E-letter No. 92: January 2011

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Madison, Wisconsin
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear LYWA friends and supporters,

Thank you so much for your interest in and support of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. At this time we are especially grateful to our many, many supporters who contributed to our 2010 year-end appeal. We almost reached our goal of $50,000. Thank you so much.

What's In Store for 2011
We’re extremely optimistic about 2011. We’ve started the year right with a new free book by Lama Yeshe Life, Death and After Death, which we’re in the process of sending out to our members and benefactors. We’re happy to send you as many copies as you’d like; just pay shipping and handling.

We’re putting the finishing touches on two exciting new DVDs, Freedom Through Understanding and Life, Death and After Death, which are video recordings of the teachings contained in the free books of the same titles.

And we’re working on several fantastic new books of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s lamrim teachings, such as How to Practice Dharma and teachings on perfect human rebirth. More details in upcoming e-letters.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Lake Arrowhead, California, USA, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder. Online Image Gallery Feature: More Images from 1975
We had so many images from 1975 that we had to add a second volume! Newly uploaded pictures include: 

• Geshe Rabten at Tushita Retreat Centre;
• Teachings at Kensington Town Hall and Royal Holloway College in England;
• Teachings at the 8th lamrim meditation course at Kopan;

...and much more.

This bring the total number of albums with images from 1975 to six! See other albums featuring images of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching at Lake Arrowhead, and a series of portraits of Rinpoche. Check them out.

Rinpoche's Online Advice Book: New This Month
Read advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche on how to do the refuge preliminary. Also read many new advices in the Practice Advice area, along with advices to New Students and Daily Practice Advice.

See also new postings on Preparing Oneself for Death, instruction for a Cancer or AIDS Retreat, and Rinpoche's thoughts on simplifying one's life.

And last but not least this month we have posted Rinpoche's extensive response to the question "What is the best and quickest way to generate bodhicitta?" which is excerpted as our eletter teaching below.

More New Teachings and Audio On Our Website
Listen online to excellent recordings from the Healing Course that Lama Zopa Rinpoche offered in Melbourne, Australia in 1991. This series formed the basis for the book Ultimate Healing, published by Wisdom Publications. 

Read commentary that Rinpoche gave of the sur practice that he has recommended for FPMT centers, projects and services.

We have also posted an extensive commentary by Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok on the Heart Sutra (which is now posted on our companion site, TeachingsFromTibet.com.)

New Part-time Position in ePublishing
The Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive has a part-time opening for an ePublishing Specialist. The person would drive our epublishing efforts: oversee our eBook distribution on various outlets like Amazon, Google and Apple; manage listings for sales of our books and DVDs through online retailers like Amazon, eBay, and Barnes & Noble; and improve distribution of free audio and video on sites such as YouTube, podcast directories, etc.

All work can be done offsite. Experience with epublishing and ecommerce desired. $15/hour, 10-15 hours per week. Send letter of interest and resume to IT Manager Jen Barlow.

Singapore and Malaysia
By the time you’re reading this I’ll be on my way to Singapore for Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings there, after which I’ll make a one-week trip to Malaysia. I’m looking forward to meeting LYWA’s many friends in those countries. Please let me know if you would like to catch up.

Thank you again for your kindness and generosity. Please help LYWA’s 2011 be our best year yet!

Much love,
Nick Ribush

Generating Bodhicitta

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching at Royal Holloway College, England, 1975. Photo: Dennis Heslop.While Rinpoche was staying in Madison, Wisconsin, receiving teachings from his guru, Geshe Sopa, a Chinese feng shui master came to visit him, and asked the question, “What is the best and quickest way to generate bodhicitta?” He indicated he did not much care for traditions where one only prays for such results. Rinpoche was pleased with this question, and gave the following extensive answer. The first portion of the response was given in person, but time ran short, and Rinpoche dictated the remainder to send as a letter to the feng shui master.

Bodhicitta is what makes life most beneficial for ourselves and meaningful for every single sentient being that exists, because every single one is suffering and needs help. Bodhicitta makes our life most beneficial for every single other being, who are countless. Not only is it what makes our life beneficial, but when we are practicing bodhicitta, this fulfills the wishes of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, because their only wish is the happiness of sentient beings. Buddhas actualize the path, collecting extensive merit of wisdom and virtue, and purify the defilements, and then they achieve enlightenment in order to be able to perform perfect works, without any error, liberating all sentient beings without any exception, and bringing them to highest happiness.

This is the objective of their life, and their only concern is the happiness of others. Their aim is only that. Their concern is sentient beings obscured in suffering. What they cherish is nobody except sentient beings. The thought of seeking happiness for themselves doesn't arise for even one second after having realizations of bodhicitta. Bodhisattvas, while they have bodhicitta, are like that. Of course, sometimes it is possible for some new bodhisattvas’ realizations to degenerate. Whereas for us, though the thought of cherishing others may arise, it is very rare. Even though it may arise, it does so only very occasionally. It is still not complete. It can still be very weak. The thought of cherishing the “I” is still stronger than the thought of cherishing others. Buddhas also achieve enlightenment only for the benefit of sentient beings. They cherish no one else except sentient beings; they work only for sentient beings.

When we practice compassion in our daily lives, when we perform actions with the thought of cherishing others, whether it is a small service or a big service, at that time we are fulfilling the wishes of countless buddhas and bodhisattvas. Therefore, practicing bodhicitta, serving others and cherishing others is the best offering to numberless bodhisattvas and to all the buddhas. It is the best offering. This is what pleases them the most. So, now the purpose of our life is to free countless other sentient beings and bring them to happiness. Since that is the purpose of our life, to do that perfectly, to be a perfect guide, we need full enlightenment, in essence, to have omniscient mind and complete, perfect power to reveal the path to bring sentient beings to enlightenment by liberating them from suffering, and for this we need to complete the mind training in compassion. That is it in essence.

Even though the Buddha has infinite qualities, to achieve full enlightenment, which is the cessation of all mistakes of the mind and the completion of the entire Mahayana path, the gateway to enter into the kings' paradise—like the border to the country of India—the only gateway to the Mahayana path is bodhicitta. Therefore, without bodhicitta, we can only attain the state of arhats, who are totally free from samsara, totally free from all suffering, including the suffering of pain, which includes the suffering of death and rebirth, the suffering of change, and temporary samsaric sense pleasures, which are in the nature of suffering, and are even free from pervasive compounded suffering, the aggregates, which are the continuation of suffering. Although they are free from all that, they still do not finish the work of self or others. Because they did not finish the work for self, they didn't complete the work for others. There are still subtle defilements, because the merit of virtue is not realized, not completed. So, they haven't achieved an omniscient mind yet.

Because they don't have the two completed qualities of cessation and realizations, they cannot perform perfect work for others. Why they can't perform perfect work for sentient beings and are unable to perform perfect work for the self and others is because of a lack of bodhicitta. Therefore, bodhicitta is essential. We need the wisdom realizing emptiness to cut the root of samsara and to make it impossible for delusions to arise, destroying the seed, by developing the wisdom realizing emptiness. But with wisdom realizing emptiness alone, no matter how much we develop it, we can only reach up to arhatship, not enlightenment. That is the lack of realization of bodhicitta.

If there is bodhicitta, we can enter the Mahayana path. We can perform perfect work for sentient beings. Therefore, the real meaning of our life is developing bodhicitta. So now, of course, there may be other practices, prayers, or mantras that can be performed to actualize bodhicitta. However, the main, most important one is to keep the mind away from obstacles that interfere with actualizing bodhicitta. So, it is very helpful to avoid these.

This is not a kind of prayer but it is a kind of thinking. In order for bodhicitta not to degenerate in this life, we have to practice the causes for it not to degenerate. Maybe now I will just mention things in general, and then dictate and send more details to you later.

This is just a general outline: we need to remember the benefits of bodhicitta. We can think in different ways about bodhicitta, and about how sentient beings are extremely kind and most precious. Think of this first thing in the morning, to begin the day with that thought, how sentient beings are so precious, so kind. Each day, think of different reasons. Do you remember the bodhisattva who wrote praises to bodhicitta? This text is very inspiring. It is very good to have this and read it.

When we think of this, the benefits are infinite and unbelievable. Bodhicitta is the most powerful purification and lets us collect the most extensive merit, and fulfills all our wishes. With bodhicitta, we will see no suffering because it gives so much courage and confidence. It is something very powerful, like someone with cancer who knows that there is very powerful medicine that can cure him or her immediately. So, knowing about it becomes as if they already didn't have cancer any more.

In order not to lose bodhicitta and to increase bodhicitta, dance three times a day and three times a night! I’m joking. Please recite three times a day and three times a night at least "Sang gye cho dang tsog gyi/...May I achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings." Recite this to remind yourself.

There is a practice called Six-Session Guru Yoga. This begins with remembering bodhicitta. When you perform Six-Session Guru Yoga—there is a long, middle-length, and short version—this practice is included. Normally, this practice is recited once in the morning, once at noon, once in the afternoon, then three times at night. That is difficult to do, so recite three in the morning and three at night. It is done like that.

So, recite some prayers to generate bodhicitta, and then along with that, if you have taken bodhisattva vows, you can recite those. As for refuge, recite, "I go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha until I achieve enlightenment, due to the merit that I have collected.” Visualize all the buddhas and bodhisattvas up there, and receive the bodhisattva vow. It is just like needing to charge a battery, it is like you are charging your bodhicitta. That is one method to develop and not to lose bodhicitta in this life. The other method to have determination of mind is to not do the opposite: harming bodhisattvas, criticizing bodhisattvas, the opposite to the bodhisattva attitude of benefiting others. Then, in daily life, collect merits to develop bodhicitta.

After making offerings to the guru and Triple Gem, dedicate the merit to achieving bodhicitta:

"May myself, my family members, and all sentient beings develop bodhicitta without delaying for even a second. Due to this, may the bodhicitta which is the source of all success and happiness be actualized within my mind and all sentient beings' minds, without delaying for even a second, and may that which has been generated increase."

Afterward, offer charity to sentient beings. Think they are the source of all success and happiness for myself and for all sentient beings, and then dedicate: “May bodhicitta be generated in my mind and in all sentient beings.” After finishing some practice, dedicate the merits. The very first thing to dedicate to is to actualize bodhicitta. So, if you see a beautiful garden, make an offering to all the buddhas and then dedicate the merit to generating bodhicitta. Then, after the merit is collected, dedicate it to bodhicitta. Also, dedicate the merit collected in daily life to actualizing bodhicitta. Whatever you do, offering charity to sentient beings, to the Triple Gem, and so forth is for your practice, so your bodhicitta doesn’t degenerate. So, whatever you do in normal daily life, such as helping other sentient beings and collecting merit, at the end of the day, dedicate the merit always to developing bodhicitta, so you can become enlightened. There is another way to actualize bodhicitta in the next life. I will dictate this and send it to you.

The other very important advice is, each year, if you can, do retreat: five days each year—five, two, or seven is great—on lamrim, because in order to have a realization of bodhicitta, you need to have a realization of renunciation from samsara. Without this, it is impossible to have bodhicitta. Therefore, during retreat, study lamrim, practice preliminaries, such as prostrations; that is one part. The other part I will dictate for you.

I am very happy to have met you. Thank you so much. I'm very happy about the question you asked, mainly the part about not thinking so much about prayer, but thinking about bodhicitta.

Read the remaining advice that Rinpoche sent subsequent days.

Edited by Michelle Bernard. For more of Rinpoche's advices on a variety of lamrim topics see Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book.