Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Lam-rim Topics :
Lam-rim Study and Practice
A Meaningful Life
|A student advised that after hearing just one word from Rinpoche, she decided to go to Kopan, Nepal. She later forgave her husband, from whom she was separated, and he went to Kopan. They are both practicing now.|
My most dear, most kind, most precious wish-fulfilling Linda,
Thank you for your letter. I am so happy that one word made you come to Kopan, then you forgave your husband and the next year your husband also came to Kopan. I thank both of you a billion, zillion times for what you have done in Dharma up to now.
Please continue your life with good heart and bodhicitta, as much as possible—that way you can achieve inner happiness, real happiness in your life. That is where it starts, then you can lead the life with happiness from that. It is the way to make your life most beneficial to every hell being, hungry ghost, animal, human being, sura, asura and intermediate state being, then of course it is beneficial for yourself by the way, without thinking.
I hope to see you soon. With much love and prayers...
|After reading How to Practice Dharma: Teachings on the Eight Worldly Dharmas, a student wrote to Rinpoche, who replied with advice about “the real Dharma.”|
What a profound impact your book, How to Practice Dharma, had on my mind. I thought that you would appreciate hearing about it. I have read about the eight worldly dharmas before, numerous times, but it never really impacted on me like it did while reading your book. I wept and wept with the knowledge that after all these years of trying to learn the Dharma and thinking that I was making some progress practicing Dharma, in reality, I have never really practiced Dharma without the eight worldly dharmas controlling me. That awareness makes me cry now, while writing to you. So much time has been wasted.
I scotched-taped notes on my computer, phone, water jug, and food pantry—and while I am writing to you, I am thinking of other ideas to place the post-its —with the word motivation to remind me to check my true motivation. I have written on a note card a prayer from your book that I say before I drive my car, also before I read my holy Dharma books and before I begin my morning and evening practice. I am eternally grateful for you taking the time to write that book, for without it, I would have continued doing what I have always done, and wasted my entire life unknowingly.
My very dear most kind precious Zoe,
Skies of thanks for discovering Dharma and trying to practice Dharma with every action. Thank you very, very much. That's the real Dharma. Even in the monasteries studying so much extensive philosophy, sometimes Dharma gets left out for some people. It looks like Dharma practice, but they are not practicing Dharma.
It is so precious what you discovered, what you experienced. You discovered Dharma; what Dharma is. Numberless thanks again.
With much love and prayer...
|Making Life Meaningful|
|A student who had broken up with her boyfriend asked for advice on how to deal with it. She also asked for advice for her mother and for a center (non-FPMT) that didn’t have good energy. Rinpoche wrote the following card.|
Pray to Tara for the center to be most beneficial for sentient beings.
Concerning your mother, your prayers have a lot of power because of the blood lineage, the guru/disciple relationship and having shared the same house and possessions. For her, pray that due to all the past, present and future merit of all sentient beings and the buddhas, your mother and family will be guided directly by Lama Tsongkhapa and will never be separate from the pure path pleasing all the buddhas. Pray for them never to be born in the lower realms and to receive enlightenment as quickly as possible. That’s everything, the conclusion. Of course, you can also pray for their long life, to be healthy, to meet Dharma and to actualize the clear light in this life.
Now for your meditation on lam-rim, to make your life meaningful, I would like to give this advice. Spend one month on the path of the lower capable being, from perfect human rebirth up to karma. Then five months on the path of the middle capable being, then three months on bodhicitta, then five months on emptiness. These topics are the main focus. Other topics are OK to do at the same time. Then come back and do them again until you gain renunciation—the main one—then bodhicitta and emptiness. Without renunciation, there’s no bodhicitta, but emptiness doesn’t depend so much on renunciation, generally.
Every day, do guru devotion meditation following the outlines, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes; even if you are busy. First study Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand and Lama Tsongkhapa’s lam-rim [Lam-rim Chen-mo]. For emptiness, you need someone to teach you if you don’t understand it by reading books.
Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand is a commentary on lam-rim. Geshe Sopa’s [Steps on the Path to Enlightenment] is the most extensive commentary on lam-rim. First do guru yoga based on the Guru Yoga of Lama Tsongkhapa with the lam-rim prayer or from The Essential Nectar. You can use the lam-rim outline from Liberation also.
Do the guru yoga practice, then before the merit field dissolution, do guru devotion practice, then start from the perfect human rebirth. Practice guru devotion, then the path of the lower capable being from perfect human rebirth up to karma, then the path of middle capable being, before bodhicitta.
For bodhicitta, there are two techniques: the seven-point cause and effect instruction, beginning with equilibrium meditation, then the other is exchanging self and others.
Therefore, use the commentary plus the lam-rim outline or The Essential Nectar.
With much love and prayer…
|A Meaningful Life|
|A student wrote asking what he should focus on to make his life most meaningful.|
My very dear Ben,
Thank you for your kind email, and I am very sorry for the long delay in replying.
There is no question what to do to make your life meaningful. The most important thing is to practice Dharma, because everyone wants happiness and does not want suffering, even the tiniest insect does not want to suffer. In order to stop all the suffering (which is not wanted) and to cause all happiness (which is wanted) depends on abandoning the cause of suffering and practicing the cause of happiness. Therefore, there is nothing else—only Dharma.
Therefore, you need to learn Dharma and practice Dharma.
What is to be achieved is happiness, but not just temporal happiness, which is pleasure in samsara, labeled on the feeling, but which in actuality is only suffering. This pleasure does not last and does not increase. All these pleasures, what the rest of the world is looking for, are nothing; they not real happiness, not pure happiness, and actually are only suffering, appearing as pleasure to the hallucinated mind. To the wisdom mind, that is able to really discern what they are—they are only suffering.
Therefore, being attached to this happiness only causes one to be reincarnated in samsara and to experience all the sufferings again and again. We need to seek total cessation of the delusions of ignorance, anger, and attachment.
The root of suffering is ignorance—not knowing the nature of the “I,” the nature of the aggregates, the ultimate nature, and also the negative imprints, which are the seeds of that ignorance. We need cessation of the cause of samsara, cessation of the oceans of samsara’s suffering for every single hell being, hungry ghost, animal, human being, sura, asura, and intermediate state being—that is ultimate happiness. When one has achieved the cessation of all the sufferings, then it is impossible to experience the suffering aggregates again; there is no cause to ever come back. This is ultimate happiness and the ultimate nature of the mind, the sorrowless state. When this is achieved it is forever.
The whole path to enlightenment is like the medicine, the remedy, to remove the true cause of suffering. One needs to actualize this in one’s heart. The cause of suffering cannot be washed away with water, or taken out, like a thorn being taken out of one’s body. The realizations on the path to enlightenment cannot be transplanted from Buddha to oneself.
Buddha said the only way to guide sentient beings is to realize the path and then to reveal the truth, so this means to reveal the ultimate nature: emptiness and dependent arising, and their unification. While everything is empty from its own side, it exists. While existing in mere name, it is empty. This means everything exists in mere name, including the ultimate nature of the “I,” the aggregates. By developing the direct realization of the wisdom realizing the emptiness of the ultimate nature of the “I” and the ultimate nature of the mind, the aggregates, one directly ceases the cause of suffering: karma, delusion, and the causes, which are negative imprints on the mind.
This is how to be liberated forever, to be free from all sufferings. One needs to practice Dharma and attain the path. One can’t achieve the path by taking tablets, LSD, sleeping pills, special plants, chemicals, or cocaine. Buddha has very clearly explained the whole path, everything. Now one has to learn the teachings, reflect on them, and meditate. This is how one makes one’s mind familiar with the path.
This is the meaning of one’s life—to achieve ultimate happiness, the total cessation of suffering and the cause of suffering. Life is not for suffering, life is for happiness. As I mentioned already, no one wants to suffer and everyone wants happiness. So, happiness comes from virtue, and suffering comes from non-virtue. Therefore, all happiness in one’s life comes from virtue. Now you can see why one needs to practice Dharma to achieve ultimate happiness and to not have suffering, and how that is the meaning of one’s life. The real meaning of one’s life is to benefit others, so that all sentient beings can have complete happiness, a happy life. One’s aim is to cause ultimate happiness for others, liberation from samsara for all sentient beings, and the highest happiness—enlightenment—for sentient beings.
In order to be able to do this, one needs to be able to do perfect works for sentient beings, For that, one needs to have omniscient mind, to be able to know numberless sentient beings’ level of mind, their wishes, and their level of intelligence, and to know exactly what fits for them, to bring them happiness, and in order for them to be liberated from samsara and to be enlightened. This doesn’t happen without a cause. First one needs to achieve the graduated path to enlightenment (the lam-rim), which comes in three levels:
First, the gradual path of the lower capable being, then the gradual path of the middle capable being, and last, the gradual path of the higher capable being. This means that it is the lam-rim that makes one’s life most meaningful, both for you and especially for numberless sentient beings, each and every one. Attaining these paths depends on meditating on them—not just simple meditation—one needs to live one’s whole life according to them.
You can see how important it is to study the lam-rim, but most important is one needs to practice it—that is how to become enlightened. Therefore, you need to study the lam-rim. You can use the book The Essential Nectar as a guide for your meditations, and then study:
Essence of Refined Gold by the Seventh Dalai Lama
Lam-rim Chen-mo—this is Lama Tsongkhapa’s great lam-rim
Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by Pabongka Rinpoche
Study these texts to have a good understanding of the path. Don’t just read them—study them and read them slowly, relating them to your own life. This becomes lam-rim meditation.
In order to purify past karma it is very good if you can do each day:
Vajrasattva practice – reciting the long mantra 28 times
Prostrations and reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names. The best is three times a day, otherwise at least recite them once a day. This is very powerful for purifying negative karma created since beginningless time and for collecting extensive merits.
Then, make a one-pointed request to the guru, with one-pointed devotion, by meditating on guru yoga.
When you get up in the morning, immediately generate your motivation, make offerings on your altar, then do prostrations reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names. You can base your daily practice on Guru Shakyamuni daily meditation. I have a booklet that you can use and, at the appropriate place, you stop and do the lam-rim meditation that you are up to.
If you can, recite daily the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation with Chenrezig meditation. Visualize Chenrezig in front of you as you recite the eight verses. Later on you can receive a great initiation and you can then visualize yourself as Chenrezig and combine with the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation.
At the end of the day, make the dedications. You can use different dedication prayers, such as the King of Prayers, or the dedication chapter from Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.
Please also find my essential heart practice to combine with the above. Please make your life most meaningful with the thought of bodhicitta. Do every activity with that.
With much love and prayers,
|The Essence of Life|
|Rinpoche made the following comments to a student about developing on the path.|
The best life in the world is if you are able to develop your mind in devotion and renunciation, as well as the good heart, which is the essence of the Mahayana teachings, in loving kindness, compassion, bodhicitta, and also some experience of emptiness. This is great, the best life in the world, the happiest life, making your life very fruitful. Without experience and practice of the lam-rim, the rest of life is only suffering – whatever you do, wherever you are. Without the lam-rim, whether you are the president or king, life is only suffering; being the lowest person is suffering, being a beggar is suffering, being a wealthy person is suffering, being a zillionaire is suffering, having friends is suffering, not having friends is suffering, living in the city is suffering, living in the countryside is suffering, sleeping is suffering, not sleeping is suffering, eating is suffering, not eating is suffering, having children is suffering, not having children is suffering, and so on.
I rejoice and have great praise for you, that while you are living a family life, you are able to develop your mind in the experience of the lam-rim. There are many many obstacles with living a family life, double and triple obstacles, externally and internally, to practicing Dharma and developing the mind on the path, so this is the greatest challenge. You are a much greater champion than an Olympic champion who practices for 30 or 40 years, his or her whole life from childhood, to be a champion. These champions are nothing, they are only champions of suffering. In the world, many people regard champions as people who win wars, killing many people, but winning the war creates so much negative karma, and they end up being reborn in the lower realms.
It is very easy for people who live in the mountains, in a very isolated place, or in a monastery or nunnery, to develop their mind on the path, although for some people it is very difficult to develop their mind on the path even in these very ideal conditions. Therefore, I rejoice that you are developing your mind within a family life.
My advice to you is to continue to develop your guru devotion realization, to stabilize it forever, to see all your gurus as all the Buddhas and all the Buddhas as all your gurus.
Mainly focus on bodhicitta and emptiness, but still meditate a little bit each week on the topics from the perfect human rebirth to karma.
|Making Ordinary Actions Meaningful|
|Rinpoche made the following comments on how to transform everyday actions into virtue.|
While going for tea after teachings, I was putting on my watch and I told a monk with me that when you do this you can visualize yourself as the guru deity and that you are putting on and offering ornaments to the guru deity. This is not publicizing that I am practicing, but is a suggestion of how to make life meaningful, how to make your belongings meaningful, and use them to collect extensive merits. This is just one example, one advantage. It helps to think when you offer to the guru deity that the thing is not yours, it is the guru's, so that helps you not to cling on to it as if it is yours.
At a tea shop I bought some pistachio nuts. If you visualize yourself as the guru deity and then put each nut in your mouth it becomes like a fire puja (jinsek in Tibetan), which means 'offering burning' practice. With each nut you put in your mouth and eat you collect the most extensive merits, more than having made offerings to numberless Buddhas, Dharma, Sangha, statues, and scriptures, all the holy objects in the ten directions.
Similarly, when you go to eat in a restaurant, think you are offering to the guru deity, think that this food is not for you. This helps to prevent the thought of possession—“This is mine.” This helps you to practice the bodhisattva vows. It is also an antidote to attachment. When you practice like this there is peace and happiness in your heart. Otherwise, every single thing, whatever you do through attachment based on ignorance, becomes negative karma.
When you go shopping, watch your motivation, and prepare your motivation. When you are in the shop, either fulfill the wishes of the guru or shop to benefit and serve other sentient beings. Think that the ultimate purpose is to fulfill the guru's advice. You buy these things to survive and to fulfill the wishes of the guru or benefit sentient beings. In this way, shopping becomes the antidote to attachment, becomes virtuous activity, Dharma, and you collect extensive merit.
Also, in the street that same day we were waiting for a taxi, and it took some time to get a taxi to go back. The thought came that it's good to practice rejoicing when the taxi comes and other people get into it. It's good to practice rejoicing that this other person got happiness, what they need. This is an excellent practice and helps negative emotional minds, anger, and being upset not to arise. This way you keep the mind in virtue, in Dharma, because you are sincerely wishing happiness for others. This is very pure Dharma and also keeps your mind in a state of happiness.
Wishing happiness for others opens the door of all happiness, whether wishing happiness for one insect, one person, or many. In the Lama Choepa it says, "The mind that cherishes all mother beings and would secure them in bliss is the gateway leading to infinite virtue." This is from Buddha's Mahayana teachings. This means it becomes a cause for enlightenment. If you want to be like His Holiness says, if you want to be intelligently selfish, in this case, the common result of rejoicing once in this life is that in hundreds of thousands of future lives you will have no difficulty in finding a taxi, you will immediately find a vehicle when you are traveling. Even if it is difficult for other people, for you it will be easy to find a taxi or vehicle. That rejoicing creates the karma for this. Your rejoicing, doing something good, such as this practice of thinking of the karmic result, which is happiness for yourself, is called intelligently selfish, because at least from this you get the karmic result of happiness in your future life, and at least it becomes Dharma and virtue.