Twin Cities KTC AND Hay river KTC Buddhist Meditation Centers

The following guide is taken from four teachings Lama Karma Drodhul gave to the KTC Hay River sangha in March 2022. The text for this practice is taken from the longer purification practice called Nyungne, which is available from the KTD bookstore, Namse Bangdzo. Videos of Lama Karma’s teaching are available on a private YouTube channel. Please contact Lama Yeshe for the password if you are interested.

In Patrul Rinpoche‘s How to Keep the Eight One-Day Vows of a Layperson (bsnyen gnas yan lag brgyad pa’i sdom pa srung thabs) it says:

The ‘Second Buddha’ of Oddiyana (Padmasambhava) said:

It fully restores all positivity,

And clears away all negativity without exception,

In order to replenish virtue and purify harmful deeds,

The Tathagata has taught the practice of Sojong.

This one-day karma purification practice is based on sutra (teachings of the Buddha) in which the termas (mind treasure) of the Sojong vows and 12 Nidanas (Wheel of Life) were discovered. Sojong in Tibetan is two words. So means refresh or to increase (virtuous actions) and Jong means cleansing or purifying negative karma. Through this practice, we are purifying negative karma and refreshing or increasing our virtuous actions.

“Karma is never lost, but accumulated over time. Even if a hundred kalpas pass, karma, once accumulated, is always there.” — Nyingma master Longchen Rabjampa

Lama Karma explained that Mahayana Buddhists who do not experience challenges and obstacles in their personal life will have difficulty becoming advanced in their practice of meditation, patience, and compassion. We need to accept whatever happens while working to change unwanted circumstances. “If everything goes well, your practice will not go well.”

Before doing this practice you must have taken refuge and received the Sojong vows from a lama. Participating in one or more Nyungne (nyun nay) cycles, during which the vows are taken with a preceptor, means you can do them later by yourself. If you missed the reading transmission (lung—rhymes with hung) given by Lama Karma you need one before doing this practice. If you do a Nyenee puja without the transmission it will have no result. However, if you have the lung, any virtuous action will be multiplied many times.

Challenges such as pain, hunger, and torpor (due to being sleepy) all help you become a better practitioner and overcome obstacles through your identification with suffering in the lower realms. If the practice is done on auspicious days (see below) the multiplication is many times more than on a “regular” day.

You take four main and four branch vows

  1. No killing— includes humans and any living being, such as insects that give up their life on your windshield. Intentionally killing will result in birth in the lower realms, especially in the Reviving Hell. If this vow is violated, you will have a short life, physical defects, a mind without knowledge, and will always be angry, miserable, and suffer from illness. 
  2. No stealing—do not take property belonging to others; even when it is set out for “everyone” you should still make certain it is all right to take a candy, pen, or other small items. Breaking this vow will cause rebirth in the Crying Hell realm and will ensure you experience poverty as a human.
  3. No sex—this means no intercourse outside marriage with a person who is not your spouse whether they are married or not.
  4. No lying—white lies (even said in jest) will partially destroy your merit from this practice. Breaking this vow will result in birth in the Black Line Hell. If born as a human, you will have no compassion and not hear any dharma.
  5. No intoxicants—this is anything that makes the mind unstable, such as alcohol or drugs, but does not include things, such as pain medication prescribed for you, that can be misused to get high. If this vow is broken you will be reborn in the Hot Hell. Depending on your previous karma, you can also be reborn in the animal realm. If you have accumulated sufficient good karma and are born as a human, you will need increased sleep, easily forget things, lack knowledge, have no dignity, be greedy, and suffer from jealousy. 
  6. No food at the wrong time—on the practice day you have no breakfast and a vegetarian meal after 12 pm that is finished by 1 pm. Clear liquids such as water, apple juice, and tea can be taken at any time throughout the previous night and during the practice period.
  7. No singing or dancing—reciting or singing mantras is allowed.
  8. No high or luxurious seats—chairs and beds that are higher than one cubit (length of your arm from elbow to tip of middle finger) are a violation. Sleep on the floor on a meditation cushion or air mattress on the night you practice if your bed is higher than a cubit.

Benefits of the Sojong Vows

  1. Long life
  2. Capable of achieving what you practice
  3. No illness
  4. Wealth
  5. No hunger
  6. Beautiful body
  7. Being truthful in all activities
  8. Others respect you
  9. Birthplace in a land with excellent crops and no famine
  10. Abundance of knowledge
  11. Mindfulness
  12. Good smelling body
  13. Physical beauty
  14. Peaceful mind
  15. Clear speech, especially when teaching dharma

Auspicious Days for Practice

  • These include commemorations of important days in the life of Buddha Shakyamuni and monthly important days such as new moon, full moon, and so on. Practicing any dharma on these days creates positive karma and helps shield us from one or more of the hell realms. Practicing the one-day Nyenne on one or more of these days is very auspicious.
  • On the first day (new moon) of every lunar month (the Tibetan calendar is not the same as the Chinese lunar calendar*) a deva or dakini wanders through the six realms and examines the virtuous and non-virtuous actions of sentient beings. If you recite refuge prayers or practice a Nyenne on this day, karma will be purified for 40 years and you will not take birth in the Weapon Hell (where weapons go through your body, you are revived and it all begins again for eons).
  • On the eighth day of the lunar month, Medicine Buddha and Tara are commemorated. Another higher being called Prince Patron goes through the realms checking the actions of sentient beings. Practicing on this day will purify 30 eons of negative karma and free you from the Cutting Hell (wherein your body is cut into pieces and reassembled so it starts all over again for eons).
  • On the Full Moon day, Brahma checks for virtuous and non-virtuous activities. On this day, if you recite the name of Buddha Shakyamuni and say his mantra it will purify the negative karma of one eon and free you from rebirth in the Grinding Hell realm.
  • On the 14th day, which is practiced in Tibet but not in the US, there is increased merit for virtuous actions. One of the retinues of Yama goes through the five higher realms and writes down the positive/negative practices and actions performed by sentient beings to report back to the Yama king. If we recite the names of the Thousand Buddhas and do prostrations we are able to purify the negative karma of 1,000 eons and are free from the realm known as Boiling or Scalding Hell.
  • On the 15th day, the captain of the Bhramas is checking on who is doing virtuous actions in the five realms. (The demigod (jealous god) and god realms are combined to make five.) If we recite Buddha Amithaba’s name we are able to purify 200 eons of negative karma and will never take rebirth in the Cold Hell realms.
  • On the 18th day, (practiced in Tibet), the king of the Yamas checks on virtuous and non-virtuous actions performed by sentient beings. Chenrezig practice purifies 90 eons of negative karma and ensures you will not fall into the Sword Hell realm.
  • On the 23rd day, Mahadeva (great god) Shiva is doing the review of meritorious actions in the six realms. On this day, reciting the name of Buddha Vairotsana (aka Vairocana or Berotsana) and doing mantra recitations will purify 1,000 eons of negative karma and block rebirth to the Hungry Ghost realm.
  • On the 24th day, another of Yama’s retinue visits the realms to observe the virtuous and non-virtuous activities. Repeating the Bodhisattva vow or Ksitigarbha (SHE-TI-GARB-HA) mantra** will result in the purification of one eon worth of negative karma and prevent rebirth in the Cutting Hell. 
  • On the 28th day, Indra travels through the realms reviewing virtuous and non-virtuous actions. Doing the Amitabha puja and mantra recitations will purify one eon of negative karma and free you from birth in the Hot Hell realm.
  • On the 29th day, if we practice Medicine Buddha and accumulate the mantra it will purify one eon of negative karma and prevent birth in one of the branch hell realms.

Lama Karma says that if you practice a Nyenne, even on days outside of those above, you will be free from famine in this and future lifetimes, have abundant wealth, be protected by the gods and demigods, be free from all the faults and increase your merit and long life. While some days are noted as practiced in Tibet, it is fine to do this practice on those days as well. He does not recommend practicing a Nyenne on a work day and advises planning for another day in which you have more time and few or no distractions.

On the Practice Day

Bathe or shower before the practice begins, usually done on the previous night. Wear clean, preferably white or light-colored clothes. Set aside ornamentation, such as earrings, perfume, rings  (not a wedding ring), and fancy hair accessories. This includes T-shirts with sayings on them.

As well as with your body and clothes, the shrine should also be clean. This includes wiping down surfaces and putting fresh flowers and rice in offering bowls.

Rise early—before dawn is best but definitely by 5-6 am. You can take essential medications, such as those for controlling blood sugar or blood pressure, but not vitamins and other supplements. You can eat a vegetarian meal at noon but fast before lunch and afterward until the following sunrise when the vows expire.

Observe either functional silence or total silence (preferred). Functional silence means you only speak when necessary and with minimal words. In total silence, Lama Karma suggests wearing a note pinned to your clothes reminding yourself and others you are silent today. You can write short answers or instructions if you live with others. Texting and answering phone calls should be done only if absolutely necessary and should be repaired as discussed below.

To Begin the Practice day 

  1. Open the (clean) shrine (put out offerings, light incense, and lamps).
  2. Visualizing all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas above and in front of you, perform three prostrations, take your seat, and, with hands in Anjali, say Refuge and Bodhicitta three times. Then say the Four Immeasurables three times while arousing Bodhicitta. Feel and understand this is done for the benefit of all sentient beings—not just yourself. 
  3. Position yourself with the right knee on the floor and left knee up. (You can use a meditation cushion or pillow under the knee.)
  4. Clasp your hands—palms are together and fingers wrap around the opposite hand with thumbs crossed together—and recite the initial portion of the vows (beginning on Nyungne Pecha 2b) of the Sojong vow liturgy (ending on Pecha page 5) three times while visualizing the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Feel that you really are receiving the vows as you do three more prostrations. 
  5. Next, chant the vows enumerating what you pledge to not do while holding the vows (Pecha page 5b to page 7). Then do three more prostrations before continuing the practice on Pecha page 7b with the recitation of the names of Tathagatas seven times. Complete this portion on Pecha page 8. Lama Karma recites additional prayers at this point in the video because he is reading from the transmission he received while in three-year retreat. These are not included in the Nyungne liturgy. 
  6. If you wish, now would be a good time to perform additional chants from the Nyungne sadhana. These include: Praise of the 12 Deeds of the Buddha, Three Skanda Sutra (aka 35 Buddhas), and The Branch Offering from The Bodhicaryavatara (aka Long Seven Branch Prayer), and do a mandala offering. (These are all contained in the Nyungne practice Pecha available from Namse Bangdzo, the KTD store.) 
  7. After taking the vows, perform your usual daily practice with the addition of optional purification practices such as Vajrasattva with the 100 Syllable mantra. Repeating mantras on Nyenne days does not multiply them for accumulation during Ngondro or other practices, but it will multiply your virtuous merit.

These vows are powerful and will often cause kleshas to arise throughout the day. If this occurs, use skillful means such as antidotes and mindfulness. 

If you inadvertently break one or more of the Sojong vows, recite the Vajrasattva (100 Syllable) mantra and the 35 Buddhas prayer as soon as you realize what you have done or before four hours have elapsed. It is easier to repair vows within the four-hour period than if a transgression is allowed to go longer, for example overnight. 

“Be virtuous.”

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche

Why the emphasis on doing virtuous activities throughout the day? We have accumulated karma from the beginningless beginning many kalpas ago (a really vast period of time). When causes and conditions come together, ripening will happen in this lifetime or in one of your future lifetimes. (If we had performed sufficient virtuous activities in previous lives we would already be enlightened.)

“The fundamental thing for a Buddhist should be eliminating

the 10 non-virtuous actions and cultivating virtuous actions.”

H.E. Minling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche

 

There are 10 non-virtuous actions that bring about all the various sufferings and cause falling from a higher realm into the lower realms. These are similar to the Sojong vows in many ways but they don’t expire and are not vows. They are grouped in three areas—body, speech, and mind—to help remember them. The corresponding virtuous actions are the opposite.

The 10 Non-Virtues are: 

  1. Killing 
  2. Taking what is not willing given
  3. Sexual misconduct 
  4. Speaking falsehoods (lying) 
  5. Slander or divisive talk 
  6. Gossip or idle chatter 
  7. Harsh speech 
  8. Covetousness (wanting something belonging to another)
  9. Malicious thoughts or ill intentions 
  10. Wrong view

* The Drukpa (Kagyu) Calendar mentioned by Lama Karma is free on the App Store. Google Play also has the Drukpa Calendar.

** Ksitigarbha is a bodhisattva whose sadhana is practiced to eliminate negative karma. The mantra is: OM KSITIGARBHA BODHISATTVA YAH

The corresponding four videos of Lama Karma’s teachings can be accessed with a password available from Lama Tsultrim Yeshe. 

Transcribed and annotated by Ellie Strand.        All mistakes are mine.