Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Family and Relationships :
|Taking Care of Your Child With Compassion|
|A student wrote to Rinpoche about being unable to practice Dharma after having a baby.|
My most dear, most kind, most precious wish-fulfilling Samantha,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. As you expressed your life, so I understand.
Regarding life and taking care of children, the Buddha taught Hinayana and Mahayana, and within the Mahayana there is sutra and tantra. In order to be free from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and the causes—karma and delusion—and to achieve nirvana, there is the Hinayana, the Lesser Vehicle path. Then there is the Mahayana path, given to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings, to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and the causes and to bring them to nirvana, the sorrowless state. Not only that, but to bring them to full enlightenment, peerless happiness, the cessation of even the subtle obscurations, and to complete the perfect qualities and realizations, the omniscient mind.
So, for yourself to achieve enlightenment, the Buddha gave the Mahayana teachings. Then there are two paths: the Paramitayana (sutra vehicle) and the tantra teachings, the quick way. The Paramitayana takes three countless great eons to achieve enlightenment, to finish collecting merits, the cause of dharmakaya and rupakaya. Therefore, one can’t stand sentient beings’ suffering even for a second, with unbelievable compassion one can’t stand the suffering of sentient beings, so then there are the Mahayana tantra teachings, revealed by Buddha, in order to achieve enlightenment within one lifetime. So this is the quick way to free the sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to enlightenment.
Then there is Highest Yoga Tantra. There are four classes of tantra and the fourth class, Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra, is to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and to achieve peerless happiness, so for that one has to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible. To achieve enlightenment in a brief lifetime of degenerated time, Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra is revealed, so here you can see the whole goal of the Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra teachings is focused on benefiting sentient beings. Mahayana Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism came from India, it came from the Buddha, so any practice, any meditation, any action you do is for sentient beings. Every meditation and every practice has refuge and bodhicitta within it.
Bodhicitta is thinking to benefit all sentient beings, to free them from suffering and to bring them to full enlightenment, therefore we have to achieve enlightenment, therefore we do this practice, this action, so in this way all the time we are dedicating for other sentient beings. So this child you are taking care of is one of the sentient beings. We always dedicate our practice for the most precious sentient beings, from whom all our happiness comes—all our happiness from beginningless rebirth up to now, even this small happiness, comfort, even if we are feeling hot but then serenely the wind blows on our head and we feel cool, so even including that, or if we are thirsty and we find water to drink.
All the future happiness, not only samsaric happiness, pleasure, but ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara, full enlightenment, peerless happiness, the state of omniscient mind; so all of that we receive from numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts and numberless animals—that means from numberless fish in the ocean, even the large ones, the whales, then also the smallest ones that we can’t see with our eyes, but only with a microscope; every single ant, every single bird, every single butterfly, every single cockroach—they are numberless in each realm, not just in one universe but there are numberless universes, so each universe has numberless [beings]. We receive all our past, present and future happiness from numberless human beings, numberless suras, numberless asuras and numberless intermediate state beings. All the past, present and future happiness we receive from every single sentient being.
That includes your child. So all your past, present and future happiness, everything comes from this child. Therefore the child, your baby, is the most precious, most kind, most wish-fulfilling one to you, and as well as that, every single other sentient being —every insect in the house and outside in the forests, on the ground, in the water, and flying in the sky. Therefore, the best Dharma is to cherish the sentient beings and to serve them, to free them from suffering and bring them to happiness.
Happiness has many levels up to enlightenment, therefore you should know even the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, that we take refuge in, that free us from the oceans of samsaric sufferings, from all the sufferings and the causes of suffering, delusion and karma, and from where we achieve all the happiness, the full enlightenment—even the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha come from the sentient beings. Without sentient beings there is no Buddha; without depending on sentient beings there is no Buddha, so it is like without the ground, the fields, there is no food. Without money, there is no food, clothing, houses and enjoyments. So like that all our happiness comes from our virtuous actions; that is good karma, so that is one of the actions of the Buddha.
Within us sentient beings, we are possessed by Buddha’s mind, so that comes from Buddha, so good karma came from the Buddha. The buddhas came from bodhisattvas; bodhisattvas came from bodhicitta; bodhicitta came from great compassion; and great compassion is generated by depending on the suffering sentient beings. That means without suffering sentient beings there is no compassion; without compassion there is no bodhicitta; without bodhicitta there are no bodhisattvas; without bodhisattvas there are no buddhas; without buddhas there is no good karma, and without good karma there is no happiness for us. All our past, present and future happiness, all the happiness up to enlightenment, comes from every single sentient being, is received from every sentient being, including your child.
So the Buddha has the most qualities, but it is every sentient being who is most kind. Sentient beings are more kind, including your child, so any service, any benefit that we can offer to sentient beings—not only to human beings, but even to insects that fall in the water, that are not dead, that we can save—so any small benefit that we can offer, like helping an old man who is carrying a heavy load and is having difficulties, then helping to share the load, making the old man’s load less, or giving a seat in the car to someone else or standing so they can sit, or anything like that, any small benefit. It is so important to offer; it is most important, so precious to be able to offer even a small benefit, so therefore think, “What a precious opportunity, that my body, speech and mind can become useful to even one sentient being, to benefit even one sentient being, to take care of even one sentient being.”
So take care of this child, this baby, not by thinking, “This is my baby,” not with attachment, but as a sentient being, then in this way, with this mind, with a compassionate mind, taking care of him. Day and night, every single action that you do with this mind becomes virtue, good karma, it becomes Dharma. Benefiting somebody just one time, then you experience the result, happiness, for 500 or 1,000 lifetimes, so long as the karma is not only done to experience the result, happiness, but it depends on a second thing—that karma is expandable.
If you do one small good karma just one time, the happiness and success is experienced for 500 or 1,000 lifetimes. If you do many actions like this in one life, then, wow, wow, wow! Then you experience happiness, success—wow, wow, wow, wow wow!—a million, billion, zillion times. Wow, wow, wow, wow! If it is done with bodhicitta, then it becomes the cause of enlightenment, so the stronger compassion generated to even one sentient being, the quicker you will achieve enlightenment, so that means you are quicker to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and it is quicker for them to achieve enlightenment. So you should know this.
With bodhicitta, with compassion for your child, taking care of the child, then dedicating the life—if every action of body, speech and mind you do for the child is done with this mind, then, wow, then everything is Dharma, it becomes the cause of enlightenment, so that is incredible, incredible, incredible. It’s all to do with motivation. Here your motivation becomes like gold. Before it was like kaka, but now it is like gold. Before it was like iron, now it is like gold. So Dharma practice doesn’t mean only reciting mantras and prayers, sitting and reading texts, it doesn’t mean only that.
Please think, “How fortunate I am. I am the most fortunate one, because I can be of most benefit for someone, particularly this child, who is one of the sentient beings from the numberless.” This should bring joy and happiness inside; inner happiness and joy. Your life will be full of joy, happiness, fulfillment. It brings the most, most, most, unbelievable happiness when you offer a little service to any other sentient being, after knowing that they are most kind, most dear, the most wish-fulfilling ones, so the same as your child.
With this attitude, serving with compassion, with bodhicitta, this service that you naturally do—do it with respect, not putting others down. Respect comes with speech, much respect with actions of the body, so like that, then it is very pleasing to other sentient beings. So for you to offer any benefit to others is so important; it becomes the most important thing for you. This will help with any tiredness, boredom or lack of joy.
Then this way it not only becomes Dharma, but it becomes a great preliminary practice, a great profit, an unbelievable, unbelievable way to purify negative karma from beginningless rebirths and to collect extensive merit with bodhicitta. This is such a quick way to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings.
Your baby becomes helpful for you to achieve enlightenment quickly and then to free sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and to bring them to enlightenment, by bearing the hardships and taking care of this baby, but not doing it with attachment, thinking "My baby, my baby," then having all the material expenses and dedicating your body, speech and mind to that, so everything becomes nonvirtue, your whole life becomes nonvirtue. If you take care of the baby with attachment to this life, then the result of that is to go to the lower realms and experience all the sufferings, or to experience the suffering in human realm, and to experience the result similar to the cause, then all the sufferings of the human realm, so like that.
Another practice you must do is recite OM MANI PADME HUM and do Chenrezig meditation, especially doing it with bodhicitta, compassion for all sentient beings. This also purifies all the negative karma and defilements collected from beginningless rebirths and collects skies of merit. With each OM MANI PADME HUM, this is a quick way to actualize the realizations on the path to enlightenment and a quick way to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. This is a quick way to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and a quick way to bring them to full enlightenment, and in particular to develop compassion to sentient beings. By reciting OM MANI PADME HUM you receive the blessing of Chenrezig.
Also it would be very good if you can recite the Medicine Buddha mantra and Medicine Buddha name , for success —not only success up to enlightenment, but by the way, naturally you will have success of even this life.
Then there is the long, middle and short Six-session Guru Yoga, so after you have taken a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, to try that again is good, for all sentient beings, including your baby. This is to bring them to enlightenment quickly, so this is what you have to understand. This is not just for your own happiness or your own enlightenment.
When you recite OM MANI PADME HUM or the Medicine Buddha mantra, whatever virtuous action you do, at the end of day it can be dedicated for your father. You can dedicate for him to have a perfect human rebirth, to meet the Dharma, the Mahayana Dharma and the virtuous friend, to actualize the path and to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible. So you can dedicate in this way, then whatever you do, this can benefit him so much. As you are a human being now, you have so many ways to benefit others.
Thank you very much.
With much love and prayers,
PS. You don’t have to feel alone, because there are numberless buddhas and bodhisattvas always with you, and they understand you, they see you with compassion. They are always with you, even though you can’t see them at the moment, and think that I am always with you, so you don’t have to feel alone.
You may also like to read one teaching I gave, here: Planned Parenting: Making Your Children's Lives Meaningful.