Abiding in the Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Abiding in the Retreat: A Nyung Nä Commentary combines several teachings given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche on nyung nä, a powerful two-day practice associated with Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion.

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Chenrezig, painted by Nepali-Tibetan artists. Photo courtesy of FPMT.
10: Intermediate Motivation
1. This practice is for every sentient being
Think, “I’m going to do this nyung nä session to free every hell being, who has so much suffering, from all their suffering and its causes. I can’t stand one hell being to suffer for even one second. I must free them right now from all their suffering and its causes and lead them to enlightenment.

It is the same with the preta beings, the hungry ghosts. Think, “I’m going to do this session to free every hungry ghost from all their suffering and its causes. It is unbearable to me that one preta being is suffering for even one second. I can’t stand it. Therefore, I must free them from all their suffering and its causes and lead them to enlightenment right now.

“I must also free every animal being from all their suffering and its causes. I can’t bear one animal being to suffer for even one second. It is unbearable!”

When our body starts to degenerate and becomes bent over, we find it unbearable. We are still human, we still have a human body, but when such changes happen we find them unbearable. Even when we see a few more wrinkles on our face we are unhappy. We can’t bear to see them; it disturbs our mind. So if we were a pig, a turtle or a conch animal it would be unbearable for us.

Until an animal has finished experiencing that karma, there’s nothing it can do. When you experience various mental and physical problems as a human, you can be helped in so many ways. You can ask for help from your parents, from your friends and other people you know, from doctors or the government. You can ask for help from so many different sources. Even if there’s no way for you to be helped, you can still tell other people about your problems and get some kind of support. Even if they can’t completely solve your problems, they can still give you some kind of help.

Think, “Therefore, I must free each animal being from all their suffering and its causes and lead them to enlightenment by myself right now.

“I must also free every human being from all their suffering and its causes and lead them to enlightenment right now. Besides already being under the control of karma and delusion and experiencing so much suffering as the result of their past karma and delusion, they’re constantly, day and night, creating more negative karma. All the time they’re creating causes to again reincarnate in samsara, particularly in the three lower realms. Therefore, I must free them from all their suffering and its causes and lead them to enlightenment right now.”

For example, when fighting in a war, people might think they are winning but they are actually creating the cause for another problem, for another war, in the future. The result is an even bigger war. There are many instances of people thinking they have defeated somebody but they themselves have actually lost because they have created the cause to lose and to experience more problems in the future.

Think, “I must free all the human beings from all their suffering and its causes and lead them to enlightenment by myself alone.

“I must also free all the devas, who are under the control of karma and delusion, from all their suffering and its causes and lead them to enlightenment by myself alone.”

Each deva being has so much suffering, not only near the time of death with the five major and the five close signs of death, but from fighting and being killed and from being controlled by others. Not only do they experience these sufferings, but they also live their lives in a great hallucination. Even though their wealth and enjoyments are a million times greater than those of the richest human being, their life is lived completely in distraction. Because they are distracted by sense pleasures, they have no opportunity to practice Dharma. The result of living their whole life with attachment to such great sense pleasures is that they are then reborn in the lower realms. When death comes, all those pleasures mean nothing; they all have to be left behind.

The result of living their life with attachment and distraction is to be reborn in the lower realms, in the hells, where they see nothing but fire. As Nagarjuna explains in Letter to a Friend, the result is the complete opposite to their previous existence. Instead of drinking nectar, in their next life they drink molten iron, like lava, which burns their insides. Nagarjuna mentions many other things they experience that are the complete opposite to what they used to enjoy with attachment.60 In reality, there’s no real happiness in that deva life, and there’s no doubt that there’s no happiness in their next life.

Think, “I must free all sentient beings from all their suffering and its causes and lead them to enlightenment by myself alone. Therefore, I must achieve enlightenment quickly and more quickly. Therefore, I’m going to do this practice of Compassion Buddha. This nyung nä retreat is not for me but for everybody else: for every hell being, every preta being, every animal being, every human being, every asura and every sura. Any merit I accumulate from this practice is for every sentient being.”
2. My mothers are suffering

Think, “The numberless sentient beings have been my mother and have been kind to me numberless times. They have been kind in giving me a body; they have been kind in protecting my life from danger hundreds of times even in one day; they have been kind in guiding me in the path of the world, giving me a general education for my short-­term happiness; and they have been kind in bearing much hardship in taking care of me.

“These mother sentient beings, who have been kind to me in these ways numberless times, are now suffering in the hells, experiencing the heaviest sufferings of heat and cold.”

It’s exactly as if our present kind mother or father or our most beloved friend had fallen into the hells and were experiencing all this. We couldn’t stand it. We couldn’t relax. We couldn’t stand by and ignore what was happening—we would have to do something to help them. Day and night we would be thinking of them and working to find some way to help them.

The hell beings who are now suffering are no different from the kindest person in our life, our mother or father or our best friend. They are the same, and they are the same in having been our kind mother, father and friend numberless times. They have been kind to us, and they are kind to us now. As beings with suffering, they give us bodhicitta; they give us enlightenment. They give us reasons to develop our mind and achieve ultimate happiness.

Think, “Therefore, I’m completely responsible for all these hell beings. No matter how much I suffer it’s nothing to be shocked about. And even if I were to achieve liberation from samsara, it would be nothing to be excited about. So many of my mothers, who have been most kind to me in all three times, are now suffering there in the hells.

“Also, my kind mother sentient beings, the pretas, are passing their time in the greatest hunger and thirst. My kind mother sentient beings, the animals, are extremely foolish and are being eaten by each other. And my kind mother sentient beings, the human beings, have various problems. Besides the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death, they have many other problems. They have problems of being unable to make a living. If that is not the problem, they have relationship problems. If lack of wealth is not a problem, loneliness is a problem. If loneliness is not the problem, they have some other problem.

“The devas, because their minds are distracted by their great pleasures, find it difficult to think of practicing Dharma and developing their minds. They don’t have the opportunities that we have here in the human world. They also suffer when they fight and kill each other and when they experience the signs of death.

“The beings in the form and formless realms are still under the control of karma and delusion, and they don’t have the opportunities we have to meet and practice the whole Buddhadharma, including Mahayana teachings and especially tantra. Even though they have the realization of stable concentration, for them it doesn’t become the cause of liberation.

“I’m completely responsible for freeing all these mother sentient beings from all their sufferings and for leading them to enlightenment. Therefore, I’m going to do the nyung nä practice. Everything—all the meditation, recitation of mantras, offerings and prostrations—is for them. It’s not for me—it’s for my mother sentient beings.”

3. Giving up self, cherishing others

I often quote the following verse from great bodhisattva Shantideva:

If you don’t drop the fire,
The burning cannot be stopped.
Like that, if you don’t give up the I,
Suffering cannot be abandoned.61

This means that if you don’t give up the I, let go of the I, you can’t abandon suffering; you can’t be free from suffering.

Therefore, in order to pacify the sufferings of yourself
And the sufferings of other sentient beings,
Give up yourself for others
And cherish others as yourself.62

This is the very heart practice of Buddhism, especially Mahayana Buddhism. It is not sufficient for just you yourself to not be reborn in the lower realms and achieve the happiness of future lives. And even achieving liberation from samsara for yourself is not sufficient. As mentioned here, you must make your life meaningful for sentient beings. By letting go of the I and cherishing other sentient beings, you can free all sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment. You can bring the numberless hell beings, the numberless hungry ghosts, the numberless animals, the numberless human beings, the numberless asuras, the numberless suras and the numberless intermediate state beings to full enlightenment. That’s the real meaning of your life, the real purpose of your life. That’s why you have been born a human being at this time—to benefit others. To succeed in doing that, you must achieve full enlightenment.

Think, “From my side, even if it takes eons equal in number to the drops of water in the ocean to achieve enlightenment, I will do it. Even if I have to suffer in the hell realms for eons equal in number to the drops of water in the ocean or the atoms of this earth, I will suffer in hell to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings. From my side I can do that, but I can’t stand the thought that from the side of the sentient beings, they will have to suffer for such a long time. That thought is unbearable. Therefore, I must free them from the oceans of samsaric suffering. They need to achieve full enlightenment quickly, so I need to achieve enlightenment more quickly than I can through the Paramitayana path. Therefore, I need to practice the tantric path to achieve enlightenment the most quickly, within one life.

“Especially, I need to develop compassion for sentient beings. Even though Maitreya Buddha generated bodhicitta long before Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha became enlightened before Maitreya Buddha. Why? Because, when they were still bodhisattvas, the compassion Guru Shakyamuni Buddha generated was much stronger than that generated by Maitreya Buddha.”

When they were both bodhisattvas, Maitreya Buddha and Guru Shakyamuni Buddha saw a family of five tigers dying of starvation. Both of them then returned home. Later, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha went back alone to give his holy body to the tiger family. When he first offered his body to the five tigers, they were too weak to eat it, so he used a stick to make himself bleed. They were then able to lick the blood, and then later they ate his body.

Through that connection, in their next life those five tigers became Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciples. They were born as human beings and Guru Shakyamuni Buddha revealed Dharma to them.

You may not be able to make a connection with a bodhisattva through positive actions such as serving or making offering to them, but even if you make a connection with a bodhisattva by harming them, because of their bodhicitta, you will receive only benefit in return. Even if you harm a bodhisattva, in return you will receive only help from that bodhisattva. The bodhisattva will make prayers to benefit you, as in this story and in the story of those five yakshas who drank blood from the holy body of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha when he was a bodhisattva. In their next life, the five yakshas were the five disciples when Buddha turned the first Wheel of Dharma in Sarnath.

This is the last benefit of bodhicitta Shantideva mentions in the first chapter of A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. The whole chapter is on the benefits of bodhicitta, and the last verse is,

A bodhisattva brings happiness even to those who harm him:
To this source of happiness, I go for refuge.63

Even if you harm a bodhisattva, you don’t receive harm in return, only happiness and benefit. Even harming them makes a connection that enables you to receive happiness.

The stronger the compassion you are able to generate, the quicker you are able to achieve enlightenment, like with the story of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. Think, “Therefore, I need to receive the blessings of the Buddha of Compassion, Chenrezig; for that, I need to do the meditation-­recitation of Chenrezig. Therefore, I’m going to do this nyung nä session.”

4. Beginningless kindness

At this time we have been born as human beings but we’re not free from suffering, from true suffering and the true cause of suffering. We don’t experience one moment of pure happiness. Even what we call “pleasure” is only labeled on suffering. Suffering appears to us as pleasure.

We must free ourselves from all suffering, but that alone is not sufficient. We can’t be satisfied with just that because all sentient beings have been our mother and as kind as our present mother numberless times, giving us our body, protecting us from hundreds of dangers to our life even in each day, leading us in the path of the world by giving us education and bearing much mental and physical hardship, including worry, fear and exhaustion for us. They have also created much negative karma to obtain happiness for us. We should feel very strongly that all sentient beings have been our mother and kind in these four ways numberless times—even a buddha’s omniscient mind cannot see the beginning of their kindness.

First feel the kindness of the mother in giving you a body numberless times. It is because your present mother gave you your body that you have the opportunity to practice Dharma, and all sentient beings have done this numberless times.

They have also protected your life from hundreds of dangers each day. Unless someone is watching a baby, within a minute its life is in danger. There are so many dangers. If your present mother hadn’t protected your life from danger, you wouldn’t now be a human being with the opportunity to practice Dharma. All sentient beings have been kind to you in protecting your life from danger numberless times.

They have also led you in the path of the world: teaching you how to walk and speak and sending you to school to be educated. If your present mother hadn’t educated you you wouldn’t now have all these opportunities to read Dharma books, write, study, work at a job and do many other things.

If your present-­life mother hadn’t borne hardships for you, starting from the time you were conceived in her womb, you wouldn’t now be a human being and you wouldn’t have the opportunity to practice Dharma and obtain the happiness of future lives, liberation and enlightenment. Therefore, your present mother has been unbelievably kind. But this is not the first time; she has been kind to you in these four ways numberless times, and so have all other sentient beings.

Since all sentient beings have been your mother and kind in these four ways numberless times, you should repay their kindness. Think, “I must repay the kindness of all sentient beings. The best way to do this is by freeing them from suffering and leading them to enlightenment. To do that I must achieve enlightenment, and to do that I must practice Dharma. Practicing Dharma is the best way to repay the kindness of my mother sentient beings.

“My mother sentient beings lack temporary happiness, and even when they have temporary happiness, they lack ultimate happiness. How wonderful it would be if all mother sentient beings had happiness. I will cause them to have happiness.” This is the way to generate loving kindness.

You then take the responsibility upon yourself: “I will cause them to have happiness, both temporary and ultimate, especially the ultimate happiness of enlightenment.”

It’s very important to feel this in your heart. It’s very important to generate not just loving kindness but great loving kindness. Simply wishing them to have happiness is loving kindness, but here you need to generate great loving kindness, which means taking the responsibility upon yourself to cause them to have happiness.

Then think, “Even though the mother sentient beings don’t want to suffer, they are constantly suffering and creating the causes of suffering. Even though they want happiness, they are devoid of happiness and always destroying the causes of happiness. Therefore, how wonderful it would be if all sentient being could be free from all suffering and the causes of suffering. I will cause them to be free from suffering and its causes.”

Next generate the special attitude, in which you take the responsibility for other sentient beings completely upon yourself. This attitude is much stronger than before. “I will take responsibility for doing this work of bringing sentient beings happiness and freeing them from all suffering by myself alone.

“At the moment, however, I can’t guide even one sentient being to enlightenment. In order to perfectly guide sentient beings, I need to understand the mind of every single sentient being and every single method that fits the different minds of sentient beings. Since the only mind that knows all this is the omniscient mind, I must achieve the omniscient mind in order to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment.”

It is very important to generate this thought.

“Since the omniscient mind cannot be achieved without causes and conditions, I must generate the path. The fundamental ways to achieve the omniscient mind are to protect karma, live in morality and generate compassion. Therefore, I’m going to do this nyung nä session.”

It’s very important to generate the thought to do the nyung nä session purely for all sentient beings.

5. By myself alone

Think, “The numberless hell beings, from whom I receive all my past, present and future happiness, all realizations and enlightenment, are the most precious and most kind ones in my life—I must free them from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment by myself alone.

“The numberless hungry ghosts, from whom I receive all my past, present and future happiness, all realizations and enlightenment, are the most precious and most kind ones in my life—I must free them from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment by myself alone.

“The numberless animals, from whom I receive all my past, present and future happiness, all realizations and enlightenment, are the most precious and most kind ones in my life—I must free them from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment by myself alone.

“The numberless human beings, from whom I receive all my past, present and future happiness, all realizations and enlightenment, are the most precious and most kind ones in my life—I must free them from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment by myself alone.

“The numberless asuras, from whom I receive all my past, present and future happiness, all realizations and enlightenment, are the most precious and most kind ones in my life—I must free them from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment by myself alone.

“The numberless suras, from whom I receive all my past, present and future happiness, all realizations and enlightenment, are the most precious and most kind ones in my life—I must free them from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment by myself alone.

“The numberless intermediate state beings, from whom I receive all my past, present and future happiness, all realizations and enlightenment, are the most precious and most kind ones in my life—I must free them from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment by myself alone.

“To do this, I must achieve Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment; therefore, I’m going to do the meditation-­recitation of Compassion Buddha.”

Also, you can then specifically think, “Every single OM MANI PADME HUM that I recite is for every hell being, every hungry ghost, every animal, every human being, every asura being, every sura being, every intermediate state being. Each OM MANI PADME HUM that I recite is for the benefit of every single one of my most precious, kind mother sentient beings.”

6. If I had great compassion

Think, “If I had the realization of great compassion, Mahayana compassion, the numberless hell beings, who are the most kind and most precious ones in my life and who are experiencing unbearable suffering, would be liberated from all that suffering and its causes and achieve enlightenment.

“If I had great compassion, the numberless hungry ghosts, who are the most kind and most precious ones in my life and who are experiencing unbearable suffering, would be liberated from all that suffering and its causes and achieve enlightenment.

“If I had great compassion, the numberless animals, who are the most kind and most precious ones in my life and who are experiencing unbearable suffering, would be liberated from all that suffering and its causes and achieve enlightenment.

“If I had great compassion, the numberless human beings, who are the most kind and most precious ones in my life and who are experiencing the unbearable suffering of samsara and all the problems of human beings, would be liberated from all that suffering and its causes and achieve enlightenment.

“If I had great compassion, the numberless asura beings, who are the most kind and most precious ones in my life and who are experiencing unbearable suffering, would be liberated from all that suffering and its causes and achieve enlightenment.

“If I had great compassion, the numberless sura beings, who are the most kind and most precious ones in my life and who are experiencing unbearable suffering, would be liberated from all that suffering and its causes and achieve enlightenment.

“If I had great compassion, the numberless intermediate state beings, who are the most kind and most precious ones in my life and who are experiencing unbearable suffering, would be liberated from all that suffering and its causes and achieve enlightenment.

“Therefore, I need to develop great compassion; therefore, I’m going to do the meditation-­recitation of Compassion Buddha.”64


NOTES

60 See Nagarjuna’s Letter, vv. 98–101. [Return to text]

61 Guide, ch. 8, v. 135. [Return to text]

62 Ibid, ch. 8, v. 136. [Return to text]

63  Ch. 1, v. 36. [Return to text]

64 The final two motivations are bodhicitta motivations for doing the mantra recitation taken from Teachings from the Mani Retreat,  pp. 1–3 and 47–48 respectively. [Return to text]