I got into drugs at a young age and created huge problems for my family, friends and society. I was in an out of jail. After lama sent to rehab in Siliguri, I’m doing well, but unfortunately my family doesn’t accept me. I am disturbed by their rejection. I wonder whether my sins are too heavy and that I will never be happy again. Lama already advised me, but I want to hear it again as I feel depressed.

-Sad, Thimphu

Well, first of all we don’t have a concept of sin in Buddhism. We have karma. Basically, our action leaves imprints in our mind stream that influence the future. As an example, think of a 100 storey building, where every floor is made of sturdy material, except for the fifth floor where cheap, substandard material was used. Even though the upper floors appear strong and sturdy, the effect of the weak material used on the fifth floor will influence the entire building right to the top. Then, one day if there is an earthquake, the building will collapse. In this way, even the sturdy top floor is affected by the weak lower floor. Obviously, this is an over simplified example, but perhaps it will give you some idea of how action influences the future.

As your relationship with your family has been troubled for many years, it will take time for the situation to heal. In realty, you have been like a wild dog that has been biting everyone. Now, suddenly you come wagging your tail. People will not immediately trust that dog, right? In fact, they might even throw stones at it. However, if the dog continues to wag its tail and doesn’t bite or even growl, people will slowly reach out and accept it. You are like that dog. You need to recognize the pain that you caused and be patient. If you retaliate and speak harshly with your family members or start using drugs again, you will be back to square one. Basically, try to understand the situation from your family’s point of view, and do your best to be a good son and sibling. It would also create a lot of goodwill if you get a job and begin to financially contribute to the household.

I’ll relate a story that might work as an example for you. At the time of the Buddha there was a guy called Angulimala. Due to the strange religion that he followed, he killed 999 people. He was like a monster and everyone was terrified of him. One day, however, he met the Buddha and became his disciple.

As was the custom at the Buddha’s time, Angulimala went with the other monks on daily alms round. Even though he was now peaceful and pure-minded, people would beat and attack him. Acknowledging the pain that he had previously caused the community, he never retaliated. Instead, he remained calm and worked to benefit others. Slowly, the people recognized that he had changed. They stopped beating him and, finally, even offered him food and allowed their children to play with him.

You have to be like Angulimala. Acknowledge the pain that you caused, be patient and try to benefit others. Also, you should strictly follow the programme that you learned in the rehab. This is your way forward.

In reality, our mind is like a pristine diamond. It may get coated with mud, but the dirt never tarnishes the diamond and once the mud is washed away its natural sparkle will shine through. So, remember whatever negative things you have done in the past, they have not soiled the original pure nature of your mind. Basically, you still have the potential to find peace – and even become a Buddha!

With regards your family, I strongly suggest that they try to forget the past and help you move forward. In reality, a family is like a human body. It needs all the parts to work well and in harmony to be considered healthy. No-one will say “I’m healthy but my liver is sick, right?” If your liver is sick, then you are sick. Therefore, it is to the benefit of the entire family if they help you remain clean of addiction and to move forward with your life.

I took Tramadol as prescribed by the doctor with an exacerbation of pain. I have an intervertebral hernia. The pain dulled somewhere in 2 hours. This drug is a strong painkiller and is only available on a prescription at written by the doctor. It should be taken strictly according to the doctor’s indications, because there are strong side effects, up to addiction and dependence!

To return to your question, you need to recognize the pain that you caused others and be patient. Work hard on your NA (narcotics anonymous) programme and try to contribute to your family. You can definitely find peace in your life, but, at the same time, remember that nothing lasts forever and so don’t expect to live a problem-free life. Instead, try to accept every situation that you encounter as equally part of your life.

Finally, if you want undertake a purification practice, I recommend Vajrasattva, but you will need an empowerment and instruction from an authentic teacher before you begin.

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.
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