E-letter No. 25: April 2005

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Adelaide, Australia 2004 (Archive #1443)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear Everybody,

I hope you are well. Thanks for subscribing to and reading the LYWA e-letter. Please share it with your friends and encourage them to sign up to get these great teachings every month. Remember, you can always access all of our past e-letters here.

So, what’s happening here? One thing is that we’ve added several teachings to our Web site: a conversation with Lama Zopa Rinpoche about being an organ donor; Rinpoche's talk on the benefits of studying the Perfection of Wisdom sutras; and a biography of Ling Rinpoche, who died in January 1984.

We have just begun to post the transcript of Rinpoche's teachings from the 15th Kopan course in 1982.

We've also added some teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to our members' area: the "Spirit of Manjushri" teachings from New York City in 1999, and His Holiness' commentary on the 8th Chapter from Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life (Bodhisattvacaryavatara). While these are not exclusive postings, they are a bit hard to find, and we are presenting them here for the convenience of our members.

The search capabilities on our website have also been upgraded to make them more useful. The listings have been expanded to help you more easily narrow in on what you're looking for, and we are in the process of making all our PDF files searchable — which means you'll be able to search all of our books. Also, see our Advanced Search page for sorting and searching options, and tips on how to search for specific words and phrases.

Our long-delayed anthology (many apologies for several false alarms) is now finally in design and production as a wonderful book-to-be entitled Teachings from Tibet. Look for more definite news next month. It’s a blockbuster!

Our teaching this month is a continuation of one we started in our last e-letter, which is a talk Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave at the Mahamudra Retreat in Australia last year. The audio for this teaching can be found in the audio section of our Web site—see Day 23 for this teaching. It includes a discussions benefiting insects killed by your car, the five powerful mantras and blessing your feet that may harm beings as you walk. Rinpoche gave similar teachings at the Vajrasattva retreat in 1999—see Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat, pp. 546–552. You can also read this online here.

Much love,

Nick Ribush

The Vajra Vehicle: Making Your Car Beneficial for All Sentient Beings

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 2002.Several years ago, in California, Roger [Kunsang, Rinpoche’s assistant] bought a car for us to use. A red van. I think he got it from a student’s husband’s friend, something related, for quite a reasonable price. It had a small TV inside the van. The car was also fairly noisy.

So Roger was very excited and brought the car up to the Jacksons’ house, up above Vajrapani Institute, where I was staying at the time. But I didn’t go to look at the car right away; I went out late the next morning. When I saw it I tried to think, “This is all sentient beings’ car,” but of course it lasted only a few seconds. I tried to think that the car belonged to all sentient beings’ but the thought lasted only a few seconds. After that it disappeared!

Later on we were at Geshe Sopa’s center in Madison, Deer Park, taking teachings from Geshe Sopa—I think it was at that time—we painted some messages on the car. On one side it said that cherishing others is the source of happiness, something like that. On the other, we amended His Holiness’s quote “My religion is kindness” to “My religion is kindness to all,” just to make it a little more clear. Then we also stuck decals of the Buddha, White Tara, Maitreya Buddha, the Thirty-five Buddhas—many deity pictures—around the car. All this was done at a shop in Madison while we at Geshe Sopa’s course.

The thing is that when you drive a car, in certain places many insects get crushed on the windshield of the car, so many that sometimes the entire windshield is completely covered by their splattered bodies. When we were driving from California to Madison I’d occasionally try to imagine the wind coming from above the car pushing the insects out of the way. Sometimes it seemed to help, but I didn’t do it that much, so I’m not sure. However, we tried.

So, what to do? We tried putting a plastic screen on the front of the car to deflect the insects but it didn’t help much. Then we got the idea came of putting mantras all over the front of the car—the five powerful mantras of Mitukpa and so forth (see Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat, Appendix 5, p. 663. You can also read this online here). Not only these five but several others as well. They weren’t painted on; the shop made kind of computerized stick-on transfers.

The idea is that any wind, rain or whatever else touches those mantras and then touches insects or other beings, they get purified; their negative karma gets purified. And even if the insects get struck by the car and die, at least they touched the mantras and purify their negative karma. So that’s what we did.

Then on the back of the car, on the spare wheel, we put the Chenrezig mantra, OM MANI PADME HUM, so that anybody who sees it purifies their defilements, their negative karma, and plants the seed of enlightenment.

Then, down below that, we wrote “May anybody who sees, touches or remembers this car never ever be reborn in the lower realms; may they be free from suffering and achieve enlightenment soon”—something like that; I don’t remember exactly.

Namgyalma mantra
Click on the image for a printable version.

Later on I got a decal of a mandala of the long Namgyälma mantra. Now, usually, if you have a banner of this mantra, whoever even the shadow of the banner touches—people or animals, any sentient being—is purified of their negative karma and doesn’t get reborn in the lower realms. If that mantra is inside a house, those who live in that house are always getting purified. If that mantra is on the top of the mountain, then insects, people, animals—whoever passes over that mountain, touches that mountain, also gets purified and doesn’t get reborn in the lower realms. Lord Buddha explained the extensive benefits of the Namgyälma mantra in the certain scriptural texts.

Similarly, if you have just the mantra or the mandala of it, either way, in your car, in the same way, whoever enters the car is also constantly being purified.

So just as the Namgyälma mantra on a banner on a mountain has the benefit I mentioned, just as the shadow of a banner bearing the mantra that touches sentient beings purifies their negative karma such that they don’t get reborn in the lower realms and so forth, similarly, when you drive, by having the mantra in your car, the many insects that you can and can’t see that get killed, even though they die against the car or under the wheel, at least their negative karma is purified. Even if the shadow of your car touches or passes over them, their negative karma is purified.

Later on, after I’d explained these benefits, one of the students made many copies of the Namgyälma mantra mandala for people to keep in their car or put on the window.

I’m talking about the car as part of the topic of making life meaningful. Since even when we walk we kill insects that we don’t see, there’s no question that when we drive our cars many insects get killed. So how can we make their getting killed meaningful? Having the Namgyälma or other powerful mantras in the car purifies the negative karma of the beings we harm when we drive and is a way of benefiting them.

There’s a mantra for blessing the feet so that any insects that get killed when we walk receive at least some benefit. You recite it seven times and then spit on the bottom of your feet or the soles of your shoes. Due to the blessings of the mantra, any insect that is then crushed underfoot is born in the deva realm of the Gods of the Thirty-three. The mantra is OM TRE TSARA GHANA HUM HRI SOHA.

I think you could do the same with your car tires: recite the mantra seven times then blow or spit all around each tire where the rubber hits the road. Then any insects or other creatures you run over will be benefited as with the blessing of the feet.

What all this is saying is that whenever there’s a way in which you can benefit others you must do it. If these methods were not beneficial, Lord Buddha wouldn’t have taught them. These mantras can be found in the Kangyur [the canonical collection of the Buddha’s spoken word], so there’s obviously a definite purpose to their having been given.

However, this doesn’t mean you think, “Oh, I’ve blessed my feet, I should tread on all the insects that I can in order to benefit them.” It only benefits those you kill inadvertently.

So, getting back to the car, at first I offered it to the Maitreya Project relic tour in order to help them out, but what finished up happening was that it caused great devotion to arise in many people’s minds. After that we bought other cars and put different messages and Buddha pictures all around them so that even when you’re just driving down the road you can purify many sentient beings’ minds.

As it says in the Sutra of the Mudra Generating the Power of Devotion, “As great indeed is the merit of making daily offerings of divine food, nectar and clothing to arhats equal in number to the atoms in all the universes for eons, it shrinks to nothing when compared to the merit of simply seeing a painting or picture of the Buddha. Just seeing an image of the Buddha purifies the mind and plants the seed of enlightenment.”

Only once have I ever seen somebody who was unhappy with the messages on our car. He might have been a devout Christian or something. We were on our way to the San Francisco airport and this guy slowly walked all around the car reading the messages then gave us the finger! Most people, however, are usually quite happy. Once we were parked at the supermarket and a lady came and offered us flowers right there at the car. Sometimes other people copy down the messages: “May those who see, touch, remember or dream of this car purify all their sufferings, generate compassion towards all beings and achieve enlightenment”—something like that.

To be continued in the May e-letter.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at the Mahamudra Retreat, Adelaide, Australia, April 2004. It was excerpted and edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Nicholas Ribush. Excepts of the teachings from this retreat can be listened to on the audio section of our website.

A booklet which includes the 5 powerful mantras mentioned above is available from the FPMT Foundation Store. The Archive also has a handful of the decals of the Namgyalma mantra for your car that Rinpoche mentions. Please contact us if you are interested in receiving one.