Bodhisattva Attitude: How to Dedicate Your Life to Others

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

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

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

Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Zina Rachevsky at Lawudo Retreat Center, Nepal, 1969. Photo: George Luneau.
The Teachings: Cutting the Concept of Permanence

Bodhicitta Motivation for Life 1 32



Start by thinking:

Guru Shakyamuni Buddha descended into this world from Tushita Pure Land and showed the twelve deeds of a buddha. He taught the Dharma by expounding the 84,000 teachings and enlightened numberless sen­tient beings not only in this world but also in other universes. In this way, the benefits to sentient beings were as limitless as the sky.

In the general view,33 the Buddha turned the Wheel of Dharma three times. He taught the four noble truths in Sarnath, the middle Wheel of Dharma revealing the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras at Rajgir and the final Wheel of Dharma teaching the three characteristics at Vaishali. Then he manifested into Buddha Vajra­dhara and deities to reveal the tantric teachings. He manifested into Chakrasamvara and revealed the Cha­krasamvara teachings on the top of Mt. Meru, into Yamantaka at Orgyen in Pakistan and into Kalachakra at Amaravati in India.

Finally, the Buddha showed impermanence to us sentient beings and passed away into the sorrowless state. All that is left now are scriptures and some ruins at holy places like Rajgir and Sravasti.Therefore, there is no question that I myself can die even today.

Actually, it is best to think, “I am going to die today.” Or to actually decide, “I am going to die today.” That is an even better antidote to the concept of permanence that doesn’t allow you to practice Dharma.34 It cuts the concept of permanence that doesn’t allow your actions to become the cause of enlightenment, libera­tion from samsara or even the happiness of future lives. It cuts the attachment to this life that makes your actions only nonvirtue and doesn’t allow them to become Dharma, which brings hap­piness beyond this life.35

The problem is that our minds are always taking the side of the concept of permanence. It is like in the government of a country; there are always two parties, left and right wing. In the United States, there are Democrats and Republicans. Usually, people like me live our lives toward the concept of permanence and that is the problem. When you live life with the concept of permanence, attachment, worldly concern and all the other negative emotions arise. Then your mind becomes a problem and life becomes hard. Life becomes difficult.

Equalizing the eight worldly dharmas

There are so many problems when you live life with attach­ment and worldly concern.You want comfort and happiness and therefore suffer and become unhappy when there is discomfort. You look for a good reputation, wanting many people to say good things about you, and suffer when that is not happening or the opposite happens and you have a bad reputation. You grasp at praise, wanting other people to say good things to you, and your mind goes down when that doesn’t happen or you are criticized. You grasp at receiving things and are disappointed when nothing comes. First, you advertise your birthday to other people, then when you don’t receive any gifts or birthday presents from your friends, your mind goes down, down, down and you become depressed and unhappy.

These problems come because the mind is grasping. It is the mind grasping at comfort and pleasure, reputation, praise and receiving material things that is the root problem. It is because the mind is grasping that there is dislike and unhappiness when the things you want don’t happen or the opposite happens. Nagar­juna’s advice was to equalize these thoughts:36

Receiving and not receiving material things, comfort and discomfort,
Good and bad reputation, praise and criticism—
Equalize these eight worldly dharmas
And banish them from your mind.

If you check the nature of your mind when it is grasping at these things, it is not peaceful but disturbed by emotional thoughts. There is no inner peace or calm. Grasping at these four objects of desire is a big problem in our lives and all our other problems come from that. But when these four pairs are equalized and there is no more thought of the eight worldly dharmas, you have real inner happiness, the happiness of Dharma.

Asanga explained the difference between samsaric pleasure and the happiness of Dharma in eleven points that are mentioned in the Kadampa teachings. For example, that samsaric pleasure is extremely small while Dharma happiness is unbelievably great and that samsaric pleasure is only in the nature of suffering while Dharma happiness is real happiness.37

When your mind is living in Dharma with the thought of impermanence—that death is going to come today—you don’t have all the problems that most other people suffer from. You don’t have to go and discuss those problems with psychologists and other professionals, which makes life very expensive. Being a friend of attachment and the concept of permanence—which is not true—and living life that way, brings a whole package of problems. Life becomes filled with one problem after another, exactly like it’s shown on TV or in the movies.

Now when you live with Dharma, by thinking of imperma­nence and death, you free yourself from all these problems. Free­ing yourself from the concept of permanence, attachment and so forth means also freeing yourself from anger and all the problems that come from anger, such as jealousy.You free yourself from all those sicknesses and chronic diseases of the mind and open the door to peace. It is amazing. You give yourself peace and from that great inner peace come a healthy mind and a healthy body. That’s how it works. Your healthy Dharma mind makes your physical body healthy also.

Wow! Then it saves you a lot of money. Your healthy Dharma mind living with the thought of impermanence immediately cuts out many unnecessary activities and expenses, and then the money you have left can be used for meaningful things that benefit yourself and others.All the unbelievable expenses that go to feed attachment to this life, the thousands and tens of thou­sands and hundreds of thousands and millions and billions spent for the emotional mind, are cut. Can you imagine? You spend an unbelievable amount of money for attachment—which is a wrong concept and in nature a disturbing thought—and for the self-cherishing thought, while the money you spend to benefit other sentient beings sincerely from the heart, for your enlight­enment, liberation or even for the happiness of your future lives is very little.

This is just a slight elaboration to help you see life more clearly. Like using a telescope to see something very far away or a micro­scope to see atoms or tiny sentient beings, similarly, here you use the Dharma to see your life and go beyond. By using Dharma wisdom you can see what is mistaken and what is correct; what is useless and what is useful; what is meaningless and what is meaningful; what is to be abandoned and what is to be practiced; what brings suffering and what brings happiness. It is all to do with the mind. It all depends on your attitude, which way you think, whether you live with your mind in the concept of per­manence or impermanence. It makes a huge difference to your life, like the difference between the earth and the sky. It is amaz­ing! When your mind is living in the concept of impermanence suddenly you no longer have all those hundreds of thousands of problems.

Next think:

Then there were the two close disciples of the Bud­dha, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana; the Six Orna­ments, the pandits Nagarjuna, Asanga, Chandrakirti and so forth; and many other great Indian yogis such as Naropa,Tilopa and Saraha.They wrote many texts, taught and gave unbelievable, incredible benefit to sen­tient beings and to the teachings of the Buddha in this world. Now we can only hear their names and see the texts they left and some caves and places where they meditated and achieved realizations. Therefore, there is no question that I myself can die even today.

After that, many great lamas appeared in each of the four traditions in Tibet, including Padmasambhava and Longchen Rabjampa; Marpa and Milarepa; the five great Sakya pandits; Lama Tsongkhapa and his disciples, and so forth. They completed the path to enlightenment and gave incredible benefit to sentient beings and to the teachings of the Buddha. Now we cannot see them, just the places where they practiced, like the caves of Lama Tsongkhapa and Milarepa, and their texts, nothing else. They all passed away. There­fore, I myself can die even today.

Now think of all the virtuous friends you have met, like Lama Yeshe who was kinder than all the numberless past, present and future Buddhas. In the past we were able to receive teachings from Lama and like the sun shining he gave incredible great benefit to this world, to sentient beings and to us. Lama was so entertaining as well. He brought such extremely worthwhile entertainment and incredible joy. Now that aspect doesn’t exist.

Then, Kyabje Ribur Rinpoche, those who received teachings and initiations will remember him; Kyabje Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche, for those who had the great fortune to receive teach­ings from him a long time ago; and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, the great, great pandit, scholar, highly attained yogi and enlight­ened being. Many virtuous friends came, but now we cannot see them.

Think particularly of those virtuous friends with whom you made a Dharma connection and who have passed away. Now those aspects no longer exist. So here think of your gurus who have passed away and think, “Therefore, I myself can die even today.” Each time you think of death like this, cut your attachment.

Now think of your family members who have passed away. Think of your father and mother if they have passed away. Then think of all your friends and the people you knew who have died and think, “Therefore, I myself can die any time. I can die even today.”

Then there were so many people born on the same day as you in this world, who were the same age, and who have already died. Think of them and contemplate, “Therefore, I myself can die even today.”

The very beginning of Dharma: the thought of impermanence

When you have in mind the thought that death can come today, if something suddenly happens, it is not a shock. It is not a shock at all because your mind is prepared. You have already trained your mind by thinking very strongly about death first thing every morning and keeping that awareness throughout the day. That helps you to be at peace and not have fear when you face a life-threatening problem or something similar.

If your mind has not become Dharma because you haven’t trained in the thought of impermanence but instead have always thought, “I am going to live for a long time,” and done all your activities with attachment to this life, then if something opposite to that suddenly happens and the reality of life—its imperma­nence—is shown, all of a sudden, while you are planning billions of things, you get an incredible shock.

You may know Buddhism and have memorized the hundred volumes of the Buddha’s teachings (Kangyur) and the two hun­dred volumes of commentaries (Tengyur) and be able to explain and recite them by heart, but your mind has not thought about impermanence. You may know by heart all the root texts, the five great treatises, along with the tantric texts and commentar­ies and be able to explain them, but your mind has not thought of impermanence. Because you have been living your life with the concept of permanence, the day something happens and the reality of life is shown, it is a shock and there is incredible fear. Suddenly you see that you don’t want to die. It is not that you don’t want to die because you want to benefit sentient beings. I am not talking about that.You don’t want to die for fear of what will happen after death. You don’t want to die because of fear. You don’t want to lose this body. You don’t want to lose your possessions, property, belongings or family.Your mind is clinging to these things and because of that, there is great fear.

Meditating on impermanence is the very beginning of Dharma, but look what happens if this meditation is left out or if you thought it wasn’t important because emptiness, shunyata or some tantric meditation was more important.

Of course, if you already have the realization of imperma­nence, then it’s different. [After that, you can realize emptiness and with the realization of emptiness]38 you see things as an illusion and like a dream. You see yourself, actions, possessions, family and people around you like a dream or an illusion. You are like a person who can recognize a dream as a dream. There is a big difference between someone who can recognize they are dreaming while they are dreaming and someone who can­not and believes everything is true. There are huge differences between their lives. For people who can recognize a dream as a dream, nothing that happens while they are dreaming bothers them because they know it is not true. Even if somebody praises them as the best of the best, they know there is nothing to be attached to because it is not true.And no matter how badly some­body criticizes them or puts them down—even down below the ground—they know there is nothing to be upset about because it is not true. Like that, everything is seen as like an illusion, a dream or a reflection.

It is like watching a movie and believing that what you are seeing is true. If, instead of understanding it is just a series of pictures, you believe that real people are being killed in a war, a real house is falling down or a car is just about to have a real accident, you will be very nervous and frightened. Or it is like seeing the reflection of a face and believing it to be a real face. There is a huge difference between seeing a reflection and know­ing it to be a reflection and not knowing it is a reflection and believing it to be a real face. Like these examples, those who have realized emptiness and trained their minds in that see everything as an illusion or a dream.

So even though meditation on impermanence is the beginning of the gradual path of the lower capable being in the lam-rim, can you imagine how important that realization is? The Kadampa geshes used to say:

Even though you have a hundred qualities, because you are under one mistake, no realization happens.

A “hundred” means “many,” like the Hundred Devas of Tushita, which doesn’t mean that there is literally a fixed number of only a hundred devas in Tushita and there can’t be more, but is an expression of there being many or numberless.What the Kadampa geshes were saying is that you may have a lot of understanding and education and know thousands of millions of things, but everything gets stuck because of one mistake. Why is your mind not subdued, why have you not had any realizations of the path to enlightenment and why have all your daily activities—eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, working and, of course, meditating and studying Dharma—not become Dharma, even though you have so much knowledge and know so many things that your mind is full? It is all because of one mistake—not thinking about impermanence and death. Because of not reflecting on imper­manence and death, no matter how much meditation or retreat you do and no matter how much Dharma you study, nothing becomes Dharma. None of your virtuous activities become holy Dharma. Therefore, there is no question that all your ordinary activities of eating, walking, sitting, sleeping and working do not become Dharma. Everything becomes worldly dharma but not holy Dharma. It is like that.

One thing is that nothing becomes Dharma that can benefit you at the time of death and bring happiness beyond this life.The other is that, because there is no realization of impermanence and death, the gradual path of the lower capable being is not there. Because that is lacking, there is no realization of the gradual path of the middle capable being. And because that is missing, there is no realization of the gradual path of the higher capable being. Therefore there is no bodhicitta, and without bodhicitta, tantric realizations cannot be achieved. When the realization of impermanence and death is missing, none of these paths can be completed.39

That is why, when you don’t think about impermanence and death, no matter how much knowledge or education you have, all the same problems arise as if you didn’t know Dharma. Even if you have studied all the five major sutra texts, their commentar­ies, and tantra, and even if you have extensive knowledge and are able to explain this and that, because the very beginning practice of impermanence from the gradual path of the lower capable being is missing, it is like you don’t know Dharma. You have all the same problems as somebody who is not a Buddhist and has not studied Dharma. When you encounter a problem, there is no difference between having met Dharma and learned everything and not having met Dharma and not knowing anything. It is the same. Your mind is no different.

What I am saying is that if the mind training in the meditation of impermanence is missing, look how much danger your life is in! There is no difference between a person who has met and studied Dharma and somebody who has not, between somebody who is a Buddhist and who is not, between somebody who has studied the philosophical or lam-rim teachings extensively and who has not. It is like that.

You have to understand the point: sometimes there could be even more problems. Sometimes a person who has met Buddhism could have even more problems than one who is not a Buddhist, because although there is greater education and more learning, the basic practice has not been done, and since the basic practice is missing, the problems could be even bigger.

I elaborated quite a bit here to introduce the subject of imper­manence, but when you do the meditation it can be condensed.

So many times I have almost died

Then think:

So many times already in this life, I have almost died. I have almost had a fatal car accident or a fall. Somehow death has not yet come, but if I had died already, by now I would be in the lower realms.

By now, I could be a fish caught by a fisherman with the hook in my mouth, unable to escape and in unbelievable pain. Even before I was completely dead, my body would be sliced in half.

By now, I could be a worm pierced by a bird’s beak and carried off half-dead. Or I could be a worm attacked and covered by hundreds of ants biting my body. There would be nothing I could do.

Even if one ant bites your foot, it is very unbearable, but a small worm doesn’t have thick skin. There is no protection when it is covered by hundreds of ants. By now, you could be born like that.

By now I could be in those most terrifying hell realms.

This could happen because you have collected so many causes to be born in the lower realms since beginningless rebirths and they are not yet purified.

Therefore, right now I must abandon negative karma, the cause of suffering, and practice only virtue, the cause of happiness.

Bring it to this conclusion: “I must abandon negative karma and practice only virtue.”

Death can come any moment

After that, think as Nagarjuna explained in the Precious Garland:40

Life is like a butter lamp in a strong wind; (it can stop any time.)

“This life—my life—is like a candle or a butter lamp outside in the wind.” The flame is blown this way and that, and can go out any time.Think,“My life is like this; it can stop any time. Death can come any moment.” Meditate on that.

Also think of Nagarjuna’s quotation:41

This life is more impermanent
Than a water bubble blown by the wind.
How wonderful it is to be able to wake up from sleep
(The fragile state of) simply breathing in and out!

When you go to sleep, the senses are not functioning. It is like dying. You are just breathing in and out. Recently, Geshe Sopa Rinpoche used this quotation in a motivation to teachings on the wisdom chapter of A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, and said, “You breathe out and stop breathing in and that’s it. You’ve gone.” You’re finished just by that. Therefore think, “How wonderful it is to have the freedom to be able to wake up from sleep!”

Then think:

Last night many people in this world died. They went to bed with so many plans for things to do tomorrow, this year, next year and so on. This morning their bod­ies were corpses.

That happened to so many people in the world last night, not just one. Can you imagine?

If I had died last night, by now I would be in the lower realms, in those most frightening hell realms, because although I did study Dharma and do some practice and retreat, I didn’t engage in continual intensive Dharma practice.

From time to time we did do some practice, but then anger, ill will and many other things destroyed the merits we created.There are many things besides anger that can blow up our merits. Anger, ill will and heresy all destroy them, and pride weakens them.

Therefore, there was no really serious, continual, pure Dharma practice and purification. If death had come to me last night, by now I would be in the hell realms.

The great meaning of this human life

It is a miracle to be able to wake up in the morning with a human body. Compared to the number of beings who are born in the lower realms, those who are born human are very, very few. The number of sentient beings who are born in the hell realms, for example, is unimaginable. It is like the number of particles of dust on this great earth.The number of beings born as pretas is like the grains of sand in the Pacific Ocean.The number of beings born in the animal realms is like the blades of grass in this world. While the number of beings born in the higher realms is very few. Those who gain a perfect human rebirth are like the grains of dirt that are caught under your fingernail when you scratch the earth.

Sentient beings are born in the hell realms due to attachment, anger and ignorance and the negative actions these delusions cause them to create. It is unbelievably rare to gain a perfect human rebirth because the causes are so difficult to create. To gain a human rebirth depends upon creating good actions moti­vated by a pure mind of non-ignorance, non-attachment and non-anger. It also depends on having practiced pure morality— abstaining from killing, lying, sexual misconduct and so forth. Keeping pure morality is extremely difficult. First of all, it is difficult for sentient beings to understand and accept the need to abstain from these actions. Then, it is difficult to take a vow to do so. Finally, even if the vow is taken, it is difficult to keep it purely because there are so many obstacles from within and from outside.

For these reasons, it is extremely rare to be reborn as a human being and even rarer to gain a precious human rebirth with all the eighteen qualities needed to practice Dharma, the eight freedoms and ten richnesses. Therefore, think:

How most unbelievably fortunate it is that I have the freedom to wake up and practice Dharma. In every second there is so much I can do with this human body, not only a precious human body so extremely rare to find, but one with eighteen qualities almost impossible to achieve again. Wow!

In each second I have the great freedom and opportunity to create the cause to achieve happiness in all my future lives by generating renunciation of this life.

Not only that, in each second I also have the oppor­tunity to create the cause to achieve ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara, by generating renunciation of future lives and actualizing the right view.

Not only that, in each second I have the great free­dom and opportunity to create the cause to achieve enlightenment by generating bodhicitta.42

The ability to create the cause of all this temporary and ultimate happiness even in one second is the third great meaning of life.43 Therefore, think:

Each second of this perfect human rebirth is much more precious than mountains of gold and diamonds, or gold and diamonds the size of this earth.

Not only that, it is more precious than even one wish-granting jewel.

If you put a wish-granting jewel on top of a banner on the fifteenth day of the Tibetan month, you can receive whatever external enjoyment or necessity you want just by praying for it. That is why a wish-granting jewel is the most valuable external material thing, more precious than anything else. But this perfect human rebirth that we have is much more precious than the whole sky filled with wish-granting jewels. The value of all that is nothing compared to this perfect human rebirth, because even if you owned skies filled with wish-granting jewels, without this perfect human rebirth you could not achieve the happiness of future lives, liberation from samsara or full enlightenment for sentient beings. Therefore, every second of this perfect human body is so precious.

You must try to feel how this perfect human rebirth is most precious. After that, think:

Therefore, I must not waste even a second of this life!

Wasting even a second of this life by not practicing Dharma is a greater loss than wasting all those other precious things.

I must make it meaningful by practicing Dharma.

What does it mean to practice Dharma? Normally I explain it this way: One meaning is practicing the three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment, the heart of all Buddha’s teachings— renunciation, bodhicitta and right view—as a foundation. Then, on the basis of that, the generation stage of tantra, abandoning impure appearance and impure thought, or whatever you are able to do.

Another explanation of practicing Dharma is living in vows, the three levels of vows—pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantric. Liv­ing in the pratimoksha vows doesn’t mean everyone has to become a monk or nun. If you are lay, it means living in the lay vows.


Then think,

Since I am going to die today, what should I do?

The answer is “bodhicitta.”

I must practice bodhicitta.

Bodhicitta is the very essence of Dharma and the best way to make this life meaningful. By praying never to separate from bodhicitta during birth, the intermediate state and death your practice becomes a part of the five powers to be practiced near the time of death 44 and also makes a connection with the advice for integrating the whole lifetime into the five powers.45

Now reflect on the shortcomings of cherishing the self, which opens the door to every suffering and obstacle, and on the ben­efits of cherishing others,46 which brings all the happiness up to enlightenment to you and to numberless other sentient beings, as well as every quality.

You can do this by reflecting in the following way: If you have a bodhicitta motivation, the good heart benefiting other sentient beings, you can actualize the realizations of the Mahayana path, the five paths and ten grounds. You can become a bodhisattva and collect skies of merit in every second with every single action of body, speech and mind. You can purify all the heavy negative karmas collected in this life and past lives and achieve enlighten­ment for sentient beings. Then you can do perfect work without the slightest mistake for sentient beings, liberating every one of them from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bringing them to enlightenment.

But if you follow the self-cherishing thought, you can’t do this. Self-cherishing interferes with your actions becoming the cause of enlightenment, liberation from samsara or even the happiness of future lives. With self-cherishing, there are many obstacles to achieving even the happiness of this life. It makes things so dif­ficult. All obstacles come from the self-cherishing thought.

Taking away the suffering of others

Now do the practice of exchanging self for others 47 along with the practice of taking and giving (tong-len). While you are doing taking and giving, you can chant the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM.

First, do the practice of taking by generating compassion for the numberless sentient beings suffering under the control of delusion and karma.Then take on their sufferings and the causes of those sufferings, delusion and karma, along with even the subtle defilements.

For example, when you are taking on all the sufferings of the hell realms, there are: the suffering of the place—e.g. the whole ground filled with swords or completely on fire, the burning red-hot iron houses, huge cauldrons and extremely hot molten hard-iron;48 the actual sufferings; and the cause of those sufferings, delusion and karma, along with even the subtle defilements.

Take all of this into your heart and give it to the self-cherishing thought, like putting a bomb on top of your enemy and com­pletely destroying it. Meditate a little that the truly existent I, the real I that the selfish mind cherishes but which is not actually there, becomes totally non-existent even in name.

Then take on the sufferings of the numberless hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, asuras and intermediate state beings. The taking can be done in an elaborate, medium or short way by taking all the sufferings together; it just depends on time.

You can also take on obstacles. If your gurus have taken the aspect of having sickness, you can take on any obstacles to their actions to benefit others according to the karmic view of sentient beings. When it says in the teachings that there is nothing to be taken from the gurus, it means that they do not have obstacles and sickness the way that ordinary sentient beings do, but there is the karmic view of sentient beings that sees obstacles, sickness and so on.49 After that, you can take on all the obstacles to the spreading of the teachings of the Buddha because it is from these teachings that sentient beings receive all their happiness up to enlightenment. Finally, you can expand your meditation to take on the obstacles to the benefactors who serve the Dharma and the Sangha.

Giving every happiness to others

When you are doing the practice of giving, first generate loving kindness and then give to each hell being, hungry ghost, animal, human, sura, asura and intermediate state being, either one by one or all together. Give all your past, present and future merits; the results of these merits, all the temporary and ultimate hap­piness up to enlightenment; and all your material possessions, including all the money you have in the bank, your car, purse and all your family and friends.

Think that by receiving these things, the numberless sentient beings receive a perfect human body, meet the Dharma and meet a virtuous friend. They gain perfect enjoyments, perfect companions and their environment transforms into a pure land where there is no suffering and only beauty. It is filled with wish-granting trees that fulfill all their wishes and even the wind blowing through the trees, the animals and birds make the sound of Dharma. It is incredible.

Think also that what you give them becomes the realizations of the complete path to enlightenment in all their hearts, which liberates them from all the oceans of samsaric suffering along with its causes, delusion and karma, including the subtle defile­ments. By this, they all achieve the unimaginable qualities of a buddha and become the deity you are practicing.

Giving can also be done in an elaborate, medium, short or very short way according to time. Each time you do the practice of taking and giving you create unimaginable merits and become closer to enlightenment, which means closer to liberating num­berless sentient beings.

Concluding prayers

After that, think:

This is just visualization. In reality sentient beings are still suffering. I must liberate them from the oceans of samsaric suffering along with its causes, karma and defilements, and bring them to enlightenment by myself alone.Therefore, I must achieve enlightenment. There­fore, I am going to engage in virtuous activities.

“Virtuous activities” refers to whatever virtuous practices you are going to do, such as reciting sadhanas, meditation, pre­liminary practices or meditating on the lam-rim. It is also very good to dedicate all the ordinary activities of eating, walking, sitting, sleeping and working that you are going to engage in by thinking:

May all my activities of body, speech and mind become the cause to achieve enlightenment and to enlighten all sentient beings.

And you can pray:

From now on, may I be like Lama Tsongkhapa, by having the same qualities, and may I be able to offer limitless skies of benefit to sentient beings and to the teachings of the Buddha.

It is very good to pray like that at the end.

This is what to think first thing in the morning when you wake up. This is your motivation for life. It is not just for today but from now on. Here I elaborated the section on impermanence; you can condense it when you do the meditation.

There is another shorter motivation based on His Holiness Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche’s teachings, Give Up Stretching the Legs (chapter 4). It uses a quotation from tantra to set the moti­vation when you wake up. So you have a choice sometimes to do this motivation and sometimes to do the other one.

After either of these motivations, there are some verses to recite from A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, explaining how to dedicate your life from today until you die. (See Bodhi­sattva Attitude, chapter 10.)


32 This commentary is based on Light of the Path, 9 September (evening) 2009. It is supplemented by material from the Chinese New Year motivations of 14 February 2010 and 3 February 2011, Amitabha Buddhist Centre. See also Teachings from the Medicine Buddha Retreat, ch. 2. [Return to text]

33 In the view of ordinary beings the Buddha did these actions, but for those with a higher view, the Buddha’s actions are beyond ordinary comprehension. [Return to text]

34 The concept of permanence in this context is the thought “I am going to live for a long time.” It “doesn’t allow” us to practice Dharma because it obscures our minds from seeing that the nature of life and all causative phenomena is impermanent. This means that we become attached to the appearance of this life and constantly go after short-term pleasures, delaying and always putting off our Dharma practice. (Three Principal Aspects of the Path, 27 February 2011). [Return to text]

35 Actions done out of attachment seeking only the happiness of this life may or may not bring the result of happiness this life, but they are always nonvirtuous. Lama Atisha explained this to his disciple Dromtönpa. See Door to Satisfaction, p. 18 ff. and Light of the Path, 13 September 2010. [Return to text]

36Nagarjuna’s Letter, v. 29. For more explanation of this verse, see Door to Sat­isfaction, especially chs. 3–5 and How to Practice Dharma, ch. 2. The definition of the best Dharma practitioner is one who has equalized these thoughts. (Three Principal Aspects of the Path, 27 February 2011.) [Return to text]

37 Rinpoche explains Asanga’s eleven points contrasting worldly and Dharma happiness as follows. The worldly pleasure that comes from following desire, such as eating, drinking, (enjoying) women (or men), singing and dancing has the fol­lowing drawbacks: (1) it doesn’t satisfy the whole body; (2) it depends on outside conditions and therefore only happens sometimes and not whenever we want; (3) it doesn’t exist in all three realms—the form, formless and desire realms; (4) it is not a cause to achieve the seven treasures of the aryas; (5) the pleasure is finished by enjoying it; (6) it can be cut short by our enemies; (7) it cannot be carried into future lives; (8) it cannot be completed—worldly pleasure never brings real total satisfaction; (9) it is the cause of all the suffering of this and future lives; (10) it is a “pleasure” that is merely labeled on a base that is actually suffering—like a leper calling the relief from scratching an itching sore “pleasure”; (11) it causes attach­ment and delusions to arise; these then propel us to engage in negative karmas such as killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and so forth. The happiness of Dharma, on the other hand: (1) satisfies the whole body; (2) happens whenever we want it; (3) exists in all the three realms; (4) causes us to achieve the seven treasures of the aryas; (5) never finishes and always increases; (6) cannot be destroyed by enemies; (7) is carried into future lives; (8) can be completed and brought to full satisfaction; (9) generates no suffering in this or future lives; (10) is not merely labeled on a false base—like calling pieces of cut-up newspaper a “million,” “bil­lion” or “zillion dollars”; (11) destroys all the delusions. (From Lodrö Gyaltsen’s Very Beginning Mind Training Opening the Door of Dharma; Light of the Path, 22 September 2010.) [Return to text]

38 Rinpoche does not actually mention realizing emptiness at this point. I have added the words in brackets to clarify the following paragraph, which is describing what happens after the realization of emptiness, not impermanence. [Return to text]

39 The paths of the three capable beings are explained at the beginning of Lama Atisha’s Light of the Path. Usually they are translated as the “lower, middle and higher scopes,” but Rinpoche comments: “This is an old translation from the very early days in Dharamsala and not exactly what Lama Atisha said. The Tibetan is kye-bu sum gyi lam-gyi rim-pa. kye-bu means ‘capable’ and when you leave out that word you lose the whole entire meaning. It should be translated as ‘the graduated path of the three capable beings’ but kye-bu sum, ‘three capable beings,’ is left out. ‘Capable beings’ has great meaning. It is the main subject of the lam-rim, the path to enlightenment; therefore, this must be translated exactly.” For a summary of the three paths, see Door to Satisfaction, pp. 19–22. [Return to text]

40Buddhist Advice, p. 136, v. 317. This and the following quotation can be found in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, Volume 1, p. 156. [Return to text]

41Nagarjuna’s Letter, p. 80, v. 55. [Return to text]

42 This reflection can be expanded to include the tantric path by adding: “Not only that, by practicing tantra I can achieve enlightenment in one lifetime, while by practicing Highest Yoga Tantra I can achieve enlightenment within one brief lifetime of this degenerate time or even within a few years.” [Return to text]

43 The three great meanings of this precious human rebirth are its great value (1) in a temporary sense because it can be used to attain a future rebirth in higher realms or a pure land, (2) in an ultimate sense because it can be used to achieve liberation and enlightenment and (3) even in each moment. See Liberation, Part Two, pp. 80–84. [Return to text]

44 The five powers to be practiced near the time of death are: (1) virtuous prac­tice—to purify and distribute wealth; (2) intention—a positive frame of mind; (3) countering negativity; (4) prayer—never to separate from bodhicitta and not be overcome by the delusion of ignorance; (5) acquaintance—assuming the lion posi­tion. See Practicing the Five Powers near the Time of Death. [Return to text]

45 The five powers to be integrated into the whole lifetime are: (1) intention; (2) virtuous practice; (3) countering negativity; (4) prayer—dedication; (5) acquain­tance. For more on these two sets of the five powers, see Liberation, Part Three, pp. 186–90. [Return to text]

46 A summary of this is given in the next two paragraphs based on a passage from chapter 2. See also appendix 6. [Return to text]

47 This can be done by thinking, “Up to now I have always regarded myself as most important and precious. I have neglected others and put my own interests and welfare first. Now I am going to regard others as most important and precious. I am going to put the interests and welfare of others first and neglect my own.” In this way the attitude viewing oneself as most important is exchanged for the attitude that sees others as most important and all the energy that previously went into cherishing the self is instead directed to others. [Return to text]

48 Tib: khro-chu. This is not just the usual molten iron but an extremely hard type of iron that has melted because it is so hot. (Most Secret Hayagriva Retreat, 14 March 2010.) [Return to text]

49 From the viewpoint of the practice of guru devotion, since the gurus are enlight­ened beings, they have no causes to experience sickness or obstacles. Therefore, when our gurus appear to be sick or have obstacles, it is simply the view of our own impure mind. This impure karmic appearance of sentient beings is what is to be “taken” in the practice of taking and giving. [Return to text]