My most dear, most kind, most precious wish-fulfilling ___ ,
It was a great, great, great surprise to suddenly hear from you after Dalhousie or Buxa Duar. So many years have passed. For the past 40 years I have mostly travelled in Nepal and India, and all over the world. I also went to Tibet several times for pilgrimage with students. I came to England maybe six or seven times, but I haven’t been to England for a long time, about 13 years.
We have a few centers in England; the main one, as you know, was Manjrushri Institute. That was before, many years ago, but now it doesn’t belong to FPMT; it belongs to the geshe, the Tibetan teacher whom FPMT invited to teach at the center. Now we have Jamyang Centre in London—this is now the main center in England, and it has developed a few other branches, in Leeds and other places. I have been based in the USA for the last 15 years, and I go to Nepal and India and other countries often, but I go less often since I had the stroke.
In 2011, on the basis of having diabetes for over 11 years, I had a stroke. It happened in Bendigo, Australia, while I was leading a retreat. The first two weeks of the retreat were teachings on the great bodhisattva Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara, A Guide to a Bodhisattva Way of Life. Then the second two weeks of the retreat were first going to be the Highest Yoga Tantra initiations of Guhyasamaja, Yamantaka and Chakrasamvara, then I was going to continue to give 100 sets of initiations (Rinjung Gyatsa initiations).
The first two weeks of the retreat had passed, talking about general Dharma practice, and it was during the time I was giving the Yamantaka initiation that the stroke happened. It was a very light stroke, not like others, but it affected my right side. Generally it is said that when a stroke happens to a man on the right side, it is more difficult to recover. For women, it is easier to recover when the stroke happens on the right side, but it is more difficult for women to recover from a stroke on the left side. So even though my right side is affected, there has been some slow recovery—slowly, slowly —especially if I think back to how it was during the time I had the stroke.
I just wanted to mention very briefly, for you to rejoice in, since the time of the stroke, Amitabha Buddhist Centre in Singapore has liberated about 170 million animals that were otherwise going to be killed. They were liberated back into the ocean. The man who organized this used to be a commander in the Singapore army; he is one of the key members of Amitabha Buddhist Centre. In addition to that, so many animals—goats, sheep and yaks—were also liberated in Tibet and in many different countries.
After hearing about the stroke, a Vietnamese man whom I had never met became a vegetarian for the rest of his life. One Singaporean girl, a student—at that time I hadn’t met her, but I met her recently in Nepal—told me that after she heard about the stroke she took eight Mahayana precepts for the rest of her life. Then so many other practices were done, such as reciting long life mantras and Medicine Buddha mantras by groups of students and individuals at different centers. So many practices were done and so many pujas, even by the abbots of the great monasteries, Sera, Gaden and Drepung, where there are thousands and thousands of monks studying Buddhist philosophy, which is so deep like the ocean. Even if the Tibetan government officials were sick or died, I don’t think that many pujas would be done.
This is just information for you to rejoice in. So much good karma, which is the cause of happiness, was created by the FPMT organization—by all the centers and by individuals who did so much practice, purifying negative karma and collecting merits, and in this way getting close to realizations and closer to enlightenment. If you want to see everything that was done, it is listed on this web page.
In Bendigo, Australia, we are building a big stupa. It is the same size (50 meters wide and 50 meters high) and exactly the same design as the stupa of Gyantse, in Tibet. The retreat in 2011 was held inside the stupa and there were many older students who gathered for it. In Australia, FPMT now has about 17 centers and many students came from each of the centers for the retreat.
In essence, this what has happened since I left Buxa Duar. First I went to Darjeeling because I was sick, so we came to Darjeeling for health reasons. I had been there a few times before, but this was the longest I stayed in Darjeeling.
Then I met a Russian lady, Princess Zena Rachevsky. Maybe you have read those stories that mention about the early days of FPMT. I tried to translate for Zena with my limited and broken English words. My guru, Lama Yeshe, gave her teachings and then she wanted to start a Mahayana Buddhist center in Sri Lanka. We got permission from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to go to Sri Lanka, but we had to wait for something, maybe it was our passports. Then Zena came back from Sri Lanka and we met an Indian raja. At that time it seemed that the Indian government thought Zena may be a spy, so she was being spied on by the Indian government. Even though she was not a spy, she did enjoy making other people think that she might be, so that is why we were not able to go to Sri Lanka.
It turned out that it was good that we did not go there, because it was a Theravada country, so maybe the monks wouldn’t have liked a Mahayana center. Then Lama Yeshe said we should go to Nepal. Even though I was born in Nepal, I had not stayed there long. When I was very young I went to Tibet for three years and when Tibet was taken over by communist China, I escaped through Bhutan to Buxa Duar, India. So from the time that I went to Nepal with Lama Yeshe up to now, my whole life has been spent with Western people. It started from Nepal, beginning with teaching Dharma to the Russian princess, Zena.
After that I led meditation courses in Nepal, just with a few words of Dharma, from the small understanding I had. Students came from different parts of the world for the course at Kopan Monastery in Nepal and the courses still continue every year to this day, during the month of November. In the early days we did two-month courses, but then I had to travel to the West, so I wasn’t able to do two-month courses, but we continued with the one-month course each year up to now and many people come from all over the world, more and more. It seems that people got some benefit from attending the course so when they went back to their own countries, they told their friends. So that’s how Tibetan Buddhism spread in the West.
Now FPMT has 161 centers in 36 countries. All the centers (except maybe two or three) were started from the students’ side. Often after attending a Kopan course, they went back to their countries and then wanted to start a center. There were more centers, but some have closed down.
My master, Lama Yeshe, passed away 29 years ago and the incarnation of Lama Yeshe was born in Spain to some older students who took care of one of the centers in Spain—Osel Ling Retreat Center. The incarnation of Lama Yeshe, Lama Osel, is 28 years old now and is living in California, USA, at the moment. Lama Yeshe started the FPMT organization.
We now have very extensive study programs in some centers, offering a Master’s Program etc, so many of the students are now very knowledgeable. In addition we have about 44 geshes—Tibetan lamas—who completed their studies, got their geshe degree in the great monasteries and are now teaching in our centers. Also nowadays even the Western students can teach philosophy when there are no geshes available, or even to support the geshes.
Most of the FPMT centers offer extensive programs such as the Basic Program, where students can study Buddhist philosophy, the essence of Buddhism, all the 84,000 teachings that were taught by Buddha, which are integrated into Hinayana, Mahayana Paramitayana and Mahayana tantra—not Hindu tantra, but tantra taught by Buddha. So all of the teachings are integrated into the lam-rim, the graduated path to enlightenment.
The Basic Program offers many teachings on the Buddhist philosophical texts, including the lam-rim, the graduated path to enlightenment. So this program is what I arranged. First there was the Master’s Program that was arranged by Lama Yeshe and another master who had been teaching at our centers. His name was Geshe Jampa Gyatso and he was in the same class as Lama Yeshe. Lama Yeshe and Geshe Jampa Gyatso discussed this at Kopan Monastery and created the Master’s Program. It is an eight-year program and at the end the students get a degree, however, now it has been changed to only seven years. It is being offered at more and more of our centers.
This program is not only studying the Hinayana teachings, which show the four noble truths, true suffering and the true cause of suffering—how samsara, including samsaric happiness, is in the nature of suffering, and how it comes from the cause, it comes from the mind and from karma and delusion (the wrong concepts). Then how it is ceased—true cessation, nirvana, and how to achieve that by the true path, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness. This is the main one, which ceases all the karma and delusions, and the root of the delusions—the ignorance holding the I as truly existent. We believe the I exists from its own side; we believe the I is real, but it is merely labeled by the mind. Relating it to the collection of aggregates, the valid base, it has never been existent from its own side, from beginning up until now. The nature of the I is empty of existing from its own side. All existence—so this means all phenomena—are also empty of existing from their own side. Everything exists in mere name and is merely labeled by the mind: hell, enlightenment, samsara, nirvana, happiness and problems. For example, the I exists in mere name; action exists in mere name; the object exists in mere name and function exists in mere name.
Not only do we offer that, we also offer study on the Mahayana teachings, on the whole path to enlightenment, which brings us to full enlightenment, the omniscient mind, peerless happiness; which can free numberless sentient beings from each realm, from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment.
So by studying Buddhism, we study the two truths—method and wisdom—and the goal, what is to be achieved, dharmakaya and sambhogakaya (Buddha’s holy body and holy mind). Then to cease not only the cause of suffering—delusion and karma —but to totally cease even the imprints left by delusion; to cease even the subtle obscurations. After ceasing that, then we are able to complete all the realizations and understandings to achieve the omniscient mind. So, this is the most important need for sentient beings—among all the kinds of education, this is the most important education and the most important practice.
So what we (FPMT) have been doing is serving and helping sentient beings in this world. This is really what they need, this is the most important thing and it is through this that we will bring ultimate peace and happiness to sentient beings, not only in this world, but also for the six types of sentient beings (hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, asuras and intermediate state beings).
The center in Bendigo, Australia, is building a giant stupa and in addition to that there is also a big buddha made from a single piece of jade. This Jade Buddha is going around the world and so many people go to see it and take blessings from it. It is generating the income for building the stupa in Bendigo.
In addition to the Jade Buddha going around the world, there are also Buddha’s relics and different relics from great holy beings that also go around the world, and people go to see them and take blessings. The original plan was for this to help the Maitreya Project.
Maitreya Buddha is the future Buddha and we are building a Maitreya statue in Bodhgaya, India. The idea was that the relic tours would help with that. It has taken a long time to be able to build this statue and now it seems we won’t be able to build it as high as we originally intended (500 ft) so instead we will build a smaller Maitreya statue (150 ft), and perhaps we will also build a second Maitreya statue in Kushinagar, which is the place where Buddha showed the holy deed, the aspect of passing away.
So at the moment I am supposed to be the spiritual director of the FPMT organization. I’m very happy to write to you, to help you now. So now we have all become old, not just you. We have all become old, but we didn’t die yet. This is the nature of our lives—even plants grow old and then die. This is part of nature. It’s the same for sentient beings, except for those who have actualized the path and purified karma and delusion—only then they don’t have to experience death. Arhats and arya bodhisattvas don’t have to experience death, especially after they have removed the delusions—that means the 8th, 9th and 10th level bodhisattvas. They don’t have to experience death, because they are free from delusion and karma.
Meanwhile, human beings who have met Dharma can at least have a happy death through practicing Dharma. They still have to die, but they can have a happy death, because they don’t have to be reborn in the lower realms. They will have a higher rebirth, such as deva rebirth and be able to practice Dharma again and achieve ultimate happiness.
I am sending you this small booklet on the five powers at the time of death, and also these photos and cards. Also attached is my advice for morning motivation, so at the end of the motivation you can recite OM MANI PADME HUM. I am sending you a mala as well.
I am sending you a photo of Chenrezig, so think of this as the real Chenrezig, not as a picture. Think of it as the size of a mountain, with compassion for you and all sentient beings. With omniscient mind and perfect power, Chenrezig sends light beams to purify you and all sentient beings. The light beams are particularly for you, kind of illuminating you, purifying all the causes of suffering. Think that all the obscurations and negative karma collected since beginningless rebirths and even the subtle negative imprints collected from beginningless rebirths are purified, then recite OM MANI PADME HUM.
If you recite one mala, for example, for half of the mala concentrate on purifying yourself and for the next half of the mala concentrate on receiving all of Chenrezig’s qualities—omniscient mind, perfect power and compassion for all sentient beings. This perfect power is to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to full enlightenment.
Then for half of the next mala, concentrate on purifying all the sentient beings, mainly the six types of sentient beings, so the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, asura and intermediate state beings, are purified of all their delusions and negative karma. Then for the next half mala, concentrate that they receive all the qualities of Chenrezig—omniscient mind, perfect power and compassion.
If you want to do more recitations, then you can follow that same pattern (half a mala purifying and half receiving the qualities yourself, then half purifying and half receiving the qualities for all sentient beings). If you can recite as many OM MANI PADME HUM mantras as possible, that would be so good. Even more than 10,000 times would be fantastic. But you can’t visualize yourself in the form of Chenrezig unless you have received the great initiation of Chenrezig.
Another meditation you can do when reciting OM MANI PADME HUM is to think nectar comes out of Chenrezig and you receive all the blessing and qualities. You can also do tong-len meditation. Attached is a small teaching on how to meditate on tong-len while you are reciting OM MANI PADME HUM.
Also while reciting the mantra you can read lam-rim books, like The Essential Nectar. When you read, at the beginning of the mala remember Chenrezig’s nectar is coming into you and purifying you, and at the end think you receive all the qualities. So in between that, you can read the lam-rim books like The Essential Nectar mindfully. The Essential Nectar is very good to use as a meditation guide book on the whole path to enlightenment. Or you can follow the lam-rim outlines. The most elaborate one is from Lama Tsongkhapa’s Lam-rim Chen-mo, or Lama Tsongkhapa’s Middling Lam-rim. The Middling Lam-rim is very good because it has left out the discussions about wrong views of emptiness, so it is just the essential explanation. I am sending you The Essential Nectar.
So if you can do this, it would be so good, so then just before changing this life, you are able to make your life so rich, you are able to plant the seed of enlightenment, of the whole path, so then it makes your life very, very rich, the most beneficial. Then also, especially meditate on bodhicitta for the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, asuras and intermediate state beings, who are numberless. You can even see this in life or on TV—there are numberless ants in numberless universes; numberless fish in the Pacific Ocean; and numberless flies, even when we walk on the grass so many tiny flies jump up, trying to escape.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is for us Chenrezig, manifested as monk, so now, but also at the time of passing, you should think that your life is completely in the hands of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Chenrezig. Completely rely on His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Chenrezig. I am sending you a prayer to Chenrezig as well.
So at the end make the prayer to only be guided by Chenrezig now and in all your lifetimes, to only be like Chenrezig now and in all the future lifetimes, to be most beneficial for sentient beings and the teachings of Buddha, and to generate bodhicitta in your heart for all sentient beings, and in particular for sentient beings in this world to have perfect peace and happiness and for all the war, famine, disease, and economic problems to be pacified immediately, including all the dangers of fire, water, earthquakes, tsunamis—for all the harms of the elements to be pacified immediately.
So completely trust and rely on Chenrezig Buddha, who is one with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and for your whole life to be taken care of completely by Chenrezig, for your whole life to be in the hands of Chenrezig. So don’t worry.
Please read well this small book on how to die, how to make preparation for death. Please study it well. It is so worthwhile to read Dharma books.
In Buxa Duar I used to get letters from you, but only sometimes. I remember you used to have a business with many people —400 people or 4,000 people —sorry, I’m not sure, but you had to close your business. This is my memory, one time, a long, long time ago, you sent something round to Buxa Duar. I thought it was a machine to listen to music, so I went to an Indian man who was working in the Lama Camp, but we opened it later and it was cake.
Thank you very much and also thank you to your daughter. If you have anything to say, please write, I will try to help. Thank you very much to your daughter. Thank you very, very much for letting me to know about you, it’s very kind of you.
With much love and prayers,
Please live your life as much as possible with a good heart, bodhicitta to sentient beings, and a good heart to strangers, to enemies, to friends, to all, not just those that we have attachment to. So that is what is Buddhism, especially Mahayana Buddhism.