Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances
Chapter 1: Guiding Instructions on the Defects of Saṃsāra, to Produce Renunciation
- Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances
- Cover Page
- Title Page
- Foreword by His Holiness the Sakya Trichen
- Translator’s Introduction
- Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances
- The Preliminaries
- The Main Practice
- Part 1: Guiding Instructions on Impure Appearance, to Produce Renunciation
- Chapter 1: Guiding Instructions on the Defects of Saṃsāra, to Produce Renunciation
- Chapter 2: Guiding Instructions on the Difficulty of Gaining the Freedoms and Endowments, to Arouse Diligence
- Chapter 3: Guiding Instructions on Positive and Negative Actions and Results, to Show What Should Be Accepted and Rejected
- Part 2: Guiding Instructions on the Appearance of the Experiences, to Produce the Altruistic Intent
- Chapter 1: Meditation Until the Common Experiences Have Arisen in the Mindstream
- Chapter 2: Cultivating Joy Now about the Uncommon Experiences That Will Arise on the Path of Mantra
- Part 3: Guiding Instructions on Pure Appearance, to Produce Enthusiasm
- Outline of Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances
- About the Translator
Guiding Instructions on the Defects of Saṃsāra, to Produce Renunciation
THIS IS PRESENTED in the treatise by the phrase “A sentient being,”69 because, if the realms of sentient beings are examined, it will be understood that they have not passed beyond only suffering.
Therefore, those who strive for nirvāṇa, a liberation that is permanent freedom from saṃsāra, must eliminate attachment to saṃsāra. To abandon attachment to saṃsāra, we must be mindful of the defects of saṃsāra. To be mindful of the defects of saṃsāra, we must depend on the oral instructions of a guru and understand the nature of all saṃsāra to be suffering.
A song of the precious venerable lord says:
To achieve nirvāṇa, abandon attachment
to the three realms.
To abandon attachment to the three realms,
be mindful of the defects of saṃsāra.70
And a sūtra also says:
The desire realm has faults, and the form realm
also has faults. In a similar way, the formless realm
also has faults. Only nirvāṇa is seen to be faultless.71 [10a]
And Maitreyanātha also says:
Just as feces have no sweet aroma, there is no happiness among these
five living beings. Their sufferings are constant, like those produced
by contact with fire, weapons, salt amoniac, and so forth.7238
It might be asked, “Well, what types of suffering, faults, and defects exist in saṃsāra?”
The Sūtra on the Foundations of Mindfulness says:
Sentient beings in the hells are tormented by hellfire.
Hungry spirits are tormented by hunger and thirst.
Animals are tormented by eating each other.
Human beings are tormented by short lifespans.
Gods are tormented by carelessness.
There is never any happiness on the needle-tip
For reflection on their sufferings:
Reflection on the suffering of suffering,
and developing renunciation.
Reflection on the suffering of change,
and abandoning attachment.
Reflection on the suffering of conditioned existence,
and cultivating the wish for liberation.
I. REFLECTION ON THE SUFFERING OF SUFFERING, AND DEVELOPING RENUNCIATION
A song of the precious venerable lord says:
First, the suffering of suffering, which
is the suffering of the three lower realms.
If you reflect well on that your flesh will
crawl. If it fell upon you there would be
no way to bear it.
Not achieving the virtue to avoid it,
those who keep cultivating the crops39
of the lower realms are so pitiful,
wherever they are!74
The Reply to Tratön’s Request also says:
The suffering of suffering is in the three lower realms,
like abscesses upon leprosy sores. If you have reflected
well on that—how could it be endured? Thinking of that,
turn away from nonvirtuous actions.75 [10b]
Determining this has three topics:
A. Reflection on the sufferings of the hells
B. Reflection on the sufferings of the hungry spirits
C. Reflection on the sufferings of animals
A. REFLECTION ON THE SUFFERINGS OF THE HELLS
1. Reflection on the sufferings of the cold hells
2. Reflection on the sufferings of the hot hells
3. Reflection on the sufferings of the peripheral and minor hells
1. Reflection on the sufferings of the cold hells
The eight are:
Blistering, Bursting Blisters, Crying “Alas!,”
Crying “Woe!,” and Chattering Teeth,
Split Open Like an Utpala, Split Open Like a Lotus,
and Greatly Split Open Like a Lotus.
The place of birth is a land totally surrounded on all sides by a ring of great glacial peaks. On a vast icy plain, a place of torment by sharp contact with horrible snow blizzards, without even starlight as a source of light, and without the chance to rely on even a scrap of cloth as a source of warmth, the hell beings are magically and instantly born alone with full-grown bodies, as sentient beings for whom the results of their own previously performed acts have ripened. From being struck by contact with the cold there, countless bunches of blisters appear on the body.40
Contact with the cold twenty times greater than that makes even the blisters burst and ooze blood, serum, and so forth, which also become ice.
In a similar way, the force of extreme cold makes them wail, “Alas!”
Contact with the cold even greater than that makes them scream in misery, “Woe!”
Contact with the cold even greater than that makes the teeth chatter and the body stiffen. [11a]
Split Open Like an Utpala
Contact with the cold even greater than that makes the outer skin of the body turn bluish and split into pieces.
Split Open Like a Lotus
After that outer skin is carried off by the blizzard, the body that has become red like fresh, raw meat also splits into bits and pieces.
Greatly Split Open Like a Lotus
The body, changed as before, splits into hundreds and thousands of pieces, the internal organs spill out, and those also split open.
Concerning these, the master Candragomin says:
An incomparable wind, penetrating even its bones, freezes
the body, carries off its quivering flesh, and it curls into a ball.
Hundreds of blisters form and burst, from which creatures are born
who strike with weapons, and blood, serum, and marrow ooze.76
The Treasury mentions the lifespans in those hells:
By removing a sesame seed once every
hundred years from a sesame bin, it will41
be emptied. That is the lifespan in Blistering.
The lifespans of the others multiply by twenty.77
A sesame bin is a container that holds eighty loads of sesame calculated in the large measures78 of the Magadha region [in India]. The amount of time it takes to empty that sesame bin by discarding a single sesame seed once every hundred human years is the lifespan in Blistering. And that of the seven lower hells is each twenty times longer than the one above it. Accordingly:
The duration in Bursting Blisters is 20 times longer.
Crying “Alas!” is 400. Crying “Woe!” is 8,000,
and Chattering Teeth is 160,000. Split Open Like
an Utpala is 3.2 million, Split Open Like a Lotus
is 64 million, and Greatly Split Open Like a Lotus
is 1.28 billion. [11b]
Even those lifespans are just approximate. If given in detail, they would obviously be even longer than that, because a sūtra says:
O monks, for example: if a sesame bin of the land of Magadha (holding eighty loads of sesame) is filled to the brim with sesame and then someone throws out a single sesame seed when each century has passed, through that process those eighty loads of sesame will be absolutely emptied very quickly. But I do not say that the lives of sentient beings born in Blistering will have reached an end.
Just as twenty lifetimes in Blistering are one in Bursting Blisters, . . . so twenty in Split Open Like a Lotus are one in Greatly Split Open Like a Lotus.79
Preceded by the preparation of taking refuge and offering supplications, the way to reflect on the meaning of those topics is to think in this way: “Aiee! Through infinite previous eons up to the present time I have wandered, wandered in these birthplaces of saṃsāra, suffering and distracted by countless streams of suffering. Moreover, having been only crippled by many sufferings before, it would be better if I were not tortured by any amount of suffering in the future. But even now, as long as this mechanism 42of apprehended and apprehender has not been destroyed, I will be helplessly reborn in the birthplaces of the six types of living beings and, moreover, made to suffer by countless feelings of suffering. At that time, what would I do? [12a] And of those, if I were reborn tomorrow morning in the first, the cold hells, such would be the places, such would be the essence, and such would be the lifespan.”
Keeping clearly in mind the topics that have just been explained, reflect from the depths of your heart: “If I cannot now bear even just minor sensations of cold in the human realm every day, how could I bear such feelings of suffering in the cold hells if they fell upon me? I do not have any assurance that sufferings such as those will not happen to me. Anger, the cause of their occurrence, arises countless times each day. If those sufferings fell upon me and there were no way to bear them, what would I do? Therefore, I must definitely practice the genuine, excellent Dharma, the antidote for suffering.”
Think: “As for the Dharma to be performed, I will practice not just haphazardly, but practice one that is in accord with the Conqueror’s doctrine, one that has come through an unbroken lineage. And of those, I will definitely practice and experience this Precious Teaching, the Oral Instructions of the Path with the Result. May the gurus and the Three Jewels please see that it happens in that way!”
If you wish, offer supplication with the three sets of verses, “To the sublime gurus and the Three Jewels,” and so forth [as before]. And on all occasions, act as taught in the Jewel Garland:
Not drinking alcohol, having good livelihood,
doing no harm, being devotedly generous,
having devotion for sublime beings, and loving
the lowly: in brief, that is the Dharma.80 [12b]
In that way, think: “I will maintain conduct in accordance with the Dharma.” The arising now of even the wish to practice the excellent Dharma has infinite advantages, so dedicate the roots of virtue that have occurred from it toward the benefit of others, and so forth, as before. And by staying mindful and alert during all daily activities, constantly rely on intense revulsion toward saṃsāra and maintain conduct in accordance with the Dharma.43
2. Reflection on the sufferings of the hot hells
Reviving, Black Line, Crushing,
Screaming, Great Screaming, Hot,
Fiercely Hot, and the Avīci Hell
are the eight.
The place of birth is a place with a ground of burning iron pervaded by fiercely blazing fire. The hell beings are magically born with large bodies, little tolerance for heat, and little tolerance for fear, as sentient beings upon whom the results of their own previously performed acts have fallen. By the force of dislike from the moment of birth there, the thought arises, “Aiee! I’ve been born in a place like this. It would be good if others do not harm me in this place.”
As if that had acted as a catalyst, terrifying and powerful agents of Yama carrying various weapons come from all other directions and treat the hell beings just as hunters treat a wild animal. Finally, just as butchers treat creatures, they do many things at once, hitting, cutting, stabbing, and so on with their weapons, while the hell beings suffer. [13a] Finally, they seem to die or faint a little, but again, because of their karma, a wind from the sky strikes their bodies with the sound “Revive!” This acts as a catalyst, restoring the body as before, and they are tormented by the Yamas as before. Unceasing feelings of suffering such as that are experienced, as mentioned in Entering the Conduct of a Bodhisattva:
Caused by your many nonvirtues, you are tortured while the agents of Yama flay away absolutely all your skin and pour molten copper melted by the intense heat upon your body, which is pierced by blazing swords and lances, the flesh dropping in hundreds of slices and falling on the fiercely blazing iron ground.81
Everything else is as before, but just as carpenters do on wood, the agents of Yama draw many black lines on the body of the hell beings born there. They experience suffering as the Yamas cut upon those lines with sharp, blazing saws, and also chop with sharp axes. Letter to a Friend says:44
Some are cut by saws, and others chopped
with horrible, sharp axes in the same way.82
When born on the ground of burning iron, the hell beings cannot bear the sensation of heat, and when they look back and forth with the thought of wanting to flee in another direction, great mountains resembling the faces of yaks, water buffaloes, and so forth come and grind their bodies into powder like pressing sesame, causing a ceaseless stream of blood to flow. [13b] When the two mountains have slightly parted again, their bodies are restored as before and caused to suffer as before, because of their karma. That same source says:
Some are pressed like sesame, and others similarly
ground to dust like fine powder.83
Other than as before, when they look in all directions, a house is seen. With the thought of wanting to flee there, they go across the ground of burning iron while experiencing many sensations of heat. Finally, when arriving inside the house, its door shuts by itself and they are roasted inside blazing fire from all directions, but there is nothing to do but howl as if the sound of screams were being torn from the center of their hearts.
Everything else is as before, but they enter a burning iron house within a house and, because the suffering of being roasted is twice as great, they howl even more than the previous sound of screams.
After the Yamas have seized those hell beings, they stab and shove a burning iron impaling stake blazing with fire up through the anus straight to the top of the head, causing flames to flicker from the mouth and nostrils.
A burning iron impaling stake with three points is stabbed through the anus and the two buttocks and shoved up to the two shoulders and the crown of the head, 45causing blood, grease, flames, and so on to come out the mouth and nostrils. [14a] That same source says:
Some are totally speared on fiercely blazing,
barbed, iron impaling stakes.84
The bodies of those hell beings are roasted in fire inside a burning iron stove twenty thousand leagues in size, always tortured by measureless sufferings difficult to bear. That same source says:
Just as, of all happiness, the happiness at the end
of craving is the lord, so too, of all sufferings,
suffering in the amassed fires of the Avīci Hell
is most horrible.85
Of the sufferings of cyclic existence, precisely this is the ultimate. The Treasury mentions the lifespans in those hot hells:
Fifty human years is one day and night
for the lowest gods of the desire realm.
[Their lifespan] is thus five hundred
of their own years.
Above, both [day and span] double.
In sequence, one day in the six of
Reviving, and so on, equals the lifespans
of the gods of the desire realm.86
Fifty human years are one day for the beings of the Heaven of the Four Great Kings.87 Thirty of those are one month. Twelve of those make a year. Five hundred of their own years is the lifespan of the beings in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. Counting just that as one day, the lifespan of the beings in Reviving is five hundred of their own years.
Similarly, counting one hundred human years as one day, the lifespan of the beings in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three is one thousand of their own years.88 46Counting that as one day, the lifespan of the beings in Black Line is one thousand of their own years. Counting two hundred human years as one day, the lifespan of the beings in Free of Conflict is two thousand of their own years.89 Counting that as one day, the lifespan of the beings in Crushing is two thousand of their own years. [14b] Counting four hundred human years as one day, the lifespan of the beings in Joyful is four thousand of their own years.90 Counting that as one day, the lifespan of the beings in Screaming is four thousand of their own years. Counting eight hundred human years as one day, the lifespan of the beings in the Heaven of Enjoying Emanations is eight thousand of their own years.91 Counting that as one day, the lifespan of the beings in Great Screaming is eight thousand of their own years. Counting sixteen hundred human years as one day, the lifespan of the beings in the Heaven of Controlling the Emanations of Others is sixteen thousand of their own years.92 Counting that as one day, the lifespan of the beings in Hot is sixteen thousand of their own years.
The beings in Fiercely Hot survive for half an intermediate eon and the beings in the Avīci Hell for one intermediate eon.
As a summary of those:
Five hundred, a thousand, and two thousand,
four thousand, eight thousand, and sixteen thousand,
half an intermediate eon, and one intermediate eon,
apply in sequence to the eight hot hells.
The way to reflect on the meaning of those topics is to perform the preparations as before and then think: “Aiee! Cyclic existence—this saṃsāra—is blazing, fiercely blazing, very fiercely blazing, and, of those, such are the places of the beings of the hot hells, such is the essence, and such are the lifespans. If my body cannot now bear even the feeling of suffering from the touch of a minor weapon or a small flame, how could I bear such suffering of the hot hells if they fell upon me?” And so on. Reflect as above, and develop the wish to practice Dharma, and so forth.
3. Reflection on the sufferings of the peripheral and the minor hells
This has two topics.
a. Reflection on the sufferings of the peripheral hells
b. Reflection on the sufferings of the minor hells47
a. Reflection on the sufferings of the peripheral hells
Blazing Coals, Swamp of Rotten Corpses,
and Path of Razors, Leaves of Swords,
Śālmalī, and the River. [15a]
Moreover, the Treasury says:
For all eight, sixteen more.
On their four sides are Blazing Coals,
Swamp of Rotten Corpses, Path of Razors,
and so forth, and the River.93
Since four are actually mentioned (and both the Forest of Swords and Śālmalī are presented within the “and so forth”), these six are explained as surrounding the edges of all eight hot hells. Moreover, even though the karma that causes beings to experience the primary sufferings of the eight hot hells has been exhausted, each of those four in all four directions must still be experienced. The way this occurs is that when the hell beings escape from those primary sufferings, they think, “Now I should flee and go to another, nicer place.” When they quickly, quickly go in any direction, such as the east, at first there is a terrifying pit filled with blazing coals. But when they think, “Here is a nice plain,” and cross without hesitation, their bodies sink up to the crown of the head and all the skin and flesh is burned, producing suffering that penetrates the bones.
When they escape from that, something like dirty water is seen. But when entering it with the hope that it will cool the torment of extreme heat from before, the entire body sinks and the water becomes a swamp of stinking, dirty, rotten corpses. Worms with yellow bodies and black heads, who live there, cause them to suffer by boring back and forth through the body and eating down to the marrow.
When they emerge from that, something like a small meadow is seen. But upon going there, it becomes a great path filled with razors, and their feet are cut wherever they are placed. [15b] Unable to bear the sensation of pain, they panic, fall down, and experience the suffering of the entire body being cut.48
When they escape from that, a thick forest is seen, and they think, “I’ll stay there for a while,” and go there. But upon arrival, great winds arise, acting as a catalyst, and the forest violently shakes, the leaves break and fall, becoming a rain of swords, and they experience the suffering of the body being hacked to pieces.
When they escape from that, a great mountain is seen. But arriving at its base they are tortured by the terrifying brindled hounds of hell. The hell beings cry with intense, horrible wails and, without any protectors, the hounds finally cut and tear apart their entire bodies and they experience the suffering of becoming just scraps. At that point they hear at the peak of the mountain the sound of the cry of some male or female who was an object of attachment before. But when they climb that mountain, on all sides of the mountain are “śālmalī trees,”94 with iron thorns bristling downward, which strip all the flesh from their bodies. When they arrive in misery at the peak of the mountain, that object of attachment has disappeared. Again, the terrifying birds of hell torture them in many ways, plucking out their eyes, drinking their brains, tearing open their bellies, and so on. Once again, from the base of the mountain they hear what is thought to be that object of attachment crying out, but when they go back down, the thorns are pointing upward, cutting the body, tearing it apart, and so forth, as before. [16a] As Letter to a Friend says:
Some, mauled by fierce hounds with iron fangs,
flail their arms at the sky. Others, helpless,
are carried away by ravens with sharp iron beaks
and horrible claws.95
Then the body is again restored, as before, and they want to flee to another place. When they go, an impassable river of hot ash is seen. Crossing without hesitation, they are tortured by the sensations of extreme heat, but the far banks are guarded by the guardians of hell carrying various weapons, so they cannot go there. Turning back, they arrive at that previous primary place,96 as if losing the way.
Remembering the agonizing sufferings experienced there before, and quickly, quickly fleeing to the south, again they are tormented by the sufferings of the peripheral hells such as the Pit of Blazing Coals, and again they return to the center.49
Similarly, those peripheral sufferings must also be fully experienced to the west and to the north.
In that way, it is taught, “Since three (Path of Razors, and so forth) have a single type of weapon, they form a single group, so that four in each of the four [directions] makes sixteen.”
Sūtra on the Foundations of Mindfulness explains sixteen different types of peripheral ones for each of the eight hot hells.
b. Reflection on the sufferings of the minor hells
Cooked in copper cauldrons, eating chunks of iron,
drinking molten bronze, the tongue ploughed with
ploughs, being wrapped in sheets, bound by chains,
roasted in burning iron powder, and so on. [16b]
The hell beings are cooked in boiling, caustic, molten bronze in the great cauldrons of hell and, helpless, fed and forced to eat blazing chunks of iron by the guardians of hell. Similarly, they must drink boiling molten bronze, have their tongues stretched out for miles and ploughed by plows of burning iron, be wrapped inside sheets of burning iron, have the entire body bound by chains of burning iron, and be roasted in burning iron powder. Furthermore, there are hells like a pillar and, likewise, like a row of cushions and like a broom, and those where the hell beings are comfortable during the days but suffer during the nights, or suffer during the days and are comfortable during the nights, and so on. These are indescribable.
In these contexts, the stories of Śroṇa going to the shore of the ocean should also be applied and told extensively or briefly, as fits the occasion.97
In that way, the very greatest sufferings of the human realm cannot even serve as examples for just the smallest sufferings of the hells. Letter to a Friend says:
The suffering of violent stabs by three hundred
lances in one day here cannot illustrate or even
compare to a fraction of the smallest suffering
in the hells.98
It might be asked, “From what cause have those sufferings arisen?”50
They arise on the basis of the affliction of hatred, so those who wish themselves well should train in abandoning anger. Entering the Conduct of a Bodhisattva says:
If I cannot bear even this slight
suffering now, why do I not repel
anger, the cause of the sufferings
of the hells?99 [17a]
The way to reflect on the meaning of those topics is to think: “Aiee! These feelings of suffering in the hells are very horrible. Such are the places of the peripheral and minor hells, such are the sufferings, and such are the durations, not to mention the great sufferings of the hot and cold hells. If my body cannot now bear even the prick of a thorn, how could I bear such sufferings of the peripheral and minor hells if they fell upon me?” And so on. Reflect as above, and develop the wish to practice Dharma, and so forth.
B. REFLECTION ON THE SUFFERINGS OF THE HUNGRY SPIRITS
Letter to a Friend says:
For hungry spirits too, a constant, unrelenting
stream of suffering is created by lack of what
they want, while the horrible creation of hunger,
thirst, cold, heat, fatigue, and fear must be endured.100
In general, Sūtra on the Foundations of Mindfulness explains that there are about thirty-six types of hungry spirits.101 But these can be summarized as three types: those with external obscurations, those with internal obscurations, and those with obscurations of obscuration.
1. Those with external obscurations
The place of birth is like a plain of sand or gravel, a pale area without any water and so on, where many beings who have accumulated similar types of karma are born together. The bodies of the beings born there are described in Letter to a Friend:51
With mouths like the eye of a needle, but
stomachs the size of a mountain, some are
tortured by hunger. They have no strength
to eat even a little discarded, pathetic filth. [17b]
Naked, bodies skin and bone, some are like
the withered tops of palm trees.102
In this way, with a mouth like the eye of a needle, a throat the size of a hair on a horse’s tail, limbs the size of thin grass, and a stomach the size of a mountain, their hair is frazzled and all the flesh and skin are dried and shrunken to the skeletal joints, so that they are like the top of a palm tree. Unable to remain at leisure because of their hunger and thirst, the body (like a wrecked cart being pulled) makes many groaning and cracking sounds as it moves about, the joints scrape back and forth, and intense pain like blazing fire arises. With many such sufferings of exhaustion, no matter how much they search for food and drink, none is found. Even if a little is rarely found, other beings more powerful and numerous than they are take up weapons and guard it with various acts, such as striking and beating, so that they cannot enjoy it and experience suffering that penetrates body and mind.
2. Those with inner obscurations
Letter to a Disciple says:
With a mouth like the eye of a needle, and a huge, miserable
belly of many leagues, even when the water of the great ocean
is drunk, it does not go into the wide cavity of the throat,
and the poison of the breath dries up the slightest drop of water.103
In addition to those previous sufferings, even if they search with great effort and find a speck of filth (such as snot), from perpetual habituation to stinginess and being tightfisted, they cannot eat it well. [18a] When they begin to eat, it will not fit into the mouth. Even when it does fit, it will not pass through the throat. Even when it does pass through and arrive at the stomach, it brings no benefit, and cravings of hunger and thirst surge up again. They experience such sufferings of not being benefited by food and drink.52
3. Those with obscurations of obscuration
Letter to a Friend says:
Flames blazing from their mouths at night,
some eat as food the sand that falls into their
They beat each other in the face and eat the pus
of ripened goiters growing from their throats.104
And so forth. In addition to the previous sufferings, as soon as they eat the tiny bit of filth they have found, it blazes as great fire, and flames flicker from the mouth and nostrils, making a harsh unceasing noise. And there are many other miseries, such as eating hot sand, striking each other and arguing over food, and thinking of the pus of their own ripened goiters as food and eating it.
Furthermore, hungry spirits have indescribable sufferings in common, such as even the light of the moon increasing the heat during the summer, even the light of the sun increasing the cold during the winter, and even if they approach a fruit-bearing tree or the bank of a great river, these dry up when observed with just the wishful thought to enjoy them. That same source says:
For hungry spirits, even the moon is hot
in summer, even the sun is cold in winter.
Trees become fruitless and, from just their gaze,
even rivers run dry.105 [18b]
The Treasury mentions their lifespan:
For five hundred, with a day being a month.106
They live for five hundred of their own years, with one day for the hungry spirits equaling one month for human beings. According to human years, this would be fifteen thousand years.
It might be asked, “From what cause have those sufferings of the hungry spirits arisen?”53
They have arisen from acting greedy and stingy because of attachment to outer and inner enjoyments. Letter to a Friend says:
The cause of anything obtained that is similar
to the various sufferings of the hungry spirits
is a person who likes being greedy. The Buddha
said stinginess is not for noble beings.107
The way to reflect on the meaning of those topics is to think thoughts such as these: “Aiee! Such is the place of those sentient beings born in the world of hungry spirits, such are the sufferings, and such is the lifespan. If I cannot now bear the sufferings of hunger and thirst for even a day, how could I bear such sufferings if I were born in the world of Yama because of my karma and afflictions? I have no assurance that sufferings such as those will not happen to me. Desire and stinginess, the causes of their occurrence, arise countless times each day. If those sufferings fell upon me, and there was no way to bear them, what would I do? Therefore, I must practice a genuine, excellent Dharma that will definitely eliminate the birthplace of the hungry spirits.”
C. REFLECTION ON THE SUFFERINGS OF ANIMALS
Letter to a Friend says:
And in the birthplace of the animals, there are
the various sufferings of killing, binding, beating,
and so forth. For those who have abandoned virtue,
which brings peace, there is the extreme horror of
eating each other.108 [19a]
Moreover, there are animals living in the outer ocean, living in the darkness between continents, and living scattered in the higher realms.
1. Animals living in the outer ocean
It is explained that countless and measureless sorts of animals of different names and types exist in the great outer ocean. The suffering of foolishness and stupidity pervades them in common, as crushing as a great mountain. 54There is the suffering of many small creatures being eaten at one time by large ones such as sea monsters, the suffering of large ones having many small ones clamp their mouths onto them and eat them all the time, the suffering of large ones such as sea monsters being pierced and killed by several conches and so forth, and the suffering when a rain of hot sand falls on nāgas and they are tormented by garuḍas. These all have indescribable sufferings in common, such as the suffering of suffocation and bad odors, the suffering of unspecified places and companions, the suffering of meeting enemies and foes, the suffering of cold in winter and heat in summer, and the suffering of heat in the day and cold at night.
2. Animals living in the darkness between continents
These have many sufferings in addition to those previous sufferings, such as not seeing even just the extending and bending of their own arms and legs and, because of hunger and thirst, eating just whatever is in front of them and not finding anything else.
3. Animals living scattered in the higher realms
The scattered ones not owned by anyone else are killed by fellow animals (or by human beings, nonhuman beings, and so forth) for their pearls, fur, bones, flesh, skin, and so on. [19b] Those owned by someone else also have inconceivable sufferings in addition to those previous sufferings, such as being enslaved, used, bound, beaten, and finally killed. Letter to a Friend says:
Some die for their pearls or wool, bones,
or flesh and skin. Other helpless ones become
enslaved: kicked and struck by hands, whips,
and iron goads.109
Concerning lifespan, the Treasury says:
For the animals, the longest is one eon.110
Those with the longest lifespans live for an eon, but those with the shortest die in just an instant.
Since the cause for the sufferings of animals is ignorant unawareness of 55the topics of acceptance and rejection, we should energetically rely on the lamp of the teachings, which is the antidote for that.
The way to reflect on the meaning of those topics is to think like this: “Aiee! Such are the places of those sentient beings born in the birthplace of the animals, such are the sufferings, and such are the lifespans. If the suffering from having to do just farm work for my own body and life each day now is like this, how could I bear such sufferings if I were born in the birthplace of the animals because of my karma and afflictions? I have no assurance that those sufferings will not happen to me. I have accumulated countless karmic actions motivated by ignorance, the cause for their occurrence. [20a] If those sufferings fell upon me and there was no way to bear them, what would I do at that time? Therefore, I must practice an excellent Dharma that will definitely eliminate the birthplace of the animals.” And so forth.
II. REFLECTION ON THE SUFFERING OF CHANGE, AND ABANDONING ATTACHMENT
It might be thought, “While it is true we have suffering if born in the three lower realms, we have happiness if born in the three higher realms.”
There is none. The Lalitavistara Sūtra says:
All desires are impermanent, without
stability, not lasting, changing like a dream,
like a mirage, like an illusory town, like
lightning and foam.111
All superficial, tainted happiness is an impermanent and unstable, changing and passing, definitely deceptive phenomenon.
For reflection on this:
Reflection on the general suffering
Reflection on the specific suffering
of change among human beings.56
Reflection on the suffering
of change among gods and demigods.
A. REFLECTION ON THE GENERAL SUFFERING OF CHANGE
Even being born as Śakra, lord of the gods, is impermanent, and we will fall to the surface of the earth again. Even becoming a universal monarch, a lord of men, is unstable, and we will be reborn in saṃsāra as a slave. Even being born as great Brahmā is untrustworthy, and we will be reborn in the Avīci Hell. Even being born as a divine being, the sun or the moon, is not beneficial, and we will again enter the darkness between continents. Whatever such happiness of the higher realms is obtained is not worthy of trust. Letter to a Friend says:
After being Śakra, worshiped by the world,
you fall again to the surface of the earth because
of karma. Even after being a universal monarch,
you become a servant’s slave in saṃsāra.112 [20b]
After gaining the immense bliss of desire in the god
realms, and gaining the unattached bliss of Brahmā
himself, again you must endure unceasing suffering
as fuel for the flames of the Avīci Hell.
After becoming the sun or moon, and illuminating
the entire world with the light of your own body,
again to darkest gloom you go, where even your
outstretched hand will not be seen.113
A song of the precious venerable lord also says:
When reflecting on the suffering
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