established. Then maybe if I suddenly get an opportunity to go somewhere where I’m completely freed and liberated, well all of you will show up on my doorstep saying, “Hey, before you go I want you to pay your debt.” You will make those demands on me. Well it’s like that. Let’s say you start to enter into the Dharma practice. Well that means you’re going to a good place, you’re going to enlightenment, so your karma will actually start ripening a little quicker. Now it doesn’t have to be that it ripens in a negative aspect, but it can be that some things get speeded up a little bit. Now maybe for example, in your previous rebirths you have some very heavy karma that you are not conscious of, that is waiting to ripen and give you a very bad lower rebirth, some horrendous rebirth. Well if you enter into the Dharma you might just get a migraine headache. So although you are in the Dharma, you get this small headache. It carries on for two or three years and you think, “Gee, I wonder why this is going on?” Well, what you are doing is you are purifying the karma that would give you that rebirth in that lower realm. And it’s no longer going to ripen because your attitude’s changed, then your karma shifts, then the karmas basically get purified because of your intentions in spirituality, your intentions of being positive, trying to bring about a transformation for yourself. That causes the karma to ripen in a different manner. So maybe a small suffering in this rebirth actually stops a great suffering in the future. And of course if you persist in your Dharma practice you will gain the opportunity to go to a pure land, or gain better rebirth, or attain enlightenment. Whatever it is you are able to muster from your spiritual enthusiasm and endeavor. So in this regards you should never think that the Dharma doesn’t work and things aren’t happening. If you sincerely take the Dharma to heart and apply yourself, no matter what is happening to you there is a definite shift in the whole structure of your karmic evolution. And in that regard the Dharma is effective and is working for you. It’s just maybe you don’t understand or see the exact implications of what’s happening. But it is effective, the Dharma does work because it’s working with you at the source of who you are.
And of course we might see other examples of someone who practices the Dharma for some period of time, they try to be virtuous and things don’t work out, and they say, “Oh this Dharma’s ridiculous and nothing’s going to work.” And they just give it up and it seems like then things go well for them. You know, they get a good job, they make good money, have all the perks they would like to have. And we think, “Well gee, here I am being so devout to the Dharma and nothing very beneficial is happening. That person completely gave up the Dharma and look at them. They’re getting so far ahead.” And they even talk about how stupid the Dharma is and how dumb all the people are that practice and such. They collect that sort of bad karma. Well we really don’t have a bigger picture on things. Generally it’s said that the experiences of this life time are ripenings from previous lifetimes’ karmic activity. So in that previous rebirth, maybe that person did practice some forms of generosity and such, which creates the physical prosperity in this rebirth. But what they have waiting for them are the activities of this rebirth ripening for them in a future rebirth. So maybe at this moment things look pretty decent for them, but when their good karma runs out, all the previously accumulated good karma exhausts itself, then things will definitely turn around for them. Because they haven’t been doing anything new with themselves, nothing more productive or in a positive light, things will only go from worse to worse. So in that regards we shouldn’t sort of try to judge the Dharma by how successful or unsuccessful we are in this life. That’s not any way to talk about how the Dharma is successful. The Dharma is successful because it changes your attitude, makes you a virtuous, positive individual, and then creates a whole different rapport with the world. That’s what the benefit of the Dharma is. We shouldn’t expect material benefit, or that things will somehow greatly improve just because we get into the Dharma.
Also, in regards to the practice, the first thing we do of course is take Refuge, which puts us into the pathway of virtue and working towards liberation and enlightenment. Then of course we do the generation of the altruistic thought of working for the benefit of sentient beings, to attain enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings. So that is called taking Refuge and altruistic generation. Now those are basic preliminaries. Now some people might think, “Ah, I’ve been doing spiritual practice for a long time. I don’t need to worry about those things. I want the big practices, the big stuff. I’d like to have a Tantric deity. I’d like to practice the Great Completion. I’d like to practice Mahamudra, some very profound practice like this. So this whole thing with Refuge and the altruistic mind, benefiting others, those are all just preliminary stuff. I don’t need to worry about that anymore.” That’s a big error in one’s practice because if you took all the Buddha Dharma teachings, like Buddha taught it’s said 84,000 discourses on how to become spiritually inclined, you could actually bring all of those practices just down to within one day having a kind heart, having a noble heart and benefiting others. That’s what it’s all about. So if having a positive, kind hearted motivation is where all the Buddha Dharma can be brought down to, then you can understand it doesn’t matter what you do in regards to a big practice. The real essence of the practice is that your heart is transformed into being kind and a benefit to other sentient beings. That actually is what Refuge is. Refuge makes you an inner person, the altruistic thought of bodhicitta, working for the benefit of sentient beings, makes you a kind person giving benevolent help to the world around you. That’s the essence of the Buddha Dharma. Irrespective of whatever you’re doing, that’s what you really want. So don’t think that the big practices are important. If you don’t have those two, you don’t have a big practice. Even if you have just the smallest amount of kind intention towards others, you have a big practice.