The Value of Human Existence: Treasury of Precious Qualities

WM-198-23 Shakyamuni altar-M

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” a commentary by Longchen Yeshe Dorje, Kangyur Rinpoche:


For ages we have lingered in samsara, unaware of its defects, believing that this is a wholesome, beneficial place. And yet it is a state in which suffering and its causes abound and where the qualities of liberation languish and wither. It is a desolate wilderness in which many times in the past our bodies and minds have burned in agony and have endured pains of mutilation and decapitation. Moreover, latent within us, there are still many karmic seeds that will provoke such sufferings in the future. Human beings generally do not see this and are thus not only without regret for their condition but actually crave the transient and futile pleasures of the higher realms. Totally unaware that they should engage in virtue and refrain from evil, they pass their lives sunk in negativity. Theirs is what is called a “mere human existence.” By their negative actions of thought and deed, they destroy themselves and render meaningless the freedoms and advantages of their human condition. From their lofty position in samsara they plunge again into evil circumstances. Thus they wander in the three lower realms, in heavens of insensate gods without perception, or in barbarous regions (where the Dharma is not heard); they are born physically or mentally handicapped, have wrong views, and take birth in places where no Buddha has appeared.


On the ground of burning iron, without a single moment of relief, beings are slain again and again by the henchmen of the Lord of Death, who brandish frightful weapons, swords, and hammers and inflict terrible pain. Until their evil karma has been exhausted, these beings in hell are unable to die, and, due to karmic effects resembling the cause–in other words, their compulsive tendency to negativity–they are caught in a web of evil karma inspired by hatred, and their infernal life span is measureless.

Pretas generally are completely deprived of food and drink; they do not find even the slightest filthy fragment of pus, blood, or excrement to eat. No need to say, then, that they are tormented by hunger and thirst. The cooling effect of the moon in summer and the warming effect of of the sun in winter are all reversed; rain and hail are misperceived as lightening and thunderbolts; and the rivers are filled with pus and blood. For pretas that are afflicted outwardly, streams and orchards dry up as soon as they look at them. Those afflicted inwardly have heads that are not in proportion to their bodies: their mouths are as small as the eye of a needle, while their bellies are the size of an entire country. If they swallow a little food and drink, it scorches their intestines and they suffer intolerable pain. Their lifespan is uncertain, depending on the strength of obscurations due to former avarice. Generally speaking one of their days is equal to a month by human reckoning, and they live for five hundred of their own years.

In the depths of the great oceans, fish and sea monsters devour each other, the bigger ones gulping down the smaller. Animals scattered over the surface of the earth, wild and unclaimed, are the prey of hunters with their nets, traps, their poisoned arrows and their snare, and they die cruel deaths. Animals domesticated by man are slaves to their masters. They are tamed and subjugated with saddles, bridles, and nose-ropes. Their masters ride on them, tether them, and place burdens on their backs. They herd and castrate them, shear off their hair, and bleed them while still alive. And through such treatment, animals are reduced to every extremity of suffering. Being without intelligence, they cannot recite even a single mani. When beings are born in such a condition, they are helpless, and we are told the lifespan of animals ranges from the momentary existence of insects to that of nagas and such-like that can live for a kalpa.

Since the unwavering action that sustains their life-principle is extremely protracted, and their lives are therefore very long, lasting twenty intermediate kalpas, the gods of the formless realm have no occasion to cultivate a sense of disgust for samsara and a desire to leave it. Moreover, the consciousness of the insensate gods, who are without perception, does not operate throughout the duration of their existence. They are therefore deprived of any basis for hearing and reflecting on the Dharma. Their abode is far removed from that of the gods of the fourth samadhi, just as a solitary place is remote from a populous city. These divine beings have no notion of Dharma, and thus when their thoughts begin to stir at the end of their existence, they conceive the false view that there is no path to liberation, and as a consequence they fall to the lower realms. To be born in these states is to be deprived of the freedom to practice Dharma.

The inhabitants of so-called barbarous lands do indeed have a human aspect, walking upright on their two feet. But they live practically like animals are are utterly ignorant of the Doctrine. Virtue is foreign to their minds and they are given over to negativity. They live immersed in various kinds of evil activity such as wounding others with poisoned arrows, and even making it a tenet of their religion. They wander in the undergrowth of false views and, worse than animals, turn upside down the moral principles of what is to be adopted and what is to be rejected. The way of liberation is unknown to them.

Those whose faculties are impaired, who lack, for instance, the ability to speak, and especially those who are mentally handicapped, may encounter a spiritual guide who is on the supreme level of accomplishment, and they may even hear his or her teaching. But what is said is unintelligible to them, like the booming of an echo. The sense of the teaching is lost to them, and they fail to grasp the vital point of what actions are to be adopted and what should be forsaken. Thus their fortune is marred and they suffer greatly in this desolate and fearful wasteland of samsara.

To be born in samsara through the effect of karma and defilements is like being adrift upon a vast ocean, unfathomable and shoreless. To obtain a human form is like having a great boat with which to cross this ocean and reach the island of liberation. But though people may possess all their faculties, and though they may have intelligence, like a sail to propel them in the direction of freedom, this excellent support is wasted when the mind is clouded by false beliefs. As a result, such people fail to enter the Dharma and do not undertake the path to liberation so pleasing to the Buddha, who appeared in the world to set it forth. Denying the karmic principle of cause and effect, and claiming that there is no afterlife and so forth, they are beset by demons hindering them from the path of liberation. They fall under their power and lose their freedom.

To take human birth during a dark kalpa is once again of no avail, for these are periods when the light of Dharma does not shine, when no Buddhas appear in the world from the time of its formation until its destruction. To take such a birth is to be like a man who has fallen into a pitch-dark crevasse and has broken his legs. However much he tries to get out, he can neither see the way nor even move, for his legs are shattered. In just the same way, without the light of the path of freedom, people are unaware of the three trainings that could lead them to liberation. They constantly pursue false paths because of their ignorance and defilements. Not only have they fallen into a dreadful place from which they cannot escape, but by degrees they fall deeper and deeper, from the states of animals and pretas down to the infernal realms. The freedom to practice Dharma is totally absent.

In all such terrible circumstances, in which evil actions bring forth results in manifold suffering, whirling like the all-destroying hurricane at the end of time, the body is worn away with pain, and fear is the natural condition of the mind. Beings indulge in negative habits; they turn their backs on the sacred teaching. Thus we are advised to reflect again and again on how we might avoid being born in the eight conditions in where there is no freedom to practice the Dharma. Jigme Lingpa calls us to follow the path of liberation with diligence, so that by relying on the teacher and his profound instructions, we might make meaningful the opportunity we now possess.


To have taken birth in a “central” land where the Dharma is proclaimed is like being a sapling planted in pure soil. To have fully functioning sense faculties and healthy limbs, and thus to have the basis for the reception, meditation, and practice of the teachings, is to be like a healthy tree in leaf and branch. To have confidence in the Doctrine of the Victorious One; to have the karma of one’s body, speech, and mind in perfect flower, undamaged by the hail of evil actions contrary to the Dharma (sins of immediate effect and false views concerning the Three Jewels); to have been born a human being able to uphold the Dharma and acquire the qualities of liberation: all this is like a miraculous, wish fulfilling tree. It is exceedingly rare and significant, and to put these five individual advantages to good effect is of the highest importance.

The fact that a Buddha has appeared in our world, an occurrence that is rare as the flowering of the udumbara; the fact that he proclaimed the Doctrine and that the three turnings of the Dharma wheel have blossomed into flower; the fact that through explanation and practice this Doctrine in both transmission and realization still exists in our day without decline; the fact that there are still teachers who have perfectly embraced the Dharma; and finally the fact that we have been welcomed into the “cool shade” of a virtuous friend, a perfect guide on the path to liberation: these five advantages are even rarer than the five individual ones.


Why is it so necessary to treat the path with diligence and without delay? As we have said, the five individual advantages are as rare as the wish-fulfilling tree, while the five circumstantial advantages are like the udumbara flower, even rarer than the earlier five. These ten taken together form the special characteristics, and the eight freedoms form the basis, of what we call a precious human existence. If we do not take advantage of this now, an opportunity such as this will not be found again. The reason for saying this may be illustrated with examples. One could imagine, for instance, an ocean, vast as the three-thousandfold universe. In the depths of this ocean lives a blind turtle that rises to the surface only once every century. To attain a human birth is rarer than the chance occurrence of the turtle surfacing to find its head inside a yoke drifting at random on the water’s surface. Or again, one could suggest the difficulty of attaining a precious human existence by using numerical illustrations. Compared with the number of beings in the animal kingdom, humans are like stars seen during the day as compared with stars seen at night. And the same ratio may be applied between animals and pretas, and again between pretas and the denizens of the realms of hell.

This precious human existence is thus most rare and extremely meaningful. If those who journey on the pathways of the Dharma with liberation as their goal, who now have in their possession the great ship of freedom and advantage, and who have met with a holy teacher who is the guide and, as it were, the navigator of such a ship–if such people fail to cross the ocean of the boundless and unfathomable sufferings of samsara to the dry land of liberation, their opportunity will have been completely squandered. All this should be a subject of reflection and a spur to greater exertion.

Impermanence: From “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa, with commentary by Longchen Yeshe Dorje and Kangyur Rinpoche, as translated by Padmakara Translation Group:


1. The stable world with all its moving occupants is said to last a kalpa.
Which, by its nature, has four ages: forming, dwelling, ruin and the void.
It is disparaged with the name of Basis of Decay,
For it will be assailed by seven conflagrations and one flood.
2. The teachers of gods and humankind perceive our trust in permanence
And therefore, though they have supreme and adamantine forms,
Relax their hold on indestructibility
And joyfully display their passing into peace.

3. Those perfect in samadhi may sustain great spans of life,
But all to no avail, they must endure mortality.
Brahma, Shiva, Ishvara and all the Chakravartins
Find no way to flee the demon Lord of Death.

4. For those who flock so carefree in the wholesome vales of higher realms,
The hunter lies in wait, his weapon in his hand,
Conspiring how to rob them of their lives.
He thinks and thinks of it and has no other thoughts.

5. Tormented by the summer’s heat, beings with pleasure
In the clear light of the autumn moon.
They do not think, and it does not alarm them
That a hundred of their days has passed away.

6. A powerful bowman’s shaft is swift indeed,
But not as swift as pretas moving on the earth.
The pretas in the air are swifter still,
And swifter yet the gods of sun and moon.
But swiftest of them all is human life.

7. The prime of youth is ravaged and brought low by age.
Disease disturbs health’s equlibrium
And perfect situations are all ruined by decay.
So soon does death lay siege to life!

8. Defeated in their struggle with the Lord of Death,
Beings plunge protectorless and friendless down in the abyss.
The glow of life is dimmed; the senses fail;
And doctors with their cures all turn away.

9. Then comes feeble twitching of exhausted limbs,
The failing breath that rattles in the throat,
The family and friends who stand around and grieve
And pray their useless prayers that death might be delayed.

10. The movement of breath, now fine as horse’s hair,
Is severed by the sharp ax of the Deadly Lord.
All beauty now departs; the grin of death appears;
And karma brings the bardo’s deep, black night.

Meditation on the Teacher


The following is an excerpt from “Treasury of Precious Qualities: A Commentary on the Root Text of Jigme Lingpa” by Longchen Yeshe Dorje, Kangyur Rinpoche

…the tantra nam mkha’i klong yangs kyi rgyud says:

Meditation on the teacher

Is meditation on the Dharmakaya,

Compared with this, all meditation

On a hundred thousand deities

Is seen as nothing,

Therefore every act

Of wholesome Dharma–

Hearing, teaching

Meditating, and upholding,

Torma offerings and all the rest–

Are but preparations for the guru yoga.

For the teacher is the glorious Buddha

Of past, present, and all future time.

Analysis Through the Application of Reason

The following is respectfully quoted form “Treasury of Precious Qualities” a commentary on the root text of Jigme Lingpa by Lonchen Yeshe Dorje and Kangyur Rinpoche:

Analysis through the application of reason:

This method consists of four or five great arguments that establish the fact that phenomena are without inherent existence. The specific explanation of these arguments is preceded by a general exposition of how such assessments are made.

To begin with, the prasangika approach is unlike that of the Svatantrikas. Svatantrikas disprove true existence on the relative level but then assert an illusory existence. Likewise, they disprove conceptual construction on the absolute level, but then go on to assert (positively) that this absolute is beyond conceptual construction. The prasangika method is simply to demolish the defective propositions of their opponents by directly refuting every assertion to which the mind might cling. But they do not accompany this with any kind of independent pronouncement. In order to eliminate clinging to real existence, it is essential to eradicate the conceived object of such clinging. Therefore, as we have said before, it is necessary to analyze and achieve certainty about the true nature of the two selves which are the object of refutation. Otherwise it is like shooting arrows without seeing the target, and it is impossible to eliminate the assumption of the real existence of a self.

When one uses madhyamika arguments to search for the meaning of suchness, the idea that “the opponent is wrong” is enough to cause one to stray off the point. Therefore, from the outset, do not refute only the assertion of an opponent, but work to eradicate completely all the innate discursive thoughts in your own mind, which have been left unexamined from beginningless time and which deviate from the Truth of Suchness. Likewise, eradicate all clinging to positions or theories, which are imputations arising from philosophical inquiry and which are found in all tenet systems whether Buddhist or non-Buddhist. Subsequently, when you meditate, simply rest without clinging to anything, in the sense of having an object of meditation. This, however, is not to say that you should remain in a state of blankness, a “foolish meditation,” so to speak. On the contrary, through the certain knowledge deriving from the realization of the absence of inherent existence, your vipashyana will be rendered extraordinary and you will have no doubts. All this is the sign that your analysis has hit the mark.

Generally speaking, at the present time, all the great beings who uphold the Madhayamika declare that the way the phenomena of samsara or nirvana appear is as the mere imputation of thought; they are without dependent arising are indissociably united. Everyone is in agreement about this. In our tradition, however, we do not consider that the expression “imputed existence” implies the presence of a “something” that lacks true existence and to which true existence could be ascribed. We say that the object referred to is a kind of empty form, an originless display of the mind’s creative power.” Consequently, when emptiness is said to be inseparable from dependent arising, this is not meant to imply that there is a validly established appearance from which emptiness is inseparable. On the contrary, we understand that phenomena are themselves ungrounded and rootless. There is no way in which they could exist. And yet they arise freely, produced in interdependence.

Therefore, once the object of refutation, which is to be identified as the two really existing selves, has been eliminated, its place is not still occupied by some (residual) basis of refutation–a so–called person or phenomenon. There is simply nothing left at all. Persons and phenomena are empty of themselves. For one cannot say that they are empty of true existence while holding that phenomena themselves (the basis of emptiness) are not empty of themselves on the relative level. It is rather that form, for example, is empty of form and so forth. Therefore, because all phenomena are devoid of real existence, there is no “concrete” object of refutation. All that is refuted is the false imputation that ascribes existence to what does not exist. Nagarjuna says in his Vigrahavyavartant:

Since no object of negation can be found,
I myself have nothing to negate.
And so, by saying “I refute,”
You’re the ones who falsely testify.

It might be objected that there is a contradiction in saying, as we have just done, that the two selves are devoid of true existence, while at the same time affirming that persons and phenomena exist on the relative level. All we mean is that as long as there is the tendency to delusion, relative appearances arise constantly and unhindered. But this does not mean that they exist inherently.


The Value of Human Existence

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa, with commentary by Longchen Yeshe Dorje and Kangyur Rinpoche, as translated by Padmakara Translation Group:

The Value of Human Existence:

1. So long enchanted in samsara’s wilderness,
Tormented by the cutting of their heads and limbs,
With seeds of future sorrow hidden in their minds,
Beings long so foolishly for bliss of higher realms.
2. From there they fall again, their states of mind destroying them,
To wander in three evil realms, or as insensate gods,
Or else in barbarous lands, with false views, handicapped,
In places where the Buddhas have not come.

3. On blazing iron grounds without reprieve,
With dreadful weapons wounded time and time again,
The denizens of hell are slain but cannot die–
Still tangled in the webs of hatred’s evil deeds.

4. What need is there to say that hungry ghosts are racked by want?
For food they find not even pus or blood or filth,
And streams and orchards dry before their eyes.
Their vitals burn in endless pain,
Their length of life uncertain,
Measured by the strength of obscuration.

5. Beasts prey on one another, are each other’s food.
And, hunter’s quarry, they are slain by cruel means;
Or caught and tamed, they are reduced to bondage.
Born to such great misery, what can they do?

6. The insensate gods, whose life-supporting karma is immense,
Live long in formlessness; no sorrow do they know.
But lacking support for learning and reflection,
At death they have false views and so lack freedom to progress.

7. Supported on the palaquin of legs and feet,
But yet with minds untouched by virtue,
Barbarous men live sunk and skilled in evil ways,
And wander in the jungles of false morality.

8. Some have senses that belie their promise.
Though they meet with teachers, holy and sublime,
They hear their words like echoes sounding from a cliff,
And suffer in the wasteland of no understanding.

9. Some achieve the great ship [of human life]
With wits like sails wherewith to cross the ocean of rebirth.
But overwhelmed by demons, the espouse false views,
Wherein the Buddha who has come takes no delight.

10. Some fall in blind and lightless chasms:
Ages where no Buddhas manifest.
And though they try to rise, they find no path
And in despair sink down from low to lower destinies.

11. Eight states therefore where beings are not free to practice Dharma,
Where world-destroying gales of sin and suffering rage,
Where merit is defiled in wariness and fear–
O think of this and profit from your freedom!

12. To be a human being in a pure and central land,
With limbs and senses whole, with faith in Buddha’s teaching,
With karmic fortune blossoming, unmarred by evil deeds–
And this is like the wishing-tree, extremely rare.

13. But rarer still, the Buddha, like an udumbara, has appeared within our world.
The flower of Dharma is in bloom. The garden of the doctrine,
Undiminished, still exists, and perfectly do holy beings enter it,
Within whose cooling shade we may find rest.

14. Such fortune in ourselves is rarer than the wishing tree;
Such outer circumstances are like udumbara flowers,
These ten together joined with eight-fold leisure–
Such coincidence will scarce be found again!

15. Examples make it clear–the turtle’s head, the floating yoke,
And numbers also, whereby humans in comparison with beasts
Are like stars that shine by day compared with those by night,
With, in a like proportion, hungry ghosts and denizens of hell.

16. If once aboard this great ship of our freedom,
We now fail to reach the far shore of this sea of pain,
This meeting with the helmsman will indeed have been in vain
For us who strive and fare upon the Dharma’s path.

Following a Teacher: from “Treasury of Precious Qualities”

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Longchen Yeshe Dorje and Jigme Lingpa as translated by Padmakara Translation Group:

The characteristics of good disciples

By contrast, good disciples don the armor of devotion like Nagabodhi, who realized the Truth. They have steadfast minds and like Pelgyi Yeshe serve the teacher and the Doctrine without a care for life and limb. Like Jetsun Mila, they do whatever their teacher tells them, without regard for their own comfort. Disciples like this are liberated merely by their devotion.

Disciples should have faith, the source of all spiritual qualities, and a clear, lucid intelligence unafflicted by doubt. They should have acquired the knowledge that enables them to distinguish virtue from non-virtue. They should have the great compassion of Mahayana and a deep respect for vows and samayas. They should be serene and disciplined in thought, word, and deed. They should be broad-minded and on friendly terms with their neighborhood as well as with their Dharma kindred. They should act with generosity toward the pure fields and should have pure perception with a sense of propriety toward others.

Good disciples should be (1) like well-behaved children, knowing how to please their teacher and how to avoid displeasing him or her. (2) Even if their teacher scolds them severely and often, as need arises, the students should behave like intelligent horses and restrain their anger. (3) In order to accomplish their teacher’s purpose, disciples should be like boats, sailing back and forth without weariness. (4) Like a bridge, they should be able to withstand any circumstance–good or bad, happiness or suffering, praise or blame. (5) Disciples should be like servants, they should be obedient and meticulous in carrying out their teachers’ instructions. (7) They should be respectful toward their teachers and spiritual community, with the humility of a street sweeper. (8) They should reflect upon their own shortcomings and avoid all arrogance, like the old bull whose horns are broken and who takes the last place in the herd. In the Bodhisattva pitaka  it is said that if disciples act in this way, they will be relying on their teacher correctly.

How to serve and follow the teacher

Spiritual teachers are embodiments of the Three Jewels; indeed, the Guru is the Fourth Jewel. As the Sarvabuddhasamaya-yoga-tantra says: “Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha: added to these, the teacher is the Fourth Jewel.” And Guru Rinpoche says, “The teacher is Buddha, the teacher is Dharma, the teacher is likewise Sangha. The peerless all-accomplisher, the teacher is the glorious heruka.” In view of this, there are said to be three ways of pleasing the teacher.

First, if one possesses material wealth, it is extremely important to make offerings. Second, in order to serve the teacher and to show respect, one should perform any necessary physical action, from house-hold chores and practical tasks of stitching and preparing a seat, to making gestures of reverence with your hands joined. One should speak up for whatever the teacher requires and, in relation with his or her teaching of the Dharma, one should do whatever is necessary, by way of explanation and so forth. The merit of all such actions is never wasted. These two kinds of action pleasing to the teacher–material offerings and physical and verbal service–are considered of the lowest and medium importance respectively. The third and best way of serving the teacher is to put the teachings into practice.

Spiritual masters have already accomplished their own aim. It is now their task to labor for the sake of others. It is important to understand that their various activities are displayed as appropriate to the inclinations and feelings of different beings and are the inconceivable operation of enlightened activities. Bearing this in mind, one should refrain from misinterpreting them. The siddhas of India like Saraha appeared for the most part as social outcasts. They adopted the way of life that was conventionally disreputable and lived without concern for purity or impurity, getting their livelihood as menials of the lowest caste or as “sinful” hunters and fishermen–living in the humblest way possible. But since their minds were undeluded, their actions were never wrong. We, by contrast, are as deluded as if we were under the power of hallucinogenic drugs. If we have not gained freedom through the three doors of perfect liberation, and have not realized the infinite purity of all phenomena, ascribe defects to our teacher, we commit an immeasurable fault. Bhikshu Sunakshatra committed to memory the entire twelve collections of the teachings, but, overpowered by his wrong views, he regarded as perfidious and underhand the actions of Buddha Shakyamuni himself, who was utterly without fault and possessed of every excellence. We should take all this to mind and confess and repair the slightest fluctuation in our faith. As it is said in the text, ‘khor lo chub pa rol pa:

If in the visions of your dreams,
The teacher seems to have fault,
As soon as you awake, confess!
For if you fail, the fault will grow
And lead to the Hell of Torment Unsurpassed.

If spiritual masters become apparently angry and scold their disciples, chiding them and behaving fiercely, the latter should understand that some fault has been perceived in them, a wrong thought perhaps, or negative behavior, and that the moment to practice discipline has come. They themselves vow never to commit the mistake again. They should never consider that the teacher is at fault. Intelligent disciples, who thus understand the underlying wisdom and purpose behind the master’s behavior, will not fall under the power of demonic forces.

The Law of Karma: From “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa translated by the Padmakara Translation Group:

The Karmic Process in General

There is absolutely no doubt that when we die, we must go where we are propelled. Like fish caught on a hook, we are entangled in the strings of our karma and pulled into one or other of the six realms, high or low. This is nothing but the effect of actions, positive or negative. It is true that, ultimately speaking there is no such thing as origination, but on the level of relative truth, the karmic principle of cause and effect as inescapable. It is like a gardener planting two kinds of seed, the bitter aloe or sweet grape. The resulting crops will have a corresponding taste. In the same way, the existential quality of our present lives, whether fortunate or otherwise, is but the product of positive or negative actions to which we have become accustomed in our previous existences.

Actions never fail to produce an effect

The shadow of a bird soaring in the sky may be temporarily invisible, but it is still there and will always appear when the bird comes to earth. In the same way, when attendant causes coincide with the factors of Craving and Grasping, karma comes to fruition and results in a life situation that is either favorable or unfavorable. As the sutra says, “The karma that living beings gather is never worn away even after a hundred kalpas. When the moment comes and the appropriate conditions gather, the fruit of the action will come to maturity.”

For as long as phenomena are apprehended as truly existent, even small negative actions are liable to have immense consequences.  They are likened in the root verse to a monstrous fire-vomiting mare–a reference to the volcanoes that encircle and ocean of brine on the rim of the world. The fire of those volcanoes is able to dry up the countless waves of the sea that here symbolize happy incarnations, the fruit of positive action. It is important to study the sutras such as the Saddharmasmrityupasthana, Karmashataka, Lalitavistara, and Karmavibbanga, for they describe how our human condition, which is like a ship in which we can sail to the precious isle of Omniscience, may be wrecked and brought to utter ruin.

The results of evil deeds, namely, the lower realms so full of dreadful and inescapable misery, are said in the root text to have been unable, for the moment, to overwhelm our strength, our army of ten “virtues tending to happiness”–in other words, our fortunate existence in higher states. These virtues are like heroes whose land is not yet overrun by the legions of suffering. And yet if our determination weakens, we shall fall into the ten evil actions and thence into lower existences. There are many ways in which this might happen. Some people, aspiring to liberation, receive the vows of pure discipline from their abbots or preceptors. But tempted by  desire or other evil thoughts, they break their commitments and fall, defeated in their monastic resolve. Again, some people kill animals for the sake of gain, thereby shortening their own lives. Some, out of aggression, go off to war only to be killed themselves. Some, inspired by virtue, embrace an ascetic discipline, becoming indifferent even to food and clothing. But later, victims of their desire, they settle down to married life. Some devote themselves with great effort to study and reflection, but they are unable to free themselves of the eight worldly concerns and are carried away by mundane preoccupations. Some, instead of offering their wealth to the Three Jewels, lavish it on their relatives and squander it.

On the whole, a moral conscience with regard to oneself and one’s religious values, and a sense of shame in respect of the opinions of others, are two factors that work in tandem to put a brake on evil behavior. Some people, however, abandon both their conscience and their sense of shame. They disregard virtuous conduct and in one way or other indulge in evil, succumbing to the habits they have grown accustomed  to from time without beginning. This is how people fall into the lower realms and stay there.


The Ten Negative Actions: From “Treasury of Precious Qualities”

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa:

There are ten ways of behaving, related to body, speech and mind, that are to be abandoned.

To begin with, there are three physical acts: killing, taking what is not given, and sexual misconduct. These are followed by four negative actions of speech: lying, divisive speech, worthless chatter, and harsh words. Finally, there are three negative actions of mind: covetousness, evil intent, and wrong views.

1. Killing

A complete act of killing takes place according to five criteria.

a)    A living being must be the object of the action.

b)    There must be no mistaking the intended victim.

c)    There must be the specific intention to kill.

d)    The act must be performed knowingly.

e)    The death of the being must ensue.

Similar to this are all acts of aggression when death occurs, through beating and so forth, even when death is not actually intended.

2. Theft

The act of taking what is not freely given is fully accomplished when four elements are present.

a)    The object concerned must be the possession of another.

b)    The agent knows that this is the case.

c)    The agent knowingly appropriates it.

d)    The object moves its location and becomes the agent’s property.

Related to theft are acts whereby things are acquired by deceit, for instance, in commercial transactions, or by extortion, or through the imposition of unjust fines, confiscation, and so on.

3. Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct takes place when three elements are present.

a)    It is known that the object of desire is the partner of another, or else a person engaged by someone else. One is aware that one is in the presence of a representation of the Buddha, or of persons with pratimoksha ordination (clerical or lay). One has intercourse with someone judged inappropriate in terms of custom, time, or any other criteria.

b)    Actual physical union.

c)    Satisfaction.

Included in sexual misconduct are improper sexual acts.

4. Lying

Lying occurs when four elements are present.

a)    The speaker must not be mistaken about what he or she wants to say.

b)    The speaker must have the intention to deceive.

c)    The lie must be consciously pronounced.

d)    The hearer must be deceived.

Associated with lying are all attempts to twist the truth by deceptive means and the concealment of the facts in order to cheat people.

5. Divisive Speech

Here, three factors are necessary.

a)    The people affected must be living in harmony or at least in a relationship of neutrality.

b)    The agent speaks in order to divide the parties.

c)    Discord arises between them, or at least the meaning of the speaker’s words comes home to them.

Allied to divisive speech is the repetition of criticism or abuse spoken by others in order to nurture resentment.

6. Worthless chatter

This comprises three elements.

a)    The conversation is motivated by the defilements.

b)    The mind strays to what is unwholesome.

c)    Futile chatter occurs: in other words, conversation productive of attachment or aversion. This covers, for instance, discussions about the sacrifices described in the Vedas, poetry, historical discourses about the rise and fall of empires, singing, recounting of legends, erotic literature, and tales of adventure and crime.

Related to worthless chatter are all unnecessary conversations about wars, crime, and so forth, even if this does not provoke attachment or hatred.

7. Harsh words

This depends on three factors.

a)    A specific person must be addressed.

b)    This person is spoken to harshly and hidden faults are exposed.

c)    The words pierce the person’s heart, causing trauma and sorrow.

Allied to verbal abuse are all kinds of talk that, though superficially sweet, bring about the unhappiness of others.

8. Covetousness

Covetousness has two factors.

a)    The object in mind must be the wealth or reputation of another.

b)    One must be obsessed with the other person’s qualities and belongings and want to take them for oneself.

Related to covetousness are all reflections on the wealth and advantages of others, with the wish to have them for oneself.

9. Evil Intent

Two factors are required for evil intent.

a)    The object must be a living being.

b)    The agent hates and deeply wishes harm to the other, desiring his or her misery, whether physical or mental. Wishing harm on others may be connected with anyone of nine objects: those who cause trouble to oneself, those who attack one’s friends, and those who aid one’s enemies. These three categories, multiplied by three according to past, present and future, come to nine objects all together. In addition, there are five factors that accompany evil intent. These are: hatred, rancor, injured pride, vengefulness, and ignorance.

Related to evil intent is discomfort at the advantages of others, such as riches and long life, and the wish that they did not have them but rather their opposites.

10. Wrong Views

There are two kinds of false views.

a)    Disbelief in the ineluctable principle of karma.

b)    Belief in a permanent self and phenomena, or the opposite, namely, nihilism, the belief that nothing survives death.

Related to wrong views are claims, born of animosity, that a sublime being has faults when this is not the case, and conversely the denial of the qualities that such a being possesses—thus creating doubts in the minds of others.