Bodhisattva Attitude: How to Dedicate Your Life to Others

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Bodhisattva Attitude is the "heart advice" taken from the experiential instructions of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The topic of Bodhisattva Attitude is how to develop bodhicitta by practicing it throughout the day, from start to finish. The book is drawn from Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s essential teachings given from 2008 onward and is edited by Ven. Sarah Thresher.

This title is out of print, but you can find links here to the ebook version.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Manjushri London (currently Jamyang Buddhist Centre), 1983. Photo: Robin Bath.
Appendices and Bibliography

If you are going, remember bodhicitta
If you are sitting, remember bodhicitta
If you are lying down, remember bodhicitta
If you are standing, remember bodhicitta.
          - Khunu Lama Rinpoche

 Click on the links below to go to the relevent appendix or to the bibliography.

Appendix 1: How to Start the Day with Bodhicitta

The very first moment when you wake up think, “May all sentient beings achieve full enlightenment.” Remember the Bodhicitta Mindfulness instructions for waking, rising, dressing, washing, etc. (chapter 4).

Generate bodhicitta by reflecting on one of the motivations for life, either the longer Cutting the Concept of Permanence (chapter 8) or the more concise Give Up Stretching the Legs (chapter 9). Then recite and contemplate the Bodhisattva Attitude (chapter 10).

You can also contemplate A Direct Meditation on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (appendix 2) or, when taking the eight Mahayana precepts, Four Wrong Concepts (chapter 11).

Either before or after the motivations, recite the Morning Mantras (appendix 3). Then continue with Thirty-five Buddhas, guru yoga and your own practices.

Try to maintain the bodhicitta motivation, bodhisattva attitude and bodhicitta mindfulness practices throughout the day.

Appendix 2: A Direct Meditation on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment 101

Perfected with All the Important Points of the Path to Enlightenment

This short lam-rim prayer can be used as an alternative morning motivation before reciting the Bodhisattva Attitude. It contains the essence of the whole path to enlightenment and reciting it mindfully leaves a positive imprint in the mind to actualize all the realizations. It also directs your life to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings as quickly as possible by practicing the path of the three capable beings and especially Highest Yoga Tantra.


Correctly devoting to the spiritual friend

Nature that embodies all the buddhas,
Source of all the pure transmission and realization Dharma,
Principal amongst all the arya sangha:
I take refuge in all magnificent pure gurus.
Please bless my mind to become Dharma,
That Dharma to become the path,
And that path to be free of all hindrances.
Until I achieve enlightenment, may I,
Just like the bodhisattvas, Sudhana and Sadaprarudita,
Practice pure devotion to my guru in thought and action,
See all the actions of my guru as excellent,
And fulfill whatever he advises.
Please bless me with the potential to accomplish this.

The path of the lower capable being

Knowing that this highly meaningful perfect human rebirth
Is difficult to obtain and easily lost,
Realizing the profundity of cause and effect
And the unbearable sufferings of the lower realms,
From my heart I take refuge in the three precious sublime ones,
Abandon negativity, and practice virtue in accordance with the Dharma.
Please bless me with the potential to accomplish this.

The path of the middle capable being

In dependence on this, I am able to attain
Only the higher rebirths of humans and gods.
Not having abandoned afflictions,
I have to experience uninterrupted, limitless cyclic existence.
By contemplating well how cyclic existence works,
May I train day and night in the principal path
Of the three precious higher trainings—
The means of attaining liberation.
Please bless me with the potential to always train like this.

The path of the higher capable being

In dependence on this, I am able to attain only self-liberation.
As there is not one sentient being in all the six realms
Who has not been my mother or father,
I will turn away from this lower happiness
And generate the wish to fulfill their ultimate purposes.
By contemplating the path of equalizing and exchanging self for others,
I will generate the precious bodhicitta
And engage in the bodhisattvas’ actions of the six perfections.
Please bless me with the potential to train in this way.

The path of the Secret Mantra Vajrayana of the higher capable being

Having trained like this in the common path,
I myself will not have aversion to experiencing
The sufferings of cyclic existence for a long time,
But by the force of extraordinary unbearable compassion for sentient beings,
May I enter the quick path of the Vajrayana.
By observing purely my vows and pledges even at the cost of my life,
May I quickly attain the unified state of Vajradhara
In one brief lifetime of this degenerate age.
Please bless me with the potential to attain this.

Now read and contemplate the Bodhisattva Attitude, chapter 10.

Appendix 3: Morning Mantras (Concise) 102

Taking the Essence at the Start of Each Day

Recite the following mantras at the start of each day on waking, either before or after contemplating one of the bodhicitta motivations for life. Buddha taught these mantras out of compassion to increase our virtue and help make our lives as meaningful as possible each day by directing it to enlightenment.

Increasing effect mantra


Reciting this mantra seven times increases any virtue created during the day 100,000 times. This mantra comes from the Sutra of the Complete Dedicated Chakra.

Mala blessing mantra


Recite this mantra seven times and then blow over the mala. By doing this, whatever mantra you recite that was taught by the Buddha, the Tathagata, will increase more than one hundred billion times. This is taught in the Sutra of the Unfathomable Celestial Mansion Developing the Jewel.

Mantra for blessing the feet


Recite this mantra three or seven times and spit on the soles of your feet or shoes. Then any insect that dies under your feet during the day will be born in the Thirty-three deva realm. This is from the Manjugosha Root Tantra. You can also spit on the tires of your car and so forth.

Mantra to increase the power of recitations


Reciting this mantra seven times before reciting Dharma texts or sadhanas increases the power of your recitation ten million times. Reciting it in the morning will increase the merit of whatever recitations you do during the day.

Blessing the speech 103

I go for refuge to the three precious sublime ones (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha).
May I achieve enlightenment to benefit transmigrating beings. (3x)

Purify in emptiness. Out of emptiness, your wisdom understanding emptiness manifests as the deity with whom you have a karmic connection.104 Above your tongue is the syllable AH, which transforms into a moon disc. At its center stands a white OM. Starting from the front of the OM and circling clockwise is ALI, the white vowels:


Outside of and around that, starting from the front of the OM and circling counterclockwise is KALI, the red consonants:


Starting from the front of the OM and circling clockwise around that is the blue heart of dependent arising mantra:


Beams emitted from the mantra garlands hook back the blessing power of the holy speech of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas in the form of many vowels, consonants and heart of dependent arising mantras and the eight auspicious signs, seven perfect royal objects and eight substances. These absorb to the mantras on your tongue.

Then the beams hook back the blessing power of all the yogis and accomplished ones on the various grounds of the path both beyond and within samsara and all the sages who have achieved the words of truth 106 in the form of the vowels, consonants and heart of dependent arising mantras and the eight auspicious signs, seven perfect royal objects and eight substances, which absorb to the mantras on your tongue.

Now recite the vowels, consonants and mantra of the heart of dependent arising mantra three times each, pronouncing the syllables very clearly and visualizing as follows:

As you recite the vowels three times, white nectar beams are emitted from each of the white syllables, completely filling your whole body, purifying all the negative karmas of your body and defilements collected from beginningless rebirth up to now:


As you recite the consonants three times, red nectar beams are emitted, completely filling your whole body, purifying all the negative karmas of your speech and defilements collected from beginningless rebirth up to now:


As you recite the mantra of the heart of dependent arising three times, blue nectar beams are emitted, completely purifying all the negative karmas of your mind and defilements collected from beginningless rebirth up to now:


This visualization can be done one by one or all together.

When you finish reciting the mantra:

  • The heart of dependent arising mantra absorbs into the consonants, KALI.
  • The consonants absorb into the vowels, ALI.
  • The vowels absorb into the OM.
  • OM absorbs into the moon disc.
  • The moon disc absorbs back into the syllable AH.
  • The syllable AH melts into white-red nectar and absorbs into your tongue.
  • Then your tongue becomes the nature of the vajra, indestructible. No matter what food you eat, it is impossible for you to lose the power of your speech.

Then think, “My speech has become perfect. All the blessing power of the buddhas and bodhisattvas speech has now entered my speech.” Then recite this dedication prayer:

May my tongue achieve the power 107 of the Ones Gone to Bliss (the buddhas).
By the power of the magnificence of my words,
May all sentient beings be subdued.108
Whatever words I say, may their meaning be accomplished immediately.109

Reciting the prayer for blessing the speech (1) makes your speech perfect, (2) increases the power of your mantra recitation ten million times, (3) stops the power of your speech being taken away by eating black foods, and (4) transforms whatever you say—even gossiping—into virtue, like reciting a mantra.

It is said that Nagarjuna’s heart practice was to recite these vowels, consonants and the heart of dependent arising mantra after engaging in any virtuous activities of body, speech and mind. Chanting these three after any mantra recitation makes that recitation more powerful and accomplishes the purpose for which you are reciting the mantra.

Arya Totally Pure Stainless Beam mantra


This mantra has many benefits.110 For example, if you recite this mantra in the morning, any person or animal who hears your voice, touches you or is touched by your shadow will have their very heavy negative karma of having committed the five negative karmas without break in this or past lives purified.

Mantra taught by Buddha Droden Gyälwa Chhö


Again, there are many benefits to this mantra.111 For example, by reciting this, any of the four elements you touch—earth, water, air, fire—become blessed and able to purify the very heavy negative karma of any sentient being who touches them.

Appendix 4: Bodhicitta Mindfulness (Concise)112

How to Live Your Life for Numberless Sentient Beings

This is a concise version of the bodhicitta mindfulness practices compiled by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Rinpoche strongly encourages us to use them in both retreat and daily life.

Mindfulness practice can be related to all the different parts of the lam-rim—renunciation, bodhicitta and right view—as well as tantric practice. These bodhicitta mindfulness practices make our lives highly meaningful because they keep our minds in bodhicitta. Many of them relate to the daily activities we engage in all the time. By doing these everyday actions with the motivation of bodhicitta—dedicating them for the happiness of all sentient beings—they all become the purest Dharma and the cause of enlightenment. This brings the greatest benefit to us, those around us, the world and all sentient beings.

These mindfulness practices come from the Sutra of the Clouds of the Sublime Rare Ones (mdo-sde dkon-mchog-sprin), Rinpoche, his gurus and other sources; here they are presented together. Also included are concise instructions for the yogas of sleeping, cleaning, eating, bathing and walking, as well as offer­ing incense and going to the toilet.


Whoever seeks liberation, the state of omniscience, for the sake of each and every one of the numberless sentient beings needs to purify defilements and collect merits in many different ways. Therefore, the Omni­scient One, who is extremely skilful and has great compassion for us sentient beings, has shown methods to collect inconceivable virtue even by way of doing our normal daily activities. The Buddha has revealed these methods to benefit those of us whose level of mind is lower 113 so that everything we do is dedicated to be the cause of happiness for all sentient beings.114

In the morning, the very first moment when you wake up, think:

May all sentient beings achieve the holy body of the Buddha.115

Every time you rise—getting up from bed, standing up after sitting and so forth—think:

May all sentient beings rise up from the great oceans of samsaric suffering.

When you get dressed:

May all sentient beings clothe themselves with shyness and shame.116

If you are practicing tantra, offer all the clothing as divine dress to yourself as the guru-deity. In tantric practice, as mentioned in the commentaries, all activities—washing, dressing, eating and so forth—become guru yoga because everything is done as an offering to yourself as the guru visualized in the aspect of the deity. By thinking you are offering to the guru, you collect the highest, most extensive merit.

When you tie your belt:

May all sentient beings’ minds be bound by the three higher trainings (moral conduct, concentration and wisdom).

When you release your belt:

May all sentient beings be freed from the bondage of delusion and karma.

Every time you sit down:

I will lead all sentient beings to the heart of enlighten­ment. May this happen.

Think this, take on the responsibility and also pray for it to happen.

When you lie down in bed:

I will bring all sentient beings to the sorrowless state (great liberation or enlightenment).

As you go to sleep:

May all sentient beings achieve the dharmakaya.

When you offer incense:

May the bad smell of all sentient beings’ stains of wicked nature be eliminated and may they have the scented smell of morality.117 May they live in pure morality.

(Or:) May all sentient beings have pure morality.

In general, when making any offering, you can, of course, generate the motivation,“I am going to free all sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to enlightenment, therefore I am going to make this offering,” but the specific dedi­cation for incense is to purify and eliminate the impure moral conduct of all sentient beings. Offering incense is a special cause to be able to live in pure morality in future lives, which is the basis of achieving realizations. Therefore it is good to offer a lot of incense and as you light it, dedicate in this way.

When you clean:

May all sentient beings not have bad conduct. May they have perfect, beautiful conduct.

Clean the place where you have holy objects regularly, whether it is dirty or not, thinking that you are cleaning away all sentient beings’ disturbing thought obscurations and subtle defilements. The brush, vacuum, broom and so forth are the antidote to those obscurations—the complete path of method and wisdom, from guru devotion up to enlightenment.

In the lam-rim, when cleaning we recite “Abandon dust and abandon stains.” Here, “dust” refers to the disturbing thought obscurations that mainly interfere with achieving liberation and “stains” refers to the subtle obscurations that interfere with achieving enlightenment. This is mainly related to oneself, but in the bodhicitta mindfulness practices everything is related to other sentient beings.

Every time when you wash anything—your face, clothing, pots, laundry and so forth—or even brush your teeth:

I am washing away all the stains of the delusions of all sentient beings.

Think that the toothbrush, toothpaste, water, soap and so forth are the complete graduated path to enlightenment and that you are cleaning away every obscuration from all sentient beings’ minds. This way, because you are dedicating for all sentient beings, you create limitless skies of merit with each stroke of the brush as you clean your teeth.

There is always so much washing up to be done in the kitchen after eating. By habituating yourself to this way of thinking, all your activities of washing become the cause of enlightenment. Remember to dedicate for all sentient beings—not just those you love but everybody, including your enemy. Then the action becomes Dharma and you can really enjoy it. By dedicating to wash away all the delusions of others, naturally your own delu­sions are purified.

Whenever you wash or bathe yourself there are outer, inner and secret washing:

  • For outer washing, first bless the water in a bucket or tub by chanting a few of the five powerful mantras that purify negative karma 118—Namgyalma, Mitukpa, Kunrig, Stainless Lotus Pinnacle and the Wish-Grant­ing Wheel mantra—as well as OM MANI PADME HUM and then blowing on the water. This makes the water very powerful and as you wash your negative karma is purified. It also good for healing.
  • For inner washing, if you have received a great initiation from the lower tantra, such as the Great Chenrezig, or an initiation of highest tantra, generate yourself as the deity and think that empowering deities are pouring vase water over your head purifying all your delusions and granting initiation.
  • Secret washing is done in Highest Yoga Tantra accord­ing to the instructions of the deity you are practicing.

In all these cases, dedicate your washing for the obscurations of all sentient beings to be cleared away.

You can also visualize making a bath offering to your guru as you wash. If you have received an initiation, generate yourself as the guru-deity, and if not, visualize your root guru at your heart. Then, while bathing, recite the long, medium or short verses of the Jor-chö bath offering practice.119

To do the bath offering in a short way, as you wash, keep on reciting this offering verse to the guru:120

Guru Vajradhara, encompassing all the three objects of refuge,
Manifesting in the form of a virtuous friend for whomever it subdues,
Granting the common and sublime realizations,
To the kind guru, I offer this bath.

When you blow your nose, think:

I am clearing away all sentient beings’ negative karma and delusion.

When you enter a temple or even your own house or meditation room:

May all sentient beings be led into the city of the sor­rowless state (great liberation or enlightenment). May they enter the city of liberation.

Pray like this. Think that you are actually doing it and dedicate for it to happen.

When you go out:

I am liberating all sentient beings from the prison of samsara bound by delusion and karma. May this happen.

When you open any door:

I am opening the door of the transcendental wisdom gone beyond samsara for all sentient beings. May this happen.

When you close the door:

I am closing the door of samsara for all sentient beings. May this happen.

Each time you meet your guru:

May every sentient being meet a perfectly qualified guru who reveals the complete path to enlightenment.

When you see a stupa:

May all sentient beings achieve the dharmakaya.

The minute you see any holy object or buddha statue:

May all sentient beings achieve enlightenment quickly.

(Or:) May all sentient beings see the pure land of Buddha.

(Or:) May all sentient beings achieve the three kayas 121 or the three vajras.122

When you make a fire:

I am burning all sentient beings’ delusions in the fire of transcendental wisdom.

While you are cooking food in a pot, if you have received a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation you can use the same meditation that is used for blessing the inner offering. Then when the food is ready, it is already blessed and you can just eat it.

When you eat food:

May all sentient beings be free of the six root delusions and twenty secondary delusions.

When you eat, transform your eating into eating yoga,123 other­wise the eating becomes ordinary and, if done with attachment, the cause of samsara and the lower realms.

There are three things to be done when eating:

1. Make offering to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha by blessing the food and using the food offering meditation and prayers.

2. Make charity to all sentient beings. Make charity to the 21,000 beings living in your body in order to make a connection with them, so that in the future when they become human you can reveal Dharma to them and bring them to enlightenment.

Also, after you finish blessing and offering the food to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, make charity of the food to numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, suras and asuras. Think that they are fully satisfied and generate the complete path to enlighten­ment and that every one of them becomes the deity.

3. Practice eating yoga. In Hinayana, food is eaten with­out attachment to sustain the body in order to practice Dharma. In Mahayana Paramitayana, food is eaten seeing oneself as a servant and other sentient beings as the master. One then eats in order to be able to serve them. In Mahayana Tantrayana practice, food is offered to oneself generated as the guru-deity.

In Highest Yoga Tantra, the food is blessed into nec­tar and then taken in either of two ways:

  • As a tsog offering to yourself as the guru in the aspect of the deity by offering the nectar to the seed syllable at your heart or to the deity’s body mandala (if there is one).
  • In the manner of doing “burning offering” practice.

With either of these meditations, each bite of food creates the highest most extensive merit and eating becomes the quickest path to enlightenment. If, after taking a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, you do not bless your food and take it in one of these two ways, it becomes pollution, like poison.

If you have not received any initiations you can still visualize offering your food as nectar to your root guru at your heart and generating great bliss.

When you are cutting anything, for example, slicing vegetables, chopping wood and so forth:

May all sentient beings’ root of samsara—the igno­rance holding on to the I as truly existent—be cut by the sword of the wisdom realizing emptiness.

(Or:) I am cutting all sentient beings’ self-cherishing thought with the knife of bodhicitta.

When you are walking, follow Milarepa’s advice that, “When I walk, I have an instruction that makes walking circumambu­lation.” Think that all holy objects in all ten directions are on your right side and that as you walk you are circumambulating them. This purifies past negative karma and creates the cause for enlightenment.

Do the same when you are driving a car, riding a bicycle, traveling on a bus, train and so forth.

You can also remember the pure land where you wish to be reborn and think:

I am bringing all sentient beings to Buddha’s pure land.

This makes it easy to be born in a pure land when you die. Or you can think:

I am bringing all sentient beings to enlightenment.

When you are descending, like walking downhill, think:

I am going down to liberate the sentient beings in the lower realms.

When you go to the toilet:

  • Visualize Vajrasattva on your crown.
  • Recite the long or short Vajrasattva mantra twenty-one times or as many as you can and imagine nectar beams descending and purifying all sentient beings on a moon disc at your heart.
  • Think that all the defilements and negative karmas, spirit harms, obscurations and sicknesses—such as cancer—of yourself and all sentient beings collected since beginningless rebirths come out from below and are transformed into nectar that enters into the mouth of the Lord of Death nine storeys down below the earth.

Think that the Lord of Death is fully satisfied. As you flush and close the lid of the toilet, imagine his mouth closes and is sealed with a very heavy, golden double vajra.

Appendix 5: Prayer of St. Francis 124

The prayer commonly attributed to St. Francis is included here in a version adapted by Rinpoche because of its similarity with the Bodhisattva Attitude.


Lord (Buddha), make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, unity.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is error, truth.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Where there is darkness, light.

O divine master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled (happiness for the ego) as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying (having practiced) that we are born to eternal life (from happiness to happiness up to full enlightenment).

Appendix 6: The Shortcomings of Cherishing the Self and the Advantages of Cherishing Others125

Points for Reflection


First consider how all your present problems are directly related to the self-cherishing thought. Think, for example, that it is because of self-cherishing that:

  • I come into conflict, quarrel and argue with others and get upset when criticized or shown disrespect.
  • I suffer from stress, loneliness and depression.
  • I experience the pain of anger when others don’t do what I want or go against my wishes.
  • I experience the pain of attachment and rejection over and over again.
  • I suffer from jealousy toward those who have what I want or more than I do; competitiveness toward those I regard as equals; and arrogance toward those I regard as inferior.
  • I see others as enemies, break up with friends, and go against my teachers, parents, relatives and even my spiritual friends, who only ever do what is best for me.
  • I find it so hard to find time to meditate, to follow the guru’s advice, to train my mind in the path, to generate loving-kindness and compassion for others and help them, and to create the causes for future happiness up to enlightenment.
  • I constantly follow my old habitual bad habits see­ing them as my friends and blaming others for my problems.
  • Even when I do generate good qualities, they become corrupted by pride.

Then consider how all your problems come from negative karma motivated by self-cherishing in the past. (This includes all sick­nesses, harms and mental and physical suffering, which are the result of negative thoughts and actions created in the past due to the self-cherishing attitude.) Think how in the past self-cherishing has:

  • Kept me locked in the prison of samsara for numberless lives since beginningless time, compelling me to bear the sufferings of the six realms as much as possible.
  • Kept me in ignorance, continuously obsessed by countless problems.
  • Prevented every opportunity to achieve enlighten­ment.
  • Stopped me from receiving any realizations.
  • Prevented me from understanding and practicing the Dharma.
  • Not even allowed the enjoyment of temporal happiness.

Finally, recognize how self-cherishing is the source of all problems and will only continue to cause harm in the future:

  • Self-cherishing has harmed me in the past, is harming me now and, unless I put an end to it, will constantly harm me again in the future. It is my worst enemy and prevents all my happiness.
  • In fact, all the problems and suffering in this world, from the smallest conflict to the largest war, come from the self-cherishing thought.

By analyzing in this way, it becomes clear that self-cherishing is something to be immediately abandoned.


Start by considering how cherishing others prevents all the previ­ous sufferings that arise from self-cherishing and motivates you to abandon nonvirtue and practice virtue, which brings happi­ness as a result. Think, for example, that by cherishing others:

  • I abandon killing and harming and practice protecting life and caring for others, which is the cause for a long life, perfect health and great happiness.
  • I abandon stealing and miserliness and practice generosity, which is the cause of wealth and enjoyments.
  • I abandon anger and intolerance and become patient, loving and kind, which is a cause for great beauty of body and mind.

Then consider the difference between yourself and the Buddha:

In the past we were the same, both just ordinary sentient beings. Then, because the Buddha renounced the self-cherishing thought and generated the mind cher­ishing others he achieved supreme enlightenment, free of all suffering and able to help all beings.

I, on the other hand, clung on to my self-cherishing attitude and remain stuck in samsara not even capable of helping myself.

The reason I am unable to do any of the activities of the great bodhisattvas is because I haven’t given up self-cherishing and learned how to cherish others. Every good thing comes from cherishing others more than myself.

Now consider how everything you have and enjoy this life comes through the kindness of others because:

  • My body comes from the kindness of my parents who bore so many hardships for me.
  • My education comes from the kindness of those who taught me.
  • My money comes from the kindness of those who employ and pay me.
  • My clothes come from the kindness of those who make them as well as from those sentient beings whose wool, fur and skin are used as fabric.
  • My food comes from the kindness of those who grow it and those creatures who lose their lives when it is being produced.
  • My home, office and so forth come from the kindness of those who built them.
  • All the material things I have and enjoy and even non-material things, like being praised, having a good reputation, receiving affection and so forth, come from others.

Thinking more deeply about the kindness of others:

  • This precious human life with many qualities comes from the kindness of others because I depend on them to create the causes to receive it—ethics, generosity and patience.
  • The happiness of future rebirths comes from the kindness of others because I need others in order to create the causes for this, such as abandoning the ten nonvirtues and practicing the ten virtuous actions.
  • The everlasting happiness of liberation depends on the kindness of others because the basis for achieving this is ethics, which means living in precepts and avoiding harming others.
  • The peerless, ultimate happiness of enlightenment comes from the kindness of others because it comes from bodhicitta, which comes from great compassion, which is generated by cherishing every single being. Also I need others to practice the six perfections and four ways of gathering disciples. For example, it is through the kindness of those who criticize and harm me that I develop patience and so forth.
  • The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in whom I take refuge come from sentient beings because without sentient beings there would be no Buddha. Buddha achieved enlightenment because of cherishing sentient beings and then appeared on this earth and taught the Dharma for sentient beings.

Also remember that all this kindness has been shown to you not just this life but over countless past lifetimes. Sentient beings have also been your mother countless times in the past and kind to you in numberless ways127 and the kindness will continue end­lessly in the future.

By thinking over all these reasons, it becomes clear that sen­tient beings are the source of all your happiness and are like an inexhaustible field for accumulating endless virtue or a jewel that fulfils all wishes. Therefore it is only right to serve, cherish and hold them dear.

Appendix 7: Compassion is of the Utmost Need 128

Advice to Make All Your Activities the Cause of Enlightenment

These ten powerful and inspiring quotes on compassion were compiled by Rinpoche to be used in daily prayers, as a motivation and as the basis for meditation. They are to be read and reflected upon as a reminder that compassion is of the utmost importance in our lives. Rinpoche says,
This advice has been given so that all your activities in life will become the cause of enlightenment. Please read this especially when you have problems and relate it to those problems. This is the best psychology, the best Dharma advice and the best medicine.


One. The Destroyer Qualified Gone Beyond One 129 said,

The bodhisattva does not follow many Dharmas. The bodhisattva holds one Dharma well and realizes it well. The whole Buddhadharma will be in the hand of that person. What is that Dharma? It is great com­passion.130

Two. What differentiates Buddhism from other religions is com­passion for every single sentient being.

Three. What really pleases all the buddhas and bodhisattvas is compassion.

Four. Compassion makes all sentient beings happy.

Five. Strong compassion is the foundation that causes you to achieve full enlightenment most quickly. If you want to achieve full enlightenment in order to liberate all sentient beings from suffering and bring them to full enlightenment, the quickest way is to generate strong compassion.

Six. Chandrakirti said,131

At the beginning, compassion is like a seed;
In the middle, it is like water;
At the end, it is like a ripened fruit.
Achieving the result of full enlightenment is all due to compassion.

Seven. Even for non-believers the best thing and only way to create merit, good karma, is compassion, as well as making offerings and prostrations to holy objects and circumambulating them, even by chance. What gives all beings a happy, satisfied, mean­ingful and successful life is compassion.

Eight. The Sutra Requested by Lodro Gyatso says,

The thought of complete enlightenment, preserving Dharma, practicing Dharma and having love and compassion for living beings: these four dharmas have infinite qualities—the limit of their benefits is not seen by the Victorious Ones. It is said that preserving Dharma and protecting the lives of living beings has limitless benefits.

This shows that if we have compassion for sentient beings, from those we can’t see with the naked eye but only under a microscope up to creatures the size of a mountain, the Buddha has never explained an end to the benefit of such compassion because it is infinite. It’s the same as saving the lives of human beings, animals and insects; we must understand that it has limitless benefits.

Nine. A Kadampa geshe said,

Holy beings of the land of Dzambu 132 respond to harm with good actions.

When ordinary people are harmed they retaliate with harm. Holy beings repay harm with positive actions.Whoever sees the enemy as the virtuous friend is happy wherever that person is.

The great Indian scholar bodhisattva Shantideva said in the first chapter of A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:133

I bow down to the body of him
In whom the sacred precious mind is born.
I seek refuge in that source of joy,
Who brings to happiness even those who harm him.

Ten. The extensive benefits of bodhicitta, which are like the sky and the depthless ocean, are also the benefits of generating great compassion for all sentient beings. Without great compas­sion there is no way to achieve bodhicitta, which has limitless benefits.

The conclusion is that compassion is the most important practice in life.


To view or listen to the original teachings from Light of the Path and to follow the online study program connected with these teachings, please see FPMT’s Online Learning Center at

Chandrakirti. Introduction to the Middle Way: Chandrakirti’s Madhya­makavatara with Commentary by Jamgön Mipham. Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. Boston: Shambhala Publica­tions, 2002.

Dagyab Rinpoche. Buddhist Symbols in Tibetan Culture. Boston: Wis­dom Publications, 1995.

FPMT. Essential Buddhist Prayers, Volume 1. Portland: FPMT, 2007.

———. FPMT Retreat Prayer Book. Portland: FPMT, 2009.

Govina, Lama Anagarika. The Way of the White Clouds: A Buddhist Pilgrim in Tibet. London: Hutchinson, 1968.

Hopkins, Jeffrey. Tsongkhapa’s Final Exposition of Wisdom. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2008.

Jinpa, Thupten (translator). Mind Training: The Great Collection. Bos­ton: Wisdom Publications, 2006.

Khunu Rinpoche. Vast as the Heavens, Deep as the Sea: Verses in Praise of Bodhicitta. Translated by Gareth Sparham. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999.

Nagarjuna. Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation: Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland. Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1998.

———. Nagarjuna’s Letter. Translated by Geshe Lobsang Tharchin and Artemus Engle. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1995.

Pabongka Rinpoche. Liberation in Our Hands. Part One: The Pre­liminaries. Translated by Sermey Khensur Lobsang Tharchin with Artemus B. Engle. Howell, New Jersey: Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press, 1990, 2001.

———. Liberation in Our Hands. Part Two: The Fundamentals. Trans­lated by Sermey Khensur Lobsang Tharchin with Artemus B. Engle. Howell, New Jersey: Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press, 1994.

———. Liberation in Our Hands. Part Three: The Ultimate Goals. Translated by Sermey Khensur Lobsang Tharchin with Artemus B. Engle. Howell, New Jersey: Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press, 2001.

———. Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. Edited in the Tibetan by Trijang Rinpoche. Translated by Michael Richards. Boston: Wis­dom Publications, 2006.

Shantideva. A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. Translated by Stephen Batchelor. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1979, 2007.

———. A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. Translated by Vesna A. Wallace and B. Alan Wallace. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1997.

Sopa, Geshe Lhundrup. Steps on the Path to Enlightenment, Volumes 1, 2 & 3. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004, 2005 & 2008.

Tsongkhapa, Lama. The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, Volume One. Translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee: Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2000.

Thresher, Sarah. Compassion Training. Unpublished manuscript. Soquel: Land of Medicine Buddha, 2002.

Zopa Rinpoche, Lama. The Direct and Unmistaken Method of Purify­ing and Protecting Yourself. Portland: FPMT, 2009.

———. The Door to Satisfaction. Edited by Ailsa Cameron and Robina Courtin. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001.

———. How to Practice Dharma: Teachings on the Eight Worldly Dhar­mas. Edited by Gordon McDougall. Boston: Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2012.

———. Practicing the Five Powers near the Time of Death. Portland: FPMT, 2005.

———. Service as a Path to Enlightenment. Portland: FPMT, 2011.

———. Taking the Essence All Day and Night. Portland: FPMT, 2010.

———. Teachings from the Medicine Buddha Retreat. Edited by Ailsa Cameron. Boston: Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2009.

———. Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat. Edited by Ailsa Cam­eron and Nicholas Ribush. Boston: Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2000.

——— and Pabongka Rinpoche. Heart Advice for Retreat. Portland: FPMT, 2011 (online edition).

Wangmo, Jamyang. The Lawudo Lama: Stories of Reincarnation from the Mount Everest Region. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2005.

Suggested Further Reading

Jinpa, Thupten (translator). The Book of Kadam. Boston: Wisdom Pub­lications, 2008.

Zopa Rinpoche, Lama. The Heart of the Path. Seeing the Guru as Buddha. Edited by Ailsa Cameron. Boston: Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2009.

———. Kadampa Teachings. Edited by Ailsa Cameron. Boston: Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2010.

———. Transforming Problems into Happiness. Edited by Ailsa Cam­eron and Robina Courtin. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001.

———. Ultimate Healing. Edited by Ailsa Cameron. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001.


100 Op cit., v. 201 [Return to text]

101 This prayer was composed by Vajradhara Losang Jinpa, translated by Ven. Thubten Dekyong and edited by Maureen O’Malley, Ven. Ailsa Cameron, Ven. Connie Miller and Nick Ribush. The present version has been reformatted by the editor on the basis of a commentary given by Rinpoche on 7 October 2010, Shedrup Ling. The short introduction to the prayer is also summarized from the same commentary. The Tibetan text is available for download as a pdf file.  [Return to text]

102 These mantras can be found in the FPMT Retreat Prayer Book, pp. 7–11. The version found here is based on Rinpoche’s commentary at Light of the Path, 11 and 12 September 2009. [Return to text]

103 This practice for Blessing the Speech comes from the great yogi Khyungpo. A direct translation of this with notes can be found in FPMT Retreat Prayer Book, p. 8. The version printed here is adapted from Rinpoche’s commentary, which elaborates on the meditation. [Return to text]

104 Generating as the deity is for those who have received an initiation. [Return to text]

105 Rinpoche emphasizes the need to stop between the YO and NI; otherwise the mantra has a totally different and unintended meaning. [Return to text]

106 Tib: Drang-song den-tshig drub-pa, “sages who accomplished the words of the truth.” These can be worldly beings but because they live their life in silence, abstaining from gossip and telling lies and so forth, their words have great power and their prayers are more quickly actualized. [Return to text]

107 “Power” could also be “courage.” [Return to text]

108 You are praying here that whenever you teach or talk to others your speech can help them and bring them inner peace by pacifying their delusions, selfish mind, negative thoughts and so forth. [Return to text]

109 This means not just when you are teaching Dharma but also at other times when you are talking to others or asking them to do something, may whatever you say be accomplished.  [Return to text]

110 For a full list of the benefits of this and the following mantra translated and compiled by Rinpoche, see Taking the Essence All Day and Night, pp. 57–9. [Return to text]

111 ibid. pp. 61–63. [Return to text]

112 This collection of bodhicitta mindfulness practices is based on teachings given at the 100 Million Mani Retreat, May 2009, Light of the Path, September 2009, and Most Secret Hayagriva Retreat, March 2010. Revisions have been made on the basis of subsequent teachings at Light of the Path, 22 September 2010, 7 October 2010, Shedrup Ling, and Lama Zopa Rinpoche Australia Retreat, 8 April 2011. [Return to text]

113 Those who have not yet generated the actual realization of bodhicitta and whose level of mind is therefore “lower” than the bodhisattvas who have gener­ated bodhicitta. [Return to text]

114This passage is always translated by Rinpoche as an introduction to the bodhi­citta mindfulness teachings but I am not clear as to its source. [Return to text]

115 The Buddha has two holy bodies—dharmakaya and rupakaya. Thinking this way when you wake up and wishing all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment is the shortest way to set a motivation. [Return to text]

116 Rinpoche uses “shyness” to refer to oneself and with the meaning of being concerned to protect one’s vows because of not wanting to create negative karma and suffer but wanting to achieve realizations, and “shame” to refer to others with the meaning that there is a concern to protect the vows one has promised to keep in the presence of holy beings and out of consideration for others. However, other translators commonly use “shame” in reference to oneself and “embarrassment” or “consideration” in reference to others. [Return to text]

117 Rinpoche explains that some holy beings have this special natural scented smell as a sign of their pure moral conduct or bodhicitta. [Return to text]

118 See Taking the Essence All Day and Night, pp. 65–67. [Return to text]

119FPMT Retreat Prayer Book, pp. 65–70. The verses include not just washing but also drying and dressing and for lay people (pp. 71–72) wearing perfume and ornaments. [Return to text]

120 ibid. p. 67. [Return to text]

121 The three holy bodies of a buddha—dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, rupakaya. [Return to text]

122 The vajra holy body, speech and mind of a buddha. [Return to text]

123 See “The Yoga of Offering Food” in Taking the Essence, pp. 40–54. [Return to text]

124 Rinpoche adapted this prayer for inclusion in a special booklet to be given to students newly receiving the refuge vows. This version is taken from Essential Buddhist Prayers, Volume 1. [Return to text]

125 From Compassion Training. [Return to text]

126 See also “The Third Power: Blaming the Ego,” Practicing the Five Powers near the Time of Death.  [Return to text]

127 See “A Mother’s Kindness” in Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat, pp. 298–300. [Return to text]

128 These quotes were arranged and composed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Kopan Monastery, 11 August 2011. They were scribed by Ven. Holly Ansett and edited by Nick Ribush. They are available for free download in a beautifully designed format to be framed and displayed on the wall from Rinpoche’s Advice Page, The quotes have been rearranged and further edited for inclusion in this book. [Return to text]

129 i.e. the Buddha or “Bhagawan.” [Return to text]

130 From the Chenrezig Sutra, Well-Condensed Dharma. [Return to text]

131A Guide to the Middle Way, ch.1, v.2. [Return to text]

132 i.e. Jambudvipa (Tib. Dzambuling)—the name of the southern continent where we live and hence this world. [Return to text]

133 Ch. 1, v. 36. [Return to text]