Subtitle: A Lamp Illuminating the Path to Liberation Author: Sera Je Lharam Geshe Tsulga Publisher: Wisdom Publications Publish Place: Boston When practicing Buddhadharma it should be practiced not just for this life but with thoughts of benefit in the next life onward. After all, working for the fleeting comforts of this life is not confined to humans. Even among animals there are many who do the same. The difference between humans and animals, therefore, should be determined by the ability to think long term. Therefore, the purpose of practicing Buddhadharma is to avoid the experience of, or to eliminate totally, the suffering that none of us wants and to gain the temporary and lasting happiness we all desire. Happiness and suffering arise from their own causes and conditions. They do not appear without prior causes and conditions, nor are they produced by a creator of the world. Therefore, one should first know or identify the causes of suffering and happiness. Then, because suffering is an unwanted phenomenon, the causes and conditions of suffering should be destroyed. Suffering is a result created from causes and if the causes and conditions to create that result are not there, suffering cannot arise. For example, if the seed of a flower is missing, no flower can grow. Likewise, if we wish to have happiness, we should learn the causes of happiness through an investigation that searches for the causes and conditions that produce happiness. Then, we should work to gather these causes of happiness with great determination. If the creation of these causes and conditions is complete, it is not possible for the fruit of happiness not to arise. For example, if rice seeds, water, fertilizer, and so forth are present in the fields during spring, a good harvest will follow in autumn. If they are not present, no harvest is possible. Practice should consist of methods to eliminate nonvirtuous activity and mental afflictions, the very causes of suffering, and to bring the causes of happiness—faith, wisdom and their associated practices—into one’s being. These two kinds of practice is what is meant by the practice of Dharma. Moreover, the term "Dharma" means to hold or to protect. If one practices Dharma well, one will be held back from falling into the depths of the lower realms or from the fear of being reborn in such places and will be protected from such suffering. Furthermore, Dharma in this context of "practice" should be understood as being a method to remake the practitioner's way of thinking, or to transform his or her mind. Since beginningless time we sentient beings have been thinking only about one life and of ourselves alone. In this way countless eons have passed. During that time our thoughts and wishes have been only for happiness and yet never, not even for an instant, have we found the happiness to satisfy our desires. Instead, we have helplessly experienced and will continue to experience every possible unwanted suffering from the Hell of Respite up to the Peak of Existence for eons and eons. All this time, we have been without protection, without guidance, with no gain or benefit for oneself and others. At no time have we risen out of this desperate situation.