Bodhicitta Motivation in Daily Life

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
(Archive #1019)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained the importance of bodhicitta motivation at ;the 28th Kopan Course in 1995. This teaching is an edited excerpt from Lecture Six and Lecture Seven of the course. Click here to read more.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Chenrezig Institute, Eudlo, Australia, 1994.

Without bodhicitta motivation, we don’t get any fulfillment or satisfaction in our heart, even if the good service and work we’re doing is very practical and beneficial for others. Even though our actions are needed for the happiness of others—they are beneficial—we are not happy, our own heart is not happy, our mind is not happy. So, this we have to analyze. This is caused by a lack of practice of bodhicitta. If the attitude for work is the self-centered mind, the ego, and the motivation is seeking happiness for ourselves, though our actions are very practical, beneficial and needed by others, we’re not happy because we don’t have fulfillment or peace in our heart. We are doing those jobs and not having fulfillment and peace in our heart.

Even if our work is very beneficial, our own life is not happy and we are looking for something else. What blocks fulfillment in our heart, and peace and satisfaction, is not the job, it’s a mistake in our attitude. If our attitude is not the continual motivation of bodhicitta, not strong practice of that, then even if our actions are very beneficial for others, the self-centered mind and ego makes us unable to have enjoyment, and it blocks fulfillment, satisfaction and peace in the heart.

Even if we are living an ordained life, have led an ordained life for many years, even if we have studied Dharma for many years—twenty years, or more than twenty years—even if we have studied very extensively, studied and understood lam-rim philosophy, sutra and tantra, there’s still something missing in our heart. There’s no fulfillment in our heart, there’s something empty in our heart, there’s no fulfillment or happiness in our heart. Why? Again, that is to do with our motivation.

It comes down to the motivation—the mistake comes from the motivation. If there’s a mistake in the attitude in life, then it doesn’t matter how much there is external change, how much we learn and how much we study Buddhism. The wrong attitude in life blocks us from doing a service or work that is very beneficial, and we are unhappy in the mind, unable to have enjoyment. So there’s a block caused by our wrong attitude, the ego’s self-centered mind, by not having the bodhicitta motivation. Similarly, this prevents us from enjoying life, even if we have Dharma education and have received many teachings from the most qualified gurus in the world.

If we are unable to enjoy life and don’t have any fulfillment in the heart, the root mistake is our attitude in life, what we’re looking for. If our goal in life is not ultimate happiness or liberation from samsara, if our goal in life is samsaric pleasure, then this is what happens. No matter how much we learn Dharma and make external changes, if there is no change in the motivation, there is no happiness in our life, there’s no enjoyment, and there’s no fulfillment in the heart. Fulfillment and satisfaction in the heart is blocked by the motivation seeking the pleasures and happiness of samsara, which is in the nature of suffering, rather than seeking liberation from samsara. Rather than seeking enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, the main motivation in life becomes seeking the pleasures of samsara—not just happiness for self, but samsaric pleasure.

What blocks fulfillment, happiness, satisfaction and peace in the heart is this wrong motivation, this wrong attitude in life. Not having analyzed this point, and the mind and the attitude well, many people blame the external, and they believe that being a nun or monk, or learning Dharma, doesn’t give satisfaction. The basic answer to that is, because they didn’t really practice Dharma, the mind didn’t really become Dharma. That’s why there’s no fulfillment and peace in the heart, even though they are doing so many things, studying and learning a lot, the mind does not become Dharma, the mind does not become lam-rim, renouncing samsara, the detached mind or free mind.

It is not because something is wrong or missing in Buddha’s teaching, it is not because something is missing in Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, in sutra and tantra. There is something missing in our way of thinking. Even the very simple thing that the practice always begins with—bodhicitta motivation—this very beginning practice, what the text says from the very beginning, is missing, that’s missing from our own heart, so the problem comes from there.

Dharma, lam-rim, and especially bodhicitta are needed in every life, in every aspect of life.

Even unordained people, ordinary living beings, receive negative karma and negativities. Besides the ten nonvirtues, generally in our lives when we are walking, sitting, sleeping, eating and so forth, if the attitude is just attachment clinging to this life, then every action becomes negative karma. How many spoonfuls of food we eat, how many drinks of coffee or tea—one drink, that glass or that mug—all those actions of drinking become negative karma, nonvirtuous action. With this nonvirtuous motivation, then a bigger mug of tea becomes a bigger negativity, becomes more quantity of negative karma. The more quantity, the more negative karma; the bigger the plate of food, the bigger the amount of negative karma.

With this motivation, every action becomes negative karma. With this motivation, even walking is done with this attachment and clinging to this life. How many steps we make, how much walking is done, running around in the cities—there are so many people under the hot sun, juggling, jogging, aware of the hot sun, jogging for many miles with all the sweat coming out. However many steps are done in those four or five hours, going around the mountain, in the city, on the beach, along the water, with this motivation, every step becomes negative karma. If we go to bed with this motivation, how many hours we sleep becomes negative karma. With the motivation of attachment clinging to this life, the many hours we spend talking, gossiping—these actions become nonvirtue, all become negative karma.

If we live our lives with this attitude, the whole twenty-four hours is finished and we just created negative karma. A whole week goes by like this, a whole month goes by like this, a whole year, and like this the whole life is finished, only creating negative karma. This is just talking about this life.

Now, the positive thing is that with the motivation, as I said before, of lam-rim, especially bodhicitta, with right view or renunciation, then however many hours we sleep becomes good karma, the cause of happiness. However many hours we eat become good karma, the cause of happiness. How many hours we drink, how many hours we eat chocolate, biscuits, how many hours we walk, whatever activities in our daily life, all become good karma, become only the cause of happiness. Then, especially with bodhicitta, with every single action we collect infinite merit like the sky, with every action of eating, sleeping, walking, talking and so on. With bodhicitta we collect infinite merit and always create the cause of enlightenment.