Burning Dharma Materials

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Burning Dharma Materials

Postby wisdomfire » Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:45 pm

Hi, I don't know which forum to ask this question:

About the burning of dharma materials, is there any specific prayer to do before burning?

Is it bad karma or inauspicious to burn pictures of Guru / Deities/Stupas etc?

If there is no other way to dispose but to burn, what should we do?

Can anyone share their experience and advice from their teachers regarding this?

Thanks alot!
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Mar 10, 2012 4:01 pm

I prefer to dissolve printed matter in water. The ink dissolves, the text dissolves, the pictures dissolve, the paper dissolves, like a visualization. No air pollution!

Actually, I dissolve all 'sensitive documents' (receipts, address labels, things that people usually shred) this way.

I take the paper pulp and mix it with glue and this creates a papier-mache sculpting compound.

You could use this to make permanent tormas.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Lhug-Pa » Sat Mar 10, 2012 4:30 pm

It was either Lama Zopa or Lama Yeshe who said that we can recite OM AH HUM while we burn Dharma materials, and see that the smoke is empowered by OM AH HUM and benefits sentient beings as it is dispersed in the air.

A more complete explanation is found on one of the websites dedicated to the teachings of Lama Yeshe.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sat Mar 10, 2012 5:24 pm

wisdomfire wrote:If there is no other way to dispose but to burn, what should we do?


Burning is a correct way of disposing of Dharma materials, so don't worry.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby zerwe » Sat Mar 10, 2012 10:58 pm

Lhug-Pa wrote:It was either Lama Zopa or Lama Yeshe who said that we can recite OM AH HUM while we burn Dharma materials, and see that the smoke is empowered by OM AH HUM and benefits sentient beings as it is dispersed in the air.

A more complete explanation is found on one of the websites dedicated to the teachings of Lama Yeshe.


What Lhug-Pa said.

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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:
wisdomfire wrote:If there is no other way to dispose but to burn, what should we do?


Burning is a correct way of disposing of Dharma materials, so don't worry.


But apparently, not with Korans.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:31 pm

I knew somebody who was burning dhrama CDs ...and he ended up having even more CDs!
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Tilopa » Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:08 am

I can't provide the source but HH Dalai Lama once said it's ok to recycle Dharma materials that don't contain images of gurus and deities.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby wisdomfire » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:33 am

Thanks for all the answers. I just learnt from a teacher that we can recite the Essence of Interdependence mantra (if you know it) while burning and visualise that all the materials dissolve into the Dharmadhatu. One can also recite OM AH HUM and visualise the benefits to all sentient beings. A source say that Gurus/Deities/Stupas/Holy Objects photos should not be burnt, another source say that it can be burn as it is not higher than Dharma texts.

Just sharing with all if anyone needs to do this.

Some people have so much Dharma materials and we should also plan properly what to do with it before we pass on. It is not good to leave it for others (eg, relatives/children) to clear up and then they may create bad karma for themselves and you. I'm trying to clear my stuff gradually.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Konchog1 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:21 am

wisdomfire wrote:Thanks for all the answers. I just learnt from a teacher that we can recite the Essence of Interdependence mantra (if you know it) while burning and visualise that all the materials dissolve into the Dharmadhatu. One can also recite OM AH HUM and visualise the benefits to all sentient beings. A source say that Gurus/Deities/Stupas/Holy Objects photos should not be burnt, another source say that it can be burn as it is not higher than Dharma texts.

Just sharing with all if anyone needs to do this.

Some people have so much Dharma materials and we should also plan properly what to do with it before we pass on. It is not good to leave it for others (eg, relatives/children) to clear up and then they may create bad karma for themselves and you. I'm trying to clear my stuff gradually.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Blue Garuda » Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:50 am

wisdomfire wrote: A source say that Gurus/Deities/Stupas/Holy Objects photos should not be burnt, another source say that it can be burn as it is not higher than Dharma texts.


I guess the methods will need to catch up with recent technology - or disposing of your PC hard drive and deleting materials online must be regarded as in some way disrespecful? Maybe there is a virtual fire website where you can burn virtual materials! ;)

I also ask what is sacred - the paper, the china clay, the ink, the glue? The Amazon Kindle?

We now have many methods of disposal and should seek to improve on what was done hundreds of years ago in very different times to suit different circumstances.


Eve tried burning books so that nothing that remains is readable any more? I can't imagine that Buddha had much to say about it as scripture was orally transmitted at that time, and if he was to teach about it now, would he really want people to spend hours disposing of Dharma materials rather than studying and applying it?

You can chant mantras while you shred. Being mindful is what is important, not the method, IMHO.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Tue Mar 13, 2012 11:05 am

Blue Garuda wrote:
wisdomfire wrote: A source say that Gurus/Deities/Stupas/Holy Objects photos should not be burnt, another source say that it can be burn as it is not higher than Dharma texts.


I guess the methods will need to catch up with recent technology - or disposing of your PC hard drive and deleting materials online must be regarded as in some way disrespecful? Maybe there is a virtual fire website where you can burn virtual materials! ;)

I also ask what is sacred - the paper, the china clay, the ink, the glue? The Amazon Kindle?

We now have many methods of disposal and should seek to improve on what was done hundreds of years ago in very different times to suit different circumstances.


Eve tried burning books so that nothing that remains is readable any more? I can't imagine that Buddha had much to say about it as scripture was orally transmitted at that time, and if he was to teach about it now, would he really want people to spend hours disposing of Dharma materials rather than studying and applying it?

You can chant mantras while you shred. Being mindful is what is important, not the method, IMHO.


BG, come on, man lol. Obviously the topic is properly disposing of tangible, not digital, Dharma materials.

When various components come together to represent the Dharma, such an aggregated representation is considered worthy of respect and is therefore treated accordingly.

If one has limited space and has needed to replace old, worn-out Dharma texts, or one's unfortunately created some missprints of texts, etc, one has to do something respectful with this material. Burning has long been the main traditional method in Tibetan traditions. Maybe there are some others methods. Nowadays many elders in the various Buddhist traditions, like for instance a couple of my own gurus, have suggested recycling as another proper method of disposal.

Now, I've never timed how long it took me to burn or recycle old Dharma texts, etc, but I know for sure it didn't take me hours lol. And I'm sure it would take less time to burn or recycle them than to get needlessly creative. Maybe you'd prefer to soak them in water and then make papier mache stupas out of them and paint them, etc, but I don't have that sort of time between college, work, and Dharma study & practice. No need to reinvent the wheel if the old one's working just fine.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Blue Garuda » Tue Mar 13, 2012 11:38 am

Plenty of hairs to split over what is 'tangible' . LOL :)

It's vaguely connected with statue filling and whether an sd card with millions of mantras as text or mp3 files is OK to insert , and meaningful. Humans have progressed from writing on cave walls, to animal skins, papyrus, paper etc. so why do we want to arrest progress in terms of what we may regard as sacred? Surely it is the message (the Dharma) which makes the item sacred, not what the medium is made of.

We impute through inference that an object is sacred and to be respected, so maybe a process of 'deconsecration' could replace destruction of all but those items which are, for example, 'secret mantra'. Deconsecrated texts could then simply be recycled.
It seems pretty arbitrary at the moment, anyway. One Guru may advise that a poster for a Buddhist event is Dharma material, another may not. The Dalai Lama and his followers publish huge numbers of Dharma books. I haven't seen any Dharma book in English which carries an instruction to dispose of the text by burning, although there may well be some, so does this mean the authors don't see their books as Dharma materials? Personally I do, becuase that is what I was taught.

In the end, if we can, it is best to ask the Guru what should be regarded as 'Dharma' material and how it should be disposed of, and take no notice of idiots like me on a web forum! LOL :)
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue Mar 13, 2012 3:14 pm

It's always good to remember that mostly it's our attitude that counts. Our respect towards Dharma that arises spontaneously when we start to give it the proper appreciation. The way we dispose of these materials must reflect that and will very naturally. That seems more important than the practicalities that come after. :smile:
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Tue Mar 13, 2012 7:53 pm

Blue Garuda wrote:Plenty of hairs to split over what is 'tangible' . LOL :)

It's vaguely connected with statue filling and whether an sd card with millions of mantras as text or mp3 files is OK to insert , and meaningful. Humans have progressed from writing on cave walls, to animal skins, papyrus, paper etc. so why do we want to arrest progress in terms of what we may regard as sacred? Surely it is the message (the Dharma) which makes the item sacred, not what the medium is made of.

We impute through inference that an object is sacred and to be respected, so maybe a process of 'deconsecration' could replace destruction of all but those items which are, for example, 'secret mantra'. Deconsecrated texts could then simply be recycled.
It seems pretty arbitrary at the moment, anyway. One Guru may advise that a poster for a Buddhist event is Dharma material, another may not. The Dalai Lama and his followers publish huge numbers of Dharma books. I haven't seen any Dharma book in English which carries an instruction to dispose of the text by burning, although there may well be some, so does this mean the authors don't see their books as Dharma materials? Personally I do, becuase that is what I was taught.

In the end, if we can, it is best to ask the Guru what should be regarded as 'Dharma' material and how it should be disposed of, and take no notice of idiots like me on a web forum! LOL :)


I guess I've seen too many lamas use media from microfiche to DVDs in lieu of printed pages of mantras/cycles of teachings for placing in stupas and statues to even wonder if putting mantras on an SD card is ok or meaningful. It seems pretty obvious to me that it is.

In terms of whether a printed material of any kind related to Dharma is or isn't "sacred," it also seems obvious to me. I've yet to read a commentary explaining refuge where it failed to say something like "after taking refuge, one considers even a scrap of the monastic robes as the Sangha, or even a single letter of Dharma as the Dharma, so one respects them accordingly."
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Blue Garuda » Tue Mar 13, 2012 8:33 pm

Pema Rigdzin wrote:
Blue Garuda wrote:Plenty of hairs to split over what is 'tangible' . LOL :)

It's vaguely connected with statue filling and whether an sd card with millions of mantras as text or mp3 files is OK to insert , and meaningful. Humans have progressed from writing on cave walls, to animal skins, papyrus, paper etc. so why do we want to arrest progress in terms of what we may regard as sacred? Surely it is the message (the Dharma) which makes the item sacred, not what the medium is made of.

We impute through inference that an object is sacred and to be respected, so maybe a process of 'deconsecration' could replace destruction of all but those items which are, for example, 'secret mantra'. Deconsecrated texts could then simply be recycled.
It seems pretty arbitrary at the moment, anyway. One Guru may advise that a poster for a Buddhist event is Dharma material, another may not. The Dalai Lama and his followers publish huge numbers of Dharma books. I haven't seen any Dharma book in English which carries an instruction to dispose of the text by burning, although there may well be some, so does this mean the authors don't see their books as Dharma materials? Personally I do, becuase that is what I was taught.

In the end, if we can, it is best to ask the Guru what should be regarded as 'Dharma' material and how it should be disposed of, and take no notice of idiots like me on a web forum! LOL :)


I guess I've seen too many lamas use media from microfiche to DVDs in lieu of printed pages of mantras/cycles of teachings for placing in stupas and statues to even wonder if putting mantras on an SD card is ok or meaningful. It seems pretty obvious to me that it is.

In terms of whether a printed material of any kind related to Dharma is or isn't "sacred," it also seems obvious to me. I've yet to read a commentary explaining refuge where it failed to say something like "after taking refuge, one considers even a scrap of the monastic robes as the Sangha, or even a single letter of Dharma as the Dharma, so one respects them accordingly."


Yes, I agree, and I guess most here on DW would also. I still wince when I see people enter a gompa, sit straight down and plonk their sadhanas, books and malas on the floor.

Hence my curiosity about the books sold worldwide - and their fate. I wondered about the karma of people who read a Dharma text and, just like any other paperback, chuck it in the garbage. Should there be some sort of kind note as a preface? Thinking about it, those books probably comprise the vast majority of Dharma material which is destroyed, and probably by people who do not regard it as having any inherent special qualities. Sad, but I guess it is almost inevitable.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:59 pm

Blue Garuda wrote: I wondered about the karma of people who read a Dharma text and, just like any other paperback, chuck it in the garbage.

If they read the book, their karma will be better.
Buddhist texts do not have a built-in curse which waits in ambush, ready to pounce upon the unsuspecting!

All things arise dependently.
Texts are composed of words, and words are composed of letters and spaces, or of characters and brush-strokes.
None of those printed or written letters, spaces, or words have any meaning other than what we impute upon them. However, the idea of the written character possessing in itself a sacred quality evolved in both India and China, but for different reasons. In India, it is because at one time only the priestly (Brahaman) caste taught to read and write. In China, it is because characters are themselves representative pictures.

The 'negative karma' which results from throwing dharma books in the trash doesn't come from the printed materials themselves, but from the mind of the careless person.
A person who understands the profound meaning of a dharma text, and then throws it away, will thus generate a greater negative result than that of a person who didn't understand a word of what he was reading and had no appreciation for it to begin with,and tosses the book out.

This doesn't mean that texts have no value to those who study them, or that they do not contain the potential to liberate those who read them. So, ceremonially burning them has evolved, along with ceremonial cremation of a corpse, as a sign of respect. I imagine that if vultures ate paper, the preferred method of disposing of dharma texts would be "sky-burial".

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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:04 am

Blue Garuda wrote:Yes, I agree, and I guess most here on DW would also. I still wince when I see people enter a gompa, sit straight down and plonk their sadhanas, books and malas on the floor.


Yeah, me too. But I consider that I had to be taught that it's not proper to place things worthy of respect in a low place, even on the seemingly clean floor of a sanctified space like a shrine room, because these things are rarely a consideration in our Western culture. So I figure either people don't know the protocol or they've momentarily forgotten it because it hasn't become second nature to them yet. Usually a kind and tactful explanation or reminder takes care of the unintended faux pas.

Blue Garuda wrote:I wondered about the karma of people who read a Dharma text and, just like any other paperback, chuck it in the garbage. Should there be some sort of kind note as a preface?


I've seen a short explanation of how and why to properly handle Dharma texts and other materials in books on a few occasions and it's always seemed like a good idea to me. But, for those who have created the karma you mentioned, in Norbu Rinpoche's words: "a positive connection is of course best, but even a negative connection is better than no connection at all." I also consider the people's intentions... Hopefully the ripening of the karma won't be too bad if they're doing it out of ignorance rather than intentional disrespect.
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Re: Burning Dharma Materials

Postby wisdomfire » Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:41 am

About disrespect for Dharma materials, i have read that the karmic result is that one will have obstacles to meeting the Dharma or not be able to meet the Dharma in future lives.

About burning Guru's photos, i have an experience where I accidentally tore a Guru's photo and it felt extremely inauspicious to me right away. I was right, in that, after that till now (many years already) i have not been able to meet this Guru again and not in contact with him in any way due to some other circumstances beyond my control.

Sometimes, logic is unable explain the interactions of causes-and-effects. In my life, i have had some experiences that make me believe in cause-and-effect to the point of being a little superstitious and careful about it. But it has served me well.
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