Mar 10, 2019

Posted by in BUDDHISM IN OTHER LANGUAGES | 13 Comments

Letter to Disciples No.30: Tobacco (thuốc lá)

Dear disciples,

tobacco is harmful to oneself and the community

Yesterday morning, July 06, 2013, Mật Lý, a disciple from Bình Định province, called in to announce some good news — he had stopped smoking for 97 days straight, and also, was qualified for disability benefits including a monthly allowance from the People’s Committee. Mật Lý is now 67 years old. He used to study at Vạn Hạnh university for four years during the 70s. Mật Lý used to be a Bhikkhu. Then, after 1975, he got discharged and got married. Recently, around March 2013, Mật Lý visited Mật Nguyên and saw the holy image of the Yidam deity. Recalling those years at Vạn Hạnh University, Sài Gòn, Mật Lý remembered a ceremony welcoming the Tibetan Lamas. During those days residing under the same roof, the Lamas taught Varajyana to many Bhikkhus and Buddhist students, who were eldest or second-eldest. Since then, he kept that beautiful memory, which manifested itself again, clearly and vibrantly, at the moment he visited Mật Nguyên. From this good karma, he took refuge at Song Nguyễn Tantra house.

I prayed, to the Yidam deity, for Mật Lý’s complete success in his rehabilitation

As we have known, tobacco is very harmful to our health and the people around us. Mật Lý has tried to stop using tobacco for six times without any success. Now, after receiving his Dharma name and chanting “the Dharma Practice guidelines of Nyingma lineage, Song Nguyen Tantra House,” Mật Lý has stopped smoking for 97 days. I prayed, to the Yidam deity, for Mật Lý’s complete success in his rehabilitation.

Similar to the case of Mật Lý is my situation. Smoking tobacco is a common habit among the youth. It developed with a “wannabe” mentality, or the urge to express one’s masculinity, then gradually becomes an addiction. Before practicing the Dharma, I failed five times trying to quit smoking. My longest quit lasted 1.5 years but then I started it all over again. My sixth try was when I started to practice like any other traditional Buddhist practitioners — visiting pagodas, burning incense, make offerings, chanting sutras, reciting mantras… but then it ended again in failure. My seventh try happened when I practice Tibetan Yoga. I then finally found success in my rehabilitation and stop smoking since then. That means I am not as decisive as Mật Lý! However, do not mistake my words for saying Vajrayana is more effective than Mahayana. Without a good foundation, there is no spiritual achievement. Because of the merits collected through practicing Mahayana, when I transferred to Vajrayana for more suitable practices, the practice became more effective for myself, but definitely not for everyone! If I do not clarify this to you, some might violate the major precept of “criticizing the Dharma.”

Mật Phương has won over himself the most glorious victory

Talking of rehabilitation, I have to mention an extraordinary case of Mật Phương. Mật Phương is now 65 years old. After turning to Varajyana, with the support of Mật Kiên who has spoken very clearly about the disadvantages of tobacco, he stopped smoking immediately. His first quit is also his last, since then it has been already two years. Mật Phương has won over himself the most glorious victory! I tip my hat in admiration!

Which words did Mật Kiên say to create such impact? They are the written Dharma teachings, popularised among practitioner communities in Tibet, according to which, seven Indian and Tibetan Attainers declared Tobacco as a devilish curse to damage the Dharma. In short, tobacco with its seductive aroma was created by evil beings and their supernatural power to damage practitioners’ achievements. Through the pleasures of nasal and oral sensations, practitioners diminish their concentration, longevity, and health, especially with the development of any lung disease.

Through the pleasures of nasal and oral sensations, practitioners diminish their concentration, longevity, and health, especially with the development of any lung disease

It takes years to write about all the damages of smoking, which causes five million deaths every year around the world, more than the number of deaths caused by accident, tuberculosis, and AIDS combined. Without any preventive measures, this number could reach as high as ten million cases in the next 25 years, 2/3 of which is from developing countries. So, which ingredients that make tobacco so dangerous?

Tobacco smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, 200 of which are harmful

Tobacco smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, 200 of which are harmful, including addictive and poisonous compounds, 43 of which are cancer-causing. Smoking increase mortality rate by 30 to 80%, primarily by diseases like cancer (lung cancer), chronic obstructive pulmonary, heart diseases, infertility for males and females, etc.

Smoking decreases blood flow, increases heartbeat, and causes health decline with different types of cancer such as mouth, palates, esophagus, liver, kidney, etc. On average, the life expectancy for smokers is five to eight years shorter than non-smokers. In other words, we are burning 5.5 minutes of our lives away with every cigarette. So, is it true that tobacco smoke is only harmful to smokers?

So, is it true that tobacco smoke is only harmful to smokers?

For Buddhist practitioners, however, the gravest harm of tobacco is the blocking of their topmost passage on their head (Bhrama peak in Tantrayana and Baihui acupoint in Taoism), where their consciousness will exit and ascend to the Buddha’s land. Secondly, smoking to the point of addiction means violating the fifth precepts (abusing addictive substances and behaviors). Each smoke is a violation that is hard to compensate by accumulating merits. Additionally, as part of the devilish curse, tobacco damages our intellectual development. Finally, it influences the image of a practitioners’ manners, especially for those Buddhist monks living in monasteries. Imagine sitting with a monk, looking at him smoking cigarettes, isn’t it hard to relate to the image of the revered Sangha from the Three Jewels? Nowadays, many monasteries turn a blind eye to the smoking monks because even the chief abbots are smoking! Will these smokers attain liberation if they keep using tobacco? Certainly not!

Wearing a kasaya is no simple deal!

There are several fallacies to justify these monks’ behaviors. Some say, smoking is a method to resist the cold and fight the hostile “chi” of the mountain(?) If so, why do the Varajyana Lamas who dwell in mountainous areas like Tibet, India, and Nepal never smoke tobacco? Though we must sympathize for their lack of those practices like Vajrayana’s “inner fire yoga,” how come the monks in those year-round warm and sunny southern parts of the country still smoke and even smoke selectively only those highly aromatic cigarettes like 555? After all, there is no argument worth-mentioning to defend this wrongful habit!

Buddhist culture and morality for lay-Buddhist.

Monks are Buddha’s disciples; thus they must follow his footsteps and be compassionate towards sentient beings. Our health is precious, and smoking is harming the health of others. Have these smoking monks ever contemplate on such knowledge? In those years living in HCM city, I have heard the reputation of Ven. Thanh Minh of a monastery on Trần Huy Liệu street, Phú Nhuận district. Coming to pay my homage, I saw a monk sitting still. He gently opened his 555 pack of cigarette, slowly took a long, long inhale. Looking at me with his half-closed eyes, he asked, “From where?” Despite his solemn kasaya, his tall, slender figure of a venerable, the revered image of him in me has collapsed. Halfheartedly, I made my offerings then bid my farewell and never to return. Back then, I was still smoking; yet, I never smoke in front of a Buddist master since it is disrespectful. I knew my faulty, and therefore, I looked for a revered master to pay my homage. Who knows he is no better than me, besides a shaved head and his kasaya! Where is the revered image of the Sangha? Wearing a kasaya is no simple deal! Only a venerable is deserving of a kasaya, an alms bowl, and a shaved head because all their behaviors of body, speech, and mind are the Dharma lessons for many others.

Your Guru understands himself, so he practices the Dharma under the role of a lay Buddhist and a householder. However, when Vajrayana is still a new field, you have trusted me for guidance in this early stage. Fortunately, relying on the Great Vow of Amitabha Buddha, who lowered the qualifications for practitioners to save sentient beings, we still have our hope to continue pursuing the Path towards liberation. That is also my 10-year-concern, from which I found the simplest practice to write and teach about so that we will practice and attain liberation in Dewachen together. Looking at those monks in the monasteries, I worry for their future. Looking at those sharp dragon head blade weighing around 80 catty, many soldiers and generals admired the heroic image of Guan Yu. However, without an extraordinary strength and skill in martial arts, the dragon head blade will only be a fatal obstacle in front of the enemy. Likewise, when the revered kasaya is dressed on the incompetent, the robe and the alms bowl will only bring them towards five desires and self-indulgence, allowed by the credulity of those who only see outer appearances, which leads towards the abyss of the lower realms.
Therefore, I gladly rejoice with the determination to overcome outer and inner obstacles, which resulted in the success rehabilitations of Mật Phương and Mật Lý or the progress of Mật Hùng (from a pack of cigarettes to two to three cigarettes). The practitioners at Song Nguyen Tantra house should never smoke cigarettes. Those who already did should gradually stop once they enter the Dharma. Fortunately, 90% of our male disciples are non-smokers, despite being in their youth.
Phước Thành village, July 08, 2013
  1. Mật Chánh Tấn says:

    Dear Holy Guru!

    I would like to express my rejoicement to read your article “Tobacco”. As your interpretation in the article, Tobacco smoke which contains 200 harmful chemicals, including addictive and poisonous compounds that could cause to cancer. Smoking cigarettes will lead to so many diseases which could shorten our lifespan. Meanwhile, the Buddha taught that the opportunity to become human is so difficult as a blind turtle get into the floating tree branch after every hundred years once emerging in the vast ocean. Also, as the holy Guru has mentioned in this article , smoking to the point of addiction mean violating the fifth precept (abusing addictive substances and behaviors). Thus, when a person smokes that could mean he or she is denying the precious opportunity to become human, do not cherish the opportunity to practice Dharma. In addition, the smoke from tobacco not only harms to the smoker, but it also make harmful effects to other people who are surround to the smoker. Meanwhile, Bodhicitta is very important and Dharma practitioners should follow and try their best to apply in their life, bring benefits to other sentient beings. Therefore, smoking to the point of addiction is a way to collapse the merit or crash all the hard work that a person have done from practicing Dharma as it does not bring any benefit to other people, but only harmful effects.  

    I feel so thankful to holy Guru for giving me a beneficial lesson, which is immersed with spirit “Dharma is life, Life is Dharma”

    I would like to express my admire to the determination and success of Dharma brother Mật Phương and Mật Lý as well as good process of Mật Hùng in journey to stop smoking.

    May Holy Guru and his consort have a good health and live long for the sake of all sentient beings.

    May all sentient beings get the happiness of Buddha’s nature.

    Om Mani Padme Hum!

  2. Tantra Upatissa says:

    Dear Guru thanks for sharing this article.

    I rejoice in wining situation of our Vajra brothers who could resist smoking and leave it completely. It’s a really tough situation to overcome once bad habits, especially when we are addicted to it.

    Pure mind yoga is really powerful if practisoner practices it sincerely.

    Thanks to Yidam and our Guru for teaching us this wonderful method of practicising Pure Mind Yoga.

    I pray all beings to be protected from getting addicted to these bad habits like taking tobacco so they can move ahead in path of liberation and also the death rate per annum in developing countries would decrease.

    May Guru and his consort live long for sake of other beings and get enlightened.

    May all beings be free from suffering and get enlightened.

    Om Mani Padme Hum..

  3. tantra mahavita says:

    Dear Holy Guru: Thank you very much for sharing this interesting article. With great joy I rejoice, that our brothers won the battle to the cigarette and could stop smoking. It is a very powerful addiction, but if the practitioner practices sincerity … It can be abandoned … Totally ….. I pray to all beings to abandon this harmful habit for their health and what surrounds them. May our Guru live happy, a long life … May all beings find the Buddha Nature … OM MANI PADME HUM

  4. Jeffrey King says:

    Very good article Holy Guru! Smoking is very bad for your health. I used to smoke 20 years ago I quit after a collapsed lung. I will share some of these statistics with the students at my school.  Have a blessed evening

  5. Tantra Sagovana says:

    Dear Guru,

    Thank you for sharing this article.

    This article explains the harmful effects of smoking on ourselves and on other people.

    I have never smoked cigarettes myself and I know it is harmful to health.

    We must look after our health properly and not do things that can negatively affect us.

    I myself eat a healthy balanced diet and I also exercise regularly.

    May all sentient beings be free from suffering and become enlightened.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

    Tantra Sagovana (Ahmed Khan)

  6. Tantra Kasila(Vivek S) says:

    Dear Guru

    It’s an article which I can relate very much because I am also a smoker.People have various excuses for smoking,but actually these are all just fabricated things to justify their action.If someone asks me the same I too do not have any particular reason.I am trying hard to stop this habit and I am making small steps towards that.Hopefully I can get rid of this completely as soon as possible.

    May the Guru live long and all the sentinel beings have the peacefulness and calmness attained by Buddha.

    • Kính bạch Thầy! 

      Con xin phép được dịch comment của đạo hữu Tantra Kasila (Vivek S)  sang tiếng Việt như sau:

      “Kính bạch Thầy! 

      Bài viết này viết đúng về hoàn cảnh của con bởi vì con là người nghiện thuốc lá. Mọi người thường đưa ra nhiều lý do cho việc hút thuốc lá nhưng thực ra đó chỉ là những điều giả dối để biện minh cho hành động của họ. Nếu ai đó hỏi con tại sao con hút thuốc thì bản thân con cũng không thể nêu ra lý do cụ thể nào cho việc hút thuốc của mình. Con đang cố gắng từ bỏ thói quen này mặc dù khó khăn nhưng con sẽ bỏ dần dần.  Con hy vọng con sẽ bỏ hẳn được thói quen hút thuốc. 

      Con cầu nguyện Thầy trụ thế lâu dài. Cầu nguyện tất cả chúng sanh đạt được bình an và thành tựu hạnh phúc của Phật tánh.”

  7. Dear Holy Guru,

    I delighted to read your letter no 30: “Tobacco”. The harmful effects of tobacco are scary, it is not only the risk of cancer of smokers but also people around. Especially Buddhists should not smoke. I would like to express my gratitude for your teaching. Thank you so much.

    May you and your consort live long for the sake of all sentient beings.

    May all sentient beings achieve the happiness of the Buddha’s nature.

    Om Mani Padme Hum!

  8. Tantra Sagovana says:

    Dear Guru,

    My name is Tantra Sagovana.

    Thank you for sharing this article.

    Thank you for explaining harmful effects of smoking especially for Buddhist practitioners.

    That we should not smoke because of its harmful effects on our spirituality as well as it is a violation of the Fifth Precept.

    We should try to have good health in body and mind, eat well and practice Dharma diligently.

    May Mat Tinh Phap overcome difficulties at present and get successful in the future.

    May all sentient beings be healthy and well and be free from suffering.

    May Guru be healthy and live long for the benefit of all beings.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

    Tantra Sagovana (Ahmed Khan)

  9. Tantra Pramitdhita (Josh Hacker) says:

    Holy Guru,

    I bow my head before your lotus feet!!! Thank you for sharing “Letter to Disciples No. 30: Tobacco.” I very much enjoyed reading this article as it is packed full of great information! I really like where you said “Without a good foundation, there is no spiritual achievement.” That makes perfect sense and it goes along well with the topic of tobacco because just from a Buddhist standpoint, the use of tobacco is very harmful because it blocks the topmost passage on our head which is called Bhrama peak in Tantrayana, where our consciousness will exit and ascend to the Buddha’s land.
    Something else to consider is that after a while, smoking leads to addiction and addiction leads to breaking the 5th precept (abusing addictive substances and behaviors.) Each time you smoke is a violation that is hard to compensate by accumulating merits.
    I would like to congratulate you Guru and anyone else from Song Nguyen Tantra House whom has quit smoking. It is not always an easy task for everyone. In 3 months I will celebrate 2 years of not smoking. It is so odd because I greatly enjoyed smoking but now I can barely stand to be be in the same area of smoke.

    May Guru live a long and healthy life for the sake of all sentient beings

    May all sentient beings achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature

    May the global pandemic caused by the corona virus soon end

    Om Mani Padme Hum

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