E-letter No. 106: March 2012

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Aptos, USA 2004-05 (Archive #1543)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear LYWA friends and supporters,

We are delighted to announce that our new free book, Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Bodhisattva Attitude, has arrived and is now available. We are deep in the throes of sending it out to all our members, benefactors and fellow FPMT centers, projects and services.


This book is the first title in our new series of Rinpoche's Heart Advice teachings, a series of core teachings—the "heart advice"—taken from the experiential teachings of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The main resource is Rinpoche’s major retreats, commentaries and transmissions since 2008, although other Archive materials supplement these. The goal is to preserve and make available Rinpoche’s unique style and lineage of teachings and practices.

If you are not a member or benefactor but would like a copy, please visit our website. If you are an FPMT Center and would like multiple copies, please contact us by email.

Fulfilling Rinpoche's Wishes
Ven. Roger Kunsang, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s secretary and CEO of FPMT Inc., recently told me:

What seems to be most important to Rinpoche now is having his teachings and advice available as widely as possible. Rinpoche is saying if we can't do it now how can we expect that we will get it together when Rinpoche is no longer with us. In the past it was quite different; Rinpoche would say his teaching was a waste of time and focus on Lama Yeshe. It has dramatically changed now. Rinpoche wants his teachings published as soon as possible.

To us, this was a most welcome surprise. As Ven. Roger says, in the past Rinpoche always downplayed the importance of his teachings. Nonetheless, as LYWA supporters will know, we've felt they're extremely important and have put considerable effort into recording, transcribing and editing them. Consequently there are hundreds of thousands of copies of Rinpoche's books in print and thousands of pages of edited transcript on our website, freely available to all.

The timing of Rinpoche’s expressed wish is interesting as not only have we just launched our Heart Advice Series but we are also poised to publish the next titles in our Publishing the FPMT Lineage (PFL) series this year—Rinpoche's teachings on the eight worldly dharmas (in a book called How to Practice Dharma), the perfect human rebirth and impermanence and death—as well as his teachings on emptiness.

When Ven. Roger asked Denma Lochö Rinpoche the other day what we could do to ensure Rinpoche’s quick recovery he said,

The students and centers really need to work according to Rinpoche's wishes. Whatever Rinpoche has advised for them to do, it's important to follow Rinpoche's advice. The main thing is that everyone in the organization should really strive to fulfill Rinpoche's advice.

For us, that's clearly pushing ahead as quickly as we can to make more of Rinpoche’s teachings available. For you, that could be helping us do it. Our main undertaking is PFL, our project to publish all of Rinpoche’s commentaries on the lamrim. We have been offered a matching grant of $100,000 a year to accomplish this, so if you would like to contribute to this, every dollar you give will be doubled.

Please make your donation here or mail us a check, and specify that it is for our PFL project. Thank you so much. We appreciate your support.

What's New On Our Website
We have just posted a line-by-line commentary by Lama Zopa Rinpoche on the prayer Calling the Guru from Afar, by Pabongka Rinpoche. This teaching was given at Kachoe Dechen Ling, Aptos, in the winter of 2004-05. An excerpt from this commentary is included below as this month's e-letter teaching.

Read also Rinpoche's wonderful advice to a student where Rinpoche explains the dangers of the self-cherishing thought and the great benefits of cherishing all other sentient beings. Rinpoche comments on a line from The Wheel of Sharp Weapons:

"Put all the blame on oneself"— this means our own self-cherishing thought. Every day, practice mindfulness so that whatever we encounter—whether it is some problem—as quickly as possible, think this came from our own self-cherishing thought; that this is the result of negative actions done in the past by the self-cherishing thought. This means no other sentient being is giving us harm; our self-cherishing thought is giving us harm, it comes from our own mind.

Other new advices include Rinpoche's comments on The importance of the Dharma center; advice on practices for life, including an extensive explanation of mandala offerings and instructions for guru yoga practice; and advice on how to purify the negative karma of killing.

These are just a few of the new advices added to Rinpoche's online advice book; see here for a list of all new advices added in March.

New Addition to our Image Gallery
\"We have just posted a new album to our online Image Gallery with images from Lama Yeshe's trip to Sweden in 1983.

Lama began his trip in Stockholm then continued on to the island of Vaddo, where Lama taught on the three principal aspects of the path to a group of seventy students.

There are many great images of Lama while he is teaching, where it is easy to see Lama's personality shining through.

Other News 
In early April we will be receiving a shipment of reprints of three of our most popular free books: Lama Yeshe's Becoming Your Own Therapist and Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Virtue and Reality and How Things Exist. If you have somehow missed out on these before we’d be happy to send any or all of them to you. They are also available as eBooks; see our website for links.

Also, we have just posted the prayer Lama Zopa Rinpoche composed for the Quick Return of Khensur Geshe Lama Lhundrup Rigsel, the retired abbot of Kopan Monastery, who passed away last September.

Thank you again for your kind support of our work for the benefit of others. We are all so fortunate to be able to help other sentient beings receive Dharma teachings, the solution to suffering and the true cause of happiness.

Much love, 
Nick Ribush

This Month's Teaching: Commentary on Calling the Guru From Afar

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching during a month-long course at Chenrezig Institute, Australia, 1976.This first stanza is the key to guru devotion, the essence, the most essential teaching on guru devotion, the very point. All the rest comes from this as an elaboration or a creation; it is the creator, the very heart. Without understanding this there is no way to understand the words, such as the quotation from Sangye Yeshe, “Before Guru there is not even the name Buddha.” Also when we recite refuge in the Guru Puja, why “Namo Gurubhya” comes first, rather than Buddha coming before guru, or why we say guru-buddha and not buddha-guru, is from this first stanza, the commentary. When you understand this you understand why guru comes first. It is not just because guru is kinder than Buddha, which is part of the explanation and true but is not the only reason.

In the early Kopan times, Lama used to do examinations of the Sangha. One Sangha member would be singled out to sit below the throne, with no previous mention of the day’s subject. That time there were only about 30 or 40 Kopan monks and they would also be there. All the students sat in the gompa as that Sangha member was questioned and debated by Lama. Once, when Lama Yeshe and I stayed a long time in Tushita in Dharamsala, Jampa Zangpo was questioned. I think I put the question, “Why does the guru come first?” There was one geshe helping Jampa Zangpo; the geshe said, “Because the guru is kinder than the buddhas.” I think there is a much deeper reason—I am sure the geshe has that understanding and didn’t get to complete the answer; this is the reason.

I don’t know how this verse is translated into English, Dawa Dondup originally translated it and Ven. George re-translated it.

It is talking about the very essence of guru, the very meaning, what we ultimately have to realize, by introducing the ultimate guru, as in conventional and ultimate guru. Recently in Mongolia Kyabje Denma Lochö Rinpoche mentioned that Pabongka Rinpoche’s explanation is the clearest one, no other lama has explained so clearly how all the buddhas are one in essence, how they are all one. Pabongka said, “All the sentient beings become one in essence when they become enlightened.”

The Maitreya teaching, Ornament of the Sutras, gives examples like the mandala of the sun: “The unimaginable numberless beams of the sun are mixed and always engaged in one activity.” That means illuminating the darkness of the world. Also in the very center of that which is uncontaminated—the dharmakaya—innumerable buddhas are mixed and do one activity, illumination of the wisdom—the dharmakaya. That means illuminating sentient beings’ minds, similarly to how the sun has innumerable beams engaged in one activity.

Then it gives another example: “As the water goes below the earth to different places, to the nagas and so forth, the water also becomes different, and is enjoyed by the small creatures abiding in it. When the water goes into the ocean all this water is in one place, it becomes one water and the activity is one. It is enjoyed and used by the many creatures abiding in the water.”

From different mountains and various sources the water flows to the ocean and becomes one, doing one activity, and is always enjoyed by the sentient beings living in the water. This is like before sentient beings had separate minds but when they become enlightened, like all the water flowing to the ocean, they become one.

Then, just as from that ocean water goes out to the various rivers etc., similarly, all the buddhas are one in the dharmakaya and from dharmakaya, like innumerable beams emitting from a single sun and engaging in one activity, numberless forms of buddhas and deities, all the different transformations, nirmanakaya and sambhogakaya aspects, manifest. Also, when we cannot see those aspects of buddha, the deities in their nirmanakaya aspect, they manifest into ordinary forms. To guide sentient beings the deities manifest in their various aspects, nirmanakaya aspect, numberless buddhas to work for the benefit of sentient beings but at the moment we cannot see them in the aspect of buddha and receive direct guidance to directly save us from lower realms’ suffering, from samsara and from lower nirvana; to bring to enlightenment from the dangers of samsara and the peace of nirvana, so therefore they manifest as ordinary beings. Our minds are very obscured so they manifest as ordinary beings, in the aspect of virtue.

Because our minds are obscured and cannot see the pure form of buddha, the only way left to directly guide us to liberation and enlightenment is by showing the ordinary form, the definition of which is “having mistakes”—that is what His Holiness explained during the Dharma Celebration. In the commentary of Guru Puja that was requested in the second Dharma Celebration I think, not sure, second or third, His Holiness said the definition of ordinary aspect is having mistakes. That means having delusions and suffering of body and mind, having aggregates in nature of suffering, making mistakes in actions. Only with this ordinary form of the virtuous friend can [the buddhas] directly guide oneself. That which is ordinary form exactly according to one’s own impure mind and mistaken thoughts, only with this form, having all these mistakes and suffering, able to directly guide by giving instructions, the three levels of vows—pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantra—oral transmissions, tantric initiations and commentaries, explanations of tantric teachings and instructions. Not only teaching but through various means directly guiding one, to liberate from the lower realms, save from samsara and even lower nirvana and bring to enlightenment.

If this ordinary aspect is not shown, without this, one is totally guideless in samsara, totally lost, like worms on the ground and in the water, no opportunity to practice Dharma, to be liberated. Or like a baby left in the forest in the night, dark, no light and surrounded by wild animals such as tigers, and other dangers, not only guideless and totally lost but in great danger. Or left in the desert where there is nothing, full of dangers such as poisonous snakes and scorpions. Not only lost but tormented by all the sufferings of samsara. So therefore this ordinary aspect is the most precious in one’s life.

So looking positively at whatever mistake appears as a theatrical act have a pure recognition from one’s own side; with devotional mind seeing as pure, as buddha, those negative thoughts such as heresy or anger don’t arise and one is able to obey every single word without doubt. This way one doesn’t create obstacles from disobeying or breaking advice. With devotional mind it is very easy; even if there is an appearance of mistakes, understanding or recognizing that is buddha. Heresy and anger don’t arise so one doesn’t create obstacles and there is no fear and no difficulty in obeying; one obeys immediately. This devotion causes one to receive blessings of the guru in the heart and then one is able to obey immediately, without any hardship or difficulty in one’s mind; one is able to have realizations of the path to enlightenment. Then able to cease the gross and subtle defilements, able to achieve the two kayas: dharmakaya, then rupakaya to manifest, rupakaya, which is the aspect to benefit sentient beings. Then able to liberate numberless sentient beings from the ocean of samsaric suffering and bring them to enlightenment. That is the main goal of guru devotion practice, why we should want to practice guru devotion. This is the ultimate reason. If one wishes to accomplish this aim one practices guru devotion.

Simply, if one doesn’t want profit, happiness, one doesn’t need to practice guru devotion, but if one wants, desires happiness, desires profit, then one needs to practice. So basically it depends on the individual, it is democratic, up to the individual. If the wish is to achieve happiness, the greatest profit is enlightenment and being able to enlighten all sentient beings.

Why should one liberate and enlighten all sentient beings? Because that is the purpose of life, purpose of living, because one receives all the past, present and future happiness from sentient beings. Other times it was difficult to repay their kindness so this time, while one has received a perfect human rebirth, has every opportunity to practice Dharma, has met the virtuous friend, this time having the Dharma wisdom eye, here is the opportunity to repay the kindness of sentient beings, free them from suffering and bring them to enlightenment.

This is Lama Tsongkhapa’s special technique, when you see mistakes in the guru, instead of losing faith, utilizing using them to develop guru devotion. There are two techniques here talking about the same thing. One thing is thinking, “There must be a purpose for them, to benefit me and sentient beings, purposely doing that.” That becomes a cause to develop guru devotion instead of losing it. The other one is recognizing the mistakes that appear to you as mistakes of your own hallucinatory mind. That is similar to the understanding of that [virtuous friend] as buddha; what mistake appears is according to one’s own karma. That protects oneself from negative thoughts and karma, obstacles to achieve realizations and enlightenment, and enlighten the numberless sentient beings. It becomes a two-way technique or method to develop guru devotion.

So the conclusion is that this aspect is most precious. One should think over and over how precious it is, meditate on this. Then the kindness of the guru, the kindest, this aspect is the most important, in order to guide oneself, to save from the lower realms, samsara and lower nirvana. So is most kind—repeat over and over—most kind.

As I mentioned before, from the ocean come the rivers that flow to different places. From this dharmakaya, like the example of the innumerable sunbeams engaging in one action, from this dharmakaya manifest… all the numberless deity forms of buddha can’t directly guide oneself because one doesn’t have the pure karma to see the pure aspect of buddha, only impure karma, so from the dharmakaya ocean—all the buddhas’ holy minds mixed as one—this manifests.

Then later, the mind becomes more purified as one proceeds on the path, achieves the great path of merit seeing the nirmanakaya, then the right-seeing path seeing sambhogakaya aspect, then seeing the form of buddha, the mind is more purified as it generates realizations; then able to guide in the form of deities, in the form of buddha.

So like an ocean, that dharmakaya, all the buddhas’ holy minds mixed, become one in essence—that is absolute guru. Even those aspects of deity, buddha in nirmanakaya aspect, that one sees, still they are manifestations of guru because they came from dharmakaya, absolute guru. Before you couldn’t see, so the ordinary aspect guided to purify one’s mind then, as you actualize the path by receiving blessings, later you are able to see in deity’s form. So all the buddhas’ holy minds mixed in dharmakaya, in one essence, dharmakaya.

Therefore, as I mentioned in the refuge, now you can understand Pabongka Rinpoche. The activities of the holy body or aspect: this is Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, this is Manjushri, this is Maitreya Buddha, this is Tara, this is Heruka, Yamantaka—this is everything, all the buddhas. Aspect is all the buddhas’ aspects; actions, all the buddhas’ actions, body; speech is all those numberless buddhas’ speech, one. So it is easy to think like that.

Many creatures are living and enjoying in the water; in the small waters, many small ones enjoying, then so many abide in big water, always enjoying. Likewise, there are many sentient beings. With these various manifestations, the sentient beings receive guidance, they are enjoying, they receive happiness, by revealing Dharma. With various methods making them engage in virtue and then enjoy happiness.

It is mentioned, “Tantra equaling the glorified sky, all these transmigratory beings, possessor of enlightenment, it appears like the actor, or like a good painting, so by going back, what it is, is only one, the great bliss, dharmakaya. But that one great bliss—dharmakaya, absolute guru—does many acts.” So like an actor comes out as a king, then as a servant, it is just one person but changes the outside form, as a king, as a minister, appearing in many and varied forms. Then the paint, when you make a painting, one color comes in various shapes. For example, white color but when you paint it comes in various shapes, such as flower shapes; the white color takes many different forms.

So the dharmakaya is like that. This one thing, dharmakaya, absolute guru, acts in many different [guises]. I think probably what it means here is similar to what Pabongka explained. All the transmigratory beings when they become enlightened are one, possessor of enlightenment, dharmakaya; then from there come out various forms like actors on the stage or like many beautiful paintings. Then it talks about the meaning: the only one, what is called great bliss.

You can read the entire commentary here. This teaching was given at Kachoe Dechen Ling, Aptos, in the winter of 2004-05 and was transcribed and lightly edited by Ven. Thubten Labdron.