Cherish Others and Be Happy

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #398)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at the 19th Kopan Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 1986.

This excerpt from Lecture 7 of the course is lightly edited by Gordon McDougall and Sandra Smith. Click here to read more.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Waterlow Park, Highgate, London, 1983. Photo Robin Bath.

We have been following the continuation of the selfish mind with no beginning and so far no end, and the disturbing thoughts with no beginning and no end. All the sufferings of samsara and all the confusion, which did not have a beginning and still have not ended, are the result of following the selfish mind. So far, without beginning until now we have been like this and we are still not free from the suffering of samsara. So if we devote our life to the selfish mind, we will be cycling within the six realms continuously without end.

So far, we haven’t achieved liberation from samsara. Without leading others, helping others, bringing others into liberation from samsara, we haven’t achieved liberation even for ourselves. So even the work for ourselves hasn’t succeeded; it has still not been achieved. The result of following the selfish mind, of becoming a servant or a slave to the selfish mind, interferes even with our own happiness. That’s why His Holiness the Dalai Lama says that if we want to be selfish, if we want to live life with a selfish mind, we should be the best selfish, which is to cherish others, to renounce oneself and cherish others. In that way we get all the happiness, all the success.

It doesn’t matter how many family problems or personal problems we have, as soon as we cherish others—those who have greater problems and those who have similar problems—as soon as we change our attitude and cherish others, immediately there is great happiness, relaxation and no uptightness in our mind. As soon as we cherish others, there is relaxation, inner peace and tranquility.

As soon as we cherish ourselves, thinking, “I am more important than others; my happiness is more important than others,” then immediately there’s pain in the heart, there’s uptightness. If we analyze, if we watch the nature of that attitude, it is not peace, it is uptight.

When we meditate, remembering how other sentient beings are kind and precious, then the uptightness in our heart becomes loose. There is relaxation when we feel the kindness of others, when we think how others are so precious. It’s very good to practice awareness of other sentient beings as the mother, who is kind in the four ways, as well as the three great purposes or the three levels of happiness—the happiness of the future life, liberation, enlightenment. Remember how all our three times’ happiness is received by depending on these sentient beings.

During the meditation session, practice awareness of the kindness of other sentient beings—those who are sitting around us in this meditation hall, behind us, to the right side, to the left side and in the front. Feel the kindness of every person that we see—every bird, every fly, every dog, every creature. Whichever way we think, as soon as we see another being, remember their kindness, and especially the person who we dislike or who criticizes or disrespects us, especially this person. Either especially go to see that person or sit next to that person, then meditate, walk or sit with that person, and meditate on their kindness.

At the Dharma center or at the family house, if we practice awareness like this, we are happy with everybody. In this way there’s loving kindness and compassion, which naturally arises towards them and we are happy with whoever we meet, whoever we see. Our mind is open to everyone and there’s a wish to help to everyone. Our mind is so happy, very happy, and there is no space for depression. Life becomes very enjoyable, because we have taken this human body, and we are born to enjoy life with a good heart, without an egocentric mind. We will have a very happy, satisfied life.

Otherwise, as long as we cherish ourselves, we are like a rock. The mind is like a rock of iron—with some sentient beings we are like this, with other sentient beings we are like that. There is nothing else to think about except ourselves, our own happiness. So we are selfish, like a rock, and there is no happiness. Life has no enjoyment and we open the door for suffering and problems. Then life is like another problem; there is depression and so much failure. The stronger the selfish mind, the greater the impatience and dissatisfaction, so more and more problems arise.

Whether you live alone or with other people, wherever you travel, everywhere there’s an enemy. Before you came to that place there was no enemy, but after you came to that place there were lots of enemies. Before you came, that place didn’t have enemies, but after you came there were so many enemies. Enemies develop more and more, the longer you stay there. Everywhere you go there are always stories and people always talk about it, so very soon everyone knows about you. When somebody starts to mention your name, “Oh, yes! Oh, yes! That I know!” As soon as they start to mention your name, even before they’ve finished, the other person makes a face and they don’t need to say anything back. You don’t need to tell any stories; what the other person expresses on his face is enough.

For the person who always practices loving kindness, compassion, cherishing others, it is the opposite. Even if we live alone there is much happiness and satisfaction in our life. We live life for others and there is that much less problem, with a less dissatisfactory mind and less anger. Wherever we go, whoever we stay with, there is always much to enjoy, much happiness for us and also for other people.

If we are selfish and impatient, all the friends become enemies, even in one day or one hour. When others hear that we are coming to the house, they manage to stop us. They say, “We are not at home,” or “Oh, we’re busy,” or “We have to go out,” or something. Or somebody else makes a phone call saying that they are not there. If we are coming to their house, they lock the door so we go away.

If we have a good heart, cherishing others, wherever we go and whoever we live with, there is always much happiness and instead of meeting enemies, we only meet friends. Everyone who meets us becomes a friend and everyone wishes to receive us at their home, everyone wishes to help—to give us food, clothing or a place to stay. Especially when we are in trouble, everyone is worried.

If somebody is very selfish and impatient, with no thought of others, only doing what he or she wants, then no matter how much of a problem that person has—even if they are starving or if there is a disaster, even if they have no place to stay or no job—nobody wants to help them.

So Shakyamuni Buddha and all those buddhas, all the lineage lamas of the graduated path to enlightenment, by renouncing themselves and cherishing other sentient beings, achieved the complete path and achieved enlightenment. They are continuously doing extensive works for all sentient beings without the slightest mistake. Even in one second, uncountable numbers of sentient beings are brought enlightenment, and they are manifesting in various forms with the holy body, holy speech and holy mind. Even the beams emitting from the holy body lead uncountable numbers of beings to happiness, freeing them from suffering. They are able to do extensive works for all sentient beings equaling infinite space.

There is nothing complicated to think about. We have two choices. First, we look at following the selfish mind and examine whether there’s an advantage or not. Then we look at following the thought of cherishing others and examine how much profit it has. It’s similar to when we want to buy something—if we’re going to spend ten rupees or $100 or $1,000, we check and we carefully analyze the quality of the material. We don’t want loss, and we don’t want to be cheated; we want profit, even five rupees, so we want to buy the better quality one.

This is the question for the whole of our life and after our death. It is the foundation for all the coming future lives. However much happiness we will enjoy and however much suffering we have to experience in all the coming future lives depends on our attitude in this life. It depends on each day, each twenty-four hours, each minute, each second’s attitude. Not only the happiness and peace of mind in this life, but that of all the coming future lives, from here up to enlightenment—whether there will be endless samsaric suffering or whether samsara will have an end, is dependent on our attitude.