E-letter No. 60: May 2008

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
London, England 1975 (Archive #169)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear Friends,

Thank you for receiving and reading our monthly e-letter. If appropriate, please share it with your friends.

Archive Updates
\"We continue to receive great feedback on our new Lama Yeshe book, Universal Love. Please purchase a copy if you can and also recommend that your Dharma center or other bookstore carry it. Thank you so much.

Many of you may have already had the pleasure of corresponding with our new Office Manager, Ani Tenzin Desal. Ani Desal arrived last January to work part-time at the Archive and we quickly realized that we'd be much better off if she could be with us full-time! So, in addition to handling all customer service activities (donations and book orders) she is also cataloguing recordings and transcripts submitted to the Archive. She has fit right in, and we're delighted that she is now part of our team.

Development of our new website is progressing, and we are presently looking for volunteers to help us transition from the old website. And you don't have to be a programmer to participate! We need experienced dharma students to categorize and "tag" website articles, and we also need volunteers with some html knowledge to load the new website content. If you would like to help in either area, please email [email protected].

What's New from the Archive
Listen online to Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching on the Three Principal Aspects of the Path at Vajrapani Institute in Boulder Creek, CA in 2006. As always, you can listen to this and many other teachings on our Online Recordings page.

This month's podcast is a wonderful recording of an address that Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave at the opening of the new Vajrayana Institute in Sydney Australia in 2006. In this address he talks extensively on the benefits of dharma centers. The teachings that followed the opening have been posted here.

To complement this podcast we have posted additions to Rinpoche's Online Advice Book in the Advices to Dharma Centers section and the Advice to Center Directors section. See the FPMT website for a complete listing of all the 150 FPMT centers, projects and services to whom Rinpoche directed this advice.

There are also new advices to Dharma project benefactors which includes Rinpoche's explanation of the benefits of the Maitreya Project in India.

Practicing Generosity
And speaking of supporting Dharma projects, we have recently received a couple of opportunities to practice generosity and create much merit from our parent organization, the FPMT. One is the “Work a Day for Rinpoche”, where you can donate a day’s wages (or any amount, actually) to assist Lama Zopa Rinpoche in his many amazing, incredible projects around the world.

The other is to contribute to the upcoming long life puja the FPMT is offering to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on June 15, at the end of his teachings in Sydney, Australia. You can find a donation link for these and other projects on the FPMT website.

Rinpoche Writes about Bea

Bea Ribush, 2007. Photo by Wendy Cook.In our last couple of e-letters I told you about the passing of my dear mother. Those of you who receive the FPMT journal Mandala may have seen her obituary there; we have also posted it on our website. Her guru Lama Zopa Rinpoche wrote a brief remembrance of her for Mandala but it was omitted for reasons of space. So I take the liberty of reproducing Rinpoche’s kind words here:

Bea Ribush shouldn’t have any difficulties in the future because in her heart she was always thinking about the happiness of others; always thinking about others’ needs. Her basic mental attitude was always kind hearted. My guess is that that’s the way she was even before she met Buddhism, so there’s no question in my mind how, after meeting Buddhism, her mind developed, especially in kindness.

Another part of her nature I liked was her humor. Even when she was quite old she still retained her humorous heart.

I originally met Bea at the fourth Kopan course in Nepal, about the time Nick started to help with the transcribing of the course teachings. After that Lama Yeshe asked Nick to start publishing and later Wisdom began in London. Now Tim is the publisher of Wisdom and for many years Nick has been doing the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

There is great benefit in publishing Dharma, in bringing Dharma to sentient beings in this way, so this is an important aspect of the FPMT’s activities. Also, in the beginning, when Nick first came to Kopan, he was with Yeshe Khadro. Both were busy working for sentient beings; both have been busy from that time up to now, working for others, and I think have been very beneficial for the FPMT. It was also Nick and Yeshe Khadro who, with Tom and Kathy Vichta, offered the land that became Chenrezig Institute. Again, there has been much benefit from that center since it started. So up to now there has been unbelievable benefit, bringing light into the hearts of sentient beings, leading them on the path to liberation.

Nick invited his mother to the fourth Kopan course, which was her entry into Tibetan Buddhism. The first few times Lama and I went to Australia we stayed at Bea’s house. Once she requested us to give a talk at her Buddhist organization in Melbourne; she asked me to talk about something from a text. This is what I remember.

One time during the 1974 course at Diamond Valley I was talking about the eight worldly dharmas and with a big smile Bea asked the question, “There must be some good things in this life?” She brought this question up after I had been leading meditation on the hell realms. At that time I could see that there were a lot of empty spots in the tent and in the distance I could see people leaving with their rucksacks on their backs. At that time I thought, “This is like a dream”—that’s the antidote I was using.

Bea was a really sweet mother and she had a very special connection with Lama Yeshe. Once she did a Cittamani Tara retreat. I always have very good memories of Bea.

Bea’s death is a very good teaching for us: sooner or later our own friends will be hearing that we ourselves are dead or dying. So this is a teaching to remember, a reminder of our own death and what happens after that. This is what we need to keep in our heart and think about.

With much love and prayers,
Lama Zopa

Thank you again so much for your kind interest in and support of the work of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. Once again we leave you with a previously unpublished teaching, this one by Lama Zopa Rinpoche on the perfect human rebirth.

Much love,
Nick Ribush


Meditating on the Perfect Human Rebirth

\"This present human rebirth that we presently have is extremely meaningful with respect to attaining both temporal and ultimate goals and highly meaningful every hour, minute and second. How is this perfect human rebirth so precious and useful in attaining even temporal goals? For example, if we want to receive a perfect human rebirth again in future so that we can continue practicing Dharma and following the graduated path to enlightenment by once more meeting a spiritual friend, we can create the cause for this result in this life by living in pure moral conduct, practicing charity and making stainless prayers. This present perfect human rebirth offers us the capability of doing this.

This perfect human rebirth also offers the opportunity to create the cause to be reborn as the king of a country, a wealthy person, or as a god in the sura or asura realms, where lives are long and enjoyments transcendent, by practicing charity, living in moral discipline and making prayers to achieve such temporal goals.

This perfect human rebirth is also highly meaningful in allowing us to achieve the ultimate goals of either the everlasting happiness of complete freedom from samsara or the most sublime happiness of enlightenment. And this perfect human rebirth even offers us the opportunity of attaining enlightenment or this life or within a few lives rather than taking many eons. How is that possible? The graduated path to enlightenment has two divisions: the sutra graduated path, or Paramitayana, and the tantric graduated path, or Vajrayana. Since all these teachings exist at this time, this perfect human rebirth gives us the chance to practice them: by following the Paramitayana path we can reach enlightenment after many eons but by following the Vajrayana path, the shortcut path to enlightenment, we can reach it much more quickly without taking so much time.

Furthermore, this perfect human rebirth is extremely useful every second, every minute, every hour. This is especially so these days, when the Mahayana teachings still exist, have not degenerated, and we have had the great fortune of meeting these teachings and can practice their essence, bodhicitta. Because we can generate the pure thought of bodhicitta, even in a minute we can purify the obscurations and negative karma collected over eons in many previous lifetimes from beginningless samsaric lifetimes. In the shortest period of time, negative karma collected over hundreds and billions of eons can be purified and infinite merit as vast as space can be created by generating the pure thought of bodhicitta with this perfect human rebirth.

Therefore this perfect human rebirth that we have received this time is that extremely useful. It is so precious; much more precious than a universe filled with jewels. Even if we had a universe full of jewels they could not bring us what the perfect human rebirth can. They could not even bring us a future perfect human rebirth let alone supreme enlightenment. The value of the perfect human rebirth we have now received is beyond compare with a universe full of jewels.

Also, as meaningful as this perfect human rebirth is, that much difficult is it for other rebirths, such as those of the animals, pretas, suras and asuras, to be as meaningful in achieving those goals. Those other rebirths are nowhere near as meaningful or precious as this present perfect human rebirth.

However, even though we have received this perfect human rebirth, from the time we were born until now we have not recognized it as meaningful or precious. Not only have we not recognized it as precious, we have actually thought that it’s meaningless; that being born as a human being has no meaning. In other words, we’ve just made ourselves more ignorant. Instead of encouraging ourselves we’ve put ourselves down, discouraged ourselves, which has only served to not make our life meaningful.

The way we’ve been using our perfect human rebirth up until now is like a child who has an extremely precious jewel in its hand but doesn’t recognize its value so throws it down the toilet. We waste our perfect human rebirth in exactly the same way. We have this extremely precious thing in our hand but not recognizing its worth we completely waste it.

Even though this perfect human rebirth is highly meaningful, if we don’t use it attain the goals, such as the highest goal of enlightenment, everlasting happiness or temporal goals such as a human rebirth, which for other sentient beings—hell beings, pretas, animals, suras and suras—are extremely difficult to attain, and instead use it simply to pursue the happiness of just this life, the happiness of today, our actions are no higher than those of animals, those lower creatures, those living beings, even tiny insects, whose sole concern is temporal pleasure and whose aims are always directed towards that end.

As this perfect human rebirth has meaning, if you don’t use it accordingly, if you live your life in the way animals lead theirs, always striving for temporal pleasure, then it’s just like you weren’t born as a human but as one of those lower creatures, lower realm beings. Why? Because your actions are no higher than theirs; what you do is not more special than what they do. From those tiny creatures that are almost too small to see with the naked eye all the way up to the largest of animals, all the time, all their daily activities, all the things they do with their body, speech and mind, are done with attachment to the transient pleasures of just this life.

So now check up within yourself: “Since I was born up until now, have I created any meaningful actions with my perfect human rebirth, any actions worthy of this human rebirth, any actions higher than those of animals, any meaningful actions done without attachment to temporal pleasure, actions that lead to the higher goals of better future lives and the ultimate goals of liberation and enlightenment.” Check how many meaningful, worthwhile actions—if you can find any—you’ve done with this perfect human rebirth from the time you were born until now; check to see if any of your actions have been higher than those of animals.


Also check like this: “All the daily activities of the twittering birds flying from tree to tree and the insects crawling around on the ground are done with attachment to temporal pleasure. Are ant of my daily activities—eating, drinking, walking, talking and sleeping—any different? Do I do anything without attachment to temporal pleasure or are all my actions the same as those of those flying birds and crawling insects, who do everything with attachment to temporal pleasure?” Check this.


Check everything you do from morning to night, your usual daily activities.


Check one day’s activities to see if there’s even one action that’s higher than an animal’s, done without attachment to temporal pleasure.


When you check in this way you can see clearly whether you’re living the life of a human being or that of an animal. By checking the actions of your daily life in detail you can clearly see this.

However, when we do check like this we can hardly find a single action that is pure, higher than the actions of dumb animals. The way our minds think is the same; the way we lead our life is the same. We can’t find anything higher. The only differences are that our body has a different shape and we live in a house but there’s no difference in the way we think. Otherwise we’re no different from the dog that lives outside. This is what we’ll find if we check properly; it’s very upsetting.

Now, if we could receive this perfect human rebirth again and again and again and again, easily, one after the other, again and again and again, then perhaps we wouldn’t have to worry. If perfect human rebirths came as easily as rice grows—you plant rice seedling, they grow, produce more seeds, you plant those and get more rice—if when we died we automatically received another perfect human rebirth, we would have to concern ourselves that much with making this life meaningful. It wouldn’t be so dangerous to waste it. But it’s not like this; it’s not like this.

It will be very difficult to receive such a perfect human rebirth again; very difficult. Why will it be so difficult? Why is it extremely difficult to find another perfect human rebirth? That’s because we have not received this present perfect human rebirth without reason; this perfect human rebirth is not without cause. Why in this lifetime have we received a perfect human rebirth, met the teachings and had the chance to meditate, to control our mind? That’s because many of our previous lives observed the law of karma, lived in moral discipline, created much charity and made many prayers to receive this present human rebirth. Many of our previous lives worked very hard, expended much effort, to create the cause of this precious human rebirth.

So this human rebirth is not something that has been received without cause, kind of independent, self-existent. It’s not like this. Therefore, receiving a perfect human rebirth in future depends on whether we, in this life, create the cause of a future perfect human rebirth; it’s in the hands of our present human rebirth. If in this life we don’t create the cause for a perfect human rebirth, in the future we won’t receive one; if in this life we do create the cause of a perfect human rebirth, that will make us receive one in a future life. So it all depends upon our present life.

Why is it extremely difficult to receive a perfect human rebirth? It’s because the cause is extremely difficult to create. For instance, let’s check like this, from the point of view of moral conduct. If we check this way we’ll be able to figure out whether or not we’ll receive a perfect human rebirth again. Think, “From the time I was born until now, have I observed any moral conduct such as not killing, not stealing, not engaging in sexual misconduct. In this life, have I observed such moral discipline or not?”


Also check, “Have I not told lies, not gossiped, not spoken harshly, not slandered others? Have I observed any of these moral disciplines in my life or not?”


As well, check, “Have I not generated ill will, covetousness or the heresy of believing there’s no ultimate reality, no Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and no past and future lives? Have I observed any of these moral disciplines in my life or not?”


Now think, “Have I observed any of these moral disciplines for even a day?”


If you find that you have observed such disciplines, then that’s something to feel happy about, rejoice over.

So now, after checking, think, “If I were to die now, could I receive a perfect human rebirth again?” Question yourself.

So that’s checking to see if we’ve observed any moral in our life. We don’t need to check in this way to see whether or not with negative mind we’ve done the opposite: the three immoral actions of body—killing, stealing and sexual misconduct—the four immoral actions of speech—telling lies, speaking harshly, slandering and gossiping—or the three immoral actions of mind—generating ill will, covetousness or heresy. If we check how many such actions we’ve created from the time of our rebirth until now we don’t need to worry we won’t find any. It’s easy to see that we have; we don’t have to spend much time looking.

Anyway, what I mean is this: it’s not sure that we’ll receive another human rebirth let alone a perfect human rebirth in our future lives. Therefore, now that we have received a perfect human rebirth we absolutely must extract its essence. What is the essence of the perfect human rebirth? It’s the three temporal and ultimate goals I mentioned before, the highest of which is enlightenment. So while we hold the jewel of the perfect human rebirth in our hand, we have to ensure that we create the cause for enlightenment, because it’s most uncertain that in future we’ll have this chance again.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching 21 September 1975 at Royal Holloway College, Surry, England. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Nicholas Ribush.