E-letter No. 143: April 2015

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 for your interest in and support of the Archive. I'm sure you have heard of the devastating earthquake that occurred in and around Kopan Monastery and Kathmandu, Nepal. Read on for reports from Kopan and others in the area.

Just like everybody we know, we were devastated by the news coming out of Nepal, especially as our precious guru, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, whose kindness is impossible to repay, was there. Rinpoche had just returned to Kopan two days before the earthquake hit and we were extremely anxious for news. Fortunately Rinpoche and all our other friends in Nepal were unharmed; so were the 800 Sangha of Kopan Monastery and Nunnery. However, there was significant damage to many of the buildings.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kopan leading pujas after Nepal earthquakes, 2015.FPMT have been posting regular updates from Nepal after the earthquake on their website. Ven Sarah Thresher, who is at Kopan with Rinpoche, has been sharing photos from Kopan. Here you can see Rinpoche leading prayers, teaching and giving transmissions to those at Kopan on the day of the earthquake. Ven Sarah reports:

Dear friends, We are really the lucky ones. From shortly after the earthquake began the main center at Kopan has been the garden of enlightenment where the big stupas of Geshe Lama Konchog and Lama Lhundrup are built. Rinpoche has been living there, daytime and nighttime, leading prayers, teaching, greeting people who come up, keeping people relaxed and in a positive state of mind. The very first day Rinpoche told us there is no point being worried and afraid, we must pray. So we have been doing prayers to control the earthquake, prayers for the people who have died, prayers to destroy the self cherishing and self grasping minds from where the negative karmas arise that cause all the suffering. With Rinpoche always present and the two great stupas as well, it feels like we are in a tranquil oasis of calm protected by all the BUDDHAS.

You can read first-hand reports and view pictures on the Kopan Monastery school Facebook page and view video of the devastation via a news drone from a Northern Ireland television station.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche has given advice on practices to do after earthquakes and also always recommends Medicine Buddha practice, Golden Light Sutra and King of Prayers. You can read about the practices that Rinpoche is advising to do at this time on the FPMT website, and also read general advice regarding earthquakes in Rinpoche's Online Advice Book on our website.

After the earthquake, Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal, April 2015.   FPMT have set up a Nepal Earthquake Support Fund to provide for the immediate and long term needs of Kopan Monastery and Nunnery and other local FPMT centers resulting from the devastation caused by the Nepal earthquake. These needs include food and shelter for more than 800 monks and nuns as well as structural repairs and renovations to buildings at the Monastery and Nunnery that are no longer safe to occupy as a result of the earthquake. In addition, the fund will be used to offer immediate relief and support to other areas in the Himalayan region such as the village of Thangme (Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s birthplace) where there has been an incredible amount of destruction. 

Other organizations in and around Kathmandu who are providing relief to those affected by the earthquake include Karuna-Shechen, an organization co-founded by Ven. Matthieu Ricard. You can see their website for a report on the work they are doing right now for the victims of the earthquake. Also, see Shambhala Sun's Lion's Roar website for a list of local aid organizations and a link to Google's Nepal Earthquake Person Finder.

Our hearts go out to all those suffering as a result of the earthquake. Please do whatever you can by saying prayers, dedicating practices and offering what you can to help those in need at this time.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kopan Monastery, Nepal. We just posted a teaching which seems particularly relevant given the tragedy in Nepal titled Meditation on Emptiness and Tong-len (Taking and Giving). This teaching was given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Florence, Italy, in 1990 and begins with an explanation of emptiness, followed by a teaching on tong-len, or taking and giving—the meditation practice of generating bodhicitta by taking on the suffering of others and giving them happiness. An excerpt of this teachings is this month's e-letter teaching below.

We have also posted many new advices from Rinpoche in the Online Advice Book, including advice about the benefits of following your guru's advice. Rinpoche explains:

Just as matches are used to light a candle and make the candle flame, also a tiny flame can burn a few stories of hay so quickly, or a whole mountain of hay can be burned just from a tiny flame. In the same way so much heavy negative karma that has been collected from a thousand, millions, billions and trillions of past lives can be purified in one second, just by pleasing the guru. So, by following your guru’s advice or wishes, you can see how powerful it is. It’s the biggest purification of obscurations and negative karma from beginningless rebirths and the way to collect most extensive merit.

You can see a list of all new advices added this month here.

Yangsi Rinpoche with Wendy and Nick Ribush, LYWA office, Lincoln, MA, 2015.We were very honored to offer dinner to Yangsi Rinpoche when he visited LYWA last week. Rinpoche is president and professor of Buddhist studies at Maitripa College, Portland OR, and was in Boston for a symposium on Buddhist Ministry at Harvard Divinity School. The next day Rinpoche also visited Kurukulla Center. Rinpoche was accompanied by Namdrol Miranda Adams, dean of the College, and Leigh Miller, director of academic and public programs. I’m a member of Maitripa's board of trustees. It was a wonderful visit, made more poignant the following morning when we awoke to news of the Nepalese earthquake. Rinpoche was born in Kathmandu and his parents and several other family members are still there. Fortunately they all escaped unharmed.

Last month I mentioned that I’d fallen and broken my hip and heel. Many of you sent kind cards and messages of encouragement and I was very grateful to receive them. Thank you so much. Anyway, my recovery proceeds on schedule. The new hip especially is fine but hasn’t been fully tested as I can’t put any weight on my foot until the heel has glued itself together, possibly another six weeks. Nonetheless it seems to be healing itself nicely, so fingers crossed. But when I think of the devastation in Nepal, my injuries are a joke, so probably no more on that.

Thank you again for your kind support and please continue your prayers for all our friends and loved ones struggling in Nepal.

Much love, 

Nick Ribush


Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Lawudo Retreat Centre, Nepal, 1990. Photo: Merry Colony.Taking others' suffering upon yourself and dedicating your own happiness to others is the way to achieve success in life. This is the meditation practice for success. If you want to have success in business or become wealthy, this is the best way to create the cause. It is also the best healing meditation. The meditation practice of renouncing yourself and cherishing other sentient beings, exchanging the self for others, is the solution to everything. It also eliminates life obstacles and prolongs your life, because by taking other sentient beings' suffering you accumulate so much merit and purify so much negative karma, the cause of obstacles and problems. Problems have a cause and it is the obscurations, the negative actions motivated by disturbing thoughts. This cause of your problems is purified by sacrificing yourself for other sentient beings. So again this meditation becomes one great puja to purify the cause of all the problems.

Here I'm just explaining the meditation. As I was saying before, when you have a problem such as disease, particularly if it is incurable, while you are experiencing the problem, this is how to make it worthwhile. You can use it to become the cause of happiness, and not only temporary happiness. The way the problem, the disease, is used here is that it is experienced for others, it becomes the cause to achieve peerless happiness, with the cessation of all mistakes and the completion of all realizations. The meditation itself becomes the real medicine to purify the causes of AIDS, cancer or whatever particular problem you have. The meditation itself is the best medicine since it purifies even the cause of the problem. By purifying the cause, you do not then experience the resultant problems. This is the way it works.

And also the meditation itself helps others, heals others. If someone is harming a particular person, dedicate yourself to take their place so that you receive the harm rather than them. This is also what is called chöd, slaying the ego. This becomes a very powerful healing meditation for others—for other sick people or those who have problems. You sacrifice yourself to be harmed in place of the other person, so in that way it becomes a great healing.

This meditation benefits you in so many ways. This is the way to meditate if you want to be wealthy, if you want a lot of money to travel—I'm joking! Doing this meditation or dedication helps. By giving, you get; by not giving, you don't get. That is the evolution.

You do this meditation of taking others' sufferings and then the rest of the time, think, "I have taken others' sufferings and disease and now I am experiencing these on their behalf." The rest of the time try to remember this again and again, "I am experiencing this suffering for others." If you have relationship problems, think, "I am experiencing this problem for the numberless other sentient beings who have relationship problems or who will have them in the future." If you have a disease, think that you are experiencing it on behalf of all sentient beings. Try to think this again and again, again and again.

When you change your attitude and think that you are experiencing the problem on behalf of others, your mind is happy. Even if the disease is incurable, when you use it to practice, there's happiness in your mind. Even though there may be some physical pain, the mind is happy. With training, it happens like this.

I mentioned before that problems don't come from outside, but from your own mind. In the same way, happiness doesn't come from outside, but from your own mind. I'm giving you examples of how you can use your own mind to bring happiness—even if you have serious problems like these. Wherever you are, right there, you can establish happiness; you can transform the problems into happiness. Rather than becoming a problem the situation become a cause of happiness; rather than becoming something you don't need, it becomes something you need. You make it useful, meaningful.

Everything depends on your mind. Whether your present situation is a problem or not all depends on your own mind. Like the different television channels, everything depends on how you think.

Even though someone may love you very much, you may interpret the person's way of acting toward you, their way of looking at you or talking to you, as meaning that they don't love you. You interpret something in their external appearance as not loving you. When you label "This person doesn't love me" and then believe in your own label, it appears that the person doesn't love you. Again, this appearance and this problem came from your own mind.

Without such things as patience, compassion, the good heart, there's no peace in life and no happiness. The best qualities that make it worthwhile to be a human being are missing. No matter how wealthy you are, no matter how many friends you have, no matter how much education you have, there is no peace or happiness. What can bring peace to the world is compassion, patience. If you have compassion and patience, you can bring peace to everyone, to all living beings, starting with your own family. If you don't harm others and on top of that, benefit them, you can bring peace to all living beings. And this compassion and patience can take you to full enlightenment, the state of omniscient mind, the peerless happiness, with the cessation of all obscurations and the completion of all realizations. Compassion and patience lead you there, to complete spiritual development, to complete peace.

All this comes from compassion and patience. So, without the existence of someone who shows anger or dislike toward you, you have no opportunity to develop patience. You have this opportunity only with someone who dislikes you. When someone dislikes you, you have the opportunity to practice patience and in that way you are able to develop your mind in the path. You are able to stop harming all living beings, starting with your family, and you are able to benefit them all. You are able to complete the path, to achieve the peerless happiness with the cessation of all obscurations and the completion of all realizations, and then free all living beings from all sufferings and obscurations and lead them to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment.

This all happens in dependence upon the person who dislikes you. You receive all these benefits in dependence upon the kindness of this person. All these benefits come because this person is angry with you or doesn't love you. If this person loved you, you would have no opportunity to develop patience and all these other things. This person who doesn't love you is the only one who allows you to practice patience, the only one who gives you all these infinite benefits. Since patience and also compassion are of the utmost need, this person who is angry with me and doesn't like me is extremely kind.

Thinking of the particular kindness of the enemy like this, you feel their kindness from the depths of your heart. You like and appreciate the person. Instead of feeling angry with them, you feel love for them and want to help them. You want to make offerings to that person for his or her kindness.

With the previous person who loved you very much, you interpreted the way they looked at you or talked to you as meaning that they didn't love you and it then appeared that way to you, so it became a problem. It is very clear that the problem came from your own mind. Now here, with the second person, who really does hate you, you remember the particular kindness of the enemy. This is the only person who helps you, who gives you the most important education, who allows you to develop patience, the most important quality of a human being,  and to develop the path to the ultimate happiness of full enlightenment. Only this person does this. Remembering their kindness, you are happy and they become your best friend. So, this also comes from your mind. Even though the person hates you, you are happy with them, and this happiness came from your own mind.

The conclusion is, everything depends on your mind. You can stop problems and obtain happiness with your own mind. Realizing this, you should know that you have great freedom. It is in your own hands. This is the psychology of meditation. The real meditation, the real spiritual practice, is to transform suffering into happiness and that depends on transforming the mind, the attitude.

When there is a problem, instead of disliking it, remember to meditate on the benefits of problems so that you like the problem. That's how you transform the problem into happiness. That is the basic emphasis. Therefore we need to practice meditation and study Dharma, and apply the [techniques] in our everyday life. So, Dharma practice, meditation, is to protect your mind, to protect your life.

The above is excerpted from teachings given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche titled Meditation on Emptiness and Tong-len, given in Florence Italy in 1990. You can read the entire teaching on our website.