Advice on What To Do When Flying
from Lama Zopa Rinpoche
After the Kalachakra initiation that His Holiness gave in Bodhgaya, I went to Kopan to attend Geshe Lama Konchog’s stupa consecration. Then I spent a few days in Singapore after which I came to Hong Kong and spent just less than a month in Cham Tse Ling (our Hong Kong center). In Hong Kong I gave a talk at
the university, which was the first time there had been a Dharma talk in a Hong Kong university. Then I gave Milarepa initiation to about 200 people and Dzambhala initiation as well, and the center offered a long life puja. I also gave some teachings on guru devotion. Then I came back to the US by Singapore Airlines.
On the flight from Hong Kong to the U.S. one of the airline hostesses told us that the pilot wanted to take a photo of us. I told Roger to make sure that they didn’t think that I was His Holiness the Dalai Lama, so that they weren’t mistaken about that.
When we arrived in the U.S., Roger was sent to the immigration office to check with U.S. immigration. I was waiting at the luggage place. Usually Roger picks up the luggage. Even though he has a very thin body, he picks up all the heavy suitcases and I just stand there. But this time I picked up the four suitcases; two are filled with Dharma texts (my library) and the other two are Rogers’s things and other things.
One man who was standing next to me saw me doing this, and he helped me to pick up one suitcase, but then he left after he got his luggage, of course.
Roger took a long time and all the people waiting for their luggage had gone. I was not sure what had happened to Roger and why it took him such a long time, or even whether he had been put in jail or had to go somewhere. So I was thinking whether I should leave with all the suitcases or take just the two that had the texts in them (my library) and leave the other two there, which are full of other things, not completely all Roger’s things.
So I was doing prayers to Padmasambhava, and after that, I was again thinking whether to wait or not. Then the pilot of the plane we had just flown on came up to me. He was a senior pilot, and he wanted to take a photo with me. When I heard that he wanted to take a photo, the thought came to my mind about what the pilot could do for safety as he flies the plane everyday. Not only his own safety but the safety of the hundreds of passengers on the plane.
(1) So I thought to tell the pilot that carrying the Buddha’s relics when you travel has the power to stop any inauspicious thing that can cause danger and difficulties (such as wrong astrology, wrong time, etc.)
(2) The other thing I thought to suggest to the pilot was that carrying the Diamond Cutter Sutra has great protective power. This sutra is the very heart teaching of the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha, and it is about realizing the subject of the perfection of wisdom, the teachings on emptiness. This realization is what liberates numberless sentient beings from all the causes of samsara, which are delusion and karma, and even from the subtle defilements. By ceasing these, then you can enlighten numberless beings; so many numberless beings are liberated from all the sufferings of samsara and can achieve enlightenment. All this is comes from this sutra, which teaches the path of wisdom realizing emptiness. Therefore, it is a great blessing and protection to have this text on the airplane.
(4) Then I thought: it would be good if the pilot could recite this prayer called Ngang ja Ngang gye at the beginning of the flight, before the plane takes off. This text is very powerful to pacify obstacles when building a house or traveling. This text has the power to place all the different groups of living beings in harmony with your wishes, such as those beings who normally cause trouble or danger to you. By reciting this prayer, all those beings are put in harmony with your own mind.
Prostration to the Buddha Amoghasiddhi. Prostration to the possessors of the days, the momentary stars, and the beings of the moments (devas of the days, stars and the moments). [These are not ultimate objects of refuge.]
This mantra can be recited more times if there is a greater problem, or to reduce or stop problems having to do with travel.
(8) It is also extremely good to carry Namgyalma’s mantra and mandala with you inside the plane, even very small copies of the mantra. This and also White Umbrella mantra are very good for protection.
(10) Generally, one can pray to any aspect of the Buddha, especially the aspect of the Buddha to which you feel closest. It is very important to rely upon the Buddha with your whole heart. If one prays to Tara (the female aspect of Buddha who embodies all the Buddha’s enlightened actions) then you can
visualize the 21 Taras around the airplane, protecting and dispelling all the interferers (the 8 groups called degyi, or worldly devas) and all the spirits who are causing disturbances or dangers, who make the wind elements unbalanced, turbulent, etc.
(11) Another thing that one can do is to meditate on bodhichitta mind by doing tong-len. This means to take all sentient beings sufferings into one’s own heart, which then destroys the ego, the root of all problems, obstacles, and suffering, not only temporal suffering but the great obstacle to achieving realizations and enlightenment, which causes great obstacles to being able to liberate numberless sentient beings from all the sufferings, samsara, and bring them to enlightenment.
Then give all your happiness of the three times (past, present, and future) and the results – full enlightenment, all the realizations of the Mahayana path, including enlightenment, as well as all your future merits, happiness, and all the results, the good karma that will be created, as well as your own body and possessions. Give these to all living beings.
Think that by giving all this, all sentient beings receive whatever they want, whatever they need. Think that the entire environment transforms into a pure land, which has every pure enjoyment and where all beings are bodhisattvas. Then there is no enemy, no suffering, no cause of suffering, no obstacles to achieving the path, which come from the defilements; therefore, all beings become enlightened.
During the meditation of taking on all the sufferings, obstacles, and interferences of sentient beings, take it all into your own heart and destroy the ego. Then if you can, stay in that emptiness, the absence of the emotional I, the truly existent I.
This is the very special practice of bodhichitta, which is very powerful and very satisfying and fulfilling; which makes one’s own life very enjoyable and meaningful and brings peace and happiness to all sentient beings. Each time that you take on all the undesirable things of sentient beings into your own heart, this collects skies of merit. Each time that you do it sincerely, then this becomes very powerful purification, and you can purify lifetimes of
negative karma. It becomes a very powerful purification, like an atomic bomb, over the negative karma and defilements. Each time that you do this practice, you become closer to liberation from samsara – all the sufferings and their causes. You come closer to enlightenment each time that you do this practice, and you come closer to enlightening all sentient beings.
One time when His Holiness was flying from Ladakh, one part of the wing of the plane fell down. Everybody in the plane was screaming, and the secretary of His Holiness, Tenzin Gyeche, was walking back and forth very worried. Although everyone was so scared, His Holiness was sitting still, meditating, and the plane was eventually able to land without any danger. This was because of His Holiness’s meditation.
Also when I was very young, maybe 3, 4, or 5 years old, I was traveling from Lawudo (which is in the eastern part of Nepal, near Mount Everest) to Rolwaling. Rolwaling is recognized as a hidden place of Padmasambhava, and there are many caves there with many footprints, handprints, and long life
vases. These come from the power of the mind and are not actually footprints and handprints that someone has carved or put there; they have arisen from the power of the mind. These days, many of the caves are filled with yaks and animals.
To get there you had to cross over many snow mountains. One part that you had to cross was a very high mountain, and down below was a lake. There was no road and it was very rocky and there were waterfalls coming down. Many times, many rocks would fall down making huge noises like DROOM DROOM DROOM, or many
smaller rocks would fall down making noises like TING TING TING. When we arrived to this place, many many rocks had fallen. We were traveling with many yaks to carry the luggage, and the yaks were completely terrified to cross. We had to actually push the yaks so that they would cross over this dangerous place.
As we crossed, I could hear the stones falling DROOM DROOM DROOM, and I was sure that someone had been killed, but instead the stones came down just before our group reached the very dangerous place. Then the stones stopped falling. So our group was able to pass; of course, I was carried across. So no one at
all was killed because they had prayed with their whole hearts to the Buddha. The people had definitely received some protection. It seems that in this part of the Himalayas many of the worldly spirits are under the orders of Padmasambhava; so by praying to Padmasambhava, that can help you to be protected.
I also heard one story about an airplane crash. When the plane hit the ground, it caught on fire, and so many people were burnt and died. But there were four people in the upper deck of the airplane who had prayed to Chenrezig. Nothing happened to them; they were safe. This is showing the power of holy objects, because they prayed to the Compassion Buddha.
When I am in an airplane and am doing my prayers, I try to remember and pray that everyone on the airplane arrives safely and that anyone who ever travels by this plane in the future never experiences any danger and is able to arrive safely at their destination.