I think that you saw some problems in your life, and your mind was overwhelmed by that. One reason for your losing interest and motivation, for example, to do your sadhana practice, is because you haven’t been meditating, reading the lam-rim, and meditating on the lam-rim. That is why you have experienced these things. Because of this, the mind can be overtaken by emotions, obligations, and attachment.
Another thing is maybe you haven’t remembered the importance of and benefits of the practice. Even if you don’t understand a sadhana, if you remember or read about its benefits, then that will give you energy and inspiration to practice the sadhana, even if you don’t understand it. It leaves only a positive imprint.
First of all, from reading newspapers, watching TV, and from many other things, what we hear about is desire and delusions. Even conversations are usually about desire or delusions. So, usually, these things leave a negative imprint. It depends on how you look at these things. If you read newspapers with a lam-rim mind, watch TV with a lam-rim mind, thoroughly renounced, then the thought will arise in you, “Living in samsara is the nature of suffering.” Then if you watch TV, you see it as developing renunciation, seeing that samsaric pleasure is in the nature of suffering. If you read newspapers, watch the pleasures of samsara, have sex, have great wealth, or have many friends with renunciation, whatever you see is the nature of suffering.
You can watch TV with compassion, thinking how what you see is suffering. When you see the TV or newspapers, you can definitely see that the nature of everything is suffering. Everything you see becomes the teaching of Buddha and a cause for developing compassion and bodhicitta. It depends on how you look at it. The whole world depends on how you look at it. If you look at it with renunciation, the wish to be liberated from samsara, and samsara as in the nature of suffering, then you see the whole world is in the nature of suffering and is only the cause to achieve liberation. Then you begin to think how others are suffering and from that generate compassion, the wish to free them from all suffering and its causes, by oneself alone.
Also, you can watch TV with right view, so that everything you see is empty from its own side, even though it appears that it is existing from its own side. You see how it is empty because it is a dependent arising.
Normally what we do is the opposite of the lam-rim: watching TV, reading newspapers, hearing people talk, whatever, so everything becomes a cause to develop delusions, attachment, etc., and it leaves a negative imprint. But the Buddha’s teachings leave a positive imprint. Even if you don’t practice the sadhana or lam-rim, just listening to or reading them leaves a positive imprint. Just that! The positive imprint, which is left on the mind, sooner or later becomes a cause to become enlightened.
The Buddha gave teachings to five swans. In their next life they were all born as human beings, became Sangha, entered into the path, and then became arya beings; they actualized the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness. Like this, their delusions began to cease from hearing the teachings of the Buddha. The monks had a dog who would hear the Dharma, but didn’t understand the meaning. Just by hearing the precious Dharma, when the dog died it was born in the higher realm, the deva realm—Tushita.
The positive imprint left on the mind means in the near future you will not only be born as a human being, but will meet the Dharma, and actually understand its meaning. This enables you to have realizations. Realizations eliminate all the defilements—gross and subtle—and then you are able to achieve enlightenment and enlighten and liberate countless sentient beings from oceans of sufferings. All of this can come from having a positive imprint. It makes it possible to meet Dharma again and to be able to understand the meaning much more easily the next time. Just by listening to Dharma, you receive vast benefits.
When you practice your sadhana and read Dharma books, it is exactly the same. Even if you don’t understand them, as long as they are the unmistaken teachings of Lord Buddha, it is the same. If you don’t practice your sadhana, then you lose that opportunity to leave an imprint on your mind and to plant a seed in your mind. Then, in the future, you don’t get to achieve enlightenment. Even if one doesn’t have time to meditate, just reading with mindfulness leaves incredibly positive imprints each time. Each time you read the sadhana, because there are so many practices included in it, it leaves incredible imprints. The sadhana is tantric practice, which enables you to achieve enlightenment in one life, whereas with the sutra path it takes three great eons of future lives to achieve enlightenment.
These higher tantric practices are more powerful than lower tantra. Each time you practice the sadhana it plants a seed of the tantric path and is the quickest preparation for your future enlightenment. You can see this is incredible. The time it takes to do is nothing. You can see how important it is. It is the quick way to get out of samsara. We spend so much time eating food, drinking, and doing so many other things, but the most important thing is Dharma practice, especially highest tantra, which is so precious. It enables you to be free from samsara and all the objects of samsaric suffering and their causes as quickly as possible. Then you can free other sentient beings as quickly as possible.
So, actually, we should spend most of our time on Dharma because it is most precious, but we spend very little time on it. If you stop practicing, it takes so much longer to achieve enlightenment, and you have to spend longer suffering in samsara. Also, it is so difficult to meet the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha in this life; it is extremely rare.
If you do not practice while you have the opportunity, then in the future it won’t be possible to practice. This life is our only chance to practice Dharma—it’s the only chance to make prayers and have pure realizations. Therefore, there is something to achieve in this life—to have pure realizations of the path. There is so much to actualize in our life.
Even if one doesn’t become enlightened or become an arya bodhisattva, still you are constantly leaving imprints to have realizations. The conclusion is there is nothing in life that is more important than Dharma practice. Even reading words of the Dharma is good to do. If you stop even reciting words, then there is no opportunity at all to leave a positive imprint. The conclusion is you have to suffer, without end, again and again, in the lower realms. Then you can’t liberate other sentient beings; you can’t even liberate one sentient being. That is very sad and you have lost the purpose of your life; you miss out on this chance.
Then, suddenly, when death comes, you realize that you are going to die, and you are very, very sad. Your life is full of regret. Instead of rejoicing in how many practices you have done there is so much dissatisfaction. When people die who never miss practicing their sadhanas, there is nothing to worry about, there is no problem, there is no fear. Their deity takes them to the pure land; it is definite.
So, spend more time meditating on your main deity, put more time into it, to leave a positive imprint, and to become closer to your deity’s enlightenment. If you have commitments for other deities then you can do a very short version of the sadhana.
There are two practices that I normally advise people to do: one is Medicine Buddha. I advise chanting one mala of Medicine Buddha mantra. Then, if possible, recite Medicine Buddha’s names seven times. If that is not possible, then just them say a few times. Medicine Buddha practice is for success. All your wishes are fulfilled. Whatever you have prayed for in the past you will receive. It is so important.
The other practice is Chenrezig. The other very important mantra is Chenrezig mantra: OM MANI PADME HUM. You should recite one mala of OM MANI PADME HUM, if possible two. The Compassion Buddha is to help you develop bodhicitta. Without bodhicitta you cannot achieve enlightenment and enlighten other sentient beings.
Also, it is very important that you practice guru yoga every day. Guru yoga practice is mind training: looking at the guru as oneness with all the buddhas. By using the quotations and logic that are explained in the teachings, you are trying to see the Buddha. By looking at the Buddha, then you see the guru. Then, through having devotion and seeing the guru as Buddha, that causes you to receive the blessings of the Buddha. You have the guru in your heart, then you receive blessings, and realizations come.
The next important thing is to read lam-rim prayers. By reading the lam-rim prayers you leave imprints on your mind of the whole path to enlightenment. You plant seeds of the whole path, and all the realizations. That makes you come closer to realizations, to enlightenment, and to enlightening all mother sentient beings. By reading the lam-rim each day you get closer to enlightenment and enlightening all sentient beings. Also, it is very good to recite Vajrasattva mantra 28 or 21 times before you go to bed.
Sometimes, when all the thoughts and excuses to not practice come, it is spirits causing you not to practice or causing negative thoughts to arise to stop you practicing. You are trying to practice, to be pure, to live in morality, then spirits cause attachment to arise, that causes you to break your vows, or not take vows. Whatever happiness you are trying to achieve, many obstacles come. So, you have to be very careful. There are many obstacles that can arise that don’t allow you to achieve liberation or future enlightenment. You have to be wise, have strength and courage, and be able to judge so that you can carry on with your practice.
You have this precious human body, so this is the best time to practice Dharma. So you must! Also, you are not sure what will come first, tomorrow or your next life, you never know when you will die.