This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Today we are going to start learning about Enlightenment. We‟re going to take a look at
the steps to achieving Enlightenment, through a path called the Lam Rim.
What is Lam Rim?
Lam Rim is a Tibetan word. It means the step-by-step instructions to become
enlightened like the Buddha.
Who wrote the Lam Rim? Who came up with these instructions?
Well, the Buddha came up with these instructions. He taught them by teaching
others. He, himself, didn‟t write anything down. But after the Buddha left his physical
body, a few hundred years passed and his disciples started to write things down. There‟s
hundreds-of-thousands of things that Buddha said. Later, in the 11
century, a great
monk-warrior named Atisha summarized the instructions, and that is what we now call
the Lam Rim. Even more, a few hundred years after Atisha, another monk-warrior
named Je Tsongkhapa updated a new version of the Lam Rim, you can think of it as Lam
Rim 2.0, and it was called “The Graded Stages of the Path”. That is the Lam Rim that we
are going to look at.
But first, I want to talk a little about Buddha Nature.
What is Buddha Nature?
Buddha Nature is what‟s inside every living creature, which allows them to
become enlightened. It‟s like a seed that‟s inside of you and you have to awaken it and
help it grow. Because we all have Buddha Nature, we can all be enlightened.
No matter who you are, whether you‟re rich or poor, big or small, tall or short,
good at sports, good at school or good at both, whether you like to read or play music or
not---no matter what, you and everyone have Buddha Nature. We are all equal in that
You may ask: Where is Buddha Nature inside of us and what does it look like?
Well you can‟t really see it. But, it‟s a quality that everyone has. For example, it‟s sort of
like “courage”. You can‟t see courage inside you. But, it‟s there.
Spiders have Buddha Nature. Cheetahs have Buddha Nature. Whales and
dolphins have Buddha Nature. Nagas and spirits have Buddha Nature. Demi-gods and
gods have Buddha Nature. And yes, you have Buddha Nature too!
Now you might ask: “Is Buddha a God?” Well the answer is no, he‟s not. The
Buddha is a Buddha. He‟s his own thing. Buddha Nature is just a word that uses the
name of the Buddha to name something. Like you have a name, but your name is not
you. If you changed your name, you would still be you, right! So, technically you could
all Buddha Nature anything you want. You could call Buddha nature a “frendle” if you
wanted to! And, there are other religions that call this Buddha Nature a different word.
Can you think of any? Buddha Nature refers to that quality inside of us which is the
potential for us to become Enlightened. You got it!
Now, you might ask: what‟s enlightenment? Enlightenment is not an ordinary
thing. It is extraordinary. It can be described as pure happiness and knowing all there is
to know and being able to help others to do the same. It takes a lot to be enlightened.
But, anyone can do it. You can do it!
We‟re going to talk more about enlightenment as we go on. But I think this is
good enough for us to get started because it gives you an idea of what enlightenment may
be. But you‟ll really have to find out for yourself. I can‟t really tell you what
enlightenment will be for you. You have to find out. Let‟s go!
CHAPTER ONE – YOU!
Now Let’s Begin – A Precious Human Life
Now, where does the Lam Rim start? It‟s the same as asking, where does the path
to enlightenment start? Well, it starts with you. It starts with your Precious Human Life.
You are very special. And your human life is very special. But to talk about why your
human life is so precious, we have to back-up a little. We have to talk about your past
Do you remember your past lives? Most people don‟t. So if you don‟t remember,
it‟s totally okay. Did you know you had past lives? If so, what or who do you think you
In Buddhism, the Buddha taught us that we all had past lives, including you. But
our past lives weren‟t always in a human form. They weren‟t always fun either. Some of
them were fun and some of them were hard and difficult. For example, we might have
been a horse, or a bug, or a god, or a fish, or a spirit. Every creature-being you can think
of has been born and reborn millions and billions of times. You could have been a
dinosaur or a cockroach in your past lives. Or you could have been a great leader.
So what are the other things we could be reborn as? Let‟s go over some of the
ways we could be reborn. Buddha taught that there are six places, called Realms, that
you could be reborn into. A Realm is like a different world or dimension or universe.
The Six Realms of Rebirth
In Buddhism, there are six (6) realms that you could be reborn into. Three of
them are good, and three are not-so-good. So, they are divided into 3 higher realms and 3
5) Hungry Ghosts (Semi-Tortured Spirit)
6) Hell-Beings (Tortured Spirit)
Being born into the god realm sounds great, right! For sure you would rather be a
god than a tortured spirit, right? But being a god may not be all that great. There‟s good
and bad to it.
On the good side, you would be a god and have special powers. You would live a
very long god-life and have a lot of nice things around you. But on the down side, this
niceness wouldn‟t last forever. At some point your good karma would run out and your
god-life would come to an end. When a god‟s life ends it is very painful. There‟s a lot of
suffering that will happen, like the sweetness of your body will get rotten and everyone
around you will ignore you and stay away from you. But overall, being reborn in the
god-realm is a good thing.
Being reborn into the demi-god realm is half-as-good as being reborn in the god
realm. But, there‟s good and bad to it, too. On the upside, you would have some special
powers and live a long life and have half the pleasures of the gods. But on the down side
you would always be jealous of the gods, because they were better than you. This
jealousy makes you feel bad some of the time, so that‟s why you experience only half the
good things of the gods. Being a demi-god, too, doesn‟t last forever. When your good
karma runs out, your demi-god life would come to an end. And this, too, is very painful.
But overall, being reborn in the demi-god realm is pretty darn good!
The human realm is a very nice place to be. How do you like it so far? But it has
its ups and downs too, right? Sometimes you feel happy and sometimes you feel sad.
Sometimes you get angry and sometimes you‟re having fun. The overall happiness in the
human realm is not as good as the demi-god or god realm. For example, have you ever
noticed the negative things in the world around you? Things like people who are really,
really poor, or war, or pollution, or sickness and fighting.
Even though there are a lot of happy people in the world today and a lot of good
things in the world, there are also a lot of people who get hurt, sick and die. And there
are people who hurt others too. So you see, being in the human realm is pretty good, but
there‟s also a lot of suffering as well. Also, the life span of humans is a lot shorter
compared to the god realm.
One of the greatest things about being a human is that you have the chance to
become enlightened. You see, the gods are too busy having fun and they don‟t think
about what happens to them after their god-life ends. Then when their good karma runs
out, they wasted all their time having fun and it‟s too late to do anything to help them
have a good rebirth in the next life. Then they fall down to being reborn as a Hungry
Ghost or Hell-Being.
But being human, since we experience both good times and bad times, we can
learn from our good and bad experiences. Then we can choose to do more good instead
of more bad. And, if we learn to do a lot more of the good things and stop doing the bad,
then we can become enlightened! Then we won‟t have to suffer the bad things in our
next lives. This is one of the greatest gifts of being born into the human realm. That‟s
why even though the realms of the god and demi-gods are higher rebirths, the best rebirth
is in the human realm---because you have the best opportunity in a human life to become
Thank you, my precious human rebirth!
If you could be an animal, which animal would you choose to be? I think I would
choose a Tiger, but that‟s just me. Whichever animal you choose, it may sound pretty
cool. Because you could jump higher, see farther, hear better, be more cuddly, or have
cool animal powers that you didn‟t have as a human. Right? If you were a pet, you
might even have the coolest master and have the easiest life in the world. Right?
It may sound like it‟s cool to be an animal, but really it‟s not. Animals are subject
to being hunted and eaten by other animals or by humans. Most of them also have
shorter lives than humans. Or they‟re limited to behaving according to their animal
instincts. For example, it may sound cool to be a cute doggie; but, dog‟s are kind of
paranoid---meaning they instinctually have a lot of fear built up inside them. Whenever
someone comes near their stuff, they growl and snarl and even bite. In this way they‟re a
slave to their animal instincts. And if you were a pet dog, you don‟t have much freedom.
You always have to wait for your master to feed you or take you to the bathroom. Or
someone‟s always scolding you and telling you what to do---they treat you like an
It would even be worse to be an animal that is lower and lower on the food chain.
For example if you were a tiny fish, you can barely defend yourself, and all the bigger
fish will just gobble you up. Even more, what about being a bug or a mosquito? Then
someone can just swat or crush you just like that---poof you‟re dead! Even if you were a
lion, the king of the jungle, hunters are trying to hunt and kill you just for sport. Then
you‟ll become an endangered species!
So you see, being an animal is not that great. It‟s far worse than being a human,
god or demi-god.
Hungry Ghosts Realm
Today‟s scientists don‟t know a lot about spirits or ghosts. But there is a
dimension in which they exist. But, you shouldn‟t be afraid of them. What you should
be afraid of is being reborn into that realm! Being reborn into the Hungry Ghosts realm
really sucks! If you get reborn there, you will always be craving for something, but you
could never have it. It‟s like Christmas never happening. Or there never being any
birthdays. For example, there‟s some hungry ghosts that have a mouth the size of a
pinhole, and a stomach the size of a football field; and when they see water they try to sip
it up and the tiniest drop that goes into them disappears right away. So, they‟re
constantly thirsty and can never be refreshed. The Hungry Ghosts Realm is definitely not
a cool place to be. You want to stay as far away from it as you can.
The cause of going to this realm is having extreme over-craving. Let‟s call it
over-desire and over-wanting. For example, it‟s like being a spoiled brat who kicks and
screams when they don‟t get what they want. It‟s like wanting something so bad, like a
toy, and then lying, cheating, or stealing to get that toy. Doing things like that in this life,
will cause you to be reborn in the Hungry Ghosts realm. Please don‟t do it!
What‟s worse than being a Semi-Tortured Spirit? Being a fully Tortured Spirit.
In this realm, it‟s way, way bad. There‟s so much pain and suffering in this dimension
that I don‟t even want to tell you about it. It‟s like: think of the worse thing that could
ever happen to you. Then, it‟s a billion times worse then that. What‟s even more is that
there‟s worse and worser levels of being a Tortured Spirit as well.
The cause for being reborn in the Tortured Spirit Realm is doing bad things all the
time and never feeling bad or apologizing for it. So stay out of this realm! And to stay
out, you really need to know the difference between good and bad, between what‟s right
and what‟s wrong. For example, don‟t kill, don‟t steal, don‟t lie, don‟t be angry at others,
don‟t be jealous, and don‟t wish bad things to happen to others. If you learn not to do
these things (plus a little more), you can be sure to stay out of the Tortured Spirit Realm.
One of the great things about wanting to be a Buddha is that you can help others
stay out of this realm too. A Buddha is so kind, compassionate and loving, that you want
to help all beings to never be reborn in this place---or in any of the bad realms. A
Buddha wants everyone to have pure happiness. Now and forever.
Why Your Life Is Precious
Now that you know the six realms of rebirth, you can see that you‟re really lucky
to have a precious human life. But just being human isn‟t the only thing that makes your
life precious. It‟s not just any human life you have, but you have a precious human life.
What makes it precious is that you can do something positive with it. Let me say that
again: what makes your life precious is that you have the chance to do something positive
and good with it. For Buddhists, that positive thing you can do is to help others; and if
you‟re enlightened, then you can help everybody. That is why Buddha said you have a
precious human life---because you have the chance to become enlightened and help
Your precious human life is a rare treasure. It‟s very hard to get reborn into the
human realm. It hardly ever happens. Think of all the trillions of kinds of creatures on
this planet---animals, birds, fish, insects and even bacteria. Think of all the good and bad
spirits too. Then think of the billions of kinds of other planets, worlds, universes and
dimensions out there, and the infinite creatures that exist as well. Out of all that, you
were born with a precious human life, right here, right now. Reading this book! Good
The Buddha told a story to show how rare it is to be reborn with a human life. He
said, first imagine the huge ocean that is all around the entire earth. Then imagine a
single, tiny, little turtle. And imagine that this turtle swims deep underwater, but he pops
his head up out of the water every 100 years. Now, imagine a tiny, little intertube-floatie
thing is floating on the ocean. Now the turtle could be anywhere in the world, and the
intertube-floatie could be on the opposite side of the world. And they both move
separately and apart. Got it so far? Now what are the chances that the turtle will swim
up and pop his head out of the water and inside the intertube----that tiny hole of that tiny,
little the intertube? How long would it take that to happen if the turtle popped his head
up only every 100 years! The intertube is a symbol of a precious human life and the
turtle is a symbol of your mind/spirit. Whatever your answer is, it would take a very long
time and it would be extremely rare for that to even happen. That‟s how rare it is for
someone to reborn into the human realm! Pretty tough, huh. But you did it!
How Did I Get This Precious Human Life?
Did you ever stop to think about “how did I get this precious human life?” If you
did, that‟s a great question. The answer is: you must have done a lot of really good things
in your past lives. You see, whatever you do in your past lives will have a consequence
in your next life. If you were bad, you‟ll have a bad rebirth. If you were good, you‟ll
have a good rebirth. It‟s cause and effect: do good, get good; do bad, get bad. That‟s
how someone gets reborn into a good realm or a bad one.
So, the good news is you were reborn in the human realm. But the bad news is,
because it is so rare, that means most people, animals, spirits and creatures will be reborn
into the bad realms. There‟s a lot more creature-beings in the bad realms than there are in
the good realms. That‟s sort of sad, but it‟s the way things are. Think about it: there‟s a
lot more animals and insects than there are humans right? Well, in addition, there‟s
billions and billions of more Hungry Ghosts and Hell-Beings than there are animals! I
know that sounds a little depressing. But, on a positive note, a Buddha is trying to get all
these spirits and animals out of the bad realms! Let‟s all be Buddhas!
There‟s even more reasons why your life is very precious indeed. You see, you
were born in a certain time, in a certain place, with a certain smartness. Out of all the
things that could happen to you, somehow you came to the this exact moment and place
right now, where you‟re reading, listening or hearing about Buddhism and how to be
enlightened. That‟s truly a miracle, if you think about it! For example, there‟s some
children who are so unlucky that they live in poverty, or in a war-torn country, or they
have a disease which makes them too sick to study, or they‟ve never even heard of the
Buddha. So those folks don‟t know about enlightenment; they don‟t know about the
Buddha; and they don‟t know about pure happiness. You and your life are precious
Having a precious human life is something to be super happy about! You should
be grateful for it everyday, all the time. Everyday you wake-up, you should think, “I‟m
so thankful to have this precious human life.” Then think, “I must do something good
today. I‟m going to do a lot of positive things today. I‟m going to try my best to help
others anyway that I can. So that I can help them have a good rebirth!” If you do that
everyday---really sincerely---you‟re on the road to finding pure happiness and becoming
enlightened. I think it will even help you have a good day, instead of waking up grumpy.
So what are you going to do with your life?
The Wisdom of Dying
I know it may not sound politically correct to talk about death at your age. But,
you‟re in sixth grade now. It‟s okay to talk about it because something positive can come
from it. You‟re old enough now, and you‟ve probably seen many things die or get killed-
--like tiny insects, bugs and fish. Heck, if you eat meat, then you‟re really familiar with
dead things. Or if you watch t.v. and movies, you‟ve probably seen a lot of death and
dying, including violence. So, I‟m not trying to scare you by talking about death. I‟m
trying to let you know why it‟s important to talk about it. You need to know what‟s real
and what‟s not real about it. And, I want to give you a good perspective. It‟s okay to talk
about death and dying if it‟s for a good reason.
Buddha said that we should use the wisdom of death to help us live a better life.
At your age, you might ask the question: “what happens after you die?” That‟s a
great question. And now you already know the answer: you get reborn. Still you might
ask, “will I go to heaven?” or “does hell exist?” To answer those questions: first, I don‟t
know personally where you‟ll go after you die (I wish I could guarantee you‟ll go to
heaven!); and second, yes, there are many heavens that exist and there are also many
hells (the hell realms are where Tortured Spirits go.) I don‟t want you to become a
Tortured Spirit, so that‟s why I‟m teaching you about Buddhism. There‟s an old saying
“everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.”
Everything changes, and everything---and everyone---will die at some point.
That‟s natural. Life, death and rebirth are part of nature. That‟s the circle of life. A
person can die at any moment. Nobody knows exactly when they‟re going to die. And
nobody really wants to die---everyone really wants happiness.
That‟s why you should treat every person and every creature with kindness and
compassion. Treat them the way you want to be treated. No matter if they‟re a stranger,
friend, or family member---or even if they‟re someone you don‟t like, you should always
try to be kind to them. Just remember that at some point they‟re going to face death and
they could actually die at any moment, and that‟s sad. That‟s using the wisdom of death
to help others and also to help you live a better life.
Another way to use the wisdom of dying is to think about your future lives. Since
you know about the six realms of rebirth and you know what a precious human life is,
think about where you might go in your next life. You know you don‟t want to go to the
bad realms---you want to go to the good ones. Like I said before: “everything you do
now will effect where you go after you die.” When you think about death with the wish
to do better in this life and your next lives, than dying becomes a positive thought. So,
even thinking about the bad realms can help you remember how to be good now. It‟s
sorta like Christmas and Santa Clause, right? Don‟t be naughty or you won‟t get a
present. Be good and you‟ll get a good present. The only difference is the stakes are
much higher! What‟s at stake: your next lives!
I want you to be happy, both in this life and in the next. Heck, I want you to
become enlightened! So, please, always do your best to be a good person and do
something positive. Don‟t do negative things.
Oh yeah, there‟s another way to use the wisdom of death to live a better life.
Keep studying Buddhism! Did I mention you always need to study and learn new things
in life. You need to know right from wrong, good from bad, truth from fiction, what‟s
real and what‟s not, and how to respond with love not fear. Learning new things could
also mean re-learning old things but seeing them in a new way. I promise you that
learning new things will help you have a happier life, now and in the next. So, use this
life wisely, use the wisdom of dying to live a better life and learn as much as you can.
Impermanence (Imperma-what?) [REDO]
All this talk about dying, the different realms, and rebirth. That‟s pretty heavy
stuff for a sixth grader, right? Can you handle it? I know you can. But these things
bring up what‟s called: impermanence.
Imperma-what? Impermanence. It just means that everything is NOT permanent.
Nothing stays the same. When I say everything, I mean everything. You can‟t be happy
all the time. You can‟t be sad all the time. Your precious human life won‟t last forever.
The universe will not last forever. A seed will not always be a seed. A baby will not
always be a baby. A mountain will one day turn into a pile of dust. You see, everything
in the world and universe and beyond is NOT permanent. It‟s im-permanent.
Why is this such a touchy topic? This impermanence. Well, it‟s because people
ordinarily act as if things are permanent. And this way of thinking and acting is a
mistake, according to the Buddha. Things are not permanent, they‟re impermanent.
For example, don‟t we want to be happy ALL the time? We want our happiness
to be permanent. You‟ve heard the storybook, fairytale ending: “and they lived happily
ever after.” Ever after---NOT! This can never be, because happiness CANNOT ever be
permanent. Now we can be happier than we were before, and that‟s a good thing. But, to
believe that happiness can be permanent---that is an error in thinking.
Believing in permanent things is actually a cause of us to be unhappy. Now, this
believing-in-permanent-things is something that‟s unconscious. That means we really
aren‟t aware of it, but it‟s there all the time. For example, it‟s sorta like breathing. Do
you say to yourself “breath in, breath out” all day long? No, you just breath, even
without thinking about it. Well, it‟s like that with believing in permanent things. We just
think that way without even thinking about it. What a pain!
That‟s one of the things the Buddha is trying to get us to realize. For example,
one day we can be having a happy day, and then somebody suddenly does something
mean to us, which destroys our happiness; and we get unhappy. Why? Because we
believe that our happiness should be permanent and that NOTHING should interrupt my
being happy. Then, we get angry. All because we thought unconsciously that happiness
should be permanent. If we didn‟t, we wouldn‟t get angry!
Do you get it? Now let‟s expand this to our precious human life. We act as if our
life is permanent. We think this unconsciously. We think it without even thinking about
it. How so? For example, do you think you‟re going to die in the next few minutes?
How about tomorrow? How about next year? No, even I don‟t think that. We sorta
think that we‟re going to just keep on living, until whenever, until some old ripe age.
Actually, we don‟t even wanna think about our death!
So, we unconsciously think we‟re just going to keep on living. That living is
sorta permanent in a way. We might think: “forget about all this Buddha stuff, I‟m not
going to die just yet. I‟ll learn about it later.” Then, we put off learning about Buddha
and what he taught. Or we might hear about other people who died, like famous people,
or maybe someone we knew, who is close to us in our family. Then we sorta think
“That‟s not going to happen to me.”
We also think and act as if death is permanent. We fear death, because we think
we‟ll permanently be dead. But again, Buddha is trying to let us know, death is not
permanent---there‟s rebirth! Over and over and over again. And things can get a lot
worse for us! That‟s why we need to know about impermanence. And those are
examples of how we subconsciously believe in permanence.
Permanent---get rid of it! Impermanence---embrace it!
What To Do First – Oh My Prayer!
By now you‟re probably thinking: “Oh my Buddha, what should I do?” Now that
you learned about a precious human life, rebirth, the six realms, and the wisdom of dying,
and impermanence, you‟re probably wondering how you can stop from ending up in the
bad realms. So what should you do? Well, now‟s the time to start teaching you about---
What are prayers? How do they work? How should I pray? Yes, now that we
want to stay away from the bad realms, and because we know we‟ve done some wrong
things in the past, for sure we better pray!
A prayer is like a wish. Prayers come in many forms. They can be short or long.
They can repeat words and phrases over and over. Or they can be talking directly to God,
the Buddhas or the Bodhisattva angels. You can say prayers out loud. Or whisper them
quietly. Or chant them together with other people. Or think them silently in your head.
And while you‟re thinking or saying prayers, you can visualize and imagine wonderful
things in your mind. Prayers can have music that go with it, and you can make offerings
of flowers and candles along with the prayers as well.
For example, here‟s an example of a short prayer. I don‟t mean to throw you off,
but it‟s in a language called Sanskrit. This prayer is about love and compassion. It goes
“Om mani padme hung.”
(note: padme is prounounced pem-eh)
That means “May you be happy!”. When you say this prayer, you can think about
wishing happiness for all beings and for everyone to be free of pain and sorrow.
Sometimes people chant this prayer 108 times all in a row, which is how many beads
there are in a mala necklace (108 beads). There‟s some monks who have said this prayer
a million times!
Prayers come in all shapes and sizes. Find and pray ones that mean something
special to you. Those are the best and become the strongest.
How do prayers work?
Prayers focus your mind. They direct your mind‟s attention on something. The
stronger your mind‟s focus, the more likely your prayer will come true. Prayers are like
reminders on steroids. When you pray over and over with a lot of positive feeling, then
your mind and body begin to do the right actions to make that prayer come true. Prayers
require your active involvement!
For example, let‟s say you pray: “Please Buddhas, grant me a puppy!” If you
pray this just once and you don‟t have a lot of feeling, then your prayer is not very strong.
Or sometimes we pray for something, but then we don‟t do everything we‟re supposed to.
That‟s a weak prayer too.
If you keep on praying again and again and never give up, and you have patience
and a positive belief and good attitude in what you‟re praying for, then that‟s awesomely
Aside from focusing your mind, prayers reach out to higher powers that are
beyond us. Scientists haven‟t yet found a way to prove these higher powers exist, but
there are many personal stories of people who will tell you that God, Buddhas, and angels
have definitely appeared and helped them. The Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, God and angels
are definitely there. But how, when and why they help us is hard to say because I‟m not
one of them. In any case, first, you have to have faith. Then strong prayers increase your
faith. Once you have super strong faith and increase your skills at prayer, then you can
actually see, feel and experience the angels, God, Bodhisattvas and the Buddhas!
Will I automatically get what I pray for?
“What if I don‟t get what I ask for”, you ask. Sometimes we pray for something,
but it seems like we‟re not getting it, or it‟s not coming true. You may think “the
Buddhas have let me down.” But, that‟s not true. The Buddhas are all-knowing. There
could be a million reasons why you‟re not getting what you pray for. Maybe it means
that now is not the right time. Maybe it means that you‟re asking for the wrong thing.
Maybe it means you‟re not being honest or responsible enough. Maybe it means there‟s
something you have to do first, before you get that thing. Maybe there‟s a lesson to learn
from not getting it. Maybe the Buddhas think your strong enough to be without it. There
could be a lot of reasons why your wishes aren‟t coming true. But, you shouldn‟t blame
it on the Buddhas. Why, because everything that happens to you is based on your own
karma, not the Buddhas.
One more thing, the more specific your prayer is, the better. For example, there
was once a monk who prayed, “Buddha, please may I sit on the Highest Lama‟s Throne
in my next life.” The Highest Lama‟s Throne is a seat of an enlightened being who
teaches others at the temple. This monk wanted to be enlightened and to be a great
teacher to help others. Then later, a number of years after he died, there was a cow who
wandered into the temple. This cow wandered right up to the throne and sat in the
Highest Lama‟s Throne! The head abbot of the temple said, “see children, that is an
example of not being specific enough in your prayer!” Because the monk came back
merely as a cow in his next life, not as an enlightened teacher. But, he did get to sit on
Now, say it with me: “Om mani padme hung.”
Protect Yourself - Take Refuge
So, now that you know a little about praying. What‟s a good prayer to do? The
first prayer you should learn is to Take Refuge. What does “Take Refuge” mean? It
means going to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for help, guidance and protection.
We‟re going to talk about what exactly does the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
mean. And by the way, we call these three things together, The Triple Gem. But, first
let‟s breakdown the words “Taking Refuge.”
In general, the word “Refuge” means safety. We all want to be safe. It‟s like
when you play tag and the base is safe; it provides you protection. Or, it‟s like having a
first-aid kit in your house or car. You want to have a safety kit to help you in case you
get hurt or something bad happens to you (like negative karma!).
It‟s the same with your lives. You need to be safe and be protected. In
Buddhism, to get safety and protection in this life and your future lives is called “Taking
Refuge”. There‟s other benefits as well; we‟ll talk about that later. So, when you want to
Take Refuge, say to yourself the following prayer:
“I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.”
In a minute, I‟m going to tell you what Buddha, Dharma and Sangha means.
Or some people say it like this:
“I take refuge in the Buddha,
I take refuge in the Dharma,
I take refuge in the Sangha.”
How To Take Refuge
Taking refuge is more than just saying the words. So why should we take refuge in the
Buddha, Dharma and Sangha? Well, if you want safety and protection from something,
you have to take refuge in something that is powerful enough to give you that protection,
For example, if you want protection from a storm, you take refuge in a safe building or
cave; but, you wouldn‟t take refuge in donut. A donut won‟t protect you from a storm.
So, it‟s the same thing with your life and death. You‟ve got to take refuge in something
that is powerful enough to give you safety and protection---especially from the lower
realms. So that‟s why we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha (a.k.a.-The
Triple Gem). They are the things that protect in this life and the next. May you have a
There‟s a best way to Take Refuge. The best way is to generate positive mental factors
of why you‟re Taking Refuge. There„s two positive mental factors here: 1) faith, and 2)
positive fear! Yes! So, the best way to Take Refuge is NOT to just to say the words, but
you also have to create the feeling and minds of having strong faith and positive fear,
while you‟re saying the words. Now, that‟s right! So, let‟s talk a little about faith and
Faith: the stronger our faith, then the stronger our protection and abilities to do good. We
can increase our faith by learning about the Triple Gem, like who and what the Buddha,
Dharma and Sangha are, and why they are so powerful. Which we‟re going to talk about
soon. The more you know about something, then the more faith you have in that
Fear: now, what is positive fear? Well, first let‟s look at its opposite, negative fear.
Negative fear paralyzes us when we‟re afraid or scared. Negative fear is when we‟re so
scared, we don‟t do anything about what‟s scaring us. We just stay scared and can never
get over it. Or we do something negative. But, positive fear is the opposite. Positive
fear leads us to take positive action, even though we‟re afraid or scared. See the
difference? It‟s okay to feel fear; it‟s natural. It‟s okay to be scared or afraid. But
there‟s two kinds of fear---positive and negative. If the fear overcomes you, then it‟s
negative. If you overcome your fear, then it‟s positive.
So what should you fear, positively? Answer: the lower realms and doing bad. Imagine
all the people who experience thousands of years of pain and suffering because they
ended up in the Tortured Lower Realms. Do you want that to happen to you? No, of
course not! So you should fear it AND do something about it. That‟s positive. Take
So, instead of just saying the words “I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha,”
bring up in your mind the feeling of positive fear. And, bring up in your mind the feeling
of great faith. If you bring up those two things, while saying the words, then that is the
right way to Take Refuge.
The Triple Gem
So now let me explain to you a little about the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Together they are called the Three Jewels, or the Triple Gem. The qualities of each of
the Three Jewels makes them the best things to take refuge in. They have the power to
protect us, be the best we can be, and help us become enlightened.
For example, as a metaphor, imagine that you have a nagging cold that keeps
coming back again and again. So you need to find a cure. You can think of the Buddha
as the doctor who knows the cure; the Dharma as the medicine which is the cure, and the
Sangha as the nurses who help you take the medicine. There‟s a lot of symbolism here.
The cold is a symbol of our human life going up and down, happy and sad, never being
fully cured. The doctor is a symbol of someone who has the knowledge of how to get rid
of the cold and all the suffering that goes along with it. The medicine is a symbol of what
all persons can do to do to be free of suffering and become fully enlightened. And the
nurses are a symbol of the people, spirits and angels that can help us.
The Buddha knows what you need to do to find happiness, but you are the one
who must actually do it yourself. He‟s like the doctor who gives you the medicine. But,
you must take the medicine yourself! The doctor doesn‟t actually cure you; you taking
the medicine is what actually cures you. This means that you are the one who has to put
the Buddha‟s teachings into action. You are not alone in your journey and there are
others who are farther along the path than you, which is the Sangha, and they can help
Now, let‟s finally talk about fun facts of the Three Jewels themselves.
Fun Facts on the Buddha Dharma and Sangha
The Buddha is a buddha. One of many. The Buddha that most people know
about is named Shakyamuni Buddha. Shakyamuni is the name of his clan. And Buddha
means “one thus gone beyond”. He‟s the Buddha that appeared on earth about 2,500
years ago and was first named Siddharta before he became known as the Buddha. As a
young boy, Siddharta was born as a royal prince and grew up in a beautiful, rich palace.
But then he left his parent‟s palace in search of enlightenment. When he left and became
a wandering monk, he was called Gautama. After many years, he ended up meditating
under a Bodhi tree and then became enlightened. After he became enlightened, he
became known as the Buddha.
In reality, there are hundreds of thousands and billions of Buddhas in hundreds of
thousands and billions of universes---more than anyone could count. They‟re all over the
place and even all around you right now. You can‟t see them with your eyes, but they‟re
there. When you‟re enlightened, you can see them. Shakyamuni Buddha is famous
because he is the Buddha of this world. But, there are a lot of other Buddhas as well.
We Take Refuge in the Buddha (and all the Buddhas) because the Buddha has
already achieved enlightenment. That makes Buddha powerful, all-knowing and a great
teacher. By Taking Refuge in the Buddha, it means that we trust him to guide us on our
spiritual journey and be the best we can be.
In general, dharma means “all things that are”. Which pretty much means
everything we know of and also everything that exists that we don‟t know of. But,
there‟s a second meaning---and people most often use the word this way---“Dharma”
means the teachings of the Buddha. In this second meaning, Dharma means everything
that Buddha ever taught.
For example, Shakyamuni Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, which is part of
the Dharma (and which is kinda famous and I‟ll teach it to you another time). He also
taught hundreds-of-thousands of other things. Buddha himself didn‟t write any books or
write anything down. All the Dharma he taught was done by word of mouth to his
disciples and they had to memorize it. With the invention of books, many years later,
some disciples started writing down what Buddha said, and those are called Buddhist
scriptures. That is part of the Dharma too.
Another good example: the Lam Rim is part of the Dharma. The Lam Rim is the
step-by-step instructions of how to find happiness and be enlightened. It‟s what this book
is about! These instructions come from the Buddha himself.
Now, here‟s something that you may not know: anything can be dharma---
anything! Now you may ask: how can that be? Can a table be dharma? Can a dog be
dharma? Can a flower be dharma? The answer is yes. Why? Because it depends on
how you think about it and what you learn from it. For example, one time Buddha gave a
teaching. He held up a flower and didn‟t say one word to anyone in the audience.
Almost nobody knew what he meant. But, one of his disciples looked at him and smiled.
He smiled because he understood what the Buddha meant, even though nothing was
being said! That‟s an example of how a flower was the dharma.
Here‟s another example: imagine you‟re walking outside on a beautiful, sunny
afternoon, and you hear the soft wind blowing in the air. And, this soft wind makes you
realize how everything in the world is connected and that you should be kind to all living
things. Then guess what? That wind is dharma for you! Because it taught you what
We take Refuge in the Dharma as the second of the Three Jewels because Dharma
is the way to pure happiness and enlightenment. The Buddha‟s greatest concern is to
help all beings and creatures be free of pain and sorrow and to become fully enlightened.
That is why he taught the Dharma. Gotta do Dharma!
In general, Sangha means community. And for Buddhism, the Sangha is a special
kind of community. It is a community made up of monks and nuns---people---and it also
includes highly-spiritual beings who are very near to becoming enlightened, called
Bodhisattvas. You can think of Bodhisattvas as angels. They‟re like Bodhisattva-angels.
Again you may not be able to see them (or maybe you can!), but they are there. The
Sangha is special because they are farther along the path of becoming enlightened than
we are, so they can help to show us the way.
We can learn a lot from the Sangha. They are wise and many of them have
special powers as well. For example, Bodhisattva-angels, have pledged to help all living
creatures for as long as it takes, for billions and quadrillions of years, rebirth after rebirth,
until every single living creature has achieved enlightenment. They care about everyone
so much, that they would even give up their life to help the smallest ant. Now that‟s the
motivation of a Bodhisattva!
We take Refuge in the Sangha as the Third Jewel because they help us on our path
to be free from pain and sorrow, to have a good rebirth, to find pure happiness, to help
others and to become fully enlightened.
So when you Take Refuge and say “I take refuge in the Buddha”, think about how
wonderful the Buddha is. When you say “I take refuge in the Dharma”, think about how
the Dharma is the way that you will be free from pain and sorrow and and complete the
path to happiness. When you say “I take refuge in the Sangha”, think about the
wonderful angels and spiritual beings that help you. They are trying to help everyone, if
everyone just let‟s them.
Let‟s go over what we learned so far. You learned what Buddha Nature is; and
that every living creature is able to be enlightened. You learned that we all have past and
future lives and about the Six Realms of Rebirth. You learned what a Precious Human
Life is and that it is extremely rare and doesn‟t happen very often amidst billions of
creatures in billions of universes. You learned that your life is even more precious
because you were reborn in a certain time, at a certain place, with a certain smartness---so
that you can do Buddhism. Then you learned about the wisdom of dying. You learned
that all things die and that you don‟t want to be reborn into the bad realms. Then you
learned that to protect yourself and for safety, that you may take refuge in the Three
Jewels. Then you learned a little about the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. So far,
so good, right?
Now let‟s talk about Karma.
Is Karma Important?
You‟ve probably already heard of the word “karma”. We‟re going to talk about it---a lot.
It‟s that important. But, karma‟s fun to talk about. Because everything you know is
related to karma somehow, someway. Let‟s see…where shall we start about karma. I
All happiness comes from good karma. Every pleasant feeling---from winning a game, to
enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, all the way up to the highest spiritual enlightenment---is
because of, and a result of, good karma.
When we talk about good karma, I want to introduce another word to you. That word is
„virtuous‟. The word „virtuous‟ is important here. „Virtuous‟ means more than just good.
„Virtuous‟ is better and goes much deeper than just „good‟. There‟s a lot of things that
can be good. But, not just anything can be virtuous. So the words „virtuous karma‟ is
more meaningful than just saying „good‟ karma. So really, we say: all happiness comes
from virtuous karma.
What is virtuous?
Being virtuous is having positive qualities. For example, here are some virtuous
qualities: generosity, patience, discipline, joyful effort, concentration, and wisdom. So,
virtuous actions would be: being generous, being patient, being disciplined, being joyful
in effort, having great concentration, and being wise. Now that‟s excellent and awesome.
Do you see how being virtuous is much more than just good?
So, why is virtue so important to karma? Because virtuous actions create virtuous
karma. And let me say it again: ALL HAPPINESS COMES FROM VIRTUOUS
So, it‟s that important. That‟s pretty profound, right. For example, how happy are you
right now? Whatever you‟re feeling right now, well that‟s a result of your karma. It‟s a
result of your karma from past lives. That‟s what the Buddha taught us. Because he is
enlightened, he‟s able to understand how karma works from lifetime to lifetime. And,
we‟re so lucky that he taught us about karma. Because without someone who knows how
it works, we would never know about it!
So, if you want to be happy, think about what kind of virtuous actions have you done?
Have you done any good deeds today? Have you helped someone? Or given-up
something you wanted to someone else? Or stopped yourself from doing something bad?
(That‟s virtuous too!). Or felt happy for someone? That‟s all virtuous! There‟s a lot of
things you can do to create virtuous karma. And doing those things can be fun! You‟ll
enjoy it! Karma is fun!
Now, I don‟t mean to burst your bubble. But, bad karma exists too. And remember,
YOU create your own karma, NOT others. So karma is that important! Remember, just
like all happiness comes from virtuous karma---all pain and difficulties come from non-
virtuous, negative, bad karma.
Remember, I‟ll say it again, YOU create your own karma, NOT others! So, if you get
mad and hit someone and get bad karma for hitting, you can‟t blame it on someone else.
You can‟t say, they made me made hit him and it wasn‟t my fault. If you hit someone,
you get the bad karma, not anyone else!
Wait, I‟m getting a little ahead of myself. Let‟s continue with some other things about
Four Things To Remember About Karma
Here‟s four things the Buddha taught us to remember about karma. We‟ll talk about each
one; but I want you to see them all first:
1) Karma is for sure.
2) Karma increases.
3) You don‟t get karma for what you haven‟t done.
4) Karma never goes away.
Karma is for sure.
Karma is for sure means that “it‟s going to happen no matter what”. For sure means
Why is karma for sure going to happen? Because it follows the laws of cause and effect.
Buddha taught us that everything happens because of cause and effect. There is a cause
to every effect. There is an effect for every cause. Another way to say it is that
everything happens because of a reason. There is nothing that happens for no reason at
all. We might not always know the reason, but there always is a reason. For example, if
things could happen for no reason at all, then a cow could be born from a stone, right?
Or pigs could fly? But those things don‟t really exist.
It‟s the same with happiness and difficulties. There is a cause for every happy feeling.
Likewise, there is a cause for every feeling of difficulty, pain or suffering. And the way
we describe that relationship is called: karma.
Another way to say it is: without previous virtue, happiness cannot happen. Likewise, all
painful or unpleasant feelings are the result of non-virtuous behavior in the past.
Karma can increase beyond your wildest dreams. The tiniest, smallest little virtuous
action you do can bring about great, great happiness. Meanwhile, the tiniest, smallest,
non-virtuous action you do can bring about great, great suffering.
For example, take a very small acorn seed. That small, little acorn seed can grow into a
huge, huge oak tree. Well, karma can be magnified a million times more than that!
The Buddha told a story about a poor, old lady who gave a handful of grain because
that‟s all she had. Because she had such a pure intention and pure faith in the Buddha---
because of her giving that handful of grain to the Buddha---she later became enlightened
in a future life. So be generous!
On the other hand, little misdeeds are like snowballs of bad karma. For example, telling
a little lie in this life can turn into the most terrifying thing you ever experienced in your
future lives. If this scares you, then good! It‟s supposed to help stop you from doing
even the littleist bad thing from here on.
Now, just in case you slip, it‟s going to be okay. We‟ll talk about this later. If you want
to know “why” right now, well, for one, since you know how to Take Refuge then you
have some protection. And, two, the Buddha taught us that there are ways to purify our
bad karma. The Buddha taught us that no matter how bad we have been in the past, no
matter what negative actions we‟ve done in the past, we can make ourselves better, and
purify the bad karma we created. We can do this to stop karma from magnifying. So
You don‟t get karma for what you haven‟t done.
Let‟s break this down a little. To get to the meaning of this, let‟s break down karma a
little. Let‟s break it down for simplicity‟s sake into two parts: old karma and new karma.
Your old karma is the karma you already have. They are like the karmic seeds already
inside you, which were planted during the actions of your previous lifetimes. Whatever
actions you did, both good and bad, that‟s where your old karma comes from. And that
karma brings you into the situation that you find yourself today. That old karma is the
reason you are born rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, short or tall, prone to anger or to
always nice, and it‟s the karma that makes you interested in certain things. Really you‟re
a mixture of all sorts of different karma, likes and dislikes, talents and weaknesses. And
that‟s what makes you a unique and special individual.
Now, what is new karma. That‟s the karma you are creating in the present moment (like
right here and now). For example, your action of reading this book and trying to
understand the teaching of the Buddha---well you‟re creating good karma right now! So
So, what does it mean “you don‟t get karma for what you haven‟t done? Well, if you do
NOT do an action, then you will NOT get that karma. And, you will NOT experience its
effect. The Buddha said: “if an action is not performed, its results will not be met.” So,
if you don‟t kill, then you don‟t suffer the consequences of having killed. If you don‟t
steal, you don‟t get the bad karma from stealing.
Remember karma is based on cause and effect. Doing actions, whether good or bad, are
karmic causes. And, there‟s a karmic effect for all those causes, good or bad, which you
will definitely experience in future lives.
Here‟s a little story about karma the Buddha taught. There was once a group of
businessmen who were traveling a long time ago (think back thousands of years ago).
These businessmen came upon a hut where there was a meditator. Not caring about who
was in the hut, they burned it down, and killed the meditator inside. But, one servant that
was with them had objected to them burning the hut down. She refused to be part of it,
but she had no power to stop it. Now, fast-forward many lifetimes later, where there is a
house where many Buddhist nuns lived. Now those nuns who lived there were once the
businessmen and servant many lifetimes ago. But, they were Buddhist nuns in this
lifetime; and they were all living in this house. Well, one night when they were sleeping
the house caught fire. They tried to escape. But when all the nuns tried to escape, they
all died, except for one. Buddha explained that the one nun that lived, was the nun who,
in her past life, was the servant who objected to the burning of the hut that killed the
meditator. Although she suffered the consequence of being with the men that burned
down the hut and killed the meditator, since she was against it, then she didn‟t suffer the
consequence of being killed in the fire, but the others did.
That is an example of how someone cannot escape the karma of their past actions.
Sometimes we hear on the news about similar stories, such as car accidents, plane
accidents, house fires or people who escape natural disasters like earthquakes or
typhoons. We hear about one or two persons escaping the disaster and not being killed.
It sounds like a miracle. These are examples of not meeting the results of karma you
have not created. That is the Buddhist way of interpreting these stories. So be a good
Karma never goes away.
Sometimes we think that if we don‟t get caught for doing something bad, then we‟ll get
away with it. But that‟s not the case with karma. Karma stays with us over many
lifetimes. Hundreds, thousands, and millions of lifetimes. Can you even think that far
ahead? Some people might ask you: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And
you may or may not even know. But, what if I ask you: “what do you want to be in your
next life?” What would your answer be? Haha. How about a hundred or a thousand
lifetimes from now…what do you want to be?
Well, you don‟t have to decide exactly what you want to be in your next lifetime or many
lifetimes from now. But, you probably know one thing for sure: you want to be happy
and not in the suffering realms, right! I know I do.
So, it‟s important to know that actions you do now, in this very lifetime, will never
away. They don‟t fade away, or get lost, or get forgotten, even if other people forget
about them or even if you don‟t get caught. Karma does not forget. Karma is always
there. Karma exists. Karma is not like a god or anything; it does not judge you or decide
for you. It‟s a law of cause and effect; it‟s the way things are. It‟s like gravity on earth.
Gravity doesn‟t judge you; it‟s just there; it exists; it does what it does. That‟s the way
Now that you know this, you can use it to your advantage. Do more good things, than
bad. Be aware that you are the totality and result of all the actions of your past lives.
And you will become the totality and result of all the actions in this present life. This is
one of the greatest advices I can give you as a Dad.
I know you think that I want you to be doctor, lawyer, rich businessman, engineer, writer,
or somebody famous when you grow up. But, really I just want you to be happy. You
may or may not become one of those wonderful things. But even if you did, there‟s
could still be a chance you won‟t be happy doing it. So, what I really want is for you to
be kind and generous, not suffer from anger or frustration, have the things you need in
life so you will be able to help others, and be honest, trustworthy, and as wise as possible.
If you have these qualities, you will find happiness in this life and in the next, no matter
what you “become.” Eventually, you will become enlightened.
What Exactly Is Karma?
Now that we‟ve talked about why karma is important and four things to remember
about karma, what exactly does karma mean? I‟ll break it down as a mixture of some
new things and some old things that I‟ve already told you. It‟s that important!
Karma, itself, means an “urge”. So, karma is the urge to do something. So
remember, you know how in a dictionary a single word can have different meanings. So,
karma has different meanings too. Karma can refer to the general topic “karma”, which
refers to the laws of cause and effect. Or, here, karma can mean “urge”.
So, what‟s an “urge”? An urge is something that‟s inside you that makes you
want to do something. It‟s like a seed that‟s inside you---a karmic seed. Remember we
mentioned this. Since a seed comes before the flower, and a seed is what can grow into a
flower, then an urge, comes before doing the action, and an urge can grow into an action.
Again, karma is the urge to do something. An action is different; an action is what
happens after you‟ve acted upon that urge.
For example, let‟s say you have the karma to crave for certain kinds of things---
let‟s say sweet things, like chocolate! So you have the karma to crave for chocolate and
every time you see chocolate you go crazy for it. You want it so badly that you‟ll do
anything for it. You might work extra hard for it. Or, you might steal for it. So, before
you do actions to get the chocolate, you‟ve already got this karma, or urge, which is a
heavy desire for chocolate.
So, what kinds of karma do you think you have? Do you like certain
things? And dislike others? Do you act or behave in a certain way? Do you think
certain things a lot? Do you feel a certain way a lot? That‟s your karma!
How Is Karma Created?
Karma is the urge to do, say, or think something. But remember, the urge to do it,
is not the same as actually doing it. And the urge to say something, is not the same as
actually saying it. Or the urge to think something, is not the same as thinking it. By the
time you‟re in the middle of doing, saying, or thinking something, well the old karma has
already effected you; it‟s already done its job. The old karma brought you into the action,
like a magnet. Then, in the present moment while you‟re doing, saying or thinking
something, well at that moment you‟re creating new karma.
So that‟s how we create new karma from old karma. The old karma brings us into
the new action, which then makes new karma. And people mostly repeat the same
behavior over and over and over again. Because they have the same urges and those
urges get stronger and stronger over many lifetimes. It‟s like a cycle we can‟t get out of
(unless we learn how)!
The most important point about how karma is created, is: karma comes from
YOU. Again, where does karma come from? Karma is created by YOU. Nobody else
and nothing else is responsible for your own karma. Karma doesn‟t come from what
somebody else did to you. It doesn‟t come from things outside of you or the environment
around you. Karma wasn‟t placed upon you by some outside force (like bad luck or a
god or even a random act). YOU created the karma which put you in a certain place, in a
certain time, and like a magnet draws you toward acting in a certain way. Karma comes
from you. YOU create your own karma. YOU created and create your own karma by
what you think, say or do. YOU create your own future. Hows‟ that for self
You have all kinds of karmic seeds inside you. And that karma was created by the
things you did in your past lives. If you have good karma, it‟s because you did a lot of
good things in the past. If you have bad karma, it‟s because you did a lot of bad things in
the past. Everyone has a mix of good and bad karma. But, even if you have bad karma,
the good news is that Buddha taught us how to get rid of it.
Let‟s talk about the effects of karma. Buddha was so wise, that he could see
people‟s karma. So, he taught us about some of the things he saw, like the story I told
you earlier about the woman who escaped the burning building.
You‟ve heard of babies or children who died young due to sickness or disease. Or
you‟ve heard about people who died in a war or those who survived it. Well, how short
or long your life is, and where you‟re born, is the karmic result (effect) of how much you
killed in your past lives, or how much you saved lives in your past lifetimes.
People who get killed or die young, it‟s because they created their own negative
karma by killing others in their past lives. People who live long, well, they saved a lot of
lives in their past lives. It could be the lives of people, insects, animals, or any living
creature. So that‟s why Buddha taught us “do not kill.” Because you could end up in one
of the hells if you do.
Have you ever wondered why some people are rich and some are poor? Buddha
taught us that people who are rich and wealthy is a result of them being generous and
giving a lot in their past lives. And people who are very poor is a result of being very
selfish and stingy.
Have you ever had something stolen from you? Well, that‟s because you stole a
lot of things in your past life. Or have you ever seen kids who get bullied? Well, that‟s
because they bullied others in their past lives.
Do you see how karma works now? It‟s like you get the opposite of what you did
in the past. If you give things, then you receive things. If you kill things, then you get
killed. If you steal things, then you get things stolen from you.
Remember that karma works for good things too. Have you ever seen people who
are really popular and everybody likes them? Well that‟s because they were very humble
and treated everyone with respect in their past lives.
I think you get how karma works, right? It‟s cause and effect. Whatever you did
in the past is the cause for whatever you experience now in the present. Cause and effect.
You have all kinds of karma from your past lives. And that‟s what makes you
who you are today. Some karma is stronger than others. And that‟s why you like certain
things and dislike other things. That‟s also why you have the tendency to behave or act
in a certain way. If you easily get mad---that‟s karma. If you easily get happy---that‟s
Just remember that you always have freedom and choices. Buddha taught us that
you can change your future. You can turn negative karma into positive karma, so that
you experience good things right now in this life and also good things in your future
lives, even though you may have done something bad in the past.
Here‟s a trivia question: now that you know we can purify our bad karma, can you think
of why this is possible? Why should purification be possible? Well, the answer is:
because we all have buddha nature! That is what makes purification of our bad karma
So, if you want to be happy, you have to do good things and stay away from
doing bad. It‟s as easy as that, right? Haha, well it‟s easy said, but harder to do. Let me
tell you about the ten things Buddha said we should and shouldn‟t do, which puts us on
the path to happiness, and helps us stay out of the lower realms.
How To Be Happy: What To Do and What Not To Do – The Ten Pathways
You‟re doing great so far. Now, we‟re still talking about the subject of karma.
And we want to know how to be happy. Okay, Now, I want you to imagine that your
going on a trip. And on this trip, you need to drive a car or walk and hike by foot. To
reach your destination, you need to follow the right road or path; and, if you follow the
wrong path, you‟ll wind up getting lost, going in circles, and not getting to where you
need to go. This is an analogy to your life‟s journey; and, your destination is to be happy
and not miserable.
Buddha taught us that there are ten things NOT to do to keep us off the road to the
bad realms---and keep us on the road to real happiness. Buddha called these roads
“karmic pathways.” They are karmic pathways because they lead us to experience either
diffictuly/suffering or happiness. Whenever we think, say, or do any of the 10 things, we
experience its karmic consequences. Good makes good. Bad makes bad.
Remember we talked about virtuous and non-virtuous actions? Virtuous is good
and non-virtuous is bad. Virtuous is positive and non-virtuous is negative. So, there are
10 non-virtuous pathways and 10 virtuous pathways. They‟re opposites. So whatever we
think, say, or do will either keep us on a good pathway or make us follow a bad one. At
this point I‟d like to say, “Bon voyage!”, which means have a safe and happy journey!
So, first, what are the ten negative, non-virtuous pathways?
The Ten Negative and Non-Virtuous Pathways are:
3. Inappropriate Sex
5. Trash Talking – Divisive Speech
6. Harsh Speech
7. Meaningless Speech (Jibber-Jabber-Blah-Blah-Blah)
10. False Beliefs
We say there are 3 doors to doing these negative and non-virtuous things. The three
doors are your: 1) body, 2) speech, and 3) mind. In other words, the doors to the
pathways are whatever you do, say, or think. You do things through your body. You say
things through your speech. And you think things with your mind.
Let‟s talk a little about each of these ten karmic pathways.
Killing means to kill any living creature---like killing insects, animals, or fish, and
of course humans. Think about it. Living creatures don‟t want to die. They want to live
and be happy. Remember that living creatures have been reborn many times and have
had many past lives. Even you! You don‟t want to be killed now, and you most certainly
didn‟t want to be killed back then. Killing is flat out negative.
So let‟s say you did kill some bugs by mistake. Are you going to hell? Well,
only a real Buddha would know that. For you, the important thing is that you start to be
aware that killing can harm you, in addition to the creature you‟re killing. So there‟s two
reasons not to kill. For sure we get negative karma for killing bugs or hunting and killing
Let‟s say you do kill a bug. There‟s some things you can do to lessen the bad
karma. For example: don‟t kill with anger and don‟t be happy that you killed the bug.
Some people get angry at bugs and swack them hard and think “hooray, I got that little
bugger”. This shows you have little compassion and it will result in building up a lot of
negative karma. If you don‟t feel sorry for killing living creatures, no matter how small
they are, then it will lead to not caring about killing bigger things. Remember we talked
about how karma is created? Karma is not created by the bug, it‟s created by you!
Other things you can do to lessen bad karma: don‟t hunt or fish just for fun.
Those animals don‟t want to be hunted and fished just for your pleasure.
Okay, now usually everybody wonders about killing animals for food. Let‟s say
you ate a hamburger, which comes from cows that were killed. Now since we live in the
city and shop at supermarkets, you didn‟t actually kill the cow. So you don‟t get bad
karma for killing the cow. But you should still be aware that a living creature died, just
so you could be able to eat and get nourished. You eating a lot of hamburgers is an
indirect cause for cows being killed. So, you should at least pay your respects to that
animal that died for you, so you could eat. You should honor that animal and think
“thank you, please be safe and happy in your future lives”. It may sound silly to think
that to yourself when you eat. But remember, even the smallest good things that you do
can grow into a magnificent amount of good karma. Remember, karma increases. It‟s
like a snowball.
There are Native American traditions where after they killed a buffalo, they
honored it with prayers, because the buffalo was the source of their livelihood, food and
clothing. So, to lessen the bad karma, be more like that! Anyway, you have to think
something when you eat. So aside from just thinking “this is delicious, I love this
burger”, which doesn‟t earn you any good karma, think how the animal gives you
nutrition for you to grow stronger and help others. And think how you hope the animal
that died for you will find happiness in future lives. Just like you would wish for your
friend or family member to be safe if they were going on a trip.
Now you get an idea of why many Buddhists are vegetarian. Why? Because they
have compassion both for the cow that suffers and also for the person who killed the cow.
A Buddhist feels compassion for both the victim and the killer because we want both of
them to find happiness in their next lives. A Buddhist doesn‟t feel anger towards
someone who kills. Even if someone kills another human being. We feel sadness. But
what good will anger do? None. Anger is bad karma. Stopping your anger from
happening is good karma. Now, this doesn‟t mean you should not care about people
being killed by someone else. Remember, the Buddha taught that we should protect life
too. Protecting living things brings good karma.
Stealing – Taking What’s Not Given
You already know that stealing is wrong. Another way to say “don‟t‟ steal” is:
Do not take what is not given. I like that more because it‟s more meaningful and broader
than just “don‟t steal”. “Do not take what is not given” tells you that you shouldn‟t even
take “what‟s not given to you.”
You know that stealing is wrong because it harms other people and their stuff
doesn‟t belong to you. Mostly you‟re taught not to steal because you could get in trouble
or go to jail. And now that you know what karma is, you‟re learning not to steal because
it will give you bad karma, and in future lives the same will happen to you or you will
suffer a lower rebirth.
Now, I want to talk to you about something else. Something for you to look at
inside yourself. And that is: the mind of stealing. What is the mind of stealing? When I
say “mind”, I‟m talking about the state of your mind and emotions when you want to
steal or when you are in the middle of stealing.
The mind of stealing is a mind of selfishness. It has a lot of other bad parts to it
as well. In your mind you‟re thinking “mine, mine, mine”. And you‟re thinking “I want,
I want, I want”. And you‟re thinking “that‟s not mine, not mine, not mine.” And you‟re
thinking “getting that will make me happy, getting that will make me happy, getting that
will make me happy”----which is a mistaken idea, because when in reality “getting it” by
stealing will give you bad karma and make you sink to the lower realms…which is the
farthest thing from being happy. Can you see how lots of people are ignorant? They
have a mistaken idea of how to be truly happy!
All this bad karma results from the mind of stealing. You‟re only thinking about
what you want, the pleasure or fun you will have, or the comfort you will have, if you
take the thing you want. But, lurking in the background is that something bad will
happen to you, and you will suffer far much more worse things happening to you as a
result of stealing.
Fighting the urge to steal
The mind of stealing is the opposite of a generous or giving mind. It is also the
opposite of being content. When you‟re content with what you have, you have no need to
One way to fight the mind of stealing is to think of all the things that you have or
own as belonging to everyone, but you‟re just using it for right now. Think: “This
computer is not really mine, it actually belongs to everyone, but I need it to do my work,
so it‟s good that I use it for now.” And when someone steals something from you, don‟t
get mad; instead think: “ah, my time to use this thing was up due to my karma,” and “it is
natural that this thing leaves me and someone else gets to use it.”
You may have to replace what was stolen from you or you may be sad and miss it.
And I know it‟s a hassle to deal with. But, the main point here is not to let the fact that
you got something stolen from you put you in a worse state of mind or a worse emotional
state. Because that worse mind or emotional state will result in you getting more bad
karma! For example, if you got angry that someone stole from you, you might take that
anger out on someone else, or do something stupid, or hit someone, which gives you
more bad karma. Or you might generate the mind of revenge, which will give you a lot
of bad karma and lead to more negative actions.
When someone steals from you, think: “ah, that was due to my bad karma of
stealing in the past.” Think: “I hope this person benefits from what they took from me.
They must have needed it more than me.” And feel compassion for the person who stole
it, because that person will suffer the consequences of bad karma. Meanwhile, you
won‟t. Thinking like this will help you stay calm and compassionate, even when
someone steals from you.
You know what is cool about karma? If something bad happens to you, then you
exhausted that piece of bad karma, which means you paid your debt. Remember we
talked about the karmic seeds inside you. Well, that piece of bad karma got used up---it‟s
now gone. Like a car that‟s run out of gas. You stole before, now someone stole from
you, now the score is even. So, instead of getting mad or depressed, you can feel relieved
that someone stole from you because you won‟t have to experience the bad effects of that
karma ever again.
But be careful, who knows how many bad seeds of karma you might have stored
inside you for stealing things in the past. That‟s why you need to be sorry for the bad
things you‟ve done in the past. And promise that you‟ll do your best in the future to not
do more bad things. This is called “purifying” your bad karma. Purifying gets rid of
your bad karma too. If you purify, then you can get rid of bad karma seeds before any
stealing happens to you. We‟ll talk more about purifying later.
For now, what‟s one way you can purify bad karma? You can Take Refuge. (See
previous chapter if you forgot what Taking Refuge is.) Taking refuge can purify your
negative karma so you won‟t experience the bad effects of stealing and other negative
actions. Like I said, we‟ll talk more about how to purify, by being sorry and promising
not to do more negative things in the future.
Inappropriate Sexual Behavior
At your age I know you‟ve heard about sex. I know you‟ve had some biology
explained to you, like why girls are different than boys, and how a baby is made through
sex, and the sperm and the egg thing. And, since you watch t.v., movies, youtube,
internet and listen to the radio, for sure you have heard people talking about sex, singing
about it, and heard bad words that describe sex too. There‟s nothing to hide.
So what is inappropriate sexual behavior? Well, “inappropriate” means NOT
appropriate, not good, or don‟t do it. “Sexual” means having to do with sex. And,
“behavior” means something you do---your actions. One kind of inappropriate sexual
behavior is when someone in a relationship cheats on the other person, which means that
the person had sex with someone else they‟re not supposed to. For example, a person
who cheats on their wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend and has sex with someone else.
Both the person who did the cheating and the person who they cheated with are guilty of
inappropriate sexual behavior, and both will get bad karma.
Inappropriate sexual behavior has a lot to do with negative desire. And having a
lot of bad karma from negative desire can cause you suffering in the Semi-Tortured Spirit
realm in your future lives. Remember how we described this realm as always desiring
something but never being able to get it? The Buddha taught us that in this realm you
will experience intense suffering, never have any comfort, and never have the smallest of
any of your desires satisfied. You don‟t want to go there.
The desire to have sex with someone you shouldn‟t can make people do other
negative actions as well, which will cause even more bad karma. For example,
uncontrollable desire can drive someone to kill because of the desire for sex. Others will
lie or steal because because of desire to have sex with someone they shouldn‟t. Also,
inappropriate sexual behavior can be accompanied with other negative emotions like
jealousy, anger, hate, and violence. This kind of negative desire is destructive and will
lead to a lot more bad karma.
Another kind of inappropriate sexual behavior is when an older person sexually
abuses a child. This is something you should be aware of at your age. You‟ve probably
heard about this in the news, or you know that this has happened to some children. Some
of these children were kidnapped and taken away from their homes. You should be
aware of this so that you can protect yourself and be safe. Report suspicious persons to a
responsible adult right away.
Since you‟re only in sixth grade. I think that‟s all I want to say about
inappropriate sexual behavior. But, I don‟t want to leave you with the impression that all
sex is bad. Sex is part of life. It is something you will have to know about as you grow
up. It can be a very beautiful thing. It will be part of a relationship with your girlfriend,
wife, boyfriend or husband.
What I want you to know for now is more about relationships. You should be a
responsible person that respects your partner. You should be in a relationship with your
girlfriend/boyfriend and treat her/him with kindness, compassion, honesty and respect.
You should only have one girlfriend or boyfriend at any one time and you should never
cheat. People are not “things”; they‟re not conveniences and they‟re not there to serve
your egotistical pleasure or comfort or to improve your image. Don‟t swear at your
partner or call them swear words. And never play with someone‟s feelings. These things
I just mentioned can lead to or are part of a mind that moves towards inappropriate sexual
behavior or other negative actions.
Your intention should be to always work towards a healthy lifestyle in your
relationship. It may take many dates and several relationships to figure this out in today‟s
modern world. But I know you can do it. If you‟re lucky (and have good karma), you‟ll
meet just the right person and be able to develop a relationship so that person will be your
trusted partner for the rest of this lifetime. So, Buddhism can really help you with your
relationship, because it will help you not get angry and trust your partner, and get through
any emotional problems that might happen.
Do you have any questions about this topic?
It goes without saying that lying is wrong. It‟s not just the Buddha who said it, a
lot of people have said it. You‟ve been taught since you were a little kid that lying is
wrong. So what more can the Buddha teach us about lying?
The Buddha taught us that lying is tied to karma, so it‟s tied to past and future
lives. Our urge to lie now, and the reason why we lie, is because we‟ve gathered a lot of
bad karma due to lying. Or, our urge to be honest, and the reason why we‟re always
truthful and hones, is because we‟ve gathered a lot of virtuous karma due to being honest.
Sometimes it seems that lying gets us what we want, especially if we can get
away with it. But in the end, it hurts our self and it hurts others as well. By lying you
may be able to fool or trick a person, but you know what---you can‟t fool or trick your
own karma. There‟s an old saying “you can‟t fool mother nature.” Because nature
happens the way nature happens. It‟s the same thing with karma. Karma is just how
things work. It‟s not a thing that can be fooled or tricked. You can‟t lie your way out of
So if negative karma brings you bad things no matter what, and if lying gives you
negative karma…then what‟s the use of lying? Nothing. Lying does you no good at all.
What is lying, really?
What is lying, anyway? Lying is deceiving someone to benefit our self. We can
lie about something in the past, present, or future. But, in order to lie, we have to have
something to lie about. It could be something we‟ve seen with our eyes, or heard with
our ears, or sensed with our nose, or tasted with our tongue, or something we‟ve done or
experienced, something we know, or something we say we‟re going to do, but in fact we
know we‟re not. And remember, we can also lie about something we haven‟t seen,
haven‟t heard, haven‟t smelled, haven‟t tasted, or haven‟t done, or don‟t know. For
example: did you see the note I left you? Did you hear what I said? Did you fart? Are
you brushing your teeth? Are you going to clean-up before you play?
What makes a lie a lie?
To lie, you have to know you‟re lying. That‟s what makes a lie a lie. For
example, if you knew you had homework, but you said that you didn‟t have homework so
that you could play, then you know you are lying. So it‟s a lie.
How do people lie?
Lying has to have a physical action. People can lie by speaking or also making a
gesture. You already know what saying a lie is. Lying can also involve writing
something, which is an extension of speaking. But also, a lie can be a gesture like
nodding your head yes or no, or making a facial expression or making a motion with your
hands to communicate.
When is a lie not a lie?
Here‟s something interesting. For something to be a lie, someone has to
understand and believe what you said. For example, if you tell a baby “I did my
homework,” but in fact you didn‟t. Since the baby cannot understand or believe you,
then that doesn‟t count as lying. Or if you said a lie into the phone, but the person didn‟t
hear or understand you because it was a bad connection, then that doesn‟t count as a lie
Lying Is No Joke
Here‟s some other stuff to remember about lying. Exaggerating is lying, because
it‟s not true. Some jokes can be lying too. Remember, certain kinds of jokes can hurt
people‟s feelings, so be careful about joking that might be lying. For example, you might
say “Johnny likes Suzy,” and you could be joking around because it‟s not really true.
But, that joke can backfire and both Johnny and Suzy may get their feelings hurt. And
others might make fun of them too.
What if I lie?
What are the effects of lying? Some of the bad things that will happen to you are:
people won‟t listen to you, they won‟t believe you, and they won‟t respect you. So, you
you won‟t have friends and you will be considered a low life because people won‟t trust
Also, like I said, lying hurts and harms others. That‟s really important. Think
about how your lying hurts others. Due to your lies, other people may get in trouble, or
get hurt, or it may cause them to get angry or depressed. You can also be the cause of
someone else who goes to hurt another persone. Like if you say to Johnny, “she did it to
you”; and then Johnny punches Suzy in the face to get back at her, but in fact she didn‟t
Lying also leads to, or is a part of, other negative actions. It can lead to, or go
along with stealing. Lying can also lead to gossiping, pitting people against each other,
or to jealousy and revenge. It can also lead to cheating or killing. Little lies can turn into
big lies. And a lot of little lies equals a big amount of lying.
Why not lie?
There‟s lots of reasons not to lie. Think about the friends you will lose by lying.
Think about the trust that will be lost between you and your family. Or think about how
you may be hurting others. Think about the bad karma you will get and the lower realms
that await you.
On the other hand, think about all the good things that will happen to you if
you‟re honest and tell the truth. You‟ll get a lot of good karma for that! You‟ll have a lot
of friends and admirers. You‟ll be able to get things easily because people trust you.
I know it can be hard not to lie, especially, if lying gets you out of trouble. But
remember, in the end, even if you get away with it, karma never goes away, so you‟ll
experience something bad in the future for even little lies you tell today. My advice, it‟s
better to face the consequences today, rather then wait for the bad karam to build up and
face worse consequences in the future. For example, maybe you‟ll get grounded for one
day for lying today. But, that‟s way better than suffering a hundreds or thousands of
years being reborn in the Tortured Realms because bad karma increases and multiplies
When can I lie?
Now, I can give you one more piece of advice: the only time when it‟s okay to lie
is if you‟re helping to save a life or protect a someone or a living creature from being
harmed or destroyed. You still get bad karma for lying; however, you get good karma for
protecting life. In this case, the good outweighs the bad. For example, if you‟re in the
forest and a hunter asked you “which way did the deer go?” because the hunter wants to
shoot the dear. Then, it is better to lie and save the deer‟s life, than to tell the hunter
where the deer is, so it won‟t get shot.
Trash Talking – Divisive Speech
You already know that fighting is not good. Make peace, not war, right?
Likewise, the Buddha taught us it is a negative action to say things that divides or pits
people against each other. That‟s divisive speech. Just look at the word “divisive” and
think “divide”, “split in two”, or “break into parts.” Dividing people means splitting
them up or keeping them apart, such as turning friends into enemies, or keeping enemies
against each other. If we say things that do this, then that‟s divisive speech---that‟s trash
Keep your eye on this one, because it‟s tricky. People can do it and they might
not even know it or mean it. For example, remember when we played basketball and I
was the coach? Now, it‟s one thing to say, “Let‟s go out and win! Play the best you can
against the other team!” But, it would be wrong if I said, “This team is the scum of the
earth. They don‟t deserve to win. They‟re losers.” That would be wrong. Or sometimes
I hear young players say, “Those guys suck! We‟re gonna kill „em!” Don‟t say things
like that because it‟s bad sportsmanship and it‟s also divisive speech in my opinion. It‟s
okay to be competitive. But, get rid of the trash talking! Respect the other team, respect
others, no matter if they‟re good or bad.
Now, you might say that some trash talking could in fact be “true”, because they
do “suck”. But the Buddha taught us that it doesn‟t matter whether it‟s true or not. It‟s
still divisive trash talking. The overall effect is that it has the effect of dividing people or
pitting them against each other. And that is a negative action. We should avoid this so
we don‟t accumulate bad karma and suffer in our next life.
If we trash talk, then the effect in our next life is that the same thing and worse
will happen back to us. We will experience other people always trying to destroy us with
their words. They want to destroy our good name, our good reputation and thus our
happiness too. It will make our life very miserable and hard because someone will
always be turning people against us. We‟ll have lots of enemies and we‟ll constantly be
on the defensive and might even get super-paranoid that everyone out there wants to get
us. We could end up being super-lonely. Feeling the effects of our bad karma for
divisive speech could then make us angry, more vengeful and want to hurt others back.
It‟s a road you don‟t want to go down.
You probably know what it‟s like when someone makes fun of you in front of
others. Or when someone says something that embarrasses you in front of others and
they‟re doing it on purpose. That‟s divisive speech. It hurts. I know it‟s happened to me
before. And I know I‟m guilty of doing it myself to others in the past, for which I am
Divisive speech can also come in many forms and disguises. For example,
saying things that are racist, prejudice or stereotyping can be divisive speech. People can
say mean things about Chinese people, Black people, Irish people, Filipino people, or just
about any kind of nationality. All of that is divisive speech. Saying racist things is using
words and expressions that make others go against people. It‟s a negative action.
The opposite of course is using our words to unite people and bring people closer
together. Saying things that brings people together is a positive action. That helps them
communicate more clearly and creates a space for more peace. You get good karma for
that. And the Buddha would love if you did that as much as you possibly can.
Now, it might be hard for you to say something nice about your enemy. Well, if
it‟s too hard, then don‟t say anything at all, and guess what? You get good karma for
that. Just think---for NOT doing something you can get good karma. Yup, that‟s
“avoiding divisive speech”. That‟s a positive action. So as the old saying goes: “If you
don‟t have anything nice to say, don‟t say anything at all!” The Buddha applauds you
(clap, clap, clap)!
Saying unpleasant or harsh things to someone is negative. But, it‟s not only what
you say, it‟s also how you say it. For example, I could say “take out the trash” and say it
calmly. Or I can say “take out the trash” and yell at you like a madman like you were the
worst person on this earth. So it‟s not just what you say, it‟s also how you say it, that
makes what you say become harsh speech.
Here‟s another example, and I know you might object to this a little, but the
example is about swearing. I know using bad language and swearing is part of growing-
up. And you‟re becoming a teenager, so kids at your age are beginning to swear because
it‟s a sign of growing up. But, if you really take a close look at swearing, what does it
Swearing comes from a mind of aggression. It comes from fear, hatred, or
dissatisfaction. It‟s a sign of frustration, pain and discomfort. That‟s why swearing is
negative. For example when you want to tell someone to go to h-_-_-_. Or you tell them
to go “f-_-_-_ (flunk) yourself”. People swear because they want others to respect them
or fear them. Swearing was invented to intensify negative emotions against someone. It
is verbally abusive. It‟s violent language.
I know that a lot of kids your age swear. And I know you live in a household in
which you hear older adults swearing or using harsh language. Well, if you‟re around
swearing and harsh language a lot, that‟s a result of your karma. Remember, it doesn‟t
mean that YOU have to swear.
I once heard that the reason people swear is because they don‟t know any other
words to use---they don‟t know any other way to express themselves---so they swear.
Also, people who swear tend to be emotionally unstable and have anger issues, some
more than others.
Now, you might say that people swear when they‟re excited, and not to be mean
to others. And you might say that you don‟t swear at people in particular, you swear in
general, like you‟re using it as an exclamation mark. Like: “*#)@^$*, that‟s awesome!”
Or you might say that people swear because it‟s funny, and not to hurt anyone. Well, I‟m
not the Buddha, so I can‟t judge you on that. What I ask is that you just use your best
judgment. Think about what you‟re saying and who you‟re saying it to, and why you‟re
saying it. Just remember that swearing is not appropriate in all situations and not in all
environments. Overall, it‟s better not to swear. That‟s all.
Another example of using harsh speech is bullying. You already know what
bullying is. So, using harsh words is the talk of a bully. And you can imagine, that using
harsh speech can go along with lying, or divisive speech as well.
The opposite of using harsh speech is using your words to have compassion for
others. If you use your words for kindness, generosity, patience and love, then what good
is swearing? If you speak compassionately to others, in both what you say and how you
say it, then you‟ll meet more and more good people around you. You‟ll be happier,
because you‟ll be around a lot of positive people.
“Om mani padme hung!”
So be aware of how you talk to your Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, brother,
sister, friends, people who you don‟t really like, and strangers too. Think about what you
say and notice if you‟re using harsh speech. Especially when you‟re angry, notice if
you‟re using harsh speech. A lot of times we don‟t even realize it. And if you do use
harsh speech, then be sincerely sorry about it, and try to change.
Meaningless speech can be a lot of things. For example, it could mean someone
is talking on and on and on, and what they‟re saying doesn‟t really matter one bit. It
could be gossiping about others. Or it can be quarreling or arguing with others. It can
also be complaining or whining about things. It could even be praying-and-not-meaning-
it! Or it can even be some jokes. Think of a drunk person and the things that they say
when they‟re drunk. That‟s meaningless speech.
How could gossiping really matter? How does arguing help? What good can
praying-without-meaning-it do? How can complaining or whining help the situation?
Doesn‟t it only make things worse? So you see, it‟s all meaningless really.
Now, what about something like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”? Is saying
that meaningless speech? Would the Buddha tell us don‟t say that? Or how about when
you‟re playing and you making up stuff to say to have fun? Well, although I‟m not a
Buddha, in my opinion, there‟s a difference between having good fun as a kid, versus
The opposite of meaningless speech is meaningful speech, a.k.a. useful speech. It
takes a little 6
grade wisdom to know the difference between meaningless speech and
What‟s the difference?
I think the difference has a lot to do with why you‟re saying what you‟re saying.
You can ask yourself: “is what I‟m saying harmful to others or myself?” “Is what I‟m
saying positive or negative?” “Could I have said something else that‟s better?” These
are good questions to ask yourself.
For example, there‟s a difference between arguing about something versus
debating about something. The purpose of debating is to come up with the best answer.
The purpose of arguing is to win or use forceful aggression to get your way. Do you see
how your wisdom needs to come into play here? You need to be aware of what you‟re
saying and why you‟re saying it, in order to know if it‟s meaningless speech or not.
If you catch yourself in the middle of meaningless speech---just STOP talking.
Take a time out.
What monks and nuns do in order to take this point to the highest level is to
engage in periods of complete silence. Maybe for a day, maybe for a month or a year,
maybe for their complete lifetime! But you‟re not a monk or a nun, so you don‟t have to
do this. But, what you should do is be aware of what you‟re saying and why you‟re
saying it, so that you can lessen and lessen the amount of meaningless and negative
things you say. That‟s all.
That‟s the main point: do no harm to others with your speech. Make your speech
useful, meaningful and with purpose. Avoid arguing, quarelling, gossiping and talking
Wanting To Possess Stuff (Possessiveness)
Possessiveness is the emotion of wanting something you don‟t have and turning it
into “mine”. For example, if you wish you had what a famous movie star has--- money,
fame, and everything that goes with it---that‟s possessiveness that is sorta like jealousy.
But possessiveness can also be wanting a toy in a store that‟s not yours---because
something exists out there that‟s NOT YOURS and you want to possess it. You see,
possessiveness is about MINE, MINE, MINE.
Possessiveness comes from the ignorant belief that we can make ourselves happy
by turning things we don‟t have into MINE. That‟s pretty deep, huh. Let‟s take that
Possessiveness comes from = That‟s the subject we‟re talking about.
Ignorant Belief = That‟s something we think is true, but is definitely not true. We‟ll talk
more about that in a few seconds.
Make Ourselves Happy = Well, that‟s natural because everybody wants to be happy.
By turning things into MINE = that‟s the idea of possessiveness. It‟s a very selfish thing!
It‟s wanting things for myself and not caring about others.
So, the culprit is mixing together wanting-to-make-ourselves-happy by turning things
into mine---that‟s what makes possessiveness possessiveness.
You see, people always think, “if I just have this one thing, then I‟ll be happy.”
“Just this one thing, I know if I get it, then I‟ll be happy.”
Well, guess what? A few days later, or in some cases a few minutes later, or a
few days later, or a few years later---that thing that we finally got doesn‟t make us happy
Remember when all you ever wanted was that one video game. But then later,
you got bored of it and it didn‟t make you happy anymore.
We think getting things will make us truly happy. And we trick ourselves (and
others) into thinking that we‟ll finally be happy if we get that one thing. Now you might
say, “but it did make me happy…for a little bit. And that‟s better than not having it at
all.” Yes, that‟s true. But the point is we felt possessiveness. We wanted to possess that
thing that we didn‟t have because we thought it would make us happy. In other words,
we felt that we COULDN‟T BE HAPPY WITHOUT IT.
The possessive mind is non-virtuous; this is what the Buddha is trying to teach us.
We become possessive due to our negative desire for things and also our ignorance.
Now be careful, because the Buddha is NOT saying “don‟t ever want anything.”
What he‟s trying to do is to open your mind about the WAY you want things. When you
ignorantly go around and want, want, want things to be mine, mine, mine. That‟s a mind
of possessiveness, and that‟s non-virtuous. Some people will cheat, lie and steal due to
being possessive. They might even kill because of it.
The opposite of possessiveness is rejoicing. And part of rejoicing is the feeling of
content that you already HAVE what you need to be happy. It may be nice to get that
something new that you don‟t have. But, when you‟re content, you don‟t HAVE TO
HAVE IT to be happy. So, if you‟re content, then you can REJOICE. You can rejoice in
whatever happens whether you get that thing or not. And you won‟t be jealous if other
people get something and you don‟t. For example, you can rejoice that someone else has
a Lamborghini, but you don‟t. You can rejoice that others have much more than you.
Can you do that? Can you rejoice in what others have that you don‟t have? Can
you want something but still be happy if you don‟t get it? You can do it. I know you
Ill will is wishing that harm or something bad will happen to others. For example,
if you think: “I hope he misses that shot,” “I hope she messes up big time,” “I hope she
gets in trouble, or “I want to punch that person in the face!” That‟s ill-will.
So, what do you think? Is it hard NOT to think those thoughts? Well, for me, it
is. Just think, even if I don‟t actually hit someone---just thinking about it and wishing
they feel the pain of my punch---that‟s ill-will, even if I don‟t do it!
So, how do I stop my thoughts? It‟s one thing stop myself from actually hitting
someone. It‟s another thing to stop the thought of it! Whew, tough assignment! It takes
a lot of work. But, with a peaceful mind, the Buddha knows you can do it.
So, when do you think thoughts of ill-will come up most? I think it‟s when
someone does something bad to us and hurts us or hurts someone we care about. Then
we want payback! We want them to pay for what they‟ve done. We want them to suffer
and feel pain for the hurt they caused. Oh the injustice! This is also known as revenge.
Overcome by revenge, we believe we are justified to wish ill-will, harm and misfortune
on others. We think: “Because they‟re bad, then something bad should happen to them.”
And that “they deserve it.” When someone or a group of people are against us, such as
our enemies or those we dislike, then we want to take revenge on them.
The Buddha taught us this is wrong. And, many other famous people in history
have taught this is wrong too. For example, Jesus and Mahatma Ghandi. Jesus said to
“turn the other cheek” if your enemy slaps you in the face. And Mahatma Gandhi taught
non-violent civil disobedience to millions of Indians, who faced British soldiers that shot
at them and beat them up. Now, it takes a lot of mind training to do what Buddha, Jesus
and Mahatma Gandhi taught…a lot. Like how do we treat our enemies with kindness?
How does one do that? But, they showed the world that it could be done. It can.
So, if you want to take revenge, or if you‟re against someone, don‟t wish ill-will
towards them. Don‟t even think about it!
True or False? Denying the existence of things that really exist is bad? True.
Here‟s another true or false question: Believing in things that are not true is harmful?
Do you see what “false beliefs” are? False beliefs are denying that certain things
exist; or it is believing in things that are not true.
For example, there are some people who believe that sacrificing and killing
animals will help you go to heaven. But, the Buddha taught that killing is wrong and will
actually lead one to the Lower Realms. Do you see how holding a false belief can be
self-destructive? You might think that killing animals is good for you, when actually it
has the opposite effect!
Here‟s some more examples of false beliefs:
1) Believing that karma (cause and effect) does not exist.
This is harmful because it would mean that good behavior and bad behavior would have
no result. Remember that karma is all about cause and effect. If you do something good,
then something good will happen to you. If you do something bad, then something bad
will happen to you. So, if you don‟t believe in the existence of karma, and you don‟t
believe it‟s true, then it‟s like saying „no matter what you do, it doesn‟t matter.‟ That
would be chaos! That would lead you down the path to the lower realms. It would hurt
you to have a false belief.
Try to see if you can notice some “hidden” forms of the false belief of not-
believing-in-karma. These are examples from people‟s everyday thoughts and attitudes.
“If I steal this little piece of candy and no one notices it, I’m not really hurting
anyone; so it’s okay and nothing bad will happen to me.”
“If you don’t get caught, then it doesn’t matter.”
“Why should I do good things all the time, it’s not going to change anything.”
“There’s no point to life but to enjoy it.”
“Revenge is okay, because they deserve it.”
“I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Nothing ever changes.”
Have you heard songs, seen people on t.v., or do you know anyone who think this way?
There‟s lots ways that false beliefs creep up in our minds. Even if people don‟t know
what karma is! Can you see how their own thoughts can hurt themselves without even
So you see, because of karma, people create their own suffering. Other people don‟t
create your suffering. I know what you might say, “but it was their fault, not mine,” or
“it hurt!” So, other people can definitely hurt you, and they can create conditions that can
cause you to feel pain (like someone punching you in the face)----but the suffering the
Buddha is talking about is much worse. It‟s the suffering of being reborn into the lower
realms. That is far worse than feeling hurt by being punched in the face! That kind of
suffering lasts for thousands of years. Do you want that? Certainly not. That is the
suffering is caused by you, and only you (for example--how you react to someone
punching you in the face). Now that‟s a deep point. And it might be hard for you to
wrap your brain around it right now. I know it is for me even today. I‟m still learning
more about it.
So, it‟s good you‟re learning about karma. It will decrease your pain and suffering, and
increase your happiness in this life and the next lifetimes.
Remember, the Buddha taught that non-virtuous actions lead to suffering and virtuous
actions lead to happiness.
2) Believing there are no past or future lives.
This is another false belief. But, in many parts of the world and in many cultures, people
already know the existence of past and future lives to be true. However, here in America,
not many people grow up knowing about it. So they don‟t yet believe it exists. If they
deny its existence, this is troublesome, but you can‟t blame them for it. You can‟t blame
people for not knowing things they don‟t yet know about, especially something like
reincarnation, which scientists haven‟t yet proven to themselves.
You might even ask me: “Wait a minute, Dad, how do you know past and future lives
exist?” Good question, son.
The Buddha said: “Don‟t just believe everything I say because I‟m Buddha. You should
test it and find out for yourself.”
But then you might say, “So Dad, prove it. Prove that past and future lives exist.” Well,
I can‟t, son. But there is a way to TEST if what Buddha was saying is true or not about
past and future lives.
The way to test it is with logic. Let‟s look at the question: “how do you know that past
and future lives exist?” So first, let‟s look at the first part of the question, which is: “how
do you know”. How do you know? How do you know? So, how do you know anything?
How does anyone know anything? For example, how do you know your name is Rojo?
How do you know a car is a car? How do you know a box is a thing with six sides? If
someone gave you a box and taught you “this is a tupodada”, wouldn‟t you think that all
boxes were tupodadas? How do you know if your parents are your real parents? And so
on. You get the point.
So basically, we‟re asking “what is knowing”. Only if you know how you know, can you
even think about the question of knowing “do past and future lives exist or not?” Again,
how do you know anything? Because someone told you. What if different people tell
you different things, then which is true? And what about things that used to be true, but
are no longer true? Like when people thought the Sun revolved around the Earth, but
Copernicus proved them wrong and showed them that the Earth revolved around the Sun.
You can see it gets complicated.
Right now is not the time to go into “what is knowing” and “how do we know things”.
I‟ll have to save that for another day. But then you might say, “but you haven‟t proven it
to me, so why should I believe it? Why should I believe in something that‟s not proven?”
Good point. The answer is: you don‟t have to believe it right now; the main thing is NOT
to deny it. Just like Copernicus reasoned that the Earth revolves around the Sun, the
Buddha reasoned that past and future lives exist. In Copernicus‟ time in the 1500‟s,
almost nobody believed him. Likewise, it may take some getting used to, for people to
believe what Buddha is saying about reincarnation.
Remember I said that you don‟t have to believe it right now, but the main point is NOT to
not-believe-it. Can you see the difference? Can you see the difference between: “not
believing in something” vs. “not denying the possibility that it could exist”?
This means you‟ve kept your mind open to the possibility, because you still need to test
it, just like the Buddha said. So, even if you‟re not 100% totally convinced right now that
past and future lives exist, that‟s okay, as long as you think: “It could indeed exist just
like the Buddha said, but I need more time to look into it. Certainly I don‟t believe that
Buddha was lying!”
The point here is that NOT believing in past or future lives is harmful to you. Why?
Because it‟s similar to the point about not believing in karma. If you don‟t believe that
future lives exist, then you‟ll think this life is just about living this life, and that nothing
else but pleasing yourself in this life matters. That false belief will effect your behavior
and your attitude on just about everything that you do. You would be falsely thinking:
“If karma and future lives didn‟t exist, then nothing I do now matters.” Which is way
wrong. So, it‟s that important!
3) Believing there is no such thing as enlightenment.
It‟s a shame and very sad when someone doesn‟t believe enlightenment exists.
There‟s so many benefits to it. Imagine:
Since enlightenment exists, every living creature has the potential to be
completely happy and free from pain and suffering.
Since enlightenment exists, there is a reason for everything, and the ultimate truth
of everything can be known by each and every one of us.
Since enlightenment exists, there is order and not chaos in the universe.
Since enlightenment exists, evil does not control the universe.
Since enlightenment exists, hope, faith, love and compassion have a higher
purpose and give meaning to this life.
Since enlightenment exists, we can help people beyond just comforting them in
Without enlightenment, all beings would just be reborn over and over again,
millions and billions of times, never leaving the cycle of rebirth. But since enlightenment
exists, there is a way to be free of this seemingly endless cycle. Buddha did not invent
enlightenment. He only showed us that enlightenment is there for us. And that we can
attain it. Remember Buddha is not god, he is the Buddha.
What we said earlier about not believing in karma or not believing in past or
future lives---all that applies to not believing in enlightenment too. Not believing can be
very harmful to you because it falsely leads you to believe that your actions have no
For example, not believing can lead someone to thinking: “Things don‟t really
matter. I don‟t really matter. Nothing really matters.”
Or, it could lead one to the opposite thinking which is: “Things never change.
Things always stay the same. So, what I do doesn‟t matter. And what I think doesn‟t
matter. It will always be the same.”
If you ever catch yourself thinking like this, then sound the alarm! Danger!
Danger! Stop yourself and remember: “Cause and effect exist. Karma exists. Past and
future lives exist. Enlightenment exists. Kindness, love and compassion have a
The Ten Virtuous Pathways
The ten virtuous pathways are the opposite of the ten non-virtuous pathways. They pave
the road to enlightenment. Here they are:
Virtuous Pathways Non-Virtuous Pathways
Protect Life Killing
Non-attachment, Overcoming Desire Inappropriate Sexual Behavior
Peaceful & Not Judgmental Divisive Speech
Kindness Harsh Speech
Meaningful Speech Meaningless Speech
Rejoice, Be Thankful For What You Have Wanting To Possess Things
Love & Compassion Ill-Will
Wisdom False Beliefs
The virtuous pathways are also known as the anti-dotes to the negative pathways. What
ways can you think of to do virtuous things? Let‟s talk about them.
Virtuous Things To Do To Stop Negative Karma:
There‟s lots of ways to protect life to stop the negative karma of killing. You can adopt a
dog from an animal shelter. You can buy worms that are being sold as fishing bait and
set them free in the ground somewhere safe. You can protect the environment. You can
become a scientist that helps find a cure for cancer or other diseases. There are so many
things that you can do directly or indirectly to protect life. All of them give you good
There‟s lots of ways to be generous to stop the negative karma of stealing. You can share
your snack with a friend. You can give money or food to homeless hobos. You can
teach someone something you know about the dharma (remember the dharma are things
that Buddha taught). You can practice what Buddha taught, like not getting angry (that is
a form of generosity because ultimately it helps others). You can be kind to others for no
reason at all except just to be kind. You can help someone clean-up their house. You can
be someone‟s friend who is friendless. There are so many ways to be generous, and all of
them are virtuous! Think of your own, and do them!
Non-attachment, Overcoming Negative Desire
As a sixth grader, there‟s a lot of preventive and puberty things you can do to stop from
going down the negative karmic pathway of inappropriate sexual behavior. Whew, that‟s
a mouthful. You can be aware of how t.v., youtube, and videos portray women as sex
symbols. You can be aware of why it‟s wrong to call girls and women bad words, and
don‟t ever use those bad words. You can observe the problems that happen to others who
end up getting hurt (emotionally and psychologically) because of inappropriate sexual
behavior. You can observe how people who have good, healthy relationships create
strong and happy lives and be like them. You can be respectful, funny and nice to girls
you have a crush on, or to girls who have a crush on you. I know this is a touchy and
sometimes an embarrassing subject. So, you can talk to me about it anytime!
There‟s lots of ways to show your honesty, which stops the negative karma of lying.
Celebrate every time you tell the truth! Even the small ones. Give yourself a pat on the
back. When someone else is honest with you, say “thank you for being honest.” Learn
about people who are famous for their honesty and see how they made the world better.
When you think you‟re going to lie---STOP---then tell the truth. If you think you‟re
going to get in trouble, remember that I will be fair with you. Remember that “all good
deeds are rewarded.” Remember the saying “honesty is its own reward”. Feel happiness
every time tell the truth. Tell people you‟re sorry whenever you need to. And forgive
others who lie to you. Be happy you have the chance to right any wrong you‟ve done.
Honesty, in the long run, will make things turn out for the better. It‟s karma, so I promise
Peaceful and Non-Judgmental Speech
Words can heal. There‟s lots of things you can say that shows you‟re NOT judging
others and a lot of things you can say to bring more peace in the world---which stops the
negative karma of divisive speech. You can treat everyone fairly, no matter what race,
ethnicity or nationality they are. You can observe things that people say which are racist,
and then tell yourself “I‟m NOT going to say those things.” You can stop yourself from
telling jokes that make fun of people. You can be somebody‟s friend, that nobody else
wants to, to show that everyone is equal and worthy of friendship. You can be a bridge to
help people make-up, if they were mad at each other. Be a peacemaker! You can write
things like stories, articles, poems, songs, letters or essays, that promote goodwill, peace,
and greater understanding among people. You can be kind to those you dislike. You can
develop mental armor and decide NOT to take revenge on people, no matter what bad
things they say about you, or if they make you angry. You can remember that you are the
calm in the sea. You are the eye of the storm. You are the maker of your own good
There‟s a lot of ways to develop more kindness and to say more kind things, which stops
the negative karma of harsh speech. You can be nice to everyone---simple as that. You
can show respect. You can NOT say mean things to others no matter what. When you
feel yourself getting angry or mad, you can decide NOT to say anything at all for a few
moments, until you calm down. You can say something logical or meaningful in a calm
way. You can stop swearing. You can stop yourself from saying cut-downs or things
that put people down. You can NOT yell at others. You can watch your tone of voice
when speaking and speak in pleasing tone. You can talk about good times and pleasant
things with others. You can listen to someone who‟s yelling or talking harshly to you;
but don‟t do it back at them. You can develop patience, which will help stop you from
speaking harshly. You can remember that for every action there is a reaction; but, you
have the power to choose. So be kind no matter what. Speak kindly. In the end, you‟ll
be happier, I promise you that.
There‟s lots of things you can do to speak meaningfully, which stops the negative karma
of meaningless speech. That‟s meaning-FULL, instead of meaning-LESS. You can stop
yourself from arguing or quarreling with others. You can stop yourself from complaining
or whining about things. You can stop yourself from gossiping (note: I don‟t think you
really do this too much, son, but I include it here just in case.) You can talk with positive
emotions. You can say things that guide people to do good things. You can say things
that make others feel better. You can write stories, songs, poems, letters, articles, or
essays that create more goodness in the world. You have the potential and power to
impact the people and world around you. Use that power wisely, son. Speak
Rejoicing, Being Thankful For What You Already Have
There‟s lots of things you can do to rejoice and be thankful for what you already have,
which stops you from possessing things and wanting to make things “mine”. You can
guard your mind against jealousy. When others get something and you don‟t, you can be
happy for them. For example, you can think, “I‟m glad he got the last chocolate; he‟ll
enjoy it!” Or you can think: “Well, me not getting it is my bad karma. Hooray! I‟ve just
used up that bad karma and it will never come back!”
You can make the best of any situation, no matter what. You can look at the
bright side of everything. For example, there‟s a saying “if life gives you lemons, make
lemonade.” So, when “bad” things happen to you, make the best out of it. Look at the
positive side of everything.
You can be thankful for being alive and having this precious human life. You can
be thankful for everyone who has ever been kind to you. You can be thankful for all the
good things you have and you‟ve been able to do up to now. You can be thankful for
getting through all the bad times in life, because you faced adversity and got through it.
You can be thankful that you‟re learning what Buddha taught.
You can be thankful for all the mean people in your life too! Because without them, you
wouldn‟t have the opportunity to practice patience, kindness and generosity. And
without practicing patience, kindness and generosity, you can‟t develop the qualities you
need to become enlightened.
Love and Compassion
Now there‟s lots of things you can do to develop love and compassion, which stops the
negative karma of ill-will. You can make the wish to others: “May you be happy!”---as
many times as you can everyday. And you can make the wish: “May you be free from all
pain and sorrow!” You can make these wishes to as many friends, enemies, and strangers
as you can---as many as you can all day and night. You can hug somebody who needs it
or for no reason at all. You can take-on someone‟s hardship and make things easier for
them, like buy them something they need, or doing their chore for them, or helping a little
boy or girl get a drink of water. You can let someone else go in front of you in line. You
can be somebody‟s friend or play with them. You can chant: “Om mani peme hung!”
There‟s a lot of things you can do to develop wisdom to stop the negative karma of false
beliefs. You can watch a lot of science shows and videos. You can learn new things
everyday on how stuff works. You can observe nature and the environment and think
about cause and effect. You can observe your own mind. You can ask your teachers a lot
of questions. You can do something differently than you‟ve ever done it before, and then
compare the two ways of doing or thinking about something. You can compare what
others say to what the Buddha says. You can do anything and everything you can to find
out “the truth”. The ultimate truth can be known. Your positive karma will help you
discover it, so go for it!
Heavy and Light Karma
So, we‟re wrapping-up our talk about karma. One thing to note is that there is heavy
karma and light karma. Not everything we do, whether good or bad, virtuous or non-
virtuous, carries the same weight. That‟s pretty easy to grasp, right? For example,
killing a human being carries much more weight than killing an ant. Both of them are
negative, but one has a heavier karma than the other. Or, helping someone get a drink of
water and teaching someone the dharma---which one has a heavier karma? Teaching
someone the dharma has more weight, because a drink of water can only satisfy someone
for a short time, while the dharma can help someone achieve complete happiness.
So, karma is interesting, right? There‟s a lot of action and reaction. It‟s all cause and
effect. It has to do with everything: who we are, why we are the way we are, why the
world is the way it is---everything.
My last piece of advice on this subject for now: Everything that happened is due to
karma. Everything that is happening is due to karma. Everything that is going to happen
is due to karma. And, if we really understand karma, then we can change everything that
Take Refuge Again and Again
With the motivation to help everyone be free from pain and sorrow, I take refuge in the
Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. And by doing so, I bring to mind the positive fear I have
about falling to the lower realms. I also bring to mind the strong faith I have that the
Triple Gem protects me.
I take refuge in the Buddha,
I take refuge in the Dharma,
I take refuge in the Sangha.
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