Buddhist Views on Contamination, Part I
The Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen
Everyone knows that Buddhism is composed of three Yanas, but all three
are based on the fundamental truth of Sunyata. The Sunyata view includes
an explanation of conditions but does not talk about seeds or causes. Although
everything appears under certain conditions, there are no original seeds
or first causes. If there were, there might be such things as eternally
existing atoms or some kind of Creator God. The Buddhist view of Sunyata
avoids all these fruitless concepts by emphasizing a view of conditional
phenomena that does not depend on the existence of original seeds.
One may see this in connection with any object, for example a bottle.
It has no source, no seeds and no self. There is no entity, essence or
self corresponding to what we commonly call a bottle. The bottle is gathered
from various conditions such as the glass, the glassblower's skill, the
economic conditions of its manufacture, etc. All these factors may in turn
be analyzed and seen to be composite and without self. Thus, however minutely
you may analyze the bottle, no source or self will ever be found.
There are only certain conditions and sets of conditions in the Sunyata.
All things are like this contained within. Even Buddhahood is likewise
gathered from certain conditions. So we can see that the philosophy of
conditions is a very important part of the system of Buddhism. Conditions
are without limit but they all contain and are contained within the one
nature of Sunyata.
When a Buddha abides in a static attitude or Static Samadhi he does
not see a self anywhere. He sees that everything is void, that everything
is the Dharmakaya. Here there are no differentiated objects so how could
there be any one-sided view? This is called the Samadhi of Fundamental
Nature. When Buddha is in this Samadhi even his own self disappears. For
him there are no conditions but only the basic Sunyata nature. In such
a Samadhi he sees that all Buddhas, all sentient beings, the Six Realms,
the Ten Dharmadhatus, all are included in the Dharmakaya. This is called
the Former Samadhi, the Fundamental Samadhi or the Static Samadhi.
But when Buddha arises from that Samadhi he enters the Later Samadhi
or the Discriminative Samadhi or the Dynamic Samadhi. These three names
all refer to the time when Buddha leaves the silent state and undertakes
some action to help others. But even in activity he does not depart from
the Sunyata nature.
In the final Truth there are no things at all. There is no psychology
and none of the concepts of psychology. There is no materialism and nothing
associated with it. All are harmonized. There are no one-sided views. But
Buddha does not just stay in the Dharmakaya as if he were dead. He arises
to do something for the sentient beings, but still keeps the fundamental
The Sunyata is like a sheet of paper, blank on one side and with writing
on the other. The Sunyata nature is like the blank side of the paper; it
is just pure and void. There is nothing, no form, no color. Only the brightness
of Samadhi. The Sunyata conditions are like the side with writing. Many
different messages may appear. But really the two are the same just like
the two sides of the paper. When we talk it seems like two things, but
when Buddha acts in the Dynamic Samadhi to save others he still keeps all
the Wisdom of the Static Samadhi but now uses it to help others under various
Thus one must understand that in the Buddhist philosophy, conditions
and Sunyata are inseparable.
Buddha has many Supernatural Powers so he can know every person's mind,
Karma and character. He has no one-sided views. In the Later Samadhi of
Discrimination, Buddha knows exactly which medicine to use to cure each
disease. A common person might just say, "Oh, this one should take Vitamin
A and that one should take Vitamin D." But this is just based on some one-sided
view. Such a doctor has no real wisdom. Buddha has wisdom because he has
identified these two Samadhis.
Every Buddha has Ten Strengths, Six Supernatural Powers and Eighteen
Extra Wisdoms. He can know everything in the past, present and future.
He can actually know the specific events that have not yet happened. One
common name of all Buddhas and especially of Karmapa is Dusen Chenpo. It
means "He who knows the Three Periods." When we say "Karmapa Chenpo" what
does this "ChenPo" refer to? What does Karmapa know? He knows the differences,
the details of the conditions. If he only knew the pure Sunyata nature
what good would that do? He also knows the conditions. That is why he can
really help people.
The Fundamental Samadhi is like a blank paper. The Discriminative Samadhi
is like a paper with many pictures, symbols and messages written on it,
but the underneath color is still part of the picture. So we can see that
it is very important to learn what conditions we should seek and what conditions
we should avoid. We should always reflect on our own heart, mind, habits
and character and then figure out how to save ourselves, to cure ourselves,
to gather the good conditions and change ourselves.
Actually everybody already has the Buddha nature. Even the sufferers
in Hell all have the Buddha nature. So do ghosts and animals. There is
no way to increase it or decrease it. There is no need to practice it.
It always remains the same and we can neither seek it nor get rid of it.
So obviously just having the Buddha nature is not enough. It is very
important to know also the conditions. What conditions are good and which
are bad? How can we gather the good and avoid the bad? How can we change
the bad into good?
In this talk we only follow the Buddhist view. We do not consider the
ideas of Science, or of the scholars, or of Christianity, or of Hinduism.
We will only speak of the Buddhist view of contaminative conditions. According
to Buddhist tradition every thing may be considered from four points of
view: the Outer, the Inner, Secret, and Most Secret.
I. Outward Contaminations
Outward conditions mean our environment. It includes all of the physical
world except our own body. in this category too are all our social interactions
with our family, friends, other people and animals. We must learn to choose
good outward conditions. Especially at the beginning of our practice we
must seek out good conditions for meditation.
An ancient Tantric practitioner named Subahu had practiced for many
years but had not gained very good results. He asked Buddha what he should
do. Buddha pointed out many conditions that should be avoided. His advice
was recorded in a Sutra and has been published in Chenian Booklet New Number
45, "Vajrayana Silas, Part One." That booklet contains twenty-six rules
on how to serve the Guru. Next there are one hundred and thirty-six rules
taken from the Subahu Sutra and the Susiddhikara Sutra and itemized, numbered
and classified by myself. They fall into six groups: Character, Dwelling,
Eating, Actions, Repetition (of Mantra), and Practice. With regard to outward
defilement the following rules extracted from the above booklet may be
16. Do not keep cats or dogs.
17. Do not kill sheep or goats.
18. Do not put a parrot or any other bird inside a cage.
20. Do not talk about a king, prince, minister, great officer, robber,
prostitute, thief, fighting and war.
21. Do not go into any town, village or residence of an outsider (non-Buddhist).
26. Abide in the place of a Buddha or Bodhisattva.
27. If you cannot get such an auspicious place then dwell on the bank
of a great river or near a small river or on the slope of a mountain. Do
not live where there are wild animals, water animals, or underground animals
28. Dwell at a place where many good flowers flourish.
29. Do not live near noisy place and with people.
30. Dwell in a cave where there are no fierce beasts.
31. Do not dwell at a place where there are thorns, stone chips, bones
or dead bodies, ashes, coal, foul mud, the holes of ants, or a place of
dirt in the ground which has no bottom after digging.
32. Do not let a violent wind come into your room.
33. Do not let fleas and ants stay in your room.
34. Do not let your roof leak.
35. You must have windows on your walls and the inside must be bright
36. Make no door towards the south direction.
37. The residence should not be too far from the village or town.
38. Do not make a hermitage near a place where there are many persons.
39. The dwelling should have no outsiders.
40. Do not live with an outsider, a proud person, a rich man or a foolish
man. Do not keep company with a hypocrite, a cheat or one without compassion
who takes things from monks with the mind of a viper and oily lips.
46. Do not beg food from outsiders for they may give you some ignorant
49. Eyes, when begging, are better to be filled with sparks and become
blind rather than be ravished by beauties.
64. Do not go to a house in which there is a woman or domestic animal
just in delivery.
65. Do not go to the theatre or any place where music is performed by
male or female singers.
66. Do not go to a brothel, wine-shop, or any profligate place.
67. Do not go to a place where there are many boys and girls playing
68. Do not join the celebration of a wedding.
69. Do not go to a house where there is a cur.
70. Do not clap hands, sing songs, or dance.
71. Do not look at a fight among or between human beings or animals.
72. Do not dally or act in a hot tempered manner.
73. Do no gamble on any kind of chance.
76. Do not play in the water.
These are only a few of the Rules that Buddha was so kind as to give
us. Readers may consult the above mentioned booklet for the rest. A few
more are copied below in the section on food. Buddha taught these rules
three thousand years ago, but they are still valid and can be used as models
to make our own rules to deal with the difficult conditions now caused
Even the Communists forbid their people to go to the Free World because
they fear that the people might be contaminated by it. They tell them,
"If you were allowed to go there you might learn some bad habits from the
degenerate Americans. You would become addicted to all sorts of luscious
pleasures that are not available here in your own country. So you must
not go. If you do try to go, we will kill you!"
Many Buddhists in Eastern European countries like Hungary, Poland and
Czechoslovakia correspond with me but they have no chance to visit me.
Once a Czechoslovakian Buddhist scholar came to visit me in India. When
I heard his name I was happy but very surprised. With tears I asked, "How
can you come here?" He explained, "I am an official in my country. The
government has trusted me to travel so that I may collect some of the Buddhist
books for our National Library. That is why I have this chance to visit
I asked him, "Would you like to stay in a free country like America?
If so, I can introduce you to some friends who will take you to meet the
American Ambassador in Calcutta. They can help you to live in America.
You need not go back to your country."
But he said, "No. Even though our government is Communist in name, still
the leaders are all good men. They do not follow the harsh policies of
the Russians. Much less do they agree with the Chinese Communists. Ours
is quite different. We can believe in Buddhism or Christianity or any other
religion without being punished. There is no need to go to America where
everything is so expensive anyway. Besides, I am an official with responsibilities.
Finally, my family is still there inside. Thank you very much but I must
return to my own country."
Thus he was grateful but did not accept my offer. I just tell this story
to show that even the Communists are aware of contaminations from outside.
Of course, contamination is a relative term that depends on what you consider
pure. They have their own ideas.
Now we will consider what we as Buddhists regard as a pure or holy place.
This is especially for the beginners, not for the Sage. For a sage everywhere
is the same; everywhere is pure. I am not a sage but I try. Many ask me,
"How is Berkeley?" I like everywhere! Berkeley is also good.
But still one can exercise some discrimination. I was asked by Mrs.
Mary who said, "There is a moving picture called "Oriental Prostitute."
It sounds very interesting. Will you go to see it with us? We already have
tickets." I said, "No. I lived in India in my hermitage for twenty-five
years. I have totally lost my interest in the theater, although in my younger
days I did pursue it." I also said, "In America there are so many theaters.
They all have posters on the walls outside to advertise their motion pictures.
Just by walking on the street I can see enough. There is no need to buy
As mentioned above, Buddha also in the Subahu Requests Tantra forbad
his serious disciples to go to the theater. There was theater in those
ancient times too but now it is more highly developed.
Because we want to keep our good health we should not go to the theater.
Even the modern health authorities and their families frequent the theaters
and movie houses, but if you think carefully, you will understand the following.
Do not the scientists and doctors all say that one must have a constant
supply of fresh air? In a theater do we not find many people all of whom
must continually exhale? When you breathe in there where does the air come
from? Do you think that air is clean or dirty?
Because you do not consider such things but just follow your habit it
seems that the theater is a good place to get pleasure, a good place to
spend your weekend. It seems very nice but does it help your Dharma? Does
it help your meditation?
Surely the one who is in an advanced position may be able to make use
of defilement. Even I myself once went to see the famous performer Mei
Lang Fang. When he visited America he was awarded an honorary Doctor of
Arts degree. The music and the action all fed my meditation of Mahamudra.
Afterwards I returned to my sponsor and gave a talk on how to meditate
in the theater. But this is not for the beginner.
Buddha's teaching is for everybody, not just for the Sage or the advanced
person who already has some attainment of Samadhi. So the person who is
just starting to practice, who is still establishing his good foundations,
who has not yet achieved a real Samadhi and who therefore does not have
the ability to purify and transmute the unhealthy conditions, should not
Movies and theaters are of course very common. Everyone goes to them.
But the more common a thing is, the easier it is to fall into the common
state of defilement. When we see things on television or in movies there
is an unfortunate tendency to copy them. A very sad event was reported
in the Reader's Digest which is not fiction but actually took place.
Some parents left their small baby in the care of a maid. They told
her, "If the baby wakes up and needs anything like food or a new diaper,
you take care of it; otherwise, you may just watch television." The servant
sat on a couch next to the sleeping baby and turned on the T.V. There was
a program about an insane woman who had killed her own baby. The way she
did it was to smother the baby with a large pillow. The servant thought,
"Is it really so easy?" So she put a pillow on the baby to see if the baby
would notice. She had no intention of leaving it on long enough to kill
the baby, but just then a very interesting program came on T.V. and when
she remembered the pillow, the baby had already died. She was terrified
and started to run away but just then the parents returned and she was
caught. This is a true story. I only bring it up to show what bad effects
movies and television can have on people.
So we see that not only is the physical air bad in the theater but there
are many mental pollutions as well. The theater, movies and television
give many distorted images that claim to represent pure love. The real
pure love is only found as part of the highest teaching. It is only possible
in the final stages.
But in the theater one sees all the pure things mixed up and confused
with dirty things. This is because the truth is very difficult to accept,
so rather than trying to teach the truth they prefer to hold the common
person's interest with sex, violence and useless things.
Even Shakespeare used stories of sex, robbery, fighting and quarreling.
If even Shakespeare must use these things, what can we expect from modern
writers? They cannot help but teach bad things instead of good things.
So it is better for us to protect ourselves and not go to see them.
A motion picture lasts at the least two hours. In this period how many
times could you chant OM MANI PADME HUM or OM AH RA BA CHA NA DHI? It is
much better not to waste our precious time.
Even if you go to the movies again and again, you will never be able
to satisfy your desire for them. When you get to this point there is a
special kind of theater called "Adult Movies" where you can pay to watch
sexual intercourse. You can see on a big screen many people engaged in
all kinds of sexual activity. Very interesting. But you have been the star
of such actions; you already know how to perform sexual intercourse. It
is the same thing. Why should you need to pay to see it on a screen? It
would be much better if you used the price of admission to help the Food
Project or the Free Clinic. For the three dollars it costs for the ticket
instead you could buy thirty fish, take them to the river and save their
There are many places that should be avoided, such as slaughterhouses.
Nowadays this is not so obvious because the slaughterhouses are always
well hidden from the public. Cemeteries and graveyards are also places
of defilement but there is a special reason that one should go to them.
It is because in the cemetery one is very aware of impermanence. Thus you
can see that some places are best avoided altogether while others may help
us to see part of the truth.
Milarepa pointed out three places that should be visited to practice
meditation. One is a cave, one is a mountain, and one is among graves.
Mountain means a mountain without any people, not like my hermitage in
Kalimpong. Although when I first moved there it was very quiet and holy,
just part of a small village; gradually many Tibetan businessmen and other
residents kept moving in; all the streets were extended and the village
became part of the city. My solitude was destroyed.
Why do the Sages emphasize solitude? Because the silence, fresh air,
mountain view, and lack of disturbing persons all help one to get good
meditation. So Milarepa always emphasized these three places.
I meditated in a cave for two years, in the mountains for many years,
and in a cemetery for one year. In the cemetery I was very aware of impermanence
and was very diligent in my practice, much more so than when living in
other places. To live among graves creats a fear of death and so we become
If you live in a comfortable hotel with good food and luxurious furniture,
the comfort produces a tendency to be lazy. You will then fall into laziness
and spend too much time sleeping and being idle. But if you live in a cemetery
you will always be aware of the impermanence, the shortness of life and
will always fear death. Thus you will be anxious to practice constantly.
This is why Milarepa mentioned these places.
Yesterday a friend had the good idea of making a film about Milarepa.
I suggested that she goes to Nepal and films the Himalayan caves where
Milarepa meditated. It might be inspirational for modern Buddhists to see
the places where that Sage actually lived.
C. Dropping Out
Nowadays I am sorry to say that though many young people have dropped
out, they have not really renounced in the Buddhist sense.
Some still take money from their parents, and some take money from the
Government. If you sit on Telegraph Avenue with your wife and engage in
some small business, it is not the action of a real dropout. The real dropout
goes to the mountains and meditates. The small businesses on Telegraph
Avenue and the big businesses of their parents are in fact the same. Both
are based on the exchange of goods and services for profit and are within
the realm of selfishness. They are still attached to material things. This
way one will never escape from the contamination of the world.
Buddha said that the home is a dirty defiling place. In home life there
are so many distractions and obligations.
Nowadays some young people have left their parents and think that they
have dropped out, but they still keep their wives with them. In fact they
cannot take one step without their wives. They have left their parents
but can they live without their wives? This is not yet real renunciation.
This talk may seem very harsh, but I just comment on what I see in America
and point out the Right View according to the Buddhist tradition.
Many people always say that animals in the house are good friends. When
a lady at one local Buddhist center acquired a cat, the Lama told her to
get rid of it. In this matter he was quite in accord with the Buddhist
tradition. Buddha forbad his serious disciples to keep a dog or cat or
to feed the pigs or pigeons. One should not keep any pet in his home or
Yet some modern students who are trying to renounce still keep animals
with them. A student went to live in a cave but he took his dog with him.
He also brought his dog along when he visited San Diego and the dog made
stool in someone's house. He had to clean it up.
Some Americans treat their dogs better than they treat their own brothers
and sisters. Surely I would like to see every one be kind to all animals.
But not too kind. Recently I saw a man sitting in his car. On his right
was his wife. In the back seat was his dog. First he kissed the dog and
then with the same mouth he kissed his wife.
In the East one would never see such a thing. The common view of Westerners
is that the West is clean and the East is dirty, but by Buddhist standards,
the East is relatively clean and the West is dirty.
In the East to kiss a dog, to embrace a dog or to cohabit with a dog
is very rare. But in the West many girls keep wolflike dogs to have sexual
intercourse with. This is an example of a very heavy dirt, a very defiling
The ancient female sage named Marje Lun-mo was an incarnation of Dolma,
or Tara. She was a very holy being. She was Bodhidharma's dakini. When
he returned to Tibet from China he met her. I have translated her biography
into Chinese and it will be printed soon. Once she foreknew that some students
would come to her. She told her attendant, "Tomorrow two students will
come. They will both be clad in dog skins. Admit them but first ask them
to get rid of the dog skins." The next day, it actually happened as she
had said. Then she gave some teaching. She said, "Do not use any animal's
skins for clothing. It is not good to use even tiger skins, but especially
don't use the skins of dogs." Thus she warned them against these bad conditions,
and pointed out nine bad conditions of the dog.
One is that the dog has karma from past lives connecting him with many
ghosts. These ghosts follow the dog around. So if you want to avoid the
ghosts, you have to avoid the dog.
Many Tibetan lamas and laymen keep dogs. Especially travellers who have
dogs for protection. In Tibet robbers are very common. When the travellers
stop for the night they do not have hotels or motels, but have to camp
in tents. During the night robbers come and kill them and take all their
gold and valuables, so they keep large fierce watchdogs to guard against
robbers. These Tibetan dogs are large and vicious. Their mouths are always
red with blood and if they bite you, it is always a fatal bite.
I remember even Szudun Rinpoche in Papong had one of those large dogs.
He kept it on an iron chain. But it was so strong that once it even broke
the chain. A lady that was unfortunate enough to be passing there at that
time was bitten and died immediately. Szudun Rinpoche was very ashamed.
He confessed his mistake and paid a large sum to her family. But what is
the use of money? Can money bring her back to life?
Now some famous Lamas keep small expensive lap dogs. Even one of my own
gurus had a small dog with beautiful
hair. He fed it tsampa from his own plate and gave it water from his own
cup. Even though he is my guru still I cannot agree with this. These are
all examples of bad conditions but we see them even affecting those famous
A dog follows the human's lead. On the one hand, if you pet him and
scratch him, gradually he will be pleased and stand up and kiss you. Then
as the dog becomes excited his sex becomes excited too. By and by he starts
to smell your private parts. So even though you had no intention of making
love to the dog, eventually you become involved in this immoderate relationship.
On the other hand, if you do not scratch and pet the dog but just tell
him firmly, "Sit! I will give you food. Sit here!" he will obey. A dog
can at least be trained to serve some useful purpose.
The cat is just as bad. The cat's special characteristic is that it
is very hard to get rid of. The cat just wants to move his body and to
touch you. Actually, he does not love you but just wants to touch anything
to relieve the itching of his body. He will also rub against the furniture
in the same way.
That lady at the Buddhist center said to me, "Oh, this cat loves me
so much! Look how he runs up to me and rubs against me!" But I explained
to her that the cat was only easing his own discomfort. I said, "Don't
just see yourself, but look more carefully. See how the cat rubs against
the legs of that chair. Does he love it too?"
Every animal has its associated problems, not only dirt and ghosts but
also fleas. If you stay with animals the fleas will jump into your clothing.
If a flea is biting your private parts, how can you meditate then? Actually
the flea does not want to be on you, it much prefers to stay on the dog
or cat. It is attracted to the smell of the animal, but sometimes the flea
is jumping around the room and the animal leaves suddenly. Then the flea
has no choice and must settle for your body instead.
Every being has its characteristic smell. You remember in the biography
of Milarepa when, after his Parinirvana his body was being cremated, many
heavenly beings appeared in the sky overhead. The human disciples called
to them, "Come down here with us. Please come down to the earth and join
us. Why do you not come down?" But the angels and devas cannot stand the
smell of human beings.
Only if your meditation is good and if much of your defilement is removed,
and if you burn some good sandalwood, then they might come near you. Even
then maybe not too close.
I remember when many gods came to me all my body gave off a very sweet
smell like sandalwood. Even when I went to the toilet, I still felt that
sweet sandalwood smell. Actually. I smelled two kinds of smells but they
were not mixed. When the Dakinis come to you there is also a special smell.
If other people are there they can also smell the holy beings. Do not think
that when you are alone in your room that you are really the only one there.
There are many things connected with your body that are never considered
by common thought. If one prays earnestly, the Buddha will be with you,
the Bodhisattvas are with you, the Yidams are with you, the Dakinis are
with you and the Protectors are with you. These are the pure forms of consciousness.
On the contrary, if one loses his Bodhicitta, if one loses his meditation,
if one loses his Vinaya, then the holy beings will go away and the evil
ghosts will come.
My friend, Mr. Wan Chi Ko, is a very earnest Buddhist. He has performed
the Homa many times. His eyes have developed a special ability and are
able to see ghosts. He told me, "When I am in the street sometimes I see
good people driving along. Even though their car is moving very fast, still
many gods are sitting on it. But the bad people, even though they may also
be rich and drive expensive cars, yet following-along behind them are many
Because he has such eyes he can really see them. You might not believe
it, but just because you who do not have such eyes cannot see them, it
does not mean that they are not there. Actually everyone's individual karma
connects him with many beings. They may be holy beings, they may be ghosts,
or they may even be the messengers of Yama who have come to take your life.
If an evil being comes to harm you, or even one of Yama's attendants
comes, how can you know? Even an evil being may not know when he will meet
you. Therefore, you must always be careful and choose your conditions carefully.
Good conditions cause good to increase and go from good to better to best.
Bad conditions cause bad to increase and go from bad to worse to worst.
For example, in my room I have already burned much sandalwood. This
causes the gods to come. If you burn the Hindu incense that smells like
cheap perfume, the bad ghosts will come to take the smoke as food. If you
burn a lamp the holy beings will be pleased with the brightness. If you
just leave it dark, they will not be attracted.
Nowadays many restaurants keep the lights very low. They are too dark.
It seems to some people that darkness is the same as quietness. So we can
talk small talk and enjoy a quiet dinner. Actually this is not good reasoning.
Quietness does not follow from darkness.
There are many other things that could be pointed out but now we must
go on to the next part.
II Inward Defilements
Inward refers to the body and therefore to food. We will later give
a special talk on diet, but now a few things should be mentioned.
Some food will cause you to get angry if you take too much. In this
class are all hot things like peppers. Others, like turnips, will make
you sleepy. Turnips cause intestinal gas, bringing energy down and thus
putting you to sleep.
Too much food is a defilement because it makes you sleepy; too much
is also bad because it causes disturbed mind. Sleepy mind, disturbed mind
and nonsense mind are all disturbances to meditation. If we want to get
good Samadhi we must not neglect to regulate our diet. We will speak more
on this in another lecture.
Many Hippies and drug addicts say that drugs are useful for meditation.
They say that on a good trip you can meet God, that the ancient sages used
drugs. So it seems that drugs are holy. But this is the same mistake again
of thinking that the beginner is the same as the Sage.
For the Sage drugs can sometimes be a little helpful, for example Marpa
drank wine. This was for developing Tummo, to help him concentrate with
great warmth. But Marpa already had achieved an advanced degree of Samadhi
and then used the specific function of the wine to make it stronger. Thus
the Sage may know how to use a drug to excite a particular function for
a particular reason. But this is impossible for the beginner. The beginner
should forbid himself the use of any kind of drug. Then he will have a
chance to someday become a Sage.
Many cases are on record of those who have taken drugs like L.S.D. and
have had bad trips. Much trouble resulted: Some committed suicide, some
tried to fly out of windows and were killed by the fall, some became very
angry, some very frightened, some suffered heart attacks. From all these
examples we may generalize and say that these drugs should not be used
by the beginner.
In a final sense drugs cannot be either good or bad. If they are really
good why do so many people injure themselves with bad trips so that they
can no longer function normally? If they are absolutely bad why do some
people have good trips and see God? But in practical terms we should avoid
Every dharma is void and without self. Everything depends on certain
conditions. What may be good for one person may be bad for another. Since
this talk is for those just learning to practice Buddhism, I simply advise
them that drugs are harmful.
It may seem that Buddhism is too hard to practice. Hinayana, Mahayana,
and then Vajrayana: it takes so much time to practice this and that and
go through all the steps. Why not just take some L.S.D. and get the same
effects immediately? Just by action of the chemical you can see many things
and it seems very good, but there is no certainty and it may also turn
out to be very bad for you.
The effects produced by drugs are not the same as that produced by real
practice; nor do they become holy merely by talking about "the Yoga of
taking L.S.D." A real practice is pre-determined and dependable; it has
a certain initial Cause, a certain practical Course, and a certain final
For example, when a Buddhist develops the Bodhicitta, the Bodhicitta
of Will is the Cause; the Bodhicitta of Conduct, the Bodhicitta of Victorious
Significance, and the Bodhicitta of Samadhi are the Course; the Consequence
has been demonstrated and exemplified by all the Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas.
If you practice, there is a certainty that eventually you will succeed.
On the other hand with drugs like L.S.D. is there any such certainty?
What is the Cause of L.S.D.? Does it contain the seed of Buddhahood? Where
is it to be seen? No such things will be found. It is just a chemical.
It is just a material thing with no consciousness. How could it be a Holy
What is the Course of L.S.D.? Some take it once every three days, some
every week, and some only takes one trip a month. If one trip a month produces
a certain realization, does taking it every day cause more realization?
No. Who has defined the Course of L.S.D. usage? A course should be dependable,
for example, when we go to school we take classes in a regular order and
eventually get a degree. Does the drug have any similar dependable fixed
Some L.S.D. has one form, some has another. I myself have taken L.S.D.
three times. Not for myself but because some young people came to my hermitage
and asked me to be their witness and guide as they took it. Since they
asked for my help, I had to accept.
The first time it was white powder, the second time it was a purple
pill, and the third time it was a small piece of gold paper. This last
one was very powerful. There were five people with me at my hermitage.
After twenty minutes everyone began to act according to his particular
conditions. One began to giggle foolishly like a lunatic. Another one started
to sing. Still another felt very warm and took off his clothing. As for
me, I just meditated there. I felt that my meditation was very strong.
So I determined that it could sometimes help the person who already had
a deep Samadhi but not the common person.
That day my friends were under the protection of my hermitage. They
just had a little interval of madness without much harm, but this was a
special condition. There is no certainty inherent in the drug. If we could
depend on certain results whenever we took it, then the taking of L.S.D.
would be worthwhile. But its effects are always dependent on conditions
that we cannot completely control.
My karma was able to protect them, otherwise they might have had less
pleasant experiences. If they had just taken it at their homes, each other's
individual karma would have been seen in different results. Some might
have become angry and tried to kill other people. Some might have thought,
"I can fly!" and tried to fly out the window and had been killed.
These kinds of effects have been reported not once but many times.
In addition to the immediate effects, there are delayed effects. These
hide in the nerves until they get a chance and then come out when we least
expect them. There is a boy who lives near Berkeley who has taken L.S.D.
a great many times. Even when he is not taking it he still suffers from
uncontrollable-shaking and fits of rage. He broke a friend's window and
a Lama's window. Once a Chinese monk told me that this boy had told him,
"You are a holy being, I am also a holy being. We should try to save the
American youth." The monk said to me, "I don't want to listen to his mad
talk. He might break my window too!"
I have prayed and done some good deeds therefore am protected by the
gods. When that boy came to see me, he prostrated himself before me as
soon as I came to the door, but I looked at his face and saw that he was
trembling. He asked me how he could stop his trembling. I told him, "Don't
take any more L.S.D., then you won't get so upset and break people's windows."
The sad thing is the windows he broke have been repaired and although they
cost a lot of money are now as good as new. But the boy himself continues
to tremble more and more and every time he takes more acid his trembling
gets worse. Now the windows are all repaired but his disease is far from
repaired. He has confessed to me that he knows he took too much L.S.D.,
and yet, some people say to me, "You don't really understand. How can you
say that it is no good?"
Consider the case of the late Alan Watts. He was a long-time Buddhist
but then started to take L.S.D. He recently died in his sleep from a heart
attack, very peacefully. But most people don't know that to die in sleep
is to die in a state of ignorance. When you die in your sleep you have
no chance to think about good rebirth, to think about Amitabha, or to do
anything to help yourself get good conditions of rebirth. In a case like
this a person falls into the lower three states of hell, ghost, and animal.
The very best he can hope for is to be reborn as a pig.
Alan Watts was an old friend who corresponded with me. After he became
a Hippie he began to emphasize drugs although he still read The Tibetan
Book of the Dead and tried to use it to guide his acid trips. But what
good did it do to him? As he did not know he was going to die that night,
who could read this book to him? Thus both young people and old scholars
hurt themselves because they do not carefully consider the Cause, Course,
and Consequence of their acts. Poor Alan Watts just received the consequence
of death by a heart attack in an unconscious condition. This makes me very
If you have already taken it, what can you do? You must confess and
always keep the thought, "I have this condition inside my body. It is a
defilement of my body that must be purified." Always reflect on the inner
body, the inner energy. Whenever any little excitement of anger arises,
it must be stopped immediately. Just go into the forest and do some chanting
and sing a good song of Milarepa. Don't let the angry energy grow. There
is no need to consider if you are right or he is right--just leave it.
Any kind of quarrel can cause a violent reaction in your body. This is
very dangerous to you. Never forget that these things are hiding in your
nerves ready to hurt you, so you must always watch your mind, watch your
energy and always be cooling it down, cooling it down. If you can control
yourself for a long time, eventually it might be cured.
We should also forbid ourselves to use wine, spirits, and tobacco. When
C. C. Chang was with me he did not smoke, then when he left me he began
to smoke. After some time we met again and I asked him, "Why do you smoke
those cigarettes? You know they are bad for you." He said, "I smoke for
social reasons. Whenever you meet somebody it is so easy to just give him
a cigarette. He is happy immediately. It only costs a few pennies and it
makes many friends." I told him, "You must stop; otherwise you will have
some trouble." But he kept on. After three years he developed heart disease.
Then he told me, "If I had followed your advice, I would not have this
heart condition." Then he had to stop but the damage was already done.
In his childhood he never had this bad habit, only later under the influence
of society he began to smoke. And then he became in turn a bad influence
on others. Society is like this, it is just a place people exchange bad
A Buddhist must hold firmly to his Right View. The Buddha did not smoke
nor did he drink. Whatever he did we must do too; whatever he did not do,
we must also refrain from. We must not pay any attention to what society
thinks, we must not consider what common people say is right or wrong,
and must not care about social intercourse and approval. We must just follow
the Buddha in every way.
Buddha's example is plain. Even though he has died, his biography and
teachings are still here. His path is still open to everyone. We must copy
his behavior completely. That is why I always emphasize the Tradition.
If we follow the Buddha we are practicing Buddhism; if we follow the ideas
and habits of others we are not really practicing Buddhism. So we must
follow the Buddha, the teaching of the Dharma, and those who preserve the
teaching, the Sangha.
Not only did Buddha succeed, but over the centuries this Dharma has
produced many Sages. The examples of all the Patriarchs and Bodhisattvas
prove that the traditional teaching is reliable; there are three thousand
years of proof.
But drug use, although isolated experiences may seem good, has no solid
record of success. In the few years since drugs such as L.S.D. have been
widely used, what have we seen? A few people who have had good trips. Many
more have suffered injury of one sort or another. Has the drug L.S.D. produced
any Buddhas or Sages? There is no record of permanent good results.
At first even the Government did not know if L.S.D. was harmful. Then
when the data began to appear from the courts and hospitals, the Government
passed laws trying to protect the people. Actually this Government loves
us even more than our parents do.
Today many young people hate the Government. Although they get upset
about a great variety of issues, the main reason behind their anger is
that the Government has made drugs illegal. "Look! They are putting us
in jail and all we did was smoking marijuana!" And so they hate the Government
and think that anyone who tells them not to indulge in drugs must be completely
Actually even the worst of the American political leaders are still
very good. If they were really bad, they would say, "Oh, you want drugs?
You can have drugs but you must pay a heavy tax. You seem to have so much
money. Bread is not enough, you must have meat; meat is not enough, you
must have wine; wine is still not enough, now you want drugs, too. You
must be very rich to buy all these things, so you will be able to pay this
heavy tax." The real bad official acts like this. They do not care if you
become insane, or if you commit suicide. All they are interested in is
getting your money; that is how a bad Governor acts.
The American ones are not like that. The Government here loves you:
it protects you and even gives those unable to work some money. In China
you would never hear of such a thing. There they would say, "You have only
yourself to blame. Nobody asked you to take drugs. If you cannot work and
have to suffer in poverty or starve to death because you injured yourself
through drug use, it is your own fault. Why should the government worry
about you?" Our Government here in America is so kind, and we should act
in a good manner towards the Government. We should pray for the Government,
pray for the Nation, pray for the Dharma in the Nation.
On the one hand, you should reflect on your mistakes and not commit
them any more; on the other hand, you can develop your Bodhicitta towards
everybody including your parents and your Government. In the Buddhist tradition
in China there are four Benefactors. First is the Guru, second is our parents,
third is the Government officials who protect us from war, thieves and
other dangers, and fourth is all sentient beings.
Why is every sentient being our benefactor? Because people do so many
necessary things for us. The farmers supply us with food. The tailors and
seamstresses make our clothing. Even the garbage men carry away our dirt.
They love us and so we should love them.
Why do we not recognize these benefactors? Because we give them money
in exchange for their work it seems that there is no need to be grateful
to them. They have done their job and gotten their wage. If you always
think like this, you will be blinded by money and unable to develop your
Money is never the only consideration. For example, when I lived in
Kalimpong, I had no washing machine. I could have paid some Tibetans to
wash my clothing for me but all the Tibetans lived too far away. There
were many Nepali people living nearby who would have been glad to earn
money in other ways. But there is a Nepali custom that the wife may wash
only her husband's clothing. If any woman were to wash another man's clothing
other than her own husband's, she would be regarded as a prostitute. It
is too shameful for them to even consider. When I tried to get one poor
Nepali to help me, she said, "I will not do it. Even if you were to give
me a hundred dollars for each piece of clothing, I still would not do it."
Thus we see that even when money is paid, it is still not the most important
thing. The person must first agree to accept your money. It is not possible
to put a price on everything. If someone agrees to take your money and
work for you, he is also a kind of benefactor and you should feel grateful
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