E-letter No. 66: November 2008

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Soquel, CA USA 2001 (Archive #1331)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear LYWA friends,

I hope you are well. Thank you for reading our monthly e-letter. Please forward it as you see fit.

Here at the Archive, thanks to your kind and generous support, for which we are always grateful, things are going well.

Publishing the FPMT Lineage
I would like to thank all those who responded to our special appeal a few weeks ago. This is a very important initiative for us and we obviously need your help. All the information is there so I won’t say more about it here.

New DVD and Online Audio
Our new Lama Yeshe DVD, Bringing the Dharma to the West, is now in stock. In these two great interviews, Lama Yeshe explains how he and Lama Zopa Rinpoche began teaching Dharma to Westerners and how and why the FPMT began. We look forward to sending it to you.

You can listen online to the first three days from Lama Zopa Rinpoche's 8-day series of lam-rim teachings given in Guadalajara Mexico in April 2008. The unedited transcript is included, and the remaining days are being worked on now. You can also listen to the public talk that preceded this series.

If it’s not too late, please consider practicing compassion and mercy this year and sparing the life of a turkey. Here are a couple of things to think about, one from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the other an underground investigation. Thank you.

So, that’s not harming. If you would also like to help animals, you can very easily offer them free food and care by simply clicking on a button at the Animal Rescue Site.

Long life puja for Lama Zopa Rinpoche
The annual long life puja offered on behalf of the centers, projects, services and students of the FPMT to our most kind and immeasurably precious Spiritual Director, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, source of our inspiration and guidance, will be offered at Kopan Monastery on Dec 7th, during the annual one-month course. If you would like to contribute, you can do so here.

The fate of Tibet
As you may know, a huge meeting of Tibetan exiles just took place in Dharamsala to discuss the way forward. On Point Radio has just had an interesting show about the future of Tibet.

Thank you again for your kind interest and support. This month we leave you with an excerpt from a book that we hope to publish soon, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Teachings from the Medicine Buddha Retreat.

Much love,
Nick Ribush

Benefits of Medicine Buddha Practice

\"I think that this Medicine Buddha retreat has happened at the right time. There’s now a great need for it. Medicine Buddha practice is the most beneficial thing to do, and there is so much power in doing group practice. I had heard that many people praying together in a monastery has much more power than one person praying alone. I then saw in a thought transformation text by a Kadampa geshe (though I don’t remember which Kadampa geshe it was) that people doing prayers together has more power to bring success than one person praying. Here in this retreat, we are being given the chance to pray together, which is very powerful for our own development, as well as for the effect on the world.

The great enlightened being Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo said that in such a degenerate time Medicine Buddha and Heruka are two very precious deities to practice. When the time is very degenerate, with an explosion of the five degenerations, delusions become stronger and harder to abandon. The degeneration of sentient beings means that they are more and more thick-skulled and more and more difficult to subdue. The degeneration of time means that there are more wars, sicknesses (with new diseases coming) and so forth. The degeneration of life means that the life span is becoming shorter and shorter. The degeneration of view means that people very easily believe wrong views and find it difficult to believe the right view. Only a small number of people believe in karma or understand emptiness. There are four schools of Buddhist philosophy, each with a different view in regard to emptiness. The real, unmistaken view is that of the Prasangika school, but those who hold this view are very small in number. It’s only by realizing the Prasangika school’s view of emptiness that you can cut the root of samsara. With realization of the views of emptiness of the other schools—Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Chittamatra or even Svatantrika Madhyamaka—in reality you can’t cut the root of samsara. It is only by realizing the Prasangika view that you can cut the root of samsara, because the root of samsara is of only one type: a very subtle wrong concept. There’s no mention of subtle wrong concept in the texts—I’m just expressing it this way. In terms of wrong concepts, there are other grosser ones.

So, Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo explained that in such a degenerate time Medicine Buddha and Heruka are two very precious deities to practice. In other words, from sutra, there is Medicine Buddha, and from Highest Yoga Tantra, there is Heruka. With Heruka, the blessing becomes more and more powerful at this time. Therefore, we are very fortunate to be able to practice Medicine Buddha.

Also, the Medicine Buddhas made many prayers in the past. Those who have done the Medicine Buddha puja will have seen in the text that each one of the Medicine Buddhas made different prayers to solve various problems of sentient beings and to bring them happiness and success. They made these prayers to be able to benefit sentient beings in the future. They all then became enlightened. A buddha has skies of qualities, one of which is the ten powers, and one of the ten powers is the power of prayer. In the past the Medicine Buddhas prayed, “When anybody recites my name and mantra, may such and such problems be solved and may they have such and such success.” Because of that, when they became enlightened and achieved the power of prayer, their names and mantras have all this power. When we recite the Medicine Buddhas’ names and mantras, we receive the results of the prayers they made in the past. And if we recite the Medicine Buddhas’ names and mantras, whatever prayers we do are actualized. Therefore, doing Medicine Buddha practice is very powerful for success. People think Medicine Buddha is only for healing. It’s not only for healing but for everything.

After explaining all the inconceivable benefits of practicing, praying to and reciting the name and mantra of Medicine Buddha, Buddha then asked Ananda, his attendant, “Do you believe this?” Ananda replied, “Yes, I believe it. I believe what Buddha has said about these benefits because Buddha has inconceivable qualities, including omniscient mind, which can see everything.”

Buddha then explained that even animals who hear Medicine Buddha’s name will never get reborn in the lower realms. To save them from reincarnating in the lower realms forever is unbelievably compassionate. For each heavy negative karma you commit, you have to experience suffering in the lower realms for many eons. However, by simply hearing the name-mantra of Medicine Buddha, a being is saved forever from being reborn in the lower realms. That is unbelievable! It is simple to chant the name-mantra in the ear of an animal, but it has incredible power because of Medicine Buddha’s bodhicitta. At the very beginning, when Medicine Buddha first generated compassion for sentient beings, Medicine Buddha wished to benefit all sentient beings. The root of all this power is Medicine Buddha’s great compassion, which embraces all us sentient beings. Medicine Buddha developed this compassion and then, of course, achieved omniscient mind. All the skies of benefit we get from simply reciting Medicine Buddha’s name-mantra, with simply hearing the mantra giving protection from the sufferings of samsara, come from Medicine Buddha’s compassion. And sooner or later we will achieve enlightenment. So, all this came from Medicine Buddha’s compassion.

As those who have done Medicine Buddha puja will know, Medicine Buddha practice is also very powerful in purifying degenerations of lay vows and vows of ordination. That is another way this practice saves us from the lower realms. Since in the lower realms we have no opportunity to practice Dharma, being saved from the lower realms enables us to quickly be liberated from samsara and achieve enlightenment.

It is said that Medicine Buddha’s mantra has inconceivable benefits. In the presence of the eight Medicine Buddhas (there are eight Medicine Buddhas when you include Shakyamuni Buddha), Manjushri requested them, “When there’s an explosion of the five degenerations and sentient beings have very little merit, they will mostly engage in negative karma, and positive actions will be very rare. When sentient beings are totally possessed by various sicknesses and spirit harms, may whatever prayers the Medicine Buddhas made in the past quickly be actualized. May sentient beings be able to see the Medicine Buddhas, and may you actualize all the wishes of sentient beings. Please teach us this special mantra.”

In one voice, Shakyamuni Buddha and the seven Medicine Buddhas, then granted the Medicine Buddha mantra.

If you recite this mantra as a daily practice, all the buddhas and bodhisattvas will always pay attention to you and always guide you. Vajrapani, Owner of the Secrets, and the four guardians will also always protect you.

Last time I came here I brought a copy of the Medicine Buddha sutra and had a photocopy made of it so that you could put it here in the mandala. When you do Medicine Buddha practice, you need that special Medicine Buddha text. If you’re doing Medicine Buddha puja in a Dharma center, you need this special sutra and also the Medicine Buddha mandala. You should keep that in mind. There are two types of sutra. This one elaborately explains the benefits of practicing Medicine Buddha.

As mentioned in the Medicine Buddha sutra, if you practice Medicine Buddha or simply make an offering to Medicine Buddha, all twelve leaders of the groups of the entourage, who are like protectors and each of whom has an entourage of seven hundred thousand, will protect you. Through that all your wishes are then fulfilled.

Also, all your negative karma is purified. All sicknesses and spirit harms are quickly pacified. When someone is in a lot of pain that is difficult to control, if a Medicine Buddha puja is done in a monastery or somewhere else, the person will either recover or peacefully pass away, so that they don’t have to continue with all that pain.

Also, all your wishes are fulfilled.

Some years ago in Taiwan, George, a man I met when I went to Taiwan for the first time, gave me a Medicine Buddha statue to fill. He was the only person that I talked to about Dharma on that first visit. I talked to him at the airport, when I was leaving. Because of laziness I didn’t get to fill the statue, but I asked Dr. Adrian Feldmann (Ven. Thubten Gyatso) from Australia to do it. Many people here know Dr. Adrian. He’s one of the elder Sangha and has been a fully ordained monk for many years.

I was in Taiwan about seven days, but nothing much happened at that time. I was kept hostage in a hotel by a Tibetan lama from Sera Je but then a layperson, who has since passed away. One idea was to start a Dharma center and another was to start a translation program in a place where it could be more successful financially. Westerners and others would learn the Tibetan language, and there would be a geshe to translate Dharma texts with the help of a Western professor who knew Tibetan. We had the idea to start these projects in Taiwan. The lama told me that the projects could happen, but something didn’t feel right, so I suddenly changed my plans. Of course, my changing plans is nothing new.

The next day everything was planned for us to go on pilgrimage to Master Hsing Yun’s large monastery in Kaohsiung. The lama had arranged the transport and everything else. With me were Merry Colony, Neil [Ven. Thubten Döndrub], who was my attendant at that time, and the translator. We were going on pilgrimage to meet the four great abbots of Taiwan and to question them about gelongma vows, as His Holiness had asked for this to be checked in Singapore and other countries. I also had some other Dharma questions that I thought to ask the abbots. Master Hsing Yun was to be the first abbot we visited, and we planned to go the next day. Somebody then came and talked for hours about that Tibetan lama. I then changed my plans in the middle of the night, and the next morning I left for Nepal instead of going on pilgrimage. At the airport before I left I talked a little bit to George about Dharma.

Anyway, George had the Medicine Buddha statue filled. He then gave it to someone who was very sick with cancer. One day this person was lying in bed. He needed his medicine but it was in the bathroom, and he couldn’t move. He slowly turned his head to the Medicine Buddha statue, which had been left on a table beside his pillow. He saw that the Medicine Buddha statue was holding the medicine in its hand. He then took that medicine.

When he later passed away, he slowly turned and put his palms together at his heart, then very peacefully passed away. He wasn’t a Buddhist or of any particular religion, but because of what happened to him, with Medicine Buddha guiding him, I think he must have remembered Medicine Buddha. So he put his palms together at his heart as he was lying there and then very peacefully passed away.

Also, it is very, very powerful to recite the name of each Medicine Buddha seven times. It quickly purifies all the heavy negative karmas collected during beginningless rebirths. One collects much merit and has a long life free from sickness. One is saved from the lower realms and is quickly able to achieve enlightenment.

Excerpted from Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Teachings from the Medicine Buddha Retreat (held at Land of Medicine Buddha in 2001), edited by Ven. Ailsa Cameron, to be published by the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive in 2009.