Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive | The Archive of the FPMT

Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Emotions : Depression

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche at various locations (Last Updated May 6, 2013)

Advice on Depression

Depressed and Unsure Where to Live
A student, who was depressed, asked Rinpoche for advice about where she should live.

Dear Abbie,
A billion, zillion, trillion times, thank you from my heart for your sincere service, gold-leafing and sanding the buddhas. Thank you very, very, very much.

If you are depressed, the best place to live is the hells. You will not be depressed there, so you can move there and then come back to Kopan and do gold-leafing. While you are in the hells, teach Dharma to other beings; make a Dharma center and teach Dharma to the hell beings who are there.

To stay in Kopan is good; Denmark is not good; Singapore is quite good. See you soon.

Much love and prayer...

Daughter with Depression
A student’s 13-year-old daughter had been struggling with depression for many months. Western doctors were trying various medications and she was also seeing therapists. The student asked Rinpoche what obstacles she was facing and if he could recommend any prayers or pujas on her behalf.

My very dear Richard,
Your daughter should drink Maratika water a few times a day. She should drink it one time then have a break, then drink more, then have a break. So she should drink like this throughout the day for a few days, until the water is finished.

Then, if possible she should take the eight Mahayana precepts a few times, but first she has to receive the lineage of the precepts from someone and that person she has to regard as guru. Once she has the lineage, she can take the precepts by herself. Taking the eight Mahayana precepts creates unbelievable merit and will help to control her suffering, which is the result of past negative karma, so taking the precepts purifies that negative karma.

Also, she should recite Black Manjushri mantra maybe 15 times a day. It’s Manjushri but black. As she recites the mantra, Manjushri sends beams to her that purify all her gross and subtle negative karma and she receives all the realizations that Manjushri has: guru devotion, renunciation, bodhicitta, right view, two stages of tantra and she thinks that she has received enlightenment. Every day, 15 times, make strong prayer to meet with Black Manjushri.

Then if she has understanding, a capable mind, if she can do tong-len it’s the best practice. So many times skies of merits are collected; it’s unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable purification. You actually want sentient beings’ sufferings and the cause of sufferings; you want to experience everything, but by that power, the disease that you have can get recovered. So if she wants to practice tong-len, then we can send the information.

Please pass this message to her: “I am very sorry to hear that you have been so depressed, but I will pray for you to recover and have a very healthy life and a meaningful life and to live your life as much as possible with bodhicitta”.

With much love and prayers...

Practices for Depression
Rinpoche gave the following advice to an older student who was depressed and felt she kept making the same mistakes.

Dear Theresa,
It is good to read lam-rim books, not heavy philosophy, and not just any Dharma book, but lam-rim books, commentaries on guru yoga, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, etc. These leave positive imprints on your mind. Read Dharma books, think about them, and let your mind reflect on them, so they leave positive imprints.

Don’t think only of yourself and your problems. If you are thinking this way, then you need to read more Dharma books and also do more practice, chant mantras, etc. Don’t think “I am the cause of all the problems” or even that your problems are so big. Instead, do Chenrezig practice, chant mantras, do guru yoga practice, keep reciting mantras, do purification practices, and read lam-rim books, not many other Dharma books, and not just any books, but good, valid Dharma books. Keep reading and keep doing your practice.

Don’t only think of your problems or that your problems are the cause. That just makes it worse and worse, so don’t think that way. Change the object of your mind.

Keep doing mantra recitation of OM MANI PADME HUM. Try to do one or two million recitations or more, with bodhicitta meditation.

Also, do Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga with meditation and read valid Dharma books.

Keep your mind in peace, then you will have less problems. Life is short, so keep your mind peaceful and make your life meaningful, then people around you will also have more peace. If you are happy then other people will be happy. Try like this.

Depressed Student
An Iranian student who was very depressed wrote to Rinpoche asking for advice.

My most dear Farnoosh,
I am very happy you have called. I had been checking whether you had rung because I was concerned about you. I often think that you are a great human being, a beautiful human being. There are some very kind people in Iran, even though others are very heavy.

With big love and prayers...

Please enjoy this bird and cards, mala and all the rest. Thank you.  Please read the Arya Sanghata Sutra and the Golden Light Sutra.

Advice
Rinpoche gave the following advice to a student who was suffering with depression.
My very dear Janet,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I'm sorry for the long delay in replying.

Please read and study well the various advice that I have given for depression, especially the advice I gave to a student who had very bad depression. The thing that she found helped the most was doing tong-len practice, bodhicitta practice—this means the path to enlightenment, and the wish to liberate suffering beings and to enlighten all suffering beings. That is the greatest achievement in life, making the happiest life.

With much love and prayers...

A Daughter's Depression
Rinpoche gave the following advice to a student whose daughter has depression.

Dear Helena,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I thought I heard your life had changed. It seems now you have become Vajradhara, with the father and mother together. I am not sure whether the Vajradhara is permanent or impermanent, but I don't have the qualities.

I suggest that your daughter practices very short Vajrasattva purification with the remedy of the four powers. Depression comes from past negative karma. In the Wheel of Sharp Weapons degenerating samaya is one explanation and another explanation from the Kangyur is that experiencing depression at night, when you can't explain the reasons for it, means it comes from the past negative karma of sexual misconduct. It is also there when the person wakes up in the morning. Anyway, she needs some purification. If she is not Buddhist she can do this as a psychological practice, as a therapy. She can look at it that way.

Also, practice Ganapati when she feels unhappy and depressed, even if she has reasons for her depression. It can fill the heart with happiness. Maybe you can find the six-arm Ganapati, in color, in an art book, maybe at the Dharma center. Otherwise, I can send you one. I will send you the mantra, many short ones, from a consecration text, a long one. When you fill statues with the mantras, first you put the nine deities in, then Ganapati, then the eight auspicious symbols and the double vajra. This is the meditation and mantra that you use to bless. The text has the different mantras for blessing the life trees, substances, and so forth. If she wants to practice I can send the visualization and mantra. This is the first idea of what can help.

Also, please check the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive website for advice on depression [this page]. She should read and study the advice on depression, and do whatever she finds most effective. First, to study is very important. She can study, and you can explain and help her.

She can also recite four malas each day of the following mantra for her depression:

The Mantra Eliminating the Harsh Pain of the Three Grounds:
OM HE HE SU SVAHA / OM KU KE KA TA SVAHA / OM SHU HE KA SHA SVAHA

With much love and prayer...

A Daughter's Depression 2
Two students asked what they could do for their daughter, who has severe depression. They also asked about writing mantras on balloons that they could then release into the air.

My very dear Jean and Peter,
Thank you very much for your kind letter.

Regarding your questions about your daughter, you and Peter can recite the Sanghata Sutra for your daughter 21 times.

Regarding the mantras for balloons, just sending balloons up into the air and then they are blown away is not very beneficial. You must print mantras on the balloons, so that you can collect a lot of merit. By printing mantras on the balloons and writing praises for success, whatever you wish, it is the same as the function of prayer flags.

There is a monk at the Dharma center who can help you to write the mantras. It is better to have a stamp made, so that you don't need to ask other people to write them every time.

These are the mantras to put on the balloons:

Mani mantra (compassion Buddha)
Medicine Buddha mantra
Any of the Five Powerful Mantras

With much love and prayers...

Severe Depression
Rinpoche gave the following advice to a woman who had experienced severe depression for 22 years, despite medication. She asked Rinpoche to recommend some practices so that she would not have to experience depression again in future lives.

My dearest Lorraine,
How are you? I received your letter and read it well. It seems it is a problem not only for you but countless beings. I will check on this more, but it might help to cut down on sugar and sweets. Try this for three months and see if it changes. If the depression occurs only from time to time it will be difficult to tell, but if the depression comes quite often then it seems that reducing sugar and sweets for three months will help.

The best method is to use your depression. There are many meditations on thought transformation but the key thing is to use depression like a weapon, a bomb, against your self-cherishing thought. You performed non-virtuous actions in the past and depression is the result. The enemy, the self-cherishing thought, likes to harm you with depression. So, now you use the depression that the self-cherishing thought has given you in the same way—you hit back at the self-cherishing thought, which so far hasn’t allowed you to achieve enlightenment, not even liberation from samsara, or to have any realizations. It has only made you to suffer in beginningless rebirths up to now.

As long as the ego dwells in your heart, it will be the same; it will hook so many problems to you, especially obstacles to practicing Dharma. It won’t allow you to have any attainments in the future: liberation or enlightenment. It will continuously make you suffer torture in samsara, keeping you in samsaric problems.

When depression comes use it against the ego, the self-cherishing thought, which has given you the depression. Then rejoice, “How wonderful it is to have depression, in that it can destroy the ego.” Rather than the ego defeating you, you defeat the ego. Rejoice how it’s wonderful to have depression. It means you have succeeded in the prayers you made in the past to experience all the sufferings of other sentient beings, especially the important one, the depression of all sentient beings. Think, “I am experiencing this for all sentient beings who are experiencing depression now and who will experience it in the future.” By experiencing this for others, for countless sentient beings, depression becomes the path for you to achieve enlightenment. That means it becomes the path to enlighten all sentient beings and the cause of happiness for all sentient beings. So, this should be your top meditation, the best one.

Therefore, depression becomes like a wish-granting jewel, the most precious one, fulfilling your own wishes and those of all sentient beings for happiness: the hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, asuras, suras, and intermediate state beings. So, look at it as positive. Use depression to destroy the ego, and experience depression for all sentient beings. In both ways, you use depression to generate and develop bodhicitta. In this way, it makes your life more meaningful than not having depression. If you did not have depression, your life would be filled with distractions and you wouldn’t practice Dharma sincerely, experiencing suffering for all sentient beings. Your depression gives you the opportunity to do that all the time.

Each time you experience suffering for all sentient beings you collect vast amounts of merit and purify your negative karma. It brings you closer to enlightenment each time you think, “I’m experiencing this depression on behalf of all sentient beings.” Depression makes you recognize other sentient beings’ suffering. When depression comes think, “This is the depression of all sentient beings.” Experience it for them. This is the best purification practice for you. Doing this every day, as depression arises, can become like many years of Vajrasattva retreat. If you do Vajrasattva retreat with worldly concern, it doesn’t even become Dharma. It may be difficult to be on the path to enlightenment and the generation of bodhicitta could be artificial and shallow. But here, with your depression, you see how much other sentient beings are suffering with depression, so you generate compassion for all living beings. If you use your depression for bodhicitta practice, experiencing suffering for others, many eons of negative karma are purified. In this sense, you are unbelievably lucky to have depression, as it’s bringing you closer to enlightenment.

Tibetan medicine might also help. Take 37 Aids to Enlightenment pills, three each week, for seven weeks.

I haven’t found any other mantras or meditations yet that might help.

With much love and prayer...

Low self-esteem
Rinpoche gave the following advice to a student who asked what to do if he was feeling tired, depressed, with low self-esteem, and not good enough.

Think that the nature of your mind is clear light, Buddha nature. So, you can be free from all problems. The delusions, all the mistakes of the mind, are all temporary and can be ended. That’s why stains, all suffering – which comes from delusions – can be pacified. Buddha explained all the methods and the path to do that. By practicing that, you can definitely overcome them.

You have a good heart now and you can develop it and expand it for all sentient beings. Buddha was a bodhisattva, and cherished each and every sentient being, offering extensive benefits to them, and you can do the same. First, become the ordinary bodhisattva of the first seven bhumis and then the bodhisattva of the three higher pure bhumis, so you can think, “I can reach enlightenment, like Buddha. I can do that.”

Take all the opportunities in life. In particular, you have a precious human rebirth, have met the Buddha-Dharma, the great vehicle, tantra, and all the teachings. You have also met a most qualified virtuous friend, which is extremely rare in the universe. You have found one!

Think, “I’m unbelievably fortunate! I can do it, and I shall do it!”

Stopping Depression
Rinpoche gave the following advice to a young girl who wrote to him saying she was depressed and felt her life did not have much meaning.

My very dear Katie,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I am sorry for the long delay in replying.

If your depression comes without reason, just happens, at certain times of the day, morning or evening, and it’s not dependent on something, then you need to have a deeper perspective on it, like having a clear capacity to see beyond this life. Maybe it is something that you cannot remember, even with clairvoyance—which has different levels. With the highest level, an omniscient mind without any error, you can see directly all the past, present, and future. This comes from purifying in this life all the negative actions you have committed in the past.

For example, there is a story in the Buddha’s teachings of someone who felt depressed when night came and this was the result of sexual misconduct in a past life. It may not be the only cause, there may be others, and because they have not been purified in the past then there are the four suffering results:

1. The ripened aspect result (rebirth in the lower realms)
2. Experiencing the result similar to the cause
3. Creating the result similar to the cause
4. The possessed result, which is connected with the environment or place

The ripened aspect result—rebirth in the lower realms, means as a hell being, hungry ghost, or animal. Also, it can mean rebirth as a human, but where the environment is very harmful, with many insects, people trying to kill you, where you get sick a lot, etc.

Even depression that comes from reasons—such as your partner leaves you or gives you up, or somebody hurts you, or you lose your job or your business, whatever the reason, you can still transform depression into happiness. How? Because when you put a negative label on a situation, you label it bad, then it appears as bad. Actually, what you see is the label. So, you can see how it is all up to your mind. Something appears bad—then you see it as bad and you believe in that. You can see how the badness actually comes from your mind, when you label the situation as bad. Even if you experience suffering, if you can understand that this is the result of past negative karma, and your mind labels it as positive, then it actually appears as positive and pleasure. You see it as positive; you see it as a happy thing. So, whatever situation happens in life, whether it disturbs your mind or makes you happy, all of it totally depends on your mind, whether you look at it as good or bad—what label you put on the situation.

The secret of your life’s happiness, the key to being happy and to stop depression, to stop undesirable, unpleasant things, unhappiness and unpleasant appearances, sounds, etc. and to experience happiness, to feel good, to have pleasant appearances and sounds etc., all depends on your mind labeling things as positive. Suffering is the result of past negative karma, but if you look at your current situation as positive, as good, then it appears as a good, positive, pleasant feeling, instead of as an undesirable feeling.

Then, whatever problem one experiences, one can think about the benefit of problems and how they are beneficial for one’s life, to develop one’s mind in compassion, to develop loving kindness, patience, wisdom, and all the positive qualities for the path to liberation. By thinking in this positive way, immediately, in that second, it makes your life happy, peaceful, and brings you liberation forever from all the sufferings of the hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, sura beings, and asura beings. It stops the cycle of birth and death and all the suffering of old age, sickness, and all the stages inbetween of birth and decay.

Not only does it stop all suffering, but also one achieves peerless happiness, the cessation of all gross and subtle minds, and the completion of all the realizations. With that, one can have perfect understanding, perfect compassion, perfect power, and perfect wisdom. One is able to do perfect work spontaneously to liberate countless sentient beings from all sufferings and their causes, and to bring them to full enlightenment—the peerless happiness.

By thinking of the benefits of problems, one develops this precious quality, this most healthy, positive way of thinking, which brings happiness, stops you from harming yourself, and stops you from giving harm to your family and to all living beings. Thinking in this way benefits you, your family, and all living beings. It brings so many sentient beings not only temporary happiness but ultimate happiness, liberation from all sufferings and their causes, and brings them to full enlightenment. It brings so much joy and happiness into your life, your mind, and good physical health, so that you have a long life.

With this positive thought you are able make problems, obstacles, and undesirable things become so meaningful and beneficial. Thinking in this way brings you inner happiness and satisfaction. This wish-fulfilling thought is an incredibly precious gift that brings all the positive qualities of mind and all the realizations, inner happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

Even a billion dollars or all the wealth of this earth cannot buy this experience. But if you generate these peerless positive thoughts, then whatever problem happens—somebody gets angry at you, abuses you, something fails, your friend changes his mind and doesn’t like or love you any more—these situations become so precious, become wish-fulfilling, causing happiness. By having trained your mind in this practice, your mind is positive all the time. Then you are able to bring so much peace and happiness to the world, to your family, your neighbors, to your country, and to the whole world. Like this, your life is like the sun shining—one sun dispelling all darkness and giving all warmth and light to every corner of the world so that everyone can enjoy it. That is incredible! If you are able to think in this way, then there is no better life than this, this is the best life, the most satisfying life. If you think like this then it doesn’t matter when death comes because your mind is totally happy and satisfied, and when death comes it is no problem at all, you have no regrets, and you are so joyful and full of bliss.

It is very important, even if you are depressed for no reason, that you think that this is good, because this helps you to look for the cause of your depression. Of course, the causes are delusion, ignorance, and the self-cherishing thought, and in relation to those, anger and attachment arise. The action of these delusions is karma. So, this helps you to learn about your depression. It is very important to look for the cause, to know that depression comes from the self-cherishing thought, and then look for a method to completely eliminate this—that is the practice.

The way to eliminate the self-cherishing thought is with bodhicitta, by training the mind in happiness. This is most fulfilling and brings all temporary happiness and ultimate happiness to every living being, liberation from samsara and from all sufferings and their causes, and brings peace, happiness, and enlightenment. This fulfills all the wishes of so many sentient beings, every single hell being, hungry ghost, animal, human, sura being, asura being, and intermediate state being, fulfilling all their happiness and every single wish up to enlightenment.

The bodhicitta thought is letting go of the “I,” from which all sufferings come, and cherishing others, from where all happiness comes. All one’s past, present, and future happiness comes from cherishing others. This is the most precious thought. Training the mind in this completely illuminates the whole path explained by Buddha. The self-cherishing thought causes depression and all the problems, delusions, attachment, anger, and the root of all sufferings—ignorance—which is not knowing the ultimate nature of the “I” and the ultimate nature of aggregates.

Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, which are the fundamental teachings of Buddhism:

1) True suffering
2) True cause of suffering
3) True cessation of suffering
4) True path to end suffering

By actualizing the true path, one is able to cease the cause of suffering and liberate oneself from all sufferings—to achieve the true cessation of all sufferings and to achieve all happiness.

The Four Noble Truths include the whole path and the solution to end any suffering in samsara, not only depression, such as the suffering of birth and death and all the sufferings inbetween. The path to overcome all sufferings is by ceasing the cause of suffering. Understanding the logic that clearly explains what is suffering, and then discovering the cause of suffering, one comes to know how to cease suffering by looking for the method—this is called the true path. This path is possible to achieve because the Buddha has shown us how. Also, so many sentient beings have achieved the cessation of all suffering in the past and even now beings are still achieving this path. This is through the Buddha’s teachings.

The reason I am giving you this advice on thought transformation is so that your life can be happy. Another way to have happiness is to be kind. It is very important to practice kindness toward others every day, toward your family, everyone you meet, animals, etc. Whatever you do, with every small thing, try to practice kindness. This becomes a source of happiness—when you make others happy then that makes you happy. Please put effort into this. By being kind, in this life and future lives, everyone will be kind to you. Kindness to others looks simple but the results are huge.

Whenever good things happen to other people, for instance, someone finds a good job, a car, motorbike, house, a boyfriend, husband, has a good education, or is rich or beautiful, practice rejoicing in his or her happiness. Think how wonderful it is. Why? Because when you think like this, then you also have happiness. As we don’t want suffering and we want happiness, this is a very easy way to have happiness. Each time that you rejoice, you collect merit. By planting a small seed, a huge tree follows. Like this, rejoicing becomes the means for success. Also rejoicing, having a positive mind when you see others’ happiness and success, is medicine for the jealous mind. It is the jealous mind that harms us and makes us sick. Rejoicing is like medicine causing a positive, healthy, happy mind.

If you want to have success in your life, a very simple way is to do spiritual practice, Dharma practice. Practicing kindness to others every day immediately causes others to be happy. This helps you become kind in this life and in future lives. In this life, others help you more, and are kind to you more.

Also, each time you are kind to others, at that time there is no thought about your own happiness, instead you are thinking about others’ happiness more. When you are only thinking about your own happiness, thinking that is the most important thing, you are actually being dictated to by your ego.

Also, practicing tolerance every day is a source of peace and happiness, to always keep your life happy. Practicing forgiveness for those who have hurt you or harmed you is a very important way to cause your mind to be happy. This brings happiness to others, so it is very important for you, not just for the other person. These are very easy ways to collect merit.

So, please think about this and try to learn more Dharma, study more, and try to meditate. This is very, very important, not only for your own temporary happiness but for your ultimate happiness. Even more important is that you have the responsibility to free living beings from all suffering and its causes and bring them to peerless happiness. That is the meaning and purpose of your life.

I hope this is helpful for you and also for your mother.
Thank you very much.
With much love and prayers...

Dealing with Depression
A student came to see Rinpoche at Vajrapani Buddhist center in California, with depression problems. She had not seen a psychiatrist.  Rinpoche asked the student whether she was depressed regularly, every month or according to some cycle. She said it was very irregular and it came for a few days and then went. She had never seen a pattern, but it had been at a low level for the past year. She said she cried for no particular reason, without knowing why and she was angry with herself for that. She thought she just had to sit still at those times. Rinpoche’s response was as follows.

That is good! That is very good, otherwise you might waste your time and instead of being helped, there is more harm.

These days there is another kind of psychology, a new kind. Some of our students are studying this now, and it is like a bridge to the Dharma. This is very good, especially for non-Buddhists.

From other psychologists, there may be a lot of harm, danger to one’s life and a lot of negative thoughts get created. At first, you didn’t have negative thoughts toward a certain person, then by going to the psychologist, you come to blame that person, especially your parents. They become the root of your life’s problems. That is terrible. That makes you have a grudge against your parents for your whole life and that grudge makes your mind negative toward them. I don’t know what the parents’ solution would be, who they are going to blame. It’s very strange.

The new psychology is very close to Dharma and there is no harm created, nothing that makes your mind negative toward anybody. It doesn’t involve that. It is presented in a very skillful way.

Some depressions run like this: We go to sleep and the next morning when we get up, the depression is just there. At that moment, it is best to sit still, or just go to sleep. That is the best. If one can’t solve it with meditation, just go to bed. Go somewhere to rest. Otherwise, one gets upset, and then other people get upset. When you’re angry, bad thoughts can come. You have no control. So, the best thing is just to go somewhere to rest, drive to the beach or something.

In the case of depression due to some condition or situation, relationships with others or whatever, one can apply certain meditations according to the reasons for the depression. One applies the meditation that relates to the situation. But since there are no particular reasons in your case, the best thing is to use this depression for your practice. Use it to develop bodhicitta. That is the best.

The Guru Puja says, “Cherishing the I is the door to all sufferings and all problems. All come from the I, therefore the I is to be renounced, to be given up, forever. From Bodhicitta—cherishing others—comes all happiness, one’s own and others’.” That means all happiness and perfections come from bodhicitta, from cherishing others. All those good things, every single one, including enlightenment, come from others. All the realizations we receive come from others. Therefore, other sentient beings are only objects to be cherished forever.

Since we receive all happiness, realizations, and good things from others, now we have to repay the kindness of sentient beings by helping them. So, how can one best repay their kindness? They’ve been millionaires countless times, wheel-turning kings who own the whole continent. Although they’ve had that much wealth numberless times, they still didn’t free themselves from the sufferings of samsara. Therefore, the best way to repay their kindness is to practice the Lam-rim, practice Dharma. This means transforming one’s mind into positive thoughts, pure thoughts, free from attachment to samsara, free from ignorance, free from ego. By actualizing in yourself the path to enlightenment, you can liberate others without difficulties.

Then think, for those reasons, the best way to repay their kindness is meditation on bodhicitta, trying to develop bodhicitta. All past, present, and future happiness comes from others, therefore one can practice meditation on the basis of this compassion. Then, take all sentient beings’ sufferings onto one’s own mind. By generating compassion, one takes all sentient beings’ sufferings within one’s own heart and in this way one destroys the ego.

Then, after the ego has been destroyed, do a little meditation on emptiness. Just a few seconds. Then by generating loving kindness, one gives one’s own happiness, merit, and all good things to all sentient beings. By giving one’s body and wealth, there is so much unbelievable merit. Think that by giving one’s body, like a wish-granting jewel, all their wishes are fulfilled and all merits are given to all sentient beings. They receive everything they need and want from their point of view. Maybe they don’t know what they need. They need to meet the Dharma, although they may not have any thoughts of Dharma.

Then, while you recite mantras, think you are giving them whatever they want, whatever they need. People don’t think of Dharma, but this is really what they need. What they want is something else. It depends on how much their mind understands Dharma. Think that having all these enjoyments that you are offering them causes them to actualize the spiritual path. It eliminates the two obscurations, they become enlightened, and receive the rupakaya.

The conclusion is: How wonderful! So far, I’ve died working for my own happiness. Nothing happened. I’m still in samsara. Dying while working for others, this has never happened.

One generates compassion for others, taking upon oneself all their suffering and its causes: delusion and karma. Not only do you take their negative thoughts and problems but even their unhealthy environments: ugly, polluted, rough, and unpleasant places. For example, the hell beings’ environments, where there is fire and lava, and the cold hells with their ice. You take human beings’ filthy, dirty environments, full of thorn bushes. You take on those undesirable places to destroy the ego, the self-cherishing thought.

Think, “I’ve died numberless times while working for myself, but I have never died working for other sentient beings.” Now, since every sentient being is the source of one’s happiness, you can experience your depression on behalf of all sentient beings. In other words, you think the depression is not your depression, but the depression of numberless beings, and so by experiencing it for them you let them have all happiness, especially being free from samsara and all its sufferings, and most especially attaining the highest enlightenment. How fantastic this is, that you cause this for other sentient beings! This is incredible. Feel great joy about this.

Think: “Even the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha come from my prayers, purifying my negative karma, so that I can actualize realizations and achieve enlightenment. All this comes from sentient beings. So, every single sentient being is the most precious one in my life, and the source of all my past, present, and future happiness. Therefore, in my life, there’s nobody to cherish except sentient beings, there’s nobody to work for other than sentient beings. Other than that, everything is totally meaningless. Totally meaningless.”

Thinking like this makes one experience depression for others. So, too, does thinking that because I’ve been praying in the past for other beings’ sufferings to ripen on me, this is the suffering of others. This is others’ depression. Therefore, this is the most exciting, the most pleasurable thing in my life, to work for others by experiencing their suffering for them, and leaving them all the freedom and happiness. Think, “There’s no other way.”

The next thing is to rejoice that you have the opportunity to experience these sufferings. Practice the taking-and-giving meditation in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Most of the time you should think, “How lucky I am that I am experiencing this sickness or depression ,which I made prayers to receive. How fantastic! This makes my life so rich, so meaningful.

“This is very good. How fortunate I am. How fantastic that I am experiencing depression on behalf of all sentient beings. Very good.”

After meditating on the immeasurable kindness of sentient beings, then think how all your past, present, and future happiness is received from them. Also, think that this is the meaning of your life. This is very good. It makes a huge difference.

This is basic psychology. It makes a big difference because so much of our experience comes from our concept of pain. Suffering is exaggerated by our concepts, and we can cut down the pain or eliminate it with our mind.

The purpose of my life is not just to be healthy, wealthy, have a good reputation, and many people around me. Even if I have all these things, this is not the real purpose of my life.

For example, if there is no good heart, even if one lives for a thousand years, without a good heart, life is meaningless. Being perfectly healthy for eons is just useless. There is no benefit for others. Similarly, with a good reputation. Without a good heart, they are meaningless. Life is empty, even if one lives for eons with a perfectly healthy body.

Therefore, the meaning of life, no matter what happens, whether one is healthy, not healthy, depressed, not depressed, or whatever happens, the main meaning and real purpose of life is that at the time of death, one’s life becomes beneficial for others. So, even if one has cancer, to make the experience of cancer beneficial for all sentient beings, you can use it to develop bodhicitta for the sake of others. You can use the situation to achieve realizations of the path. Using the experience of depression or cancer to develop bodhicitta, which means the path to achieve enlightenment, means your depression becomes the cause of happiness. The depression is used, like turning snake venom into medicine. When you use depression to achieve enlightenment, this becomes a cause of happiness for all sentient beings experiencing depression.

The main purpose of life is to be beneficial for all other sentient beings, to free them from suffering and obtain happiness for them. To be beneficial for others means causing happiness in this life, but not only that. It means also causing happiness in future lives for others. Even if there is cancer, AIDS, or depression, the purpose of life is to cause happiness for all sentient beings by experiencing those things on behalf of all sentient beings, so that one accomplishes one’s work for others. That way, the depression becomes a cause to achieve enlightenment. The quick path means to achieve enlightenment. If one has cancer, the same thing applies. You can use it on the path to quickly achieve enlightenment. Experiencing it for the benefit of other sentient beings becomes a quick path to enlightenment, because experiencing the suffering for others is incredible purification. It’s very, very good.

Then the other thing is, it’s good to have depression because then you can see other sentient beings’ sufferings easily. You can understand how they’re suffering, the numberless beings who are experiencing depression and those who are creating the negative karma to experience it later. There are so many! In this way, experiencing depression and problems becomes a really quick way to enlightenment.

I think it may even be better than tantra, in one sense, because tantra does not become a quick path to enlightenment if it’s not performed well with the three principal paths, if Lam-rim is missing from tantra.

The other thing is when depression comes, think, “The past negative karma collected from beginningless rebirths is ending. The karma of this depression is ending. When depression comes, I’m ending my negative karma. This is purifying my negative karma.” Then rejoice. Be happy instead of regarding it as harmful.

The third thing about depression is to think about how it happened. First of all, there has been ego in past lives, then attachment or anger, the cause of depression, then depression. Rather than taking it on oneself you give the depression back to the ego. In the past, due to broken samayas (commitments), depression happened, or due to having disturbed the minds of holy beings or of a virtuous friend. These things are the cause of depression, so it came from the ego.

What caused the depression is the ego. So, you use this depression like an atomic bomb to destroy the ego. You give it back to the ego and destroy the ego. The ego becomes non-inherently existent. Then meditate on emptiness.

These are three basic ideas. These are very important techniques for transforming suffering into happiness and peace. The same thing goes for any other problems. You use them to develop bodhicitta so therefore they are used on the path to enlightenment. They are used as a cause for the happiness of all sentient beings.

How are you using the depression to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible? By using the depression to develop bodhicitta for sentient beings, you collect merit as vast as the sky. You purify unbelievably negative karma. This is most powerful.

Here, you are using the depression like an atomic bomb to destroy the ego because it was given to you by the ego. You destroy the demon that doesn’t allow enlightenment, that doesn’t allow one to become enlightened, that doesn’t allow liberation from samsara, that doesn’t allow any realizations. This is the doorway to all the problems, all the harms I receive.

Basically, that’s it. The other thing is to perform some preliminary practices to purify negative karma, such as Vajrasattva mantra recitation. You can also recite10,000 Samaya Vajra.

Long-Term Depression
Rinpoche wrote this letter to a person who had suffered from a low-grade depression for a long time.

It is very understandable that it is difficult to live in the West, where all the objects that give rise to desire are advertised constantly, in a society that puts particular effort into advertising those objects. When you are living in the family-life environment, also, you must expect hardships. This involves always fighting with the enemy, your own delusions, and having to defeat them. You have to do that as much as possible, for your own benefit, your own good rebirth and liberation, and, most importantly, in order to bring about all sentient beings’ happiness now, in future lives, and up to liberation and enlightenment. One has to try as much as possible. It doesn’t mean you must succeed all the time. It’s as if you are living in the nest of a poisonous snake. Such an environment is not like the places where the ancient Tibetan, Nepali, and Indian yogis lived as hermits, in caves. For example, when you go sightseeing in Tibet, all you go to see is caves and statues. There’s nothing other than that. So, of course, the overall environment is different, with much less distraction. Nowadays, there is more distraction in Tibet, since the communist Chinese brought in movies and other entertainments.

It is very important, too, to have a stable morning and evening practice. This is extremely important for stabilizing your life. It helps always to purify and collect merit, and if you are doing lam-rim meditation, this brings you closer every day to enlightenment, for yourself and for all sentient beings.

Please read the book that explains where such problems like yours come from, called The Wheel of Sharp Weapons. Any problem you have, including depression, you can read about in this book, which explains how to use the problem to cut through the ego and self-cherishing thoughts. Self-cherishing is the main enemy to bodhicitta, which is what you need to achieve enlightenment and to enlighten all sentient beings. This is the best technique for you to heal your depression.

Try to always have deep in your heart, in your mind, an awareness of impermanence and death. Death can happen at any time. If you are able to keep this awareness, it will help you continue to practice, and will remind you to practice. It will also help stop a strong desire and clinging to this life, which lead to all the distractions and interruptions to your practice, to your mind, and to your life, and prevent you from putting an end not only to samsaric sufferings, but particularly to the sufferings of the lower realms. These sufferings are the result of desire. Detachment—renunciation—brings liberation, which helps to develop bodhicitta, which leads to enlightenment.

After getting up in the morning, rejoice that you did not die in the night. Rejoice in your perfect human rebirth, and at having met the Dharma. This human rebirth gives you the opportunity to create the cause of happiness, unbelievable happiness. Then rejoice at having met Mahayana teachings, which makes it possible to achieve enlightenment, and at having met tantra, which allows you to achieve enlightenment quickly, using every second of your perfect human rebirth—your one precious rebirth, which is like a whole sky filled with wish-granting jewels. Without a human body, however much wealth you have, you cannot achieve enlightenment in this life and cannot stop rebirth in the lower realms.

Rejoice. This gives you a strong determination to practice, to live your life in bodhicitta. Think, “I must practice and live in bodhicitta, no matter how much unhappiness I have, and no matter how many problems or ups and downs I have with anybody, in any circumstance or any place.”

The most important thing is to make efforts to develop bodhicitta. No matter how easy or how hard it is, keep in mind the thought of benefiting others and achieving enlightenment for others. That is the best attitude to have, toward your family and toward all others. As much as possible, perform all your other activities with that attitude.

Even if you are just going to the beach, go with that thought, wishing to benefit others. You might not succeed all the time, but you must try, since you want happiness and others’ happiness and to eliminate suffering. This is the most important thing.

If possible, recite OM MANI PADME HUM while meditating on bodhicitta, the shortcomings of self-cherishing, and the benefits of cherishing others.

Make sure you set your motivation strongly before going to work. Make sure your motivation for all the activities in daily life is the enlightenment of all sentient beings. The important thing is bodhicitta. Set your motivation so that many actions become Dharma, the purest cause of enlightenment. And try to control anger by practicing compassion and patience.

With bodhicitta, you can change your life.

Depression in the Family
Rinpoche spoke with a student who explained that difficulties with depression and mental illness ran in her family.

We need to see self-cherishing as the enemy. Everything we do should go toward defeating this inner enemy, and reducing the amount of self-cherishing. This then gives space for bodhicitta to grow.

Anything that happens today, positive or negative, if we look at it all as positive then we don't see the negative. There is no room for the negative, and then we get happiness. The root is our own mind. When we are mistreated, we are purifying past negative karma, and it helps teach us compassion, which leads us straight to enlightenment. Anything that hurts our self-cherishing mind can help us to actualize the path. When you are patient with sentient beings, they receive no harm from you. So, if you put a positive label on all occurrences, the rest becomes easy.

Bodhisattvas have no thought that arises for themselves. They only think of others, with their whole heart: all sentient beings.

If it were a simple thing to remove all the sufferings from a being, then all beings would be enlightened. Therefore, even though there are numberless buddhas and bodhisattvas, there are still numberless sentient beings. This means it is not easy to help others. Buddha's job is to show us the path, to explain it.

Battling with Depression
Rinpoche heard that an old student, who had been battling depression intermittently for some time, had recently lapsed into a severe depression. Rinpoche wrote him the following letter, unsolicited.

My very dear --,
Hi! I heard you went to another realm these days.

Remember many times in a day that if things can be mended, what is the need to be unhappy? Even if some things cannot be mended, what is the benefit of feeling dislike and being unhappy?

Change your attitude in life. Instead of cherishing the “I,” cherish others. For one day, just think of others. Think only of their needs, their happiness, their liberation, and their enlightenment. Take that as your object of concentration for that day. Then try again the next day. Continue like that. Then eating, sleeping, whatever you do, try to do that for others.

The next thing is, any negative thought you have—“This is bad, that is bad”—try to put it positively, thinking of it on the positive side. For example, when you think of samsara, think that you can be liberated from it and others can be liberated from it, because of emptiness. The main reason why you can be liberated, even from the sufferings of samsara, and others can be liberated is because things are empty and because of dependent arising. Those are the main reasons.

If you think of your past negative karma, do the same thing. Think that it can be purified. Even the unhappiness that you experience, your depression, through this you are finishing your past negative karma that otherwise would have to be experienced as unbearable suffering in the lower realms for eons.

Not only that, because you made prayers so many times when doing Guru Puja to be able to experience others’ suffering, praying for those sufferings to ripen on yourself when doing tong-len, you can think, “Now I have succeeded! Now I’m experiencing depression on behalf of other sentient beings, who are numberless. Each time I experience this unhappiness for sentient beings, I collect merit as vast as the sky and it becomes unbelievable purification of so many lifetimes of negative karma. I will experience this strongly on behalf of others.”

Think: “Each time I experience depression or unhappiness for others, I become closer to enlightenment. That means each time I experience depression and unhappiness, I become closer to being able to bring others to enlightenment and free them from suffering.”

What else is there more enjoyable to experience than this? What else besides experiencing problems or unhappiness for other sentient beings?

Bodhicitta is the source of all your happiness and success, and your bodhicitta is the source of the happiness of numberless sentient beings.

Each time you perform this practice, you develop bodhicitta. Therefore enjoy your life. Have a good time and good luck.
With much love and prayer...

More talks by Lama Zopa on this topic:
Transforming Depression
See the Transforming Problems topic in the Practice Advice chapter of the Advice Book.

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