Essential Mahayana Thought Training

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #395)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching on mind training (lo-jong) at Kopan Course No. 16, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in Nov-Dec 1983.

This is an excerpt from Lecture 42 of the course. Edited by Uldis Balodis; second edit by Sandra Smith, Dec 2012.

If we have a very luxurious life and great enjoyments or even if we see a beautiful garden, we should dedicate this to every sentient being. Think, “May all sentient beings have this enjoyment.” Give the enjoyment from the beautiful objects that we see to each sentient being. Remember Chenrezig, the Great Compassionate One, either above our crown or in front of ourselves, and make an offering of the enjoyment.

If we stay in a very luxurious hotel or apartment, think, “May the many sentient beings who are devoid of this comfort, receive it.” Practice dedicating in this way, thinking how wonderful it would be if all sentient beings were to have this pleasure. Dedicate the merit for others to have the enjoyment of a luxurious apartment.

When we have some success which brings great happiness, think, “How wonderful it would be if all the sentient beings who experience many problems and poverty could have success and happiness.” Dedicate the merit for them by saying the prayer which I mentioned last night.

If we train in taking and giving according to the Mahayana thought training—giving our body, possessions, surroundings and people, both family and friends—we should remember all these things. If our mind is well-trained in this practice, when something happens in our life—when there is a separation or somebody takes our possessions or our friends, helpers or those around us—we should think, “I’ve been practicing dedicating my body, merits, possessions and people around me to others. I’ve been praying and dedicating by practicing taking and giving. How wonderful it is that what I’ve been praying for and practicing is accomplished.”

If we train well in this essential Mahayana thought training, in giving and taking, there is not so much clinging and craving when separation happens. We feel that we have accomplished the practice and happiness comes naturally. Depending on how much the thought training practice is done from the heart, or how serious we are when saying the words or doing the visualization, when the actual separation happens—when others use our body or possessions—instead of anger, much happiness comes into our mind. We’ve been praying this way when we say different prayers like the Guru Puja, the lamrim prayer or the thought training prayer, and when we do lamrim meditation.

If worry, anger or fear arises when others actually take away or use our possessions or friends, it shows that thought training was not practiced sincerely. Thought training did not become a strong remedy to the selfish attitude. Usually thought training, such as taking and giving, is a strong remedy to the selfish attitude, so if we have been praying or wishing or even doing the visualization, when the situation actually comes there is only happiness instead of fear, worry, anger or jealousy.

We should remember the kindness of the person who took away our friends or possessions, because he is helping us accomplish what we have been praying and wishing for. He’s so kind that he especially came and took these things away, therefore, we don’t need to visualize them. If we physically share our possessions in order to make charity to each sentient being, there will not be enough. Every sentient being will not get the opportunity to use our body, possessions or the people around us. Therefore, think, “If he takes or uses these things, or uses me for his happiness, he is extremely kind. He is the practical virtuous friend who allows me to put the thought training teachings that I’ve received into actual practice.”

Also think that if we die now, while we are clinging to our friends and family, our body and possessions, we will be reborn in a lower realm for sure. If this person doesn’t take away these possessions, relatives and helpers, we will definitely be born in a lower realm. Think, “He is a great, practical, virtuous friend helping me to not have objects to cling to. If I die now, there will be no worries about separating from this friend or these possessions. Death can happen today, in any hour.” You should keep on thinking, “How greatly kind he is. How greatly kind he is...” on and on, thinking of all these reasons.

Then there will be no breakdown, we won’t become crazy and we won’t have to go to a psychiatrist. We become our own psychiatrist, our own doctor, guide or protector. Actually if we do the thought training practice, it makes life much cheaper and simpler. It saves going to a mental institute or a psychiatrist who charges a lot of money for a few minutes. We can use that money in a better way, to create greater merit.

I’m not only talking about paying a psychiatrist or doctor, there are so many expenses because of the selfish attitude and the dissatisfied mind. There is a lot of worry about not getting enough money from our job to meet the expense of getting the comforts that the selfish attitude wants, in the hope of making the dissatisfied mind satisfied. We get into debt throughout the ten directions. Even if we work at night and go without sleep, it’s not enough. Then a time can come when we think we should rob a bank or something like that.

I mentioned before something that Lama Tsongkhapa explained in the lamrim teaching that is completely true and so clear: everything that sentient beings do is in the hope of satisfying the dissatisfied mind. No matter how much we attempt to satisfy the mind by following desire, there is no end at all. As long as we follow desire, the result is problems and suffering over an extensive time. There is no satisfaction. From beginningless rebirths we have worked so hard to get satisfaction by following desire, but so far we didn’t get any satisfaction. That’s why our samsaric suffering has not stopped. That’s why Buddha revealed the Buddhadharma, such as the four noble truths.

Also think, “The person giving me problems is my virtuous friend. He is examining me to see how pure a Dharma practitioner I am and he is checking my capability for practicing thought training.” It is also very good to think, “How can I say absolutely that the person criticizing me, taking away my possessions and friends, is an ordinary person, just because he appears to be ordinary?” Our mind is heavily obscured by karma; we are not buddhas. If we had an omniscient mind we could judge without the slightest mistake, because we would see things exactly as they exist. We are not even bodhisattvas or arhats; we have no reliable clairvoyance achieved from tranquil abiding.

Our mind is completely overwhelmed by mountains of delusions; it is completely dark, covered by fog. Our mind is overwhelmed by disturbing thoughts one after another, as numerous as hailstones, so how can we say that this person is just the ordinary person that he appears to be? That is not a logical reason. He could be a transformation of Guru Chenrezig. If we practice Tara, for example, think that he may be Tara. Similarly for any deity we practice—he could be a transformation of that guru-deity. Think, “He could be a transformation who has come to help me, to persuade me to practice thought training, patience and the thought of loving kindness and compassion. He can help destroy my selfish attitude. I cherish myself so much, therefore I can’t practice Dharma purely.” It’s very effective to think like this sometimes.