Because you have taken refuge in the Three Jewels, you can be sure that you have prevented one or two rebirths in the lower realms, but not that you will be free of the lower realms forever. If you want to be absolutely confident of never again going to the lower realms, you must try to follow the advice that goes with taking refuge [see Day 12, pp. 380 ff.]. Here is an illustration of what happens when you do not. When a criminal seeks the protection of an influential official, the official may tell him: “From now on, you should do this and not do that.” If the criminal does not listen and instead only commits more crimes, there is no way that even that official can protect him: the criminal will again run afoul of the law. Similarly, if we do not keep the advice that accompanies taking refuge, there is nothing the Three Jewels can do for us at all. This is why our Teacher taught that Dharma is the actual refuge to protect us from the lower realms. Dharma itself is the act of modifying our behavior according to the law of cause and effect. If you do not develop believing faith in the law of cause and effect, you will only want to practice a little virtue and to abandon a little nonvirtue. As long as you do not properly modify your actions according to the law of cause and effect, you could still go to hell, despite being well versed in the three baskets or being a great adept and yogi. Once Guru Avadhūtipa looked back at Atiśha while they were crossing a bridge and said: “Until you abandon grasping at a self, and while you still place little value on the law of cause and effect, [always] remember that even scholar so-and-so and yogi such-and-such were reborn in hell.” They say that even great Ra the translator had to spend a few moments in hell— about as long as bouncing a ball of yarn [on the floor]. A yogi in the Yamāntaka tantra was reborn as an evil hungry ghost that physically resembled this tutelary deity; the ghost traveled from India to Tibet. Great Atiśha said, “If it remains here, Tibet will be harmed,” so he dedicated ritual cakes to the ghost and made it go away. Devadatta knew one [of the three] heap[ s] of Dharma, but this did not help him, as he was reborn in the Hotter Hell. A Brahman named Chanakya had achieved visions of Yamāntaka and had killed many people through his paranormal powers. They say he was reborn in the Hell Without Respite. If you do not keep to the law of cause and effect, even doing a tantric retreat will not be of any help. A yogi in the Yamāntaka tantra from Lower Paenpo was also reborn as a hungry ghost, taking the form of the tutelary deity. He turned up to beg at a burnt-offering ceremony performed by some of his fellow practitioners.   Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche told how an elder of Vikramaśhīla Monastery was reborn as a hungry ghost with a deformed hand.   So, if you are unable to modify your behavior out of a belief in the law of cause and effect, being a scholar or adept will be of no help at all. And it is said: “Karma ripens in inconceivable ways— even lords of love are born as animals.” In other words, they say that even mahātma bodhisattvas have taken rebirth in the lower realms when they ignored the law of cause and effect. This is why setting one’s motivation is the start of all meditations, why the optimum human rebirth is the start of the lamrim, and why the law of cause and effect is the start of putting the Dharma into practice. The law of cause and effect has even been called “the correct view for worldly people.” Here “worldly people” is taken to mean ordinary beings; the whole phrase means that ordinary beings should act principally according to these laws. A great many people these days pretend to esteem the view highly, but you must first develop believing faith in the law of cause and effect and then modify your behavior accordingly. If you not do this, you may mumble your recitations three times every day and every night and pretend you are recalling the Dharma, or work hard at imitating meditative absorption and pretend that this is meditating on the view, but these are just signs that you do not know what Dharma entails. Some people commit sins all day and night and even order others, servants and pupils, to carry out many sinful actions all over the place. These people may go through the motions of getting up early and going to bed late after doing their recitations, but this is the wrong way to go about a practice. So you must think about the law of cause and effect in order to develop this believing faith in it. There are three sections here: (1) thinking about cause and effect in general; (2) thinking about the specifics; (3) after thinking about these things, the way to modify your actions.