E-letter No. 34: January 2006

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Dharamsala, India 1985 (Archive #583)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our first e-letter for 2006, the year we celebrate our tenth anniversary. From all of us here at the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive we wish you and your families a happy, peaceful and prosperous new year. May all your wishes be fulfilled according to Dharma.

So, in the ten years since Lama Zopa Rinpoche kindly established the Archive we have worked out of three locations in and around Boston, each owned by generous supporters of our work, each offered to us at well below market rent. Now, unexpectedly, we have to move again, but this time it seems we’re out there with everybody else!

Lama Yeshe and His Holiness Zong Rinpoche at Vajrapani Institute, California, 1978. Photo from the collection of Francesco Prevosti. Photographer unknown.But it’s OK. Thanks to your own kind and generous support of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive and what we do, we’re financially stable and able to afford market rents, so thank you so much for that. Nevertheless, this is a plea for you to keep your compassionate contributions coming so that we can continue to grow and benefit all sentient beings by making available the actual cause of happiness—the teachings of the Buddha. Thank you so much.

The photo above is of Lama Yeshe and His Holiness Zong Rinpoche at the 6th Kopan Course in April 1974. You can read the transcript of the talk His Holiness Zong Rinpoche gave at that time, which was translated by Lama Yeshe, on our companion website TeachingsFromTibet.com. Also, you can read the transcript of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings from this course on our website. (If you'd like to find out more about our membership program—which directly supports editors who are preparing more of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings for publication—see our Membership page.)

We have more Kopan Course transcripts published in our members area, and on Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Teachings page.

We’re delighted to report that we have three more books going to the printer this week, two new ones and a reprint: Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s The Joy of Compassion, Geshe Jampa Tegchok’s The Kindness of Others, and a reprint of Lama Yeshe’s ever-popular The Essence of Tibetan Buddhism.

More new teachings added to the website this past month include Lama Yeshe's two-day talk on the Buddhist attitude toward life titled Light of Dharma; these talks were given in September 1983 in Sweden. Also, you can read Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Thoughts on the Future of Buddhism. And remember that new advices are always being added to Rinpoche's Online Advice Book. We now have over 235 advices on a wide variety of topics. To find what's new, search for the phrase "Jan. 2006" using our Advanced Search page.

Our Online Recordings Library keep growing. This month's podcast is Lama Yeshe's talk titled A Glimpse of Buddhist Psychology, which is published in the free book Becoming Your Own Therapist. We've posted both the edited and unedited transcripts of Lama's talk on our website, so you can read along as you listen.

And we continue working on more Lama Yeshe DVDs, for example, his Heruka Vajrasattva Tsog commentary, the teaching on transference of consciousness that appeared in our recent e-letters, a couple of talks on anxiety in the nuclear age, and more. While you're waiting, you can listen to the audio of some of these on our Online Recordings page.

So, as we start packing for the move to our new location, still in the town of Lincoln, Massachusetts, where we presently are, let us again wish you all the best for the new year, thank you for your support and leave you with a wonderful teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Much love

Nick Ribush


Peaceful Mind, Peaceful World

Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Photo from the collection of Francesco Prevosti. Photographer unknown.If you can practice bodhicitta, renouncing yourself and cherishing others, then keep this as your heart practice. Bodhicitta is the essential practice, like the foundation of a house. Whether you are happy or sick, dying or healthy, young or old, working or too old to work, living at a Dharma center or in a city where there is no Dharma center and no Dharma friends having the same faith and doing the same practice as you, whether you are depressed or excited, practice bodhicitta.

As the great bodhisattva Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen said, “When you eat, eat with bodhicitta. When you stand, stand with bodhicitta. When you sleep, lay down with the good heart, bodhicitta. When you are happy, remember bodhicitta. When you are sick, remember bodhicitta. When you are feeling unhappy, depressed or aggressive, remember bodhicitta. When death comes, remember bodhicitta.” Like this, always remember bodhicitta.

Bodhicitta is the essential practice, the very first of all practices. When you wake from sleep, instead of remembering the office, job, money or coffee, if you want peace of mind, the first thing to remember is bodhicitta, the ultimate good heart. If you can practice bodhicitta, plan your life in this way. Then, wherever you are living, whether in the city or in the countryside, in a Dharma center or wherever, you will always be happy, so incredibly happy, because there will always be much peace in your mind.

Otherwise you will always have many problems. You may be living in a monastery or a Dharma center where there is the sound of Dharma twenty four hours a day—teachings coming from all ten directions, people reciting texts on the incredibly profound teachings of Buddha, which are to subdue the mind, to control the mind and eliminate the disturbing thought that harms both others and ourselves by binding us to samsara. You may be living in a Dharma center, in a monastery, in a cave on the highest mountain or even on the moon, but however far you may be from people or animals, if there is no change in your mind, if you allow your self-cherishing thought to keep on functioning as it always has, you will never have any real peace.

As long as you keep your self-cherishing thought in your heart, cherishing it like a wish-granting jewel or a precious treasure, you remain a servant to and completely enslaved by this enemy. If you follow self-cherishing you will never find any peace of mind. Taking the side of self-cherishing instead of that of cherishing others blocks any kind peace.

As long as you do not exchange yourself for others, renouncing yourself and cherishing others, since you have not changed your mind, no matter how many weapons or how many millions of bodyguards you have, they cannot protect your life from danger. You can see from the example of presidents or prime ministers that no matter how many weapons or external protection they have, it just increases the danger they’re in. Instead of protecting their life, these things can even endanger it—even their own bodyguards can finish up killing them.

In his Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, Shantideva said,

By destroying your inner enemy, the disturbing thoughts, you destroy all your outer enemies as well. The work is accomplished at the same time.

Once the inner enemies of disturbing negative thoughts and self-cherishing are destroyed, all outer enemies are automatically destroyed as well. You don’t have to shoot or insult them. You don’t need to use any weapons to harm the outside enemies, not even a needle! Destroying the inner enemy destroys all outer enemies simultaneously because all outer enemies come from the self-cherishing thought.

This is very easy to understand if you relate it to your everyday life. Even today, if you check your life, the nature of the mind, how it has been today—peaceful, happy or confused—you can see that when you cherish yourself more, whether at home or at work, there’s more confusion, more pain, more problems and more disharmony, but when you have more loving kindness and compassion, when you care more for others than yourself, there’s more harmony, more peace and better relationships; things are more successful.

Right now you can understand by analyzing what happens when you change your attitude towards another person. First you’re cherishing only yourself, then, remembering the precious teachings on Mahayana thought transformation, you suddenly give yourself up and cherish the other person more, thinking, “She has as much right to be happy as I do; her wants and happiness are more important than mine,” and immediately, in that very moment, you experience incredible peace. The pain of self-cherishing abates and you’re liberated at that very moment.

When self-cherishing is strong it’s very easy for you to get angry. The stronger your self-cherishing thought, the more impatient and jealous you become. Many problems arise, quickly and easily, one after the other, and you can’t relax or find the peace that comes from weakening the self-cherishing thought.

Thus you can see how cherishing yourself and renouncing others gives rise to all the other delusions and makes you create many different kinds of negative karma. Then, because of this and the vast amount of negative karma you have accumulated in past lives, you experience many problems in this one.

But when you practice bodhicitta, even if you’re alone, you’re happy. Even if you’re happy, your mind remains controlled and you don’t experience the dissatisfaction and attachment that arise from too much excitement. Even if you’re experiencing pain, your mind is happy; even if you’re dying, your mind is happy. All the time, whatever circumstances or people you meet, your mind is constantly happy.

Even if you meet an enemy, someone who treats you badly and criticizes you, you’re happy, extremely happy. You remember his kindness from the depth of your heart, how he’s helping you develop compassion, loving kindness, patience and bodhicitta. It’s the same with friends and strangers. Whether you’re living alone or with others, you’re so happy—at home or at work, East or the West, wherever.

Sometimes people think, “I’m so fed up living in a family with lots of people. I just want to go off into the forest alone, keep on walking and see what happens.” One of my students in Australia once told me this. There’s much bush and thick forest there and you can see from an airplane that there are no houses, nothing. He said that one day he just wants to go out into the bush and walk for days, thinking that something might happen. He doesn’t want to go walkabout to find suffering but to find peace, to experience something new in his life, something pleasant. But as long as the practice of the good heart is missing, one can find no real peace or satisfaction.

Practicing the good heart makes you and whoever else you meet happy; it makes everybody happy. Also, it’s a great purification. When you cherish others more than yourself you think of yourself as their servant, that you are living for others. “My life is for others; the purpose of my breathing is for them; everything I do is for others, to serve them, to free them from all their suffering and lead them to enlightenment.” Even if you don’t think about enlightenment, you still want to benefit others, give them happiness and eliminate their problems and suffering.

When you’re more concerned for others and less for yourself, when you have less self-cherishing, your other delusions—anger, pride, jealousy and so forth—are weaker and you create less negative karma, which is the cause of sickness. Therefore, in this and future lives, you experience less sickness. You’re also more successful and your wishes in this and future lives are fulfilled. Whether you wish to be wealthy, successful or anything else, you succeed in even the worldly activities of this and future lives.

Thus you can see that renouncing yourself and cherishing others cuts off the root of self-cherishing and plants the root from which all the branches, flowers and fruit of happiness come. Success depends on how much you cherish others.

No matter how many meditations or different techniques there are, as long as you do not practice the good heart, even if you say many prayers and practice hundreds of different meditations, you won’t find peace. Cherishing others is the most important thing, the first thing, the most beneficial practice for yourself and others. It is most precious because with it you can achieve enlightenment, the highest, peerless happiness.

Without cherishing others, even if you can explain what enlightenment is and recite all the Prajnaparamita texts by heart for months and years, enlightenment will remain a dream, hopeless. As long as you do not change your mind you will find no peace, no matter how many hundreds of meditations or practices you know.

With bodhicitta, you not only accumulate less negative karma twenty-four hours a day—thereby causing less harm and fewer problems for yourself and others—but you also purify those from previous lives. Bodhicitta is the greatest, most powerful method of purification.

As long as you don’t have bodhicitta, no matter how many meetings for world peace you attend, nothing happens. Bodhicitta is the foundation. Nobody hates those who have a good heart, who renounce themselves and cherish others. Everybody likes people like that. We all like to be helped by and receive benefit and kindness from others. Even animals like people who feed, protect and cherish them.

If you renounce yourself and cherish others, you generate bodhicitta. Even if you don’t actually realize it, at least you get closer by being less concerned with yourself and more concerned for others. That’s the foundation of real peace.

When you realize bodhicitta, renouncing yourself and cherishing others, naturally, without effort, you stop harming others. The nature of bodhicitta is to cherish and single-pointedly want to benefit others, so with bodhicitta you not only stop harming others but also become concerned to help and benefit them, doing whatever is needed. You are no longer a cause for others to get angry and create negative karma. Instead, you become an example for them to learn from; you make it easier for them to develop more compassion, loving kindness and peace of mind and to even generate bodhicitta themselves.

In this way even one person can bring much peace to the minds of others and benefit so many of them. Just by being a good example you can help others generate bodhicitta, transform their minds and develop examples for others. Having generated bodhicitta they in turn become good examples to help others develop the good heart, change their minds and establish peace in their own minds and the world. And again, they in turn become further examples for others.

This is how we bring true peace into our family, our workplace and the world. By generating the good heart, bodhicitta, cherishing others more than ourselves, those around us get peace. So, that many people become happy and there is that much more peace. Then more and more people get peace, until all those in the country, all those in the world, have peace. In this way, even if the whole world is filled with atomic bombs, since the self-cherishing thought—the real enemy and the greatest danger of all—has been transformed into the thought cherishing others, no matter how many weapons there are, none of them can endanger people’s lives.

Therefore it is extremely important to study and always keep bodhicitta in mind. Study the teachings on bodhicitta as extensively as possible, then meditate, practice and learn to recite the texts. Then, when you have studied and have acquired some knowledge, you should explain to others even the little that you know. Teach them whatever you know about meditation and the good heart.

By doing this you give others the opportunity to understand that there is a way to transform the self-cherishing attitude and disturbing thoughts. You show them that self-cherishing and delusion are not one with the mind so that they no longer think, “It’s impossible to live without attachment, dissatisfaction, impatience, depression, aggression and all these things. That’s what life is about.”

When I meet speak with people who have not met Dharma—shopkeepers, business people and so forth—they say, “You can’t live without attachment. It’s part of life.” What they are actually saying is that the mind is oneness with attachment so there’s no way to transform the mind, it’s not possible to change the mind. That’s what they believe and it serves only to make them depressed. Neither does it help at all nor is it realistic.

Therefore it’s very important to help others understand the incredible practice of bodhicitta because bodhicitta makes you and others happy in this life and all future lives. It fulfills all your wishes and those of others and enables you to accumulate extensive merit, purify all your obscurations and achieve the peerless happiness of enlightenment. If you explain the teachings on bodhicitta to others, it gives them an opportunity to practice.

By being a good example to others, talking to them and telling them with good heart even the little you know about bodhicitta, you begin to stop the harm, problems and dangers of this life. This is the way to bring peace to the world and to really help others.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at Tushita Retreat Center, Dharamsala, 18 June 1985. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Ven. Sarah Thresher and Nicholas Ribush.