Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive | The Archive of the FPMT

Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Practice Advice : Advice for New Students

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche at various locations (Last Updated Oct 14, 2009)

Advice on Practices for Life

Practices for Life
Rinpoche gave the following advice to a new student.  
  • Refuge: 300,000
  • Mandala offerings: 400,000
  • Burning Offering to Dorje Khadro: 30,000
  • Water bowl offerings: 500,000
  • Diamond Cutter Sutra: Recite one complete Diamond Cutter Sutra every day. If possible, do this for your whole lifetime, if not do it for three years. This is very good. It didn’t come out for you to do much preliminary practice, but to recite this sutra is very good—it’s the most powerful way to purify and collect extensive merits. Particularly, it’s a quick way to realize emptiness and that is the way to be free from samsara quickly and to achieve enlightenment quickly. That is the way to liberate sentient beings and bring them to enlightenment.
  • Tong-len: 2,000, generating bodhicitta using Nagarjuna’s prayer, the verse from Lama Chöpa or Shakya Shri Bhadra’s prayer. Any of these three can be used—sometimes this one, sometimes that one, with meditation.

For effortful experience of lam-rim, do:

  • Guru devotion: five months
  • The graduated path of the lower capable being: three months
  • The graduated path of the intermediate capable being: eleven months
  • The graduated path of the highest capable being:
    • Bodhicitta: one month
    • Emptiness: 11 months

Then generate the effortless experience of guru devotion and the lower path, etc. Do a little emptiness meditation every day using the Heart Sutra, the four analyses, a verse, stanza or different teachings on emptiness.

This is for effortful experience. After that, for effortless experience, if the guru devotion realization didn’t happen, continue to meditate step-by-step until you get the realization. Do this for the lower path, middle path and higher path.

You should do some meditation on emptiness every day, either using the Heart Sutra, the four point analysis, or even just one verse or stanza with meditation.

After you have actualized bodhicitta, spend more time on tantra, the generation stage and completion stage. After realizing bodhicitta, put more time on tantra.  

Nyung-näs and Practices for Life
A new student asked Rinpoche what is best for her life now that her children have left home. Rinpoche gave the following advice.  

My very dear Estelle,
Please find my advice on what is most beneficial for you to do in your life now:

1. Refuge: 30,000 times

2. Prostrations by reciting the Thirty-Five Buddhas, even when not doing nyung-näs. Try to do this 100 or 35 times each day, or whatever you can.

3. Vajrasattva: 300,000 times. As well as this, it is still good to do one mala or half a mala every night, so when death comes we don’t have to be reborn in the lower realms, because the day’s negative karma doesn’t increase.

Read the entire advice here 

Practices for Life
A new student requested life practice advice. Rinpoche advised the following. 

  • 12,000 refuge
  • 300,000 tong-len practice/bodhicitta
  • 200,000 Dorje Khadro fire pujas
  • 700,000 tsa-tsas (Tara, Gyalwa Gyatso)
  • 30,000 mandala offerings to collect extensive merits
  • 400,000 guru yoga (recitation of migtsemas with Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga)
  • 50,000 Vajrasattva to purify obstacles

Your deity is Vajrayogini. A three-year retreat in the future is good for you. Also, complete one nyung-nä.

  • Two months on the lower path
  • Four months on the middle path
  • Bodhicitta: two months
  • Emptiness: three months  

Life Practices for a New Student
Rinpoche gave the following practice advice to a young student at Kopan.

Dear Annette,
Water bowls (800,000), can sometimes be done in a group, for example, at the ani gompa, the group can do 100,000 in a short time. At other times, do the practice alone.

Lam-rim meditation is the most important thing for you to do, because it makes the life useful, the best. In the break times from sitting, do activities with bodhicitta motivation, then do the sessions again with bodhicitta motivation. In this way, the sessions and the breaks help each other.

For deity practice, these deities come out best according to my observation and according to karma. Take the initiations, then do the practices, recite the mantras and do the retreats. The main deity is Tara Cittamani. Before the initiation, a great initiation of Heruka, Yamantaka, Kalachakra or even Secret Hayagriva is required. Then you should receive the commentary and do a short retreat for one year or another long retreat until there are signs, or by mantra, reciting six million. You can do the preliminaries beforehand, and also do some during the retreat.

With much love and prayers...

Practice Advice for New Student
Rinpoche sent the following advice to a new student on which practices to do for the rest of her life.

My dear Norma,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. I am very sorry for the long delay in replying. It is very good of you to help the Loving Kindness Peaceful Youth Project.

So, my suggestion concerning your practice is you should do Compassion Buddha practice. There is a practice of Chenrezig Yoga, with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I am sending this to you.

Regarding the purpose of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM — this is not only for you to recite, but anyone who wishes for happiness should recite this mantra, even cockroaches, ants, elephants, snakes, and crocodiles; all of them should recite it. But, unfortunately, they don't have a human body and so do not have the opportunity to recite it. It brings all happiness, but, most importantly, generates compassion for all living beings.

From compassion you are able to achieve all happiness up to enlightenment, and then you are able to cause all happiness, including enlightenment, for all the numberless hell beings, preta beings, animal beings, human beings, asura, and sura beings.

Each day you should read some part of a lam-rim text. Read slowly and mindfully, so that it becomes meditation. But, of course, read from the beginning, finish, and then go back to the beginning again. Do this three times.

I think this Chenrezig Yoga might have a lam-rim prayer in it. If not, then add a lam-rim prayer. Reciting a lam-rim prayer makes your life extremely meaningful, and each time you recite it, it brings you closer to enlightenment and closer to enlightening all sentient beings.

In the morning it would be very good if you can do prostrations, reciting the names of the 35 Buddhas. When doing prostrations you focus on the merit field, with all the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha. Every evening before going to bed, either with prostrations or sitting, recite the long Vajrasattva mantra, at least half a mala or 21 times. If you recite the short mantra, OM VAJRASATTVA HUM, then recite this 28 times. This purifies today, this life's, and the last life's negative karma and stops it increasing the next day. Negative karma doubles each day that it is not purified.

Then, do one guru yoga each day, such as Lama TsongKhapa Guru Yoga or Guru Puja, if you have time.

Please go through the attached advice that I have put together as the most important practices to focus on.

Please make your life most meaningful with the thought of bodhicitta.

With much love and prayers...

New Student Advice
A new student wrote to Rinpoche requesting practices for life.

My very dear Robert,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. Your inspiration to practice Dharma is the most important thing in your life. Without Dharma there is no happiness, and there is no question that you can't achieve enlightenment. You can't liberate sentient beings from all the sufferings and causes and bring them to enlightenment. You can't even achieve for yourself total liberation from samsara. All the happiness of future lives has to come from Dharma because it comes from past good karma, that which is Dharma. So, without Dharma one can’t have any success in this life: success in business, marriage, or any happiness you want.

So, the best thing to help others is Dharma, and the best thing to help oneself is Dharma. Among the best, most important, things in this life is to meditate on the lam-rim and to have realizations—to complete the path to enlightenment and to make yourself fully qualified to liberate numberless sentient beings who are obscured and suffering and to bring them to peerless happiness and full enlightenment.

That is what makes life most productive—you begin the path, complete the path, and finish your Dharma practice. You don't need to practice forever, whereas the works of this life and samsara are endless. No matter how much you suffer and bear hardships for samsaric pleasures (temporary pleasures), there is no end.

First study the whole lam-rim. Then, each day, practice one meditation, following the graduated path. Do that for maybe one year. When you have finished, start all over again. After the first year, try to meditate on each topic, one by one, until you have realizations.

Meditate on guru devotion every day in the morning, then after that, if one has time, in the morning or any time, then practice one lam-rim meditation starting with perfect human rebirth. Also, do some meditation on emptiness every day. For the rest of the day, when you are away from actual seated meditation, which means your working life, then continue without removing the mind from the topic, whether impermanence, compassion, guru devotion, or emptiness. Whether it is your meditation session or working life, do everything with a bodhicitta motivation.

Your deity to achieve enlightenment quickest is Guhyasamaja. This is a maha anuttara yoga tantric deity. So, some time later, you can take the initiation when it comes around and read the commentary, practice meditation on the whole tantric path, and also do the retreat. That enables you to achieve enlightenment quickest!

Please study well these instructions. Then you will understand well how to follow the path.

With much love and prayers,
Lama Zopa

Please make your life most beneficial with bodhicitta.

New Student
A new student wrote to Rinpoche requesting him to be her guru and give her practices to do.

My very dear Liz,
Thank you very much for your very kind letter. I am very happy to accept, as you requested. Of course, I am not qualified, as you mentioned in your letter, but for sure there is karma from your side and from my side, so you try and I will also try.

It is very good for you to practice Guru Shakyamuni Buddha daily meditation (a small booklet that I put together). Within this practice there is a lam-rim prayer, so at that point stop and focus on a section of lam-rim, read a few pages of a lam-rim book, such as Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand or Lama Tsongkhapa’s middle lam-rim. In this way, you practice lam-rim meditation every day, continue going through the lam-rim like this, and then start again, until you have stable realizations. In this way, become familiar with the lam-rim path.

It is very good if you can do prostrations to the 35 Buddhas in the morning, either one, two, or three sets of 35. This means reciting the names one, two, or three times, and then you read the last confession prayers only once.

Then, in the evening, you can recite Vajrasattva mantra, either one mala, half a mala, or 21 times, with the practice of the four powers. You can also recite Vajrasattva mantra while prostrating if you like.

Your main deity for your quickest enlightenment and to enlighten others is Hevajra. If you can, take the initiation for this deity and then study the commentaries, and do the retreat and practices. This deity is more common in the Sakya lineage, but some Gelugpa lamas, like Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, also give the initiation.

I have checked what practices you should focus on for your whole life. This is many years of practices, so you know what to focus on, have a goal to achieve, and something to do, so you just do these practices according to your time and situation in life. These are the practices that will direct you toward enlightenment quickest, so this is like a map and equipment—what you need to achieve enlightenment:

30,000 refuge prayers
300,000 prostrations to the 35 Buddhas
500,000 Dorje Khadro
300,000 Guru Yoga

Please find attached instructions on how to do the practices, etc. Please make your life most meaningful with the thought of bodhicitta.

With much love and prayers...

New Student Advice
Rinpoche sent the following advice to a new student.

My very dear Tim,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. Sorry for the long delay in replying. Please find attached my advice for your whole life.

For you, it comes out generally very good to study, meaning to study philosophy. Next, it comes out best to do retreat, so try to do some retreat each year. This is besides meditation on the lam-rim while you are studying the Dharma and also working. All the time, meditate on the lam-rim.

Regarding the lam-rim meditation (see details in the sheets), please read my instructions well on how to do the preliminary practices effectively. I am giving you a list of practices for you to carry on with for your life. If you live for a billion years or even one year, this is how you can make your life very useful and beneficial.

Because one of your main practices is tong-len and the four immeasurables, it would be very good to take the Great Chenrezig initiation.

Regarding tantra, the main deity for you to practice to achieve enlightenment quickly, so sentient beings don’t have to suffer for a long time and so you can liberate sentient beings as quickly as possible, is Secret Vajrapani. When the opportunity comes, you can take the initiation, and then you can study the commentaries, do the retreat, and meditate on the path, but you do need a very strong practice of the lam-rim. Therefore, you need to study the lam-rim from beginning to end.

Then, the preliminary practices I have suggested are to purify your mind and for you to collect extensive merits and plant the seed of enlightenment, the whole path. These instructions are given to you so you know what to do with your life. It is not just preliminary practices, but to meditate on the lam-rim, and then your deity for your quickest enlightenment. So, here is the whole guidance.

Then, please do Lama Tsongkhapa practice every day, Vajrasattva practice at night, recite the Golden Light Sutra however much you can – one line a day, one page, or more, then do prostrations to the 35 Buddhas. If you can, according to your time, you can do the prostrations one time through (35 prostrations) or three times through (100 prostrations). This means you recite the names while you are prostrating. If you have physical difficulties then you can do less, or if you can’t prostrate then you can place your palms in the mudra of prostration and visualize the numberless 35 Buddhas, as well as numberless Buddhas, and then visualize that you are prostrating, covering the whole ground, or visualize billions of you prostrating, or that your body is giant so that it covers the whole ground.

Recite the names verbally with your hands in the mudra of prostration. In this way, so many eons of negative karma are purified, even just by reciting the names. This is unbelievably important and the most urgent thing, to stop rebirth in the lower realms and to take higher rebirths, so that one can practice Dharma, and so that one’s mind continues on the path, for sentient beings.

Please practice as much as you can. Life is not long, the nature of this life is impermanent, and death can happen at any time. This is the foundation of Buddha’s teachings, and this was the last advice Buddha gave, before showing the aspect of passing away.

Please make your life most meaningful with the thought of bodhicitta.

With much love and prayers... 

Practice Advice for Life for New Student
A new student wrote to Rinpoche asking for practices for the rest of her life.

Dear Lesley,
Sorry for the very long delay in replying to your letter. Please find enclosed instructions on how to do the different practices and the specific practices that came out best for your quickest enlightenment.

Please study the Dharma well and, at the same time, do the meditations on the lam-rim. The main one is to have a realization of bodhicitta in this life, and before that, renunciation.

First, check your present level of mind, if you have any realizations of the lam-rim, then do the next step of the lam-rim. If you don’t have realizations, then start from the beginning: guru devotion, renunciation of this life, perfect human rebirth, bodhicitta, and emptiness.

Then as a basis for planting the seed of the whole path to enlightenment in one’s mind, every day recite one complete lam-rim prayer, such as the Foundation of All Good Qualities or Lama Tsongkhapa’s Hymns of Experience, any lam-rim prayer. Also, recite one completion stage prayer every day, this is often found in the long sadhana of your main deity, at the end, where there is a prayer that goes through the stages of the path. This way, every day, you are leaving imprints of the whole path. This is extremely important to do every day because this plants seeds every day.

Then, whatever you do, as much as possible do it with bodhicitta.
With much love and prayers,
Lama Zopa

Prostrations: 100,000, reciting the 35 Buddhas' names

Mandala offerings: 300,000

Vajrasattva: at night, 21 long mantras, with practice

Guru Yoga: If possible, every day, it could be Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga or
Lama Chöpa, if you have time

Diamond Cutter Sutra: 20,000

This is unbelievable purification practice. Doing this practice you collect incredible amounts of merit, limitless. This is such a quick way to realize emptiness, to be liberated from samsara, to liberate numberless sentient beings from all the sufferings and their causes, and to bring them to enlightenment. This is something that you should be most unbelievably happy to do, and do all the recitations with the thought of bodhicitta, the thought of benefiting all sentient beings. Also, if you can dedicate to all the projects of the FPMT, this would be very helpful. Also, this practice helps very much to pacify all the obstacles to your studies and all the obstacles to attaining the path to enlightenment.