A Spiritual Master’s Advice for Those Suffering from Pain and Illness

Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche

The sage, Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen was born in 1859 in the region of Kham, Tibet. He received monk’s vows at the age of 18 and had a total of 24 spiritual masters during his lifetime. He became renowned for both his intellect and his realization of sutra, tantra and dzogchen. At the time of his passing in 1935, he displayed his supreme realization by attaining the rainbow body of light. During his lifetime, he was a prolific writer and these compositions have been collected into a five volume treasury. (For more information about this modern-day saint, see previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2015/05/31/anniversary-of-shardza-tashi-gyaltsen-attaining-the-rainbow-body-2/ )

Among his writings, is a poetic verse of advice written upon a request from the female practitioner Khandro Wangi Dronma. In the first half of the verse, he reminds the practitioner of the truth of good and bad actions which result in either happiness or suffering. (This part of the verse can be read in its English translation here: https://ravencypresswood.com/2021/03/27/a-saints-advice-regarding-actions-their-certain-results/ ) He then gives advice for how a practitioner can use the suffering of pain and illness as a skillful means to deepen the realization of emptiness, and ultimately, to attain enlightenment. However, to avoid confusion it must be noted that nowhere does he advise to cease medical treatment to cure or diminish the pain. Essentially, he advises that for a practitioner, when illness and pain arise, it is important to be aware of the view and to look with wisdom at the experience rather than have the pain and illness cloud the awareness or become a distraction from practice. The extent to which someone is able to do this depends upon their capacity and stability as a practitioner. But he advises to try again and again to use the experience as a support for realization. The practitioner begins with the view of the illness and pain as a result of their own previous negative actions being exhausted through the experience, and ultimately looking nakedly at the experience to realize its emptiness. His advice begins with the extraordinarily profound essence mantra that purifies negativity and shakes the very foundation of cyclic existence.


May the negative karmic debts of sentient beings within the three realms of cyclic existence be purified!

Engaging in harm towards others again and again, the negative karma accumulates. Later on during our future lives, we are tormented because of those actions.


Whatever unwanted thing that descends upon you, look upon everything as karma.


It is necessary to have a supreme view and master the remedy which is emptiness in order to proceed with the important practice of virtue.

For those with a great deal of negative actions in this lifetime, having requested a remedy because they will certainly ripen during future lifetimes, the remedy of performing virtue is very powerful. Having ripened negative actions, the mere exhaustion of that karma (through pain and/or illness), enlightenment is certain. Therefore, this pain and illness of yours is very amazing when it is voluntarily accepted!

Even now, whenever more pain or illness arises, continuing to persevere with your religious practices, venerations, and acts of pure virtue would be incredibly amazing!

When you imagine that there will be no unhappiness in the future (due to this negative karma being exhausted), supremely praise the emptiness of that particular pain or illness.

Be inspired by the power of this antidote, even when what you don’t want arises.

Take the suffering and misery of others onto yourself by adopting others’ happiness and suffering through the practice of tonglen. (For more information about the practice of tonglen and the english translation of a tonglen prayer written by Shardza Rinpoche, see the previous article: https://ravencypresswood.com/2020/01/31/an-aspiration-prayer-of-giving-and-receiving-gift-translation/ )

Practice this day and night. Remember to do this again and again, without being distracted even for a second. These are thoughts from my heart. This is my conviction. Considering the result of actions and teaching a method to repay the karmic debts is very rare advice. It is completely profound.

— Excerpt of untitled poem composed by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche and included in his volume of works entitled Advice and Hagiographies of the A Tri LIneage Lamas

Tibetan translations by Raven Cypress Wood

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Posted on October 30, 2021, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Julieta Treviño Ortiz

    Thank you this is very enlightening !

    So the practice he recomends to do night and day is the recitation of the A Kar a me mantra ?

    Thank you for sharing and keeping us posted !

    Sincerely, juli

  2. Juli, thank you for your question. Essentially, Shardza Rinpoche is advising to remember to practice at all times day and night. The specifics of that practice are according to the practitioner’s capacity. For example, if one has not been introduced to the natural state or has no guidance or stability with the practice of emptiness, then it is unrealistic and unhelpful for them to try or to pretend to be realizing the emptiness of their suffering. Therefore, whichever practice can be practiced with clarity, precision and focus is the correct one.

    That said, yes, reciting the Du Tri Su mantra continuously is recommended. From the Du Tri Su text, ‘In order to purify obscurations for self and others, the living and the dead, recite the Du Tri Su mantra. There is nothing whatsoever that cannot be reversed through this wisdom. The best is to recite it continuously. The average way is to practice until signs of success occur. At the very least, recite it 100,00 times.’

    Of utmost importance is to have the correct view of suffering as stated by Shardza, rather than having a view that increases anger, hatred, nihilism, etc. Again and again reminding one’s self of the correct perspective when the mind drifts to an incorrect view or emotion. It is very helpful to train the mind to immediately recite the Du Ti Su as a means to immediately stop negative or wrong thoughts.

    Ultimately, being able to experience the emptiness of suffering and abide in the true nature is best. However, even intellectually knowing this truth and praying to be able to have the experience is a great support.

    Remembering others and generating genuine compassion for all other sentient beings that are experiencing suffering and pain, especially those that are alone and/or have no support or any way to alleviate their suffering, and who have no wisdom teachings and are overwhelmed with fear and anxiety is a very profound practice. Also dedicating our mantra recitation and practices for the cessation of their pain and suffering is profound, rather than becoming single-pointedly focused on ourselves.

    This is a long answer to your question, but as you can see, the specifics of the answer depend upon who is asking it and what kind of practices they have developed and can depend upon. I hope that you find this helpful. thank you for your sincere interest.

    I hope that you and your loved ones are well,

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