E-letter No. 101: October 2011

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal 1973 (Archive #027)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear LYWA friends and supporters,

Welcome to our 101st e-letter...the first in our next hundred! As ever, please share it with all who might be interested. Also, please "Like" our Facebook page and help us get over 4,000 friends there...

Give the Gift of Dharma

Lama Yeshe, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1981. Photo: Merry ColonyThe gift of Dharma is an amazing gift. For example, the purchase of a Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive Membership or one of our new Gift Certificates benefits the recipient, the person who gives it, and numberless sentient beings that benefit from the ways the money is used. The collection, transcription, editing and publishing of the holy Dharma from our beloved gurus, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, is only the beginning.

The Dharma is made available freely, yes, freely, on our website and in Dharma centers and bookstores around the world. (We do ask for your help with postage if you want us to mail you a free book.) When someone reads it, and then tells others who read it, who tell others who read it and so on, a ripple, then a current, and finally a mighty river of compassion and wisdom is produced throughout the universe. And the mind-streams of those who read the words, these precious drops of wisdom, are changed forever. The imprint thus created works the miracle. And it goes on and on, in the hearts of those who embody the real meaning of these teachings—selflessness, compassion, and ultimate truth.

The Dharma is more than a way of thinking, it is a way of living; it provides the only real refuge from suffering in this world. Those who live in ignorance of the four noble truths and the means to transcend the lower, ego-based-mind, suffer so much right now in these degenerate times. But the light is there, the means to go beyond the suffering and into joy. It is the holy truth of the Dharma from the Buddha that flows down through time and helps all of those who are touched by its magic.

LYWA is a non-profit organization that is there for everyone. It serves everybody, all sentient beings in all dimensions. Giving a gift of Dharma with a Membership or a Gift Certificate will help LYWA continue this service, this pure wish to help all. It is correct to say, "The truth will set you free"—free from sadness, from ignorance of your true nature, from your capacity to transcend, from suffering. What better gift than the gift of Dharma can there be to give and receive!

Teachings From the Vajrasattva Retreat is Back!
Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Teachings From the Vajrasattva Retreat has been out of print for years. It has been freely available on our website to read or download, but those who have wanted a printed copy of this precious volume have been out of luck.

But now it can be ordered through the print-on-demand service offered by Lulu.com. This edition has been fully updated and corrected as well.

We are working on making some of our other out-of-print books available as well, such as Advice for Monks and Nuns and Teachings From the Mani Retreat. We will keep you updated as these become available.

What's New in Our Image Gallery

Lama Yeshe teaching at Yucca Valley California, 1977. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder. We have just posted a series of photos of Lama Yeshe from 1977. The photos were taken during teachings in Yucca Valley, CA by Carol Royce-Wilder.

The photos from the teachings, such as the one here on the right, show the varied expressions of Lama as he spoke. You can view them in a slideshow to get a sense of how it was to sit in front of Lama Yeshe was he was teaching.

This album also includes a series of portraits of Lama, also taken by Carol Royce-Wilder.


Compassion for All Beings
We recently posted an excerpt from Kopan Course 10 from 1977 where Rinpoche explains how the mosquito is the cause of our enlightenment:

Concentrate on the mosquito that is biting us and think, "The numberless buddhas are born from bodhisattvas, and the bodhisattvas are born from bodhicitta. The loving compassion thought, bodhicitta, is received from each sentient being. It is received from this mosquito who is biting me now." So now, think, "My entire happiness is completely received from this mosquito." If we think like this, it is unbearable to kill the mosquito.

It is timely advice for those of us who are nearing the time for Thanksgiving celebrations. Last year our precious teacher Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche wrote a letter to Sera Monastery asking them to pray for the tens of millions of turkeys thoughtlessly and cruelly killed killed for this holiday. We have just posted this 2010 letter in Rinpoche's Online Advice Book. It is just as applicable this year and you will also find there other things Rinpoche has said about this annual ritual.

This was one of the 7 new advices posted to the Advice book. You can see a list of all the new postings here.

And speaking of new teachings on our website, we have posted selected recordings of Rinpoche's lectures from the 14th Kopan Course from 1981. Included is an oral transmission of the White Tara mantra.

49th Day of Khensur Rinpoche's Passing
As many of you know, Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup passed away at Kopan Monastery on September 7th. The 28th of October is the day commemorating the 49th day of Lama Lhundrup's passing. Kopan is most cordially inviting everyone to participate in the ceremonies of this day, either in person or from afar. If you are not attending, it is suggested that centers and individuals will perform the Medicine Buddha Puja, to create the conditions for the true and unmistaken reincarnation to return swiftly. The English translation of the prayer for the return of Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup's incarnation that was composed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche will hopefully be available soon.

Thank you so much for your kind support of the Archive. We couldn’t do it without you! And, as ever, we leave you with another previously unpublished teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Much love,
Nick Ribush

This Month's Teaching: Why Dharma?

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching during the Fifth Meditation Course, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1973.Everybody wants to be happy. Nobody wants to suffer. Yet most people are not happy and everybody suffers. Why is this? It’s because we don’t understand what happiness and suffering really are or how to experience true happiness and avoid suffering.

We call the path to happiness and freedom from suffering “Dharma.” Dharma is a Sanskrit word that means guiding or saving the mind from suffering. The less suffering we experience the greater our happiness.

Just as there are hundreds of kinds of illness and thousands of different medicines, there are countless thousands of sufferings and just as many Dharma practices to relieve them. However, the difference between the effects of chemical medicine and the effects of Dharma practice are as different as earth and sky. External medicines are only temporary solutions because they cure sicknesses only temporarily, not permanently. And such medicines often have side effects, both physical and mental. So they are not an ultimate method.

Dharma practice, on the other hand, does not have these problems. No matter how long we practice Dharma it always benefits us; we always profit. The more we practice, the purer and cleaner our body, speech and mind become, and if we practice the right Dharma properly, there’s no danger to our body or our mind.

Some people take drugs in order to escape from suffering and boredom and find happiness. The problem here is that if you keep taking a drug expecting the same effect each time, what happens is that you can go crazy and endanger your life. You become more unconscious and undisciplined in body, speech and mind. This proves that drugs, like medicine, are not an ultimate method.

So, those who meet and practice Dharma—the true path to happiness—do not have to depend on drugs, although they can be useful, just like medicine, for people who have very limited minds and understanding and no idea of Dharma, of the meaning of life, of past and future lives, and who only believe in the limited phenomena that they see in front of them.

Even looking after our daily life, protecting our body and mind from suffering in the same way animals do, is also a temporary method, not an ultimate way of eradicating the entire problem of suffering. We eat, drink, wear clothes, live in a house, work at a job, make money, but none of this gets rid of suffering forever. No matter how advanced our external progress in science and technology, material development alone can never bring us perfect, everlasting happiness.

In ancient times, when there was basically no material development, the people still had problems—problems of survival, suffering and dissatisfaction; all kinds of physical and mental problems. These days there is even more confusion, suffering and fighting; there is more suffering than peace. This proves that external development is not an ultimate way of stopping problems; it shows that something is missing. Material development alone is not enough, not sufficient.

Countries that are materially undeveloped and those that are materially advanced both have problems. This is easy to see. So what’s missing? Inner development is missing: we should not rely on material development alone. I’m not denigrating scientific development. Of course it’s good. I’m just describing what’s going on.

In short, why do the things we do—medicine, drugs, the actions of our daily life from morning to night, the things we do for only this short life from birth to death that are in essence the same as what animals do—not put an end to our temporal problems? Why do these things never destroy our suffering or its cause? It’s because the cause of suffering is not in the external conditions. The cause of suffering is in our mind.

Therefore, no matter where we go—into the ocean, under the ground, up to the moon—we cannot stop our suffering just by that. When I say “stop,” I mean completely cease, finish forever.

Normally we’re like this. Lacking wisdom, we try to stop problems without eradicating their cause, like somebody with a pain in his stomach trying to stop it by running around. Instead of getting better, all he gets is exhausted and hungry. We see this example as stupid and childish but that’s exactly how we are. We just don’t recognize what we’re doing. So wherever a sick person goes to escape his illness—by plane, train or automobile—if he doesn’t treat the cause he’ll never get better.

So what is the method we should practice? What should we do to stop all suffering and its cause? We need the inner method of Dharma. Dharma is what can destroy all suffering and its cause and, as a result, bring all happiness. Dharma is beyond compare to all the temporal methods because through the one method, the practice of Dharma, the billions of different sufferings and their cause can all be completely ceased. Forever. Just like an atomic bomb can destroy so many people and so much property all at once, whereas one small weapon can do none of this.

So that’s what’s missing from our daily life, our daily actions: following the inner method of understanding and developing our mind. Because we have not achieved the inner method we’re still not free of confusion, we still have to experience the same old sufferings again and again. Relying on external methods to extinguish suffering and its cause is like trying to cut an iron bar with a cotton thread, to give another childish example. It’s a useless, meaningless action. Instead of cutting the bar, the thread snaps. Similarly, the cause of suffering, which is internal, needs to be cut by an inner method, and that is Dharma, only Dharma.

The founder of the Dharma, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, the Enlightened One, taught three vehicles, or three basic Dharma methods: Hinayana, Mahayana Sutra (Sutrayana, or Paramitayana) and Mahayana Tantra (Mantrayana, or Vajrayana). The ultimate purpose of following these three vehicles is to achieve enlightenment, the state of highest, everlasting peace and blissful happiness, the omniscient mind that has not one single obscuration, not one single suffering. And the Enlightened One taught these three methods according to the different levels of different beings’ minds.

Although the teachings given at this course are considered to be Mahayana teachings, they’re based on and contain the teachings of the Hinayana, which are fundamental to the Vajrayana. However, the basic practice of all three vehicles is to discipline the actions of our body, speech and mind, which means to abstain from negative actions of body, speech and mind. In other words, we need to observe the law of karma. That is the basis of all three vehicles.

Why haven’t we attained the perfect, everlasting peace and happiness of enlightenment yet? Why haven’t we yet gone beyond death and rebirth? It’s because we haven’t followed the disciplines of body, speech and mind, we haven’t avoided negative actions, we haven’t used the three doors of our body, speech and mind in a meaningful way. If we can make our actions of these three doors pure, we ourselves become pure; we become holy beings with control over the negative minds of greed, ignorance and hatred.

Since attaining enlightenment, the highest, everlasting happiness, depends upon creating positive actions, virtuous actions, good karma, we need to know that this depends upon generating a positive motivation. Virtuous actions have to be created by the mind and so we see that enlightenment itself has to be created by the mind; it is only a mental creation. In order for actions to be positive, the cause of enlightenment, their creator, motivation, also has to be positive.

There are three levels of positive motivation. The first is the lowest level, which is the virtuous action of doing things in order to benefit our future lives, to rescue our future lives from suffering. The next is the intermediate level of motivation of creating actions in order to release ourselves from the uncontrolled cycle of death and rebirth, samsara, or cyclic existence. The highest level of motivation, that which makes our actions highly meaningful and most beneficial, is acting in order to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. And of course, this motivation becomes the cause of our becoming enlightened more quickly.

Some people think that by practicing meditation you can experience visions like you do from taking drugs or gain magical powers. Basically, such thoughts are merely concerned with the happiness of just this life and are generated because of attachment to temporal comfort. They have nothing to do with seeking the cause of suffering or using the right method of cutting it. Practicing meditation on the basis of attachment becomes a completely black, negative, evil action. Why is it evil? Because the creator of that action, the negative motivation, is evil. Why is it evil and negative? Because the creator of that action is attachment to the happiness of just this life. Why is attachment to the happiness of just this life evil? Because that motivation, that negative creator, obliges us to create negative actions that cause us to experience unhappiness, problems, suffering and confusion. That is the result of such actions.

For example, people in the world try to make their lives comfortable as best they can. But no matter how hard they try to be happy by making money, getting a high position, having many friends, growing a big family, having beautiful possessions like houses, cars, jewelry and so forth, no matter how hard they try to get the happiness they expect, without choice or control they always end up with suffering and problems. These are the results of negative, evil actions. Also, these are the results of the negative mind, such as the motivation of attachment to the happiness of just this life, ignorance of karma, the law of cause and effect, and anger and hatred.

As long as we meditate with these three negative motivations—attachment, ignorance and hatred—our meditation is meaningless and we’re not only wasting our time; we’re also creating the cause of suffering rather than the peace and happiness we seek.

My interest in giving these teachings is to rescue many future lives from suffering, to stop samsaric suffering, the cycle of death and rebirth, and to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. This is my purpose in giving these teachings and it should be your purpose for taking them.

Generating these three motivations for taking these teachings, thinking about them and meditating on them makes all these actions highly meaningful, beneficial and the true cause of the happiness and everlasting peace we seek. Listening to teachings in this way also makes it a Dharma action. It just depends on what you do with your mind. Anyway, the main purpose of this course is to help you discover clearly and distinctly which actions are positive, the cause of happiness, and which are negative, the cause of suffering. Understanding this, you will know which actions you should practice and which you should avoid.

Why is it that we have been suffering for so long and have still not found release from that? Why do we keep encountering one problem after another? We solve one problem and then another raises its head. We solve that and yet another comes along. Why is our life full of problems like this? It’s because we always make mistakes in our actions and have been doing so since we were born. This is the nature of suffering samsaric life, the fault of making mistakes in our actions because we lack the wisdom that differentiates between positive and negative actions. If we really desire peace, happiness and the cessation of all confusion and problems, we have to realize fully which actions should be practiced and which avoided.

Actually, it’s like this. People who believe in and are concerned about their future lives obviously have to practice Dharma. But even people who don’t believe in past and future lives, who believe in the existence of just this one life, also have to practice Dharma, also have to rely on this inner method. Basically, these people do not want confusion, problems or dissatisfaction but freedom and happiness, even though they don’t believe in Dharma, the truth, reality, or the existence of past and future lives or the law of karma. Since they desire peace and freedom from suffering, they have to eradicate their greed, ignorance and hatred, which are the source of suffering. There’s no way to do this without depending on Dharma, the inner method. There’s no other way of putting an end to suffering. So even though these people don’t believe in Dharma but in only the one life, it comes to the point that they have to practice Dharma.

This happens even though they think they don’t have problems, that they’re happy, that they don’t have to practice meditation. They think meditation is only for poor people, not for rich, accomplished people like them. They talk about confusion and problems but think that they don’t have any. In fact, they’re living in a state of suffering; they just don’t recognize or realize it.

However, our minds are full of suffering because our minds are full of ignorance. As long as we’re ignorant of karma and ultimate reality, we’re going to suffer. As long as we don’t see reality, the ultimate nature of the self and phenomena, as long as we see others and ourselves in the wrong way, we’re going to continue to suffer. That’s because the source of all suffering is the wrong conception that conceives ourselves and objects in a way that is contrary to reality, in a way that is opposite to the way in which they actually exist. So even though certain people say they don’t have any suffering, they always suffer from confusion and problems.

Therefore, the wrong conception that sees the “I” in a way that is completely opposite to its actual nature is the source of all suffering and the main thing that prevents us from being happy. As long as we don’t realize the true nature of the “I,” there’s no way for us to escape from samsara and suffering.

To sum all this up, the only way to be happy is to understand and practice Dharma. And the only way to do that is to understand the nature of the mind.

Edited from Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s introduction to the Fifth Kopan Meditation Course, November 1973, by Nicholas Ribush.