I hope you are well. Here we are still busy sending out our three new books—Lama Yeshe’s Universal Love and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s How Things Exist and Making Life Meaningful—and working on our new projects, in particular a couple of weekend seminars conducted by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche in the UK and Switzerland in 1975 and 1983 respectively, as I mentioned in our January e-letter.
We're still receiving responses to the survey we're conducting about our free books. Thanks very much to those of you who replied. You can see the results to the multiple choice questions here; even more inspiring are your free-form comments. If you have not taken the survey, please take the time to do so. Thank you again.
This month's podcast is another excerpt from Lama Zopa Rinpoche's commentary and oral transmission of the Golden Light Sutra given at Maitripa Institute last November 2nd and 3rd. The entire series is now available here.
We are also working on a major revamp of our website. The overall design is being updated, and all of the teachings will be tagged with categories and keywords to make it easier to find what you're looking for. We'll keep you up to date as work progresses.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Heart of the Path
Last month I also brought to your attention an incredible new book we’ll be publishing later this year, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Heart of the Path, a compilation of more than three decades’ teachings on guru devotion, expertly edited by our senior editor, Ven. Ailsa Cameron. At present we’re inviting all of you to contribute to this amazing project and if you would like to play a part in bringing these important teachings to the world, please do so. Thank you so much.
Beatrice Ribush 1913–2008
On a sadder note, I’d just like to mention the death of my mother in Melbourne on March 15 and ask you to pray for her quick enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. She was a perfect mother and took care of me in the four ways: she gave me this precious human body, guided me from danger, supplied me with all temporal needs and oversaw my education.
My father died when I was in my last year of school, so even though my mother had always been what in those days was called a housewife and had no business experience, she took over his jewelry import company in order to put my brother and me through medical school. Then when I went to Nepal and decided to stay at Kopan Monastery and become a monk, even though she was a Jewish mother she totally supported my decision to drop out of medicine and again helped me financially. I managed to convince her to come check it out, so she attended the Fourth Meditation Course in March 1973 and became a Buddhist.
From that time on she was very close to Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche and they stayed at her house the first three or four years they came to Melbourne, 1974–77. She was instrumental in the early development of Tara Institute and also got involved with the Buddhist Society of Victoria, where she was treasurer for fourteen years. When I went to London to run Wisdom Publications in the 80s and we needed money she lent us tens of thousands of dollars.
She lived independently at home until the age of 90, still driving her increasingly dented car, much to our consternation, but after a rather trivial illness in 2004 it became clear that she needed round-the-clock care. My brother Dorian and his former wife Alison, who was like a daughter to my mother and a sister to me, who had already been helping her over the years, really stepped up to the plate and employed some wonderful women to stay with Mum so that she could live out her years at home with her beloved cat, Kotik. I am so grateful to both of them, especially Dorian, who paid for all this, as their taking responsibility allowed me to stay here in Boston to run the Archive, visiting Australia annually to see my mother.
A few years ago she had this idea that she’d like to donate her organs when she died and had a discussion about organ donation and death in general with Lama Zopa Rinpoche on one of his visits to Tara Institute. For a while she was able to do some of the practices he recommended, but not in recent years.
On March 13 she fell and broke her hip, requiring surgery under general anesthetic. Unfortunately she did not recover from this but I really think she was ready to go. Lama Zopa Rinpoche had already been notified of what was going on, so upon being notified of her death immediately performed po-wa (transferring the consciousness to a pure land) for her. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was notified directly and also requested to pray for her through FPMT’s Prayers for the Dead service, which is for Rinpoche’s students and their family members. Mum’s good friend, the former Tara Institute director Ven. Konchog Dronma (Bonnie Rothenberg), who lives near Tushita, Dharamsala, went to the tantric monasteries and has requested many prayers and practices there, and other things are being done as well.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche has given extensive advices for what to do for oneself and others when death approaches; you can read these on our recently-updated pages in the "Transitions" Section of Rinpoche's Online Advice Book and find links there to many prayers and practices. When Rinpoche was in Melbourne in 2006 he visited Mum and felt she was in a very good space and would have no problems. She had a great life, a good death and was loved by many. We should all be so lucky!
As you read this, my wife, Wendy Cook, and I are in Melbourne for the funeral, which was on Thursday March 20. Thank you for allowing me to write all this. May my kind mother and all mother sentient beings quickly come under the care of perfect vajra gurus like Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche and reach enlightenment immediately, without a second’s delay.
Remembering the Kindness of All Mother Sentient Beings
Think on the four kindnesses and the suffering of being kind as follows:
Even worldly people are grateful for the kindness of the mother, which extends from conception until death.
(1) My mother has been kind in giving me my precious human body. Her kindness is responsible for all the opportunities I have, of making use of my body and leading the sort of life that I do.
If she hadn’t taken care of me when I was in the womb, I wouldn’t have been born alive. If she hadn’t fed me well afterwards, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the various functions of my physical body, such as using my eyes to see the most beautiful objects, my ears to hear the most beautiful sounds, my nose to smell the sweetest perfumes, my tongue to enjoy the most delicious tastes, or my body to enjoy sexual love and have many children.
Also, becoming rich by working with my body, speech or mind, and being skilful and creative with my hands; all this depends on my mother’s kindness. My mother always took good care of me, feeding me properly, protecting me from many dangers, directing my life, and making me study so that I could have a comfortable life and good reputation.
(2) From the time of my conception she has been worried and concerned about me. When I was in the womb she worried day and night, didn’t move as freely as before, and always took more care of me than of herself, because of the great love and compassion she had for her baby. She took much care in eating—renouncing desirable food and eating only that which would not give me harm, avoiding foods that were too hot and too cold and so forth.
At the time of my birth, she bore the extreme suffering of feeling as if her body were about to split apart and had fear that her life was in danger. If my mother hadn’t wanted to bear the suffering of childbirth, I wouldn’t have been born.
When I was a baby, in spite of disgust, she always kept me clean of ka-ka, pi-pi, snot, etc. She always tried to keep me warm and protected and gave me the best clothes and food that she could. She would also keep the best part of her own food and other enjoyments for me.
My mother told lies to give me a good reputation and to hide my faults and bad behaviour. To protect me from danger she fought or did anything possible to help, taking more care of me than of herself.
All in all, my parents took great care of my life with much suffering, creating bad karma by making other beings suffer so that I would be happy.
(3) Moreover, because my present mother has been my mother in countless human lives, she has been infinitely kind to me since time without beginning.
The amount of milk we have drunk from the one mother is greater than the amount of water in the oceans.
If all the milk I have ever received from my mother could be collected, it would fill infinite space, and I could continue to drink it in future lives. Similarly, the food received from her is as infinite as space, and all my past ka-kas and pi-pis, the result of that food, would fill an infinite, immense extension—so would the clothes she gave me, the immense ocean of tears she shed out of worry for me, and the numberless bodies she sacrificed to protect my life.
Besides the kindnesses she gave me as a human, there are those she gave as all different beings, an infinite number of times each. I have received exactly the same amount of benefits from each sentient being. Therefore, as my present mother has been infinitely kind to me, so has every other sentient being.
(4) Finally, my mother has been extremely kind in educating me herself and in seeing that I received a good education throughout my life so that I could become self-sufficient and have a happy, fulfilling life.
When you have a heavy feeling of this present life’s mother’s kindness in this and previous lives, think also how your father has been mother. Then do this meditation with friends and enemies and then all other sentient beings.
This meditation is with our present mother in her human body. Then think of her kindness when she had other kinds of body, such as that of a dog, a bird and so forth. Think in great detail. Then also do this with father, friend, enemy, and all other sentient beings.
Adapted from Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Wish-fulfilling Golden Sun, edited by Nicholas Ribush. Although we usually try to offer in this space a previously unpublished teaching, given the circumstances we thought it was apropos. Thank you.