1. If, after having been born a human being, one give no heed to the Holy Doctrine, one resembleth a man who returneth empty- handed from a land rich in precious gems; and this is a grievous failure.
2. If, after having entered the door of the Holy Order, one return to the life of the householder, one resembleth a moth plunging into the flame of a lamp; and this is a grievous failure.
3. To dwell with a sage and remain in ignorance is to be like a man dying of thirst on the shore of a lake; and this is a grievous failure.
4. To know the moral precepts and not apply them to the cure of obscuring passions is to be like a diseased man carrying a bag of medicine which he never useth; and this is a grievous failure.
5. To peach religion and not practise it is to be like a parrot saying a prayer; and this is a grievous failure.
6. The giving in alms and charity of things obtained by theft, robbery, or deceit, is like lightning striking the surface of water; and this is a grievous failure.(1)
7. The offering to the deities of meat obtained by killing animate beings is like offering a mother the flesh of her own child;(2) and this is a grievous failure.
8. To exercise patience for merely selfish ends rather than for doing good to others is to be like a cat exercising patience in order to kill a rat; and this is a grievous failure.
9. Performing meritorius actions in order merely to attain fame and praise in this world is like bartering the mystic wish- granting gem(3) for a pellet of goat’s dung; and this is a grievous failure.
10. If, after having heard much of the Doctrine, one’s nature still be unattuned, one is like a physician with a chronic disease; and this is a grievous failure.
11. To be clever concerning precepts yet ignorant of the spiritual experiences which come from applying them is to be like a rich man who hath lost the key of his treasury; and this is a grievous failure.
12. To attempt to explain to others doctrines which one hath not completely mastered oneself is to be like a blind man leading the blind; and this is a grievous failure.
13. To hold the experiences resulting from the first stage of meditation to be those of the final stage is to be like a man who mistaketh brass for gold; and this is a grievous failure.
These are The Thirteen Grievous Failures.
(1) According to this simile, lightning in striking water fails of its true purpose, which is to set afire some inflammable object, even as does the giving in alms and charity of things dishonestly acquired.
(2) All living things are inseparably parts of One Whole, so that any injury or suffering inflicted upon the microcosm affects the macrocosm. See pp. 11 and go (1). Herein the Kargyutpa Sages prove themselves to be true to the great compassionate doctrine of ahimsa ( or ‚not hurting’ )‚ which is stressed by Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, and Sufism.
(3) The wish- granting gem of Oriental myth, known in Sanskrit as the Cintamani, like Aladdin’s magic lamp, grants any desire which its possessor formulates.