E-letter No. 75: August 2009

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kathmandu, Nepal 1973 (Archive #488)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear LYWA Friends and Supporters,

Thank you as ever for your kind interest in and help with our work, which we undertake for the enlightenment of all sentient beings.

As our teachers always remind us, the fundamental cause of suffering at all levels is ignorance, and the antidote to ignorance is Dharma wisdom. That is what we provide, freely and all over the world. But we can only do this with your financial support. Therefore we are forever grateful to you for your kind memberships, book sponsorships, benefactor donations and other contributions. Thank you so much. 

Book News
Click to see a larger imageAs mentioned last month, our next two books are well under way...they are now at the printer’s and will be available at the end of next month. Our newest free book, Freedom Through Understanding, contains Lama Yeshe’s and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s first-ever teachings in Europe, September 1975. Our next book for sale is Rinpoche’s Teachings from the Medicine Buddha Retreat, extensive teachings from the 2001 retreat at Land of Medicine Buddha, in which Rinpoche covers an amazing range of topics.

You can read excerpts from Teachings from the Medicine Buddha Retreat in our November 2008 and December 2008 eletters; members can also read an excerpt in our Members' Area.

If you are a member or benefactor, you will automatically receive one or both of these new titles when we send them out in the fall. If you would like to receive them, make sure you’re a member or benefactor! Thank you so much. 

Also, we continue to add to our offerings for Amazon's Kindle reader. The latest title to be added was Rinpoche's Joy of Compassion, bringing the total number of LYWA titles on Kindle to eight.

Special Book and DVD Offers for LYWA Friends
Our friends at Thubten Dhargye Ling Publications graciously sent LYWA a few hundred copies of two of their books by Geshe Gyeltsen, Keys to Great Enlightenment and Foundation of All Good Qualities. We are offering these for free to our LYWA friends and supporters while quantities last—we just need for you to pay for the shipping. Visit the Books page in our Online Store to request a copy.

We also received a few dozen copies of a DVD of teachings given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New York City on September 24th 2005. The DVD is accompanied by the booklet Self-Generation Sadhana of the Thousand-arm Avalokiteshvara which contains the practice in English, Vietnamese, Tibetan and Chinese. Again, these items are free plus the cost of shipping. Visit the DVD page in our Online Store to request a copy.

New On Our Website
\"Listen online to Rinpoche's teachings during a Maitreya puja at Shakyamuni Center in Taiwan. During these teachings Rinpoche gave commentary and oral transmissions of the Namgyalma, Stainless Pinnacle and a number of other mantras. As always, you can read along with the unedited transcript.

We've made a number of additions to Rinpoche's online advice book. We've added many advices to the section on brain disorders (including dementia and epilepsy); to the section with advices to and about children (including education and practices for children); to the section with advice regarding various cancers; and to the section with advices on various illnesses. We now have over 650 advices posted!

We have posted an excellent reference for Tibetan numbers, which provides English and Tibetan equivalents for numbers up to 1058.

And last but not least, we are sharing with you the hard work our editors have been doing with Rinpoche's lamrim teachings. As you probably know, our Publishing the FPMT Lineage project is in full swing, under the watchful eye of senior editor Gordon McDougall. In this project we are editing all Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s lamrim teachings to produce comprehensive volumes by lamrim topic. We recently published Rinpoche’s guru devotion teachings in The Heart of the Path. Currently in progress are Rinpoche's teachings on the perfect human rebirth, the three lower realms, the eight worldly dharmas and karma. This month, we have posted an excerpt from the work-in-progress volume on karma. A sample from this is our previously unpublished teaching for this month (below).

Kalachakra stupa news
Thank you again to all LYWA folks who have contributed to the construction of Boston's Kalachakra Stupa. The throne has now been filled and completed. Check out photos of blessing the ingredients and putting them in the throne here.

We expect the rest of the stupa to be going up toward the end of September...more next month!

Thank you again for your kind interest and support,

Much love,

Nick Ribush

The Importance of Understanding Karma
\"To achieve fully the most supreme peace, which is freedom from all suffering and the removal of every single obscuration, it is necessary to actualize completely the whole path, the Dharma jewel. This starts by correcting each tiny action: avoiding all negative, harmful actions and practicing all positive actions. This is called "observing karma." Therefore, understanding karma is the root of all perfections and happiness and the very foundation of the path to enlightenment.

Understanding and the practice of protecting karma is so important for everyone, for beginners just starting to practice Dharma, for those who have an established Dharma practice and even for advanced meditators with high Tantric realizations.

Many Westerners have the idea that that karma is just an Eastern custom, or that it exists only for those who believe in it and not for those who don’t. Some even think that karma has no existence at all, merely being some unverifiable theory fantasized by certain Eastern yogis or by the Buddha.

This thinking is totally wrong; it is such a poisonous mind; thinking like this, we destroy both temporal and ultimate peace for ourselves and others. Therefore, because of that, we should cast it out like used toilet paper.

The basic teaching on karma—that suffering arises from nonvirtuous actions and happiness arises from virtuous actions—is not just an Eastern trip, something for Asians who believe in past and future lives. If that were so, then not only would Buddhism be utterly unnecessary, but also Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of these teachings on karma, would have been the cause of the suffering of those beings who believe in karma. This is like saying that those who believed in the ten commandments would go to hell, whereas those who believed in neither God nor the ten commandments would not. All such conceptions are completely wrong.

Whether we believe in karma or not, all living beings—human and non-human—suffer. No matter how much we try to gain comfort, there is no satisfaction, and the limited comfort we gain always quickly finishes. There is no definite peace and no control over the sufferings of death and rebirth. All this shows clearly that no living being is free of karma and that karma exists in fact.

All our experiences of happiness and suffering depend on karma. No matter how much we desire happiness, if we follow ignorance alone, without respecting karma, we’ll have nothing but suffering to experience. We can clearly see that irrespective of how much some people strive for life’s comforts, they continually suffer one problem after another, while others always experience comfort and happiness with hardly any effort.

Since we create the karma, and since to observe karma means to correct each tiny action, then how should it be observed? Avoiding nonvirtuous actions and practicing virtuous ones is observing karma, and to so we must be able to distinguish between them.

As the great guru, Nagarjuna, says:

The action arising from hatred, greed or ignorance is nonvirtuous;
The action arising from non-hatred, non-greed or non-ignorance is virtuous.

Also, the great bodhisattva, Shantideva, says:

From virtuous actions all happiness arises;
From nonvirtuous actions all suffering arises.

The actions we create by negative impulses, harming ourselves and other living beings, are nonvirtuous. The actions we create created by positive impulses, benefiting ourselves and other living beings, are virtuous. Nonvirtuous actions only bring suffering results, causing rebirth in the lower realms or even suffering in the upper realms. Virtuous actions only bring happy results, such as birth in the upper realms and all other happiness.

The worst hindrance to creating virtuous actions is attachment to the comfort of this life alone. We should always be conscious of our actions of body, speech and mind, checking up continuously, avoiding the slightest negative action and trying to create even the tiniest virtuous action.

It is important to avoid drawing false conclusions on the basis of incomplete understanding and faulty logic. Seeing bad people enjoying a wealthy lifestyle we might think that there is no correlation between happiness and virtuous actions or between suffering and nonvirtuous actions, but we are very foolish to deny these fundamental truths just because we don’t have that personal knowledge. It has, in fact, been the experience of a great many ordinary beings, let alone the enlightened beings who fully see the three times—past, present and future—and who have shown us the path to discover all this.

You can read more from this excerpt here. While the Karma compilation is drawn from numerous teachings of Rinpoche's, this excerpt here is drawn primarily from the teachings given in Nepal in 1973.