E-letter No. 48: April 2007

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Madison, Wisconsin 1975 (Archive #348)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear Friends,

Thank you for reading our latest e-letter. And please share it with your own friends, Dharma center list or wherever else might be appropriate. Thank you so much.

New Video and Audio Releases
\" Our new Lama Yeshe DVD, Anxiety in the Nuclear Age, is now in stock. Note that we also offer a 50% discount for LYWA members and retailers. In the meantime we’re working on several other Lama Yeshe DVD projects. Stay tuned for more information.

This month, we posted to our Online Recordings Page the audio from Chapter 3 of Lama Yeshe’s latest book Ego, Attachment and Liberation. You can read along with the unedited and edited transcripts of the talk, which is titled "Give Your Ego the Wisdom Eye".

In case you've been missing it, we've also been posting the audio of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s lectures from the 28 Kopan Meditation Course in 1995, where he gave oral transmissions and commentaries Pabongka Rinpoche’s Heartspoon, the Heart Sutra, and the 35 Buddhas prayer. You can also follow along with the transcripts from this series, too.

About Our Books…
\" A while back we noticed that some of our free books in used condition were for sale on Amazon and eBay at prices sometimes reaching almost $100! We thought that was ridiculous and contacted some of the sellers suggesting they desist but got nowhere with them. So we decided to become Amazon and eBay sellers ourselves and sell the books new at extremely low prices in order to undercut the rip-off artists. So in case you see us out there, that’s the reason!

Last time I mentioned that we would like to reprint our perennial favorite, Lama Yeshe's Becoming Your Own Therapist / Make Your Mind an Ocean combined edition. We’re still seeking sponsors for that, so if you would like to contribute, please let us know.

Our next book, Lama Yeshe’s Universal Love, a commentary on the Maitreya yoga method with additional introductory material, is taking great shape. We were commissioned by the Maitreya Project to undertake this work and are very grateful to our friends there for having asked us to do so. As you might expect, it contains wonderful teachings by Lama. It should be available in a couple of months.

From Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Lawudo Retreat Centre, Solu Khumbu, Nepal, 1978. Photo by Ueli Minder.This month's updates to Rinpoche's Online Advice Book were made in the Health section, where Rinpoche offers advice on battling breast cancer, other cancers, brain disorders and digestive problems. There are now over 430 advices posted, so we encourage you to browse through the menus, or search for a topic of interest through our Advanced Search page.

We also have the latest news on Lama Zopa Rinpoche from the FPMT, our parent organization. Check it out to see what our incredible spiritual director has been doing as he tirelessly travels the world solely for the benefit of others.

In addition, we recently received a report of the 2006 activities of our friends at the headquarters of the FPMT. They have been accomplishing amazing things in support of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and all the international Dharma activities of the FPMT. It really is most inspiring.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Transcripts


Recently we were sent transcripts (30 or 40 pages) of a couple of interviews between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and some Dharma students in Dharamsala in the 1980s. If somebody would like to type them into a computer, please let us know.

Just to remind you, we have many transcripts of teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the LYWA website, including The Spirit of Manjushri (teachings given in New York in 1998), A Survey of the Paths of Tibetan Buddhism, and The Yoga Method of Avalokiteshvara. See the Index of Teachings for the full list of His Holiness’ teachings on our website. Also, there are a number of hard-to-find teachings given by His Holiness published in our Members' Area.

A Heads-Up to Our Overseas Supporters
We hear that from May 14 the USPS is abolishing international surface mail, so all orders out of the country not covered by our London, England and Brisbane, Australia offices will have to be sent from here by the more expensive air mail. So if you live outside the United States and you've been thinking about placing an order, you might want to do it before May 10th, the last day we can process orders for international surface.

If you live in the UK or Europe, you can order many of our books through Wisdom Books in London, and if you live in Australia, you can contact Mandala Books via e-mail.

Good Links
My old friends from London, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, are now showing their new film, Dreaming Lhasa, in many different locations. Check out their website to see when it’s playing near you. Thank you so much.

As ever, the animals need our help. The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it to meet their daily quota of getting free food donated every day to abused and neglected animals. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on “feed an animal in need for free.” And, it doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to abandoned/neglected animals in exchange for advertising. Please pass it along to people you know. Tell 10 friends of animals about it today! And thanks for helping.

And while on the subject, here’s an excellent abolitionist approach.

Finally, thank you too for your support of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. Here’s a teaching on the ultimate flowering of compassion, bodhicitta.

Much love

Nick Ribush

Portrait of Lama Yeshe, Chenrezig Institute, Australia, 1975. Photo by Tony Duff. Bodhicitta

The most important thing those of us seeking enlightenment, or inner freedom, can do is to thoroughly analyze the actions of our body, speech and mind. What determines whether our actions are positive or negative, moral or immoral, is the motivation behind them, the mental attitude that causes us to act. It’s mainly mental attitude that determines whether actions are positive or negative.

Sometimes we’re confused as to what’s positive and what’s negative; we don’t know what morality is or why we should follow it. Actually, it’s very simple; we can check up scientifically. Moral actions are those that derive from a positive mental attitude; immoral actions are the opposite.

For example, when we talk about Hinayana and Mahayana it seems that the difference is philosophical or doctrinal but when we examine it from the practical level we find that although literally yana means vehicle—something that takes you from where you are to where you want to go—here, this internal vehicle refers to mental attitude.

The practitioner who is seeking liberation from cyclic existence for himself rather than enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, having understood the confused and suffering nature of samsara, clearly has the mental attitude of self-concern and doesn’t have time to look at other mother sentient beings’ problems: “My problems are the greatest problem; I must free myself from them once and for all.” That kind mental attitude, seeking realization of nirvana for oneself alone, is called Hinayana.

In Mahayana, maha means great and yana means vehicle, so what makes this vehicle great? Once more, yana implies mental attitude and here we call it bodhicitta—the determination to escape from the control of self-attachment and obsession with the welfare of “I, I, I” and reach enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.

We often say, “I want enlightenment,” but if we’re not careful our spiritual view and practice can become almost materialistic. However, those who truly have the innermost enlightenment attitude of bodhicitta seek enlightenment only for the sake of others and thus become true Mahayanists. Those who seek self-realization out of concern for only their own samsaric problems are Hinayanists.

Why do we call these attitudes vehicles? A vehicle is something that transports you—in the case of the Hinayana, to liberation; in the case of the Mahayana, to enlightenment.

We talk a lot about Hinayana this, Mahayana that. We can explain verbally what these vehicles are but actually, we have to understand them at a much deeper level. It can be that we’re someone who talks about being a Mahayanist but is, in fact, a Hinayanist. What you are isn’t determined by what you talk about but by your level of mind. That’s the way to distinguish Mahayanists from those who aren’t.

However, the way the lamrim is set up is that it explains the whole path; it begins with the Hinayana and continues on through the Mahayana in order to gradually lead students all the way to enlightenment. It also demonstrates the step-by-step way practitioners have to proceed. The realistic way to practice is to follow the path as laid out in the lamrim. You can’t skip steps and jump ahead, thinking you’re too intelligent for the early stages. Also, in order to experience heartfelt concern for the happiness of others instead of always putting yourself first, you have to start by understanding your own problems. This experience is gained in the beginning stages of the path.

There’s a prayer that says,**

Just as I have fallen into the sea of samsara,
So have all mother migratory beings.
Please bless me to see this, train in supreme bodhicitta
And bear the responsibility of freeing migratory beings.

It means that first we have to see that we ourselves are drowning in the ocean of samsaric suffering; only then can we truly appreciate the situation others are in. Then, by seeing that, we should not only wish to relieve them of their suffering but also take personal responsibility for their liberation and enlightenment; we must determine to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment by ourselves alone. This is the attitude that we call bodhicitta.

Actually, what is bodhicitta? It’s what this verse explains. It’s not a situation of becoming aware of your own suffering, seeing that others are also immersed in it and then generating some kind of emotional sorrow, “Oh, that’s terrible; how can I possibly help them?” That’s not bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is not the emotional upset that comes from understanding your own psychological problems of ego and attachment and then seeing that all sentient beings are in the same situation of confused attitude leading to samsaric problems. “Oh, poor sentient beings, but what can I do? I have no method” is not bodhicitta.

If you get too emotionally worked up over sentient beings suffering you can even go crazy. Instead of your insights bringing you wisdom they bring you more hallucination; you pump yourself up, “I’m completely confused and negative, the world is full of suffering, I have no reason for living. I might as well slash my wrists and end it all.”

It’s possible to have this kind of reaction to seeing universal suffering. If you’re not careful you might feel that this distorted compassion is bodhicitta. That’s a total misconception. Bodhicitta requires tremendous wisdom; it’s not based on emotional sorrow. Bodhicitta is the enlightened attitude that begins with seeing that all sentient beings, including you, have the potential to attain enlightenment. Before, you might have felt, “Oh, what can I do to help all sentient beings? I have no method,” but when you see the possibility of leading them to enlightenment, a door somehow opens in your mind and instead of feeling suffocated and emotionally bothered, you feel inspired. Therefore, in the verse I quoted, bodhicitta is described as supreme, perfect or magnificent.

Lama Yeshe gave this teaching in Madison, Wisconsin, 24 August 1975. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Nicholas Ribush.

**Note: From Lama Tsongkhapa’s Foundation of All Good Qualities.