Remember the Kindness of Sentient Beings

Remember the Kindness of Sentient Beings

Date of Advice:
October 2021
Date Posted:
October 2022

A student wrote that they saw Rinpoche’s kindness to animals at a retreat and cried afterwards. The student told Rinpoche about the activities they were now doing to benefit animals and said they had the opportunity to lecture large groups and always explained to the audience that all sentient beings are important. Rinpoche advised that every sentient being, including every ant and every mosquito, is most precious and kind.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche offering a mandala at ABC, Singapore, 2016. Photo Bill Kane

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling, including bringing enlightenment, one,
I’m very happy to receive your kind letter, so I want to express something now.

I want to talk about the kindness of sentient beings—not only animals or human beings, but even the tiniest insects, very tiny flies, very, very tiny ones in the water. When I inquired, I found out they are sentient beings, but we can’t see them, we can only see them with machines (microscopes), so even the tiniest ones.

You may have heard this from me in the past, I’m not sure, but I recently told one student about the three ways of thinking about the kindness of sentient beings, which embraces all their kindness. I think for you it is very good to meditate on this and to actualize this, and to explain this to people.

Reflect on the kindness of mother sentient beings, their extensive kindness, how all our happiness from beginningless rebirths up to now and in the future, all that, including enlightenment, everything comes from sentient beings—from every hell being, every hungry ghost, every animal, every human being, every sura being, every asura being, every intermediate state being, so that means every ant, every mosquito and so forth. You know, Western scientists have discovered 13,000 different types of ants. They too have been our mother and most kind.

Meditate on the five outlines and remember the kindness of numberless sentient beings. For us to enjoy the protection of life, freedom from cold or heat, having a house, having comfort, being able to enjoy this long life, the protection of life, this is from the kindness of numberless sentient beings, who are so many. This includes the ants who get killed when we are digging the land, while creating the basis for building the house. So many insects have to be killed; other people who are working have to kill so many of them and they create so much negative karma.

So many different insects and animals get killed for our happiness and comfort, so then the workers create negative karma and have to suffer. All the people have to work hard in the very hot sun during the day, so even human beings have to suffer for our comfort. Then there are the mice and many insects who are harmed, such as in the fields when the foundation for a house is laid. There are many, so much, so much.

There are so many sentient beings—even in a glass of water there are tiny sentient beings in the water and when the water is boiled, they have to die or they suffer so much. Wow, wow, wow. Or people put chemicals in the water to kill the insects for people’s health. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.

For vegetables, people spray chemicals to kill all the insects, the many different insects that live in the vegetables, but this is their food and this is their place to live. So all the things like that. Wow, wow, wow, wow. The people who spray the chemicals are creating much negative karma by harming the insects, because so many have to die. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. This is without going through the whole evolution; this is just one part of the process.

If we go through the whole evolution, the whole process—wow, wow, wow, wow—for one grain of rice or a plate of rice, so many human beings work for that, in the rain and the heat and all that. They have to kill so many beings and they have to suffer even this for one rice grain.  I know in India and Nepal there are people who have to work so hard in the rice paddies, planting at different times. I don’t know the exact details.

And then we can think that this one rice grain came from another rice grain and from another rice grain. How many suffered for this? So many, wow, wow. So many insects and animals and even humans died for this, and so many suffered for this one rice grain and the one before, the previous rice grain. This rice came from another lineage, another generation, and so many sentient beings suffered or died, were killed. So it goes on and on—that comes from another rice, that comes from another rice, and so forth. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.

This has been going on for thousands of years, numberless sentient beings have suffered or died for this, have been killed or created negative karma for this—wow, wow, wow—so then the very last thing is that it goes into our mouth and we eat it.

After thinking like this, it is impossible, there’s no way to just take it with the self-cherishing thought, only thinking of our happiness, without thinking of the happiness of all the sentient beings, all those people, all those animals, all those insects who died, suffered or were killed. There is no way.

So then we have to eat for their happiness, for the sentient beings, there’s no choice. Even though we may not accept reincarnation and karma, we have to be a good human being, a kindhearted human being, so then we have to eat the rice for the benefit of all the numberless sentient beings who have suffered and died from generation to generation. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. There is no way to eat just for oneself, thinking only with the self-cherishing, thinking only of our happiness—that’s impossible. That is just cheating oneself.

Anyway, here it is Mahayana teaching. Also, it is the same for our clothing—we need to think of the kindness of others who worked or suffered for our clothing.

This is how we survive each day, each hour, each minute, each second, how we survive in our life as human beings. Then that gives us an opportunity to practice Dharma, to meet Dharma and to practice Dharma and to learn Dharma.

So then we can be free—not only free from the lower realms, but free from samsara, and not only that, we become free from lower nirvana [liberation] and we achieve great nirvana, enlightenment—the total cessation of obscurations and completion of realizations. We achieve not only the cessation of gross defilements, but also the cessation of subtle defilements, those defilements which interfere with achieving the state of omniscience—wow, wow, wow, wow, wow—and we achieve the completion of realizations.

After that we are able to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring everyone to the peerless happiness, buddhahood, by ourselves. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.

So this opportunity, all this, we received from the kindness of numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless human beings, numberless suras, numberless asuras, numberless intermediate state beings. Wow, wow, wow. There are three ways to think about their kindness. Wow, wow, wow.

Now you can see that every sentient being from the six realms is most kind, most precious, most dear, wish-fulfilling. They are fulfilling all our wishes, including enlightenment. So that’s very nice to repeat over and over.

This also includes the first extensive kindness, that all the buddhas came from sentient beings.

The Buddha, to whom we go for refuge all the time, and especially when we begin our practice, we go for refuge first, so the Buddha frees us from the lower realms, frees us from samsara, frees us from lower nirvana and brings us to full enlightenment—free from all the gross and subtle obscurations and having achieved all the realizations. So the Buddha reveals the Dharma and then the Sangha actualize the Dharma, so all that comes from every hell being, hungry ghost, animal, human being, sura, asura and intermediate state being.

So now you can see how every single sentient being is most precious, just as money is viewed as very precious. If we have money we can get what you want, so that is why money is seen as very important.

The fields are very precious because if we have land we can build whatever we want or we can plant crops, so then we can live from that, and also other people can live there.

So like this, now you can see the kindness of sentient beings, that they are most precious, not from their qualities, but because of their kindness. They are even kinder than the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, because Buddha, Dharma and Sangha came from sentient beings. Without sentient beings there is no way to go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and no way to become a buddha by actualizing the Dharma, by becoming Sangha, there is no way.

Please, I want to tell you this. One insect is cherished most by one bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is trying to actualize the path for this insect and for all the sentient beings—that means for this one insect which bites us, like  an ant, bee or tick, any being that bites us.

The bodhisattva actualizes the path by doing purification, so all the different levels of obscurations are purified, and by actualizing the five paths, the ten bhumis, in order to achieve enlightenment. That is done in order to bring this one sentient being, this tiny insect, this ant or whatever, to enlightenment, so that one bodhisattva cherishes them the most.

Therefore, numberless bodhisattvas cherish this ant or this tiny insect, this snake or this tiger or whatever, this tiny insect. Numberless bodhisattvas cherish them the most; they renounce themselves and cherish them the most. So if we harm this insect, that means we are harming all the bodhisattvas. We are harming this one bodhisattva, and not only that, we are also harming all the bodhisattvas, who cherish this insect the most. If we are harming the insect, it is most displeasing to the bodhisattvas.

Any service we do, even offering a small help, like to the ants on the road, not only should we stop stepping over them, but also we should protect them, so we can put them on the side of the road so that other people don’t step on them. Even that is the best offering to one bodhisattva and to all the bodhisattvas; this is the best offering and is most pleasing.

Anything that we can do to help, even offering a small service, such as helping a child with the thought of loving kindness, compassion, bodhicitta, thinking of the kindness of this being, how precious they are, then helping the child or helping an old person, for example, trying to carry their heavy luggage. If we see an old person carrying something heavy, then trying to make it lighter or trying to help, whatever we can do. Even a small thing, like giving up our seat on the bus or train to an older person who is standing or who has no seat, so we offer our seat, or whatever. That is the best, and is most, most pleasing to the numberless bodhisattvas and buddhas. We always have to be aware of this.

Even a small harm is most displeasing, and it is causing great harm to numberless bodhisattvas. It’s like a mother who cherishes her daughter or son so much, then when they see somebody praise their child it makes the mother so happy, unbelievably happy. If somebody criticizes or causes even a little harm to her child, then the mother is so, so sad. This is an example I use.

Here I’m just talking about bodhisattvas. Now, this small insect which bites us is cherished most by one buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha. Of course, bodhisattvas do not have self-cherishing thoughts, but here the Buddha cherishes the insect the most. Therefore, it is the same as what I explained about bodhisattvas, that even causing a small harm to a sentient being causes great harm to bodhisattvas; it displeases them. And offering a small service, a small pleasure, to a sentient being is a great offering and most pleasing to the bodhisattvas.

Similarly, there are numberless buddhas, so offering a small service is most pleasing to one buddha and to the numberless buddhas. Causing even a small harm to a sentient being is causing a great harm to the buddhas; it is displeasing to them.

So, being mindful of this, with mindfulness, we take care of the sentient beings with this unconditional love, without attachment. This is how it should be in the family, how we take care of our children, without attachment, with a totally pure mind.

There is the extensive kindness of having been our mother and then there are three other ways they are kind. That is how we take care of our parents, that is how we take care of our family, our children, that is the correct way.

Shakyamuni Buddha, for example, made charity of his limbs, hands, legs, eyes, blood and skin to all the sentient beings for three countless great eons. Even during his whole life, for example, there is a story of when he was a tigress in Nepal and he gave up his life for others, but there’s not only that story, he did this numberless times for three countless great eons, for numberless sentient beings.

Having the thought cherishing the numberless sentient beings, wishing to free them from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to enlightenment, that’s incredible, that’s the happiest thing to do in the life, the happiest thing. So please take care of the dogs.

I see on the iPad that there are so many animals that are drowning in the mud or drowning in the water and only their head is kept out. Then some strong people try to pull them out, to liberate them, so these people are so kind, so good. They’re born as human beings and it fulfills the purpose of being born as a human being by offering this help, by rescuing even one sentient being. So I rejoice.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

With much love and prayers ...