Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Working for the Dharma :
Advice to Center Directors
Advice to Center Directors
|The Merit of Working at the Center|
|Rinpoche was writing a small email to one center director recently, and then said that actually his message can be for all center, project or service directors.|
My most dear wish-fulfilling directors,
Your work at the center is fulfilling His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s wishes, who is the sole object of refuge of all us sentient beings of the six realms, as well as fulfilling the wishes of Lama Yeshe and myself, no question.
Every hour, day, minute you work at the center as director you collect extensive merits and purify many eons of negative karma and defilements, and it brings you closer to enlightenment, minute by minute.
It is said by Sakya Pandita:
“One thousand eons that one has collected merits by making charity of one’s own body, head and legs and hands,
And even if that merit is dedicated towards sentient beings,
All that merit is condensed in one second by practicing the Guru’s path.”
“Abandon all the other offerings, only do the offerings to the Guru.”
Why Nagarjuna is saying this, is because it is emphasizing that when you make offerings to the Guru, for example offering one tiny drop of scented water on the tip of a needle to one pore of the Gurus, so here it is very, very tiny, so if you do that then you collect far greater merit than having made offerings to numberless Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, statues, stupas and scriptures. It is the greatest, highest merit. That is why Nagarjuna said to abandon all the other offerings and attempt to make offerings to the Gurus.
Thank you very much, please enjoy your life, and always have meaningful life as much as possible.
With much love and prayers...
|Rinpoche sent this tape of Hindi music, which he got from a driver, to a center director.|
My dearest heart Rinpocheness,
I hope you are well forever. This is your Sanghata Sutra. I think I heard from somebody that you like and play Indian music. This is music that a driver played when we were driving back to Delhi at night. I like it, so, I’m sure you will like it. I am sending it to you to give you some relief when you are stressed out or when you miss India.
With big love and prayer...
|Rinpoche sent the following advice to a center director who he had asked to especially help with the study group that is being guided by that center.|
My very dearest George,
I am very happy you have the big heart to help the center. You can think that this group is like the son and the center is the mother.
With much love and prayers...
|Rinpoche sent the following letter to a center director.|
My very dear Charles,
Thank you very much for turning your life up towards enlightenment, which is to liberate all suffering beings from oceans of samsaric suffering and enlighten them.
Please continue to practice Dharma in the world, in life, for others who are numberless and also for oneself. The best thing is practicing Dharma.
Thank you. HA HA HA!
|Buying Property for Center
|Rinpoche gave the following advice given to two students and center directors, who asked about buying the property next door to expand the center.|
I checked re the property next door. The people will not be happy if you approach them. However, if you do seven malas of each of the following mantras before you talk to them and take a nice gift (your friend can do a mo to check which gift), they will be happy and consider your offer.
The "mantra to love you" is the one called "The Exalted Zung Extremely Pacifying Anger."
The mantra where they treat you like a son – the "Mantra Accomplishing All Actions" – is not to be given out or used publicly, it is a secret practice.
Your motivation should be of real charity and bodhicitta, wanting to make sentient beings happy. This becomes one of the means to gather disciples. You need to dedicate well that they slowly become interested in the Dharma and can achieve the path to enlightenment.
I am sending HUGE LOVE to both of you.
|Rinpoche sent this handwritten card to a center director.|
My dearest enlightening yogini,
HA HA! I am sure you are only in the highest bliss. A zillion, trillion, numberless thanks to you for the past, present, and future as well, in case I forget in the future. HA HA! Please enjoy the earrings, which came into existence only for you, for no one else in this world, not even the hell beings. WHA!
With biggest love and prayer...
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a center director who wanted to check whether it was beneficial to buy some land for the center.|
My dear Jackie,
I hope you are well. I enjoyed very much meeting your mother and you, I liked her very much.
I am very happy, inspired and excited by this land you found and very grateful to the couple who are offering it. We need a lot of merit to use this land for the Dharma, so we need to make this statue of thousand-arm Chenrezig nine feet high. I don’t want you to faint at the height. I know you may not be familiar with my sizes, sorry. But this will be of unbelievable benefit for your country, to develop compassion, through nyung-näs and Chenrezig retreats. I think it will be so good. OK? We can keep talking if you like.
Much love and prayer...
|New Center Director
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a new center director.|
My dear Alan,
I hope you are very well, please give my greetings to your very kind wife and son who are helping the center so much, serving the Buddha and sentient beings as well as myself.
I just wanted to take the opportunity to again thank you for accepting this very special job as director – it is different to ordinary work which you do for money and worldly reasons. Working for the center and serving sentient beings is a very unique situation, and when done with a bodhicitta motivation you earn skies, unbelievable amounts, of merit because you are educating others in the Buddha’s method that completely eliminates suffering and brings lasting happiness. This is something very special. So, the nature of the work and result of the work is very different. Of course there is another aspect of being director.
When you become the leader of people, for example a director, you will become an object to be criticized by people sometimes. If you expect to receive criticism at the beginning, instead of praise, it is going to be much happier for you. It is extremely beneficial. When criticism is given, if it is expected, you will not be shocked. Life will be much smoother and easier and there will be no disturbance. It becomes pleasant by expecting that. This is the best psychology.
For a Dharma practitioner and thought transformation practitioner, it is best not to expect praise from others all the time. If there is the thought clinging for praise and the worldly feeling of that, then when receiving criticism you will be shocked. You will lose your aspiration and so many personal and emotional problems will arise. Also, if you live your life with craving for reputation and praise, your entire work will be done for that. All your work will be done with clinging to this life with attachment. Your work will not be done for sentient beings, to benefit sentient beings. It will not be done for liberation from samsara for oneself, and not even for future happiness for oneself, which is the long-term happiness. Then, all your activities in life become negative. Since your wish is non-virtuous, your action will become non-virtuous, and you will keep on creating negative karma. You will create the cause to be born in the lower realms. Instead of getting a higher rebirth, attaining liberation, liberating sentient beings, and enlightening them, you will create negative karma to again be reborn in the lower realms, from where you just came not so long ago.
The best motivation is the goal to benefit others. Being a director is to serve sentient beings, free them from suffering and its causes, bring them happiness and its causes – cause the happiness of future lives, liberate them from samsara, and bring them to full enlightenment.
Although you are the leader, in the heart of the leader, it is best to think that you are low instead of high. No matter how high the position of the leader is, the motivation should be humble. One should always think that one is the servant and others are leaders. Others are most precious and kind, are from whom I receive all my past, present, and future happiness, liberation from samsara, the peerless happiness of enlightenment; from whom the object of refuge: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, comes; they are more precious than Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha come from them. Sentient beings become the most kind and precious. They become an unbelievable object of respect, to be cherished, worked for, taken care of, and served.
One should treat others like a mother treats her most beloved child. A mother cherishes her beloved child more than herself, day and night, all the time. Even when she is sick, she only gives the best things to her child, saves her child from danger, and cherishes her child. Similarly, a very good child also loves his or her mother in the same way. It is very important to think that all sentient beings are our mother or child. We should train our mind this way in daily life, at home, in the center, especially with people, anybody you meet or work with. They are my wish-fulfilling jewel. “Wish-fulfilling one” means someone who is giving you the happiness of the past, present, and future, all the way to enlightenment.
When you abandon harm to others, you receive so much happiness from others, from life to life, for 100 lifetimes. Just by abstaining from harm to others one time you receive the benefit for 100 lifetimes. By practicing the morality of not stealing, you receive wealth for 100 lifetimes. By practicing charity once, you will enjoy good results in hundreds and thousands of lifetimes. In the Arya Sanghatasutra it is said that by practicing generosity once to a sentient being, you will gain enjoyments for 80 or 80,000 eons. With a good heart, if you benefit somebody, you will receive enjoyment for 100 lifetimes, since karma is expandable. From one virtue, you experience the result for so many lifetimes or for so many times in one life.
Firstly, you should think that sentient beings are wish-fulfilling jewels. Secondly, you should be the wish-fulfilling jewel for other sentient beings in daily life. This is very important. Even if you are not working or you are in a cave, not seeing anybody, not even an insect, you should meditate on bodhicitta. You should think how precious sentient beings are. Think, “I must do the same.” This is an excellent way to live life, especially living a busy life with others. By living life with this attitude, it is the happiest life and most meaningful life. There will be nothing to be scared of in the future. Life is like sunshine in the future.
I presented the above in relation to Dharma and Buddhism – how others will feel if you are a wish-fulfilling jewel for others. If you become a wish-fulfilling jewel for others, as a result, others will become a wish-fulfilling jewel for you. This can be explained on this basis.
For non-believers of Buddhism, it can be explained by the following example. When you drive a car and you offer a lift to people on the road, you will receive 100 or 1,000 times that car ride. From just one action, you will receive the result so many times. For non-believers of Buddhism, by fulfilling others’ wishes, others will fulfill your wishes and others will offer a ride.
Now, I need to tell you something specific. This is the most important and confidential policy of the center. The success of the center depends on the resident teacher’s attitude, whether it is negative or positive. If the motivation of working for the center is negative, it can bring lots of problems. If the motivation is selfish, the person’s heart is not for the center, only for one’s own wishes, wealth, and other matters, problems will arise constantly. Obstacles and unhappiness will be generated more and more. After some time it will become unbearable. If the students become followers of the teacher and if they like the teacher instead of the organization, so many problems will arise.
Geshe-la has done so much work for the organization in the past. He is cherishing the center and the FPMT is in his heart. There is no question that he is very faithful to me, trying to achieve what I advise and taking my advice as very important. I have a very good relationship with him. He is extremely essential. Based on that, the center becomes beneficial and positive to sentient beings. It becomes a healthy center. He is somebody who has awareness about now and the future. Therefore, I think it is very important to have a good relationship with this teacher, Geshe-la. Then everything will come together – healthy, peaceful, harmonious, and united. Then the rest will be easy.
Of course, there can be different ideas sometimes – he has one idea and you may have another. If it is difficult to decide, you can check with International Office. If they cannot help they will ask me. It is important to keep harmony in the center with everyone being harmonious. Being the director, there needs to be lots of skillfulness. Running the center in this way, the teacher will be happy. Here, I mentioned that it is very important to develop the center with a happy relationship with the resident teacher. Also, please help the local centers whenever you can – keep good harmony and a good relationship.
Geshe-la is also the Dharma teacher at the center, a virtuous friend. I can see that you have made a connection with Geshe-la. Even if you do not regard him as your guru, he is still fully ordained Sangha. By respecting Sangha, incredible good karma will be created. There will be unbelievable benefit. You need to always respect Sangha and Dharma teachers of the center. It is good to humbly discuss things with him. Of course, you are the director, but certain matters are still good to discuss. It is unbelievably precious to be director. You are the exact and suitable person at this time.
With much love and prayers...
|Director of a Dharma Center
|Rinpoche sent the following advice to the director of a Dharma center, on how to practice.|
Rejoice every day. It is essential. This is how to be a fortunate person, as rejoicing eliminates ignorance and delusions and causes happiness. Nagarjuna advised kings who are busy to rejoice in others’ good works and dedicate the merit. Then, success in business or whatever just comes easily.
Jealousy is an obstacle to your happiness in samsara and for your longterm wishes. We should rejoice in others’ good fortune. Practice contentment. Problems arise from desire. Practice forgiveness for those who hurt you.
As a director of a Dharma center you face a lot of things that hurt your ego. This is a great challenge for your practice. When you live in a cave or a tree you don’t see many of your mistakes, you think, “I’m a good person with no delusions,” but still the mistakes are inside.
Being director of a center, so many people are like a mirror teaching you (not from books), forcing out your pride, jealousy, and anger, so you see what has to be purified, you have to apply the antidote. It all shows what impurities you have, the suffering that you have. It’s like a dirty cloth. When a dirty cloth is cleaned with water, not much dirt is seen, but when you add soap it makes the dirt come out. That’s good!
People who talk in a way you don’t like and hurt your attachment are like soap. Accept people who hurt your attachment and self-cherishing. They are helping you by showing you your delusions, to help you be free from samsara, helping you to be perfect, pure, to practice the path.
In the practice of chöd, you invite spirits to you; they create disturbances for you in the cemeteries and haunted places. Your ego, self-cherishing, blows up like a balloon and becomes clear; you see the false “I.” Then you realize emptiness. Washing the dirty cloth of the mind is like army training for many years, so see that you are here in this job, this position, to defeat delusions.
Anyone can chant mantras. Real Dharma is rare. Cherish and care for sentient beings from the heart. When someone creates an angry situation, it is so important to practice patience. This is the real Dharma.
|Rinpoche wrote these two letters, thanking a student who had been the director of a center, and thanking the new director of the center.|
Letter to old director:
My most wish-fullfilling Jenny,
There are no words left to express your kindness and to express my thanks, and how precious you are; it is just unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable, and, of course, also this refers to your partner, who has been supporting you and bringing success. My most dear Jenny, the humblest, most dedicated student, thank you so much for fulfilling all the wishes of sentient beings, Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and me, the very tiny Mickey Mouse.
With much love and prayers,
Letter to new director:
My dearest Colin,
Billions and billions and billions of thanks, thanks as many as the atoms of the earth, and as many drops of water. Thanks to you for helping to actualize the 500-foot Maitreya statue. Maybe after this statue we will build another one that will touch the moon, or the stars. The stars are much further away, so that may take many lifetimes to complete, but I am sure you will have the courage. Then, we could build another one on the moon and then another one on the sun, which touches the stars, or maybe reaches to the earth. I am not sure which one it will touch. So, if you have the courage for this, then this 500-foot Maitreya statue is nothing, it’s so small, so tiny, like a tsa-tsa.
So, thank you very much, and hope to see you both very soon. Both of you please have billions of eons of long life and healthy, radiating, happy, compassionate minds.
With gigantic, Mount Meru of love, and also a giant cake with billions of singing lights on top,
PS: If you describe something like this to the pretas and sprits, it seems they actually do see and receive it. In the same way, I am sending you oceans of nectar and mountains of food, so I hope it benefits everyone in your country. To actually send this to you I would need an airplane bigger than the earth.
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to Dharma center organizers on how to deal with stress.|
Lama Yeshe used to often say it is not up to the mind, it is up to karma. He quite often used to say that or just to accept the situation when things are not happening as you want them to. If something can be remedied or managed then you can try. If there is an opportunity to do something, then you do it. There is no point in being unhappy in this life. If there is something which cannot be remedied at all, then what is the point of disliking it. There is no benefit so it is better to accept it.
If we think of our activities and responsibilities as a burden, then stress and unhappiness come. Then, even when you are doing your job, your mind is not happy. If you look at it as a burden, then lung and stress come and the mind becomes so unhappy. If you look at all your activities and responsibilities as an opportunity to be useful to other sentient beings, as a positive opportunity, thinking how you are so fortunate to be able to benefit others, then that is one technique which might stop you squeezing the mind and getting lung. Lung can also bring high blood pressure and that affects your health. Thinking this other way brings joy and happiness in one’s heart; so, this might help.
It is essential always to remember to keep a mind of bodhicitta. That should be the main refuge in life. And think that what you are doing is according to the wishes and advice of the guru. Always think how sentient beings are most kind and precious, and are suffering. The whole purpose of this life is to serve others and to ensure they have happiness in all future lives, and to give one’s own life to sentient beings, who are most kind and precious, and who are countless. Develop your inner qualities and realizations of the path. In this way, you are able to offer deeper and better success and more extensive qualities to others; to liberate others from sufferings and cause them to achieve not only temporary but ultimate happiness.
His Holiness says: “As long as the sky exists and suffering beings exist, I will abide and I will eliminate the sufferings of sentient beings as much as possible.”
In everyday life practise mindfulness as much as possible. Think: Everyone is wish-fulfilling for all my happiness, so I myself will be a wish-fulfilling jewel for all sentient beings.
|The Need for Dharma Centers
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a very devoted student who is a Dharma center director.|
My most dear Jamie,
I hope you are well and blissed out.
As you know, because we and all beings still live in samsara and have anger, attachment, ignorance, and all the mental garbage, have all these wrong views, that is why we need Dharma centers, which are a place to learn, to practice, to purify and collect merits, to inspire each other, to develop wisdom and compassion, and to achieve liberation and enlightenment. Because we are in samsara and have problems, we need Dharma centers, that is why Dharma centers exist.
Don't you think it is better to think this way rather than to think: because we have Dharma centers, we have problems?
Please give my regards and big love to Jenny and John and my wonderful brother Nicky, who is always full of energy and smiles. I hope he is still like that. If he has any more hats I would love to have a few hats with mantras on, not important to have billions, but just a few to give as presents to people.
My regards and lots of love to you and your family.
With much love and prayers...
|Illegal Buildings on a Property
|A Dharma center was planning to apply for a permit to construct new buildings, and sought Rinpoche’s advice on how to handle illegal buildings on the property they had taken over from a previous director.|
You should try to check if someone knows anyone in the planning department to get an idea of how they view the center. If someone from the planning department does come to check the center, you should apologize. You can explain that it was built under a different director. It is hard to keep it quiet if they do come, but it is possible to do a puja to prevent them from noticing.
You never know when someone can complain about the center. For example, somebody might suddenly get angry at the director, and then complain to the planning department. Therefore, it is very, very important that the center perform pujas continuously—not just when the center’s luck is down, but all the time for the success of the center, and also for the success of people who do retreat, study, and practice at the center. This helps to prevent obstacles, and helps people to be successful in their practice.
The center should recite daily the Heart Sutra, praises to the 21 Taras, and the prayer to remove obstacles, which follows directly after the Heart Sutra and includes the Lion-face Dakini mantra. Every month, besides the normal practices recommended for centers, you should definitely do Tara Puja. From time to time, it is good to do incense puja.
When an actual difficulty happens, you can do the following practices. One is Dala Pandu. This is a puja you perform when you are attacked. By doing this, you energize the white protectors, or devas, that you are born with. Performing this puja increases their power while at the same time it decreases the power of the enemy’s devas. When the enemy’s devas are more powerful, you are defeated. By weakening the deva of the person attacking you, then the person is weakened.
Recite the Diamond Cutter Sutra. This helps when there is a court case. Normally the Heart Sutra is very powerful, but when it is very serious, recite the Diamond Cutter Sutra. Even if you are not involved in a court case, even if there is just a risk of one, you can still recite this sutra.
You should recite the prayer of whichever is the center’s protector as much as you can. That will help the center continue without obstacles, and function well.
The most important thing to avoid receiving problems from others is to recite the prayer called “Gyalsen Tse Moi Punggyen.” You can recite the Tibetan phonetics, but you must pronounce them well. It would be better to have it translated and then recite it in English.
Medicine Buddha practice is very powerful for overcoming problems, and for achieving success. The center should be doing this monthly anyway. It is important for retreat centers and other centers which have practitioners to do Medicine Buddha practice, to help those practicing there.
|Chairperson of a Dharma Center
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to the new chairperson of a Dharma center within the FPMT organization, of which Rinpoche is the spiritual director.|
The chairperson of an FPMT Center should be nice and easygoing from the beginning. Don’t listen to other people’s gossip about others’ faults. If you listen, you will become upset with those people, then you will have a bad relationship with them, thus causing difficulties in relating to people. Then, you can’t succeed in running the organization.
You should see others as blank paper, be completely neutral, and learn about people through friendly communications. Even with the same person, due to different karmic connections, some people will think this person is OK, some will think they are very good, while others will think they are bad. It’s important to communicate with people in a friendly way and judge people peacefully according to their ideas and actions from your own experiences with them.
If you encounter any legal problems, you should consult with FPMT International Office. Whenever problems come up, it’s very important to analyze the situation first. It’s easier to run things this way.
Don’t be too fussy, just take it easy! Don’t be bothered by small things. The accumulation of small things can make a big deal and make you feel bad, and then that worsens the situation and your relationship with people. Try to treat everything in a smooth, peaceful, and harmonious way. Whenever problems come up, try to analyze and resolve them from the very beginning. Don’t wait until a small problem turns into a disaster and becomes very hard to resolve. This advice is very important.
The motivation for being the chairperson is to benefit others, to spread the holy Dharma, bring prosperity to the Buddha Dharma, and bring sentient beings to enlightenment.
Try to deal with everything in a peaceful way in general. However, it’s necessary to be tough sometimes, according to the situation. This latter is external skillful means.
To manage a center, a family, and a country requires compassion and the wisdom to analyze and distinguish advantages and disadvantages. It’s very important to run things in a practical way. Compassion alone is not sufficient, you must apply wisdom too. Don’t ignore the big benefit and go with the small benefit. Sometimes a situation can bring small benefits in the beginning, but turns into a disaster later on. This is not what we want. Try to be wise and think in a large way for the long term with a broad mind.
This is the same as running a family, a country, and the world. You must be practical and run things with both compassion and wisdom. You can’t solve problems properly without wisdom. Presidents and Prime Ministers need both compassion and wisdom.
Try to get to know everybody while you are new, as then you can have a new, fresh relationship with them. You don't need to follow what previous people have said and fall into the same situation as them.
|Model Center Directors
|A Dharma center held a month-long retreat, which Rinpoche attended. Over 450 people came, and the retreat was very successful. Rinpoche wrote the following to the directors.|
My very dear Katya and Nick,
How are you? It was so good to see you taking such good care of all those people at the retreat. You are both great examples of center directors, with your kind hearts, love and respect, and caring. Also, you are smiling all the time. This doesn’t cost anything, but it gives much happiness to people coming to the center. It makes them open their hearts, and enjoy the center, and enjoy the Dharma. That brings them to enlightenment.
With much love and prayers...
|Change in Position
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a person who had formerly been a chairperson in his organization, explaining why she no longer needed to be chairperson.|
My very dear Theresa,
I would like to express many many thanks and appreciation from the bottom of my heart for your limitless kindness, since I met you at Kopan Monastery. If I include your past lives, then your kindness has no beginning.
You offered your family house as the Dharma center, and very kindly tried to keep the center there as long as possible. You offered immeasurable kindness for years, and when there was a great need for a chairperson, you very kindly accepted, even though you were so busy with many obligations.
So, now it seems the karma has changed and it is another person’s turn to be chairperson. She has already happily accepted. As soon the request was made, she cried.
Even though you are no longer chairperson, I hope, as we have made a connection due to past karma, that you and your husband will have a continual connection and bond with me and that you can help the organization like before, so that it can benefit the teachings of Buddha and sentient beings.
I will make prayers for your family. Please pass this message to your husband and tell him that I will put a lot of effort into the center so that it can benefit sentient beings.
With much love and prayers...
|A man with a lot of business experience but not much exposure to Dharma was appointed director of one of the FPMT Dharma centers. He expressed some concern about his ability to run the center effectively without a firm Dharma background. A similar concern was expressed by another member of the committee. Rinpoche wrote the following letter to the new director.|
My very dear (director),
Thank you very much for your great dedication and service to me and to the center, which is service to sentient beings and to the teachings of the Buddha.
My experience when meeting you is that you always have a calm quality and are easy to communicate with. You may not be involved with sadhanas and mantras, but your heart is very good and genuine. The purpose of sadhanas, prayers, and mantras is to make you into a good human being with a good heart. From being a good human being with a good heart, it is possible to become a holy being. From being a holy being, it is possible to become a Buddha. Then you can end all sentient beings’ suffering.
During this period, the center’s work is very important. This is a very crucial stage in the center’s life, in order for it to be able to benefit others on a large scale, benefiting thousands of others, for many years to come.
I deeply appreciate your having accepted this job and doing it seriously and sincerely.
I will send a separate letter to the other member of the center’s committee who wrote to me about you.
|Change in Position
|Rinpoche gave the following advice to a former director of a Dharma center when a new director had been appointed.|
My very dearest Susie,
How are you?
I would like to say that your kindness is incredible, most wonderful. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You took on the task of being center director at a very difficult time, when I needed a lot of help and you did it. You took on the responsibility when I really needed help and were there to support me. So, I am very very happy.
Now the karma has changed. Everything is impermanent and karma changes, so now the karma is that James is director. This is the karma of your Dharma center.
This statue is a simple gesture of my thanks to you. I love you very much, and you are always in my prayers.
With much love and prayers...