by: Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
The most happy thing in my life, most fulfilling thing is to work for and to benefit sentient beings. Even just the mere thought to cause happiness to sentient beings, to benefit them, to free them from suffering is the BEST offering to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas. This is the best offering, the best puja; this is what pleases their holy mind most.
“The meditation on bodhichitta that you said you are doing is the best practice, that makes you achieve all the realizations and attain enlightenment in the quickest way,” Lama Zopa Rinpoche wrote to a student who had written to thank Rinpoche for bringing him so much happiness through his publications. “It is also the quickest way to free the sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment. Especially if you are doing the practice of bodhichitta with tong-len – taking numberless sentient beings’ suffering and the causes of suffering into your heart, onto yourself, and destroying the self-cherishing thought as well as the ignorance, the root of your samsara, the oceans of suffering of samsara. The real I, which is the false I, which is like a dream, like a hallucination, an illusion – like thinking the reflection of your face in the mirror or on the ocean is a real face – that is destroyed, that is realized to be empty, as it is empty. So you can do a short meditation on emptiness like this. Meditate on shunyata, emptiness only.
“When you take the sufferings of others, do so with compassion. When you dedicate to others, your body is in the form of numberless wish-granting jewels and all sentient beings receive whatever they want from that, and they achieve the dharmakaya and rupakaya. Dedicate all your enjoyments and all your belongings to the numberless six realm sentient beings, so they receive everything they want and achieve the dharmakaya and rupakaya. Then you dedicate all your past, present and future merits and their results, as well as all the good things in this life and in your next rebirth. Dedicate all the enjoyments in good rebirths from life to life, then the everlasting happiness of nirvana, and next, the ultimate happiness, the peerless happiness, the total cessation of all the obscurations and completion of all the realizations. So you dedicate all of this to numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless human beings, numberless asuras, numberless suras and numberless intermediate state beings. And from that they achieve everything, the dharmakaya and rupakaya.
“When you take the suffering and its causes – wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow – this is the most powerful purification. Negative karmas and obscurations collected from beginningless rebirths are purified. It is most amazing, most amazing, most amazing, most amazing, most amazing! …”
Read the rest of Rinpoche’s letter with advice on tong-len practice on the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive: http://www.lamayeshe.com/advice/tong-len-practice.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organization dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation and community service.
Lama Yeshe gave this teaching at Kopan Course No. 16, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in Nov-Dec 1983. This was the last public teaching by Lama Yeshe before his tragic passing away in March 1984, so it has a special significance.
I think it is absolutely essential for us to have loving kindness towards others. There is no doubt about this. Loving kindness is the essence of bodhicitta, the attitude of the bodhisattva. It is the most comfortable path, the most comfortable meditation. There can be no philosophical, scientific or psychological disagreement with this. With bodhicitta, there's no East-West conflict. This path is the most comfortable, most perfect, one hundred percent uncomplicated one, free of any danger of leading people to extremes. Without bodhicitta, nothing works. And most of all, your meditation doesn't work, and realizations don't come.
Why is bodhicitta necessary for success in meditation? Because of selfish grasping. If you have a good meditation but don't have bodhicitta, you will grasp at any little experience of bliss: 'Me, me; I want more, I want more.' Then the good experience disappears completely. Grasping is the greatest distraction to experiencing single-pointed intensive awareness in meditation. And with it, we are always dedicated to our own happiness: 'Me, me I'm miserable, I want to be happy. Therefore I'll meditate.' It doesn't work that way. For some reason good meditation and its results—peacefulness, satisfaction and bliss—just don't come.
Also, without bodhicitta it is very difficult to collect merits. You create them and immediately destroy them; by afternoon, the morning's merits have gone. It's like cleaning a room and an hour later making it dirty again. You make your mind clean, then right away you mess it up - not a very profitable business. If you want to succeed in the business of collecting merits, you must have bodhicitta. With bodhicitta you become so precious—like gold, like diamonds; you become the most perfect object in the world, beyond compare with any material things.
From the Western, materialistic point of view, we'd think it was great if a rich person said,'I want to make charity. I'm going to offer $100 to everybody in the entire world.' Even if that person gave with great sincerity, his or her merit would be nothing compared with just the thought,'I wish to actualize bodhicitta for the sake of sentient beings, and I'll practice the six paramitas as much as I can. That's why I always say, actualization of bodhicitta is the most perfect path you can take.
"The best Dharma practice, the most perfect, most substantial, is without doubt the practice of bodhicitta."
Remember the story of the Kadampa geshe who saw a man circumambulating a stupa? He said, 'What are you doing?' and the man answered, 'Circumambulating.' So the geshe said, 'Wouldn't it be better if you practiced dharma?' Next time the geshe saw the man he was prostrating, and when he again asked what he was doing, the man replied, 'One hundred thousand prostrations.' 'Wouldn't it be better if you practiced dharma?' asked the geshe. Anyway, the story goes on, but the point is that just doing religious-looking actions like circumambulation and prostration isn't necessarily practicing dharma. What we have to do is transform our attachment and self-cherishing, and if we haven't changed our mind in this way, none of the other practices work; doing them is just a joke. Even if you try to practice tantric meditations, unless you've changed within, you won't succeed. dharma means a complete change of attitude - that's what really brings you inner happiness, that is the true Dharma, not the words you say. Bodhicitta is not the culture of ego, not the culture of attachment, not the culture of samsara. It is an unbelievable transformation, the most comfortable path, the most substantial path—definite, not wishy-washy. Sometimes your meditation is not solid; you just space out. Bodhicitta meditation means you really want to change your mind and actions and transform your whole life.
We are all involved in human relationships with each other. Why do we sometimes say, 'I love you,' and sometimes, 'I hate you?' Where does this up-and-down mind come from? From the self-cherishing thought—a complete lack of bodhicitta. What we are saying is, 'I hate you because I'm not getting any satisfaction from you. You hurt me; you don't give me pleasure. That's the whole thing: I—my ego, my attachment—am not getting satisfaction from you, therefore I hate you. What a joke! All the difficulties in inter-personal relationships come from not having bodhicitta, from not having changed our minds.
So, you see, just meditating is not enough. If that Kadampa geshe saw you sitting in meditation he'd say, 'What are you doing? Wouldn't it be better if you practiced dharma?' Circumambulating isn't dharma, prostrating isn't dharma, meditating isn't dharma. My goodness, what is dharma, then? This is what happened to the man in the story. He couldn't think of anything else to do. Well, the best dharma practice, the most perfect, most substantial, is without doubt the practice of bodhicitta.
You can prove scientifically that bodhicitta is the best practice to do. Our self-cherishing thought is the root of all human problems. It makes our lives difficult and miserable. The solution to self-cherishing, its antidote, is the mind that is its complete opposite—bodhicitta. The self-cherishing mind is worried about only me, me—the self-existent I. Bodhicitta substitutes others for self.
It creates space in your mind. Then even if your dearest friend forgets to give you a Christmas present, you don't mind. "Ah, well. This year she didn't give me my chocolate. It doesn't matter." Anyway, your human relationships are not for chocolate, not for sensory pleasures. Something much deeper can come from our being together, working together.
"With bodhicitta you become so precious—like gold, like diamonds. You become the most perfect object in the world, beyond compare with any material things."
If you want to be really, really happy, it isn't enough just to space out in meditation. Many people who have spent years alone in meditation have finished up the worse for it. Coming back into society, they have freaked out. They haven't been able to take contact with other people again, because the peaceful environment they created was an artificial condition, still a relative phenomenon without solidity. With bodhicitta, no matter where you go, you will never freak out. The more you are involved with people the more pleasure you get. People become the resource of your pleasure. You are living for people. Even though some still try to take advantage of you, you understand: 'Well, in the past I took advantage of them many times too.' So it doesn't bother you.
Thus bodhicitta is the most perfect way to practice dharma, especially in our twentieth-century Western society. It is very, very worthwhile. With the foundation of bodhicitta you will definitely grow.
If you take a proper look deep into your heart you will see that one of the main causes of your dissatisfaction is the fact that you are not helping others as best you can. When you realize this you'll be able to say to yourself, 'I must develop myself so that I can help others satisfactorily. By improving myself I can definitely help.' Thus you have more strength and energy to meditate, to keep pure morality and do other good things. You have energy, 'Because I want to help others.' That is why Lama Tsongkhapa said that bodhicitta is the foundation of all enlightened realizations.
Also, bodhicitta energy is alchemical. It transforms all your ordinary actions of body, speech and mind—your entire life into positivity and benefit for others, like iron transmuted into gold. I think this is definitely true. You can see, it's not difficult. For example look at other people's faces. Some people, no matter what problems and suffering they are enduring, when they go out they always try to appear happy and show a positive aspect to others. Have you noticed this or not? But other people always go about miserable, and angry. What do you think about that? I honestly think that it indicates a fundamental difference in the way these two kinds of people think. Human beings are actually very simple. Some are a disaster within and it shows on their faces and makes those whom they meet feel sick. Others, even though they are suffering intensely, always put on a brave face because they are considerate of the way others feel.
I believe this is very important. What's the use of putting out a miserable vibration? Just because you feel miserable, why make others unhappy too? It doesn't help. You should try to control your emotions, speak evenly and so forth. Sometimes when people are suffering they close off from others, but you can still feel their miserable vibration. This doesn't help—others with even momentary happiness forget about leading them to enlightenment. To help the people around you, you have to maintain a happy, peaceful vibration. This is very practical, very worthwhile. Sometimes we talk too much about enlightenment and things like that. We have a long way to go to such realizations. Forget about enlightenment, I don't care about buddhahood—just be practical. If you can't help others, at least don't give them any harm, stay neutral.
Anyway, what I'm supposed to be telling you here is that bodhicitta is like atomic energy to transform your mind. This is absolutely, scientifically true, and not something that you have to believe with blind religious faith. Everybody nowadays is afraid of nuclear war, but if we all had bodhicitta, wouldn't we all be completely secure? Of course we would. With bodhicitta you control all desire to defeat or kill others. And, as Lama Je Tsongkhapa said, when you have bodhicitta all the good things in life are magnetically attracted to you and pour down upon you like rain. At present all we attract is misfortune because all we have is the self-cherishing thought. But with bodhicitta we'll attract good friends, good food, good everything.
As His Holiness the Dalai Lama said recently, if you're going to be selfish, do it on a grand scale; wide selfishness is better than narrow! What did His Holiness mean'! He was saying that, in a way, bodhicitta is like a huge selfish attitude because when you dedicate yourself to others with loving kindness you get a lot more pleasure than you would otherwise. With our present, usual selfish attitude we experience very little pleasure, and what we have is easily lost. With 'great selfishness' you help others and you help yourself; with small it's always 'me, me, me and it is easy to lose everything.
Remember, Atisha had over 150 teachers? He respected them all, but when he heard the name of one—Lama Dharmarakshita—he would come out in goose-bumps. He explained this by saying, 'I received many teachings from many, many great gurus, but for me, Lama Dharmarakshita, who gave me the bodhicitta ordination and teachings on the method and wisdom of bodhicitta and the six paramitas, was the most helpful for my life'. This is very true. Sometimes techniques of deity meditation are extremely difficult, but bodhicitta meditation is so simple, so incredibly profound and real. That's why Atisha would shake when he heard the name of his main teacher of bodhicitta.
The main point, then, is that when you contact Buddhadharma you should conquer the mad elephant of your self-cherishing mind. If the dharma you hear helps you diminish your self-cherishing even a little, it has been worthwhile. But if the teachings you have taken have had no effect on your selfishness, then from the Mahayana point of view, even if you can talk intellectually on the entire lam-rim, they have not been must use at all.
Do you recall the story of Shantideva and how people used to put him down? They used to call him Du-she-sum-pa, which means one who knows how to do only three things: eating, sleeping and excreting. This was a very bad thing to call someone, especially a monk. But that's all that people could see him doing. However, he had bodhicitta, so whatever he did, even ordinary things, was of greatest benefit to others. Lying down, peacefully, he would meditate with great concern for the welfare of all living beings, and many times, out of compassion, he would cry for them. Westerners need that kind of practice. Fundamentally we are lazy. Well, maybe not lazy, but when we finish work we are tired and don't have much energy left. So, when you come home from work, lie down comfortably and meditate on bodhicitta. This is most worthwhile. Much better than rushing in speedily, throwing down a coffee and dropping onto your meditation cushion to try to meditate. It doesn't work that way; your nervous system needs time and space. You can't be rushing through traffic one minute and sitting quietly meditating the next. Everything takes time and space. It is much better to r have a quiet, blissful cup of coffee, And don't pressure yourself either; that too is very bad. Don't punish yourself when you are too tired to meditate: 'I should be meditating; I am very bad.' You destroy yourself like this. Be wise. Treat yourself, your mind, sympathetically, with loving kindness. If you are gentle with yourself you will become gentle with others so don't push. Pushing doesn't work for me, that's why I tell others not to force themselves. We are dealing with the mind, not rocks and concrete; it is something organic.
"In a way, bodhicitta is like a huge selfish attitude because when you dedicate yourself to others with loving kindness you get a lot more pleasure than you would otherwise."
The Western environment offers lots of suffering conditions that act as causes for our actualizing bodhicitta, so life there can be very worthwhile. For example, it is much better to subdue an adversary with bodhicitta than with a knife or gun. When attacked, you can practice loving kindness. We could also do this in the monasteries of Tibet, where there were often horrible monks. Don't think that Tibet was full of only holy people—we had unbelievably wild monks there that nobody in authority could subdue! If you would try to control them wrathfully they would get only more aggressive. But arya bodhisattva monks, people who had completely given themselves up for others, would treat them with loving kindness, and the wild monks would calm down completely. They would feel, 'This man loves me; he has great compassion. He has given up everything for others and has nothing to lose.' In that way aggressive people would be subdued, without authority but with bodhicitta. There are many stories about this kind of thing, but I'm not going to tell them now. Perhaps you think they're funny, but it's true—you can conquer your enemies, both internal and external, with loving kindness and bodhicitta. It is most worthwhile and there's no contradiction bodhicitta is the totally comfortable path to liberation and enlightenment.
In his text Lama Choepa, the Panchen Lama says, 'Self-cherishing is the cause of all misery and dissatisfaction, and holding all mother sentient beings dearer than oneself is the foundation of all realizations and knowledge. Therefore bless me to change self-cherishing into concern for all others.' This is not some deep philosophical theory but a very simple statement. You know from your own life's experiences without needing a Tibetan text's explanations that your self-cherishing thought is the cause of all your confusion and frustration. This evolution of suffering is found not only in Tibetan culture but in yours as well.
And the Panchen Lama goes on to say that we should look at what the Buddha did. He gave up his self-attachment and attained all the sublime realizations. But look at us we are obsessed with 'me, me, me' and have realized nothing but unending misery. This is very clear isn't it? Therefore you should know clean clear how this works. Get rid of the false concept of self-cherishing and you'll be free of all misery and dissatisfaction. Concern yourself for the welfare of all others and wish for them to attain the highest realizations such as bodhicitta and you'll find all happiness and satisfaction.
"Bodhicitta is the most perfect way to practise Dharma, especially in our twentieth century Western society. It is very, very worthwhile. With the foundation of bodhicitta you will definitely grow."
You people are young, intelligent and not satisfied with what you have in your own countries. That's why you are seeking further afield. And now you have found that most worthwhile of all things, bodhicitta.
But it is not an easy thing. Easy things bore you quickly. It is quite difficult, but there's no way you'll get bored practicing it. People need to be most intelligent to actualize bodhicitta, some, though, have no room for it. 'Forget about yourself and have a little concern for others?' they'll ask. 'That's not my culture.' It is very difficult to change holding yourself dear into holding others dear instead—the most difficult task you can undertake. But it is the most worthwhile and brings the greatest satisfaction.
After practicing some meditations, such as impermanence and death, for a month you'll say, 'I'm tired of that meditation.' But you'll never get tired of meditating on bodhicitta. It is so deep; a universal meditation. You'll never get tired of bodhicitta.
You have heard of many deities that you can meditate on, many deities to be initiated into - Chenrezig and the rest. What are they all for? I'll tell you—for gaining bodhicitta. As a matter of fact, all tantric meditations are for the development of strong bodhicitta. That is the purpose of your consciousness manifesting as a being with 1000 arms so that vou can lend a hand to a thousand suffering beings. If you don't like to manifest yourself this way you can relate the meditation to your own culture and see yourself as Jesus. Avalokiteshvara and Jesus are the same: completely selfless and completely devoted to serving others.
Remember what happened the first time that Avalokiteshvara took the bodhisattva ordination? He vowed to guide all universal living beings to enlightenment from behind, like a shepherd.'I do not want to realize enlightenment until first I have led all mother sentient beings there first. That will be my satisfaction.' He worked for years and years, leading thousands of beings to enlightenment, but when he checked to see what was happening he found there were still countless more. So again he worked for years and years and again when he checked there were still so many left, and this cycle was repeated until finally he was fed up and thought to himself, 'For aeons and aeons I have struggled to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment but there are still so many left. I think it is impossible to fulfil my vow.' And because of the intensity of his emotion his head split into eleven pieces. Then Amitabha Buddha came and offered to help, and blessed him to be successful.
So I'm sure some of you people can be like Chenrezig. The main thing is to have strong motivation. Even if it comes strongly only once, it is extremely powerful. It is very rare to have this kind of thought. A mere flash is so worthwhile; to have it for a minute for a day..
By Dr. Nicholas Ribush at Pomaia, Italy 1995 (Last Updated Apr 8, 2010)
Written for Kung-fu Magazine, October 2000
It was 1972 and I was traipsing along South-East Asia’s hippie trail having too much fun when, in Thailand, I stumbled into Buddhism. I was an Australian physician who for various reasons had taken a four-year break from medicine to travel the world looking for I’m not sure what, but it certainly wasn’t anything spiritual. Nevertheless, in Thailand I encountered some of the external manifestations of Buddhism, such as temples and monks begging daily for alms, so as a dutiful tourist, I decided to read up on the culture.
The book I happened to pick up was a Penguin paperback called, simply, Buddhism, written by an English high court justice named Christmas Humphries. This was by no means a profound tome and I wouldn’t even recommend it to anyone today, but some of the things I read stirred my heart in the strangest way and I knew I had to look into Buddhism more deeply. One thing that the author stressed was the importance of meditation, and I made a mental note to find out more about this later.
Traveling on through Laos, Burma and India, a couple of months later I found myself in Kathmandu, Nepal, where a Brazilian acquaintance from the trail told me about a one-month meditation course given by a couple of Tibetan lamas that was about to begin at nearby Kopan Monastery. I signed up. Thus began the rest of my life.
The main teacher was a young monk in his twenties, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the incarnation of a famous yogi who had meditated for many years in the high Himalayas of Nepal, not far from Mount Everest and Tibet. His guru, Lama Yeshe, a great master who has played a major role in the transmission of Buddhism to the West, also taught. Here’s a bit of what I learned.
The main thing studied in Buddhism is the mind, but not the mind in general so much as one’s own mind. Actually, I found the learning process extremely scientific and not particularly at odds with my medical training. The teacher would lay out the principles of Buddhist philosophy and psychology and we would then think about them, subject them to critical analysis, and meditate on them, using these teachings as a mirror for our own mind. Day in and day out for thirty days we got up early, meditated, listened to teachings, meditated, discussed, listened to more teachings, meditated and went to bed. By the end, while still not accepting everything I’d heard, I knew I had to stay to find out more.
I found out that the mind and the body are interrelated but completely different in nature. The body is physical, made of atoms; it has shape and color. The mind is formless, clear light in nature, and has the ability to perceive objects; there’s no way it can come from the brain. The body starts at conception; the mind is beginningless. At conception, the consciousness, which comes from the previous life, enters the fertilized egg. Each individual’s previous lives are infinite in number and it is one’s own discrete stream of consciousness that passes through them all. Thus, our present mind is the result of everything we have ever been and done, and our future mind and lives depend upon what we do today. This is the same for all of us.
The good news is that all sentient beings have the potential to reach enlightenment, the highest possible state of mind, everlasting, blissful happiness, because we all have clear light nature of mind. Enlightenment is what the Buddha himself attained way back in India more than 2,500 years ago, what he shared with his disciples, and what has been taught by a succession of Indian, Tibetan and other masters in an unbroken lineage going back to the historical Buddha himself.
A sentient being is a being whose mind is ignorant; a buddha is a being who was once a sentient being but became enlightened by totally purifying his or her mind of ignorance and fully imbuing it with the qualities of compassion and wisdom. Buddhist meditation teaches us to cleanse our own minds of ignorance and the other delusions that spring from it, such as attachment, jealousy, pride and hatred - which obscure our mind’s clear light nature and are the actual cause of all the suffering we experience - and to develop desirable attributes such as love, compassion, tranquility, concentration and divine intelligence, which are the cause of all happiness.
Generally speaking, Buddhist meditation is of two types - analytical and concentrative. In analytical meditation, we use our powers of logical reasoning to examine the teachings to determine for ourselves whether or not they are true, to eradicate doubt, and to come to a clear and unshakable conclusion about the way in which things exist. In concentrative meditation we learn to focus our mind single-pointedly on a mental object until our mind can rest effortlessly on that object for hours or even days at a time. Although they are quite different in nature, these two types of meditation assist and support each other. The better we can analyze, the greater our conviction for practicing concentration and trying to overcome the obstacles to success; the better our concentration, the stronger our powers of logical deduction and the clearer the conclusions we reach.
So, what’s the point of all this? Why make all this effort? Well, we all want to be happy and none of us wants to suffer or experience any kind of problem, but obviously, our wishes alone are not enough to bring all this about. We rarely find the happiness we desire and when we do, it doesn’t last and usually isn’t as good as we’d hoped it would be. Furthermore, we’re constantly experiencing one problem after another - running into undesirable situations, not finding what we want or losing what we have, not to mention getting sick, aging and, at the end of it all, dying. To understand Buddhism’s explanation of why our lives are like this and what we can do to improve them, we need to understand the Buddhist world view.
As I mentioned before, there are two kinds of being with mind - sentient beings, whose minds are ignorant, and enlightened beings, from whose minds every last trace of ignorance has been eradicated. Sentient beings are also of two types, those in cyclic existence (Skt. samsara) and those free of it. Within cyclic existence, there are six realms, three lower - the animal, hungry ghost and hell realms - and three upper - the human, demigod and god realms. Most sentient beings have been in cyclic existence, dying in one realm and being reborn in another, since beginningless time. Beyond this wheel of life, there are two states of existence - individual liberation and the full enlightenment of buddhahood. The point of Tibetan Buddhist meditation, the ultimate point of all Buddhism, in fact, is for all sentient beings to attain enlightenment. But enlightenment can be attained only through individual effort; we have to do it for ourselves. God or Buddha cannot do it for us. The way to enlightenment is to follow the path that leads to it.
The first thing to understand is that it all begins with motivation. Whether an action becomes positive karma, the cause of happiness, or negative karma, the cause of suffering, depends on why it is done. All actions done with attachment to the happiness in this life alone, actions done simply for the comfort of this life, are negative. The karmic imprints such actions leave on the consciousness eventually ripen into an experience of suffering. Actions done with the motivation of experiencing happiness in a future life, actions done with detachment from this life, are positive. The imprints they leave ripen into happiness.
There are three kinds of positive action, three levels of positive motivation. The first is that seeking happiness in a future life within cyclic existence - rebirth in the upper realms or ordinary, temporary samsaric happiness of one kind or another. The second is seeking complete liberation from cyclic existence for oneself alone. The third is seeking enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, understanding that in the final analysis, all happiness comes from other sentient beings and that it is one’s individual responsibility to lead them all to the highest happiness of enlightenment. Actions done with any of these three levels of motivation plant the seeds of harmonious results.
Tibetan Buddhist meditation always stresses the importance of the third, or highest, level of motivation, which is known by its Sanskrit name, bodhicitta. Everything we do should be motivated by the supreme altruism of wanting to see all sentient beings enlightened. If it is, we ourselves automatically also experience good results. This paradox - if you want to experience the greatest happiness, forget about yourself and devote yourself solely to the happiness of others - is what the His Holiness the Dalai Lama calls “wise selfishness.” Since we’re going to be selfish, we might as well be smart about it.
Thus, the benefit of our actions is not determined by the action itself but by our motivation for doing it. If, for example, we meditate for selfish reasons or for some mundane goal such as tranquility now, even though it might look as though we’re doing something spiritual, in fact, because of the worldly motivation behind it, that action will leave a negative imprint on our mind and is therefore the cause of suffering. Thus, Tibetan Buddhism teaches us to do everything with compassion, thinking about the suffering of others and wanting to alleviate it. In this way, too, even everyday actions such as sleeping, eating and working can be transformed into the cause of enlightenment.
Analytical meditation is usually practiced on teachings from the graduated path to enlightenment. This path structure is another feature of Tibetan Buddhism, wherein all the teachings of the Buddha have been arranged in a logical, step-wise order that makes them easy to understand and practice. When I saw the steps of the path laid out, like a mental road map to spiritual perfection, I though, “Now I’ve witnessed a miracle.” To think that every step on the way to developing our minds to their fullest potential has been so clearly explained and that by generating these realizations in our minds we can become, essentially, one with God, was mind-blowing. I don’t have room to outline this path here, but I would encourage those who are interested in these teachings to look more deeply into them. You will discover how to make life meaningful and fulfill the purpose of having been born human this one precious time.
Concentrative meditation usually starts with learning to focus on the breath. This is an important technique, akin to stretching before physical exercise. The ideal, recommended meditation posture has seven features:
This is all we have space for here, but if you are interested in looking into this subject further, please read How to Meditate, by Kathleen McDonald (Wisdom Publications, 1984). The best book detailing the path to enlightenment is Pabongka Rinpoche’sLiberation in the Palm of Your Hand (Wisdom, 1991). These two books are available from Wisdom at (800) 272-4050 orwww.wisdompubs.org. Also recommended is Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat (Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2000).
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You do one thing perfectly and you attain everything - from the Big Love blog of The Life and Teachings of Lama Yeshe
From 1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:
Geshe Jampa Tegchok
Seated on a teaching throne at the end of the beautiful old chapel with its immensely high ceilings and stained glass windows, Geshe Tegchok gave his first talk at Manjushri Institute while wearing the oddest square-lensed blue spectacles. Later, Lama Zopa Rinpoche conferred a Chenrezig empowerment, followed by Lama Yeshe’s Tara Cittamani empowerment and six days of commentary by Lama. This was held in what had been the billiard room of the old Priory. Peter Kedge and Connie Miller taped everything. Of the 120 people attending that commentary, 105 stayed on for the retreat.
Lama Yeshe taught twice a day, and although the text lay open before him he did not teach directly from it. There are several different types of commentaries that can be given on a meditative practice. Traditionally, the first teaching explains the meaning of each verse, line and word. Only later will a teacher offer an experiential teaching on the practice. Contrary to tradition, Lama’s teachings were almost always experiential in nature.
Lama Yeshe’s descriptions of Tara were psychological and accessible, rather than textual. He presented Tara as a vehicle through which to discover one’s own intuitive knowledge and wisdom. “Men sometimes need contact with female energy, otherwise, they go crazy!” Lama explained. His language bridged the worlds between traditional orthodoxy and modern desire. Tantra became exciting and available as Lama Yeshe brought it to life.
Every day Jon Landaw led a review of the teachings. He had become an invaluable assistant, though Lama still teased him mercilessly, calling him, “My Jewish genius!”
From Lama Yeshe’s 1979 Tara Cittamani teachings:
Sometimes Dharma becomes a complete hassle. Let’s say you have promised to do this sadhana daily, you have commitment. But whenever you see Cittamani Tara you feel sick. “Oh, it’s already midnight!” And you are disaster. But if you can do it in two minutes, that’s okay. So instead of having guilt feelings, just go and do it. Sometimes Westerners take too many commitments and don’t know how to do them. In other words, they are lost again, lost in spiritual materialism. You don’t know what to do. Chenrezig and Tara and all these deities and you don’t know what on earth it means and you don’t understand anymore.
Instead of becoming helpful for you, Dharma becomes your enemy. Dharma becomes cause for neurosis and guilt. I think that is useless.
In each sadhana you’ll find a refuge prayer, maybe three times, five or six bodhicitta prayers, and some kind of Vajrasattva practice. One good bodhicitta meditation is enough. Put your emphasis on one thing and go quickly over the others. Do this rather than allowing your practice to become a disaster.
Atisha once said, “Tibetan people devote themselves to a hundred deities and don’t attain one, whereas Indian people devote themselves to one deity and attain a hundred.” I think Atisha is reasonable and correct. The Indian custom is much better than the Tibetan. That’s garbage. You do one thing perfectly and you attain everything.
Tara is a perfect example. If you practice every day and do retreat for months, years—maybe you do only Tara retreat for fifty years—then in fifty years, by attaining the realization of Tara, you can do anything. But right now, you are ambitious for other things because you don’t have anything. And the same thing happens with the Dharma. Let’s say that somebody is giving a really high teaching. “Wow! I want to take this one—this one is really powerful!” When you say this you are really on a power trip. You want power. If you are not realistic, then this practice is useless. I’m sorry; I have no room for this. Such a student will never have any satisfaction no matter how many teachings he receives, because he won’t have any practical sadhana within himself.
By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche (Archive # 119, Last Updated Aug 30, 2010)
Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching on anger at the 14th Kopan Course in 1981. This is an edited excerpt from Lecture 15, Section Four of the course. Click here to read more.
The real bravery, the real hero is the person who can fight anger, and can overwhelm and climb over anger. The real hero is the person who can face the most difficult and dangerous enemy—the inner enemy.
One person’s anger can kill sixty million people. That is how dangerous anger is—it is much more dangerous than an atomic bomb. There is no comparison between one person’s anger and an atomic bomb. Anger is much more harmful than an atomic bomb.
The danger of an atomic bomb is that it harms others and it can destroy the whole earth—more than half of the world—millions and millions of human beings and creatures. There are so many creatures—uncountable numbers in the water, under the ground, in the bushes and in the sky. There are so many, it is unbelievable. All this gets destroyed—not only human beings, but also creatures and so many buildings, bridges and cities. All these things that thousands and thousands of people for many years planned and spent so much money on, and worked so hard in order to collect the money to give to the workers—all these enjoyments, all the rich and comfortable apartments and the huge buildings, took so much time and effort. People put so much effort into building all this and in just one minute or one hour, it all gets destroyed. In so many of these cities, it is unbelievable how much effort people put into these things. They suffered so much to construct all this, then in one day or in one hour, it is all completely destroyed.
The danger of the atomic bomb comes from anger. If there is patience and no anger, this destruction would not happen. Even without talking about the narak realms, anger produces negative karma. Even without talking about karma, we can easily see how anger is so harmful and so dangerous. So then, if we talk about karma, it is unbelievable—when we think about the suffering result of that, there is no need to talk much. Today’s anger arises towards another sentient being, and this anger causes harm and suffering from life to life. The suffering result is experienced from life to life for a long time. Particularly if we think about karma creating a result that is similar to the cause, we understand. Because of the habit of getting angry in this life, we see that if we do not cease it in this life, again the habit comes out in the next life and anger arises, and so it goes on and on like this.
As it is explained in the Bodhicaryavatara by Shantideva, even if all the devas, the worldly gods, human beings and all sentient beings become our enemy, they could not lead us to the fire of the narak realms. Even if all sentient beings become our enemy and become aggressive toward us, they could not lead us into the fire of the narak realms. But if we meet the inner enemy, the unsubdued mind, this powerful enemy destroys whatever we need and it turns even great mountains into dust. Besides the fragile bodies of other sentient beings, it destroys even very solid, concrete mountains, and makes them non-existent.
So the real hero, the real bravery, is being able to face, fight and defeat the powerful, great inner enemies, such as anger, attachment and the unsubdued minds. We should face whatever is stronger in our mind—jealousy, pride or anger. If we can defeat this true enemy, the inner enemy, we are the real hero and that is real bravery.
All those leaders who have many ranks and medals due to killing—who were in a war and killed many people, and get extra colors and different materials—we think of them as brave. Especially when there is a scar somewhere on their hands or bodies where the bullet went through, we recognize them as so precious, and think of them as very important. We think of them as going down in history, with a long story, and we believe they are very important, brave and competent.
Similarly, we believe that someone who climbed a rocky mountain or a snow mountain is a brave and competent person. However, this is wrong. This person is not a real hero and it is not real bravery or real competency. Someone who is able to defeat the delusions and accomplish temporal or ultimate happiness is the real hero. The real bravery and the real hero is someone who is able to face the unsubdued mind of anger and attachment.
The real hero is the person who defeats the delusions and accumulates virtue in daily life. The real bravery is living in the precepts, because this means we have faced the delusions, the inner enemy. Living in the precepts is making war with the delusions, and a person who lives in the precepts is the real army, the inner army. That is a worthwhile army—an army that will accomplish nirvana and the omniscient mind.
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Lama Zopa Rinpoche says: "This text is very precious; it brings peace and happiness and is very powerful to stop violence. It gives incredible protection to the country from violence etc. By hearing this text, one’s karma gets purified."
"This text increases success and, especially for leaders like kings or presidents, brings success in guiding in virtue, the path to happiness. If anyone has problems-if one is dying or dead; if the devas have turned against one and nothing is working; if, merely by expressing oneself, one’s friends, loved ones, husband, wife, family members and even servants get angry with one; if one’s wealth declines or if one has harm from black magic or spirits, with bad dreams or fearful things happening-then one should wash, put on clean clothes and with a peaceful mind listen to the transmission of this text. Then all will be pacified. Anyone who hears it creates much merit and is highly admired by the buddhas.
In whichever country this is taught, the whole country benefits. The king of that country doesn’t get attacked and disease is eliminated, everyone is happy and the country becomes harmonious; there are no quarrels. The king gives religious freedom and is always protected by the devas. It is especially good to be read in places where there is a lot of fighting. As well, there is prosperity and rains come at the right time.
Anyone who keeps, memorizes or contributes to this text exceeds the eight worldly beings and all their wishes get fulfilled. Buddha told the four guardians to make offerings and serve this text, and always protect the people who memorize or even just read it. The four guardians acknowledged they would protect those who read it and would help and fulfill all their wishes.
Memorizing or making offerings to this text is like making inconceivable offerings to Buddha. Enlightenment will never be reversed within anyone in whose ear these holy words are spoken; the life will always be directed toward enlightenment and one will never fall back. There is no question if you memorize the text. The deva, Hamachiwa Pala, told Buddha that she will protect the bhikshu who recites this text and he will receive all that is needed: property, a stable mind and so forth. Whoever even tries to read or understand this text will experience the comfort and happiness of devas and humans for 100 billion eons; fame and perfect crops; and will become a buddha. The earth goddess definitely will help even if only one chapter or one bodhisattva’s name is mentioned; she will protect those sentient beings who even read and try to understand one verse (four words), and will fulfill their wishes. Those sentient beings who hear only one verse will never go to the lower realms. The Buddha told the earth goddess that even if a person hears only one verse, they will be born in the deva realm. Further, the Buddha told the earth goddess the non-virtuous karma of the person who hears even one verse will be eliminated and they will achieve enlightenment.’