Rinpoche's Online Advice Book: Pray for the Highest Happiness and Peace

Rinpoche's Online Advice Book: Pray for the Highest Happiness and Peace

Date of Advice:
September 2019
Date Posted:
May 2024

Rinpoche advised a student why we need to pray for the ultimate happiness of buddhahood, not just for temporary happiness and peace. Rinpoche also explained the three types of suffering of samsara.

Why we need to pray for ultimate happiness and freedom from samsara.

Mantra calligraphy by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
This is how to pray if a family member or any person dies, also how to pray for yourself as well. It is the same prayer.

"Due to all the merits of the past, present and future collected by me, collected by numberless sentient beings and collected by numberless buddhas, may (name of the person) never ever be reborn in the lower realms. If they are already born in the lower realms, may they be free immediately from that. May they be born in the pure land where they can achieve the total cessation of obscurations, gross and subtle, and the completion of all the realizations—buddhahood, full enlightenment. At least may they receive a perfect human rebirth and meet the Mahayana teachings; may they meet a perfectly qualified guru who reveals the unmistaken path to enlightenment and by pleasing most the holy mind of the virtuous friend, may they achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible."

When you say “past, present and future” in this prayer, “past” means from beginningless rebirths, and “future” means not just in this life, but in all the future lives. You can also recite the same prayer for yourself every day, by changing the name to “I” instead of using the other person’s name.

Just praying “May that person be in peace” can mean praying for them to still remain in samsara, in the suffering realms. That’s why I wanted to explain this, because with that kind of prayer we’re only praying for temporary happiness. It’s like someone is going to be executed, to be cut in pieces, and we offer that person a party, where they’re playing music, eating turkey and so forth for five minutes, instead of freeing them forever from that punishment. Or only offering a prisoner a one-hour break to see their family, instead of freeing them from prison completely.

My explanation after the prayer is for it to only be read from time to time. This is why I wanted to teach you how to pray for others and that is also how to pray for yourself. This prayer is very short, it is nothing, but it is so important to understand and to know this. This is why I am giving this explanation and if you can, also read this explanation from time to time.

We have been suffering in samsara from beginningless rebirths. In the hell realms, for example, even one minute or one second of this suffering, if it is materialized, would be like the limitless sky. It’s the most, most unbearable suffering. The suffering of the hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, suras, asuras and intermediate state beings is like this. We have been experiencing these sufferings numberless times from beginningless rebirths and until we are free from samsara, we will experience these sufferings again without end.

Yes, within samsara there are many different levels of peace, but all these are in the nature of suffering. The peace is because of the absence of the suffering of pain, which even the animals can recognize. For example, if we carry a stick, dogs and birds know they will be beaten, so they run away. The peace they have is because they are not experiencing the suffering of pain. All samsara’s pleasures are like this. So, peace in samara means this. All the samsaric pleasures are the suffering of change.

The form realm does not have the suffering of pain. The desire realm, where we are now, has the suffering of pain, the suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering, from which the other two sufferings arise.

The form realm doesn’t have the suffering of pain, but it has the other two sufferings—the suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering. The form realm has four levels of firm contemplation, and the fourth level doesn’t have the suffering of change.

The formless realm has only the third type of suffering, pervasive compounding suffering. The formless realm doesn’t have body, only mind, and there are four levels—infinite sky, infinite consciousness, nothingness and tip of samsara.

The highest level of the suffering realm is the tip of samsara, and from there down to the heaviest hell suffering, the inexhaustible hell, all have the aggregates, the body and mind. All those aggregates, the evolution came from impure causes—delusion and its action, karma. All of this is covered by delusion and karma, therefore, all this is pervaded by suffering, compounding all this. The aggregates are contaminated by the seed of delusion and karma, and from the seed, delusion arises, then suffering arises again, including future lives’ suffering. This is why it is compounding.

So we need to pray not only to have peace in samsara, which has the suffering of pain, not only that, but there is higher peace, which doesn’t have even the suffering of change (which includes all samsara pleasure). Whereas with Dharma happiness we can continue and we can develop and we can complete [the path to ultimate happiness]. But samsaric happiness, samsaric peace, we have been trying to get from beginningless rebirth, and we cannot continue and develop and complete it. We try but still do not get satisfaction.

For example, after working hard all day, then we are tired, we’re exhausted, and we sleep. We enjoy that, but as we continue to sleep, at first we thought it was great, but then sleep becomes very boring the more we try to sleep. Here, the suffering of being tired and exhausted has stopped by sleeping, by lying down. We stop feeling tired, but then if we sleep too much, another suffering starts very small [slowly], so we don’t notice it. Then the longer and longer we sleep, the more and more we feel bored with sleeping. For example, sleeping for one whole day, then sleeping for two days—that feeling is called pleasure. The great suffering [of being tired] is stopped, but then another suffering starts from very small. So that feeling is really suffering.

It's the same thing when we feel very hot and then we go into cold water. As soon as our body goes into the cold water, we call that pleasure and it appears as pleasure. The great suffering [of feeling hot] stops and then another suffering of being cold begins from a small feeling. The longer we stay in the water, the colder we will feel. It starts by appearing as pleasure, but as it continues the feeling becomes greater and greater and greater. That feeling is only suffering, because a greater suffering is stopped but then another suffering begins as something small. So, we call that pleasure.

It's the same thing when we are very hungry or thirsty. The first spoonful of food stops the suffering of great hunger, but then another suffering starts from very small, like discomfort. As we continue eating, even the taste of the food changes and we don’t find the same pleasure that we experienced in the beginning. Then after some time we get bored; we don’t like it. That feeling is only suffering.

The feeling that we call pleasure, which appears as pleasure, comes from the mind. Of course, we think that pleasure appears from out there, but that is totally wrong, it is a hallucination. It comes from the mind, it never comes from its own side, it doesn’t exist from its own side. The whole entire samsaric suffering—the pleasure of drinking, the pleasure of sex, the pleasure of drugs and so forth—is like this. All the samsaric pleasures are like this; they are in the nature of suffering and they change into the suffering of pain. They cannot stay forever as pleasure.

The formless realms don’t have the suffering of change. There is another peace for those beings, higher than before, but still it is suffering, because they are not free from the first suffering, pervasive compounding suffering. When their karma to be in the formless realm is finished, then they have to be reborn in the lower realms, the desire realms, anywhere.

The real suffering that we need to be free of, that we have to recognize, is this pervasive compounding suffering.

So praying just for peace, we can see there are many different levels of peace within samsara, but that is not the real thing to be achieved. Praying to be free from samsara is the real thing to be achieved. This is what we need to achieve and what others need to achieve. Then we will have ultimate happiness, peace, forever. That is very important. Only [by achieving that] will we have no more suffering forever. For that we need to be free from delusion and karma. For that we need to actualize the true path, particularly the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness. That’s why the Omniscient One, the Buddha, taught the four noble truths, the Buddha’s basic teaching—true suffering, the true cause of suffering, the true cessation of suffering and the true path.

There is true suffering because there is the true cause of suffering, delusion and karma. It’s not outside our mind. We have negative mind and positive mind. Our virtuous mind creates happiness and our nonvirtuous mind creates suffering.

Of course, our virtuous mind, the positive mind, the healthy mind, creates the happiness of this life and the happiness of future lives, and we can achieve ultimate happiness, becoming free forever from samsara and attaining the peerless happiness, buddhahood. Our nonvirtuous mind, the unsubdued mind, creates hell, the heaviest suffering. It creates samsara, just as our healthy mind, the virtuous mind, renounces samsara and creates nirvana.

Regarding our everyday way of thinking in life, if we think in a positive way, a correct way, a healthy way, this brings happiness and peace. If our everyday thinking in life is in an incorrect way, a nonvirtuous way, an unhealthy way, it creates suffering in our everyday life.

The total cessation of the negative mind—delusion and its action, karma—is the true cessation of suffering, nirvana. We can achieve this because there is the true path—method and wisdom—not only realizing the ultimate reality, but directly perceiving ultimate nature, emptiness. We can do this because our mind and sentient beings’ minds have buddha nature.

The ultimate reality of the mind is emptiness, that which does not exist from its own side, that which is totally empty from its own side, while the mind is existing—that is buddha nature. Because of that, we can be totally liberated from suffering by realizing the true path, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, which ceases the seed of delusion and karma. By ceasing the cause of suffering, then all the results of the suffering cease and we are free forever. But this is still not the ultimate peace.

Ultimate peace is buddhahood, the total cessation of the subtle obscurations. That is the highest happiness. I say, welcome, mother, to this highest happiness.

With much love and prayers ...