E-letter No. 156: June 2016

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
(Archive #1963)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear Friends,

We are happy to be sending you this month's eletter, with news of our latest offerings from the Archive's collections. May they benefit all. Please share far and wide.

As violence in the United States and abroad increases, we find TV anchors, commentators and others puzzling over why this happens and how it can be stopped. For decades now, Lama Zopa Rinpoche has been telling us why and how. Only by studying, meditating on and practicing the Dharma can we understand why these things happen and how to go beyond them. And here at LYWA, our contribution to world peace is to provide this Dharma that should be studied, meditated on and practiced, and your contribution is the support you give us. Thank you so much. 

New Multimedia Title: Bodhisattva Attitude

If you can truly dedicate your life in the morning to numberless sentient beings it will bring incredible joy and happiness all day long.  
-Lama Zopa Rinpoche

We are pleased to announce a new multimedia title, Bodhisattva Attitude. In this title Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaches on a set of thought transformation verses by Shantideva, Aryasura and Geshe Langri Tangpa to be recited and contemplated each morning after generating a bodhicitta motivation to achieve the enlightened state as quickly as possible for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Rinpoche’s extensive commentary on these verses contains a wealth of precious and inspiring advice on how to dedicate your life to others by constantly cultivating a bodhisattva’s attitude to life. Bodhisattva Attitude is the fifth and final title in the Bodhisattva Attitude multimedia series. Together, the titles in this series create a "living book" of teachings, photos, artwork, audio and video clips and sessions, recorded motivations and links to further reading and online study programs that we will continue to revise and supplement as new materials become available from Rinpoche's worldwide teachings and advice.

This new multimedia presentation adds to our ever-growing collection of multimedia titles featuring teachings by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. You can see an index of all our titles here.

New Teachings and Advice on our Website

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Taos, New Mexico, 1999. Photo: Lenny Foster.We have just added a new excerpt from the Teachings on the Heart Sutra series given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Australia in 2000. The transcript is supplemented with videos of Rinpoche giving these teachings. This excerpt is entitled How We Hold Onto the I and gives insight into emptiness--how the I exists and how it appears to us. 

We have also posted a teaching Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave to about fifty ordained Sangha during a visit to a giant shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this past April on how to See Things as a Hallucination.

Recent additions to Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice book include:

  • Just Start the Practice: Rinpoche advised a student to start doing Buddhist practices right away because this opportunity, the perfect human rebirth, is received just one time.
  • Everything Comes From Your Mind: A long letter to a student who was in a relationship which had ended badly with a lot of anger. The student had also been sick for a long time and this had affected her ability to work.
  • Good Karma of Caring For Animals: Rinpoche gave a card to a neighbor who was very kind and always fed the animals and birds. Rinpoche explained karma and delusion, and how to cease that by achieving ultimate happiness.
  • A Message to Sangha: Rinpoche sent this letter of thanks to a Sangha community. Included is a story about making momos and advice of the importance of lamrim.

As always, you can see a list of all the new advices added this month, and search for any advice in the Advice book, on the View and Search Online Advice Book page.

New Video: Eating with a good heart

This month we also hope you enjoy a new short video called “Eating with a Good Heart” in which Lama Zopa Rinpoche powerfully advocates for the adoption of a vegetarian diet for our benefit and the benefit of all. Our own dear Ven Thubten Kunsang filmed this video of Rinpoche in 2009 at Deer Park Buddhist Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

LYWA Book News: New and Revised Titles

Our print-on-demand version of Geshe Jampa Tegchok's The Kindness of Others is now ready! This amazing book shows us how to move the mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. This title has been out of print for some time but now you can order a print version made just for you.

This newest print-on-demand title joins our other LYWA titles available as print-on-demand: Rinpoche's Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat and Lama Yeshe and Rinpoche's Advice for Monks and Nuns. Look forward to more titles to be added to our print on demand collection in the coming months.

We are putting the finishing touches on a new free title, Sun of Devotion, Stream of Blessings, containing teachings Rinpoche gave in London, UK in July of 2014. We expect that the book will be available sometime in August. An excerpt from this book is below as our featured e-letter teaching. It is a timely teaching for sure.

Summer arrives at the Archive

Turkey in the yard at LYWA June 2016. Photo: Wendy Cook.The summer weather has settled in, and we rejoice in the return of the neighborhood turkeys to the property. Attached is a picture taken by Wendy Cook of one of our regular visitors on full display.

Please enjoy the new offerings from the Archive this month. As Rinpoche discusses below, may these teachings inspire you to persevere in your practice and achieve all happinesses for all beings.

Much love,

Nick Ribush

This Month's Teaching: how to stop the violence

This teaching is excerpted from Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s latest book, Sun of Devotion, Stream of Blessings, edited by Gordon McDougall. It is forthcoming from LYWA in August.

In America it sometimes happens that small schoolchildren kill many people. Not only small children but adults as well. This happened last year and, from time to time, it has happened before; suddenly, surprisingly. I’m sure it’s not only in America but in the rest of the world as well.

For example, in America they have talked for years without ever deciding about the right to have guns. At present, everybody can have a gun, so if your enemy or somebody shoots at you, you can shoot back. That seems to be the ordinary mind in America. And so it has happened many times that even young children have killed many people. 

After such a shooting incident, people talk about it on TV and elsewhere for weeks and weeks and weeks. They wonder how a small child could kill so many people. They talk and talk and talk but there is no solution. Once, after a man had killed many people, they checked for insanity but found he was a normal person, or what they call a “normal” person. He was just doing a normal job and living a normal life, like those who are regarded as sane by the government and other organizations. On that particular day, however, his way of thinking suddenly changed, he got a gun and killed many people. This happened.

Everybody was very surprised. On CNN, Anderson Cooper demanded to know how this could happen, but at the same time said he knew people wouldn’t have an answer. To his mind there was no answer as to how to stop this kind of killing. I’m sorry to say this but he was wrong, there is a way. If the killer had met the Dharma and listened to the teachings of the Omniscient One, he would know there is a method to transform his mind so that such things wouldn’t happen. The method is to purify past negative karma, the obscurations, not just from this life but also from all the beginningless rebirths; to confess and purify. If he could have purified the obscurations that caused him to change his mind and kill all those people, that negative thought would not have arisen and the shooting would not have happened. People might be shocked at what I’m saying but this is the solution.

Similarly, if the victims of the shooting had known the practice of purification then the result of being killed would not have happened. This is possible. In that way, both victim and perpetrator need purification.

There is a method, there is something we can do, and that is to work with the mind, not simply to try to effect change from outside but to transform the mind. It’s a purely mental action. Just working with the mind can do that. But unfortunately, because these people have not met the Dharma, they don’t know the method, the solution. 

That is the reason I want to talk about the mind, about how to transform the mind, to stop thinking in unhealthy, nonvirtuous ways that brings problems to others and ourselves and to transform the mind into a positive way of thinking, to be able to live the happiest, most positive life.

In Heart Instructions of the Book of Kadam, Lama Atisha is quoted as saying these lines:

If the field is well cultivated, whatever you plant will grow.
With a good heart all your higher wishes will succeed,
And so whatever you do must come from the awakening mind.
Lama Atisha said this to the spiritual mentor Dromtönpa.

With perseverance and stability there will be no obstacles.
If you are learned in what to practice and what to abandon, 
You will go to liberation abiding in the sphere of wisdom.
Lama Atisha said learning, discipline and kindness must complement each other.

He starts with the example of the field. If it is well plowed and well cultivated, then whatever we plant there will grow well. In the same way, if we have a good heart, we will attain all our wishes. Everything we wish for will happen. When we have perseverance we will have no obstacles, which means obstacles to any happiness, most importantly, ultimate happiness—freedom from the oceans of samsaric suffering, and especially peerless happiness, the state of the omniscient mind. For example, I myself am lazy, so nothing is happening. But those who have perseverance have no obstacles. They will achieve whatever they want to achieve. 

There’s a Tibetan saying that a turtle goes very, very slowly but reaches its goal, whereas a flea jumps all over the place and never gets anywhere. Somebody who has a little perseverance and is active for a short time but does not persevere continuously will not succeed. I think this Tibetan saying is very useful. 

Even though we do a tiny amount of practice, it is very important that we continue it. We shouldn’t just practice for a short time but then, due to lack of perseverance, allow our mind to become weaker until we no longer feel we can practice. Then maybe, after having stopped practicing for a long time, we meet somebody or hear a talk and become inspired, causing us to try again for a few days or a few months. It should not be like that. Even though the Dharma practice we do might be very small, it is most important that we persevere with it.

As well as perseverance, we also need to know what should be practiced and what should be abandoned. Whether we want to practice the Dharma or not is up to us, but if we do, investigation and learning, or knowledge, are so important. If we know the Dharma, the Omniscient One’s teachings, we develop the wisdom to discriminate right from wrong in our life. Then we can abandon what is wrong and practice what is right and because of that achieve liberation, ultimate happiness, the blissful state of peace. This is the advice from Heart Instructions of the Book of Kadam.

I haven’t yet seen a commentary on this, but my view is that this is achieved by realizing the “skillful means of appearances,” the Prasangika view of very subtle dependent arising. The Madhyamaka school is subdivided into Svatantrika and Prasangika, and this is the view of the latter, the Prasangika—very subtle dependent arising.

The Buddha realized ultimate wisdom and then revealed it to us sentient beings. Because of that, numberless sentient beings have already been liberated from oceans of samsaric suffering and brought to peerless happiness, full enlightenment. “Abiding in the sphere of the wisdom” means gaining a direct perception of emptiness through equipoise meditation. 

We can then lead the other transmigratory beings to liberation. In Tibetan, the word for transmigratory beings is dro-wa, meaning they are not free from the cause of suffering, karma and delusion, but have perpetually been circling in samsara. Hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, gods, demigods and human beings have been circling in the suffering realms from beginningless rebirths. If they don’t meet the Dharma, if they don’t know the Dharma, they will have to suffer like this endlessly, so they are called dro-wa, transmigratory beings. However, by the skillful means of appearances, we are able to liberate those transmigratory beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to ultimate happiness, the state of omniscient mind.

Just reading a little bit about Buddhism without really meditating is like a child playing at meditating. We must do more than that.