E-letter No. 159: September 2016

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Ven. Munsel, 2016.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Welcome to the September issue of our monthly e-letter. We hope you enjoy reading updates of all our latest work that we undertake together, for the benefit of all beings everywhere. Please share it far and wide.



Sun of Devotion dedication for Ven. MunselWe have been busily sending out copies of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's new book Sun of Devotion, Stream of Blessings to LYWA Members and FPMT Centers around the world and to all of you who have requested a copy. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, such as the feedback we received from one recipient who wrote:

What a lovely book! The first part is my favorite of any of the Dharma books I've read. I've found it so simple and so profound. I am so lucky to be able to read it. Thanks to all of you.

Our precious transcriber Ven. Thubten Munsel, whose work provided the original transcripts for Sun of Devotion was able to visit with Rinpoche recently, and Rinpoche signed the copy of her book with a beautiful dedication, pictured here.

Please see our website to find out all the ways you can read this freely available title.

New Teachings and Advice on our Website

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Taos, New Mexico, 1999. Photo: Lenny Foster.We have just posted a new excerpt from Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Teachings on the Heart Sutra series titled Ego Wants So Many Things. In this excerpt from the second discourse, Rinpoche explains the many benefits of compassion and the negative effects of a self-centered attitude. Rinpoche also discusses the first of the eight advantages of correct guru devotion—how we become closer to enlightenment by following the advice of the guru.

These teachings in this series are drawn from the transcripts from two discourses given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Tara Institute in Melbourne, Australia, March 18-19, 2000, and have been lightly edited by Sandra Smith. You can watch Rinpoche giving these teachings in a series of video excerpts on our YouTube channel.

This month we added the following new advices to Rinpoche's Online Advice book: 

• How to Make Your Life Most Beneficial for Sentient Beings, Even With Your Speech: Rinpoche gave this advice during the recent Light of the Path retreat, and asked for it to be shared with people offering service to FPMT and all beings everywhere.

• Caring for Dogs: Advice for a student whose job was to walk dogs.

• Countless Skies of Thanks: This letter was sent to a very kind benefactor who had helped a number of FPMT centers.

• Why Bodhgaya Is So Important: Rinpoche gave this advice while staying at Root Institute, Bodhgaya, India.

As always, you can view a list of all the recently added advices to Rinpoche's Online Advice Book on our website.

New on the LYWA PODCAST and young Osel ON video

This month's podcast, titled How to Maintain a Harmonious Workplace, is excerpted from teachings on the power of compassion given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 14, 2006 and organized by Kasih Hospice. You can read the edited transcripts of this entire teaching on our website. We'll be adding new podcasts regularly, so please be sure to visit our newly redesigned podcast to subscribe for updates and to browse and listen to the dozens of earlier podcasts of Lama Yeshe's and Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings that date as far back as 1975.

We've also published a 1990 video interview produced by Maitreya Instituut and featuring the five year old Lama Osel Hita sitting next to Lama Zopa Rinpoche and discussing his present goals, what he intends to do in the future, his devotion to his guru His Holiness the Dalai Lama among other topics, all while showing his gratitude and deep love for Rinpoche. 

Our newest Ebook and Efree: Protecting the lives of helpless beings and Daily Purification

Our newest ebook, Protecting the Lives of Helpless Beings, presents Sera Je Monastery's Geshe Thubten Soepa detailed presentation of Shakyamuni Buddha's thoughts on eating meat as found in the sutras of the Hinayana and Mahayana vehicles, including tantra. A proponent of animal welfare, Geshe Soepa has taught extensively on the subject of vegetarianism.

Geshe Soepa begins with an extensive look at the various sutras and tantras in which the Buddha discusses why Buddhists should not eat animals, includes a question and answer section addressing topics such as tantric practice questions and whether animal owners should neuter their animals and ends with a discussion of why eating meat or otherwise exploiting animals is completely contrary to the core Buddhist practice of compassion. 

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has read through Geshe Soepa's explanation from cover to cover and said "It is well written. It would be nice if more equally useful texts were written for people to read."  Protecting the Lives of Helpless Beings is a must-read for all Buddhists and especially those who wish to support and advocate for their practice of vegetarianism. 

Also announcing our latest eFree offering! This month we offer Daily Purification: A Short Vajrasattva Practice for free on all our ebook vendor outlets.  Lama Zopa Rinpoche composed this short Vajrasattva practice and requested that we make it easy for people to carry round and have available at all times so we can be like the great Atisha - whenever we notice we have broken a vow or created any other kind of negative karma, we can simply pull out our mobile device and purify that negativity with the four opponent powers without even a second’s delay.

Animal Liberation: The Great Rabbit Liberation of 2016

Speaking of protecting the lives of our fellow beings, those of us in the home office of LYWA have been witness to Assistant Director Wendy Cook's amazing efforts to save the lives of a herd of local rabbits. She reports:

Wendy with Kunsang Papa Bear rabbit, September 2016On June 13 I discovered a herd of rabbits being raised for meat on a farm near where we live. This farm is where I have a community garden plot and have been growing vegetables and flowers for several years. New farmers arrived to manage the non-profit community farm and they brought with them a “rabbit chalet.” When I saw the rabbits in filthy, small, wire-bottom cages I was appalled and immediately felt that I wanted to do something to help them. A few weeks later on July 6, His Holiness’s 81st birthday, I had a meeting with the farmer who offered to sell me their “rabbit production business, genetics and infrastructure.” I asked how much. He said $20k. Without hesitation I said, “Yes, I will buy the herd.” Earlier in the day I had prayed: if I can get these rabbits off the farm so they are not killed, give them blessings, safe and better conditions and extend their lives, then I will dedicate all the merit to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s long lives.

When I said yes to buying the herd, I knew that I didn’t have the money myself. Therefore, I contacted friends in Singapore and am indebted to their immediate great generosity in quickly offering the funds to secure the rescue of these “buns.” After much delicate negotiation and collaboration with the farm, several weeks of intensive work, and with the help of dozens of kind volunteers we were able to remove 140 rabbits from the farm into shelters, foster or forever homes! Please rejoice! Along the way, as Rinpoche advises, they received many dharma imprints. I played them “Recitations for Animals,” recited mantras especially Namgyalma, and they all were circumambulated around Buddha Maitreya, the 100,000 holy object set of cards designed by Rinpoche, the Sanghata sutra, stupas and so forth. Also, it was extremely fortunate that Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Delek and four other geshes came to the farm and performed puja for the rabbits and other animals. 

There was one rabbit who had been kept from me and when I found him he was very sick and without water. I took him to the animal hospital in Boston and this rabbit, Dentong (Rinpoche gave him this name; it means empty of true existence), had to have his leg amputated because of very large infection. The doctor said that Dentong’s extremely poor condition was evidence of neglect. It has been a true practice to keep compassion in my heart towards the farmer while rescuing these rabbits. This animal liberation has shown me up close the suffering of samsara. We are all in this quagmire together and so every being is an object of compassion. That’s what I have focused and meditated upon. 

There have been many expenses over and above obtaining the herd, including spay and neuters, Dentong’s vet bills, supplies, food and so forth. If you would like to contribute you may do so on Crowdrise and donations are received with gratitude. The Sunday Boston Globe reported on the story and it made the front page. They also produced a video. You can read more and stay in touch via the Facebook page. Thank you so much. 

Ling Rinpoche visits LYWA

Ling Rinpoche with Nick Ribush, Lincoln, MA 2016We were extremely honored to receive HE the Seventh Ling Rinpoche and his entourage as lunch guests earlier this month. This was my first time meeting Rinpoche in his present incarnation. His predecessor, the Sixth Ling Rinpoche and 97th Ganden Tripa, ordained me and nine other Westerners in January 1974, so we have an old connection.

Thank you for all your outstanding support, and for reading our eletter. We offer you the following teaching from Lama Yeshe below, from Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy, in 1983, on the true nature of pleasure.

Much love,

Nick Ribush, Director

This Months Teaching: More pleasure, more ignorance

Lama at Assisi 1983. Photo: Andrea Antonietti.The person who practices Highest Yoga Tantra must be both fortunate and intelligent. Intelligent means having the capacity and skill to transform the experience of pleasure into the path to liberation. 

Why does one need to be an intelligent person to engage in this practice? Intelligence differs from cleverness. Someone who is clever may succeed in doing things in this way or that, using sneaky tricks, but that person is not necessarily intelligent. Intelligence means, “touching the natural state of reality.” In Tibetan we have a phrase that means “the blissful feeling that arises from comprehending nonduality and thereby becomes the wisdom of nonduality.” When you have reached this point, any joyful, blissful feeling you have automatically becomes nonduality wisdom. But it is difficult, very difficult, to actually realize this. 

When we ordinary people experience some pleasure, we tend to become dull and ignorant. The more pleasure we experience, the more ignorant we become. More pleasure, still more ignorance. While you were in school and under your parents’ care, they probably restricted the choices you could make. Later, when you left your parents and went out on your own, you probably went to work and as a result had more opportunities for pleasure, which in turn resulted in greater insensibility, dullness. You achieved a middle-class lifestyle yet you became even more ignorant and dull. Then you went into business and became richer, so you could go here and there, able to buy this or that, and you became still more confused, more ignorant. As time went on, in your life there was more grasping, more pleasure, more squeezing, more confusion, more pleasure, more attachment, more pleasure…more disaster!

The core purpose of all Buddhist practice, whether Paramitayana or Tantrayana practice, is for human beings to achieve happiness. The Buddhadharma is not against being happy or having pleasure. Some people think that religion is opposed to pleasure, that you should not have pleasure and you should only be miserable. Is religion trying to make people suffer and be miserable? That does not make any sense. It is a misunderstanding. 

Every day, from morning until evening, our moods constantly swing up and down. But when we consider the examples of Milarepa and St. Francis, neither of them experienced ups and downs the way we do. Both Milarepa and St. Francis lived in caves—Milarepa lived in a cave in Tibet and St. Francis in a cave in Italy—and both experienced continuous great bliss. If Milarepa—or St. Francis—were living in a cave nearby, and I said to you, “He is happier than we are,” you would most likely reply, “How can he be happy? I cannot believe that he is a happy man.” That is because you have preconceptions. You think that without eating mozzarella cheese and chocolate, it is not possible to have pleasure. That is what you believe. 

How can we avoid becoming more ignorant when we experience more and more pleasure? According to the highest yoga tantra point of view, the only way to avoid this is for us to transform blissful pleasure into nonduality wisdom energy. Right now, when we feel pleasure, we don’t understand its reality. Instead, we bury its reality under the many concrete illusory projections that we fabricate. The more pleasure we experience, the stronger become our illusory projections.

Let me give you an example: When an Italian man marries an Italian girl, in his mind he says, “Now I am secure. I have my own lady, and she is beautiful. She is permanently beautiful, permanently my companion, and she has a permanently warm heart. Everyone thinks that she has a warm heart when they meet her. Everyone thinks she is beautiful and that everything about her—her smell, her touch, everything—is fantastic.” 

Everything that this man is constructing in his mind is a fantasy. ”Permanent,” “concrete,” “self-existent”: he has already projected everything. So he becomes more and more dull, confused, ignorant. It works this way with ladies too. I should be realistic and not take sides…otherwise, I’m being chauvinistic! This is simply how our minds work, whatever our gender.

Then one day, however, this man loses his wife. He cannot understand how this could possibly happen! His cultural fixation completely breaks down, and he has a nervous breakdown. For as long as he was married, he felt totally secure, but now his security has suddenly been shaken. He does not understand and does not want to accept it.

This man has two minds: rational and irrational. Previously, his rational mind created a completely fixed view, rationalizing his experience by thinking, “This is like this. That is like that. The world works like this because of that. Life is that way, because of this.” He constructed a strong concrete fantasy and he believed that fantasy to be true. But then he lost everything, and his fixed rational view no longer works. Not only did he lose his external wife, he also lost his internal values, his internal view of reality. He is no longer sure of anything and so his irrational mind takes over because now NOTHING MAKES SENSE. It is as if there is no good reason for anything. He feels completely weak, without strength, without confidence. No confidence in himself or in his wife, no confidence in any woman, and no confidence in any man. Can you imagine? 

My point is this. When we project a permanent entity on a transitory object of pleasure, as this man did, when we project a self-existent entity on a non-self-existent phenomenon, as this man did, we suffer. Our preconceptions, our concrete illusory projections, are the actual source of our problems. 

Do not make the mistake of thinking that Buddhism is merely talking philosophy here, merely expressing an opinion about pleasure. Since the time of Shakyamuni Buddha 2,500 years ago, millions and millions of people have spent the equivalent of millions or even billions of dollars researching the characteristics of suffering and pleasure. Maybe all the money currently in Europe would not be enough to equal what generation after generation of Buddhists have spent on observing and investigating the real nature of pleasure and pain! And throughout the centuries, all of these Buddhist meditators have reached the same conclusion—that any experience of pleasure is transitory, impermanent, and non-self-existent.

Excerpted from Lama Yeshe’s The Yoga Method of Gyalwa Gyatso, taught at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy, in 1983 and edited by Constance Miller. Forthcoming from LYWA in 2017.