How can we make good karmic connections in this life?

A Student asks:

I have been reading your book ‘There’s More to Dying Than Death’. I have been thinking about the need to form the right kind of karmic connections and intentions so that we could be reborn in a world in which a Buddha had given his teachings and they were still taught. Does this make sense and can you say some more about it?

Lama Shenpen replies:

Yes absolutely. That is why I include sections on pranidhana [aspirational prayers] and connections in the Living the Awakened Heart training. The way to form those karmic connections is pranidhanas (especially the Samantabhadracharya pranidhana – known as the king of pranidhanas – and the Mahamudra Pranidhana of Rangjung Dorje).

The whole point is to ensure that you are reborn in a world in which a Buddha has given teachings and they are still taught and also so that we have the capacity to relate to the teachings in the right way and be able to understand, practise and realise them.

One can make aspiration prayers one’s whole practice by noticing whenever we fall short of our Refuge and Bodhisattva vows and then having acknowledged that falling short make a strong aspiration prayer never to fall short like that again and keep resolving like that again and again – ‘May I in future be able to practice equanimity like all the great Bodhisattvas in the past, those of the present and to come’ – or whatever other pranidhana we want to make.

‘May I in future rejoice in the qualities of my teachers and Dharma companions and serve them with respect so that their qualities arise also in me.’ And so on – endless pranidhanas!

Once you understand deeply that the Buddha Nature is all pervading and time and space are illusory, then clearly the Buddha is truly present at all times and we are constantly in the presence of the Buddha.

The Guru who points out to us the true essence of our being, that very Buddha Nature, is the embodiment of the Buddha and acts for us like the Buddha and is the connection we need with all the Buddhas and to treat him or her as the Buddha enables the blessing of all the Buddhas to connect with our Buddha Nature directly.

If one can maintain pure vision like this, then the power of the adhistana [powerful blessing] of the lineage can enter our hearts with great ease. It is a matter of having the simplicity and humility and an open and trusting heart. It’s called faith.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

Lama Shenpen’s students are all studying the Living the Awakened Heart Training – a structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at

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