Dudjom Rinpoche’s Teaching on Smoking
My Root Lamas, Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen, urgently requested that I should make this text available to as many people as possible. They had been searching for this text for some years, and I was fortunate enough to be able to procure it for them – after long research. They also asked me to introduce the text on the basis of my knowledge of the ways in which Western people think.
I am extremely happy to say that I have been able to provide an increasing number of people with Tibetan purification medicine and guidance for the purpose of giving up smoking. I sincerely hope that the wider circulation of this text by His Holiness Düd’jom Rinpoche will provide a turning point for anyone who is seriously interested in Vajrayana practice – because to smoke and imagine oneself to be a practitioner is a sad contradiction. Vajrayana would appear to be unique in considering tobacco, as well as narcotics,not simply harmful to physical health but also severely damaging with regard to spiritual health. It is particularly damaging with regard to the rTsa-rLung system and renders any kind of formless practices worthless. Ngak’chang Rinpoche once said: Those smokers who engage in silent sitting, merely sit in a cloud of smoke of which they are entirely unaware – and in which they remain entirely unaware.
In this crucial essay1 on the subject, HH Düd’jom Rinpoche explains the non-ordinary visionary history which illuminates the deleterious nature of these poisonous substances, according to gTérma revelations. To help Vajrayana practitioners understand the danger of smoking, HH Düd’jom Rinpoche collected major salient pronouncements of Padmasambhava concerning tobacco and narcotics for those who regard these sacred revelations as their refuge. Warnings about tobacco and narcotics have been revealed as gTérmas since early on in Tibet, by the great gTértöns, and so no authentic Nyingma practitioner need assume that what is presented here is not applicable to them. Warnings about tobacco and narcotics actually cross the spectrum of Vajrayana lineages, and advice on the subject is voluminous.
The visionary accounts presented here deal with demonic intentionality, and ideas such as these may be ‘difficult’ for some people who are new to the practice of Vajrayana. We would therefore ask anyone who has difficulty in relating with such revelations to consider why this warning has not been more widespread within the Buddhist world. It cannot be that HH Düd’jom Rinpoche is not widely known and universally respected within the Tibetan Buddhist world.
We would also ask why it is that, in the face of massive medical evidence, people still smoke – and why governments who are happy to legislate against all manner of things, find themselves unable to ban this substance. How can this be, in view of the fact that the very same governments have made it mandatory for tobacco products and tobacco advertising to carry a health warning? Is there any other non-medically prescribed substance on the open market which carries a health warning – let alone such dire warnings as are found with regard to tobacco? How is it that this substance remains legal? How is it that children can be exposed to cigarette fumes without this being regarded as ‘child abuse’ – when it has been shown that ‘secondary smoke’ is as harmful as direct smoking? We live in societies where social agencies have become extremely sensitive to such issues – so why is there not as much concern about injury from smoking with regard to children as there is concern over firearms? Surely death is death – whatever the cause, and a demon is a demon by any other name.
The ‘demonic quality’ of tobacco is evident whether or not one perceives the ‘demon’. The important fact here, for anyone who has respect and devotion for HH Düd’jom Rinpoche, is that smoking destroys one’s practice and one’s samaya. HH Düd’jom Rinpoche is the Lama whom most other Nyingma Lamas alive today venerate as the epitome of all that is inspiring – so those who have not yet been convinced as to the effects of smoking, please take this opportunity to rid yourself of its corrupting influence.
1. The following essay was originally translated (with the benefit of explanations by Khenpo Pema Shérab) by Könchog Ten’dzin in 1979. This current translation was produced by the translation committee of the Confederate Sanghas of Aro in 1999 with advice from Ngak’chang Rinpoche and KhandroDéchen.
With supreme appreciation and deep respect for Padmasambhava – wisdom manifestation of all Buddhas and union of the Buddha families – I shall relate the history of tobacco. Approximately a hundred years after Buddha Shakyamuni’s parinirvana, a Chinese demon, maddened with obsession, spoke these dying words: “Through my body I wish to lead the beings of this earth to lower realms. Bury my body intact and eventually a plant, different from all others, will grow out of my remains. Merely by smelling it, people will experience pleasure in body and mind, far more joyful than the union of male and female. It will spread far and wide until most of the beings on this earth will enjoy it.”
At present the actual fruition of this wish is clearly evident. Opium and other related intoxicants taken by mouth or nose, neither help quench thirst nor satisfy hunger. They do not possess a taste which is delicious, and they are bereft of anything which promotes health or which strengthens one’s life force. These substances serve to increase nervousness and blood pressure. They also cause cancer and pulmonary disease. At this time, many people, from all levels of society, develop irresistible attraction for these substances and proceed to consume them without control – and thus demonic intentionality has borne fruit.
‘Padmasambhava bound the Nine Demonic Brothers under oath, but they were breakers of samaya, and the youngest of them found a way to undermine their commitment to protect beings. He told his kindred: “Brothers, do not despair, listen to me. I shall manifest myself in the country of China as tobacco; the name of this toxin will be ‘the black poison’. It will grow in the border lands, from whence it will spread to Tibet. The people of Tibet will consume this enjoyable substance. By the strength of this, the five neurotic poisons will increase. Rejecting the ten positive actions, people will practise the ten negative ones. The lives of the lineage holders will become precarious, and they will depart for the Buddha Fields. The smoke of this poison, penetrating the earth, will annihilate hundreds of thousands of cities of the kLu. Rain will not fall, harvest and livestock will not thrive, there will be civil unrest, plagues, and calamities. The poison’s smoke rising into the sky will destroy celestial dimensions; untimely eclipses and comets will appear. The essential fluids and veins of those who smoke will dehydrate. It causes the four hundred and four diseases to arise. Whoever smokes will be reborn in the lower realms. If one smokes and others inhale the odour, it will be as if one were ripping out the hearts of six million beings.’
According to the gTérma of Sang-gyé Lingpa: ‘In this decadent age people will indulge in unwholesome behaviour. In particular, rather than eating nourishing food, people will consume the substances which are poisonous and evil-smelling. Interrupting what they are doing, they will consume the poison. They will need to spit, their noses will run, their health and complexion will fade.’
The gTérma of Rig’dzin Go’dem predicts: ‘In the ultimate decadent age people will absorb poisonous vomit, food of dri za’i. Merely smelling it, one will go to the Mar-med Myal-wa. For this reason give it up right now.’
From the predictions discovered by Düd’dül Dorje: ‘Practitioners will enjoy inhaling the smoke of these plants and sniffing their powder and the country will be invaded by samaya-breakers. They will be deceived by illusion and experience the arising of obsessive characteristics. As a sign of the exhaustion of merit they will have causes for tears which will flow uncontrollably.’
The gTérmas of Thugchog Dorje specify: ‘Because of the five neurotic poisons, the obsessions, animosities, strife, arguments, and miseries of beings will blaze like an inferno. As the ten good qualities are discarded, negativity will rage like a storm. Wholesome behaviour will be neglected, while perverse practices will be promulgated. In this degenerate age the Protectors will vanish as demonic beings assume power. People will inhale tobacco smoke, and the spatial-veins of discriminative wisdom will become blocked, whilst agitation and distorted emotions become intensified. The central channel will be obstructed and the clarity of awareness will die. Exhaustion of energy will cause agitation around the world. Religious artifacts, the objects of veneration, will deteriorate; perverted ideologies and false religions will spread. The Protectors will turn aside and look only towards Mount Méru. Foreigners will invade Tibet, and Tibetans will be forced to stray in the border lands. Doctrines of Illusion will spread and the world will become a dimension of hell.’
A prediction of Ma-gÇig Labdrön states: ‘In the final period of disputation a substance will appear which one ingests orally, and it will aggravate all five neuroses. It will originate in China, extend to Mongolia and Tibet. Wherever it travels it will be consumed, and wherever it is consumed – rainfall will become irregular, accompanied by severe frost and hail. If practitioners consume this substance, even were they to practise for a hundred æons – they will not realise their yidams. In future lives, they will wander incessantly in the three lower realms, where even the compassion of the Buddhas will have no power to help them.’
There are innumerable other predictions concerning tobacco – the use of which has been particularly forbidden by accomplished masters of both Sarma and Nyingma traditions. The vajra words of Padmasambhava were not given to deceive practitioners, so do not entertain doubts as to: ‘how can so many problems arise from smoking a natural plant?’ Aconite is also a plant, yet eating a small quantity of it can be lethal. If this should be the case with a plant, at the physical level, why could not the fruit of the demonic intentionality cause spiritual death? Understanding this, the wise will render themselves a great kindness by renouncing tobacco and narcotics. In doing so, may the honourable and wise who avoid the path to the precipice have the good fortune of finding respite in the ecstatic garden of liberation.
We enthusiastically express our unending devotion to Kyabjé Düd’jom Rinpoche, Jig’drèl Yeshé Dorje—Mahasiddha and luminary gTértön of the 20th century. As the inconsequential eccentric yogi and yogini of the Aro gTér – we feebly attempt to raise Düd’jom Rinpoche’s demon-destroying banner of battle against the demonic carcinogen tobacco. We hope that Vajrayana practitioners who respect Padmasambhava and the Nyingma tradition will pay heed to Düd’jom Rinpoche’s text ‘The guide that leads the blind on a false path which ends in a precipice’ and to the words of the great gTértöns.
1. phungpo düd (phung po bDu) – the demon of illusory connections 2. nyon-mongpa’i düd (nyon mongs pa’i bDud) – the demon of emotional disturbances 3. chhi’dag düd (’chi bDag gi bDud) – the demon of fatality 4. nyem-jèd kyi düd (sNyem byed kyi bDud) – the demon of arrogance.
We have been aware for some years that the ‘warnings’ on cigarettes and other tobacco products have been escalating in the UK and the USA. We were recently surprised, however, to find that the comedian Denis Leary had been frighteningly accurate in 1991 when he said: “You could have packets that were called the warning, and we’d still want them.”
We wondered how far it was possible to go with such warnings before they became a joke: “. . . expert texpert choking smokers don’t you think the joker laughs at you . . .”, as John Lennon put it, but the laugh is the laughter of the Lord and Lady of the Charnel Ground – the grin on the skull. It would appear that what should be ludicrous has become normal. Every successive warning disappears into itself and undermines its own message; and people find it hard to believe in demonic influence. Call it what you will, it is diabolical that governments who are happy to outlaw a variety of phenomena are unwilling to outlaw tobacco. It is diabolical that children can be exposed to secondary smoke with no evident governmental concern with regard to child abuse – yet infant-school teachers are not permitted to cuddle infants who have fallen over in the school playground. In a world of political correctness, smoking stands out as a significant and bizarre anomaly. Many people may be aware that we are not greatly enamoured of political correctness. To us it appears merely as the will of powerful lobbies who often wish to restrict human freedom. We seriously question the fundamental integrity of governments who banish handguns and fail to banish tobacco.
We are aware that there are strong pro-tobacco lobbies, and that there is considerable tax revenue at stake – but does this make sense of allowing one lethal product to be marketed, when various less dangerous products have had to be withdrawn from the market? What other ingestible product has anything remotely close to the warnings which accompany tobacco? Is this not uncanny? Is this not supernatural? Is this not demonically demented?
In his endless kindness to Vajrayana practitioners, Kyabjé Düd’jom Rinpoche quotes from the gTérmas of Chögyal Ratna Lingpa, Sang-gyé Lingpa, Rig’dzin Go’dem, Düd’dül Dorje, gTértön Longsel, Thugchog Dorje, Dro’dül Lingpa, and Ma-gÇig Labdrön, in order to explain the non-ordinary visionary history which illuminates the deleterious nature of tobacco.
D üd’jom Rinpoche’s treatise deals with demonic intentionality as discussed in the gTérmas of the great gTértöns, and is thus mainly influential with those Vajrayana practitioners who have confidence in Padmasambhava and the gTérma tradition. It should, however, be of interest to other Buddhists – and to people in general – that such warnings have existed for so long and that they are so vehement.
With both Düd’jom Rinpoche and Chatral Rinpoche’s teaching in mind. we have decided that members of the public who attend ‘Open Teaching Retreats’ will have to commit to refraining from smoking for the entire weekend – i.e. ‘smoking off premises’ will no longer be tolerated. We have been attempting to reach this point for some years now – but strangely enough it has proved difficult. This injunction has not been acted upon until recently – not because of any evident resistance with regard to it appearing in print – but because of factors which no one can explain.
Advice on How to Stop Smoking
My very dear Madeline, Thank you very much for your kind letter. I am very happy you have reduced your smoking, as smoking is very harmful to your body and life. It can cause obstacles to your life, shorten your life, and cause cancer. Not only in the teachings, but even in ordinary life, it is said that smoking is harmful. It is also unbelievably gross.
Doctors understand that smoking is harmful for you. It is barred in many places, such as restaurants, theaters, and shops. The teachings say that the material in cigarettes is impure and that evil beings caused the substances to grow in order to interfere with people’s practice and degenerate the mind. With a bad intention, the evil beings made prayers for tobacco to grow to harm people in their practice of virtue, to degenerate their mind, to get them to engage in nonvirtue, and so that their mind is not free from delusion.
I once saw in a morgue the dead body of a woman who died of lung cancer from smoking, and her lungs were blue. A Tibetan doctor from Dharamsala put her hand into the body and took out her lung, which was all black and blue. So, if you want to die like this, you are most welcome.
It is said in a text composed by Panchen Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen (who also composed the Guru Puja) that when someone asked him to do po-wa practice, he asked first if the person who had just died smoked. He said that if the person smoked he would not be able to do po-wa, because he would not be able to transfer the consciousness through the person’s crown. Since even high lamas can’t transfer the consciousness of a person who smokes to the pure lands, if you want to be free, and especially if you want to go to the pure land at the time of death, don’t smoke.
Smoking pollutes your whole body, making it impure. It makes it difficult for virtuous thoughts to arise, and it makes it very difficult not to have attachment. Smoking just gives some temporary pleasure, and that’s all. When you die, you don’t take one single benefit from smoking with you. Like an empty reputation in the world, it doesn’t protect you from suffering. It can’t make you achieve a good rebirth in the next life, and besides that, it can’t liberate sentient beings from samsara, and can’t actualize enlightenment.
Here, you are trying to become a champion, to defeat your delusions, especially your attachment. The main thing here is you have to be strong yourself. You can see how people spend their whole life training for the Olympics, practicing dancing on the ice and trying to be champions and defeat other people. When they don’t succeed, they experience unbelievable suffering, because they trained to win for so many years.
But if you can succeed over the enemy, delusion, by avoiding smoking cigarettes, which desire craves and which is your object of desire, that is so fantastic! You create less negative karma, and each time you succeed, it protects you from the lower realms, the most unbelievable, longest suffering in samsara. Not following delusion also causes you to achieve liberation and helps you to reach enlightenment. Each time you create the cause of realizations on the path to enlightenment. By defeating delusion, especially attachment, you will be able to liberate numberless sentient beings from eons of sufferings in samsara and bring them to enlightenment. What better Olympic sport is there than this one? What better champion is there? This way you become the most famous one among all sentient beings, not just in one country or in one world, but among all sentient beings—that is, you become a buddha. Every day you have to have courage. Be brave.
Padmasambhava explained how extremely harmful tobacco smoke is even to the area where you live, besides to the person smoking it, because it degenerates the mind and harms your chakras, winds, and drops. It is very harmful to the development of virtue. When you smoke, you pollute the environment and make the whole area impure. Many other beings, such as nagas and devas, go away, because they cannot bear it. They also harm people, who get very sick, with arthritis and so on, because of the smoke polluting and harming the nagas.
Your smoking also makes people who don’t smoke unhappy. When I am in the same room as someone who is smoking, it’s very unpleasant for me. It is difficult to breathe, and it has such a bad smell. I find it hard, because I feel I have to breathe the smoke, and it goes into my lungs.
At Kopan monastery there was once a caretaker, who helped to buy the land Kopan is built on. He used to take care of and milk the buffalo. Each day at sunrise, he would sit down and smoke. Because my window faced east, the smoke used to come into my room, and I would feel very uncomfortable when I breathed.
Smoking harms not just you, but so many other beings. The teachings say that the smoke from cigarettes destroys whole cities of nagas, like a tornado blowing everything away. This is what happens to them when you smoke.
Advice on How to Stop Smoking
My very dear Polly, How are you? I am very happy to hear from you. In regards to your problem, this is my advice (below). I hope that this will help you to get inspiration and courage to stop smoking, so that you have a long life and healthy life, healthy body and mind. If your body is polluted, made dirty, then it is very easy to get sick and to get cancer.
Tobacco is a very impure plant, it came about due to devils, who made prayers to harm people. Then, from that, tobacco grew, to harm people. Especially, it blocks spiritual development. If spiritual development doesn't happen, then one has to continually die and be reborn, and experience continual suffering and problems, again and again, without end, as human beings, hell beings, devas, animals, etc. There is no end to the suffering in samsara and, also, you can't liberate thousands of others from samsaric suffering, and bring them to full enlightenment.