Teachings From the Vajrasattva Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Soquel, CA USA 1999 (Archive #1055)

This book is an edited transcript of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings at a three-month Vajrasattva retreat held at Land of Medicine Buddha, from February 1 to April 30, 1999. The teachings cover many lam-rim topics, purification practices, mantras, pujas and more.

Chapter 50: April 30-b


This is the American style of giving teachings! [Rinpoche is sitting in an armchair.]

This Amitabha initiation, or blessing to achieve Amitabha Buddha’s pure land, that we are going to do today is also combined with a long life initiation, or blessing—it’s for both having a long life and achieving the blissful pure field of Amitabha Buddha.

The lineage of this initiation

I received the lineage of this initiation from one of the heads of the Sakya sect, His Holiness Chobgye Trichen Rinpoche, who is a guru of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, from whom His Holiness received in particular the Sakya lam-dre teachings, and I think also the Dorje Purba initiation and some other teachings. But particularly the lam-dre teachings, the main practice of the Sakya tradition. His Holiness Chobgye Trichen Rinpoche is also one of the main gurus of His Holiness Sakya Trizin, who is the head of the Sakya sect. I went to Boston from Vajrapani Institute especially to request and receive this initiation to achieve the pure land of Amitabha. Rinpoche gave this initiation sitting in a chair, because when Rinpoche received this initiation from the head of the Nyingma sect, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche himself gave the initiation sitting in a chair.

There are probably also some auspicious reasons for this, perhaps similar reasons to those for Maitreya Buddha’s being seated—showing that he’s about to get up, about to descend into this world. Whether it is exactly the same reason or not, there is some auspicious reason for this particular initiation being given in this way.

I think this chair is also giving teachings! [Rinpoche’s chair is making creaking noises when he moves.] The chair is giving teachings on emptiness—it’s saying, “No form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no tangible objects, no enlightenment, no hell...!” Anyway, I’m joking!

The purpose of this initiation

The purpose of this, then, is to be born in a pure land. What is the importance of that? First of all, the purpose of life is not to create suffering.

The purpose of life is to achieve happiness. Anyway, that is our wish.

Our wish is not to experience suffering; what we wish for is happiness.

The actual, real happiness that we should look for, that we should achieve, is liberation, the total cessation of the whole entire cycle of suffering —death, rebirth, old age and sickness; not finding desirable objects; then even after finding them, being worried and afraid of losing them; and not deriving satisfaction from the desirable objects we acquire.

These are the problems, or sufferings, experienced particularly by human beings; problems experienced by the human body and mind.

Then there are all the sufferings not only of the human realm but also those of other sentient beings, such as the suras and asuras, the worldly gods, who suffer as desire realm gods, form realm gods and formless realm gods.

The suffering of the form and formless gods

The form and formless realm gods, those samsaric beings, even though they do not experience the suffering of change, they do experience pervasive compounding suffering—their aggregates are the production of their past karma and delusion and the contaminated seed of disturbing thoughts. Therefore, when the karma to be in, for example, the four formless realms—infinite sky, infinite consciousness, nothingness and the tip of samsara—when their karma to be at the tip of samsara finishes, again they must reincarnate in the desire realm. Even after reaching the highest realm in samsara, because they still have negative karma created in the past to be born in the lower realms, they have to reincarnate in samsara again, even in the lower realms. Again they have to circle from one of the six realms to the other—through the hell, hungry ghost, animal, sura, asura and human realms. They have to reincarnate in these realms again and again, continuously circling through them, experiencing unimaginable suffering.

Even though the aggregates of the formless realm beings are contaminated, they don’t have the suffering of pain, sickness, heat and cold; all these things that we do. They don’t have to go through old age and sickness; the kinds of problem we experience in the desire realm. They don’t have the suffering of pain or the suffering of change—sense pleasure derived from external objects, which are exclusively suffering in nature, but which appear to us as pleasure. Because they appear to us as pleasure, we get attached to them. In this way, we cheat ourselves. Attachment to sense pleasure becomes the cause of our reincarnating back into samsara once more and experiencing the same old suffering, again and again; the suffering of pain, the suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering. Our aggregates are not only produced by an impure cause, karma and delusion, but also by the contaminated seed of disturbing thoughts. As long as that is not ceased, we have to reincarnate again in samsara—even after achieving rebirth in the highest realm in samsara.

What gods must do to gain liberation

To be liberated from samsara, those long-life gods have to realize total renunciation of samsara. They have to actualize not only total detachment from the desire realm, which they already have, but also total detachment from the form realm. The formless realm beings, at the fourth level—the tip of the samsara, the highest realm of samsara—have total detachment from even the formless realm: infinite sky, infinite consciousness and nothingness. But they do not have total detachment from samsara, because there is no higher realm, than the one they’re in, to compare it to. Thus, it is impossible for them to analyze that the tip of samsara has more gross suffering than the next highest realm and that the next highest realm has more peace and happiness than does the tip of samsara. They can’t meditate on the better quality of the next highest realm because there is no next highest realm above the tip of the samsara.

That is as high as you can go; the ultimate realm in samsara.

Therefore, even though gods at the tip of samsara have total detachment from and complete renunciation of the entire desire realm, they are not detached from their own realm. They completely renounce the sense pleasures of the human realm and even those of the worldly gods in the desire realm. They even renounce, for example, the pleasures of the Gods of the Thirty-three, which is one of the sura desire realms where the gods have billions of times greater pleasures than human beings enjoy and whose abode is much more beautiful and has infinitely better enjoyments than those of any human being, even those who live in the most developed countries. The formless samsaric beings at the fourth level, the tip of the samsara, who have total detachment from even the pleasures of the desire realm devas, which are billions of times better than those of humans, also have total detachment from the lower formless realms— infinite sky, infinite consciousness and nothingness—but they do not have total detachment from the tip of samsara, their own realm.

To be liberated from samsara, those long-life gods not only need to have total renunciation of, total detachment from, the whole entire samsara, including their own realm, the tip of samsara, but they also need the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness. In order not to reincarnate in samsara again, they have to realize the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness.

It is said in the teachings that when their karma to be in the formless realm has finished, when they see that they have to reincarnate again in samsara, in the desire realm, in the lower realms and so forth, at that time—because they have achieved that realm through meditation and believed that they’d achieved liberation—heresy arises within them. They start to think, “Maybe it’s not true; maybe there’s no such thing as liberation.” Naturally, that heresy—believing that liberation is not possible—causes them to be reborn in the lower realms.

The conclusion is that even at the tip of samsara, the beings in that realm, who do not experience the suffering of pain or the suffering of change, are not free from pervasive, compounding suffering.

The happiness we seek should transcend all suffering

Therefore, the real happiness that we should look for, what we should really achieve, is the happiness that is not suffering—ultimate happiness, total cessation of pervasive, compounding suffering. Not just the cessation of the suffering of pain but also cessation of the suffering of change—the feelings that appear to be pleasure but in reality, when we analyze them, are found to be only suffering in nature. When we analyze those feelings we realize that they’re actually suffering and that if we continue to do the action, instead of the pleasure getting better and better, it not only gets less and less but at the same time the suffering builds up more and more until it becomes overt suffering of pain. If we continue to do the action, the less and less we experience pleasure and the more and more we experience the suffering of pain.

Our mind labels the feelings we experience at the beginning as “pleasure” because a heavy suffering has just stopped; an unpleasant feeling has stopped because we have stopped doing the action that compounded it. For example, if we’ve been sitting for a long time and stand up, the discomfort that was compounded by the sitting stops because the action of sitting has stopped. The action that compounded the discomfort, pain, tiredness and so forth—the sitting—has stopped, therefore the discomfort stops. But at the same time, the action of standing immediately begins to compound the discomfort of standing. Although it is compounded immediately, it is very subtle—so tiny, so small, that we don’t notice it at first. But even though we don’t notice it at the beginning, the discomfort of standing has already begun. It begins the very moment we stand up. The action of standing immediately starts to create the discomfort of standing, but it is so small that it’s unnoticeable. However, our mind labels that feeling “pleasure” and it appears to us as pleasure.

Then the emotional mind arises, the mind that exaggerates this feeling into pleasure. As I described one night, how delusions arise on the basis of ignorance; how our ignorance fabricates, or projects, inherent existence and we see an inherently existent object, similarly, our mind exaggerates the pleasure and clings to it with attachment; our mind clings with attachment to a feeling that is pain in nature but is very difficult to separate from. That clinging mind of attachment is not a peaceful mind. It disturbs and obscures our mental continuum. The effect of attachment on us is that we have no inner peace, no satisfaction and no tranquility. The effect is that we get disturbance, a lack of peace. The function of attachment, what it does to our mind, is to disturb and obscure our mental continuum.

Attachment impedes wisdom

This obscuration interferes with our being able to see the very nature of phenomena; their ultimate nature, the very nature of the I. It obscures us from seeing what the I is. Attachment obscures us from seeing the ultimate nature of the self that we think and talk about twenty-four hours a day—“I, I, I”; from seeing what the very nature of the I really is.

Attachment prevents us from seeing the ultimate nature of our I.

As long as we don’t realize the very nature of the I and the very nature of our mind, due to that hallucination, the ignorance of not knowing those natures, we continuously, forever, have to die and get reborn, die and get reborn, die and get reborn, and constantly experience old age, sickness and all the other human sufferings as well. We have to go through the same problems again and again in the human world by repeatedly being reborn in the human world, as well as having to go through the same old sufferings in the other five samsaric realms—the hell, hungry ghost, animal, sura and asura realms.

The suffering of the aggregates

These aggregates, this association of body and mind, are pervasive, compounding suffering not only because they are produced by an impure cause; not only because they come from, have been created by, the impure cause of ignorance—not knowing what the I is, not knowing the ultimate nature of the I, not knowing the very nature of the mind; ignorance from which delusions such as desire arise—but also because they were created by delusion and karma.

This samsara, the association of our body and mind, is the container of all our life’s problems because it was created by delusion and karma.

Therefore, whenever our aggregates meet unfavorable conditions, we experience the suffering of pain. When our aggregates meet certain conditions, we experience suffering. In particular, when we meet the condition of an unfavorable object, we experience the suffering of pain—mental anguish, worry, fear, physical discomfort and so forth.

If our aggregates, the association of our body and mind, had not been created by karma and delusion, there would be no reason at all for our having to experience, for example, fear. Why would we have fear?

There’d be no reason. Why would we worry, why would we feel afraid, why would we experience unhappiness—why? There would be no cause for it. Why would we get sick? As I’ve mentioned before, even when we sit down, if we are not careful we can easily induce pain and discomfort, and the longer we sit, the more and more discomfort we feel. Even when we lie down, it’s the same. The longer we lie down, the more unpleasant it becomes.

Even when we pinch our skin between our fingers, we feel pain and discomfort. With just that little bit of pressure we feel pain. Even that shows, proves, that there is reincarnation, that there are past lives. What put these present aggregates, this association of body and mind, together.

What is the cause? What put our consciousness and this body together?

This association of body and mind is a result; it is a causative phenomenon.

It is a result. Therefore, before the result—this association of body and mind, these aggregates, this samsara—manifested in our mother’s womb, the cause must have existed. A cause has to exist before its result. Cause and result cannot exist together. There has to be a cause before a result; they cannot co-exist. That’s not possible. The pre-existent cause in question is delusion and karma. Therefore, the pain we feel when we pinch our skin comes with our aggregates. We were born with that nature, which is pain, because it came from its cause—delusion and karma—which existed before this result.

Now, not only are these aggregates the container of all this life’s problems, but they also become the foundation for future lives’ problems, future lives’ suffering. Not only are these aggregates pervaded by suffering but they also bear the contaminated seed of disturbing thoughts.

Therefore, these aggregates compound the future samsara. The continuation of these aggregates circles to the next life, and that continuation of samsara, those aggregates, circles to the life after that, and then to the next and the next, and so it goes on, without end. We then experience all the sufferings of each of the six realms. If we do not completely break their continuity, we will continue taking samsaric aggregates without end and will continue drowning in the vast oceans of human suffering again and again, not to mention those of all the other realms as well.

Thus, there’ll be no end to cancer, no end to chemotherapy, no end to surgery, no end to going to hospital, no end to taking medicine, no end to spending vast sums of money checking the body, no end to x-rays. All these operations and other treatments will never finish, never end.

There’ll be no end to having jobs, having to work to make money.

Until you break the continuity of this samsara, these defiled aggregates —this continuity that circles from one life to another—there’ll be no end to hard work. Again we’ll have to educate ourselves all the way up from kindergarten, through school, college and university and try to find a job. There’ll be no end to all this. We’ll go on and on and on without end.

It’ll be incredibly boring! It’ll go on and on. There’ll be no end to marriage, no end to fighting! No end to divorce! No end to seeing psychologists; no end to having mental problems and seeing psychiatrists. No end to life difficulties.

No end to going to meditation courses—billions and billions of courses; no end. This course, that course, the other course; courses for this, courses for that—no end. Courses for the body, courses for the mind, courses for the nose! Courses for the ears! Anyway, I’m joking!

Real Happiness is the Cessation of Pervasive Compounding Suffering 

Therefore, the real happiness that we should seek is the total cessation of all this suffering, especially pervasive compounding suffering. We should seek the cessation of the continuation of these aggregates, of their circling; we should seek to be totally free from samsara.

Pervasive, compounding suffering is like a thorn bush that has been fastened to our naked body so that we have to carry it wherever we go.

Whether we go to the mountains or the city, East or West, to the moon or underground, wherever we go, we are constantly in pain. Our very nature is pain and suffering because of this thorn bush chained to our naked body. Being in samsara is just like this. There’s not a second’s peace; no real happiness. It’s like a blazing log of wood that is oneness with fire has been chained to our body. Until we break the chain, we will never be free from this burning log that is oneness with fire. We constantly experience problems, but wherever in the world we go in search of peace and satisfaction, it is the same. The suffering of samsara never stops; problems never stop.

If we can totally free ourselves from pervasive, compounding suffering, we will be totally free from the suffering of pain and the suffering of change. If we are not totally free from pervasive, compounding suffering, any freedom from the suffering of pain we experience is only temporary.

Even freedom from the suffering of change, the temporary samsaric pleasures whose nature is only suffering, is also temporary. We will continue to experience it again and again.

How to achieve ultimate happiness

Therefore, the happiness we need to achieve is everlasting, ultimate happiness, and once we have achieved it, it is impossible for this happiness to degenerate, for us to ever experience suffering again. It is impossible because there is no cause, no reason. There is no imprint, no seed of the delusion, that causes delusions to arise and motivate karma, which then causes us to experience suffering. Once we remove the seed of delusion, it is impossible for us to ever experience suffering again.

To achieve this great result takes just a one time effort, a one time practice. Unlike samsaric work, we don’t have to do it again and again; again and again and again without end. It’s not like that. Dharma practice brings liberation with a one time effort. Work to experience samsaric pleasure—temporary sense pleasure through form, sound, smell, taste and touch—has no end. We have to do it again and again. Once more, the pleasure finishes; once more we have to do the work. Again the pleasure finishes, again we do the work. There is no way to finish this kind of work, no way to complete it—never. It certainly hasn’t happened so far—from beginningless rebirths up to now. And from now on, there’ll be no end to it either; no way to complete this work.

But all this is talking about just our own ultimate happiness, our own liberation. It is even more important to achieve the ultimate happiness of full enlightenment, the great liberation—total cessation of even the subtle, negative imprints of delusion; ignorance, the unknowing mind.

Although the I is merely imputed by the mind, although there is no I in this body, although there is no I, no self, no me in this body, no I can be found in this body, although the body is not the I, the mind is not the I, even the association of body and mind is not the I, I exists nowhere on this association of body and mind, although nothing is the I, although there is no I on this, ignorance believes, apprehends that there is an I on these aggregates, on this association of body and mind, in this body— that there is an I here somewhere.

When we do not make this analysis in our daily lives, we feel that while there may not be an I in our head, in our stomach, but there is one somewhere inside the body, somewhere here [Rinpoche points to his chest]. We feel that there is a real I there.

While there is no such I there—when we do make the analysis, our wisdom cannot find it; the view of our wisdom is that there is no I there—the view of our wrong mind, wrong concept, ignorance, is that there is an I there, which is a total hallucination. While the I is merely labeled by the mind, our ignorance believes that this I merely labeled by the mind exists from its own side; that it is not merely labeled by mind.

Full enlightenment is the total cessation of this simultaneously born ignorance—the extremely subtle negative imprints left on our mental continuum, the complete quality of cessation—and the complete quality of realization.

Achieving this—and through it liberating numberless sentient beings from all their samsaric suffering and its cause, delusion and karma, and bringing them to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment—is the greatest happiness we can seek. It is the most important happiness as far as both we ourselves and especially all other sentient beings are concerned.

The importance of having a good heart

Why should we help other sentient beings? Why should we benefit others; why should we think of others; why is it so important? The simple reason is that if you love others, others will love you. It’s very simple to understand why it is so important to benefit others, to help others.

Benefiting others, helping others, should be the main project, the main attitude, the main thing in your life. It should be your main education, your main project, the main way you live your life.

If possible, helping others should be the only thing in your life. There should be nothing else in your life—attitude and actions. If possible, there should be nothing else; only that.

However, the very simple reason is that if you have compassion, loving kindness for others, if you benefit others, if you help others, they will love you back; they will benefit you, they will help you. It is dependent arising. It works like that. As a result of your helping others, as a result of that action, you receive help from others.

As you plant a seed, so it produces the sprout, plant and fruit.

Similarly, as you help others, benefit others, as a result of your good actions for others, you receive help from others, benefit from others. In this way, your wishes for happiness get fulfilled. Whatever wishes for happiness you have, they get fulfilled.

Thus, it has to come from you. Your mind, your good heart is the wish-fulfilling jewel. Amongst all material objects, the most valuable, the most priceless, is the wish-fulfilling jewel, but if this example doesn’t work for you, think of money, which is the most common thing considered valuable these days. But even if you have a billion, trillion, zillion dollars that fill the whole sky, that money alone cannot fulfill all your wishes for happiness.

This is very simple to understand. In this world, there are many millionaires, billionaires—the richest people on earth—but there is still much suffering in their minds, in their lives; much dissatisfaction, much unhappiness in their hearts. All that money doesn’t even bring happiness in their day to day lives, let alone the happiness of future lives, liberation from samsara and enlightenment. They get no real satisfaction from their money. Even though externally, materially, they might look successful, their lives are filled with misery, their hearts are filled with misery— depression, unhappiness. Empty hearts; empty lives. With money alone—even skies of dollars, untold billions of dollars—you cannot achieve ordinary happiness let alone the happiness of future lives, liberation and enlightenment. Wealth alone is not enough.

But from your good heart, your compassion, your loving kindness towards others, your thought of benefiting others, you can have it all. Your everyday life gives you great satisfaction, fulfillment. Your good heart—the thought of benefiting others, compassion and loving kindness—gives you much peace and happiness. Not only satisfaction, but fulfillment in your heart. This is infinitely more precious than skies full of billions of dollars or even wish-fulfilling jewels, which by praying to, all your wishes are granted and you can achieve whatever sense enjoyment or external object you like. No matter what material possessions are regarded as the most precious, their value is still nothing compared to that of the good heart— the thought of benefiting others, compassion and loving kindness.

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama often says, if you have a good heart, even if you have nothing to eat or drink other than water, you are still so happy. Even if externally you have nothing, if you have a good heart, your mind is peaceful and happy. As His Holiness often mentions, even if externally you have nothing, no material possessions, even if you live by begging for whatever money or food you can get each day, there is much peace in your heart. Even if externally you have nothing, if you have a good heart, you enjoy much peace, happiness and satisfaction.

From your good heart, you achieve all the happiness of this life. More importantly, you receive all the happiness of future lives. If you have a good heart, you experience happiness when you die. The day your death comes, at that very important, very risky time, your mind is happy. Even at that time. Not only is your day-to-day mind happy, peaceful, fulfilled, but because of that, you enjoy good health. Because of your peaceful mind, your loving, compassionate thought, you are also more healthy physically. You have fewer heart attacks or other health problems; many sicknesses don’t happen.

Taking care of your life

This is not just talking about past karma. If in your day to day life you don’t take care of your mind, if you don’t guard against anger, for example, you can easily get sick. It is very easy for people who are very impatient, very emotional, to have heart attacks. Similarly, other negative emotional thoughts, such as grasping desire, attachment, anger and jealousy, bring sickness. Recently there have been some scientific studies showing the ill effects of this kind of attitude; how these negative emotional thoughts damage the health.

Anyway, if these negative minds cause you to engage in unrighteous actions, many, many sicknesses can result. You get sick because you’re not protecting your mind, not looking after your mind—which means not looking after your life. Not looking after your mind means not looking after your life, not taking care of your life. It’s the same thing. Happiness and suffering come from the mind, therefore, taking care of your life, looking after yourself, means looking after your mind. In order to avoid problems, to have only peace and happiness, it has to be this way. To take care of yourself, to look after yourself to be happy, you have to look after your mind, take care of your mind. Essentially, that means you have to practice Dharma; do nothing other than Dharma.

The best way of taking care of yourself is by practicing Dharma.

Anything other than that creates negative karma. Taking care of your life, looking after yourself by any means other than Dharma creates negative karma. Anything outside of Dharma creates negative karma; anything other than good karma is negative karma. Creating negative karma is no way to take care of yourself. Not practicing Dharma is no way to love yourself, look after yourself, take care of yourself, take care of your mind.

Practicing Dharma is the only way to do that.

The best way of taking care of your life, of looking after yourself, is to make sure you keep your mind in virtue, maintain a positive attitude, and the very best way of doing that is to keep your mind in bodhicitta, the thought of benefiting others. That is the very best.

Looking after yourself means looking after your own mind, keeping your mind in virtue, always positive, keeping it healthy, in non-ignorance, non-anger, non-attachment and non-ego; maintaining a healthy mind, a free mind, a detached mind. It means taking care of your mind by keeping it away from the painful emotion of desire. It means taking care of your mind by keeping it away from anger—keeping it in tolerance, patience, loving kindness; keeping it away from the emotional, painful mind of anger—that very dangerous, harmful mind that destroys your merit, the sole source of your happiness. Looking after yourself means keeping your mind in bodhicitta, the thought of benefiting others; keeping it away from the selfish mind.

Therefore, the real definition of looking after yourself, looking after your mind, taking care of your life is nothing other than practicing lam-rim —keeping your mind in guru devotion and detachment, or renunciation —making your mind free, instead of bound and tortured by attachment; making your mind healthy—free from attachment clinging to this life, samsara, and endowed with bodhicitta and right view.

This is the essence. Through this, the door to all suffering is closed and the door to every happiness, including that of enlightenment, is opened. Not only is the door to moment to moment peace and happiness —everyday life peace and happiness, this life’s peace and happiness —opened, but so is the door to all coming future lives’ happiness, liberation from samsara and the highest enlightenment.

In this way, then, you are able to make your life meaningful.

Practicing Dharma gives meaning to your life. Your life does not become meaningless. You don’t need to commit suicide thinking life is hopeless and has no meaning. Changing your attitude in this way, developing a positive mind, especially bodhicitta, makes your life the best—most meaningful and beneficial not only for yourself but for all sentient beings. It gives you a purpose for living.

The purpose of life

The purpose of your life is to bring happiness, including the happiness of this life, to other sentient beings; to do whatever you can for others every day, even if it’s small—giving a smile or a few kind words to make someone happy, to release someone from tension, depression or unhappiness; in everyday life, offering others whatever great or small happiness, comfort or benefit you can; taking every opportunity to bring the happiness of this life to others—is one aspect of the purpose of living for the happiness of others.

More important, however, is to bring others both the happiness of future lives in samsara and, eventually, the long-term, ultimate happiness of complete liberation from samsara; total liberation from all suffering and its cause.

And finally, even more important than that, the greatest purpose for living, is to bring numberless other sentient beings, or even just one sentient being, to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment—the total cessation of all mistakes of the mind and the complete accumulation of perfect qualities; to bring one sentient being to full enlightenment or, similarly, numberless sentient beings.

We need to think very broadly. Benefiting all other sentient beings is the meaning of our life. What’s the meaning of life, what is the purpose of living? It is benefiting others in the four ways I just mentioned; offering others those four levels of benefit. There is no way to do this work of freeing others from all suffering and bringing them to full enlightenment perfectly, without the slightest mistake, other than by first becoming fully enlightened yourself. Your own mind needs to become omniscient —knowing directly, being able to read, all sentient beings' minds; knowing all sentient beings’ different levels of mind, their individual karmas and all the various methods that suit them, that will bring them from happiness to happiness, to the peerless happiness of enlightenment.

First you must achieve full enlightenment yourself. To achieve full enlightenment, you need to actualize the steps of the path that lead to that goal. Enlightenment doesn’t just appear in your mental continuum without cause. You need to achieve the realizations of the path to enlightenment from the root, guru devotion.

Attaining enlightenment

In essence, to attain enlightenment without practicing tantra, the quick path to enlightenment, to actualize the five Mahayana paths to enlightenment —the paths of merit, conjunction, right-seeing, meditation and no more learning—you need to collect merit for three countless great eons and gradually advance through the ten bhumis. This takes three countless great eons.

The quick way to achieve enlightenment, to achieve enlightenment within one life, and not take that many eons to accumulate all that merit, is to practice tantra. By practicing Highest Yoga Tantra, you can complete accumulating the amount of merit that would otherwise take three countless great eons in a single brief lifetime of the degenerate time. By achieving the illusory body in particular, you can accomplish in one lifetime what would normally take three countless great eons of Paramitayana path practice.

However, if you can’t become enlightened in this life, if in this life you are unable to actualize the clear light and illusory body—the paths that are the direct cause of the dharmakaya and rupakaya—if you are unable to have these realizations in this life, here, at last, comes the reason to be born in a pure land! Here comes the reason! Finally, the reason comes— the importance of being born in a pure land, why you should try.

Birth in a pure land

There are many buddha pure lands, which, of course, have pure enjoyments billions of times greater than even those of the worldly god realms; those deva realms. However, with many of those buddhas’ pure realms, you can be still be reborn in the lower realms afterwards; it’s not definite that you won’t be.

But according to my root guru, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, and some other lamas, if you can be reborn in a pure land such as that of Amitabha Buddha, you can practice tantra there and achieve enlightenment in that life. According to Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche and perhaps also Denma Lochö Rinpoche, according to some other lamas, there is no opportunity of practicing Highest Yoga Tantra and achieving enlightenment in the Amitabha pure land. To do so, you have to be reborn back in a human realm such as the one on this Southern Continent, where we now reside, where tantric teachings exist. You have to be reborn in such a human realm in order to complete the tantric path, to actualize the clear light and the illusory body, these completion stage accomplishments, and become enlightened there, in a human body.

However, I think it was Denma Lochö Rinpoche who said that if you are born in the pure land of Amitabha Buddha, it is definite that from that time on you will never again be reborn in the lower realms. Once you have been able to reincarnate in the pure land of Amitabha Buddha, rebirth in the lower realms is finished.

Here, in this teaching, in this initiation text I’m using, the lama who wrote it says that if you are born in the Amitabha pure land, you become enlightened there.

To be born in Tushita, the pure land of Maitreya Buddha and Lama Tsongkhapa, you need very pure morality. Only by living a life of exceptionally pure morality can you be born in a pure land such as Tushita. It is not easy to be born there. Also, there are other pure lands that require you to have realizations of emptiness or bodhicitta.

But Amitabha Buddha’s pure land and others like it receive even ordinary beings who are very deluded, very obscured, who have no realizations.

Such beings can very easily be born there. This is the special advantage of praying to Amitabha Buddha. This is why it is important to always remember Amitabha Buddha and pray to be born in his pure land.

In the past, before Amitabha Buddha became enlightened, while he was a bodhisattva, I think, I’m not a hundred per cent sure of the name, but the wheel-turning king called Rim of the Spokes, visualized the Amitabha pure land with all its incredible qualities, incredible enjoyments, incredible beauty, its wish-granting trees, this pure land where whatever you think comes to pass; where all your wishes get fulfilled. The king visualized this pure land, which has such incredible beauty, pure enjoyments, incredible qualities, and with bodhicitta made many prayers for ordinary beings, who have so much suffering, to easily be born there.

He visualized this, made these special prayers and dedicated with bodhicitta.

From that bodhicitta, it has happened. This is one cause.

Then, of course, there’s our merit—the principal cause—and our prayers and wishes to be in the pure land, to have all those pure enjoyments —the conditions—which are also very important.

How come it is so easy to be born in that pure land? One reason, one cause, is the strong prayers that the bodhisattva king made for us sentient beings. Therefore, if you can’t develop the highest path, can’t succeed in actualizing the path, in this life, go to this pure land, after which you can never again be reborn in the lower realms. It’s impossible. For you, it’s finished. Then, on top of that, develop your mind in the path to enlightenment.

This is a very quick and easy way to achieve enlightenment, to be free from samsara. That’s the essence of why it is important to be reborn in the pure land. That’s the reason.

And that is the purpose of this initiation, of taking the blessings of Amitabha—to achieve his pure land. The other purpose is that this is also a long life initiation.

Why have a long life?

The purpose of having a long human life is not so that you can create more negative karma, the cause of samsara, not so that you can create more negative karma with all the human skills—giving more harm to others, creating more negative karma, the cause of the samsara, the cause of the lower realms. It’s not that.

The purpose of causing a long life by receiving the long life initiation here today is to have more time to practice Dharma. And of all the Dharma practices, the most important is that of benefiting others. That is the one to actualize. As I mentioned before, to bring those four levels of benefit and happiness to other sentient beings you must develop your mind in the path to enlightenment. That is the reason you need a long life.

Why benefit others?

As I started to mention before, not that you’re hearing anything new, but it might be good for some people to hear why we need to help and benefit others. Why do we need to do this? Why do we have to do this in our lives? As I mentioned before, if you love others, they will love you back, naturally. This is the nature of it. If you help others, they will help you, they will benefit you. That is the simple reason.

You want happiness, you don’t want suffering; you want happiness for yourself, you don’t want any suffering. How to ensure that? The question is, how to do that? The best thing you can do is to benefit others, cherish others, have loving kindness and compassion for others. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama often says, at least, if you are going to be selfish, if you are going to live a selfish life, the best thing is to be intelligently selfish.

This has great meaning. What His Holiness means is that since you are looking for happiness—you want happiness, you don’t want problems— you need to benefit others, help others, cherish others. To get what you want, you need compassion and loving kindness for others. That is the first reason.

Another reason is—normally I give this example—say there is a blind person who is in danger of falling over a cliff. You don’t know this person. There’s no history of this person’s having helped you in the past, done something for you, given you presents or said nice things to you. There’s nothing like that. Also, it’s not this life’s brother, this life’s sister, this life’s mother or father. It’s not a relative; there’s nothing like that either. It’s a person completely unknown to you but someone suffering from blindness, who cannot see and is in danger of falling over a cliff. But you have eyes; you have arms and legs; you have everything you need to help that person. So if you don’t, it’s very cruel. If you have every opportunity to help that person, to rescue that person from falling onto the rocks far below, and don’t, it’s terribly selfish; extremely cruel and selfish.

Just like that, numberless sentient beings are suffering because they are under the control of delusion and karma, completely overwhelmed by delusion and karma, completely overwhelmed by suffering. Basically, they are suffering, so they need help. Helping them has nothing to do with receiving benefit yourself. Basically, others are suffering, they need help and you have every opportunity to help them.

This time, you have received a human body. Not just a human body but a perfect human body. You have met the Dharma and a virtuous friend, a leader of the blind, who explains the difference between right actions, which are to be practiced, and wrong actions, which are to be abandoned; a guide who shows the path. You also have the opportunity, according to how open your wisdom eye is, to know for yourself what is right, to be practiced, and what is wrong, to be abandoned. What should be practiced is the path to happiness, liberation and enlightenment. You can develop your mind in the path to enlightenment; you can increase your capacity to benefit others. Even if you don’t have much capacity to benefit others now, you can develop it further. You can develop your compassion, wisdom and power to benefit others. You have every opportunity.

But the other sentient beings are devoid of a leader of the blind, a virtuous friend. They are devoid of Dharma; they have no wisdom eye.

Because of all that, as the teachings explain, they are totally overwhelmed by delusions, possessed by the maras, the delusions, and constantly attacked by sickness, the three types of suffering. At every moment, in every second, whatever they do creates negative karma. At every moment, in every second it’s as if they’re stumbling over the cliff to the lower realms. Every second is like that.

Therefore, for the basic reason that they are suffering and you have every opportunity of helping them, of freeing them from all their suffering and bringing them all happiness, especially at this time, you are responsible for benefiting others. This is your responsibility.

A third reason for why you need to benefit others, help others, work for others, is because your happiness depends on others. All your comfort, even that of having a good reputation, necessarily comes from others.

Even receiving praise that makes you happy, gives you pleasure, depends on others, comes from others. All your happiness and comfort depends on others. Similarly, others’ happiness and comfort depend on you. As your happiness comes from others, your success depends on others, so too does others’ happiness and success depend on you. Therefore, for this reason, it is very important.

You are just one person. Even if all sentient beings were to criticize you, even if nobody loved you, if everybody were angry at you—the whole earth, even the mountains, rocks and flowers! Anyway, I’m joking —even if all human beings, animals and insects were angry at you, didn’t love you, you are just one person. You are just one person—when you compare your importance with that of others, who are numberless, you are nothing. Even were you to achieve everlasting happiness, you’d be just one person. It’s nothing.

And no matter how heavy your problems, they’re nothing; they’re just one person’s problems. Your suffering is just one person’s suffering. One person’s problems and suffering are nothing. Other suffering beings are numberless; others who need happiness are numberless. Numerically, others are the most precious; their need is the most important. For them to be free from suffering and to have happiness is of much greater importance because their number is much greater. When we elect the president or leader of a democratic country, the person who receives the most votes gets elected. By getting the majority’s votes, that person is considered more important.

As it says in the Guru Puja—this is one quotation that I often recommend to meditate on in the morning when you generate motivation for your life, especially the motivation for that day’s life—first thing in the morning, meditate on this verse [91] to transform your attitude from self-cherishing into bodhicitta.

“By seeing that the chronic disease of cherishing the I is the cause giving rise to all suffering and the undesirable suffering to be born...”—all the undesirable problems of this life and in the future lives to be born— “...blame it on the ego and harbor it....” Like you bear a grudge against somebody who gave you harm. Somebody harmed you in the past and you keep this grudge in your mind—how that person is so bad.

Similarly, harbor a grudge against your ego and keep thinking how harmful it is, how bad, how dangerous. “Please grant me blessings to eliminate this great demon, cherishing the I.” What it is saying here is that suffering is born from cherishing the I.

From this cause, all suffering, all life’s problems, are born, from day to day problems to obstacles to achieving enlightenment. All the undesirable things that happen to you come from your ego, your self-cherishing thought. When other people abuse you, don’t love you, are angry at you, all these things, cherishing the I is the source of all that. Self-cherishing is the source of all suffering; it opens the door to suffering. Therefore, especially for this reason, the I is always to be abandoned and never to be cherished. If you cherish the I, it becomes the problem; you create problems in your own life. Cherishing the I is what creates problems and obstacles in your life. The I is to be discarded forever. Especially for this reason, the I is forever to be abandoned.

This is the key. If you let it go, happiness; you open the door to happiness.

If you don’t let it go, suffering; you open the door to suffering. If you cherish the I, you close the door to happiness and open the door to suffering. If you let it go, you close the door to suffering and open the door to happiness—including day to day, moment to moment peace and happiness—in your mind, in your heart.

The next verse [92] says, “Please grant me blessings to be able to see that cherishing my mothers, the thought of leading them to happiness, is the door to infinite qualities and happiness.” Happiness, as I mentioned before, is this very minute’s happiness, today’s happiness, this life’s happiness, future lives’ happiness, liberation from samsara and full enlightenment—all happiness. Not just your own happiness but the happiness of all sentient beings. This thought, your good heart—cherishing the mother sentient beings, thinking of leading them to happiness—is not only the door to all your good qualities, all your happiness, all your realizations from guru devotion up to enlightenment, but it is also the door to happiness for all other sentient beings.

Therefore, we ask to be granted blessings to be able to see that this thought is the door to all happiness for ourselves and all other sentient beings. I just added that it’s also the source of happiness for all sentient beings, because from your bodhicitta, all sentient beings receive all happiness.

That’s why.

The rest of this verse reads, “Even if all these transmigratory beings arise as my enemy, all turn against me, please grant me blessings to cherish them more than my life.” Even if they all turn against me, become my enemy, numberless other beings, may I be able to cherish them more than my life. You are asking blessings for this.

I often mention that in the morning, when you get up, first thing, meditate on these two stanzas to change your attitude into bodhicitta— not just for today, not just for this life, but from now on until you achieve enlightenment, until you bring all sentient beings to enlightenment.

Therefore, now, the last thing, if you cherish this one insect or person, this one sentient being, if you have the thought of bringing them happiness, causing them happiness, you receive enlightenment. If, however, you renounce this one insect or person, whatever it is—a spider, a mouse, a rat—whatever that sentient being is, whatever that person is, if you don’t cherish that, you don’t receive enlightenment. It makes a huge difference, like that between sky and earth. Cherishing this one sentient being gives you enlightenment; not cherishing this one sentient being prevents your enlightenment.

Now who is more important, you or this other person? You or this other sentient being—who is more important? The other sentient being is much more important. Even one on one—you are one, the other is one—the other is most important, most precious. If you cherish the other, that one other being, all your wishes for happiness—including enlightenment, realizations, the happiness of all sentient beings—will happen. If you renounce the other being, don’t cherish that being, none of these things happen. Therefore, this one sentient being is most precious, most kind; a jewel more precious than all the wish-fulfilling jewels put together, more precious than skies filled with billions of dollars.

When you think like this, when you think of the unbelievable benefit of cherishing even one sentient being, when you think that if you dedicate your life to even one sentient being, sacrifice your life for even one sentient being, it brings you to enlightenment, makes you achieve enlightenment very quickly...

...As I mentioned once before, when the great yogi Ngagpa Chöpawa was going to Odi to practice tantra—probably the final part of the practice —at the river crossing there was a woman totally covered by leprosy sores, with pus and blood oozing out. She asked the yogi, “Please take me across to the other side of the river.” The yogi didn’t help her and left. Later, his disciple Getsul Tsimbulwa, a monk living in the thirty-six vows, came along and she asked him the same thing, “Please take me across to the other side of the river.” As soon as he saw this woman sitting there, completely covered with leprosy sores with pus oozing out, totally dark, just by seeing her, he felt unbearable compassion and immediately, without any hesitation, without thinking that he is a monk and she is a woman or that she’s covered in disease, something untouchable, with none of this, he just picked her up, put her on his back and started across the river. Getsul Tsimbulwa, with his unbearable compassion, completely sacrificed himself to carry this woman.

However, when they reached the middle of the river, this woman suddenly became the deity Dorje Pagmo, the female buddha, Dorje Pagmo, and took this monk to the pure land Dagpa Kachö. If you are born in this pure land, you are one hundred per cent certain to become enlightened in that life. So, in the middle of the river, this woman, who was covered with leprosy, looking very ordinary, in much suffering, became the buddha, the deity Dorje Pagmo, and took this monk to her pure land, and in that way, he became enlightened.

In this story, the teacher, the yogi, didn’t help that woman but just passed by. However, his disciple, the monk, sacrificed his life to take care of her, to carry her across the river. Then, in this life, without first having to die, he was taken to her pure land in his ordinary body—in this life, not the next. He went to the pure land, not after death but in the body of this life, and became enlightened there. From the story, it seems that perhaps the disciple got enlightened before his teacher, the yogi.

Therefore, when we think of the benefits of cherishing one sentient being, sacrificing our life for one sentient being, they are like the infinite sky. The benefits are unbelievable; something to enjoy in life. The benefits of cherishing even one sentient being with bodhicitta are like the sky.

Cherishing others, seeing that even one sentient being is much more precious than yourself, is the most precious thing in your life, is most kind, is an unbelievable way to enjoy your life.

I’m not telling you why we should help others, why we should benefit others, because this is something new that you haven’t heard before. Those who have received lam-rim teachings have heard this many times. I’m doing it to inspire or remind all those who already know these things and to inform those who don’t but need to know. Why? Because this is the most important education of all. This is more important to know than anything else in life. This is the most important thing you will ever learn.

The Amitabha initiation

OK. So now to do a very quick initiation! Actually, the subject I planned to talk on today was the nine attitudes of guru devotion. That was my plan. That’s why I brought my Lam-rim chen-mo and another text that I translated. But somehow it has turned out this way, where I now don’t have time to do this. So maybe another time! Maybe tomorrow morning, at three o’clock!

It says here in the text that it is very easy to be born in Amitabha’s pure land. Whoever just hears the name of Amitabha Buddha and dedicates their merits to be born in his pure land can find themselves there.

This is due to the power of Amitabha’s prayers, as I mentioned before. It also says that once you have been born there you will never return to samsara, will never again even hear any suffering. There is no suffering in the pure land of Amitabha Buddha, and in that perfect state of happiness you become enlightened there.


When the Nyingmapa lama Tulku Mikyö Dorje was very young, just over thirteen years of age, on Saka Dawa, the full moon of the fourth Tibetan month of the year, he saw Amitabha Buddha, as huge as a mountain, with the Buddha of Compassion, Chenrezig, on the right and Vajrapani on the left. He had a very glorious, magnificent vision—he actually saw them—and they granted him the initiation into the practice for achieving the pure land of Amitabha. It was daytime when he actually saw these three deities—Amitabha in the center, Chenrezig on the right and Vajrapani on the left—and received initiation into this practice to achieve Amitabha’s pure land. Later, asleep at night, he again saw Amitabha Buddha with his entire entourage, who gave him the instructions and the prayers of request in a dream.

The special po-wa practice for transferring your consciousness to the pure land of Amitabha Buddha is said to be very successful. You achieve it by doing po-wa meditation, training your mind in the transference of your consciousness to the pure land. After one or two days of this—it doesn’t take more than three days—signs will appear to indicate that you will be born in the pure land. If your visualization is clear, you develop a small swelling on the crown of your head, and a little fluid oozes out of it—such are the signs of success of your po-wa practice, your mind training in the transference of consciousness. That means that if you actually do it, your consciousness can be transferred, actually go, to the pure land.

The idea is that when the signs of death appear to you—certain dreams and also external signs...for example, there are other ways to check the length of life remaining by observing your pattern of breathing.

I have noticed that sometimes at the beginning of the new Tibetan month, when the new moon starts, at dawn my breathing changes.

Being able to interpret these changes is said to be a very reliable way of judging how many more years you are going to live; when you will die.

This is regarded as a very reliable way of finding out.

There are also different ways of checking through certain meditations, physical signs and dreams. However, if you try all these means and discover that your impending death is due to negative karma, you need to do various purification practices. If your death is due to a shortage of merit—you don’t have the merit to live much longer—and your untimely death is about to happen, offer mandalas or create extensive merit by any other means you can: serving others, making holy objects and so forth; whatever collects the most extensive merit.

The quickest way of achieving enlightenment, of collecting the most extensive merit, is to actualize your guru’s advice or offer service to your virtuous friend. This topic is always mentioned in the outlines of the guru devotion teachings, in both sutra and tantra. Doing things that please your guru’s holy mind is the quickest way of achieving enlightenment and the quickest, most powerful way of purifying negative karma.

If your death is due to a shortage of life, to your life finishing, you need to do long life meditation and take long life initiations. There are many other practices, various means, for achieving a long life—liberating animals, saving their lives, helping sick people, serving them, giving food and clothing to those who don’t have food and clothing; things like that.

Also, making light offerings and so forth, doing vase breathing meditation, practicing the meditation called “Eating the sky as food”—there are many things you can do to have a long life.

If you try all these things but the signs still appear, that means that now you are definitely going to die—definite signs have happened, nothing you’ve done has helped, now you are definitely going to die. Before death actually happens, when you are certain to die but before you actually do, if there are six months or so between when the signs first appeared and the expected date of death, do po-wa. If you wait until death arrives to start practicing po-wa, you might be experiencing some heavy sickness and be unable to meditate at that time.

If you do po-wa for another, it is taught that you shouldn’t do it before the breathing has stopped, while the person is still breathing. The right time to do po-wa is after the breath has stopped. I think that probably there would still be heat at the heart. However, it is possible there might be other conditions where the consciousness is still there, but usually, even though the breath has stopped, heat remains at the heart for some time.

But I heard that a while back in Tibet, there were nine or ten people who were going to be executed by the Communist Chinese army. One lama asked the Chinese soldier who was going to shoot them to wait.

Then the lama sat down and did po-wa for all those people. At that moment, all those people collapsed together. Before the Chinese soldier could shoot them, the lama who asked him to wait did po-wa meditation and all those people collapsed together. Whether he himself was one of them or not, I don’t know, but they didn’t need to be shot; they just all fell simultaneously. Thus, the soldier was saved from creating the bad karma of killing them and the people all went to the pure land. So, they were still breathing, when you wouldn’t normally do po-wa for others, but I think this was a special case, since they were all about to be shot.

Those stories are great.

It also says in the text that the merit of making charity of three galaxies filled with jewels is less than that you create by putting your palms together and generating just one second’s devotion for Amitabha Buddha. If, on hearing Amitabha Buddha’s name, even one second’s devotion arises from deep within your heart, your life is directed towards enlightenment. That is the benefit.

[Initiation begins. Rinpoche’s comments during it follow.]

Holy initiation water

This water [being used at this point in the initiation] comes from a holy place of Padmasambhava in Nepal. One of the heads of the Nyingma sect, Trulshig Rinpoche, who is also one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s gurus—I think His Holiness the Dalai Lama took an initiation from Rinpoche—goes there quite often to do retreat. There’s a monastery there that was built by a man who was a ngagpa, a lay tantric practitioner, but later became a monk. I think he was the closest disciple of the previous Lawudo Lama, the lama who is regarded as my past life.

He built this monastery at that Padmasambhava holy place, where Padmasambhava achieved the realization of immortality. He has invited me there many times but so far I haven’t made it. Many other lamas go there to do retreat. His Holiness Sakya Trizin went there to do retreat before giving one great collection of many hundreds of initiations. To not have any life obstacles from giving these initiations, he went there to do a long life retreat beforehand. It is a very powerful place.

There is some Padmasambhava special water there. If you drink it you get liberated from the lower realms. Drinking that water purifies negative karmas. Somebody gave me some water from that cave. The former Lawudo Lama’s disciple used to send me a small bottle of this water from time to time, and I have the wish to go there, but as yet, I haven’t seen this holy place. This water is very blessed water. It’s one of the very holy things at that place. That’s what’s mixed in here; it’s very precious. There’s also some water from the Manjushri mountain in China mixed in.

[Initiation continues.]

Rinpoche's mother's incarnation

This is a prayer that my mother used to do. She didn’t have many different prayers to do, but this was a prayer that she knew by heart. Then I taught her some additional prayers from the nyung-nä practice. Mostly she recited OM MANI PADME HUM, as I think I mentioned once before. A year before she passed away she told me she used to recite 50,000 OM MANI PADME HUMs every day, but was no longer able to do that many. As I look back on it now, I think she probably had cancer by then. She had some pains in her back and could not eat food. At that time she said she could not do as many OM MANI PADME HUMs a day as she used to— 50,000.

I think that is why her incarnation’s mind is so clear. He can remember all the relatives, recognize all the relatives, all the family—he recognizes them immediately with no shyness. He immediately asks you to sit down and starts talking right away. But he is shy with outside people.

The very first time he met the family he was not at all shy. He immediately spoke, invited them in and to please sit. He also remembers many things, especially her belongings. He can recognize everything she used to use in everyday life. He went looking for her things; searched until he found them in the kitchen or the rooms where they were kept.

One of the many stories is that my mother, like many other Sherpas in the old times in Solu Khumbu, used to consider plastic buttons to be very precious. The people in that area thought plastic buttons that you found on clothes were very precious because you could not buy them in a shop. Spoons, needles, things like that—you could not buy them up there, they had to be brought in from far away. Some of the people wore spoons around their necks. Now Solu Khumbu is totally changed from how it was back then. Now there are so many Western things—sweet tea and coffee—coffee has become a very common thing. The people there now have many Western things. But she used to collect all the buttons from her own shirts and keep them in a bottle. Then, when the incarnation happened, my sister made a shirt with those buttons on it, and as soon as she put it on the incarnation’s body, he said, “Oh! Those are my buttons.” He could recognize them immediately because my mother used to save those very precious buttons in a bottle.

A very close family friend, a Sherpa called Ang Puwa, who lives in Kathmandu, went to see the incarnation with my brother Sangye, who lives near Boudhanath. The incarnation had been waiting a long time to meet him and my brother...it took a long time to get around to visiting the incarnation, so he always used to talk about coming down to Kathmandu. Once he said he’d like to put all the Lawudo animals—the dzos and the cows—onto a helicopter and fly down to see us. There was one dzo who in the past used to carry our luggage and the food we had to transport to Lawudo. I think Lama Yeshe might have ridden on it once. It had something wrong with its leg. The incarnation said to put that dzo and all the other animals into a helicopter. Then somebody told him that there was no place to keep animals at Kopan, so he said, “Oh! We can keep them at Sangye’s place for some time there and feed them there.” One day, together with that Sherpa man who was my mother’s very close friend, they went to see the incarnation in the village next to the hermitage at Lawudo. As soon as they had entered and sat down, the incarnation immediately said the other Sherpa’s name—Ang Puwa. He immediately said, “Ang Puwa, please have....” whatever his mother was serving at the time, chang or tea or whatever it was. He was shocked that the incarnation could immediately recognize him, remember his name.

So he grabbed the boy by the leg and cried; the Sherpa man cried.

There are many stories like this. I think his having such an incredibly clear memory is a partial benefit of having recited OM MANI PADME HUM so much in his previous life. Remembering past and future lives is a very small benefit of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM. Out of the infinite benefits of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM, that is one of the smaller ones.

Because she was a nun—she took her getsul ordination from His Holiness Ling Rinpoche—because of her morality, she was able to be reborn as a human being and meet the Dharma again. Many people ask whether the incarnation is a girl or a boy, because its previous life was female. People ask whether it’s a boy or girl incarnation. The incarnation is a boy.

This was one of her prayers. She didn’t know many other prayers.

This was one of the ones she knew. She used to recite a whole set of prayers, like the Six-session Yoga. She would recite them once in the morning, another time in the afternoon, and again at night. There were not so many prayers, just a few pieces, so she used to recite them many times a day.

[Note: Tragically, Rinpoche’s mother’s incarnation, Ngawang Jigme, passed away in hospital in Kathmandu at 11 a.m., October 27, 1999, at the age of nine, after suffering a head injury in south India a few months earlier.]

[Initiation concludes.]

Now the initiation has finished. One text says, “In the Western world there is a blissful realm where Amitabha Buddha abides. Whoever mentions his name, recites his name, holds his name, will be born there, and then when you die you will see Amitabha Buddha in the form of a monk.” I gave this initiation at LMB during Chiu-nan Lai’s time here as director, but that time I sat on the other side of the gompa, facing this way. I don’t know how many years ago that was; maybe six or seven? This is not the first time I have given the Amitabha initiation here. That time I also sat on a chair.

It is said that it is best to continue doing the po-wa practice until you get signs. Then, if you cannot do any version of the daily practice—even the middle-length or short versions—at least you should say, “I prostrate to the Savior, Infinite Life, Buddha Amitayus; I prostrate to the Savior, Infinite Light, Buddha Amitabha,” then recite the mantra of Amitabha Buddha, OM AMI DEVAHRI. One text I saw, maybe by Pabongka, said normally you recite OM AMI DEVA HRI, but another text I saw said to recite AMITOFU; something like that. But normally, after saying, “I prostrate to the Savior, Infinite Life, Buddha Amitayus; I prostrate to the Savior, Infinite Light, Buddha Amitabha,” recite one mala of OM AMI DEVA HRI, and when you have finished the mala, say, “May I born in the pure land; may I be born in that blissful field.” What does it mean to be born in the Amitabha pure land? If you do this practice and remember Amitabha Buddha when you die, after death, when you reach the intermediate state, you will see Amitabha Buddha and be born in the Amitabha pure land. That’s what the text says. And as I mentioned before, it is such an easy way to be born in a pure land.

Other pure lands are difficult to be born into. You need many qualities —pure morality, realizations and so forth. But this is the easiest. Very ordinary beings with many delusions can easily be born there, even if they have no attainments, no realizations. It is very easy for them to be born in this pure land. This, then, is the special advantage of praying to Amitabha, reciting his mantra and doing the meditation practice.


“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may all virtuous friends have stable lives and may all their holy wishes succeed immediately.

“May Lama Ösel Rinpoche, the incarnation of Lama Yeshe, who was inconceivably kinder than all the buddhas of the three times, have a stable life and be able to show the same aspect and qualities that Lama Tsongkhapa had and be able to offer infinite benefit to sentient beings through showing the practice and attainment of the whole path and explaining Dharma through writing and debate.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may I be able to offer infinite benefit like the sky to all sentient beings as did Lama Tsongkhapa by having the same qualities within me in all future lifetimes, from now on.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings—which are totally non-existent from their own side—may I—who is totally non-existent from its own side—achieve Buddha Amitabha’s enlightenment—which is also totally non-existent from its own side—and lead all sentient beings— who are also totally non-existent from their own side—to that enlightenment —which is also totally non-existent from its own side—by myself alone—who is also totally non-existent from its own side.

“I dedicate all the merits in the way that the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the three times praised greatly and as Samantabhadra and Manjughosha realize.” While I say the words of these prayers, visualize the Thousand-arm Compassionate Buddha, the seven Medicine Buddhas and Ksitigarbha and make the dedication—but also request them for success. Visualize them while I say the words and think at the same time. In this way, both dedication and requests get done.

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me and the merits of the three times collected by buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may the previous generations of my family that have passed away, any member of my family who has passed away; those whose names were given, for whom I promised to pray; those who rely on me who have died; and the numberless other sentient beings who are suffering unimaginably in the hell and other lower realms immediately get liberated from those sufferings and reincarnate in the pure land, where they can be enlightened. Or, may they achieve enlightenment quickly by receiving a perfect human body and meeting a perfectly qualified Mahayana guru and the Mahayana teachings.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, whenever I hear that somebody is sick, may just my hearing it cause that sentient being to be healed immediately; may just my hearing that some sentient being has died immediately cause that sentient being never to be reborn in the lower realms; and if that sentient being has already been reborn in the lower realms, may those merits cause that being to be liberated from the suffering realms immediately and reincarnate in a pure land where that being can become enlightened. Or if the sentient being has been born human but has no opportunity to practice Dharma, may that being achieve a perfect human body and attain enlightenment quickly by meeting a Mahayana guru and the Mahayana teachings.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may I, my family members, and all the students and benefactors in this organization, especially those who sacrifice their lives serving others through this organization and serving the Buddhadharma as well, including all the center directors, the LMB staff and everyone else here, may we all have long lives, be healthy, and, most importantly, may we be able to actualize the steps of the path to enlightenment, the path shown by Lama Tsongkhapa, in this very lifetime, without even a second’s delay.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may all our centers, including Land of Medicine Buddha, be able to spread the complete teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa in the minds of all sentient beings by receiving everything they need. May all the projects in this organization, including those here at Land of Medicine Buddha—the 100,000 statues of the Medicine Buddha Temple, the 100,000 stupa project, the hospice to help people who are dying—and other projects, such as finding good places for the sangha, be actualized and succeed immediately by receiving everything they need. May the 500-foot Maitreya Buddha statue succeed, be completed quickly, by receiving everything needed for this to happen. May all our centers, projects and statues cause bodhicitta, loving kindness and compassion to arise in the minds of all sentient beings; due to this, may no sentient being ever again experience war, famine, disease, earthquake, danger from fire or water or any other undesirable thing and may all our centers, projects and statues cause all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, whatever action I do from now on with body, speech and mind, whatever I experience—being up or down, health or sickness, criticism or praise, even life or death, even rebirth in hell—may all these experiences and all my actions be most beneficial for all sentient beings and cause all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.

“May the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa in particular and the Buddha’s teachings in general, flourish in all directions forever.”

Geshe Ngawang Dakpa 

I forgot to introduce Geshe Ngawang Dakpa before, during today’s puja.

I invited Geshe-la to teach in Taiwan about three years ago. Recently, according to divination, I requested Geshe-la to teach in America at the centers around here—Tse Chen Ling in San Francisco, Land of Medicine Buddha, Vajrapani Institute and Gyalwa Gyatso Center. Geshe-la has just arrived to take up this position.

Geshe-la is an extremely well qualified teacher. After leaving Tibet, he studied at the Buxa refugee camp for all the years the monks were there. He was in the same class as Lama Lhundrup and was top of the class.

Geshe-la is not only expert in Dharma, but of all the monks at Sera, Ganden and Drepung, he is probably the most expert in astrology. He can produce calendars containing all the details about each day—the planets, what’s bad, what’s good, all these things. Not only can he make calendars but he also does black astrology, the branch of astrology that deals with life and what to do when somebody dies—the methods to be employed at that time, how to discover why the person died and what to do to prevent the rest of the family being harmed by that, how to stop a person dying at the wrong time, all the methods for a good rebirth and what buddha statues and thangkas to make for the person to take a good rebirth—all the details of things like that. Black astrology talks about matters of life and death.

Geshe-la has studied and is an expert in most aspects of Tibetan education —grammar, poetry, all these things. Therefore, he’s an extremely good person to teach the basic program, all the philosophical subjects that are commentaries to the lam-rim. You now have a great opportunity to learn all this. The idea is to start a four-year program in these subjects at our San Francisco center, Tse Chen Ling. I’m just telling you this to make you aware of the possibilities, these great opportunities to learn Buddhism more deeply and extensively.

And now we’ve really finished! Thank you so much.

Next Chapter:

Appendices »