E-letter No. 5: June 2003

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal 1974 (Archive #028)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear Friend,

Welcome to the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive's fifth e-letter. We are happy to have you on our list.

I'd like to repeat what I said in our previous e-letter, that some of our popular books are running low; others are completely out of stock. We'd like to reprint Lama Yeshe's Becoming Your Own Therapist and Make Your Mind an Ocean and Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Virtue and Reality and need sponsors for these titles. In general, it costs us about $4,000 to print 10,000 copies of one of these books. If you would like to help, please let us know.

I would like to thank very much those who have already responded to this appeal and those who have sent us contributions in general. The majority of our support comes from readers like you, and we are most grateful for your compassionate help. Your general donations keep us going; to prepare and print new books and reprint titles out of stock, we need either a single sponsor or a few people getting together to contribute the amount required. Thank you so much.

The good news is that we have found a sponsor for Lama Yeshe's The Essence of Tibetan Buddhism, the book containing Lama's teachings on the "Three Principal Aspects of the Path" and "An Introduction to Tantra," which we also make available free of charge as videos of these teachings on a couple of CDs. You can find more information about these on our website.

We have also found a sponsor for a new free book of Lama Yeshe's teachings, which is, as yet, untitled. It will contain six talks given in Australia in 1975, three of which are called "Attitude is More Important than Action," "An Introduction to Meditation" and "Follow Your Path without Attachment." Stay tuned for more information on both these books.

In the meantime, as many of you know, the LYWA is a part of an international organization, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), and the heart project of our spiritual director, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, is the Maitreya Project—the construction of a 500-foot statue of Maitreya, the next buddha, in India. Read more about the Maitreya Projects here.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche has asked that the students of all FPMT centers and activities recite the Sanghata Sutra, an important teaching of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, dedicating their recitation to the removal of obstacles to the construction of this amazing statue. Of course, it is always of personal benefit to recite sutras, teachings of the Buddha himself, so if you're interested to participating in this worldwide effort, please go to the FPMT website to find a copy of the sutra. And let us know if you have recited it once or more (it's not short!).

Thank you so much, and, as usual, please find below another great teaching from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

Much love,

Nick Ribush


The teachings on impermanence and death are very useful. They're useful for those who don't practice Dharma because it makes them seek the Dharma out. They're also useful for those who do practice Dharma, who meditate. We should always remember death. If we do, our mind will remain aware of the changes constantly happening within us, of how short the human life is, of how life is getting shorter every moment. This has great benefit.

Many great yogis got their start by meditating on the shortness of the human life, impermanence and death; their enlightenment, their realizations and their Dharma practice itself all came from this. Their strength and ability to live an ascetic life in extremely isolated places, to practice the vast and profound subjects no matter how long it took to receive realizations and attain the higher paths or how difficult it was, and to generate the incredible energy required to persevere in their practice--all these things came from their thinking about the shortness of the human life, impermanence and death; their receiving enlightenment in their lifetime was also due to this remembrance.

It takes a great deal of energy to reach enlightenment; the quicker you want to receive it, the more energy you have to expend. If, for example, you want to cover a long distance quickly by car, you need a good machine, good fuel and the energy to drive. Similarly, it's not easy to attain enlightenment in your lifetime: you need great energy in order to overcome the difficulties of practicing Dharma and following the path. Where does such energy come from? It comes from remembering the impermanence of life and death. Therefore, this meditation is extremely useful. Even enlightened beings' continually benefiting sentient beings can be traced back to this meditation.

Remembering impermanence and death is also important if you just want to be reborn in the upper realms or to free yourself from samsara.

Remembering impermanence and death is powerful, too, because it helps you put an end to all 84,000 delusions. All the different negative minds--the great root of ignorance, hatred, all the other wrong conceptions, all the obscurations that prevent liberation from samsara and enlightenment--can be terminated by the energy generated through remembering impermanence and death; this is the original cause of the cessation of all these delusions. Therefore, it is very powerful.

If you remember impermanence and death, you can also prevent the arising of temporal negative minds such as greed, ignorance, hatred, pride, jealousy and so forth--minds that cause you discomfort, suffering and confusion--even if they arise strongly. You prevent them from arising because remembering impermanence and death makes you fear death and the shortness of the human life. Therefore, it is very useful in making your mind peaceful, even at present.

Not only is remembering impermanence and death useful at the beginning of the practice--when it persuades, or obliges, you to seek out the Dharma, to begin to practice, to meditate, instead of following your negative mind and acting opposite to the Dharma--it is also beneficial during the practice, once you are on the path; here it very useful in making you continue to practice. Even though you are in the middle of your practice, following the path, by remembering death you keep from losing your realizations and continue on to the higher reaches of the path.

And then, it's useful at the end of your practice, when it carries you through the difficult practices at the end of the path to full and complete enlightenment.

Finally, at the time of death, this remembrance is greatly useful in that it allows you to die peacefully, with happiness, a relaxed mind, no worries at all. Even though your relatives, your husband or wife, might be crying, the people around you suffering, you yourself can die with great joy, like going on holiday or a picnic. Definitely. The person who has spent his or her life meditating, remembering death every day, continuously making purification, creating merit, trying to stop creating negative karma, creating as little negative karma as possible, has no trouble at the time of death.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at the Sixth Kopan Meditation Course, April 1974. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.