The Importance of the Dharma Center

The Importance of the Dharma Center

Date Posted:
November 2011

Advice for students at a center celebrating its tenth anniversary.

My very dear brothers and sisters, who have come here to celebrate the tenth anniversary. This is something to rejoice in so much, because the center is able to be of benefit to many sentient beings and the teaching of the Buddha. 

Reason to Practice Dharma

Here is why we need to practice Dharma besides doing ordinary work.

Even non-believers of reincarnation and karma, as a result of actions, need to practice Dharma because they want happiness and do not want suffering. To have happiness in life you have to change your mind, casting away negative thoughts and attachment to this life—clinging to the ‘I’, clinging to the body, clinging to possessions, friends, surrounding people and family—the delusion which harms oneself, which harms others, which makes you suffer, which makes others suffer. Cast that away and establish a healthy, positive and happy mind, virtuous thoughts.

For example, you want to have a long-lasting happy relationship with your husband or your wife. That’s one thing. Usually, you have lots of worries that the husband or wife might lose their love for you and leave you.

So, there you need to practice patience. If you are full of anger you think of negative reasons, you think bad thoughts then anger arises and then you fight. You are not happy with him or her, then that manifestation comes and the other person sees that you are angry, and then their mind is not happy. Then you fight with words that hurt the other’s heart , also affect their mind, make their mind upset or angry.

Then come the actions of the body, such as frowning at him or her, throwing things, beating or even killing, the biggest danger, or breaking arms or legs or even maybe the nose!

Maybe you get angry through a very small thing, such as the bread or tea being cold, say some words and finally end up in a court case, spending millions of dollars for nothing— not for virtue or helping somebody, it doesn’t get used on that. In America, in the Aptos home, one day I went to the sea with the house monks and nuns. We were sitting on a bench, using the table for eating and drinking. A car drove by and then came back. The driver told us she was so happy because she had built the bench after her husband died, to help people. So, for example, that wasted money could have been used to help in such a way.

So unbelievable, the delusion anger. If you are not careful with your anger or other delusions such as jealous mind, they can cause huge unnecessary expenses in your life. Maybe even you can’t pay the other person or the court fees because you don’t have the money.

One delusion, anger or jealousy or another, makes life so miserable and then causes the other person to separate, to end the relationship. Then you are depressed; everything is dark for you. However much sunshine or light there is, your mind is dark.

It’s good to know what makes life so difficult, the puzzle of how much suffering is caused by one delusion. One attachment creates such an unbelievable experience, so much difficulty just from one delusion. It’s good to know that.

However much you gain in business, from ten dollars you might make $100, from $100 you make $1,000, from $1,000 you make $10,000, from $10,000 to a million, to billions and zillions, there is no end. I have seen in the world many billionaires go to prison because of their unsatisfied minds. You want more and more and so you do something illegal, then a person in your company becomes angry with you and brings out all the illegalities, and you go to prison. Then you become famous in a different way, in suffering.

Even if you are a non-believer you need to have a satisfied mind, contentment. You need to practice having a satisfied mind and contentment; that is renunciation. As much as possible have less attachment, then life becomes happy. A simple life is a happy life; happiness comes from within. That is Dharma, contentment and satisfied mind; renunciation of attachment brings peace from within.

As I mentioned about relationships, you need to practice patience. It’s most important to keep the mind in happiness, with patience and tolerance you can enjoy life with your partner. You don’t find the partner harming you, disturbing you, because you are practicing patience. This brings incredible peace and happiness. Patience is Dharma, and contentment and a satisfied mind are Dharma, pure Dharma.

Historically, many times, due to not practicing patience, an influential and powerful person became extremely threatening, killing many millions of people, like Mao Tse-Tung, Hitler or Stalin. This one person of influence and power didn’t practice patience, so millions of people got killed and suffered.

On the other side, a person practicing the good heart and patience brings happiness to millions and millions of people, like Shakyamuni Buddha and great compassionate people from different religions, such as St. Francis and Mother Teresa.

So here, this is just a drop. If you want happiness and do not want suffering you have to practice Dharma—even non-believers. Therefore you need someone to teach and so you can see the need for Dharma centers. There are other centers, but we need as many as possible, to offer the education and practice that are necessary for happiness. That is the function of the center; not only teaching Dharma but also healing and so many things, giving food, having the temple open in the day and at night. The organizers here are unbelievably kind; their minds are so sympathetic to the people in need.

The FPMT organization has a kind of education, besides Buddhist teachings of sutra and tantra, Universal Wisdom Education (UWE), which teaches the very basic things; the first is to learn and practice for life’s happiness. In reality, happiness not only in this life but happiness from life to life for hundreds of lifetimes and thousands of lifetimes, just from one act of kindness to anyone—friend, enemy, stranger, even animals, any sentient being.

These are: rejoicing (at others’ happiness); patience; forgiveness; apologizing sincerely from the heart; contentment and courage in a positive sense. In reality, this is all Dharma.

This is the very first thing, then after that you can practice the sixteen human dharmas and so forth, securing your future happiness. Then you can study the extensive philosophy.

Now, regarding the world situation, there are three questions.

Firstly, one of the benefactors in Delhi told me recently that a big question in the world is that more and more people don’t trust their government any more.

Without Dharma, without compassion, there is self-cherishing thought, no compassion for other sentient beings’ suffering and happiness. Working in government with self-cherishing thoughts and I-grasping ignorance, the mind is selfish so the motivation is selfish. Ultimately you are working for yourself and your own happiness, but with a selfish mind there is not even success in the happiness of this life.

As the great saint Shantideva said in the Bodhicaryavatara: If one doesn’t exchange oneself for others, full enlightenment cannot be achieved; even in samsara there is no happiness.

To stop the problems, people need Dharma education. Buddhism is differentiated from other religions by compassion to all living beings—hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, asuras and suras—every single being. As well, in Buddhist practice you develop wisdom, knowing what is right or wrong—what is the right or wrong decision and what is the right or wrong lifestyle.

What is wrong and what is right? That is a huge question. In the world, what people believe is right, is wrong and what they believe is wrong, is right. So we need right wisdom. The more Dharma we learn, the more and more wisdom we develop. That becomes complete when we achieve full enlightenment. It is not endless, we can complete it. That brings more and more peace and happiness in the world.

That is why we need a Dharma center, which offers the opportunity to learn Dharma. You can see, establishing more and more Dharma centers is the most important help for sentient beings, for this world, for this country. It is of the utmost need.

Then the second question: global warming and lots of disasters, which are called "natural." International global warming experts understand and some people explain it scientifically, such as former US vice president Al Gore in his movie. Yes, they happen, but whether good or bad things happen they come from the mind, as the delusions come from the unsubdued mind. Many disasters of the elements of fire, water, earth and air are happening, which are called natural. That is Western way of talking by those who don't believe in karma and delusions as the main cause. They don’t understand inner and outer causes.

Since it is causative phenomena, it is born, it exists and it ceases. Everything, all these have to happen by causes, karma and delusion. So, all these so-called “natural” disasters happen due to no or little understanding of karma. To understand things, one has to understand Dharma, and karma—action and results. Then there is more possibility for somebody to have inner knowledge of why disasters are happening and what method to apply to stop those disasters.

Let me give you an example. There is a young lady from Tibet who is believed to be a dakini, a sky-goer. When she was going around Tashi Lhunpo, Panchen Rinpoche's monastery, Milarepa appeared to her and she found she had a connection with Milarepa from some thousand years ago. Milarepa gave her a bunch of money and advised her to go to India to serve His Holiness the Dalai Lama. That is how she was able to come to India. Now she has been in Dharamsala for many years.

She serves and protects His Holiness the Dalai Lama in a most amazing way. She saw thousands or millions of people dying due to a big volcanic eruption and earthquake in the Himalayan regions, not only in Dharamsala but the whole region. She saw very clearly the danger, from inside her heart or mind, which is beyond ordinary peoples’ minds. So she built many stupas around His Holiness the Dalai Lama's palace and also at Nechung Monastery and Norbulingka, close to Dharamsala. Due to these, the huge volcano and earthquake did not happen, but a small earthquake happened, in which nobody died except one cow. Also, we asked what should be done to prevent a big earthquake in California and she advised to build a completely different stupa. She predicted like a waterfall, nothing false, no doubt.

Somebody like that can help a hundred percent to stop such disasters, but due to karma some disasters have to be experienced; they cannot be stopped completely. She is like a star in the daytime, so rare.

So again, the more you develop wisdom and compassion, the fundamentals of Buddhism, by putting it into practice, the better the world can become, including economically.

Now, the third question: when there are more and more demonstrations against the government, the king and so forth, usually they are against dictatorships, which don't help people because of selfish thought, seeking their own happiness. It is intelligent, wise and clever to cherish others, to serve others. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama always says, if you want to be selfish, be intelligently selfish. For that you must know Dharma, you must know karma and how to practice.

So even for this, the best answer is to learn Dharma, to meditate, especially how to develop wisdom and compassion towards other sentient beings. Therefore, we need a place where there is a teacher, the Dharma and facilities to practice.

The center is able to offer these facilities to everyone, as much as it can do.

The most important purpose is Dharma, it is more important than food, clothing or having a job; understanding, practicing Dharma, understanding karma (Tib: ledre) and developing wisdom and compassion for numberless sentient beings.

The reason is there is no-one in the world who has discovered only one life; no past or future lives. Of course, there are theories about one life. Due to not understanding, they may believe and teach such religion as Gyangphenpa and so forth. But none who have discovered, realized, who see through karma, like devas or asuras. Devas know when they are going to die and they see where they will be born, so they have lots of suffering, more than physical suffering. This is due to karma, seeing past and future, but there are numberless beings who, through meditation and Six Yogas of Naropa, can see your and others’ past and future.

Like murky water, we can't see through the heavily obscured mind. A fully awakening, completely purified mind like Buddha's omniscient mind, of course directly sees all the numberless sentient beings, knows their every single action of past and future. Even a bodhisattva abiding in the pure grounds, such as the eighth and tenth bhumis, having purified the gross obscurations but not the subtle, can see. The bodhisattvas who dwell in the first bhumi see a hundred eons past and a hundred eons in the future. The second bhumi bodhisattvas see a thousand past and a thousand future eons; on the third, fourth, fifth and sixth bhumis they see more and more. Generally, on the paths of merit and preparation it also might be possible to see past and future. So there are numberless beings who discovered and realized past lives. There are also old and young children, not only Tibetan but in the West, who remember their past life.

So definitely now you have to make preparation for the happiness of the next life and the life after that and so forth. The cause of happiness and good rebirth is through Dharma, and good karma, pure morality. Therefore, you have to practice Dharma and for this you have to learn Dharma.

By taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, by renouncing the ten non-virtues and practicing the ten virtues, living in five or less upasaka vows, you can receive higher rebirth. There are also eight upasaka lay vows, 36 vows and intermediate ordination, renouncing the householder life. Then there are the 253 bhikshu vows and the bhikshuni with 364 vows. Then there are also the bodhisattva and tantra vows.

The happiness of higher rebirth and rebirth in a pure land comes by the way, it’s not the main goal. You need to achieve ultimate happiness and liberation from samsara’s suffering. For this you have to achieve realization of the four noble truths. For this you have to know true suffering and the true cause of suffering. In other words, you have to actualize the five paths—the path of merit, the path of preparation, the right seeing path, the path of meditation and the path of no more learning. Free from samsara’s suffering and the cause of suffering, delusions and karma, you will have everlasting happiness, a blissful state of peace in oneself. Then you actualize great compassion to all sentient beings, the great bodhicitta, to free sentient beings from oceans of suffering.

In order to bring the numberless sentient beings to full enlightenment one has to achieve enlightenment. For this one has to enter the Mahayana path, of which there are five paths as I mentioned, and ten bhumis, starting from the right-seeing path, to remove gross and subtle defilements.

Of course, that takes three great eons to achieve enlightenment, but by practicing the lower tantric path one can achieve complete enlightenment in one lifetime. If you practice Highest Yoga Tantra you will be able to complete the merit quicker and achieve full enlightenment in a brief lifetime in the degenerate age. For that, one has to have all the realizations that depend on meditation, reflecting and listening, the foundation sutra, and uncommon tantra, the secret mantra. One cannot achieve enlightenment with only practice of sutra, without practicing uncommon tantra.

We each have full responsibility to free all sentient beings from suffering and bring them to full enlightenment. Therefore, we need to achieve full enlightenment and so we need to practice Dharma. Now we can see how important the Dharma center is. We should know how fortunate and lucky we are having different Dharma centers with teachers.

With much love and prayers...