E-letter No. 6: July 2003

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal 2002 (Archive #1410)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the next issue of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive e-letter.

More good news: we have found a kind sponsor for the reprints of Lama Yeshe’s ever-popular “Becoming Your Own Therapist” and “Make Your Mind an Ocean,” which we’ll probably bring out in a combined edition. In addition to working on this, we’re also working on the reprint of Lama’s “The Essence of Tibetan Buddhism” and a new, as-yet untitled collection of six talks, which is also being sponsored.

I can’t thank our kind benefactors enough. Without your generous and compassionate help we would not have been able to maintain and develop the Archive or publish tens of thousands of wonderful Dharma books for free distribution around the world. We’re not only grateful to those of you who have sponsored entire print-runs of particular titles but also to those who have contributed even small amounts. It all helps and it’s all highly meaningful. Thank you so much.

Some of you may know, others may not, that for the past couple of years we’ve been digitizing our precious collection of aging tapes. Some of our approximately 7,000 cassettes (more than 10,000 hours of teachings) are almost 30 years old and were in danger of terminal deterioration, but with the help of Greg Sneddon and his wonderful team of volunteers in Melbourne and a grant from the FPMT, we’ve been able to digitize almost everything so that it now fits onto a hard drive the size of a Harry Potter book. Amazing. Now we’re hoping to be able to edit the audio and start making audio teachings available on the Web. Stay tuned, so to speak.

In the meantime, you may know that FPMT Radio has been launched, with some teachings by Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe currently available. 

And keep checking out our Web site. We’re adding new teachings all the time. The latest is Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s commentary from the Sixth Kopan Course on the Impermanence and Death section of his “Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun”, an excerpt of which we offered you in our previous e-letter. This teaching is one of the pieces of required reading for the Death and Rebirth module of the FPMT’s Discovering Buddhism at Home correspondence course. This 14-part program is an excellent introduction to Tibetan Buddhism and we recommend it highly. The first four modules are currently available.

Thank you so much. Please let us know if we can do anything for you.

And, as usual, we’ve kept the best till last – another teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Much love,

Nick Ribush


Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche, 2004.Even though we don’t engage in the intentional killing of sentient beings, we still kill many of them. When we’re walking, we crush so many ants and other insects underfoot. When we’re driving, we run over many small beings and hundreds of others get smashed on the windscreen and other parts of our car. Many others die in the growing and preparation of our food.

That’s how it is and, until we attain freedom from samsara, that’s how it will remain. Only upon liberation will we cease to depend on a body that needs food, clothing and shelter. By constantly taking rebirth in samsara, we keep taking a body with all these needs. That’s the nature of life and, as a result, many, many sentient beings have to die for our survival, enjoyment and comfort.

For example, when we build houses, many sentient beings are killed when the foundations are laid, and by doing their work, the builders have to create the negative karma of killing.

With respect to clothing, think about silk, for example, which comes from the boiling of silk worms. The silk worms suffer from that and again, the workers create the negative karma of killing by boiling the worms. What need is there to mention the killing and negative karma involved in making clothes from animal hide and fur?

Thus, many sentient beings suffer for the protection, warmth and comfort of our bodies.

And, as I mentioned, they also suffer for our food. Take, for instance, just one bowl of rice. Rice has to be grown from rice seeds planted in the ground. First the ground has to be tilled, either by hand or machine. Either way, there’s a person who has to do that, and the many ants, worms, mice and other creatures living there get killed.

Actually, even before the rice paddies are created, the brush or forest there has to be cleared by burning, which also involves numberless other sentient beings dying by fire or other violent means. Many sentient beings suffer for even one bowl of rice.

And the rice in that one bowl has a long history. The grain from which it grew came from previous rice, which came from the rice before that, back and back through time. And each crop of rice involves many sentient beings suffering and many others creating the negative karma of harming others. Thus, the continuity of one bowl of rice has a long evolution of suffering; in its generation, numberless sentient beings die and harm others.

You can think about a bowl of vegetables in the same way, too. Before they’re picked, how many sentient beings are living on those vegetables? That’s their home, their enjoyment. Or think how much honey you have eaten in your life – bottles and bottles of it. How many thousands and thousands of bees collected it, working hard, flying from flower to flower, collecting it as their own food, to support their own lives?

If you reflect properly on all this, it will become impossible, unbearable, for you to cherish only yourself and live for merely your own happiness. You won’t be able to do it.

When you discover just how many numberless sentient beings suffered, died, and engaged in the negative karma of killing in order for you to receive all your needs, comforts and enjoyments, you will immediately feel compelled to do something for them, for their benefit.

Think, “My survival every second of every minute of every hour of every day, all my past, present and future enjoyments and all my comfort are completely due to the kindness of all sentient beings. My simply being alive and able to practice Dharma totally depends on the existence and kindness of other sentient beings. From now on, there’s no way I can cherish only myself, live for myself alone and use all these things for myself. It’s impossible; it’s unbearable to live in this way.

“The only solution is to liberate myself from samsara as quickly as possible so that other sentient beings don’t have to suffer on my account. The sooner I can liberate myself and not have to reincarnate again – take a samsaric body completely dependent on other sentient beings – the sooner will others not have to suffer because of me.

“Not only that. If I can attain enlightenment, I’ll be able to liberate all sentient beings from their suffering and bring them to enlightenment. This is an even better solution and is the best gift I can offer others; the best way to repay the kindness they have shown me by providing me with all my happiness and goodness.

“Therefore, from now on, I will devote myself to the enlightenment of all sentient beings.”

This is the best, most meaningful way to lead your life.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at Kopan Monastery in December 2002. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Nicholas Ribush.