The Happy Path

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Bendigo, Australia (Archive #877)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche taught on the merely imputed I, the benefits of altruism and compassion, how to transform problems and the five powers, during two evening discourses in Bendigo, Australia, in August, 1991. 

These teachings have been edited and divided into five chapters that correspond to the online audio files. Click here to listen to the teachings online and read along with the unedited transcripts.

Developing Altruism (First Discourse, con't)

You take upon yourself the full responsibility to do this work for others. So, in order to do this, first you have to achieve the peerless happiness of full enlightenment, the mind that is free of all mistakes and complete in all realizations.

You develop your wisdom with this method, this altruism, what is called the thought of full enlightenment. With this very brave attitude wishing to benefit every suffering being, you completely purify even the subtle mistakes of the mind, and the continuation of this consciousness then becomes full enlightenment, the great liberation. At that time the mind has no mistakes, no obscurations at all; therefore, this mind becomes fully knowing, able to see everything: all the past, present, and future; able to read every being's mind; and not just that but able to see every single method that suits them, freeing them from problems and leading them from happiness to happiness, to the highest happiness of full enlightenment. This mind sees every single method that is suitable to reveal to them.

And not only that. One also has the perfect power to help others; all the powers are completed at that time. The reason we don't have now the perfect power to help everyone is because of our mental obstacles. However, when you are enlightened, you have no obscurations to your mind; you have purified everything, so at that time you have the perfect power to help others.

Not only that, but at that time you also have compassion for every sentient being. The training of your mind in compassion is complete at that time; there's nothing more to develop. The explanation of these three qualities is just a very simple way of explaining the infinite qualities of the holy body, holy speech, and holy mind of an enlightened being. These infinite qualities are developed to help other sentient beings. At the moment our mind cannot be everywhere; we are stuck. While our mind is here in this room, we cannot at the same time be at home with our family, or in another country. While we are working, we cannot at the same time be at the beach on holidays. Our mind cannot be everywhere, wherever we would like to be. Our consciousness cannot pervade everywhere because there are obstacles, blockages. When we are enlightened, however, there are not blockages; our consciousness is completely free and pervades everywhere. That consciousness is extremely fine, not like our present, very gross consciousness. Since it is completely free from all obstacles, there is no resistance and that consciousness pervades all existence; it covers all existence. That completely free being is called a fully enlightened being, and this being helps sentient beings whenever they need help, as long as from their side they have the merit.

What is merit? Whenever sentient beings do a positive action with a positive attitude, such as compassion, loving kindness, patience, and not with harmful thoughts, such as ignorance, anger, or attachment - in other words when they stop harming others or help them - this action leaves an imprint on their consciousness, and this is what is called accumulating merit, the cause of happiness. Whenever this positive imprint on the mind of a sentient being, which is the cause of happiness, ripens, immediately, without delaying even a second, the enlightened being manifests in whatever form suits the level of that being and gives whatever guidance is needed with body, speech, and mind. This does not mean only giving teachings or teaching meditation; there are various methods, whatever suits them. Then gradually their mind becomes more and more developed by doing positive actions out of positive minds, which leaves more positive imprint on the mind. Then when their mind is ready, when it is suitable, the enlightened being reveals the teachings, explains the path. Like this, the enlightened being gradually leads all sentient beings to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment.

This talk just happened by the way. Actually what I'm going to talk about is stress. I started to tell you before that stress depends on the way you think. That is the first thing to understand: stress depends on your own concept. With one concept, there is stress; with another concept, there is no stress.

Then, thought transformation is the best technique to relieve stress. I'm not going to talk much about thought transformation; I'll just give you some idea. What transforming the mind really means is that when some miserable, difficult circumstance happens - you have AIDS, cancer, a relationship problem, or something - rather than interpreting the situation as negative, you interpret it as positive. It is all dependent on the mind. As I mentioned before, whether you see your situation as a problem and allow it to disturb you or whether you see your situation as beneficial, especially for your mind, for the development of your inner qualities, such as method and wisdom, especially the most important wisdom realizing the ultimate nature of the I and so forth.

It depends on you whether you make your life situation beneficial for your own mind, completing the most important education in life, the development of the good qualities of the mind, such as altruism, compassion, wisdom, so that you can really benefit others in depth not just superficially. The most important benefit they need is to their mind, because their problems come from their mind. The help they really need is help to their mind. Therefore, by revealing the right path to others from your own experience, you can really liberate others from the cause of problems and lead them not only to temporary happiness but to ultimate happiness, with cessation of all problems and the causes of problems.

So, it is completely dependent on your own mind. When some difficult situation happens, you have to establish the thought of liking it, rather than disliking it. But you have to know how to do that. You have to learn how to interpret difficult situations in your life as positive, how to look at everything as positive. Rather than allowing the situation to bother you, making you angry or depressed, you have to learn how to enjoy it and how to use to make you life really meaningful. So you have to study the subjects and then meditate. To meditate means that once you know the meditation subjects, the reasoning, you have to use them in your daily life when a difficult situation happens. There are many different medicines: when you have a headache, you take headache medicine; when you have a toothache you take the medicine for that. Similarly there are different meditations that explain all the ways to look at things as positive, how to transform an unhappy life into a happy life, a meaningless life into a meaningful one. There are meditations that explain how to do that.

I'll just briefly go over some different techniques that can be used, just giving some examples. There are many things to think about and to meditate on in order look at situations in life as positive and transform them into happiness. I'll just mention one most meaningful thing about relationship problems. If you have a relationship problem, think, "On this earth there are so many other people who have relationship problems, and many people who have much worse problems than I do. I am just one person, and others are numberless. Even the other human beings who have problems are numberless, like the infinite sky. I am just one person. No matter how big a problem I have, I am just one person - nothing important. What is really precious is the majority, these numberless others. An uncountable number of people have similar problems. Therefore, since I am going through this experience anyway, why don't I experience the problems of all these others, allowing them to be free from all their problems and experience happiness? How wonderful it would be if I could do that. How wonderful it would be if I could give myself for others, if I could take everyone's problems and they could have happiness and peace in their life.

You generate this altruistic thought to dedicate yourself to everyone. After generating this great compassion, you can also pray and meditate on receiving their problems on your own ego. The ego is the one that brings relationship problems; it brings all the problems, all the disasters. Therefore, you take all their problems inside and use it to destroy your ego. All the problems absorb into your ego, your selfish mind, which brings all the undesirable things to you, and the ego becomes non-existent.

You can meditate like this, then the rest of the time while you are working at home or in the office, from time to time think, "I am experiencing this problem on behalf of all other sentient beings." Remember this again and again. If we don't meditate like this, each time we remember the problem, we get depressed. It brings our spirit down.

Each time you remember the problem, think, "Oh, I am experiencing this on behalf of all other sentient beings." Each time try to think this way. "Now my life has meaning, because I am doing something useful for other sentient beings. I am taking the problems of other sentient beings and giving them happiness. I am sacrificing something for others, rather than working for myself all the time, only thinking, When can I be happy? When can I be free from my problems? My problems, my problems, my happiness, my happiness. Rather than being obsessed by self-cherishing thought, my, my, my, my happiness, my happiness, now I am doing something for other sentient beings." In this way you see great meaning in your life; you see purpose of living.

Each time the thought of the problem comes, think in this way: "I am experiencing this problem on behalf of all sentient beings." Think this again and again. This technique makes your life worthwhile and brings you much joy; you find satisfaction in your life and much happiness in your heart.

The second method to deal with stress is to look at what you are doing. Sometimes you may be doing too many things, things that you can't do. Since you don't have the capacity to do everything, how should you decide which ones to do and which ones not to do? You have to analyze the work you are doing to see whether it's harmful or beneficial. You then stop the harmful ones and do the beneficial ones. That's the first place to start.

Second, if there are many beneficial things that you can do, since you cannot do everything, first you do those that are greatly beneficial. After that if there's still time and you have the capacity, do those that are of middling benefit. Then if there's still time and capacity, do even those of small benefit.

After this the question arises, Who is the action benefiting? Me or other sentient beings? As I mentioned earlier, if it is benefiting you, you are just one person, and other sentient beings are numberless. Those who don't want harm from you, who want your help are numberless. Those whose happiness depends on you are numberless. If you practice compassion, good heart, everyone doesn't receive harm but receives happiness. If you do not practice the good heart, compassion, but act with self-cherishing thought, because that thought is concerned only about yourself and doesn't care about others, there is a danger that you harm all other sentient beings, directly or indirectly. Therefore, other sentient beings' happiness comes from you, is dependent on you.

So, your actions need to be beneficial, but beneficial for whom? Self or others? The most important thing to think about is benefiting other sentient beings, who are numberless. Others are the most precious. You need to help others, and I've already explained how you are responsible, how their happiness depends on you. For ordinary people like me, the more good heart we have to benefit others, the more concern we have for other sentient beings, the less stress there is in our lives. There is much less stress. The level of stress depends a lot on how much good heart there is. You can understand the reason for this. The more concern there is for the self, the more self-cherishing, the stronger the ego-centered mind, the more stress there is. You want so many things for yourself, you want to do so much, to have so much success, and when this is not happening, when you are unable to achieve this, there is much stress. The stronger the attachment to your own happiness, and that the happiness of this life, the more stress there is. The first thing is self-cherishing thought. The second thing is strong attachment to this life. Because of this you want so many things, and not being able to get them brings a lot of stress. Also, self-cherishing thought and strong attachment to this life create many problems: you want more and more, better and better of everything in your life, friends, enjoyments. You always want to change, to get something bigger and better. This clinging and dissatisfaction create many, many problems, relationship problems and so forth. And the more problems there are in the life, the more stress. That is logical.

So, it all depends on your mind. The more good heart you have, there is that much less stress, and there is that much more calm and relaxation.

And then, in some ways, stress can be good. Not all stress is bad. If someone is doing some work that is beneficial to other sentient beings, helpful to other sentient beings, and is very concerned about doing their best to help and about others receiving the best, even if they experience stress doing that, I would say that is worthwhile. Of course if the person doesn't care about and doesn't work for others, there is also no stress. If one is lazy and doesn't care about others, the stress that arises in dependence upon concern about helping others doesn't happen. But that makes the life meaningless; the person doesn't do anything good for others. Depending on the person's attitude and action, I think some stress can be positive. Not all stress is necessarily negative.

In the West, stress seems to be a huge problem that the people talk about a lot. In the East, however, it is not regarded as such a big problem. In normal life, people don't talk about it much. But it seems in the West that every single discomfort in life is somehow regarded as a huge problem. In some ways there's a little bit of this.

The more good heart, altruism, there is in the life, the fewer problems there are. And the fewer problems there are, the less stress there is - that is very clear. This is just some idea, like a drop from the ocean, about how you can deal with stress. This talk also contained ideas as to how you should handle problems - how you should think, how you should meditate. And I mentioned one example, a most beneficial meditation, or psychology, that makes your life most beneficial.

And I have already introduced the root from which death, rebirth, and all these problems come. Stress also comes from this ignorance, this wrong conception not knowing the ultimate nature of the I. This is the main cause of stress. Every problem, mental and physical, comes from this. Therefore it is extremely important to discover the ultimate nature of the I, to develop this wisdom.

Do you have any questions?

Student: [Question inaudible: something about integrating meditation into daily life]

Rinpoche: When you are meditating in your own room, for whatever length of time you decide upon, you can make a program that includes the practices you feel like doing during that time. However, basically meditation practice or Dharma practice or spiritual practice is not sitting in meditation posture in front of an altar reciting prayers or chanting. One of the most important things is that during the rest of the day while you are working, you try to be aware of the basic meditations. Try to remember these while you are working. This is the way to integrate meditation into your life.

For example, if you meditate on compassion in your morning meditation session, during the rest of the day while you are working in your home or at the office, try to have that same attitude. Work with awareness of whatever meditation you do in the morning. This is the most important thing. Why? Because we spend most of our time working or doing other things, we should use these times for meditation in this way. Meditation is not just a physical posture; it's mainly to do with the mind. Meditation is training the mind in the right path, the path to happiness, especially ultimate happiness.

If you have some verbal recitations to do and don't find enough time to do them in the morning, do them whenever you find some free time during the day. Use every piece of free time to so this kind of practice. But the most important thing is to maintain awareness of the basic meditations, such as the reality, or emptiness, of things, as I have already mentioned, which is one of the main ones, and also bodhicitta, or altruism. There are many different meditations according to the level of your mind. During the time you are working, you can practice awareness of those meditations.

If your meditation is to do with this perfect human rebirth, how precious it is and how meaningful, during your working time try to maintain awareness of this as much as possible. This helps to transform your attitude into a positive one, and makes it easy for you to generate the good heart. This makes it easy to transform your attitude so that you have no interest in negative thoughts, but only in positive thoughts. This makes it easy to integrate Dharma and your work; work and Dharma become one. Remembering the meditations is the way to integrate Dharma and your work.

The other thing is to cut down meaningless work, the things that are really not necessary, then you will find more time to practice. I think that's all. Thank you.

This is just a start. The original idea was to talk about how you can stop the experience of death. I've already mentioned the cause of death and what stops death, so there has been a little bit on that. There are different levels of becoming free from death. Western culture doesn't explain how you can completely stop the experience of death, and of rebirth. In the West there is so much external development, but the most important point of life, this most frightening thing called "death," is not explained. (Of course, not everyone finds death frightening, but for most it generally is.)

So tomorrow I'll talk about how one can stop experiencing death, how one can be completely free from this. And also give a clear explanation of death, of the process that usually happens to the body and to the mind when one dies, according to the reality of what happens. The West doesn't have this kind of explanation; this does not comes through external observation or guessing, but through the experience of the omniscient mind, through one's own experience. The plan is to go over this. And also to explain what to do meanwhile, until we reach the level where are make ourself free from death. To explain while we still have to go through death, how to deal with it, how to make it meaningful, how to make it happy. To explain how to make death a pleasant rather than frightening experience, how to transform it into happiness and make it beneficial for all sentient beings. So tomorrow, according to the time available, the plan is to speak on these things.

Due to all my positive actions in the past, present, and future, may the good heart, source of all happiness, be generated within my mind, in the minds of my family, and in the minds of all sentient beings. May those who already have bodhicitta, the thought of full enlightenment to benefit others, develop it.

[End of First Discourse]