AIDS Advice and Practices

AIDS Advice and Practices

Date of Advice:
October 2013
Date Posted:
October 2014

A student wrote that he was a homosexual and a devoted Buddhist, but he felt conflict between the two in terms of who he was and how he could practice the precepts and the Buddha’s teaching. In addition, he had previously contracted AIDS. Currently, medication had suppressed the disease, however, he said AIDS had weakened his body and could bring a lingering death . Rinpoche gave the following advice.

My very dear, most kind, most precious wish-fulfilling William,
Thank you very much for your kind letter, I am very happy to hear from you. You are so fortunate to be a Buddhist, to be devoted to the Buddhist path, to have a rebirth as a human being. This is like the dust when you scratch the earth, however much dust that you get between your nails, then compare that to the rest of the particles of dust on the entire earth. The particles of dust on the rest of the earth are how easy it is to have rebirth in a hell realm, as a hungry ghost or animal.

Normally we think there are a lot of human beings, but it is not like that at all, because we don’t compare it to the sentient beings in the other realms. In reality, being born as a human is still nothing compared to being born as a Buddhist human being. It is so rare, one needs so much merit to be born as a devoted Buddhist, so you are so fortunate.

Of course, the best thing is to renounce all negative karmas of body, speech and mind, to abandon the ten nonvirtues, or at least the five nonvirtues (precepts) which are: sexual misconduct, stealing, killing, telling lies and taking intoxicants. Best is to abstain from all five. That is best, but if that is not possible, then abstain from four; if that is hard, then three; if that is hard, then two; and if that is hard, then abstain from one. If that is hard, then even just upasaka, which means only taking refuge. Buddha is so compassionate that according to the capacity of sentient being, he gave the number of vows that person could keep. So among those five precepts, whatever vow you can keep, then take that vow and in this way you can still practice living in the vows.

The essence is, even if we can’t give something up at the moment—relating to sex, for example— since it becomes negative karma, nonvirtuous, what we can do is make it less, then there will be less negative karma. So there is always a way to make the negative karma less.

Also in your case, you have to be careful so as not to give AIDS to others, so you have to be more careful. Generally for yourself, you have to be careful to not get sick, but even though you have AIDS, I think you will probably live longer if you have a happy life. If you have a more suffering life, then your life will be shorter.

If you are able to practice Dharma, which means to purify defilements and collect extensive merits, this leaves the imprints of the lam-rim, the right path to enlightenment, so even if you do not get to do so much practice, if you do something like this, it is very, very beneficial.

Then most important is living your life for others, living life with a good heart as much as possible, with bodhicitta as much as you can. If you live your life with a good heart, then every action of body, speech and mind—even sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom, walking, sitting, doing your job, listening to teachings, meditating, studying, so everything, even getting sick, then getting treatment—everything becomes the cause of enlightenment. Not just to achieve enlightenment, but then to free the numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless humans, numberless suras, numberless asuras and the numberless intermediate state beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering. The second thing is to bring them to full enlightenment, so then your life is really basically very happy. From there, inner happiness comes, and your life is full of happiness. Basically your life is beneficial to other sentient beings, so you will have a long life and also from that a healthy life too.

Actually in reality, people who practice bodhicitta, thought transformation, even if they have problems, even AIDS or whatever it is, this becomes the best enjoyment. Having a problem is the best enjoyment in the life, whether it is cancer or any problem. You can use your experience, the problem, for sentient beings, taking all sentient beings’ problems and the causes of problems, the delusion and karma, and think you receive these. Receive these in your heart and destroy the ego, the self-cherishing thought, as well as ignorance, the concept of true existence, so you achieve the dharmakaya. Then for you, all this becomes the cause of enlightenment, so even when you experience death, you take all sentient beings’ death onto yourself. That eliminates the root of your samsara, from beginningless time up to now, where oceans of samsaric suffering came from.

The root of ignorance is destroyed, the wrong concept as well as the self-cherishing thought, which has been harming you from time without beginning until now, and will continue endlessly in the future. This is not only harming you, but also harming numberless sentient beings, preventing them from achieving enlightenment, liberation, or even samsaric happiness. This is the real enemy. Therefore, for those who have trained the mind in lo-jong, thought transformation, Buddhist psychology, this is the most enjoyable, happiest life, by having problems and even dying, then you die for numberless sentient beings.

Please find attached the Daily Motivation. It is most important to do this motivation in the morning. I am also sending you practice advice.

Recite Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo’s prayer, Calling the Guru from Afar every day if you can, if not then it doesn’t matter. This is to generate very strong guru devotion. The whole lam-rim is in this prayer, and also the tantric path, so by reading it mindfully, it leaves an imprint on the mind and plants the seed of enlightenment. It leaves an imprint of the path to enlightenment. 

Try to do Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga daily. If you read the commentary on this practice, you will see the nine benefits of doing the practice.

Whatever you do, always try to benefit others. Even when you take medicine, make this prayer every time, “May my life be most beneficial for sentient beings, to free all sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to enlightenment.”

Recite OM MANI PADME HUM mantra as much as possible. This purifies negative karma collected from beginningless rebirths and collects merits, especially if you recite this mantra with bodhicitta, by thinking of the numberless sentient beings of the six realms, to free them from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to enlightenment. Especially generate compassion to all sentient beings and generate the wish to bring them to enlightenment.

Also recite the Medicine Buddha mantra. Visualize the Seven Medicine Buddhas and recite their names. This brings great success, not only temporary happiness but ultimate happiness, not only liberation but full enlightenment, success for oneself and success for numberless others. This is very, very important.

I’m happy that you are going to an FPMT center. There is much choice of practices that you can do, and teachings.

Please study the lam-rim, this is most important. Maybe you can read Liberation in the Palm of your Hand from beginning to end, and anything that you don’t understand, you can write that down in a notebook and discuss it with someone who has studied the lam-rim well, an old student who has studied, or a geshe. So like this, learn the lam-rim well and then do the effortful meditation on the basis of the outline of the lam-rim or The Essential Nectar.

Before going to bed, do Vajrasattva meditation, either one mala, half a mala or 21 mantras, with the remedy of the four powers.

Also, a very powerful purification practice is to recite and prostrate to the Thirty-five Buddhas and recite the confession prayer. Begin with that every morning, if possible.

Another practice is to read the Wheel of Sharp Weapons and the seven points of thought transformation, relating to oneself, lo-jong ten-don.

Also read my book, Transforming Problems into Happiness.

Regarding your heath, inner offering pills are good for you.

Recite the Vajra Armor mantra. This is a very famous healing mantra, so you can heal yourself and others.

Also recite Most Secret Hayagriva mantra every day.

Read the Vajra Cutter Sutra, the Golden Light Sutra and the Sanghata Sutra as much as possible. This is good, but of course read with bodhicitta, to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to enlightenment, then for yourself to achieve omniscient mind, but the main motivation is for sentient beings.

Thank you very much.

With much love and prayers...