From ‘A Spacious Path to Freedom: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahamudra & Atiyoga’ by Karma Chagme, Commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche, Translated by B. Alan Wallace:
(This excerpt continues from the excerpt at http://thedailyenlightenment.com/enewsletter/43.php)
[Teachings from Machik Labdron (11th century Tibetan Buddhist yogini, emanation of Yeshe Tsogyel)]: There is a Tibetan aphorism that it is very hard to sew with a double-pointed needle. Similarly, it is hard to get anything done if your mind is two-pointed [or not single-minded]. Therefore, as long as you have not committed any of the five deeds of immediate retribution [killing father, mother, arhat, injuring a Buddha, creating schism in the Sangha] or abandoned the Dharma [e.g. by slander], if you pray with the total focus of your prayer [e.g. by faithful mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’] to be reborn in Sukhavati, you will be. [Those who have done any of the five deeds would need to repent and practice in time.] Although it says that this will happen after praying earnestly ten times [as stated in Amituofo’s 18th vow], do not let this be an excuse for succumbing to fickleness in your prayers or your Dharma practice in general. Continue to pray not just once, or ten times, but rather pray at all times.
There was a Lama from Yukho, a region of Tibet, who had thousands of monks under his guidance. Many of them devoted themselves very diligently to meditation and remained in retreat. One day a crazy monk from southern Amdo came to meet with him. Lama Chadral asked the monk what practice he was doing. The monk replied, ‘Prostrations.’ Then he asked him, ‘What practice do you do along with the prostrations?’ The monk continued, ‘I have done many hundreds of thousands of prostrations. Sometimes I do them together with prayers to Guru Rinpoche or Amitabha. At other times I prostrate and recite the mantra of Avalokiteshvara or the Vajrasattva and petition him for a while, but I think that Guru Rinpoche is getting irritated with me for being fickle.’
Was this person practicing? Yes, but his practice was not genuine, because even though he was trying hard in his practice, he did not recognize the essence of Dharma. In short, there is a danger in being prone to a fickle attitude. Perhaps, if we were guaranteed a very long life, there might be time for a smorgasbord [buffet spread] approach to Dharma. But in fact, our lives are very short. In truth, our death can come at any time. Many circumstances, such as illnesses and accidents, can lead to our very swift and unexpected demise. When we look back at our life, we wonder where the time has gone and what we have accomplished as a result of all our exertions. It seems as if we were born just a moment ago, but time passes swiftly by. It is unrealistic to depend on long-term plans, which cause us to chase after one project and then another. Meanwhile, we continually postpone the practice of Dharma. But unfortunately, eventually our lives will be over.
Look at the beggar Dharma practitioners of China, India and Tibet, who lived in utter simplicity and complete devotion to Dharma and attained enlightenment. On the other hand, for al; their exertions, smart and talented people who thoroughly suffuse their Dharma with their own yearnings for fame, praise, and influence may simply be destined for vajra hell [the realm with the worst suffering]. Recognizing the pathetic situation of sentient beings, Amitabha, with great compassion, made prayers that beings who are still suffering from mental afflictions may be reborn in Sukhavati. Look at our sense of self-importance, our sense of pride, conceit, and arrogance. What is the basis for this? If we really look at our situation, in terms of the degree to which we are subject to our own mental afflictions, there is no basis for pride. In fact, there is reason to weep, and there is little cause for rejoicing. So, it is crucial to make prayers to be reborn in Sukhavati [with the simplest means being through single-minded mindfulness of the name of Amituofo with right faith and aspiration].