E-letter No. 104: January 2012

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear LYWA friends and supporters,

Thank you, as ever, for your kind interest in and support of the Archive. And special thanks to all those kind friends who donated to our year-end appeal. We couldn't do our work for the benefit of all without your help!

Publishing update
\"Our next free book, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Bodhisattva Attitude, is finally in design and should be in print by this time next month. We will automatically send it to all members and benefactors.

For the first time, we will simultaneously publish our new title as an ebook. If you're a member or benefactor and would prefer to receive your free copy in electronic format, please let us know. This will help us keep down our mailing costs, which continue to rise.

What's New On Our website
As usual, we have posted a number of new advices this month in Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book, including one on the Benefits of Prayer Wheels. Rinpoche explains that you should set your motivation by generating great compassion for each and every sentient being, and that:

This motivation is the best motivation, the best Dharma, because we generate the mind of bodhicitta, from which we collect limitless skies of merit, skies of good luck and virtue. With this motivation, whatever we do, such as reciting OM MANI PADME HUM; each recitation is for the happiness of all sentient beings and with each mantra we collect limitless skies of merit, good karma, virtue and good luck. Each mantra becomes the cause of enlightenment and by the way becomes the cause to be free from the oceans of samsaric suffering. By the way we receive happiness of future lives, so we also receive success in this life, no question. This happens without even thinking, it just happens by the way.

There are several sources for prayer wheels; we recommend those made by Chuck Thomas.

Another new advice, on Ways to Benefit Animals, if this month's eletter teaching below. These are only a few of the many new advices posted to the Online Advice Book this month; you can see a list of all the new postings here.

We've recently added a practice translated by Rinpoche on how to control earthquakes, which is also beneficial for protection from radiation. See also the FPMT website for more of Rinpoche’s advice on similar and other topics.

The number of foreign translations of the teachings of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche continues to grow. This past month we posted the Portuguese translation of Lama Yeshe's Make Your Mind an Ocean, and the Vietnamese translation of Daily Purification: A Short Vajrasattva Practice. Both are available as pdfs on our website.

We are grateful to the translators of these two titles, and encourage others who want to translate our texts to get in touch with us. Visit our website to see a list of all known translations of LYWA publications. If you know of more, please let us know.

Watch and Listen
\" We have a couple of videos showing in the "Spirit Enlightened" film festival. This is an online film festival with a mission to promote consciousness about human culture and the environment. You can watch parts of Anxiety in the Nuclear Age and Freedom Through Understanding.

On the LYWA website, listen online and read along with the unedited transcripts to teachings by Lama Zopa Rinpoche given in Malaysia in February 2009 on Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga. Included in these excerpts is an oral transmission of Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga and the Three Principal Aspects of the Path.

Call for VolunteersWe have been very fortunate over the years to have the assistance of many volunteers who have offered so much, from office help, to technology upgrades, to fundraising. We are so grateful for all the ways we are supported by our friends in the Dharma community. In the next few months we could use help with:

  • Filemaker database design
  • OCR scanning

If you are able to help us with any of the above, please contact Jen Barlow.

The Director's Travels
I'm happy to inform our Singapore members and friends that I’ll be in Singapore again, from February 24 through March 12, with a side trip to Kuala Lumpur March 2 through 5. I’ll be staying at Amitabha Buddhist Centre and would love to meet anybody who has the time and inclination. Please email me if you would like to get together. Thank you.

Also, I’m on the committee for Rimay Monlam, a non-sectarian gathering June 1 – 4 this year at the Garrison Institute, New York. Please sign up on the Rimay Monlam website if you would like to attend. This is the first of what could become an annual event.

Thank you again for your kindness and generosity.

Much love, 
Nick Ribush

This Month's Teaching: Three Ways to Benefit Animals

Lama Zopa Rinpoche doing mandala offering during the 9th Meditation Course, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1976.A student who cares for a colony of stray cats advised Rinpoche that she helps the cats by giving them Dharma names, chanting mantras and blowing on their food and water, chanting the names of the buddhas to them, fastening door mantras over the doorways on their shelters and food station, and circumambulating with them around holy objects. She asked Rinpoche if there is anything else she can do to help the cats.

Dear Anna,
There are three ways to benefit the animals. I’m very happy to hear you’re caring for the sentient beings, the cats. Some people do like cats, puppies and snakes. I had a snake and at Buxa I had a big turtle for some years. It stayed under my bed for months, but I didn’t know how to feed it. I had no idea, so I fed it milk and water. It would leave the milk and drink the water. This was like listening to the news or to people gossiping and taking the essence.

With lamrim, we come to understand that everybody is looking for happiness, that they’re not satisfied. They’re looking for the happiness only of this life, the five sense pleasures, and they're not even looking for the happiness that comes with meditative experience. With shamatha, there is the rapturous ecstasy of body and mind, then with the Six Yogas of Naropa there’s greater bliss, greater and greater bliss. With enlightenment, the bliss is fully complete—all the hallucinated minds and negative views are totally purified and everything appears pure, even kaka. But this doesn’t mean that Buddha doesn’t see suffering; Buddha sees how sentient beings are suffering, because his compassion is fully developed.

The happiness that common people in the world have is very, very ordinary; it is only in the nature of suffering. If we analyze, we find it is only suffering; we don’t find pure happiness. There is no comparison to Dharma happiness, those points in tantra and sutra.

Also, of course, there’s the happiness of all the future lives, not just one. There is the happiness of all those lives, not just the happiness of this life, which is for a very short time—a few years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes. More important is ultimate happiness, the cessation of karma and delusions, and even the seed of delusion. This is everlasting happiness, the blissful state of peace. Then there is the peerless happiness of enlightenment, with the cessation of the gross and subtle defilements and the completion of all the realizations. This is the most important happiness. We’re then able to help others because we have completed the mind training in compassion and we have wisdom without the slightest mistake, so we know exactly how to help others. That’s why we can liberate the numberless sentient beings—the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, asuras, suras and intermediate state beings. We can free them from suffering and bring them to enlightenment. Therefore, achieving enlightenment is the most important thing.

But our life is not completely in the hands of Buddha. Since all the happiness up to enlightenment depends on good karma, therefore we have the responsibility to work hard. We can’t put our life in the hands of Buddha, the way that Christians put their lives in the hands of God. Buddha’s power and sentient beings’ karma are equal in power. Even though a qualified doctor can give the correct diagnosis and prescribe the correct medicine, if the patient doesn’t take the medicine, he can’t recover from his sickness. It is similar here.

So that’s why Buddha, from his side, gave the whole path to enlightenment. There are the hundred volumes of the Kangyur and the Tengyur, the commentaries by the Indian pandits and yogis, as well as the commentaries by Lama Tsongkhapa and many enlightened beings in Tibet. They were not describing a separate path not revealed by Buddha. Buddha was taught by his guru, then he practiced and achieved enlightenment. The yogis and pandits in India and an unbelievable number from Tibet, like stars in the sky, also practiced and achieved enlightenment. But from sentient beings’ side, they need to put effort into listening, reflecting and meditating on the path. Otherwise, they won’t achieve enlightenment or even liberation from samsara; there will be no realizations at all. So far, even those sentient beings who studied Buddha’s teachings have changed from cherishing the I to cherishing others and have achieved enlightenment. Numberless buddhas have happened, but they didn’t happen inherently, without effort. So, we have to understand this.

In Buddhism, we basically have to put effort into practicing what Buddha explained; how Buddha achieved the path. So, it is basically because of buddhanature that sentient beings can be free from every suffering and achieve enlightenment. So it’s good to help sentient beings when we can, even animals. We can’t see hell beings and hungry ghosts, but we can see animals and help them with bodhicitta, by cherishing and serving others and also with the practice of the six paramitas: charity, morality, patience, enthusiastic perseverance, concentration and wisdom.

So, the best benefit for the animals is to take them around holy objects: statues, stupas and scriptures. You can make a stupa, and people who are making many tsa-tsas will have a place to put them. In your garden or your house, the sitting room, wherever there is space, you should set up a nice table with another smaller table on top and another smaller table on top, so that it goes up. Put many holy objects (statues, stupas, scriptures) on the tables and put tsa-tsas inside. Make the table a little up from the ground. It’s good to fill up the table with many tsa-tsas, nicely arranged, not like putting garbage in a garbage can. This helps to purify the negative karma collected from beginningless rebirths and collects extensive merit. It plants the seed of enlightenment. Just seeing the holy objects collects unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable merits. So, try to have many holy objects set up inside. Not just on the outside but many on the inside. On the outside around the stupa you can put many statues, scriptures and tsa-tsas nicely lined up. On the top you can put a Buddha statue (Buddha’s holy body), a scripture (Buddha’s holy speech) and a stupa (Buddha’s holy mind).

If you have a stupa, the dogs and cats can go around it. If the holy objects are high, hold the animals at the same level and take them around, as much as you can. For example, Kurukulla Center has a stupa full of tsa-tsas and other holy objects, so you can bring the animals every day and take them around the stupa. Each time you do this, you bring them closer to enlightenment and not only that, liberation from samsara and the happiness of future lives.

Karma is expandable, so there will be happiness in hundreds, thousands, of future lives. Do this as many times as possible, if not every day. If you make the stupa at your house, you can do it every day. It is best to take the animals around the stupa. Other people can also bring animals to take around the stupa, creating the cause of enlightenment, liberation from samsara and the happiness of future lives. It also causes them to not be reborn in the lower realms, to not have fear and all that.

So, each time we take the animals around there are all these benefits. It’s most amazing, most amazing. We can’t imagine the temporary and ultimate happiness. There are unimaginable, unimaginable causes to achieve the whole path to enlightenment. It also helps us to achieve full enlightenment, liberation from samsara, the happiness of future lives and the happiness of this life. Detachment from this life’s happiness comes by the way, without any expectation of that. When we’re helping them, they’re also helping to bring us to enlightenment.

Generate a bodhicitta motivation and take them around, chanting mantras. With our speech, loudly recite mantras and prayers.

The second way to benefit animals is for people to do mantras, such as the five powerful mantras to purify negative karma, and to blow over water in buckets. The water can be sprinkled on birds, and put on fish, chickens and worms. This purifies their negative karma and they get a higher rebirth. This water can be put on everybody. After blowing on the water, it can be sprinkled even on the heads of human beings.

The third way to help the cats and other animals is to chant mantras loudly in the ears of those who can hear. It helps to leave imprints for them to achieve realizations of the path to enlightenment.

These three methods I’m telling you about are for the cats, but you can also buy animals like chickens from the place where they are going to be killed, then liberate them, free them. Big animals need to be looked after or given to somebody to look after. Chickens eat worms and other sentient beings, so they need to be kept in a place with flooring where there are no worms, and given grain two or four times a day. If you feed them like that, it’s unbelievably helpful, because then they don’t create negative karma. Otherwise, they eat many worms. Sheep and goats don’t eat other animals.

If you make something like a stupa at your house, it’s easy and it helps the whole family to collect merit by doing circumambulations. Your friends and neighbours can also go around it, so it helps very much. You can also do your commitments and prayers going around the stupa, so there is no danger of feeling sleepy. You can purify negative karma, the cause of suffering and so on. With your speech, you can recite the Thirty-five Buddhas’ practice or mantras such as the Vajrasattva mantra. You can purify many, many eons of negative karma, obstacles to enlightenment and to liberation from samsara. Going around the stupa will be of unbelievable benefit to your whole family and to outside people, even non-believers.

For animals such as dogs, cats and birds, you can bless their water before giving it to them, praying for them to purify the negative karma collected during beginningless rebirths and to create the cause for them to actualize bodhicitta and achieve liberation and enlightenment as quickly as possible. From that drink, they will get all that benefit. It is the same with food, recite mantras and blow on the food, then each time it becomes purification for them. So that’s one very, very good thing to do.

These holy objects help other sentient beings easily purify inconceivable negative karma and create the causes of happiness, merit and extensive happiness, which definitely brings them to enlightenment quickly. They create extensive merit, allowing them quickly to realize the path, so it also helps them to improve their life very quickly; from a very difficult life with many problems—business problems, relationship problems and many other things—to an easy life, having perfect enjoyments, external and inner prosperity at the same time, realizations of the path and a very happy, peaceful and inspiring death.

Holy objects have unbelievable power from which we collect limitless skies of merit and achieve all happiness—all the temporal samsaric pleasures and ultimate happiness: liberation and enlightenment. Even if we don’t know or cannot teach Dharma, if we build these holy objects then not only in this life but after this life, wherever we are in the six realms, for however many years these holy objects last, every day they liberate sentient beings from the lower realms and samsara, by planting the seeds of liberation and enlightenment and purifying their minds, helping them to create merit.

Peace and happiness for ourselves and the world are not independent. They do not exist from their own side; they are dependant arising, depending on causes and conditions. The causes are the great virtuous thoughts of non-ignorance, non-anger, non-attachment, the good heart, compassion, loving kindness, non-self-centered mind and so forth. Actions motivated by these pure attitudes become virtuous and the cause of happiness. Holy objects such as statues, stupas and the scriptures of the Buddha become a support for that condition; for peace and happiness for ourselves, for others and the world.

Generally for an action to become virtuous and the cause of happiness, the activity needs to be motivated by a virtuous mind, unstained by ignorance, anger or attachment. Only then does the action become virtuous. So, first we need to put a lot of effort into making our attitude pure, so that the actions of daily life such as working, eating, sitting, walking, sleeping and so forth become virtuous.

With holy objects such as statues, stupas and scriptures, we do not have to have a mind unstained by anger, ignorance or attachment to create merit. For human beings or even animals, simply seeing the holy object becomes the cause to achieve inconceivable awakening and enlightenment, by purifying so many defilements. The special advantage is that just by their existence these holy objects make it easy for us ordinary living beings to create merit.

You can read the remainder of Rinpoche's letter in the Online Advice Book.