E-letter No. 13: April 2004

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal 1974 (Archive #028)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear Friends,

Here we are with our thirteenth e-letter. Thank you for reading them. Here’s some Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive news for you.

We’re in the process of transferring our collection of Lama Yeshe videos to DVD, per the kind help of Venerable Bob Alcorn in Aptos, California. This is really exciting. We’re laying the transcript down across the bottom of the picture as subtitles to make it easy for people to understand what Lama’s saying. The first two programs are nearly ready to go into production: The Three Principal Aspects of the Path and Introduction to Tantra, which teachings appear in the book The Essence of Tibetan Buddhism. Many more will follow. Stay tuned.

Thanks to the kindness of an Archive member, who is sponsoring the book in memory of her late grandparents, we are about to reprint Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s wonderful teaching, Virtue and Reality, a commentary on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Three Principal Aspects of the Path. It should be ready in a month or so; until then you can always read it on-line. We thank Laura Linscomb and, of course, all our other benefactors, without whom we would not be able to spread the Dharma for the sake of all sentient beings in this way.

Speaking of Archive membership, our drive for more members at $1,000 continues. It’s a lot of money but over one hundred people have signed up so far, so we’re on the way to our target of six hundred members. To see why we need these funds and what the benefits of membership are, please click here.

Our Anthology of teachings by some of the greatest lamas of our time is in the final editing process. Please click here for details of that forthcoming work.

We’ve been sending out Lama Yeshe’s new book, The Peaceful Stillness of the Silent Mind, to members, benefactors, FPMT centers and to those who’ve requested it. We’ve had some wonderful reactions already. Unfortunately, we probably won’t be shipping it in bulk to Europe and Australia until Virtue and Reality and the Anthology have been completed, that is, not for a few more months yet. Freight costs are so expensive, even by ocean, that we need to minimize them by shipping several titles together. In the meantime, if you would like to read the book, you’ll find it on our Web site.

We’ve recently posted a series of teachings on our website by Lama Zopa Rinpoche titled Perfect Freedom: The Great Value of Being Human, a lightly edited transcript of teachings given in 1984 in Dharamsala, India. This series was previously published in booklet format by Wisdom Publications, and includes topics such as “Generating Bodhicitta”, “Why We Need to Practice Tantra” and “Mahayana Thought Transformation”.

And, saving the best for last, as usual, here’s another great teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. This excerpt is from the Sixth Kopan Course (Spring 1974), the entirety of which has just been posted on our website.

Much love,

Nick Ribush

Meditating on the Perfect Human Rebirth

The holy profound teaching that is the subject of this discourse comes from the Mahayana teaching that leads fortunate beings into enlightenment. This teaching was well expounded by the great philosophers, Nagarjuna and Asanga. It is a holy profound teaching, containing the essence of the holy thoughts of the great bodhisattva Atisha and Guru Tsongkhapa. It includes all the 84,000 teachings shown by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, which means that there is no teaching that is not included in the gradual path; there is no such Buddhadharma separate that is not included in the teachings of the graduated path. This also includes each and every existent phenomenon—there is nothing that is not explained in the Dharma. Since the entire Buddhadharma is included in the teaching of the graduated path, all existence is also explained or included in the teachings on the graduated path.

So anyway, the teaching is set up for the practice of one person’s achievement of enlightenment. This graduated path, the path through which all the past enlightened beings received buddhahood, has four outlines:

1. In order to show its pure reference, the preeminent qualities of the authors.
2. In order to inspire devotion in the teaching, the preeminent qualities of the teaching.
3. Then, the way of explaining and listening to the teaching, which has two preeminent qualities.
4. Then, the way of leading the actual disciple on the path of enlightenment. This last point has two outlines, which are:

a. The way of following the guru, who is the root of the path.
b. Second, how to train the mind in the graduated path to enlightenment by following the guru. This has two outlines, which are:

i. Persuading the mind to extract the essence from the perfect human rebirth.
ii. How to extract the essence from the perfect human rebirth.

Here we are talking about the part of persuading the mind to extract the essence.

The great usefulness of the perfect human rebirth can be divided into three categories:

1. It’s useful in obtaining the temporal purpose.
2. It’s useful in obtaining the ultimate purpose.
3. It’s greatly useful in extracting the essence of every second, minute, hour and day, such as when we’re drinking a cup of tea, lighting a candle or incense—how greatly useful the perfect human rebirth is to create merit, even in such a short time.

This perfect human rebirth is the best basis for taking ordination. Receiving enlightenment in the lifetime is possible with the perfect human body that we have received in this specific rebirth, our present body. Therefore, it is necessary to carry on practicing this meditation until you have received the experience that it is unbearable to waste this perfect human rebirth for even a minute, or half a minute; feeling that it is such a great waste, such great waste. This is what happens when you deeply, really, fully discover the great usefulness of the perfect human rebirth. You feel like you have wasted a sack of gold; thrown a big sack of gold into the water. Generally, like that feeling, there is such great, great upset—as if you had a precious, most expensive diamond and lost it. You’d feel terribly upset if that happened.

There’s a story from Tibet. One day a person who had never tasted fish was given some fish to eat. Since he felt this might be his one and only opportunity, he ate too much and started to vomit. Not wanting to waste the precious fish, he tied a rope around his neck. Somebody saw him doing this and asked why. He said, “It is a great waste, the fish that I received I vomited, it is great waste, so I am taking care.” So this is just to give you a rough idea of what it feels like to receive the realization of this meditation.

What is the use of feeling this, of having this experience? The purpose of this experience is to stop you from creating negative karma and to make you continuously create merit. You can understand that just from the outline: “Persuading the mind to extract the essence.” “Essence” means working for enlightenment; that is taking the essence from this perfect human rebirth. The outline itself is extremely tasty.

For example, a person who has a most expensive, precious jewel takes really care. No matter whether the person is here in Nepal and the jewel is in America, wherever he is, he is always thinking of his jewel and taking the best care of it. He doesn’t even tell other people about it because he’s so worried that it might get stolen. Why does the person try to take care so much? Because he feels that the jewel is so precious, so useful. As it works with material possessions, the same thing, a similar feeling, arises through this meditation.

But why is there no need to do meditate on the jewel to feel like this while it’s necessary to meditate on the perfect human rebirth to generate the same kind of feeling? Why? Why is it so?

Answer: There’s no need to meditate on the jewel because it is always in your mind; if you own one, you’re always thinking about it. But bodhicitta is continuously going out of the mind—mine anyway.

Rinpoche: Terribly good! But what I mean is this. Usually for a material jewel, a diamond, there is no need to do meditation in order to discover the preciousness, the usefulness of the diamond, these things. But to feel the usefulness of the perfect human rebirth, to really discover this, one has to do meditation, and this feeling, this realization, has to be received through meditation. So what I mean is, why there is need to make meditation?

Answer: Tomorrow, today, the jewel can be blown up, stolen and then the usefulness of jewel is no more. Right now we have a perfect human rebirth and we have it now, it is very precious, so we should concentrate on that because its benefits are all-encompassing whereas those of the jewel are so few.

Rinpoche: Sounds interesting. But I can see, yes, good, good, good. But if I say, the jewel, even if it is lost, it is still useful isn’t it? It still has value, doesn’t it?

Answer: If you don’t realize you’ve got a perfect human rebirth, you wouldn’t use it; you’ll waste it. If you don’t meditate and realize it, you won’t use it.

Rinpoche: Yes, so why is there the need to meditate?

Answer: To break old habits of mind. You have to meditate to realize it’s more important, something different.

Rinpoche: That’s right, but that is the answer to the question, “Why one should feel great usefulness?” But why do we need to meditate to realize the value of the perfect human rebirth?

Answer: We can see the value of a jewel with the eyes we have been using all our life, but we can’t see the value of the perfect human rebirth without developing another kind of eye.

Rinpoche: Perfect! I think he is really an enlightened being! I think yesterday he wanted to receive enlightenment for himself, and this morning he received it! That’s right, that’s right. That’s very clear. The usefulness of the jewel can be seen by eye, but this kind of vision is extremely limited. Generally, the usefulness and value of material jewels are limited whereas the usefulness and value of the perfect human rebirth are most profound.

The usefulness and value of the perfect human rebirth cannot be seen by the eye; they are not the object of the visual sense. By selling a jewel you can’t buy a perfect human rebirth. By selling a jewel, the material you can buy with the proceeds has a limited value. But the result that can be received through the perfect human rebirth is so profound. Profound to whom? It is profound to ignorant beings’ minds, because it is hard for them to see it, to understand, to fully comprehend.

What interrupts the realization of that profound subject is ignorance; therefore, we need to meditate. By meditating continuously, we can gradually diminish the ignorance that hinders the discovery of how truly useful the perfect human rebirth is. At the same time that our ignorance gradually diminishes, our perception of the value and usefulness of our perfect human rebirth gets deeper and deeper, stronger and stronger, more and more true. That’s how it works.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching during the Sixth Meditation Course, March–April, 1974, at Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu, Nepal. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Nicholas Ribush. Access the entire transcript on the Archive website.