When we put all our energies into a practice

When we put all our energies into a practice, it is quite common for bad deeds from the past to surface, so that all sorts of unwanted things happen to us:  we fall physically ill, feel mentally anguished, experience the manifestations of negative forces and obstacle makers, fall victim to hostile people, bandits, and thieves, find ourselves subject to people’s criticisms and false accusations, and so on. These are said to be signs that we are purifying ourselves, like the dirt that comes out when one washes a container. Therefore, when such things happen to you, don the great armor of diligence that renders the practice impervious to unpleasant circumstances.

Although it may happen that we get one or two good qualities here and there as signs of progress on the path, it can be hard to distinguish whether they are genuine signs or obstacles caused by demons. Even supposing they are genuine, the moment we attach any importance to them, they will turn into demonic obstacles, so get rid of all expectation, apprehension, and doubt, and do not be attached to good signs or frightened by bad ones.

It is said that while we are on the path, there are many mistakes we can make and ways in which we can go astray, but the principal errors are: to treat the teacher as an equal; to be lacking in pure perception with regard to one’s spiritual brothers and sisters; to criticize other philosophical systems while being proud of one’s own; to act hypocritically with regard to the commitments; to give the five poisons free rein; to have no respect for the law regarding actions and their effects; to air one’s views and indulge in big talk about emptiness and so forth; to tell all and sundry about one’s experiences; and to lie that one has sublime qualities that one does not have. To make these the basis of one’s practice is obviously the greatest error, yet even if the Buddha were to appear in person, it would seem difficult to block this perilous path onto which one can stray, for we ourselves are blessed by demons, and beings in the decadent age have but little good fortune, so that there is much running after purely meaningless talk without understanding the real point of the Dharma. Even though we follow a teacher, train in acquiring good qualities, practice in retreat, and read many profound texts, it does not do the slightest bit of good to our minds and our characters get worse and worse. We grow ever more proud, the eye of pure perception grows dim, and we pass the time only in examining others’ faults. People like us are impervious to the Dharma, we are breakers of the commitments, burdened with evil deeds from the past; we have truly been blessed by demons.

A Torch Lighting the way to Freedom
Dudjom Rinpoche Jugdral Yeshe Dorje
Padmakara Translation Group