Always attempt to have perseverance.
Whenever thoughts of the happiness of this life comes, we delay or stop our practice. Whenever attachment clinging to this life comes, laziness comes, and we don’t want to practice. We want to spend our time enjoying the comforts of this life instead of practicing Dharma. At that time we should remember that death can happen at any time. Then what happens after that? The most unbearable suffering. We can’t bear even a small problem in this human realm; we can’t bear to have a headache, a toothache, some stomach pain or even to be a little hot or a little cold. When we experience even a small problem in this human realm, because we can’t bear it, we give up practicing Dharma.
The cause of rebirth in the lower realms is negative karma, or nonvirtuous action, and any activity we do with a motivation of attachment clinging to this life is a nonvirtue. For example, if we got dressed today with a motivation of attachment clinging to this life, that action of dressing became nonvirtuous because our motivation was nonvirtuous. What was our motivation when we were washing? For many of us, it was simply attachment clinging to the happiness and comfort of this life, so again that washing became negative karma. It was the same when we ate lunch and dinner, and it will be the same when we go to sleep. With any activity we do, if we analyze our motivation for doing it, we find it is nonvirtuous, attachment clinging to this life, so all those activities become negative karma.
Negative karma is very extensive. It's not limited to just the ten nonvirtuous actions, but within the ten nonvirtuous actions are those nonvirtues that we collect many times every day—though we mightn't kill or steal. However, His Holiness Ling Rinpoche once made the comment that the subject of stealing is extensive and detailed. It depends on the individual person, but we generally commit many of the ten nonvirtues many times in one day. We also break the vows we have taken: pratimoksha vows, lay or ordained; bodhisattva vows; tantric vows. This is talking about just today. The negative karmas we have created from the time of our birth in this life are unimaginable, and then there are all the negative karmas we have created in beginningless past lives.
There was also Tenzin Konchog, the nun who was here making tsa-tsas about five years ago. She was the main person responsible for making tsa-tsas. A few years ago she was here, in Bodhgaya, but now she is not here. She's gone. Think, "Exactly the same thing could happen to me any time, any day. I will not be here. There's a time when I will be gone from this world. I won't exist. This could happen any day."
Your body could be carried to the cemetery or the crematorium. Any day this could happen. You could suddenly have a heart attack or a stroke. Something could suddenly happen, and the time of your death come. Your precious human life would be gone.
We've done so many of the ten nonvirtuous actions in this life, since our birth, and so many others during beginningless rebirths. The results of them will go on and on in that way. There are numberless of them left on our mental continuum that we haven't purified and that we haven't finished experiencing.
In the lam-rim outline of the shortcomings of having made mistakes in correctly devoting to the guru, the first shortcoming is that criticizing the guru is like criticizing all the buddhas.
Second, if you get angry with your guru, you destroy eons of merit equal in number to the moments of your anger, and for the same number of eons you will be reborn in hell and experience suffering.
Fourth, even though you attempt to practice tantra, it will be like achieving hell. Even though you practice tantra for many years by not sleeping, not eating, not talking and living alone in a cave, it will be like achieving hell. Why? Here you have to understand that when you make a mistake in devoting to the virtuous friend—even showing some small disrespect, criticizing them, harming them or giving rise to negative thoughts—it is so heavy that even though you are practicing virtue and collecting merit by doing retreat sessions, it is very small compared to the heavy negative karma you have collected in relation to the virtuous friend. That negative karma is so huge that any virtue you practice by reciting mantras and so forth becomes insignificant. The negative karma is overwhelming, and you are reborn in the hell realm. This is what happens unless you change your mind, stop following those negative thoughts, recognize the mistakes you have made, confess them to the guru and purify them. By using logical reasoning and the quotations from Shakyamuni Buddha and Vajradhara, you have to transform your mind into devotion by seeing the guru as a buddha.
It doesn't mean that you have no hope—it's not saying that. There's hope, if you change, if you recognize the mistakes you have made and, with strong regret, confess and purify them. In order not to commit the mistakes again, you then have to keep your mind in devotion toward that guru. You can change; it's not saying you can't change. But if you don't change, no matter what practice you do—many years of chanting mantras in retreat with no food and no sleep—even though you may be collecting merit, it will be insignificant compared to the heaviness of the negative karma you have created. Even though you attempt to practice tantra, it will be like achieving hell. As long as you don’t change, it will be like achieving hell. Instead of achieving enlightenment, you’ll be achieving hell, because that karma is so heavy.
What I am saying is that there's no time to be lazy. Reflect on the negative karmas you have collected and the sufferings of the lower realms, and remember that this is the only chance you have. If you cherish yourself, if you love yourself, this is what you have to do. If you want to take care of yourself, this is the practice you need to do. If you think about this, there's no time for laziness, no time to be distracted by the appearances of this life or works for this life.
As mentioned in the motivation for taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts by my root guru, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche*, which is similar to the motivation for taking refuge in Jorchö, if you think of all the endless sufferings of samsara that you will have to experience, particularly those of the lower realms, you don’t dare to eat or sleep. When you're very frightened, you can't eat, or even if you do manage to eat, you vomit. If you think of all the past beginningless sufferings of samsara, in particular those of the three lower realms, it's something that cracks your heart. It's very frightening.
Here The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland says:
Always attempt to have perseverance.
As mentioned in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, in the middle part of the night you do sleeping yoga, then you wake up very early in the morning and practice. My sleeping is at the wrong time, the totally wrong time. When it's time to practice, I'm sleeping.
Always protect the doors of your senses.
Three times day and night, again and again,
Examine your mental continuum.
You have to protect your body, speech and mind from engaging in negative actions. As mentioned, three times in the daytime and three times at night, you should examine your mental continuum.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at Root Institute Bodhgaya, India, 30 December 2003. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Ven Ailsa Cameron and soon to be published in Kadampa Teachings, a free book from the Archive.